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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
World Braces for Flu Pandemic; Survey: Public Gives Obama a B Minus
Aired April 29, 2009 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We'll be hearing more from the president throughout this hour as we join the rest of CNN and a whole lot of viewers assessing his first 100 days.
First though, the very latest on the flu, news breaking as we speak, public schools closing in Ft. Worth, Texas, as we mentioned. That starts tomorrow and continuing until May 11th.
Also, there are now confirmed or suspected cases being reported in 20 states, the latest Tennessee. One child has died, a U.S. Marine in California has tested positive for swine flu. Researchers are working nonstop on a vaccine.
Globally, Austria and Germany reported their first cases, Spain and Britain reported more. And in Switzerland, global health officials issued a warning that made everyone stop and catch their breath.
We have more on all of it now from Randi Kaye.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From the World Health Organization, a clear signal that a pandemic is imminent. It raised its threat level from four to five, indicating widespread human infection. Since it started five years ago, the alert has never been higher than three.
DR. MARGARET CHAN, DIRECTOR-GENERAL, WHO: All countries should immediately now activate their pandemic preparedness plans.
KAYE: This, on the same day the first death from swine flu is reported in the U.S., a 23-month-old boy died at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. Doctors say the toddler had traveled from Mexico to Texas to visit relatives and was likely already infected by the time he arrived.
DR. JEFFREY STARKE, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: This child received respiratory support, this child received antibiotics and other appropriate medications.
KAYE: The Centers for Disease Control warning of more deaths to come. Already, more than 140 are confirmed infected in at least ten states, nine countries.
(on camera): To help protect their citizens, China and Russia have banned pork imports from the U.S. and Mexico even though the World Health Organization says the flu is not transmitted through pig meat.
Japan has been taking the temperature of passengers arriving from Mexico, and Egypt is considering killing all pigs, even though there are no reported swine flu cases in that country.
(voice-over): In the United States, more than 90 cases confirmed; 51 in New York. At least 74 schools have closed across the country.
The president says any school battling swine flu should consider closing temporarily.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Because this is a new strain, we have to be cautious.
KAYE: But help is on the way. The U.S. government has started delivering Tamiflu and Relenza, anti-viral medications that could save lives if taken early enough. The state should have it within days. And a vaccine, which could take months, is being worked on.
KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, SECRETARY, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: We're in full gear and the process is more speedy than it's ever been before.
KAYE: That's good news for the U.S. military, now that a marine in California has tested positive for swine flu and is in isolation. His roommate and dozens of other marines may be at risk.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our concern is that they've been exposed to a young Marine.
KAYE: Not even those who protect our country can protect themselves from a killer virus.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Well, we said it before. We're committed to bringing you nothing but the facts and not fear-mongering on the flu outbreak. You can always learn more by going to AC360.com where we've gotten answers to frequently asked questions. And they're being updated constantly.
To Mexico now with the good news is the growth of cases and fatalities appears to be slowing. The bad news and the breaking news is the country is quickly shutting down.
Late word tonight from the Mexican government announcing a work stoppage for all nonessential public- and private-sector jobs, hospitals on the other hand being the major exception. Some of them starting to look like the science fiction movie minus the fiction, take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL PENHAUL, CNN VIDEO CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Now this here, we're getting to the business end of the operation here. You can see the medics there in these biohazard suits, full suits that cover them from head to toe, they've got gloves on.
You can also see that they have the face mask. This is possibly the most sophisticated equipment we've seen any of the medics have in Mexico because the hospital was recently inaugurated. Then they have the resources.
Now, this is the door where you'll see the patients who are displaying some symptoms are being taken. They'll be taken in there for a series of checks. They'll be taken in there for observation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's Karl Penhaul. Also in Mexico City for us tonight with "360 MD" Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Sanjay, what does this mean that Mexican officials tonight essentially shutting down the country May 1st through the 5th? Why do that? And could that happen in places here in the U.S.?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the reason to do it is because of this idea of social isolation being one of the best strategies towards trying to prevent human-to-human transmission of this virus.
That's the thing that most people are worried about, it's happening here in Mexico. And it is happening in the United States.
To your second question, it is something that could happen, I think, in the United States. In Mexico specifically its nonessential government sector work, nonessential private sector work, shut down for those five days, roughly.
The president talked about this tonight, Anderson, as you know, he talked about it with schools specifically, but this idea that if at some point you think it's necessary in some way that you start to isolate people in a way that contains the pathogen in the certain areas and doesn't let it spread around -- Anderson.
COOPER: We heard from the WHO today, though, that humanity itself is threatened. I mean, if you're not trying to freak people out that's not -- I mean, if you're trying to freak people out, that's a pretty good way to it.
What does that mean? And in when they say the pandemic is imminent, exactly what does that mean?
GUPTAN: Dr. Chen did talk about the fact that this is affecting the entire globe, and she made that point a few times.
You know, there are several different scales of this pandemic scale, this is level five, which means that you have sustained human- to-human transmission in at least two countries; the United States and Mexico.
It was somewhat frightening -- certainly to listen to her words today. And this is never -- we've never gotten this high before since the scale has come out to a level five, which means there is an imminent pandemic.
