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THE SITUATION ROOM
Easier Access in Haiti; Families in Agony; Punishment in Saudi Arabia; Scrambling Democrats; Ready in the U.S.
Aired January 21, 2010 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, food, water and supplies are likely getting to desperate agents a little bit more quickly right now, the damaged main pier in Port-au-Prince now repaired along with the damaged road. We have the latest information.
Agony and desperate pleas for help, those four Lynn University students and two professors remain missing in Haiti. One student's family is here; wait until you hear their emotional request at this hour for your help.
And on Capitol Hill, there is a crush. Reporters stalking Senator-elect Scott Brown of Massachusetts, top senators meeting with him and the political world wants to know will he torpedo the Obama administration's goals.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
For doctors, relief crews and especially devastated Haitians, they have all been saying one thing, we need help. We need help quickly now. We could soon see a dramatically faster pace of the distribution of aid. In Port-au-Prince, the damaged main pier is repaired and is receiving ships loaded with critical supplies.
A damaged road from the port is also repaired. This is very significant. Ships can certainly carry much more cargo than airplanes. Meanwhile, one of our reporters finds out it is getting much easier to snag supplies, but what's easy could also be a problem. Let's go to our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He is in Port-au-Prince with more -- Sanjay, a little bit of good news, at least on this front. Aid now through the pier might be able to get it a little bit more quickly.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly good news and a lot of people waiting for that aid, as you know Wolf, for some time now. You know night after night we've been talking about the fact that there are so many supplies, including medical supplies, at the airport, and the question kept coming up over and over again, why isn't it literally making it over the wall from the airport into the town of Port-au-Prince here where it's needed so dramatically?
We decided to go down to the airport ourselves to see what was going on and we got to the airport and actually walking through. And you could see all the supplies there, just boxes and boxes of supplies. That's what everyone has really been wanting to get their hands on for some time, Wolf, and I can tell you, we talked to people over there, really described the need out on the streets and in the hospitals, and after a period of time, they gave us supplies and we were actually able to take some of those supplies and walk out ourselves.
Instead of simply talking about it, we wanted to get those supplies and get it to people. I also had a chance to talk to one of the colonels here who is really trying to coordinate the bringing of supplies to the air strip. It's sort of his job to do. I (INAUDIBLE) and I really wanted to ask him a couple of questions about what was happening here. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COL. BEN MCMULLEN, U.S. AIR FORCE: There is stuff here waiting to be taken out. That's a true statement. Is it a lot? I can't speak to it. I will tell you the reason you probably got it is because everybody on this field, specifically U.S. government side, is dedicated to getting as much stuff outside as they can. Does it totally surprise me that some are doing without? No, it doesn't. Not totally.
Do I hope it gets better? Without a doubt, we're doing our part to get things out there and certainly get things into the airport, and it is -- it's a shame because you would hope that everything could get out there within seconds. But that kind of infrastructure just isn't in place.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: We talk about medical relief in terms of its feeding measured in minutes and hours, Wolf, and you sense a little bit of the frustration on the colonel's part as well, but again, as you pointed out, things are getting better, but there's still that stumbling block, Wolf, if you will, so many of those supplies sitting at the airport, that major distribution point still having trouble getting those supplies into areas like the one right behind me, Wolf.
BLITZER: How frustrating is it, Sanjay, you especially as a doctor. You see some people who have survived the earthquake. They're critically ill. They could survive if they had proper medical treatment, but it's simply not available.
GUPTA: You talk about impact from things like this around the world and yes, we practice medicine in the states and you know get to take care of people one at a time. Here is an opportunity, and this is the frustrating part, here is an opportunity to take some very simple interventions, some very simple medications and make a huge difference. I mean those antibiotics are simply sitting over there.
Those pain medications simply sitting over there. Surgical instruments that could perform these operations simply sitting over there, not trying to impute (ph) or malign anybody or anyone (INAUDIBLE) Wolf, but the reality is it simply needs to move faster. And there is not time to wait when it comes to medical relief. But that's what I can say with certainty. With other types of aid, you may have a little bit more time, not a lot of time, but a little bit more time. Here with medical aid, you have people who are dying needless deaths and simply for lack of some of those basic supplies, which are here in the city of Port-au-Prince tonight.
