Return to Transcripts main page


ISIS Advancing, Obama Talks War Strategy; CDC Response Team Heads to Dallas; CentCom: 21 New Airstrikes on ISIS Near Kobani; Reports: Turkey Bombs Outlawed Kurdish Group; Mystery Deepens as North Korea's Kim Reappears

Aired October 14, 2014 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, Ebola alert -- a U.S. nurse being treated for the deadly disease sends a message. But health officials still don't know how she became infected. I'll talk to the CDC director, Dr. Thomas Frieden.

Massive explosions as chaos where Syria -- ISIS surrounds another Iraqi military base and President Obama meets with defense Chiefs from 22 nations to discuss how to stop the jihadist onslaught.

Back in charge -- North Korea's leader reappears after being out of the public view for more than a month.

But why is he now walking with a cane?

And missing student mystery -- a new strategy in the search for Hannah Graham. We'll have the latest details.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following two major stories. Explosions and gunfire as ISIS forces gain more ground inside Syria and Iraq, while President Obama talks strategy for the war on the terrorists with military leaders from the 22 nations in the U.S.-led coalition.

Also, aggressive new steps by federal health officials to prevent the spread of Ebola in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just announced its implementing special Ebola response teams that could be on the ground within hours anywhere an Ebola case is diagnosed in the United States. The director of the CDC, Dr. Thomas Frieden, is standing by for us.

We'll discuss with him, along with our other correspondents, our other guests.

CNN's Victor Blackwell begins our coverage this hour.

He's in Dallas, where that nurse infected with Ebola is being treated -- Victor, what's the latest you're hearing there? VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, an admission today from Dr. Tom Frieden, head of the CDC, that the agency did not respond aggressively enough once Thomas Eric Duncan tested positive for Ebola. They're beefing up that response now.

Also, we're learning they are monitoring more than 70 health care workers who also had contact with Duncan.


BLACKWELL (voice-over): The Centers for Disease Control says it is working with Texas health officials to determine who could have been exposed to Ebola through contact with Nina Pham before she was diagnosed with the deadly virus on Sunday. Those contacts will be monitored, along with those being monitored for exposure to Thomas Eric Duncan, who died from the virus last week.

DR. TOM FRIEDEN, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Before he was hospitalized, had exposures or potential exposures to 48 people.

Second, once he was hospitalized, there were at least 76 people who might have come into contact with him or his blood and who are being monitored now.

BLACKWELL: Many of those at risk had, up until now, been self- monitoring. Now, they will be checked twice daily for fever and symptoms.

Pham remains in stable condition as doctors hope a blood transfusion will improve her ability to fight the deadly virus. Pham received the donation from Ebola survivor, Dr. Kent Brantly. As a former Ebola victim, his blood is packed with antibodies that could save the nurse's life. She graduated with a nursing degree from Texas Central University in 2010 and became certified as a critical care nurse two months ago. Fellow nurses say Pham was particularly cautious.

JENNIFER JOSEPH, FORMER FELLOW NURSE: Knowing Nina, she's one of the most meticulous, thorough, effective nurses. When she taught me infection control and hand hygiene and protocol, like I learned so much of that from her.

BLACKWELL: And in Nebraska, Ashoka Mukpo, the NBC freelance cameraman who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia continues to show signs of improvement, posting to Facebook, "There have been some dark and profoundly frightening moments in this ordeal. I won't ever know exactly when I slipped up and contracted the virus. I had been taking precautions, but obviously, they weren't enough."


BLACKWELL: And for the first time since we learned that this nurse contracted Ebola from Thomas Eric Duncan, we are hearing from Nina Pham. The hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian, released this statement. We're going to put it up on the screen. She says, "I'm doing well and want to thank everyone for their kind wishes and prayers. I'm blessed by the spirit of family and friends and am blessed to be cared for by the best team of doctors and nurses in the world here at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, Dallas."

Again, Wolf, her official status is clinically stable -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, let's hope she completely, completely recovers.