It is a call to action for pharmaceutical companies, for businesses to up the ante a bit, to get things moving in terms of making drugs and getting things moving along.
One thing I will say Anderson, I think this is an important, when you think pandemic, I think a lot of people tend to reflect on the pandemics from years past. Lots have changed since then.
First of all, we are much better taking care of people in hospitals, we have anti-viral medications and also, this is more about the scope, how many people will get infected as opposed to the severity.
So it doesn't mean that everyone is going to die. It doesn't mean that many people will die. It means that people will get infected. In the United States so far, as you know it's been mainly mild illnesses.
COOPER: There are some people are going to say, look, it sounds like hype. I mean, most of the cases in the United States have been pretty mild. There was a death today, an infant died in Texas, contracted it in Mexico.
I mean, there is a disparity between sort of the level of concern and the actual results we've seen thus far. Is it hype? Is it being over-hyped?
GUPTA: YOU know, this -- these are probably some of those most difficult stories for me as a doctor journalist to cover because of the questions that you're asking.
On one hand, you have this brand-new virus that the world has never seen before. None of us as a result have any immunity to it. You don't, I don't, none of the people here in Mexico or the United States do.
So that's of concern. We rely a little bit on our natural immunity to fight things off every day. If we have none, that's of concern.
It's also something that is spread around the world. That wasn't contained here in Mexico despite some very good efforts. So that's also of concern.
I think what is -- may be a little bit of hype is just how serious this is going to be. As you say, it's just been mild illnesses in the United States. Over the summer months, my guess is, this will start to fizzle down. Most infections do over the summer months, we just don't transmit as well. In the fall and winter, we're going to have to remember what the strain was like and be extra vigilant so this doesn't get out of control.
But I don't think it's hype necessarily, I just think that there's a lot of -- and hopefully a lot of good knowledge being passed around.
COOPER: All right, let's hope. We're certainly not trying to contribute to unwarranted fears. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, we're going to talk to you throughout this hour.
Let us know what you think about the flu outbreak. Join the live chat happening now at AC360.com. You can also ask questions there for Doctors Gupta and Carlos Del Rio. Or you can do it on Twitter, where the address is Andersoncooper, one word. On Facebook we're at facebook.com/Andersoncooper360. Ask your questions there. We'll try to put them to Dr. Del Rio and Dr. Gupta throughout this hour.
Coming up next, grading the president on Facebook. We've got the results after the break. Thousands of viewers weighed in. Tonight, we'll reveal the results coming up.
And the most important moments from tonight's news conference with the president. In case you missed the actual news conference. We'll give you all of the best and the most important moments.
And later, how would you like to be on this city bus? The driver is texting while driving. He's not texting us here at 360 either. Find out what happened to the passengers and to him tonight later on 360.
COOPER: We're back with the special coverage of President Obama's first 100 days, the "National Report Card." What you're seeing at the bottom of your screen are the grades that you've given the administration, the House of Representatives and the nation's Senators on how they've done in the first 100 days that's the results of online voting at CNN.com.
Also tonight, new polling from CNN/Opinion Research. That survey reveals that Americans give President Obama a B minus for his first 100 days. And Facebook users tonight they're also weighing in giving Mr. Obama a C plus overall, men give him a C, women scored him as a C plus president. You can view all the grades by going to CNN.com.
Mr. Obama entered the White House facing an economy teetering on the edge. And in his first 100 days in office the financial crisis is some ways has only grown more intense.
Tom Foreman has the numbers to prove it -- Tom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, President Obama was handed a bad economy and even while he tries to fix it, parts are still getting worse. Unemployment at the end of last year, around seven percent; now it's eight and a half, 13 million Americans jobless. 29 banks have folded since January, that's more than in all of 2008. The stock market appears to be creeping up, but it remains uncertain. And more than 800,000 homes joined the foreclosure parade in the first quarter of 2009, up almost 25 percent from the same period last year.
Despite all that, polls show most Americans think President Obama is pushing the economy toward better days -- Anderson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Tom Foreman, thanks very much.
Let's talk with our panel about the press conference tonight, how you all think it went. Did the president do whatever he felt he needed to?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think he did Anderson, but I find the surveys tonight perplexing. Because here we -- he just got a C plus from the country for his first 100 days and yet 65 percent or so of the country approve of his time as president, so he has very high poll numbers.
So by my lights, I thought he did very well in the press conference and I've just read there in a couple of things but I thought he was masterful. But if you ask the country, maybe he only got a C from the country. Who knows?
COOPER: Pamela Gentry from BET?
PAMELA GENTRY, BET SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I thought he went actually probably did very well tonight, and I (INAUDIBLE) measurably shorter than his first two press conferences. So, he was able to get a few more questions in.
But I think that a lot of the people who do these online polls often are just saying you know, they're a lot more harder when they're not in front of the teacher than they are if they think someone is going to actually see them.
So I think they were a little bit more critical than they probably are at a cocktail party.