BLITZER: Let me thank you, Sanjay, for all of our viewers, millions of them around the world for everything you and our team in Port-au-Prince and Haiti are doing, appreciate it very much. Important note Sanjay's show, "SANJAY GUPTA, M.D.", Saturday morning, Sunday morning, 7:30 a.m. Eastern, Sanjay will be reporting from Haiti.
The U.S. military is playing a lead role in relief efforts. There are approximately 13,000 personnel in Haiti or on ships offshore. These include Army airborne troops providing security on the ground and Marines from an amphibious group. Another 4,000 Marines and sailors right now we're told are on the way.
Air Force personnel are keeping the airport going at far beyond normal capacity with an average of 120 to 140 flights per day. Dozens of military and Coast Guard helicopters are conducting relief operations, and we're told more are en route. Twenty ships are off shore including the aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson, ships linked to the Marines and five Coast Guard cutters. The hospital ship, the USNS Comfort is on station now with operating rooms and 1,000 badly needed beds.
This important programming note -- tomorrow night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, CNN's Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be reporting live from Haiti as the musician Wyclef Jean and the actor George Clooney host "Hope for Haiti Now". This is a global telethon. It airs right here on CNN tomorrow night, Friday night, 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
Their loved ones are desperate. Their school is taking action and they're all making pleas. You'll remember those four students and two professors from Lynn University in Florida. They all remain missing in Haiti after their group's humanitarian mission there. Today the school's president calls for a commitment from the U.S. government to continue efforts to try to find them and all missing Americans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN ROSS, LYNN UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: I have a letter already signed by Senator LeMieux (ph) urging the secretary of state, secretary of state, Robert Gates and the U.S. Agency for International Development to continue search and rescue efforts until the possibility of survival no longer exists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You know one student's family is talking to us and making an emotional request for more help. I spoke with Leonard Gengel, Cheryl Gengel (ph), his wife and their friend, John, who is Christine's father.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: What's the latest information you can you share with our viewers about these four students and two professors?
LEONARD GENGEL, DAUGHTER MISSING IN HAITI: What I can tell you is in speaking to the State Department in Port-au-Prince today at around 3:30 was that the effort is still going on, but they are diminishing. They're down to three crews, two of which Miami Dade and Fairfax. We feel very blessed that they're there working, but we still don't have the military presence there. It's a U.N. presence and we feel that we need that -- our United States government needs to get down there and take over that operation.
BLITZER: Do all of you still have hope?
L. GENGEL: Do all of us still have hope? John, do you have hope?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still do have hope. We still do have hope. We realize that time is of the essence, but we do have hope. But we do need -- we do need our U.S. presence down there to give us further hope that our loved ones and all Americans and really anybody in that hotel is being looking after properly. We have to have a presence there and we're begging for that presence.
BLITZER: Leonard, ask your wife Cherylann is there something she wants to say.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cherylann, is there something you want to say (INAUDIBLE)?
CHERYLANN GENGEL, DAUGHTER MISSING IN HAITI: Well I think everybody probably knows today is her 20th birthday. And so God gave me a miracle 20 years ago today, and I'm praying for another miracle today and for everybody else that they get their miracle. If everyone could just maybe sing Happy Birthday, have a piece of cake for her. That would mean a lot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wolf, we need -- we need the American people to call their congressmen, call their senators and tell them to get the American forces down there right now to help out with this search and rescue because as soon as it becomes a recovery, the heavy equipment comes in and then almost all hope is lost and we can't get to that point just yet. We're not ready. There is still -- they are still pulling people alive out of Haiti and we need to continue this effort and I'm just begging the American people to just put yourselves where we are. It's just not about our children or the professors.
It's about the 100 or so Americans. We've got people calling us from all over the country, all over the world; someone from Denmark touched base with us. It's just amazing how this story has affected so many people and it's about the people that are in that hotel that just don't have a voice and right now, Wolf, you're helping us bring that message out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we can't thank you enough, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're praying with those families for those four students still missing and those two professors from Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida.
Chris Lawrence is on the scene for us. He's over at that pier that's just been repaired in Port-au-Prince, so we're going to back to this story. That's coming up.
BLITZER: Let's bring in Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a 13-year-old girl in Saudi Arabia has been sentenced to 90 lashings in front of her classmates. Her crime -- she brought a cell phone to school. A Saudi account of the story printed in "The Daily Mail" says that a court also sentenced the child to spend two months in jail.