Victor, thank you.

Just a little while ago, President Obama spoke about the growing concern over Ebola in the United States and the case of the Texas nurse, Nina Pham.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are surging resources into Dallas to examine, you know, what exactly has happened that ended up infecting the nurse there. Obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with her.


BLITZER: Let's bring in CNN's Anderson Cooper.

He's in Dallas working the story for all of us, as well -- Anderson, is this hospital in Dallas, based on everything you're hearing from the experts there, now fully prepared, fully equipped to deal with Ebola?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't think anybody can say that they are fully prepared, fully equipped to deal with it. Certainly, they were not before. The director of the CDC, as you know -- and you're going to be talking to him shortly -- came forward today. And you just heard President Obama say they are surging personnel into this hospital. They are changing protocols in this hospital. More oversight of the nurses, of the doctors. They're going to have somebody watching to make sure that people getting in and out of the protective gear, that that is all none done properly.

But it certainly seems to indicate that there were problems before. The very fact that one nurse has tested positive and as many as 76 people now need to be monitored, people may have had contact with the build of Thomas Eric Duncan or fluids of him.

And certainly, the fact, Wolf, even when you look at how Thomas Eric Duncan was turned away from this hospital when he first came here, with a fever that spiked to as much as 103 while he was in the emergency room, and according to his family members who brought him to the hospital, they told the hospital that he had recently come from Liberia.

Put those altogether and it certainly seems, at least in this case, in this hospital -- and it raises questions about other hospitals -- how prepared they are to really deal with Ebola in the United States.

BLITZER: Anderson will be anchoring "A.C. 360" later tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern from Dallas.

Anderson, thanks very much.

Let's dig a deeper right now with the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Thomas Frieden.

Dr. Frieden, thanks very much for joining us. I know you have a lot going on right now. Let's start with Nina Pham, this 26-year-old nurse. She says she's doing well. She received a blood transfusion from Dr. Kent Brantly, who survived Ebola, as you know.

Is that the most promising treatment right now, to get these blood transfusions, maybe to get some antibodies working in there?

DR. TOM FRIEDEN, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Well, we don't know what's going to work in terms of different experimental treatments. Our focus now is making sure that we do everything possible to have her care be both safe and effective.

Safe, making sure that people caring for her don't themselves get exposed and, effective, there's a lot that can be done for someone with Ebola that is not experimental. There's a lot of fluid management and balance and monitoring their health. And that's what she's getting there.

BLITZER: What about the experimental drug that's been out there?

Is she going to be getting that drug as well?

FRIEDEN: You'd really have to refer to the hospital and her or her family in terms of any treatments she may or may not receive. But we know that good medical care can really reduce the risk of bad outcomes.

BLITZER: So we don't really know if these experimental drugs or that blood transfusion or what really works. It's way too early.

Is that right?

FRIEDEN: We don't know. We do know that good medical care, checking fluid and electrolytes, replacing those, taking care of someone well, that makes a really big difference and we do know that care can be provided safely. That's why we've surged staff, more than 20 staff, into Texas, working with the hospital directly.

And we've done three things to make sure that care is safe in the hospital. The first is have a site manager there, to make sure that they are overseeing everything that is done. The second is more training, training, retraining. We've brought a couple nurses from Emory who have worked with Ebola patients there.

And third is limit the number of staff so that you're absolutely providing all the care that is needed but not with any more people that need to go into that space.

BLITZER: Do you yet know, does anyone really know how Nina Pham contracted Ebola?

FRIEDEN: We don't know and we may never know. But we do know that we've identified a number of things that can be improved in terms of the process of putting on, taking off personal protective equipment, what's done in the center.

And we've got staff now hands on working on all of those issues, continuously improving so that care can reduce to a minimum the chance that anyone would become infected there.

BLITZER: So I take it, based on what has happened over these last couple of weeks, especially with Nina Pham, this 26-year-old nurse, the CDC is revising their protocols for the protective equipment and all of that.

Is that right?

