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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Edge of Disaster: Are you Prepared?
Aired February 23, 2007 - 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: Over the next hour we'll talk to Flynn and layout nightmare scenarios that are predictable and preventable. This is a wakeup call to our government at every level, one that can no longer be ignored.
Consider the war on terror. Now, the White House says taking the battle overseas makes us safer here at home, but five years after 9/11 we may be even more vulnerable to a terrorist strike.
Now, on that Tuesday morning, hijackers turned planes into weapons of mass destruction. Their targets, American icons. The World Trade Center, a symbol of our economic right, and the Pentagon, the nerve center for the military.
Well, next time the attack could even be more devastating, but the target may not be as recognizable. Imagine that, and then imagine this terrifying sequence of events playing out one summer night in Philadelphia.
CNN's David Mattingly reports.
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the scenario -- a summer afternoon in Philadelphia, the parking lot still filling up with fans streaming into the stadium for a Phillies home game. The beer cold, the air warm. The ballpark fills with anticipation, as the players take the field.
(on camera): But as the first pitch rockets towards home plate, none of the 45,000 inside has any idea of the terrible turn their lives are about to take. That's because terrorists not far away are moving forward on a plot to turn this stadium into both a spectacular political statement and a mass grave.
(voice-over): It took years of planning to get to this point. The radicals have been quietly and legally acquiring licenses and jobs that give them the means to launch an act of terror so horrifying it could be worse than the attacks of 9/11.
And this is how it begins. Two trucks wind their way through the streets of South Philly, but strangely their destination isn't the stadium. It's the sprawling oil refinery just two miles away.
(on camera): Their mission ends here on this road, as the first truck crashes into the refinery gates. The driver sets off a bomb, killing himself and anyone who might be nearby. The blast blows a hole in the gate big enough for the second truck to drive through.
(voice-over): The second truck is a huge tanker filled with gasoline. When it crashes into a tank, the driver sets off another bomb. Louder than thunder, it brings a momentary hush to the Phillies game two miles away. Fans have no way of knowing a catastrophe is only beginning.
(on camera): That's because inside this refinery there's a dangerous chemical called hydrofluoric acid, and it's the terrorists' lethal weapon. When it spills, it creates a poisonous vapor, an invisible toxic cloud the wind will carry for miles.
(voice-over): As the toxic plume engulfs nearby south Philly neighborhoods, windows broken by the explosions expose people inside their homes. They are the first outside the plant to die.
Then at the stadium, a warning announcement. Fans rush for the exits. But even if they move quickly, many have nowhere to go. Instantly, the parking lot is gridlocked. Traffic on the surrounding streets crawls, and then just stops. Tens of thousands are trapped trying to get away.
Next, immeasurable horror and agony as it reaches the stadium. Thousands begin to choke, convulse and die.
(on camera): How bad could it be?
STEPHEN FLYNN, AUTHOR, "THE EDGE OF DISASTER": It could be, in the terms of the 20,000 people dead.
MATTINGLY: Remember, this is a fictional scenario. With any luck it will never happen. But Stephen Flynn, the author and expert who devised this perfect horror, says it's very plausible and very preventable.
FLYNN: We don't have to be all running around wringing our hands at terrorists who may be here causing mischief, but we really should be focusing on how do we make places safer in general.
MATTINGLY: Flynn says this Philadelphia disaster would be impossible in real life if the refinery would replace its hydrofluoric acid with a less dangerous chemical.
In fact, a spokesman for Sunoco tells CNN the company is looking at reducing that risk by modifying its chemicals.
But Flynn says there are still many predictable disasters looming across the country, where moves toward a prevention have been slow, and in some cases nonexistent. He compares Americans to a bunch of brash teenagers, too caught up in the moment to worry about consequences.
(on camera): Are you suggesting we all need to grow up?
FLYNN: In a big way, we do need to grow up.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): The question, of course, is, can we do it? And can we do it in time?
COOPER: The Philadelphia terror plot is not far-fetched, and it's not the only disaster that we may be inviting. Global warming is increasing the risks of hurricanes and other natural disasters. We can't stop them, but we can better prepare to withstand them.
That's the message in Stephen Flynn's new book, "The Edge of Disaster." And he joins me now.
How is it possible that after all the billions of dollars that have been spent and all the talk and the attention, that we're still in this vulnerable position?
FLYNN: Well, it's really because we haven't focused on our own internal vulnerability. Now the war on terror has really been about taking the battle to the enemy and confronting terrorism beyond our shores.
And the heavy lifting, essentially, looking at what's critical in our society, has it been adequately protected? Are our states and locals really prepared? We as citizens, have we been drawn into this whole fray of trying to figure out how we wrestle with our vulnerability? That has not happened. That's what Katrina told us. It has not happened.
COOPER: And so -- so in a sense you're arguing for a new mindset in fighting terror?
FLYNN: Absolutely. You know, basically, it's been told that it's not possible to protect ourselves, that terrorists can't be deterred. That's really, I think, misminded (ph).
The terrorists strike and they get no bang for their buck. That basically, we go about our lives, that the damage is pretty local, and then their incentive for doing this is pretty small.
It takes a lot to put together a 9/11-scale attack. It could take three years of organization to get that right. And if you strike and you miss, you've got to start all over again here. So by making ourselves more resilient, terrorists may look elsewhere, beyond our shores even, in terms of where they decide to do their mischief.
COOPER: And how do we make ourselves more resilient, less vulnerable?
FLYNN: Well, it's pretty clear what we need to begin to do here is we've got to make sure that we think about disaster, what are the likely things, not the improbable things, but what are the likely things. And it turns out there are quite a few. There are hurricanes. There are earthquakes. There are tornadoes. And then we think -- we have to say, OK, what would be vulnerable if that happened here? And what's our plan?
COOPER: And that's what we're going to be talking about in the hour ahead, taking the punch.
FLYNN: It's in part not only taking the punch, though. It's really saying on the home front what we can do. Our young men and women in uniform are overseas making the ultimate sacrifice to protect us.
But part of the reason why we're having to work so hard on that, is we think if terrorists strike, it will be catastrophic. It's only catastrophic if we allow ourselves to be so exposed and we are unable to respond well.
So part of the message here is that, by making the investments and being prepared for the things that are likely to happen to us, natural disasters, we're making our home front contribution in the war on terror.
COOPER: From the East Coast to the west, America's ports are our economic lifelines. They're essential. They're also sprawling and bustling and wide-open targets.
The busiest port in America is the port of Los Angeles, where in an average month more than 600,000 containers are shipped and received. Down in Florida, the port of Miami, millions of tons of cargo and freight are loaded and unloaded day and night.