The girl reportedly assaulted her teacher after she was caught with the cell phone. Cell phones are banned in girls' schools in Saudi Arabia. This punishment is harsher than what some Saudi thieves get. This is sick. Saudi Arabia is one of the United States closest allies in the Middle East because they have all that oil and this is how they treat children.
But as long as we need the oil, well then we just look the other way, right? The county's an absolute monarchy and that uses one of the strictest versions of Sharia (ph) or Islamic law anywhere. They interpret the law to justify cruel punishment like amputation, stoning, public beheadings and crucifixion.
Saudi women not allowed to drive and in public they must be completely covered and accompanied by a male relative at all times. Flogging is mandatory for moral offenses like adultery or being alone with an unrelated person of the opposite sex. The ruler of Saudi Arabia is King Abdullah. He has supported some social reforms during the last few years, but in many instances it's the religious clerics who wield all the power and they can pretty much call the shots and do what they want.
So here's the question. What does it say when America's ally, Saudi Arabia, sentences a 13-year-old girl to 90 lashes for bringing a cell phone to school? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile, plus comment on my blog -- 90 lashings for a 13-year-old girl might kill her -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes. Well, all right, Jack thanks very much. I'm glad you told us about this. We'll see what happens.
The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, appears to be ruling out one last-ditch option for getting health care reform passed. Pelosi admitted today she lacks the votes to get the Senate's current health care reform bill through the House. Democrats are scrambling big time right now to try to find a way to save health care reform after losing that special election in Massachusetts and their 60-seat supermajority in the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: In its present form without any change, I don't think it's possible to pass the Senate bill in the House. There is some part of our caucus that would say, well let's just take these pieces. We recognize health care has to be done. Health care reform must be done. Let's take some pieces of it and go forward, and there are others who are saying, let's just get it done and move on. But everybody recognizes that something needs to be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Meanwhile, Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown has been making the rounds here in Washington today two days after capturing the late Senator Ted Kennedy's seat and forcing Democrats to go back to the drawing board on health care reform. Let's go up to Capitol Hill. Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash has more on this part of the story. I guess sort of a rock star up on the Hill today, Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well you know he was only here for about half a day for a series of courtesy calls with some of his future colleagues, but the mere presence of Scott Brown here and all the hubbub surrounding it was really dramatically illustrated how one Senate election and one man can change things so much for the president and Democrats and their agenda.
BASH (voice-over): Mr. Brown came to Washington.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
BASH: And arrived to a frenzy, a crush of cameras at meeting...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, guys.
BASH: ... after meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guys we're not going anywhere. We're not going anywhere. Let's get everyone settled and...
BASH: Settled? Scott Brown knows the Capitol hasn't been settled since his election shook Democrats to their core, but they went out of their way to be warm and welcoming from Ted Kennedy's son, Patrick, to the senior Massachusetts senator.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Ted Kennedy wrote me, he said, as Humphrey Bogart would have said, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I look forward to working with Scott.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: You're going to enter the Senate at a time when the country is in deep trouble, as you know. That was a lot what your campaign was about.
BASH: Questions like this didn't get answers?
(on camera): (INAUDIBLE) how much has Senator-elect Brown blown your agenda.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
BASH (voice-over): Brown was happy to take questions, making his rounds in and outside the Capitol, but offered mostly vague answers, like on health care.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They are thinking about a smaller scaled- back health care bill, would you be willing to look at that?
SCOTT BROWN (R), MASS. SENATOR-ELECT: Well I look at every bill. I plan to look at every bill and make a rational decision.
BASH: He struck to the script that brought him here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People want good government. They want transparency. They want us here, you know now that I'll be here soon, they want us to solve problems.
BASH: And tried to hold onto his "man of the people" image, making a point of stopping to talk to Senate staff and security.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
BASH: Taking a photo with students he bumped into. The president's former rival could hardly contain his glee.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Senator Brown represents I think the dreams and the hopes and the frustrations that Americans feel today.
BASH: But the understatement of the day goes to the rarely excitable Republican leader.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: We are really, really happy to have him here.
BASH: But the Senate's balance of power will shift and of course Republicans will have a lot more leverage as soon as Senator-elect Brown becomes Senator Brown and he told us today he believes that he will be sworn in as senator as soon as next week -- Wolf. BLITZER: Thanks very much, Dana -- Dana Bash is up on the Hill. Ray Nagin (ph), the mayor of New Orleans, is over at the White House. He knows a lot about disasters, having gone through Hurricane Katrina. He's now speaking out about what's happening in Haiti and whether he believes the U.S. government is really capable of dealing with disasters.