FRIEDEN: We're looking at every aspect of care. But the fact there was an infection of a health care worker is simply unacceptable.

So what we've announced today is that, starting today, for any hospital anywhere in the U.S., if they have a confirmed case of Ebola, we will send a team to the ground to be there with them for every aspect of the care, from infection control to treatment to environmental decontamination, to waste management, to training of staff.

I wish we had done that earlier in Dallas but we're there now. It's the first case of Ebola in this country. So we've all been learning from that experience.

BLITZER: How many people are now being monitored?

FRIEDEN: Currently, there really are several different groups. Everyone exposed to Mr. Duncan: that was 48 people and all of them have now gone through the highest risk period. They are already two- thirds of the way through their monitoring 21-day period, more than two-thirds of the risk has passed them.

So we're hopeful we will not see any cases among those 48 individuals.

For the second patient, the nurse who is in the hospital, one individual was exposed to her and that monitoring is continuing.

And as you mentioned, for the others who were providing care to the index patient, there are 76 who potentially may have been exposed and all of them will be monitored as well.

BLITZER: When you say monitored, these 76 people, what does that mean?

FRIEDEN: Every day, someone takes their temperature and they take their temperature and they are informed to immediately come in if they have any symptoms whatsoever, even minor symptoms, so that we can catch it early if they have Ebola. That means we'll have some false alarms, we'll have people who have come in and have no significant health problem but that's OK. We want to get them in immediately, isolated, so that if it turns out that they do have Ebola, they can get cared for immediately and improve their outcome and eliminate the risk if they would make other people -- infect other people or make other people sick.

BLITZER: Now the CDC response team that you're sending to Dallas, is it already there, is it on the way?

If not, when will it get there?

FRIEDEN: It is there. We were there the first day. We focused on contact tracing, public health management, tracking what was happening with that first case and the laboratory testing and a series of other aspects. And those have been going well.

We had some expertise there in hospital management and in infection control and that's what we've beefed up further. We have some of the top experts in the world on how to take care of Ebola and how to do it safely. They are there now on the ground in Dallas working side-by- side with the staff at the hospital to make sure that that care is as safe and effective as possible.

BLITZER: So you're confident Nina Pham should stay at that Dallas hospital and not be airlifted to the University of Nebraska or Emory Hospital in Atlanta where you are?

They can do the job in Dallas, do you believe?

FRIEDEN: We are going to look at that situation every day. We are going to do whatever is necessary to provide the best possible care for her and the best possible protection for those caring for her.

BLITZER: So you're leaving open the possibility that she could be airlifted out of there?

FRIEDEN: Right now we're comfortable with the level of care being given. But we'll reassess that.

One of the things that we've really learned about Ebola over the past months is that the situation does change often.

So rather than say we're definitely going to do it this way, we look, what's really happening on the ground?

What will really make a difference to help people and protect the public?

And that's what we're going to do here.

There's enormous concern out there. We're going to keep you, we're going to take a quick break, Dr. Frieden. Stay with us. We have a lot more questions. As you know, there's enormous concern out there. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We're following the breaking news, the CDC announcing new Ebola response teams, one of them now in Dallas. We're back with the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Thomas Frieden.

Dr. Frieden, are U.S. hospitals really ready to deal with Ebola?

FRIEDEN: Every hospital in the country needs to be ready to diagnose Ebola. Someone could come in, a responder from the U.S., who has come back or someone else, really important.

If someone has a fever or other signs of infection, ask, where have you been in the last 21 days?

Have you been in West Africa, Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone? That every single hospital and outpatient facility needs to think about, because the patient could come in anywhere. As long as this is spreading in Africa, people can end up here.

In terms of the care of someone with confirmed Ebola or even suspected Ebola, the moment it's suspected, consult with the local health department, consult with the state health department, consult with us. We'll walk you through getting the testing done. We have surged testing facilities around the U.S. If it's confirmed, we'll be there to do it with you.