But we want to tell you what could happen in the port of Boston, which faces a unique threat, and where a seemingly simple plot would unleash a horrific chain of events. David Mattingly begins his report on the Mystic River.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just give me a good sweep of the piers tonight, sir.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): It's a clear, frigid night in Boston Harbor. Everything looks as it should, and yet it's the kind of night Mayor Tom Menino worries about obsessively.
MAYOR TOM MENINO, BOSTON: They're living in denial state. It's not going to happen. Well, 9/11 wasn't going to happen either. It happened. We're in a different world today than we've ever been in the past. We better be prepared.
MATTINGLY: This is perhaps his biggest worry. It's late and a Coast Guard cutter watchfully shadows a so-called super-tanker, a ship more than three football fields long, as it sails into port.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Air 2 OTC has visual. He's coming right down the center of the harbor.
MATTINGLY: The tanker in our sights is carrying 30 million gallons of liquefied natural gas, or LNG. It's a vital delivery. LNG is the fuel that heats Boston on freezing winter nights.
And yet for the mayor, the sheer scale of these shipments means a terrorist attack could produce an enormous explosive force.
MENINO: Thousands of people could lose their lives if a tanker did explode in the harbor.
MATTINGLY: If terrorists somehow got close enough to blow a hole through the tanker's double hulls, the effects could be cataclysmic. The liquid gas would spill into the harbor. Flames from the explosion would cause it to ignite into an uncontrollable fire.
MENINO: What happens is a cloud comes out of the ship and moves over the city and burns whatever is in its wake.
MATTINGLY: For 30 years, the LNG tanker was just a slow-moving behemoth in a busy port. There were fears of an accidental spill, but little concern it could be used as a monstrous weapon.
But with 9/11, when terrorists turned planes into missiles over the skies of Manhattan, the danger in Boston instantly came into focus, and the huge ship docked on the Mystic River that morning began to look a lot like a very big bomb.
George Naccara was the Boston Coast Guard commander in charge here that day.
MATTINGLY (on camera): It was a sitting duck.
GEORGE NACCARA, FORMER COAST GUARD COMMANDER: It was. I think they had 100,000 cubic meters of liquefied natural gas on board. From that moment on, the security around that vessel was remarkably enhanced.
MATTINGLY: The security zone that's set up around the tanker is absolutely immense. It extends two miles in front of it, one mile behind it, and 500 yards on either side. It is so large that in some parts of the harbor, when the tanker comes through, all traffic virtually shuts down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All clear back there?
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Tonight a fleet of Coast Guard cutters escorts the LNG tanker into port. Out our window, the lights of Boston are gleaming -- bridges, offices, homes, all right in a dangerous path.
(on camera): City officials say they believe that the only way to really keep their city safe is to keep tankers like this out of Boston Harbor. They say build another place for them to go, someplace far away from this heavily populated air.
(voice-over): Mayor Menino and others like Stephen Flynn have been clamoring for people to open their eyes to the obvious.
FLYNN: The lesson of 9/11 should have been look around. Are there things here that could be used as a weapon of mass destruction?
MATTINGLY: Just look at the LNG tanker's path down the Mystic River, gliding by Logan Airport, under the Tobin Bridge, a key artery for the city, past the skyscrapers of downtown Boston and the booming residential waterfront, new condo developments dotting the shoreline.
Nowhere else in the country does an LNG shipment get so close to so many people and businesses. And like the World Trade Center, once an attack is under way here, once the liquid gas ignites, little can be done to contain the inferno.
One Boston fire captain told us the simple instruction he'd give his troops -- run.
COOPER: Next on "The Edge of Disaster," the terrorists within.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice-over): The target, the big ship making its way through Boston harbor. Terrorists could turn it into a big bomb. Who's going to stop them? The answer may surprise you.
MATTINGLY: You pretty much know who belongs on these waters and who doesn't, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say so, yes.
COOPER: We take you back to the danger zone when this special edition of 360, "Edge of Disaster," continues.
"It is simply a matter of time before the United States is attacked again."
Stephen Flynn, "The Edge of Disaster."
COOPER: Tonight we're taking a close look at America on the edge of disaster, how politicians, despite all the money that's been spent, are still failing to protect us from future acts of terror and looming natural catastrophes. The danger is very real. But some say it can reduced if only people in power would listen.
Take the threat of al Qaeda. The U.S. is fighting this war on terror in Afghanistan and in Iraq, but more and more the face of terror can be found not in the Middle East, but in Western Europe, in Britain, in Spain and in the Netherlands.
And there's a growing fear that before too long, the terror threat will cross the Atlantic and flourish on our own shores. But with our government's focus overseas, will we even notice the danger in our own backyard?
David Mattingly takes us back to Boston.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): This is what the super tanker carrying 30 million gallons of liquefied natural gas looks like from the air, slow-moving and hard to miss.
From the water, this is what it looks like -- a slow-moving behemoth that all but dwarfs the city, hard to miss.
And from an apartment office building over there on the shore, imagine what it looks like -- huge, slow-moving, hard to miss.
Boston is the only city in the world where these tankers pass so close to so many people, which means it's also the only place they are so exposed to so many vantage points, so many potential places to launch an attack.
MENINO: I'm very concerned about it. An LNG tanker in these times doesn't belong inside a harbor with close proximity to a residential area.
MATTINGLY: Mayor Tom Menino has been sounding the alarm for years, calling for an end to LNG shipments in the port of Boston, but it hasn't happened. So now officials focus all their energy on preventing the unthinkable.
CAPT. JAMES MCDONALD, U.S. COAST GUARD: Prior to 9/11, we probably devoted about 6 percent of our total time and effort to security. Now that's up in the 50 percent to 60 percent range.
MATTINGLY: Now any tanker sailing into Boston needs to give the guard a 96-hour warning before its arrival. Their crew lists are closely scrutinized. Each week when that lumbering ship makes that turn on the Mystic River, it's surrounded by a flotilla of official escorts, by sea, land and air. Traffic on the Tobin Bridge shuts down, and Logan Airport redirects incoming flights to runways far from the water.
MCDONALD: This is the sector command center. Basically, this is a 24/7 watch deck.
MATTINGLY (on camera): You can get close enough with these cameras you can identify people at the edge of the water, people just walking on the street next to it?
MCDONALD: We absolutely can. And in fact, any time we have ship movements, especially LNG, that's exactly what we're doing with this system.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): But Stephen Flynn, who served in the Coast Guard himself, says it's not enough.