BLITZER: Let's check in with Lisa Sylvester. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What's going on Lisa?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Wolf. The liberal talk radio network Air America stopped airing live broadcasts a short while ago and it will go off the air altogether on Monday. The network says it can't stay in business in this very difficult economic environment and will file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Air America was launched in 2004 and it was known for its progressive programming, which included political commentary for personalities such as Al Franken before he became a U.S. senator.
Southern Californians faced another day of relentless wind and rain. Powerful storms have been pounding hillside communities around Los Angeles, leaving the people who live there at risk of mudslides. The severe weather has knocked out power for thousands. Lightning struck two planes at the Burbank Airport. And Southwest Airlines has cancelled hundreds of flights in the region due to the conditions.
Pakistani's army says it wants more time to ramp up military efforts against militants targeting U.S. troops in neighboring Afghanistan. The U.S. had hoped Pakistan would expand its offenses against Taliban forces hiding out near its border with Afghanistan. But Pakistani authorities told Defense Secretary Robert Gates they're stretched thin and need at least six more months. Gates is on a two- day visit to Pakistan, considered a vital U.S. ally in the Afghanistan war.
Well, he's been on the job for just a few days, but Virginia's new governor is being tapped to deliver the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address Wednesday. GOP leaders say Governor Bob McDonald (ph) quote, "understands that the American people are more interested in shrinking unemployment than expanding government." McDonald (ph) won a Democratic held governorship last fall, one of two major Republican victories -- Wolf.
BLITZER: If Scott Brown would have won a few weeks earlier, maybe they would have asked him to deliver the Republican response.
SYLVESTER: He is definitely the superstar here on Capitol Hill and you know that the thing is that this guy was not a household name. Suddenly you know he's rocketed to the very top of the GOP, so I'm sure we'll being seeing a lot of him and he'll be tapped I think a time or two.
BLITZER: Yes I'm sure they'll tap him at some point down the road -- Lisa, thanks very much. We're going to be speaking with Joe Klein (ph), by the way, of "TIME" magazine our sister publication. He spent some time with the president of the United States in the Oval Office, now he's going to spend some time here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Hurricane Katrina is the closest the U.S. has come in modern times to a disaster like the one in Haiti. That's not lost on New Orleans' Mayor Ray Nagin. The mayor is here in Washington for some meetings with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Listen to what he said over at the White House earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: But it strikes me as being eerily similar, the phases that the Haitian people are going through and what I experienced after Hurricane Katrina. And I'm still very concerned that not only is our nation not prepared for a catastrophe, but the whole world seems to be struggling with dealing with this catastrophe. If another catastrophe like Katrina happened in our country, I'm not sure we're ready for it because we haven't made the fundamental changes that we need to make.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux. You got a chance, Suzanne, to catch up the mayor and ask him what specifically he was referring to. What did he say?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, he made a distinction between the Bush administration and the Obama administration saying he has a much better relationship with this president when it comes to working with him for support and aid, but he also says he has a very unique perspective going through Hurricane Katrina to see the failures, the failures on the local level, at the state level and the federal level when it comes to government.
He still believes that there are some things that FEMA and other government agencies need to improve and he is quite concerned that the United States is not prepared if another catastrophe hits. And here's how he explained it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mayor, what do you think the Obama administration needs to do more? Because you said you didn't think that the country was prepared; the administration was prepared to deal with another possible natural disaster.
NAGIN: Well, I think the Obama administration has done a really good job with coming in after the fact and dealing with FEMA to do better and dealing with you know some other things that we were struggling with in the previous Bush administration. What I'm talking about is the need to get ready for right after a disaster happens.
And the need to make sure that host cities will be taken care of as well as the affected city from the standpoint of the laws in place. For example, (INAUDIBLE) today still limits the amount of community disaster loans to $5 million maximum. Anything else you have to go get congressional -- a congressional action on, which I had to do twice. I had to get it raised to 25 percent and then 50 percent of my annual revenues. Another catastrophe, another city could be in the same position I was in five years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: So, Wolf, he's really talking about cutting through some of that red tape on the front end. That's just one of the many things that he sees that needs to be improved, and he, as well as some of the other mayors, are going to be making some formal recommendations to FEMA, to the Department of Homeland Security, things that they see as mayors of major cities that can be done for something -- the next possible Hurricane Katrina.