BLITZER: As of right now -- and you correct me if I'm wrong, Dr. Frieden, only a handful, three, four, five hospitals in the United States are fully prepared, we've put a few of them up on the screen right there -- fully equipped to deal with Ebola, Emory University, NIH in Bethesda, Maryland, outside of Washington; University of Nebraska, St. Patrick's Hospital in Montana.

Those are the only ones fully prepared.

Is that right?

FRIEDEN: I don't think that's correct, actually. Those are facilities that have special biocontainment units that would be suitable if we had a new pathogen that we discovered and we didn't know how it spread. So CDC supported one of those, NIH others. The idea there is if you've got an unknown pathogen and you don't know how it spreads, you could care for it safely -- care for a patient with that there.

That's very different from Ebola. We know how to stop the spread of Ebola. But it's not easy. It requires meticulous attention to detail. It require a site manager, training, follow-up, you know, you can use different forms of personal protective equipment, but it's not the case that you can only care for Ebola safely there.

BLITZER: How serious was the violation by NBC News' Dr. Nancy Snyderman, of the violation of what was called her mandatory quarantine? I guess the bottom line question, did she potentially put anyone at risk? FRIEDEN: For someone who's a contact or potentially a contact, the

most important thing is to monitor your temperature every day and if you have a fever or you have any symptoms at all, go immediately in, calling ahead to say, I've been exposed, I might be sick; I'm coming in for assessment.

That's what we want contacts to do and that's the most important thing to protect the public.

Just look at two numbers. How many people Mr. -- the first index patient in Dallas exposed, potentially 48, how many people the second patient, the nurse exposed, one. That's the kind of trend we want to see so that we don't have people exposed if there are future cases so we stop the chain of transmission. That's how Ebola control works.

BLITZER: So did she put anyone at risk?

FRIEDEN: If she was not sick, she was not putting others at risk.

BLITZER: Dr. Frieden, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck to you. Good luck to all of the men and women of the Centers for Disease Control. We're counting on all of you to keep all of us safe. We appreciate what you're doing.

FRIEDEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, a strategy meeting for the war on ISIS. We have details of President Obama's high-level huddle with top leaders, military leaders for almost two dozen countries.

Plus, ISIS forces now surrounding another Iraqi military base. They're making new advances despite the stepped-up U.S.-led air strikes.


BLITZER: British fighters are trying to hold on against ISIS terrorists in the key Syrian border town of Kobani. Look what's going on over there.

The United States today stepped up its airstrikes in and around Kobani, slowing the ISIS advance, at least a bit, but the jihadists, they have been gaining ground in Kobani and in the area as well, as well as in Iraq where they are surrounding an Iraqi military base. Defense chiefs from nearly two dozen nations have been meeting with President Obama just outside Washington to discuss military operations against ISIS and how to move forward.

Let's go live to our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta. He's got the very latest -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, some pretty candid language from President Obama, who just wrapped up a meeting, as you said, over at Andrews Air Force Base with Joint Chiefs Chairman Dempsey and 21 other defense chiefs from around the world. And this is coming at a time when ISIS is making some major gains in both Iraq and Syria.

But aides to the president say the U.S.-led coalition will not be adopting a new strategy to degrade and destroy ISIS. Earlier today, White House press secretary Josh Earnest insisted the president's approach is, quote, "succeeding."

But the president during his remarks to the defense chiefs cautioned expectations that the airstrikes would lead to a quick victory. Here's what he had to say.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is going to be a long-term campaign. There are not quick fixes involved. We're still in the early stages. As with any military effort, there will be days of progress, and there are going to be periods of setback. But our coalition is united behind this long-term effort.


ACOSTA: Now, the president did talk about some of the successes the coalition has had early on in the fight against ISIS, but he also conceded that he is, quote, "deeply concerned" about the security situation in the Syrian town of Kobani.

White House officials admit they are at a disadvantage in the battle against ISIS in Syria and that there is no coalition ground force in that country to take the fight to the terror group.