COOPER: Paul, I want to play something that the president said in response to a question from "The New York Times," sort of four-part question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I am surprised compared to where I started when first announced for this race by the number of critical issues that appear to be coming to a head all at the same time.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: There are a couple of you who tonight have sort of criticized the president for not complaining exactly but kind of pointing out several times like how hard the job is, which is something people critical of President Bush were doing.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think he's trying to explain there's a whole lot going on all at once. And one of the major criticisms of him is he's trying to do too much at once. If we just have to stimulate the economy, Mr. President, they say, why don't you just focus on that?
He is of the mind that in order to build this new foundation talks, but you also have to do energy, and health care and education. And I think it is the better argument with the American people, I think he's just trying to explain that.
Why are we doing all this frenzy of activity at once? And he is sustaining public support for that. And I did think his performance was masterful because in each of the particulars he knew it and awful a lot -- he talked very sensitively about abortion. He talked very sensitively I think about torture. He has detailed knowledge of Pakistan and how it's securing nuclear weapons.
So I think it was a terrific performance.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, CNN'S "GPS": Anderson, I think it's very important, when I was taking graduate classes in political science we were required to take a class in statistics and the reason was so that you would understand the difference between a genuinely random sample and a ...
COOPER: Thankfully Yale, when I majored in political science we didn't have statistics. So go ahead, clearly you're more educated.
ZAKARIA: But what's important, it actually mirrors the reaction of the country in the whole in this sense, which is clearly he has the majority of the country with him, the randomly selected polls show that.
But hard core Republicans really don't like him. And we can get into why that's been, because they're obviously giving him an F on the CNN grade, which is pulling the grade to at something more like a C or something like that. Because otherwise it doesn't make any sense, given that the country in poll after poll says that they give him very high grades.
COOPER: Ed, how effective, Ed, do you think the Republicans have been thus far? And where do you see them going down the road?
ED ROLLINS, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: They have been effective in the sense of staying together; holding Republicans together is not an easy thing, having had that job at one point in my life. And I think they have decided and I think Specter defaulting, they're going to be an opposition party.
And they're going to basically put the spot light -- I think this president projects confidence. I think there's a positive thing to the agenda that is totally different than the Republican agenda.
And you can't expect Republicans who have been for smaller government, and less taxes and those ideas to all of a sudden compromise. They're going to stick to their guns. He now has the ball; he gets to run with it. He's got Democrats to implement it.
But I think the one thing that Republicans like myself or David or others who've been around the game is that you know he looks like he can do the job. He's smart enough to do the job and it's not like he's going to take us off the course or it's not like he's going be a light weight. He's not a light weight, he's intellectually a heavy weight.
I may disagree with the direction of the country that he's taking us in -- but I have great confidence that he'll make the right decisions at the right time.
COOPER: Pamela, one of your colleagues from BET also asked the president the question about the economy. I want to show that to our viewers and his response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: In communities of color, the circumstances are far worse. The black unemployment rate, as you know, is in the double digits, and New York City, for example, the black unemployment rate for men is near 50 percent.
My question tonight is, given this unique and desperate circumstance, what specific policies can you point to that will target these communities and what's the timetable for us to see tangible results?
OBAMA: So, my general approach is that if the economy is strong, that will lift all boats, as long as it is also supported by, for example, strategies around college affordability and job training, tax cuts for working families, as opposed to the wealthiest, that level the playing field and ensure bottom-up economic growth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, how do you think that answer is going to play in the African-American communities? Do they feel that President Obama is giving enough attention?
GENTRY: Well, he's been given this question in several one-on- one interviews with black journalists, and he goes to the rising tide raise up -- raises all boats, and that's very good.
But the problem with that right now is that he has remained race- neutral throughout. I don't know how much longer he can do that, only in the sense that this constituency, 96 percent of them, supported him unequivocally. And eventually they're going to come to some issue that they want to hear the difference, not the same. Not to say that they are not going to support him continually but they do -- they have very specific issues that they want to hear him address directly. It's going to be difficult for him but I think that he will have to face that.
COOPER: It's interesting though Fareed, and I think in a recent "Newsweek" article you wrote that President Obama has learned how to -- I think you said, utilize the moment. What did you mean by that?
ZAKARIA: I think that he understands exactly where the country is right now. The country has moved to the left over the last 20 years and really over the last ten years. And what he's figured out is he can push his agenda but it's not moved that far left, so he's not -- he's utilizing the moment, not over-interpreting it. He's not overplaying his hand.
And I think he realizes if he comes across as a black president, to be perfectly honest, if he comes across as a very liberal president, he will do what Lyndon Johnson did, overplay his hand and that will produce a backlash, he will do what George W, Bush did who've massively over interpreted his mandate.
GENTRY: The conservative right.
ZAKARIA: And you will get a liberal backlash. So he's pushing but very cautiously and not so much to provoke a backlash.
COOPER: I just want to show our viewers, David, before we get to you, one more thing that the president said tonight about the economy. It's worth looking at.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I'm proud of what we've achieved but I'm not content. I'm pleased with our progress, but I'm not satisfied. Millions of Americans are still without jobs and homes. And more will be lost before this recession is over.