BLITZER: What's the Obama administration's reaction to this, Suzanne?
MALVEAUX: Well White House officials, as well as Nagin's office officials afterwards, after he made those comments, they have both taken painstaking efforts to say that the relationship is a good one between Nagin, as well as the White House, but FEMA officials say look, they're doing everything they can and they point to something very recently, as recent as last week. You had Vice President Joe Biden, as well as the secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano both in New Orleans talking about loan forgiveness and changing some of those limitations to that. So, they are working with New Orleans, they are working with other states and cities to make sure that the next go-round works out a lot more smoothly -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux over at the White House working that story, thank you. In the new issue of "Time Magazine," our sister publication, President Obama speaking rather frankly about his tough first year in office, in times that Joe Klein draws some fascinating conclusions about the president's personality behind that charismatic image.
Is there really a different reality? Joe Klein is joining us right now. Joe, thanks very much for coming in. Thanks for writing the peace, "Now What?" which is on the cover, we're showing our viewers that you point out that he's a great communicator, he is a great author, a great speaker, yet they blame a lot of the problems they've had over the past year for a lack of communication, explain what's going on here.
JOE KLEIN, TIME MAGAZINE: Well, I don't know whether they in the White House blame him, but I think that there have been some really serious communication problems, and there is a sense in the country -- and the president reacted to this in the piece. There is a sense in the country that he's really lost track of the anguish of average Americans. You know, Bill Clinton always felt everybody's pain. Barack Obama has been an awful lot of time as a policy monk this year, he admits that, and kind of lost track of the country. I asked him, you know, how he would react to someone living in the suburbs of Boston who just saw him making deals with big labor on health care and Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson and all the other deals that have been made. And he pushed back against that a little bit but ultimately he acknowledge that it didn't look good, that the wrong impression had been conveyed. And I really think, Wolf that in the end, they feel that they've been kidnapped, that this administration has been kidnapped by health care reform and that they're kind of fighting to get off the Reid/Pelosi Island.
BLITZER: Is it dead, do you think, the health care right now?
KLEIN: I think that it's likely that it's dead. There are pieces of it that can be passed. You know, you can expand coverage a little bit maybe to the parents of children who are eligible for the chip program. You might be able to repeal the anti-trust exemptions that the heath insurance companies have. But this great comprehensive sort of plan that they hung everything on this year probably is dead. And you saw today the first steps going forward.
I mean, there are three ways the president is going to proceed now. One is that the populous going against the banks, we saw that today. Another is a deficit cutter, you'll see that in the State of the Union Address next week, and the third is, you know, the infrastructure guy, the guy who is going to provide jobs. You know, remember all those projects that were supposed to be shovel-ready a year ago? Well, there were no shovel-ready projects and that part of the big stimulus package, all of those big infrastructure projects are about to come on board the next three months, and they will be emphasizing that. .
WOLF: One of the most fascinating pieces in the cover story you are writing in "Time Magazine" is the President of the United States is a loner. Explain what you saw and what you've learned.
KLEIN: Well, you know, it's interesting, he really is about no drama. This is a guy who would rather have what he calls think time than really, you know, kicking back and gossiping with aids and that sort of thing. One of the most amazing stories was the morning that he won the Nobel Peace prize, he goes in to a National Security Council meeting, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Everybody stands up when he comes in. They sit down and nobody congratulates him, nobody applauds and he doesn't say anything.
You know, Bill Clinton would have been hugging everybody inside, Ronald Reagan would have made a joke like first, I would like to thank the academy but there is a certain kind of coolness here, a distant, that is very admirable in some contacts specially when dealing with crisis. But it leaves people a little put off.
BLITZER: How does he get out of this current crisis after one year in office? Other presidents have that major problem they've managed to rebound. How does he doing?
KLEIN: Well, I think, as I said, he's got to change the topic. He's got people to understand that he is addressing their concerns. I think people are very concerned about the two bigs. Big Wall Street, big government, he started to address the big Wall Street issue this today, but the question now is, how he is going to stress big government since to do that he's going to have to go up against his own party, which is really the party of government?
BLITZER: Joe Klein has the cover story, the new issue of "Time Magazine." Joe, thanks very much.