Air strikes, as you know, were ramped up against ISIS around Kobani in the last 24 hours, but the White House said this was not the beginning of some new escalation against ISIS. Still, Josh Earnest said the president does reserve the right to do just that, an escalation, if these airstrikes are not having the desired result, Wolf.

BLITZER: So far they're not having the desired result from the U.S. perspective. Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

As the United States and its allies try to ease the ISIS pressure on Kobani, the jihadists are pressing forward on several fronts. Let's bring in our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr. She's got more -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, with ISIS continuing on the march just outside of Baghdad, there is growing concern at the Pentagon that Iraqi forces may not be able to save themselves.


STARR (voice-over): Massive explosions in northwestern Syria. Activists say these are tunnels full of explosives being detonated by militants as clashes broke out between regime and opposition forces, just the latest in escalating violence against Syria and Iraq.

Around the besieged city of Kobani, on the Syria/Turkey border, 21 coalition air strikes, the largest number of strikes since operations began. Finally, stepping up attacks against ISIS positions to protect the town. But the White House still cautioning airstrikes can only have so much impact in Kobani.

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: That impact is constrained by the fact that there aren't forces on the ground that can follow up on those air strikes to end that siege.

STARR: Pentagon officials say don't expect a change in strategy. They've long warned U.S. air power could only do so much.

CHUCK HAGEL, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I also want to emphasize that no one is under any illusions. Under any illusions that air strikes alone will destroy ISIL.

STARR: Iraq's Anbar province, the western approach to Baghdad, may be running out of time. ISIS has surrounded and is preparing to attack Al-Asad Air Base, one of Iraq's largest, according to security forces. If they succeed, ISIS will have a new cache of weapons.

It comes as General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, holds the largest meeting of the coalition to date: 22 nations sending their military chiefs to Washington to review the fight against ISIS.

The U.S. has used Apache helicopters and AC-130 gunships at low altitude to virtually strafe ISIS forces, but ISIS continues to regroup and train for battle, raising the question once again, is there a solution?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It is looking more and more like Chairman Dempsey is going to have to go back to the president and ask the president to authorize the introduction of U.S. combat forces into Iraq.


STARR: But, you know, there was no indication, there is no indication that President Obama would approve ground forces into Iraq airstrikes may never have been the full answer, but the U.S. certainly had expected the Iraqis to at least fight and fight more and better than they currently are -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That Iraqi military, which was trained by the United States, funded by the United States, armed by the United States largely MIA missing in action right now, refusing to defend their own country, and that's a disgrace.

All right, Barbara, thanks very much.

While the U.S. has tried to encourage Turkey, a powerful NATO member, to join the fight against ISIS, Turkey had a different target in mind today.

Joining us now, Barham Salih, the former prime minister of the Kurdistan regional government, a former deputy prime minister of Iraq, as well. Minister, thanks very much for joining us. All of a sudden today, we hear Turkey is launching airstrikes, not

against ISIS but against Kurds inside Turkey, this offshoot of what is called the PPK, the Kurdistan Workers' Party. They accused this group of being terrorists, but there's been a cease-fire for almost two years right now. What is going on?

BARHAM SALIH, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF KURDISTAN REGIONAL GOVERNMENT: Well, it's a very dangerous group. And it's rather disconcerting and disappointing. There was one bright spot of hope in that region, and that was the peace process that was going on in Turkey. This air strike, I hope it does not mean the end of the peace process, because the real threat to the region, the stability of the region is ISIS, these terrorists.

Solving the Kurdish issue, recognizing Kurdish rights, is the way to go forward militarily. Attacks against the Kurds is not the way. It's only diverting attention from the real issue, namely, taking on ISIS and the people terrorizing the entire east.

BLITZER: Has the Turkish government explained to you, the Kurds, why they are attacking Kurdish positions inside Turkey right now?

SALIH: Not to my knowledge, but what is happening is rather dangerous. I would say reckless, and it is going to cause significant repercussions to the overall effort, trying to bring the region together in any stance against is.