Credit is still not flowing nearly as freely as it should. Countless families and communities touched by our auto industry still face tough times ahead. Our projected long-term deficits are still too high and the government is still not as efficient as it needs to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GERGEN: Now, I thought that was one of the best moments of his press conference, it was very well-crafted statement. It kept in touch with people.
Let me come back, though Fareed is absolutely right, if he becomes a, quote, "a black president" he'll be in trouble for a lot of reasons.
But the problem with this argument is that a rising tide lifts all boats which is what Kennedy originally said, it's not true anymore. In this new world in which we live the last recovery, which we had very significant growth in this country and a lot of people were still stranded.
The nature of globalization is such that a lot of people in the lower ends don't rise with rising incomes and that's why it's going to require some special attention. Before it's over it's going to require some special attention.
GENTRY: And I think black lawmakers -- and black lawmakers are very aware of this. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, they speak to their constituencies, and those are the questions they get when they go back home.
Now, what is he going to do about this? And it really means this and them, not the global...
ZAKARIA: But in order to really address it, as we all know, it would also then require a very frank national conversation about race. What are the high school graduation rates...
ZAKARIA: ... for those black men for whom you have 50 percent unemployment? What is their reading level -- that's an awkward conversation. And I think he doesn't want to go there right now.
GERGEN: Eventually, eventually.
BEGALA: And today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a frontal assault at the Voting Rights Act; very controversial. A lot of smart money is betting that there will be five votes to overturn at least the Section 5 preclearance where municipalities and many states have to get Justice Department permission before they change any of their voting laws.
This has protected several rights for a generation and 98 out of 98 senators voted to pass this. And now I think the smart money says the Supreme Court is going to throw a big chunk of the Voting Rights Act out and that will put President Obama square in the middle of racial civil rights politics which he has avoided for 100 days.
COOPER: We're going to have a lot more with our panel throughout this hour.
But coming up, we're going to look more at the flu possible pandemic -- imminent pandemic, according to the WHO today. We're going look at the flu facts and the flu fictions. There are a lot of myths out there. We want to set the records straight on that.
Also we want you to be able to email your questions. I know a lot of you have questions. You've been emailing them to us throughout the last couple of days. We want to continue that tonight. You can go on to the live chat right now at AC360.com.
Ask your questions of Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Del Rio. Also on Twitter@Andersoncooper -- one word, Andersoncooper and Facebook at facebook.com/Andersoncooper360. Our coverage continues, right after this.
COOPER: We're back. One hundred days since the Obama administration, those banners down the bottom of your screen, the results of voting at CNN.com, grading the president and other lawmakers. Certainly not scientific polling but it's the opinion of those who took the time to vote tonight.
President Obama, likes to distance himself from his predecessor but it turns out they may have some more in common that he'd like to think. Take a look at this, our new CNN Poll of Polls shows Mr. Obama having virtually the identical approval rating that President Bush had after his first 100 days in office.
And as we've seen in past that support can quickly change. So how long can the president hold on to the goodwill?
Joining me again for tonight's "Strategy Session": Republican strategist Ed Rollins and Democratic strategist Paul Begala.
I want to play something that the president had to say about Senator Arlen Specter tonight. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think very highly of Arlen Specter. I think he's got a record of legislative accomplishment that is as good as any member of the Senate.
And I think he's always had a strong independence streak. I think that was true when he was a Republican. I think that will be true when he's a Democrat.
I am under no illusions that suddenly I'm going to have a rubber stamp Senate. I've got Democrats who don't agree with me on everything and that's how it should be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: How much Ed, is a game changer Arlen Specter's changed?
ROLLINS: Well, he's changed the Republican strategy at this point in time. There was always going to be two or three Republicans that are on the border -- the two ladies from Maine and Arlen Specter who really are the three worst votes for Republicans, they're always there.
Arlen is now gone. He has his 60 votes on the key issues which are the ones we are basically done the procedural stuff. He'll have to fight for the rest; he's going to have to fight for the ten Democrats that are pretty conservative.
I think the Republicans now have the opportunity of sort to say, all right, we're the opposition party, if it's something like the national flu crisis or what have you, we can be bipartisan. On issues that we feel strongly about, immigration, or health care, what have you, we can stay unified, we can still pass legislation but we're going to put a spotlight on the cause and why we disagree with them.
COOPER: And Paul to Americans who say and there are a lot of Americans who's concern about this, say look, this is suddenly the one-party rule. What do you say?
BEGALA: Yes, Arlen Specter was about a 64 percent vote reliable; 64 percent of the time he voted with his party as a Republican. I doubt he'll be much more loyal to the Democratic Party. He's a very independent guy.
Still, if you're the Democrats, you know, Lyndon Johnson used to say, "I'd rather have him inside the tent on spitting out than outside the tent spitting in."
And so it's good but it's not going to outcome determinative, I think it's more the canary and the coal mine. What moderates are going to stay in the Republican Party? This week the lowest number of people identified themselves as Republicans in a quarter century, 21 percent, only 21, a year ago it was 35.
But now they're down to 21 percent. That's an unsustainable -- they're now a regional and right wing party and then you have to rebuild from that.
COOPER: Is that fair?