KLEIN: My pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: By the way, President Obama's speaking skills will be on display next week after he delivers the State of the Union Address before joint session of the Congress. Join us for prime time coverage beginning at 8:00 p.m. Eastern next Wednesday right here on CNN. When we come back, we're going back to Port-au-Prince. Chris Lawrence is on the scene for us. He will be joining us live. He is at the port. There are dramatic developments happening today and some of them very positive.
BLITZER: Let's get back to the situation in Haiti right now. The reopening of a pier today in Port-au-Prince is crucial to getting some more aid to the people of Haiti. Our Pentagon Correspondent Chris Lawrence is reporting from Haiti. He's joining us now with more on this part of the story. Good news, finally. At least a little bit of good news, Chris, with significant ramifications.
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you said it, Wolf. I mean, we're on an island, we're surrounded by water, but up to now, all the aid has had to come either by air or ground. So, getting this port reopened is a potentially huge change in pushing that aid out to the people who need it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(voice-over) Like thousands of others over the past week, the children in Hartford Haiti charity had little food, and its medical staff, no supplies.
DR. SABINE CELIE, HEAR FOR HAITI VOLUNTEER: There was almost nothing here. We had to treat people with what we have.
LAWRENCE: But now U.S. military dive teams have reopened part of Haiti's main port. Ships held back at sea for a week are now docking. And more importantly, unloading life-saving food, water and medical supplies.
LT. CMDR. MARK GIBBS, U.S. COAST GUARD: The very first vessel we had in here was the crimson glory, completely loaded, 124 containers.
LAWRENCE: Lieutenant Commander Mark Gibbs said, it took all day to unload a ship, they normally finish in six hours. That's because only the left side of the pier is strong enough to support weight.
GIBBS: I'm incredibly sensitive to it because if we lose this pier, that's it, we can't bring anything else in here.
LAWRENCE (on camera): We saw the port 40 hours after the earthquake, when it was completely shutdown. The earthquake has buckled the road, almost as tall as I am. There is no way you are going to a truck through there.
That was then, this is now. It's not pretty, but the concrete has been knocked down and enough gravel put in to get trucks going through here again.
(voice-over) But we wanted to make supplies are just sitting here, like they did at the airport.
ROBERT DEVRIES: This is all American water.
LAWRENCE: We watched Robert Devries, load up with food and medical supplies right from the dock ship and we followed him back to his Hartford City charity.
UNIDENTIFIED HAITI MOTHER: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
LAWRENCE: This mother say, her child is running a high fever. That man has an infected head wound untreatable without the medicine Devries and his team just picked up at the pier.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Especially antibiotics, everything to keep cleaning wounds, scars and things like that.
LAWRENCE: It's a pattern that needs to be repeated, from ship to shore to survivors.
(on camera) That's how we hope it works. So, tomorrow we expect some underwater constructions teams to start arriving. Their job is going to be Friday actually, repair the pier so that you can put more than one truck on it at a time and really speed up getting that aid to the folks who need it the most.
BLITZER: I know you've had a chance Chris, to speak to a lot of the men and women of the United States military who are now engaged in this humanitarian relief for aid operation. Some of them have come from Iraq, from Afghanistan. Now, they're in Haiti doing very different kind of work. Give us a little flavor of what they're saying to you.
LAWRENCE: Yes, it's interesting. We've seen a lot more of them just in the last day or two, a much bigger military presence here. In fact, I ran into one guy the other day who I was in a humvee with him in Iraq a few years ago, and he said, he looked around -- we were at this clinic, and he said man, this just -- this is awful. And you know, this is someone who has been to Iraq, who has seen what's happened there, and I think from what I've seen, I just talked to some of the soldiers out here. They really empathize with the lot of the people of Haiti. They said, man, these people from the most part say, very peaceful, they are so grateful when they are helped, and I think, you know, a lot of their hearts are going out to this people. BLITZER: I know, I speak for you and I speak for all of our viewers out there. And we thanked the men and women of United States, military for what they're doing to save lives in Haiti. Right now, this is critically, critically important mission for them. I appreciate it, Chris Lawrence, on the scene for us.
This important program note that tomorrow night, here on CNN 8 p.m. Eastern, Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, they will reporting live from Haiti as Musician Wyclef Jean and Actor George Clooney host "Hope for Haiti" now. This global telethon airs here on CNN, 8 p.m. Eastern tomorrow Friday night. Watch it.