BLITZER: All of us who have covered the Kurds over the years, and I have over many years, and we know the Peshmerga, your fighters, they are fierce, but they are not armed right. They can't deal with ISIS, which has U.S. tanks, armored personnel carriers, missiles, mortars. There are forces, and there are plenty of them, but they have basically rifles.

SALIH: Indeed. And one of the problems that we do have is the lack of equipment, lack of adequate weapons.

BLITZER: The U.S. says it's resupplying you, but that stuff isn't getting through, because the Iraqi government in Baghdad is preventing it from reaching the hands of the Peshmerga.

SALIH: Over the past month or so, there has been shipments of weapons, but it is, again, nowhere enough to deal...

BLITZER: Sophisticated weapons. Excuse me, Minister, for interrupting. Sophisticated weapons? Abrams battle tanks, stuff like that?

SALIH: Not at all. Abrams battle tanks were delivered to the Iraqi military, and sophisticated weapons were delivered to the Iraqi military, and as you have said, unfortunately, during the onslaught of ISIS, this melted away, and we have a serious problem. Much of those weaponry ended up in the hands of ISIS.

BLITZER: I understand. Because if you take a look at what ISIS has, and they have sophisticated weaponry, it's largely U.S. weaponry that they captured from Iraqi troops which were fleeing, refusing to fight to defend their own country.

Why can't the United States deliver weapons directly to the Kurds? Why does the U.S. have to go through Baghdad?

SALIH: The United States is bound, with explanation given to us -- is bound by the one-Iraq policy, the sovereignty of the Iraqi state, is talking to the government in Baghdad. That is undeniably -- is slowing down the delivery of these shipments. But I very much hope that we will be able to fix this issue for once and for all.

At the end of the day, Kurdistan has emerged as a reliable party of the United States, a capable, competent party of the United States and the neighboring countries in the fight against ISIL.

You talked about Kobani, that Syrian Kurdish town, and the White House spokesman was talking about lack of ground troops from there. You have watched, from the CNN reporting, the heroic fighters, the men and women who are putting up a great resistance against these terrorists. These people deserve support. You have boots on the ground; you have allies on the ground. Air power alone will not do it. That is right. But we have people in the region, the communities in that region, the Kurds, the Shia, the people in the region who have an interest in taking on ISIS should be supported in power.

BLITZER: When will Kurdistan be an independent nation?

SALIH: Every Kurd dreams of independence. It is a fundamental right of the Kurdish nation to have its own independence state. The way the Middle East is going, despite our commitment to Iraqi total integrity, the way this part of the world is going, I think it will be impossible to convince the Kurds to stay with the present arrangement.

We need a decent government in Baghdad, across the Middle East, a settlement of Kurdish fights, based on democracy and respect for human rights. But the name of the game is shunning the Kurds away, letting them be slaughtered by ISIS or by these airstrikes. I'll tell you what: those who advocate the delivery of that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) on Kurdistan will be growing only stronger.

BLITZER: Because there's not a whole lot of time that you have right now. Very quickly, because we're out of time, is there a deadline when you're going to walk away from Iraq?

SALIH: I don't want to talk about that at the moment. I want to focus on defeating ISIS. This is a terrorist group. It's terrorizing everybody. It's in our interest to work with other Iraqis and the United States, with other leaders who are serious about taking on ISIS in order to defeat this scourge.

This is, Wolf, I think, one of the problems that I see, talking to friends in Washington. The scope of this problem is not fully understood. We are talking about an unprecedented threat.

We -- if you remember, during every stage of the Iraq war, we dealt with the insurgents and then we dealt with al Qaeda. Now we're dealing with ISIS, which is a far more potent and dangerous mutant of this terrorist organization.

I hope we deal with this problem in a fundamental way. Military component is vital. We need to help those people who are willing to put up a fight but at the same time deal with the fundamental issues of politics, broken politics that give advice to these terrorists once again.

BLITZER: Barham Salih, thanks so much for joining us. And I hope -- I hope there won't be a massacre of the Kurds in Syria right now, because unfortunately...