ROLLINS: That's very fair I think the bottom line is...
COOPER: It's fair that they're a regional right wing party?
ROLLINS: It's certainly the best description you can make of them today.
You know, the reality is, I lived through this once before. I lived through this Watergate. I had just become a Republican and helped run Nixon's campaign, in California.
COOPER: Your sense of timing was...
ROLLINS: My sense of timing was very amazing. I came back to Washington in 1972, the president gets defeat, the Watergate election, it was 49 House seats. I'm thinking, my God, the world is over for me, I'll never work in politics again.
Six years later, I'm the White House political director. And maybe what we have to do is go outside of Washington, and find a governor, rebuild ourselves. But at the same time, we're not going to do it unless there's failure along the way.
And I'm not asking for failure, and I don't think the Republicans want it. But we do believe that the program the president is pushing is a different program than we've ever been. And we think there's real high risk of it not working at the end of the day.
COOPER: And there's opportunity in that?
ROLLINS: And there's certainly opportunity in that if you basically don't become a part of it. And I think if you put the spotlight on it, respectful about what he's trying to do, cheer him on but at the end of the day if it doesn't work, and we have very serious economic crisis, two years, four years from now...
COOPER: What about those Republicans who are saying look we need a big tent, we need a bigger tent?
ROLLINS: We tried a big tent. And the Democrats now are the big tent and all the people in it. We've got to go get young voters, which is the key thing that we lost. We have to go get Hispanic voters that we had lost overtime. And the bottom line is we don't have enough voters, we have to go attract those independent voters which as Paul can say, that's the swing today that basically gives you the margin of presidency or governorship.
COOPER: Can they attract those younger voters, can they attract those Hispanic voters?
BEGALA: When Al Gore ran against George Bush, Al Gore carried the youth vote, 18- to 29-year-olds, by 1 percent. Barack Obama carried them by 35 percent. So he didn't just win an election, he won a generation. That's an enormous thing.
The Republicans, they do need the president to stumble. They don't like to say that in public, but that's OK. He will stumble. He is human, despite what some of his most intense supporters say.
But when he does, they need to be ready with new ideas and new leadership. If they simply wait for him to stumble and they don't have something new, he'll be able to recover and continue to rock on.
John Huntsman today, the governor of Utah, gave an interview in which he attacked his own party for being too negative and know and called for them to have no ideas. It's guys like that that are going to bring the Republican Party back.
COOPER: All right, we've got to move along. Guys, thanks a lot, good discussion.
Next on 360, more breaking news on the swine flu, the World Health Organization raising its pandemic alert level again. How does this virus spread? We're going to separate the facts from the rumors out there.
And don't forget to send us your questions on the swine flu. Post them on the live chat right now at AC360.com, Twitter us @Andersoncooper -- one word -- and facebook.com/Andersoncooper360 on Facebook.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Carlos Del Rio are going to answer some of your questions. And later, President Obama's first 100 days. Is he helping? We'll take a look at exactly how he hopes to be helping the economy coming up and other issues on foreign policy. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Still updating our breaking news now. The flu outbreak now forcing public schools in Fort Worth, Texas, to close, all of them, all public schools in Fort Worth, Texas, are going to close tomorrow. About 80,000 students are affected. They'll be out until the 11th of May.
Right off the top of his press conference tonight, President Obama talked about the global flu crisis. He actually gave a bit of a shout-out to President Bush. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I think the Bush administration did a good job of creating the infrastructure so that we can respond. For example, we've got 50 million courses of anti-viral drugs in the event that they're needed.
So, the government is going to be doing everything that we can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Mr. Obama repeated what he had said before that the flu outbreaks a cause for concern, not panic. Disease outbreaks can be scary no doubt about it. It's easy for facts to get mixed up with rumors and fears.
Tonight we're trying to separate facts about this new flu strain from fiction. 360 MD Sanjay Gupta joins me along with Dr. Carlos Del Rio, professor of global health at Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health. Dr. Gupta's down in Mexico still.
Sanjay, we've heard this described variously as an outbreak, an epidemic, pandemic, what is it?
Obviously having trouble hearing Sanjay. We'll try to get the audio.
Dr. Del Rio, what exactly is it?
DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, PROFESSOR, EMORY UNIVERSITY: This is a pandemic. A pandemic is an epidemic that has spread widely. It has affected many geographic areas and therefore we're now facing a pandemic. That's why the WHO raised their threat level to five because there are now cases in multiple countries and multiple continents.
COOPER: We learned today, Dr. Del Rio, that Egypt today ordered the slaughter of pigs. Can you catch this virus by eating pork?
DEL RIO: No, you don't catch this virus by eating pork. People that work with pork that have this disease can get infected but you don't catch the disease just by eating pork.
COOPER: What about mosquitoes or flies can they spread the virus to humans?
DEL RIO: Absolutely not. This disease, once it's in humans, what makes it different now, what has made this epidemic be what it is, is because a virus that normally would just affect pigs or will transmit from pigs to humans or from pigs to birds is now being transmitted from human-to-human. This is now a human-to-human infection
COOPER: So, Sanjay, I understand the audio now works. If you're a healthy adult, and you got your flu vaccine, say, this year, does that mean you shouldn't be worried?