BLITZER: We're staying in Haiti, Brian Todd has a remarkable story of a young boy, you want to see it when we come back.
BLITZER: We want to tell you now about a remarkable story that unfolded today in Haiti a midst all the chaos. An incredible effort to save a small boy found alive but very badly injured. CNN's Brian Todd is joining us now from Port-au-Prince. He has details and an amazing story. Brian, you watched it unfold?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We did, Wolf. We were finishing up a live report this afternoon, and just as we were finishing it up, talking about the airport operations and what's going on at the airport, there's American man came up to me and he kind of nudged me and said, hey, I've got an eight-year-old boy in the car here. He's got critical brain trauma. I'm looking for a place to Medivac and do you know where I can go? I don't even know where to start.
So, you know, I said, look, there's a field hospital down at the end of the tarmac and there's also with the military command center. So, he and I started walking down there. And then, we also come to stop and I took a look at this boy and he clearly was in a very bad shape. He's was an eight-year-old boy with -- he had severe brain trauma, labored breathing. He looked like he was in very critical shape. And at one point when we took off to that walking down toward the military field hospital, I saw our own Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta coming the other way.
Sanjay is a neurosurgeon, so we brought him to the car, he took a look at him and he said, yes, in fact, he's got to get out of here now, he needs a cat Scan. So, Sanjay was saying, maybe we could try to get him to the comfort somehow. So, we all kind of got him into this SUV, high-tailed it down to the field hospital and where the military command was. We stayed outside while they took him in and kind of gave him some medication to stabilize him. A few minutes later, he came out, they took him out, they got him into a chopper and he was Medivac to the U.S. navel ship comfort where we are now told, he is in stable condition. Now, I asked one of the doctors who worked on him, it's kind of how the procedure went once we got him into the top.
MAJOR SHEA BRANNAN, AIR FORCE DOCTOR: This little buy literally just fell in our lap and you could tell when he came through the door that he was critical. In no way, shape or form was it just, you know, one person, it was medics and surgeons that took care of him. And it was a huge effort on the part of everyone here, everyone up the chain. All the way up to the guys who coordinated with us really came together to get him out of here.
TODD: What would have happened if he has been held out outside the airport and somebody hadn't let this guy in, and what would happen?
BRANNAN: Who knows? He was critical. He was sick. He was very, very critical when he got here.
TODD: Now, as for that gentleman who brought him in, he was just an American businessman named Charles Diehl working independently with some aid groups. He came up to me and said, look, I got him on to the tarmac but I need a way to get him to the medivac and that's kind of where we collaborated from there. You know, he said, he had hired two drivers to get to from a hospital Port-au-Prince to the airport, he asked policeman to escort him there.
He said, he talked his way to a three check point to get to where we were and one official at the airport later told me, look, this was not just some luck of the draw thing, not some guy sweet-talking his way on to the tarmac. He said, that these officials at these checkpoints are told that, you know, to look at some of the people coming in who are injured, eyeball and make sure that they are what these people say they are. And they need to get to a field hospital to a Medivac. Just get them there, we'll kind of streamline some of the other bureaucratic stuff and some of the paperwork, and that's they were able to do today -- Wolf.
BLITZER: In the sliver of Haiti, Brian, that you've seen over this past several days, what stands out most to you right now?
TODD: You know what, I think what's extraordinary is that everybody is on the street. Everybody is outside. Because all the houses and all the neighborhoods just seem to be flattened. You see the scene behind me. This is 24/7. People are not just going anywhere to sleep. They're just walking around aimlessly on the street. It seems like, I mean, it's not the case, it seems like almost, every citizen of Haiti is living outside right now. You got to wind around them when you drive someplace or when you walk. It is just an extraordinary scene. The only thing -- I mean, if you could compare it to some scenes from Hiroshima where every area was blocked, that's what you're seeing here.
BLITZER: Are you still seeing corpses on the ground wherever you go or are they basically been removed?
TODD: Oh, we're told that they're basically been removed and that, you know, you're not seeing just some of the, you know, really gruesome scenes that we saw earlier this week and late last week of bodies all over the place. We've not seen bodies stacked on masse anywhere now. Remember, though that they're still, you know, working on pulling people out of the rubble, and the death toll from all of the projections that we know, you know, the certain number of people dead, you know it's going to go way up, you know, they're going to pull a lot of people out of the rubble, but for bodies stacked on these streets, you're not seeing so much of that anymore.