SALIH: That will -- that will bring the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to the coalition. The moral resistance of that coalition.

BLITZER: The world stands by and allows that.

SALIH: That should not be allowed. ISIS should not be allowed that victory. Kobani must not fall in the hands of ISIS. Ramadi and those places that have been besieged by ISIS should not be allowed to fall.

BLITZER: Barham Salih, thanks for joining us. Good luck to you. Good luck to all the Kurdish people.

SALIH: Thank you, sir.

BLITZER: The Democratic challenger to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has again refused to say whether she voted for President Obama. In last night's Kentucky Senate debate, Alison Lundergan Grimes said privacy of the ballot box is a matter of principle. The only debate between the two candidates was a heated one, and we have part of that exchange in our next hour.

Still ahead, the search for the missing college student Hannah Graham takes a different -- takes on a different dimension. We're learning new details of a change in strategy.

Plus, the mystery surrounding the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un. Even "Saturday Night Live" is weighing in.




I told you, I broke my ankle while dunking over Michael Jordan. This is what happened!



BLITZER: New questions are swirling following the sudden reappearance of North Korean's Kim Jong-un who had not been seen in public for more than a month. The new images coming out of the world's most isolated country are only deepening the mystery. CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.

Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you know, for weeks, Kim's disappearance had prompted concern in the intelligence community and speculation over what was happening behind the scenes. Was there a coup? Did he have serious health problems?

Now the North Koreans seem to be hoping these new images of a beaming Kim Jong-un will put all that to rest, but tonight there are still some very serious questions about Kim's hold on power.


TODD (voice-over): With no mention of where he'd been for five weeks, Kim Jong-un appears. New photos emerged on North Korean state television of Kim inspecting a newly-built housing complex. He seems to stride confidently with one very noticeable exception.

(on camera): He was limping before, and now he's visibly using a cane. What does that tell you?

DR. ROBERT BUNNING, MEDSTAR NATIONAL REHABILITATION HOSPITAL: Well, either he had pain causing his limping, and he has residual pain and he's discovered that the cane is one way to ameliorate the pain, or he had weakness and he's found that the cane gives him better stability. It is interesting that they allow him to use the cane, because it's a pretty public statement of his infirmity.

TODD: No date was given for when the photos were taken. Kim had just missed an important public event: the anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party. It fueled reports of a possible coup, rumors of worsening health or personal problems, and a zing from "Saturday Night Live."

MOONEY: But sir, you're limping.

MOYNIHAN: What? Who said that?

I told you, I broke my ankle while dunking over Michael Jordan. This is what happened!

TODD: Kim had obviously gained weight since taking power three years ago. There were widespread reports he had ailments which run in his family: high blood pressure, diabetes, and gout.

DR. ROBERT BUNNING, MEDSTAR NATIONAL REHABILITATION HOSPITAL: And of course gout at a relatively early age suggests he has the type of gout that is harder to treat.

TODD: Dr. Kim So-Yeon is a defector who treated Kim's grandfather, the late North Korean dictator Kim Il-Sung. She told CNN's Paula Hancocks that Kim Jong-Un may have been given hormone shots for a sprain reason. DR. KIM SO-YEON, KIM IL-SUNG'S DOCTOR (Through Translator): Kim Jong-

Un was artificially made to look that way. To look more like Kim Il- Sung.

TODD: One analyst says looking like his revered grandfather won't help the young Kim.

JOSEPH DETRANI, FORMER U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY: I think his absence for 40 days was not only a physical it was a manifestation, I think it was also political. I think the execution of Jang Song Thaek, alienating their only ally China, and some of the other policies he's taken have turned in to be a disaster.


TODD: Former envoy Joe DeTrani says if that isolation continues, it's possible that Kim will give up power. Not necessarily in a coup but in a scenario where top generals and others are pulling the strings behind the scenes if that's not happening already. Still, U.S. intelligence officials tell us they continue to believe Kim is not under significant threat and that for now the country is operating normally -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. The mystery will continue, at least for now.