GUPTA: No, unfortunately not. You know, it's interesting because this particular virus, this H1N1 is made up of several different things, including a partial human virus as well. So, some of the docs down here have said you might get a little bit of protection but it's certainly not going to be enough.
You have to use all the other measures that we've been talking about, Anderson.
COOPER: And Sanjay, this is -- the first time we're seeing this particular virus you just said, but swine flu, there's been outbreaks before, so what's different?
GUPTA: Well you know, it's interesting with these viruses, even year to year, you're talking about 1976 swine flu outbreak at that point, every year these things change a bit. It's just fascinating, Anderson, the nature, they mutate just a little bit but just that little bit of a change can change everything really.
A new vaccine has to be created, the old one may not be protective, and you may not have immunity if this virus mutates. So even though we've had swine flu in the United States before, this can be entirely, entirely different.
COOPER: Dr. Del Rio, what do you not know about this virus that you need to know -- that we would like to know?
DEL RIO: Well, I think we need to know what protective immunity to this virus is. I think we need to know more about the immuno- pathogenesis of the disease. Animal models with this virus would be very interesting...
COOPER: I'm sorry -- what does that mean? What does that mean -- immuno-pathogenesis?
DEL RIO: It means what kind of the virus produce damage into the tissues, why some people are getting sick and dying and developing a very severe pneumonia in Mexico and not in other places. I'm sure scientists are taking this virus and putting into animals -- guinea pigs in particular, trying to understand what kind of disease it produces. And then we need to understand what the protective immunity to the virus is because that's the only way to go ahead and develop a vaccine.
COOPER: Sanjay, you know, we were just talking about now all of the schools in Ft. Worth, Texas, the public schools are going to shut down starting tomorrow; 80,000 students are going to be affected. How -- we don't know how long that will last. I mean if they're goal is to disinfect schools and stuff, if you're saying this thing may be around for a long time and all through the summer, what does this mean for schools? What does this mean for the future?
GUPTA: Well, this is being done to socially isolate these students for a while to try and reduce human-to-human transmission. I think they have set a proposed date as to when these students are going to go back to school.
But you're absolutely right, it's a little bit hard to predict, it's a little bit of a moving target.
This could be around in the summer, Anderson. But typically, the good news here is that it tends to fizzle out in the summer month. Summertime is just not a good time for viruses to transmit back and forth. That's the good news.
The caveat there is that when the fall and winter sort of comes around, these viruses like to sort of reactivate. They get re- energized again. So we're going to have to be really diligent. So all the focus we've had on this now, hopefully we can remember that focus come fall and winter.
COOPER: All right, we're going to talk more with Sanjay and Dr. Carlos Del Rio answering your questions coming up.
Debate raging now whether the officials should close the U.S.- Mexico border because of the escalating flu outbreak. Dr. Del Rio thinks that's a bad idea; he'll explain why on our blog. You can go to ac360.com to read Dr. Del Rio's post. It's good.
While you're there, join the live chat now which is happening now. Talk to other viewers about your concerns and ask questions of Dr. Del Rio and Sanjay. We'll try to put them to Sanjay and Dr. Del Rio coming up.
Post the questions on the live chat at ac360.com, also in twitter@andersoncooper -- one word -- or if you're on Facebook, Facebook.com/andersoncooper360. We'll have more of their answers to your questions.
President Obama's first 100 days. How is he doing internationally? Our panel weighs in, coming up.
COOPER: We're back. Reminder about what you see below me. You went to cnn.com and graded the president -- viewers did all throughout this evening; his administration, the House of Representatives, the nation's Senators. The results are scrolling throughout tonight's program. Not scientific results but kind of a snapshot of where our viewers were tonight.
President Obama and the war in Iraq, as we mark his administration's first 100 days, twin car bombs ripped through Baghdad this afternoon, killing at least 41 people in a crowd shopping center. Despite the president's commitment to end the war, escalating violence in Iraq not to mention Afghanistan, are a reminder of the many challenges that lie ahead.
Tom Foreman has details.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN (voice-over): Anderson, a series of bombings recently in Iraq has claimed dozens of lives and raised anew those concerns over how 135,000 American troops will be leaving this country we invaded six years ago. President Obama plans to withdraw most of them next year, the remainder in 2011 although some will stay as advisers and support for the Iraqi army. That's similar to a deal struck by President Bush with the Iraqis before he left office.
In addition, we have 40,000 troops in Afghanistan. President Obama plans to increase that number to about 60,000 to fight the resurgent Taliban -- Anderson.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Hey, Tom, thanks very much. Tom has a piece on the 360 blog if you want to read his 100 letters to the president. He's written one each day President Obama has been in office at ac360.com.
Let's talk now with senior political analyst David Gergen, BET senior political analyst Pamela Gentry and GPS host Fareed Zakaria.
The president was asked about instability in Pakistan. I want to play for our viewers what he said tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I'm confident that we can make sure that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure. Primarily, initially, because the Pakistani Army, I think, recognizes the hazards of those weapons falling into the wrong hands. We've got strong military-to-military consultation and cooperation.