BLITZER: Brian, thank you very much for doing this good reporting for us, you know, incredibly difficult circumstances. Brian Todd on the scene in Port-au-Prince. We'll take a quick break. When we come back, we have some new video that has just come in of the earthquake as it happens. Standby.
BLITZER: Let's get to Jack right now at the Cafferty File. All right, Jack.
CAFFERTY: Questions this hour, what does it say when America's ally, Saudi Arabia, sentenced a 13-year-old girl to 90 lashes in front of her classmates for bringing a cell phone to school?
Deb says, "It says we can be bought. We're nothing but a whore for their oil and money. Always has been. Why should be the 13-year- old girl getting lashed to death or close to it be a reason to rock the boat now? Very sad and embarrassing, but it's reality. By the way, aren't the bushes longtime close friends of some of the big Saudi Royal families? Out of concern, couldn't they throw a word or two in there to maybe stop this?"
Mehra writes, "We should respect the cultures of other countries as well as the rules of the school, both of which come above all else. The students should be punished since this is a matter of discipline. She was aware of the rules and defied the rules of the kingdom as well as of the school board."
Benjamin writes from Ohio, "Considering we were unwilling to do anything after 19 Saudi Arabians came and blew up the world trade center, I'd say no one is going to have much to say about this girl. I'm against all military action taking place at the moment, but I would proudly fly our flag if our troops were in Saudi Arabia setting things right."
Allen writes from Canada, "I'm from Alberta. A place demonized by Al gore because of the carbon intensive oil sands which offer the u.s. secure, reliable, non-Saudi oil supplies. Your choice, America. Child floggers or your friends to the north."
Mike in Denver says, "Their country, their laws. Like it or not. I'm sure we have laws that are offensive to people in other countries including to our allies. If we want to tell others how to run their country, we need to be open to their criticisms, as well."
Eashaan writes, it says, "Radical Islamic behavior is not adequately condemned by the United States or any kind of unified Islamist leadership. It's time to abandon the notion that all foreign cultural practices should be unquestionably respected and condemn states that are seemingly stuck in a medieval state of mind."
And Tory in Georgia has a western response, "Taking away the girl's cell phone is punishing enough for most teenagers."
If you want to read more on this, you can go to my block and find cnn.com/caffertyfile.
BLITZER: Well, hard to believe this stuff goes on in the world these days.
See you tomorrow, Jack. Thank you, we'll take another quick break. We have that new video we just received of the earthquake as it happened. We'll share it with you when we come back.
BLITZER: A few of us have never experienced an earthquake like the one that's devastated Haiti. But videotape of the disaster as it happened gives us a little bit of an idea of how terrifying it was. CNN has obtained some exclusive video of the earthquake shot by an amateur from a balcony in the hills above Port-au-Prince. Watch this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm serious, my house is, it's like, it's going to fall, there's another one. It's shaking again.
BLITZER: Amazing to have to live through that kind of ordeal.
All right. Let's go to Lisa Sylvester, she's monitoring some of the other top stories in the situation room, right now. Now, Lisa, what else is going on?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says, a cyber attack on one country is an attack on all. She said that in a speech today addressing internet freedom and security. This comes after allegations made by internet giant Google that Chinese hackers have targeted it and as many as 34 other companies. Clinton urged the Chinese government to take action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The internet has already been a source of tremendous progress in China. And it is fabulous. There are so many people in China now online. But countries that restrict free access to information or violate the basic rights of internet users risk walling themselves off from the progress of the next century.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: And say it isn't so, Friday will be "Tonight Show" Host Conan O'Brien's final appearance on NBC. The network and comedian inked a deal today worth about $45 million which includes some $12 million in severance pay for O'Brien's crew and staff. It also allows O'Brien to pursue what the network calls other opportunities and that could be as soon September 1st. Jay Leno will return as the "Tonight Show" host on March 1st.
And the celebrity tell-all book about Oprah Winfrey will soon hit book store shelves. Crown publishing has just announced Kitty Kelley's unauthorized biography of the talk show sensation will be available in April. Kelley is known for her gossipy, unflattering but popular exposes. Crown says, Kelley researched went frequent for three years and conducted 850 interviews for her book -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Thanks, Lisa, see you back here tomorrow. For our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in the "Situation Room."
Up next, Campbell Brown.