FLYNN: The biggest opportunity to intercept the terrorists is not in the actual act of terror. It's almost too late. Where you can catch them is when they're out doing surveillance. When you can catch them is when they're out doing their dry runs, when they're casing essentially a potential target.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of interesting things that go on, and we try to keep our eye on all of it.
MATTINGLY: In fact, the best line of defense is not authorities, but the people who actually live and work here, guys like Chuck Di Stefado (ph), who could spot a stranger or suspicious activity instantly.
(on camera): In all the years that you've been out here, you pretty much know who belongs on these waters and who doesn't, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say so. Yes.
MATTINGLY: It's an informal, but efficient early warning system.
PAUL PENDER, BOSTON HARBOR FISHERMAN: We can see something and let them know. You know, we're going to notice. I mean, constantly, guys are calling each other on the radio, saying, hey, look at that guy over there. What's he doing? And we notice.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): It is perhaps the highest stakes community policing network imaginable.
MENINO: But if something gets hit, how do you stop the fire? How do you stop the explosion?
MATTINGLY: And that's why Stephen Flynn insists prevention must work. Because if it doesn't, the devastation would be unimaginable.
COOPER: Ports feed and fuel our nation from the coasts. Their cargo shuttled across the country through a maze of roads and waterways.
Here is something you may not know. Our interstate highway system was actually created to make us safer, to more quickly mobilize military forces and equipment in case of a Cold War Soviet attack. It was designed as a security asset, but now decaying and broken down, it may actually be a security risk.
The same can be said for the power grids, massive interstate electrical systems that are vital and falling apart. All it takes is one accident, one incident, for millions to suffer. We saw that unfold not too long ago when a fallen tree in Ohio turned the lights out in New York.
Here's Jeanne Meserve.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was 3 1/2 years ago, August, nearly 90 degrees, when the power suddenly went out and New York shut down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole place just went black. Everyone started closing up all the stores and everything. It was scary.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I really didn't want to be out on the streets. It's a little crazy out there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't get nothing to drink, you can't get on the phones.
MESERVE: People trapped in elevators and subways, traffic lights out, throngs walking across dark bridges to get home. To stay cool, people climbing flights and flights of dark stairways to sleep on roof tops. It was dangerous, but it wasn't terrorism.
It was the biggest blackout in American history, 9,300 square miles in darkness, 50 million affected. For hours, and in some places for days, conveniences, indeed necessities had vanished.
It started in Ohio, but pieces of the interconnected interdependent power grid fell like bowling pins. It was a terrible reminder of our vulnerability. Since then there have been improvements in training, maintenance and equipment, but still it could happen again.
RICHARD SERGEL, NORTH AMERICAN ELECTRICAL RELIABILITY COUNCIL: The system is still connected. It's still operating together. We all rely on one another. So the possibility is still there. But the probability is less.
MESERVE: Yet with our heightened concerns about terrorism, the sheer size of the system puts Americans at risk. More than 200,000 miles of high voltage wire, more than 250,000 substations, some in remote locations. So how to protect it?
There have been instances of sabotage, and two years ago, Radio Canada exposed a yawning hole in security. Its reporters drove unchallenged right into a Quebec hydroelectric plant that's part of the North American power grid.
Some experts believe terrorists with simultaneous attacks on key choke points, or with cyber attacks, could knock out some or even all the power in the U.S.
SERGEL: I think it's -- it's a real possibility.
MESERVE (on camera): But the 2003 blackout wasn't caused by terrorists. It was caused by a tree hitting an overloaded line, highlighting that the power infrastructure is old and overstressed.
(voice-over): Demand has sharply outpaced the growth in our antiquated power supply system. Here's just one example.
On average, transformers in substations have been online for 42 years, but they were designed to last only 40. To replace them takes months, because they're custom-ordered. Stockpiles are limited.
Clark Gellings works for a group funded by the electric power industry. CLARK GELLINGS, ELECTRIC POWER RESEARCH INSTITUTE: If you were to lose a large number of substation transformers at the same time through a natural disaster or something of the sort, you would have a problem.
MESERVE (on camera): For how long?
GELLINGS: It could take weeks or months in order to patch it together.
MESERVE (voice-over): And if there is a problem on the grid, the technology to detect it quickly is limited.
GELLINGS: Now I am sitting there, operating a power system, literally like driving my car in reverse using the rear-view mirror going down the highway. I can't see its condition until 30 seconds after something occurs.
MESERVE: And that is how a cascading event like the blackout can travel hundreds of miles in an instant. The American Society of Civil Engineers graded the national power grid and gave it a "D."
The answer, of course, is investment and massive upgrades, soon. President Bush said as much after the blackout.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will view this rolling blackout as a wake-up call.
MESERVE: But 3 1/2 years later, it's time to ask, did the nation hear the alarm or simply go back to sleep?
COOPER: Well, stepping back from the brink. Instead of inviting disaster, what can we do to prevent it?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice-over): A bad mix, new homes near old levees.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't build houses unless there is sufficient protection.
COOPER: But it's happening, and here is what else could happen?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Things are going downhill in a hurry.
COOPER: A massive flood, plus an earthquake. Homes and lives ruined, but it doesn't have to be that way. We'll show you when "Edge of Disaster" continues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN GRAPHIC) "Terrorism will be like the flu: the only thing we can safely predict is that each season there will be new strains."
Stephen Flynn, "The Edge of Disaster."
COOPER (on camera): More now on the battle against terror in our post-9/11 world. So far tonight we've laid out some pretty scary scenarios -- bombings of an oil refinery in Philadelphia and of a massive tanker moving liquefied natural gas into Boston Harbor.
Again, just what ifs and preventable ones at that, Stephen Flynn writes about them in his new book, "The Edge of Disaster." He points out these nightmare scenarios won't become a reality if we take some simple steps to protect ourselves.
He joins me again to discuss a new way to fight the war on terror.
First of all, is it wrong to be talking about this stuff, to be pointing out these scenarios? There are going to be some people who see this and say, well look, you're giving ideas to terrorists.
FLYNN: I really think it's just the opposite. We are robbing ourselves of our greatest strength in dealing with the risk of terrorism and basically by not engaging the American people. And we can't engage them if we don't talk about these risks.
But also because virtually all these risks do have solutions. There are ways -- not to eliminate it, but to make them far less attractive and make the consequences far less.
COOPER: So you don't think you are giving terrorists any ideas about a stadium or a harbor?
FLYNN: Let's be clear about -- these scenarios that we have here are real scenarios that have played out in the Middle East.
One of the things that has happened in Iraq is that the skill set of taking out refineries, the skill set of going after the electric grid, going after water treatment plants, these things have been getting refined.
The attack on an oil tanker happened off the coast of Yemen, a French oil tanker named the Lindbergh.