I am gravely concerned about the situation in Pakistan not because I think that they're immediately going to be overrun and the Taliban would take over in Pakistan, more concerned that the civilian government there right now is very fragile.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Fragile, and seems unsure how to deal with this growing movement, Taliban movement, inside their country. ZAKARIA: Unsure about how to deal with it and, remember, the civilian government is not really calling the shots particularly with regard to this counterinsurgency strategy. It's really the military that's dealing with it and they have really tried to kind of avoid dealing with it. They've cut peace deals. They've made local arrangements. And they've done this for decades now.
This is not unusual. The difference now is the threat seems so real, so imminent, that finally it does seem as though the Pakistani military has gotten a wake-up call. But I think many observers on the ground are unsure as to whether or not this will be the kind of sustained, focused, dedicated effort that we would hope it will be. It's more likely, frankly, they'll do this for a couple of weeks and back off.
COOPER: How much leverage do we really have over the Pakistani government? We provide them with billions in aid.
GERGEN: You'd think we'd have a lot of leverage given all of the money we've pumped in there with $10 billion. But we don't have as much as we'd like.
General Petraeus has been making the argument that we can put troops into Afghanistan and go shoulder to shoulder with the Afghanis but can't put our troops in Pakistan and go after these militants.
COOPER: Unless you stop the cross border incursions from Pakistan you can't fight an insurgency in Afghanistan if you have a safe zone for militants in Pakistan. When they signed the peace deal in North Waziristan, General Eikenberry, who was the general at the time said attacks -- cross border attacks went up 300 percent.
ZAKARIA: This is why we defeated the Soviet Union. We fought the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and Serbians couldn't fight back we had created safe havens for these militants in Pakistan. So they're now using it. It's the perfect case of a Frankenstein's monster. They are using precisely that strategy against us.
COOPER: Pamela, do you think the president has lived up to what he said he would do during the campaign in terms of foreign policy?
GENTRY: I think he's trying to. He's been very pragmatic in looking at all of these foreign policy things.
And I think that this particular situation in the Middle East he said he was going to move more troops into Afghanistan, he's done that. He's made the effort to say when he's going bring troops home from Iraq the 19 months. We don't know how long that will last, but, yes, I think he's trying. He's trying to stick to everything that he promised.
COOPER: And yet his big reach out to European leaders where he was welcomed in England. He was welcomed at the G-20. Still didn't produce more troops for Afghanistan, European troops.
ZAKARIA: Well, you know, if you talk to senior American officials privately they will be very frank. They don't want more troops from Europeans; more European troops is more of a hassle.
COOPER: Because of the codes of war that German troops can't fight in certain parts of the country, they can't actually be in areas where they're fighting.
ZAKARIA: Exactly. These absurd rules of engagement where the German troops can't shoot unless they are first shot at. So they see some Taliban fighters, they can't shoot.
COOPER: So they don't want more -- what do they want from NATO?
ZAKARIA: They want money, they want logistical support, they want training of police officers -- stuff like that. And I think some of that is coming through and he's going to have to press.
Look, the whole point about this outreach is not that it magically solves any of these problems but it's a better way to establish a new dynamic. But of course he's going to have to push and he's going to have push again and he's going to have cajole and beg and all that kind of stuff and shame them. But my guess is that it's going to work better than humiliating them the way that the Bush administration did.
COOPER: It's a good discussion. Pamela Gentry, thank you very much. Fareed Zakaria and David Gergen as well.
Up next, more on President Obama's first 100 days and the National Report Card both from us and a special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE" starting at midnight.
But first, the world is on heightened alert tonight. The World Health Organization saying a swine flu pandemic is imminent. Exactly what that means, we'll try to explain. Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Del Rio are here to take your questions.
You can still send some of them on the live blog, the live chat at ac360.com, or Twitter@andersoncooper or post them on Facebook.com/Andersoncooper360. If you have carrier pigeons, we haven't worked out a system for that yet but we're sure to.
Later, a city bus driver caught on tape. Take a look at this guy. He was texting and driving at the same time; it did not end well. The "Shot" is coming up.
COOPER: Updating our breaking news. Another state, Tennessee, now reporting a suspected case of swine flu -- that brings the number of states with confirmed or suspected flu cases to 20.
Also late word that public schools in Ft. Worth are going to be closing, shutting down until May 11th affecting some 80,000 kids.
And given the headline, the question is how can you protect yourself and your family? That's the bottom line you're all wondering about. A lot of you have questions. You've been letting us know. Let's have some of those answers with Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Mexico and Dr. Carlos Del Rio.
Sanjay, here's a question from Sheila Lee, submitted on Facebook. She asks, "What treatment should people seek if they think they have swine flu symptoms?"
GUPTA: Well, you know, first of all, I think you need to see $your doctor if you're concerned about this. There are a few medications which if taken early, meaning pretty quickly after you start to develop symptoms can have a significant impact on the overall impact on the course of the disease.
These are anti-viral medications.
Really quickly, Anderson; we hear a lot about antibiotics. That's not what these are. Antibiotics are for bacterial infections. These are for the viral infections that could be of some help for her.