TODD: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you very much.

Still ahead, a change in strategy in the search for the missing Virginia college student Hannah Graham. There's a new agency now in charge of the case.

Plus, the breaking news. The CDC sending out Ebola response teams. One is now in Dallas where the nurse infected with the virus is speaking out. We have details of her message to the world.


BLITZER: The search for a missing University of Virginia student is taking on a different dimension. A day after desperate pleas from the parents of Hannah Graham the city of Charlottesville now in charge with a new strategy.

Let's discuss, joining us, CNN law enforcement analyst, the former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes, along with investigative journalist Coy Barefoot is joining us from Charlottesville.

What's the latest, Coy? What are you hearing about this search?

COY BAREFOOT, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Wolf, it has been incorrectly reported by a number of Virginia reporters here that the Virginia Department of Emergency Management is pulling out of the search for Hannah Graham. I spoke with Captain Pleasant at the Charlottesville Police Department moments ago and I can confirm that the Virginia Department of Emergency Management is not, I repeat, they are not pulling out of the search for Hannah Graham.

They are currently on stand-down. And the search will begin again on Thursday. We've got some significant thunderstorms that are preparing to move through Virginia over the next 48 hours. Once those have passed through, the search will commence and it will enter an important second phase of the search and the Virginia Department of Emergency Management will continue to support the Charlottesville Police Department with logistics, with planning, with mapping, with whatever resources they need here to find Hannah and bring her home.

BLITZER: Tom, if the authorities there in Charlottesville suspect the suspect in this case Jesse Matthew, he might know where Hannah Graham is, how do they get him to talk?

TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think at this point, Wolf, their best hope is if they can bring murder charges in the Morgan Harrington case, the girl that was killed five years ago, the Virginia Tech student attending a concert in Charlottesville, if they charge him with murder and can bargain with him to save his own life if he leads them to her, if he is the one that took her and actually murdered her or abducted her and put her someplace.

BLITZER: In other words, get a reduced -- to have a plea deal instead of getting the execution which is legal in Virginia. You get life in prison, something like that.

Well, Coy, let me ask you and, obviously, he is innocent until he is proven guilty. He is being held where you are in Charlottesville. What are you hearing about any of these efforts to try to get him to talk if he knows, in fact, where she might be?

BAREFOOT: I have not heard specifically of what is happening behind the scenes at the jail. Of course, he is absolutely presumed innocent until he is proven guilty in a court of law with competent counsel.

But look. Jesse Matthew was named, he was investigated as being the man responsible for two rapes at two different universities in 2002 and 2003. That issue of sexual assault on university campuses is not about to go away any time soon. And there is a number of critical issues that play here that colleges and universities are going to have to figure out. Should they be allowed to investigate themselves? Or should they pass that off to somebody else?

Should young men coming in to join college communities? Should they undergo a specific type of training to identify red flags of behavior? These are all really important questions that this nation has to figure out.

BLITZER: And, Tom, when Hannah Graham's parents come out with an emotional statement that has an impact on this investigation, right?

FUENTES: The impact would be on everybody continuing their effort to search and look for her and volunteers to come out, I think it would have zero impact on whoever took their daughter.

BLITZER: All right. Tom Fuentes, Coy Barefoot, let's hope we find out what's going on over there and find out soon. Appreciate it to both of you.

Coming up, a Dallas nurse, 26 years old, infected with Ebola sends a message and federal authorities prepare to send a rapid response team wherever the next, yes, the next U.S. case is diagnosed.

Plus, President Obama meets with the defense chiefs from 22 nations and warns of a long, tough campaign against ISIS.


BLITZER: Happening now. Condition update. A Dallas hospital has just released the new report on the nurse infected with Ebola.

Ebola anxiety. The CDC sets up a new rapid response team and new procedures to help hospitals diagnose and safely treat the virus.

And desperate battle. Explosions and gunfire echo across the Syrian town that's become the focal point in the war with ISIS. We go live to the front.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.