So, the terrorists know of these vulnerabilities. They practice it over there.
But in today's world, we have to realize that the idea that it's going to stay in one neighborhood and never get to our neighborhood is probably a bit of a stretch.
COOPER: So we have all seen the -- you know, up tick in security in airports, the color-coded alert system, certainly the increase in funds for the war on terror overseas. How is that missing the mark?
FLYNN: It's basically about gates, guards and guns largely. It's saying I want to harden things that may be targeted here and hope that I can prevent every possible intrusion. I think that's a bit of a stretch. You are not going to be able do that with a sophisticated adversary.
COOPER: In hearing you talk and reading your book, you know, some people are going to say, well, look, it sounds like you are wanting to turn the United States into a police state or into this hyper vigilant culture where fear is kind of pushing us into this constant state of readiness and vigilance.
FLYNN: Just the opposite, I would argue. Fear only works when you know there is a threat and you feel powerless to deal with the threat.
As a society, the biggest danger we face is not terrorist attacks. The biggest danger we face is how we react to the terrorist attacks. It's not the damage that terrorists do to us. It's what we do to ourselves when we are spooked.
COOPER: What do you mean by that?
FLYNN: What I mean by that is that when we have an attack on U.S. soil and it leads to essentially our government overreacting with very costly programs or potentially going after our civil liberties and clamping down on them because of that event, that's where real harm is done. And that's where there is a benefit for our adversaries to use terrorism.
If, on the other hand, we have thought through the worst-case scenarios, we've worked our way through how we would respond to them, we have plans in place, one is we'll be able to deal with the natural disasters we cannot prevent. But should bad guys decide to take us on, we will roll with those punches, too.
COOPER: Terrorism isn't the only threat we face, of course. Nearly 90 percent of us live in locations that put us right in the path of potential natural disasters -- 90 percent.
We have seen it in Florida, a primary target for hurricanes. In the Midwest, where tornadoes often strike with deadly force. And now we take you to California, the states most vulnerable to nature's wrath.
And when nature attacks the capital city of Sacramento, it could be beyond belief.
Again, here's David Mattingly. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the scenario. It's been raining for days. The normally dry, hard ground is near saturated. But the California sun is out now, peeking through the clouds in Sacramento.
A rain cloud has at last lifted and the streets of the capital are busy again. People enjoying the outdoors.
Then suddenly, a few hours later, the storms return. The wind kicks up and the Sacramento River, already swollen from the earlier rains, now surges. Lashing at the 2,400 miles of aging, crumbling levees that snake around much of northern California.
(on camera): Here the water rises higher and higher. This is the city most vulnerable to flooding in the entire United States. Even more so than New Orleans. But the real danger is beginning to unfold just over there beyond the capital dome and the skyscrapers of downtown.
(voice-over): In sprawling tracks of suburban housing built right up to the edge of the levees, people are anxious. Can the levees hold back a flood?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really blowing now.
MATTINGLY: And as the water rises, anxiety turns to fear. But the worst is yet to come. A powerful earthquake strikes. And the decrepit water-soaked levees begin to shake and start to dissolve.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the real thing.
MATTINGLY: Homes alongside the levees are instantly under water. Owners who haven't evacuated, swept away in a rush of muddy torrents.
Thousands drove or were airlifted to shelters scattered across the northern Sacramento region.
(on camera): In downtown Sacramento, city streets are swamped, important government buildings are cut off. And as waters continue to surge, the affects of this catastrophe are just beginning.
(voice-over): To the southwest, the earthquake has transformed the levees holding back the sea and the San Francisco bay into jelly. Saltwater rushes in from the coast and up into the San Joaquin river basin. California's biggest source of drinking water is contaminated.
As aftershocks continue, fragile levees breach in as many as 30 places. Entire cities and 16 islands disappear under water. Farms become lakes. Essential highways and rail lines are wiped out. Train loads of fruits and vegetables destined for refrigerators all across the country are ruined. In the end, economic losses are staggering. More than 300,000 people are left homeless.
GOVERNOR ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: We want to make sure we don't have the same thing as like in a disaster, the Katrina disaster, where you wipe out the whole city just because we didn't take care of the levees.
MATTINGLY: Though our scenario is fiction, it describes a genuine and terrible risk, punctuated by recent and very real levy failures and floods. Some California officials are trying to stop development near the old levees.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to stop adding more people to areas where there is no -- not enough protection. Don't build houses unless there is sufficient protection.
MATTINGLY: At the same time, the state is pleading for more federal money to repair the crumbling levees. Many reduced to big piles of dirt, weakened by invading tree roots and animal burrows.
In just the last year, the list of critically damaged levees has grown more than 10 times over.
LESTER SNOW, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES: There have been a whole sweep of probably 400 additional sites that have been identified. About 100 of those being critical.
MATTINGLY: Now a levee system on the edge of disaster when not so long ago it was a manageable problem that everyone simply ignored.
COOPER: When the "Edge of Disaster" returns, flames engulf a nightclub. A tragedy in a small town, a lesson for the entire country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER (voice-over): In just minutes...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are fully engulfed, fully engulfed building. We have people on fire inside.
COOPER: Panic and chaos.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've had poor communications. We didn't know how many hospitals. There was no system in place to follow.
COOPER: First responders couldn't handle a small town fire. Are they ready for another Katrina or another 9/11?
DR. IRWIN REDLENER, AUTHOR, "AMERICANS AT RISK": The medical system in the United States, generally speaking, is not at all ready for a true mass casualty event.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What has to be done, when "Edge of Disaster" continues.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER (on camera): When disaster strikes, it's the first responders who are called in to action. Yet, as Hurricane Katrina showed us, sometimes it takes hours, even days for help to arrive.
Are America's response teams really ready to handle another large-scale catastrophe, an earthquake on the Sacramento flood plain or a terrorist attack in Boston Harbor? What about that bird flu pandemic we keep hearing about?
Well, for a big picture answer, we look back on a much smaller scale tragedy. A nightmare that played out four years ago tonight in Warwick, Rhode Island.
Once again, here's CNN's Jeanne Meserve.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It only took minutes. A few horrific minutes. For 100 people to die in the flames and smoke of Rhode Island's Station Nightclub fire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are fully engulfed building, fully engulfed building. We have people on fire inside.
MESERVE: Many of the hundreds who escaped were severely burned.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are looking at close to 50 to 75. We're transporting at least 10 this time, five critical.
MESERVE: Rescuers and doctors struggled to cope.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Multiple rescues. I've got four on the scene now -- we could use 10.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four from 10, they're overwhelmed with burn patients.