COOPER: But should you go to your doctor right away or kind of stay in bed for a while like you do with the regular flu?
GUPTA: Right. That's a tough question because there's so much overlap of symptoms. Some of the things that doctors have told us down here is fever that comes on suddenly and is very high, like over 103 agrees, seems to be one of those things that's pretty consistent in patients who have swine flu or H1N1. If you have that: a sudden onset fever and a lot of the other symptoms: the cough, soreness of your muscles, headache, you should probably go see your doctor.
COOPER: All right. Carlos, a lot of people seem confused about the alarm bells.
Mandy Michalek asked me on Facebook, "Why is there so much hype over the strain? Aren't the symptoms basically just the same as those associated with the seasonal flu?"
Well we just heard from Sanjay. A sudden onset of a very high fever, about 103, may be one of the difference, but a lot of people worried this may just be hype.
DEL RIO: The symptoms are very similar to those of regular flu because at the end of the day, this is an influenza virus. What is very different and the hype that we're seeing right now, because this is a totally new virus that is now exposing a population that has no history of having been exposed to this virus. And therefore we're all susceptible to it. And therefore the possibility of this virus causing significant mortality is very high.
COOPER: Sanjay, another question that came to us via Facebook. Robert Inigo wants to know, "How long does it take to develop a new vaccine? Could it be ready and FDA approved before next flu season?" Are we anywhere close on this one?
GUPTA: This is something -- well, this is something I've been trying to get to the bottom of as well. The first step is they take a lot of the virus and sometimes they'll replicate it so they can get just a stockpile of the virus. You need that virus to make the vaccine.
They've been doing that part of the process but I don't know that they've actually started the manufacturing of a vaccine. One thing that's worth pointing out here, Anderson, is that it's not as simple as just starting. Manufacturing capacity of vaccines is limited. So if you decide that you'll start making the swine or H1N1 vaccine, you might be taking away some of the production capabilities for the seasonal flu vaccine, which is a problem.
A couple of years ago, we didn't have enough of that and seasonal flu is something we should keep in the back of our minds as well. This is something that leads to about 36,000 deaths a year on average in the United States. This is a decision they really have to make here.
COOPER: Carlos, here's another question. David -- this is from Twitter -- David Yee asked, "At this stage, how does it compare with SARS as to all stats, deaths, infected?
Is this -- how does this compare, Carlos?
DEL RIO: It's looking very similar to what SARS did. And in fact a lot of the strategies being implemented, social isolation and what's being done in the management is exactly what happened with SARS.
The good news here compared to SARS is that we have anti-virals as Sanjay said. The drugs that we can use, Oseltamivir and Zamivir, to treat this infection make a big difference because in SARS we didn't have any treatment, any available therapies.
COOPER: Sanjay, another question from Twitter. Lisa Delli wants to know, "Once you had swine, are you immune?" If you survived the swine flu outbreak back in the '70s, are you safe this time?
GUPTA: Probably not to that strain. As Dr. Del Rio mentioned, these things tend to mutate quite a bit. That swine virus back then is going to be different than the swine virus now. But if you get the swine virus -- if you get an infection now in the spring, for example, and then it comes back in the fall, it's the exact same strain; you might have some immunity because of that.
Right now, most of us have no immunity to it because this is such a new virus.
COOPER: Carlos, I want to play this iReport from Adrianna in Marietta, Georgia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADRIANNA, IREPORTER: Has the United States government done enough to protect us to from the spread of the swine flu? Should our government take the next extraordinary step of actually sealing off the border between us and Mexico?
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Carlos, what do you think? You advise the Mexican government?
DEL RIO: Yes and I would say that that's not a good strategy. It's not a strategy that we can implement anymore. There's 91 cases already in the U.S. There are some cases now in the U.S. that have no history of travel to Mexico or contact with anybody traveling to Mexico. In other words, there's already human-to-human transmission here in the U.S. without history of travel and there as we say in our business, the cat is out of the bag.
I think what needs to happen and what is happening is very strong collaboration and cooperation between Mexico and the U.S. to work together on this. Let's think about it as the North American virus; the United States, Canada and Mexico are working very, very closely together in trying to control this epidemic.
COOPER: Dr. Carlos Del Rio, we appreciate your expertise. Thanks very much. And Dr. Sanjay Gupta as well.
We'll have more on our breaking news coming up.
And also Larry King has a live special edition at midnight East Coast time in about five minutes from now. We'll be right back. More coverage ahead.
COOPER: More breaking news tonight before we go. "The New York Times" and "Wall Street Journal" both citing unnamed sources reporting that talks between Chrysler's bondholders and the Treasury Department have broken down. That means a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing is almost certain tomorrow, most likely here in New York. The treasury has been offering about $2.25 billion cash to hedge funds and other investors now owed $7 billion by Chrysler; money the company cannot pay. Chrysler wants Treasury to pick up the debt so it can conclude a deal to essentially be bought out by Fiat. More on this tomorrow and throughout the evening.
That does it for this edition of 360. Thanks for watching.
A special live edition of "LARRY KING" starts right now.