PETER GINAITT, RHODE ISLAND HOSPITAL: We never really knew, when we are were handling triage, how many rescues or ambulances were headed in.
MESERVE: Peter Ginaitt was a firefighter at the scene.
GINAITT: No system in place to follow the patients. We had poor communications. How are we going to get through this?
MESERVE: The fire had hundreds of victims. But what if there were thousands or tens of thousands hurt in a natural disaster or terror attack?
DR. IRWIN REDLENER, AUTHOR, "AMERICANS AT RISK": The medical system in the United States, generally speaking, is not at all ready for a true mass casualty event, for a mega-disaster.
MESERVE: First problem, where to put the ill or injured? For economic reasons, the number of hospital beds has shrunk by more than 100,000. And overcrowded emergency rooms turn patients away in normal circumstances.
Second problem, supplies. To economize, most hospitals stock only a few days worth of equipment and medicines. If transportation is disrupted by a terrorist attack or natural catastrophe, they could run out quickly.
Third problem, staffing. A chronic shortage of nurses, lab workers, EMTs and others, could become critical.
(on camera): In a flu pandemic, some studies show as much as 70 percent of medical personnel will not show up for work, leading some experts to conclude the system could collapse altogether.
(voice-over): New York Presbyterian Hospital is trying to better prepare its staff and facility. But these are tough economic times for hospitals, and the federal government has given them a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year to prepare.
DR. HERBERT PARDES, N.Y. PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL: Not giving particularly those areas like New York, which are so much under the gun, more in the way of help in terms of emergency preparedness is really outrageous. A few hundred thousand dollars? We spent $1.5 million a year just for increased security.
MESERVE: The federal government has stockpiled some pharmaceuticals and supplies, done planning, enlisted retired medical personnel to help in a crisis.
But the man in charge of the effort says not everyone in government or in medicine understands what the country could be facing.
DR. CRAIG VANDERWAGEN, HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES, ASSISTANT SECRETARY: I think it's difficult for people to imagine some of these scenarios. Unless you were in Indonesia after the tsunami where bulldozers were used to bury people, unless you have been to Darfur.
MESERVE: Unless you have witnessed the Station Nightclub fire.
Peter Ginaitt took the difficult lessons of that night and helped establish a new system which lets Rhode Island hospitals and first responders see in real-time where there are beds and specialized care.
GINAITT: Different levels of respiratory protection.
MESERVE: The state now has more equipment on hand for mass casualty events.
It was the Station fire that moved Rhode Island to prepare. Will it take some similar tragedy to motivate those that have not?
COOPER: Well, next on this special edition of 360, Hurricane Katrina, were lessons learned or will history repeat itself?
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COOPER (voice-over): There were warnings.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody said, it's going to happen one day. Well, it happened.
COOPER: All along America's coastlines, it could happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just haven't done the analysis to be able to determine if those levees will hold up.
COOPER: And the outcome could be catastrophic. Katrina on an even larger scale, when "Edge of Disaster" continues.
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We have to stop pretending that disasters are extremely rare and unforeseeable.
COOPER (on camera): Over the past hour we have been exploring America, the vulnerable. How gaps in our security have made us weak, put us in the crosshairs of hidden terrorists and nature's fury.
From the crumbling levees in California, to the reckless developments in danger zones like Boston Harbor, to the chaotic emergency response to the great white fire in Rhode Island, it is clear that as a nation, we are not where we need to be.
There is one place where all our failures combined to create true American tragedy. That place, of course, is New Orleans. A city under water became a city under siege. And now as it rebuilds, many are asking, can New Orleans avoid the mistakes from the past.
Once again, here's CNN's David Mattingly.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): A year and a half after the water swamped this fabled American city, they are dancing in the streets again, pledging to come back bigger and better.
Rebuilding even here, in the Lower Ninth Ward, which was totally under water and even today remains deserted.
It's not hard to feel happy for people like Josephine Butler, who has lived here since 1949 and can't wait to move back into her rebuilt home.
JOSEPHINE BUTLER, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: This is the kitchen. That's the kitchen.
MATTINGLY: But while optimistic, Ms. Butler can see history repeating itself and another big storm washing her away.
BUTLER: Either way you go, you're not safe. So I think I will be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) anything happen, I will move out again.
MATTINGLY: She understands the risk. But does the government? Why are people being allowed to rebuild in areas that have been hit before and will almost certainly be hit again?
FLYNN: We are actually compounding our risk on a daily basis. Katrina is a perfect illustration of this. We are putting people back where they were before. Basically living in areas that are underwater.
MATTINGLY: It seems so obvious. People were clearing debris from the streets of the French Quarter well before Katrina. Back in 1965 after Hurricane Betsy. In 1998, Hurricane George walloped New Orleans. Here is what that storm looked like off the Gulf Coast in a satellite image. Here's how Katrina looked seven years later. It is a familiar cycle.
The next big one may not happen again this year or the next or even the next, but it will happen again.
Max Mayfield, who headed up the National Hurricane Center during Katrina, quit earlier this year. He said he was tired of his warnings falling on deaf ears.
WALTER MAESTRI, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT EXPERT: As someone mentioned to me right after the storm, well, what does it feel like to be right? And my answer was horrible.
MATTINGLY: Well before Katrina, Disaster Expert Walter Maestri was laying out nightmare scenarios. Today he's not confident the city will be able to guard against another major hurricane.
MAESTRI: We just haven't done the analysis to be able to determine that those levees will hold up, that they are safe and they provide the safety that everybody expects.
MATTINGLY: New houses are being built higher off the ground, but not high enough to have kept people dry during Katrina.
(on camera): Some of the old houses still show a water line on the outside. You can see this one is well above my head. It's a constant reminder of what happened here and what could happen again, even as construction goes on right across the street.
(voice-over): Local politicians who want people to return have encouraged the rebuilding. But even they can do the math.
(on camera): Three feet off the ground.
OLIVER THOMAS (D), NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL: How does that help with 10 or 12 feet of water?
MATTINGLY: Right. THOMAS: The levees, we pray, won't break this time.
MATTINGLY (voice-over): Mayor Ray Nagin has repeatedly said he wants all of New Orleans rebuilt, including the devastated Lower Ninth Ward.
MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: The Lower Ninth Ward will come back. Our street grids are fine. And it's just a matter of getting the money to the people so that they can rebuild their homes.
MATTINGLY: In the early days after Katrina hit when the nation was still reeling, Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the House, said it looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed. Rebuilding a whole city below sea level didn't make sense to him. Not very P.C., and Hastert quickly back pedaled.
But today, as we watch people sweat to rebuild right in danger's path, we wonder, Katrina may have scared us, but did it teach us enough?
COOPER: Throughout this hour, Stephen Flynn, author of the new book, "The Edge of Disaster," has offered some basic and common sense solutions to prevent catastrophes we can already predict.
He joins us again to talk more in depth about what we as a nation have to do.
Katrina, it really showed us how vulnerable we are and how many mistakes we really can make. I mean, when you think about Katrina, if we had thought about it as an al Qaeda attack on a major American city and we have 24 hours or 48 hours advance notice, I can't believe the response would not have been better.
FLYNN: I think it definitely would have been better. And this is one of the disconnects here. You know, we have been approaching the issue of dealing with terrorism as that is the ultimate disaster, and these other things, that really, it's just a state and local responsibility.
Unfortunately, what we know is that if we had an avian flu pandemic, for instance, a massive flu outbreak, our states and locals are going to be overwhelmed.
What we clearly need to do is re-rack this whole role that our federal government plays. It's not all taking over. It's about providing essentially a forward leaning support for states and locals. Because we can anticipate these events.
COOPER: Have we learned the lessons of Katrina? I mean, FEMA will say, look, we've learned a lot of lessons and we've made, you know, a lot of changes. FLYNN: We're not making any hard decisions about learning from disaster, what we should do differently next time around. Again, imagine somehow that these things are just rare events or so rare that we shouldn't have to change our behavior.
The fact is, in the 21st century, we are going to face disruptions. They're going to come from acts of God, and they are going to come just old infrastructure that's ailing on us. And they're also going to come from bad guys intent on doing bad things. This is a reality.
But every generation, every American generation, has had to deal with adversity. Some have had to deal with wars. Some have had to deal with great depressions. Some have had to deal with natural disasters.
Our nation didn't become less of something by not confronting those and learning from them. It became a stronger nation. I am convinced we can do the same if we accept disasters as a part of our life and prepare ourselves to confront that and move on.
COOPER: You talk about the word resilience a lot. Why is that so important?
FLYNN: It forces you to say, what is the real value in our society? And what are our values? And what is the worth we want to protect? That if they are hurt, that we can bounce back and bounce back quickly.
We don't want to get ourselves on a dynamic where we throw away the things that we most value to make ourselves more safe and secure. What we are trying to do is safeguard those, being resilient when things go wrong so we protect them. Our civil liberties, our critical infrastructures, our populations, our way of life.
COOPER: Cost as lot of money, a lot of the solutions you come up with in the book. I mean, can we afford it?
FLYNN: Really, we can't afford not to do it is what we really think. It's a bit like, you know, if you buy a used car and never do preventative maintenance, you're going to have a very big bill at the end of the day. So, if you are going to have earthquakes and you don't have a public -- if you don't have public health and emergency responders equipped to go, you're going to lose a lot of lives. If you have a flood control system tat is not being kept up, then a bad weather event turns into a major disaster.
The investments that we will make to make ourselves a society that can take these punches, roads that work better, the public health care that can manage a serious event, these are the kind of thing that will improve our quality of life.
COOPER: So when we think of national security, in the last couple of years when we thought of national security, we have often thought more about what's happening overseas and foreign policy, not so much what's happening here at home and what we are doing here. FLYNN: For every nation in the world, national security is first and foremost about protecting the nation. And if have you any power left over, protecting your interests beyond your shores. That's every nation, but the United States that's dealt with national security as only that second part. This is crazy.
The fact is, as a more resilient nation, as a more safe nation, as one where our civil society is fully engaged in the process of thinking through and preparing for bad things, we will be a stronger nation.
COOPER: The book is "The Edge of Disaster," a new way of fighting the war on terror.
Stephen Flynn, thanks.
FLYNN: Thanks for having me.
COOPER: We began this hour by saying we didn't want to scare you. And while what we have shown you can be terrifying, the threats can be minimized so that the next time disaster strikes, our country as resourceful and resilient as ours will be ready.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm John King in New York. Still much more tonight on 360, including more from Anderson, on a differently battle.
Inside the Amazon, a vital ecosystem disappearing.
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COOPER: What happens here in the rain forest affects us in the United States and affects people literally around the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Anderson's reality check on our "Planet in Peril."
Plus, tiny baby beats big odds.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I finally held her. I was a little afraid because she was so small.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: This little baby has fired up the debate over abortion rights. All the angles, when 360 continues.
KING: I'm John King in New York.
CHETRY: And I'm Kiran Chetry. Anderson, wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin, and the entire 360 team are in the Amazon rainforest for the first in our yearlong series of special reports that we're calling "Planet in Peril."
KING: Quite an adventure, don't you think?
It has been. They flew into Brazil last Monday, and after lading in Manaus, they went to the port city of Belem.
From there, they met the Kraho Indian tribe. Next, off to the city of Imperatriz, known as the gates of the Amazon rainforest. Then it was back to Belem and Manaus, before heading off to a secret location in northwest Brazil. Secret, because Anderson was with Brazilian authorities searching for illegal loggers.
Tonight, Anderson and the team are once again in Belem with this final update.
COOPER: John, thanks very much.
We are in Belem, in northern Brazil. We've just landed after being out with agents from IBAMA, which are the environmental protection agency essentially of Brazil. They and a federal police of Brazil were patrolling one part of the Amazon rainforest. We've been spending two days out on patrol with them and with wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin.
Jeff, basically this is the completion of a week and a half here in Brazil and the Amazon. Some of your thoughts?
CORWIN: Well, it's been an incredible journey. I think what I take true stock of this experience is that it has been a great opportunity to really show the world what this ecosystem is potentially facing, which is destruction. And there have been many, many parts of this experience that will forever leave a lasting impression on me.
Of course, that includes these bands right here. We went some time with the Kraho people, an indigenous community in the remote part of this country. And...
COOPER: You better explain to viewers, because it's a little confusing when you see one of these...
CORWIN: It is. I know. I look like I just broke from a chain gang. But in fact, there is a logical explanation behind this.
So they welcomed us into the community and they marked us with these pigments. And, of course, they looked rather flimsy at first, but the next morning when you wake up, it's like, oh, my goodness. And I have been scrubbing and scrubbing.
COOPER: Yes. I must say, I've been scrubbing a little bit more effectively, apparently, or more regularly.
CORWIN: Well, I think they welcomed me more. (CROSSTALK)
CORWIN: I think it was from the very rare sharpi (ph) tree.
COOPER: Is that right?
CORWIN: But I thought, you know, that was an awesome experience to see the challenges that these people face.
COOPER: Because they are really fighting to save their part of the rainforest.
CORWIN: Absolutely. And, of course, beyond the human experience, there is the experience of the wildlife that lives here.
And people who view this special will actually see wildlife facing potential extinction. We just came back from the remote interior, experiencing some really profound stuff involving poachers and the destruction of wildlife. We will tell that story.
COOPER: It's also, I don't think -- at least I didn't get until I came here and been researching it, just how interconnected we all are and how what happens here in the rainforest affects us in the United States and affects people literally around the world.
CORWIN: Very much so. The survival of wildlife in this ecosystem is very much dependent upon symbiosis, our relationships. And in some ways, the conservation of this ecosystem will depend upon the relationship between people and the environment.
But I think leaving this place, the best experience I have is that the people of Brazil are committed to conservation, whether it was the work we did with the sloths, or the various conservation organizations. I believe there is hope for salvation for this habitat.
COOPER: Yes. I keep thinking of releasing that sloth back into the wild and seeing those sloths in the wild being studied, a small sign of hope, a small sign of species continuing. And we are going to be looking a lot of that in the next weeks and months ahead as we continue traveling around the world and taking a look at the ways our planet is in peril.
Jeff, thanks very much. It's been great. We'll continue to do it.
And John, let's go back to you.
KING: Thank you, Anderson.
And still ahead, showings statistics about women in prison. Most of them are mothers. So what's happening to their kids? Our special report.
Plus, she weighed less than a can of soda when she was born. The tiny baby that is sparking a huge debate on 360 next.
CHETRY: Her name means resilience. And Amillia Sonja Taylor is definitely living up to her name.
Amillia was born after spending only 21 weeks and six days in the womb. She only weighed 10 ounces. Her extremely premature birth and her amazing progress are now raising some new questions about when a baby should be considered viable.
360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta reports.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): You are looking at the latest miracle of modern science. She was born the length of a pen. Little Amillia Taylor is the earliest premature baby on record to survive outside the womb.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amillia really surprised us all by really having very little complications for her size.
GUPTA: That's an understatement. The chances that a baby born after less than 22 weeks in the womb will survive are nearly zero.
Trying to resuscitate them is considered experimental. But doctors are encouraged to try if they see signs of life.
In this case, Emily's mother, Sonja, knew that doctors probably wouldn't try. So she lied and said the baby was 23 weeks. Her gamble paid off.
SONJA TAYLOR, AMILLIA'S MOTHER: I guess I'm still in amazement. I really am. Even looking at her now, and sometimes it is hard to imagine that she would get this far.
GUPTA: Experts say babies born this premature usually don't make it because their lungs have not grown enough to breathe.
DR. ARNOLD COHEN, CHAIRMAN, EINSTEIN MEDICAL CENTER: But it certainly is a miracle that the baby has done so well, and if you look at the development of the lungs of babies, they don't develop really the breathing bubbles at the end of their lungs until about 22 weeks. So, even if they are born before 22 weeks, you can't get oxygen to get to the bloodstream through their lungs.
GUPTA: Baby Amillia continues to defy the odds, but she may not be out of the woods yet.
COHEN: The real small babies have problems first with breathing, they have trouble with eating, they have trouble getting nutrients. There are so many difficult problems when they are this small. And hopefully the baby will grow up and not have any of the neurological complications. And that would really be a miracle.
CHETRY: And joining me now, 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta.
Hi, Sanjay. Good to see you.
GUPTA: Hi, Kiran. Welcome.
CHETRY: You know, we all were just transfixed by this story today. And I think a lot of people are wondering, how is it that she even survived?
GUPTA: Well, you know, it is pretty remarkable. There are several things that could have gone wrong.
One is that essentially the lungs, if you think about them at that age, that early an age, they are sort of like hard sponges. They can't contract and relax very well. And that's because they haven't produced enough substances to allow them do that. So it was amazing that she got through that, the lungs somehow worked.
Also, she didn't develop any significant bleeding within the brain. Think about these blood vessels that are so tiny, they are not formed yet, and they're more likely to bleed after the actual labor itself. So that can be a problem.
And then just the likelihood of infection. Your immune system isn't working well, you're still getting all your immune cells from your mom at that age. You can't make them that well on your own yet.
So there were lots of things to consider. And I think they were quite frankly, Karen, quite pessimistic when she -- when she was born. But she managed to just cross all those hurdles.
CHETRY: Yes. I mean, she certainly proved them wrong so far. But as we know, preemies are prone to developmental problems.
What is the likelihood that she will be able to grow up and live a normal life?
GUPTA: Well, you know, the interesting thing about that question is that we don't know because there has not been enough babies sort of born that early to be able to say here's how they do in the long term. A couple of things.
With regards to this bleeding in the brain, that's a real concern. That can cause cerebral palsy, that can cause learning difficulties, that can cause developmental delays later on down the road. That's the bad news.
The good news, though, Kiran, is that she would have already shown some signs of that bleeding in the brain. That usually happens right at birth, whether it is, you know, a caesarian or any kind of delivery. That's what happens typically at birth.
It didn't happen in her case. So she may have scooted by that. We won't really know until she starts to learn and until she starts to talk.
CHETRY: Wow. So she really is the true meaning of a miracle if this all works out.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much for joining us tonight.
GUPTA: Thanks, Kiran.
CHETRY: And we have more now on how this is fueling the already contentious abortion debate. I spoke to bioethicist Art Caplan earlier tonight.
CHETRY: Thanks for being with us, Art.
And we're all following today the story, really a miracle of this little Amillia. The American Association of Pediatrics doesn't consider a child born at 21 weeks who weighs less than a pound to even be viable.
Now, this child was born just over 21 weeks. She weighed just 10 ounces. So is the fact that she survived going to lead people to try to redefine medical standards when it comes to fetus viability?
ART CAPLAN, BIOETHICIST, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: I think it will. You see people out there really opposed to abortion, looking for evidence that it's time to make a change in any way they can restrict abortion. And I think some people will point to the survival of this baby and say, here is a 21-week-old baby, we've got a line in the sand in the Roe decision that says 24 weeks, maybe that's too old, let's restrict it, let's take it down a couple of more weeks.
I think people who oppose abortion are going to look to this case and try to build an argument around it that we should restrict abortion so that even more infants, if you will, are going to survive older than 21 weeks.
CHETRY: The other thing is that -- that's been studied is that usually premature babies do have a whole host of problems that can come up. Things like hyperactivity disorder, attention deficit, some learning disabilities, and things like that. So, it's also the question of, just because science can bring the baby along out of the neonatal intensive care unit, what are the questions about what that child faces as life continues?
CAPLAN: That's a great question, because survival is one thing, quality of life is a separate issue. And, you know, if we were saying that a couple of children survived at -- born at 21 weeks, made it to be able to leave the hospital and go home, but every one of them was severely retarded, every one of them had massive physical disabilities, every one of them wound up institutionalized, I think we would say we still don't know how to keep a 21-year-old (sic) at serious viability so that it isn't just a question of biological life, it's also a question of at what price to the child. CHETRY: Right. And, you know, we do want to point out, though, the doctors are saying right now that the baby's outlook is excellent. And some of the things premature infants may have fallen victim to she didn't. So that is great.
But the other question also is, sometimes -- are we ahead of ourselves when it comes to science? I mean, we have the ability to do so much and to intervene so much, and it does raise the question of, you know, when should we let nature take its course and when should we be as invasive as we sometimes are?
CAPLAN: Well, you know, this is a really fascinating case, and it triggers off all kinds of thoughts about viability and implications for abortion. But, you know, the thing you have to keep in mind, Kiran, is no new technology, no new therapy came into play.
Here was this baby, no child had ever survived being born at 21 weeks. Nothing was done differently. We don't in this case have a new miracle technology to try.
So the question really becomes, if we don't have any better means to treat children like this, then even the one child, maybe because it developed faster, maybe because it was just a highly unusual child, survives and apparently is going to do pretty well -- apparently, because we still don't really know -- is that the reason to say we should change our policies and we should change our laws? And I'm going to argue that one single case, it really isn't enough to do it.
And we still don't have any treatments or technologies to go after 21, 22-week-old babies. This child made and it that's great, but it wasn't because of anything that medicine or science had to offer.
CHETRY: Art Caplan, chair of the Department of Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania.
CAPLAN: My pleasure.
CHETRY: She really is a miracle baby, though.
Still ahead on 360, women in prison. Why so many young mothers end up behind bars. And what happens to the children they leave behind?
It's our special report, up next.
KING: On 360 this week, we're looking behind locked doors, prisons doors, in fact. Tonight's story challenges the notion that life stops at the penitentiary gates. Award-winning documentary filmmaker Shola Lynch is our guide for this eye-opening series. Welcome again.
SHOLA LYNCH, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Hi.
So, the women's prison population has exploded. It's grown exponentially. About 30 years ago, there were 11,000 women incarcerated nationwide. There are now 11,000 women incarcerated in Texas alone.
This poses special issues. So in the second part of the incarcerated series, we take a look.
LYNCH (voice over): I met Tamara here outside of Lincoln, Nebraska, where she is serving out a 22-month prison sentence. Her crime, check fraud, and then a parole violation for marijuana use.
TAMARA, INMATE: I came back here when I was two and a half months pregnant.
LYNCH: Tamara gave birth to her son Tamir (ph) while locked up.
(on camera): Somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 women when they are convicted are pregnant. The usual case is, a woman has her child, it's taken away and immediately put into foster care or given to a family member.
ANN JACOBS, WOMEN'S PRISON ASSOCIATION: It's tremendously upsetting for mothers to not know where their children are and to not feel like they can play any kind of role in taking care of them or...
LYNCH (voice over): Ann Jacobs is the president of the nonprofit Women's Prison Association.
JACOBS: The number of women in prison has increased 757 percent in the period of time between 1977 and 2004. That's a shocking statistic on its own. And this is not because there's more crime. In fact, a significant part of it is because we have put so much of our energy into this war on drugs.
LYNCH: The biggest losers in this war, the 1.3 million children whose mothers are in prison in this country.
(on camera): How is it affecting their lives and their futures? We don't know. What we don't want is prison to become a revolving door. We don't want prison to be the answer to the problem.
(voice over): But here in the small nursery, Nebraska prison officials are trying to invest in the future of these kids and these mothers, just 15 at a time, hoping to give them both a second chance.
JOHN DAHM, WARDEN, NEBRASKA CORRECTIONAL CENTER FOR WOMEN: Statistics nationally show that a child is more likely to grow up and go to prison if one or both parents have been in prison. TAMARA: Even though I take classes and I go to meals and things without him, partly out of a 24-hour period, I spend 22, 21 hours with him, you know. So, just -- we have that bond.
LYNCH: I thought it would be rows of, you know, cribs and bars everywhere. And while it is a prison and the nursery is guarded and locked, when you go through those doors, it feels like daycare, it feels like a nursery.
TAMARA: It's as comfortable as it can possibly be for the babies. And it really is an environment that's set up for the babies. It is not, you know, for us, you know -- enough for us to even have our babies with us. But it's set up for them.
Without a program like this, I wouldn't be able to learn how to be a mom. You know, hands on. I wouldn't be able to say, OK, yes, I made mistakes, but I am being an active part in my son's life.
LYNCH: That's something John Dahm gets. He is the warden of the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women.
DAHM: In that litany of failure, failure, failure, failure -- and I recognize that we get people, you know, at the bottom end of the funnel. And somehow we've got to break that litany of failure.
TAMARA: I just can't imagine my life without my son. Yes, I can't imagine my life without my son. It's not an option. I can never imagine my baby calling anybody else "Mommy". And I can never imagine my baby waking up and saying, "Where is Mommy?"
KING: Just a remarkable look at life there. You mentioned 1.3 million children. Is there any one answer to the question, what happens to them?
LYNCH: Oh, no. There isn't one answer.
What we found is that the mothers are the primary caretakers, so sometimes they have to go with other family members. Often they are put in foster care. And that's an additional cost. So, it's the cost sometimes of incarcerating the mother, and then the cost of to take care of the child if it has gone to foster care.
KING: And the warden there in Nebraska seemed to get it, that his job is not just to lock up criminals when it comes to mothers and their children.
Is that taking hold more and more across the country? Or is this an isolated success, if you will?
LYNCH: It's an isolated success. There are about four states that have program likes this.
And I think it's really important to understand, with 70 percent of the women that are incarcerated being mothers, and 1.3 million children affected, the statistic that becomes alarming is that a child with a parent that has been incarcerated is six times more likely to be incarcerated than their peers. So we have to ask, you know, is it creating a revolving door? Or how can we spend money in a better way like they are in Nebraska?
KING: A fascinating look both nights.
Shola Lynch, thank you very much.
LYNCH: Thank you.
KING: Thank you.
And just ahead, Britain's plan to bring nearly half of its troops home from Iraq and the spin cycle that news has set off -- next on 360.
CHETRY: Now a 360 news and business bulletin.
CHETRY: Well, thanks for joining us. I'm Kiran Chetry.
KING: And I'm John King. We'll do it again tomorrow.
Larry King is next with the latest on the Anna Nicole Smith case.
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