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THE SITUATION ROOM
Chile's Earthquake; Jobless Benefits; Hiding Debt; Texas Showdown; Army Ghost Town; Inside an Army Ghost Town; Two Hit Team Suspects Entered U.S.; How Hamas Leader Died; Ford Won't Run for Senate; Outrageous Medical Waste
Aired March 1, 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: And happening now, fire and angry looting and Chile shock earthquake survivors struggling without power, food or water. This hour, a shaken nation tries to claw its way out of catastrophe.
Plus, a community turns into a ghost town, developers lose millions of dollars and the people facing financial ruin blame a broken promise by the Pentagon.
And who would pay $1,000 for a toothbrush? You may have done just that if you've been in a hospital. And we're all paying for it as health care costs spiral out of control.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
In Chile right now, some hungry needy earthquake victims are taking matters into their own hands. We're hearing growing reports of looting and angry clashes with security guards trying to hold them back. In some cases, stores have been torched. Two days after that massive 8.8 earthquake, the official death toll now stands at 723 and more than two million people are affected one way or another. CNN's Karl Penhaul is in the quake zone.
KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're on Main Street in a fishing town called Talcahuano, (ph) in South Central Chile and that's to say we're on the main street in the town. And look what's here. Now, that's a 70 ton sardine fishing vessel and it was washed ashore about 600 yards, in fact, by a tsunami wave that followed about an hour after that earthquake.
And the inhabitants say that as soon as they heard that earthquake, they ran out of their homes and headed for higher ground -- that was, they say, against advice from members of the Navy and from firefighters who told them go back to their home. There was no danger of a tsunami wave. They say they're glad they trusted their instincts and also the experience of their parents and grandparents from an earthquake back in 1960.
They said they just knew a tsunami wave would come and when it did the fishermen and inhabitants here say it was a very frightening experience indeed. It was the depth of night still but they said they heard the wave coming because it just rattled. It made a sound. It was the rattle and the crashing of ships being bashed against their homes and their houses. It was the rattle and crash of shipping containers being dragged ashore and, in some cases, ripping the fronts of buildings off.
And you can see some of the damage that those tsunami waves did. Two waves, in fact, more than two meters high according to fishermen and local inhabitants. And you can now see hundreds of yards of fishing nets in the streets. You can see buildings destroyed, possessions scattered all over the place, and inches of thick sludge. And this really has been the scene for much of the day. Inhabitants now meekly, slowly, going back to their homes, and trying to salvage what few possessions they may have left -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I had heard earlier, Karl, and tell me if this is true, that of the 700 or so -- those confirmed deaths, most, maybe as many as 600, died in the tsunami that hit the Chilean coast as opposed to directly from the earthquake itself, that there were no sirens, no warnings, to move away. Is that right?
PENHAUL: Exactly. That's what we're hearing, Wolf, as well, from official sources. In fact, there's a bit of a spat between the government itself because the defense minister came out and accused the Navy of not using its own systems to warn inhabitants. Now, that's one thing that they didn't alert the inhabitants to a system of sirens. I don't know how sophisticated that system is.
But another thing entirely, the inhabitants here have been telling us, is that members of the Navy told them to go back into their houses, that there wouldn't be a tsunami wave. Here, luckily, inhabitants say they didn't lose a single member of the community because they trusted their instincts. They headed to higher ground and that because they know the sea, because they live from the sea, and also because they have that experience of the earthquake back in the 1960s. But they say had they listened to authorities, the death toll here in this small fishing town could have been well into the hundreds -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Karl Penhaul reporting. Let's stay in Chile right now. Rolando Santos is the senior vice president, general manager of CNN Chile. He's on the phone with us from Santiago. Rolando thanks very much. I must say, knowing Chile as I do, I'm surprised by the looting that's going on, are you?
BLITZER: Rolando --
ROLANDO SANTOS, SENIOR VICE PRES., GEN. MGR. CHILE (via phone): Wolf, I've lost --
BLITZER: If you can hear me --
SANTOS: There you go --
BLITZER: I was saying I was really surprised by the looting that's going on, the violence in effect that's going on in some of these hard-hit areas. It's understandable, I guess. But it's surprising to me.
SANTOS: You're absolutely right. There's a different kind of devastation today. Everyone from one end of the country to the other is talking about the images that you see on the screen and (INAUDIBLE) have been seeing throughout the day. This is just not a country that does that. As you know, we launched CNN Chile here a couple of years ago and I've been living in the country for more than two and a half years.
One of the reasons we selected this country and I chose to live here on a permanent basis was the people here are just terrific. They're respectful, they're great. And this has just got people stunned. I mean if you looked around our Newsroom -- you know how hard bitten journalists can be -- the images would come across and people would just stop and stare and shake their heads in disbelief.
And one of the interesting things that happened today I was out doing some things, trying to get some things accomplished to get food and stuff sent down to the crews with some taxis and one of the taxi drivers was commenting on it. And he said that he and his friends were watching the Haiti coverage and seeing all the rioting and the looting and they were commenting among themselves that, you know, they just -- that would never happen here, just not possible here. And he said after watching the images that he's almost ashamed to be a Chilean, which is an incredibly strong statement.
BLITZER: Where's the --
BLITZER: Where are the police, Rolando, or the military that -- are they just sort of MIA -- missing in action?
SANTOS: Well, they're moving into the area. And that's actually the other point of contention. All day long, people are saying, why didn't they move in them sooner? Why didn't they move them in sooner? Well you know what, that's kind of a two-edged sword. I mean if you think about the history here, on September 11, 1973 (INAUDIBLE) September 11th that was the coup that put General (INAUDIBLE) Pinochet (ph) into power.
And so there's the hesitancy to use the military in that kind of a situation, because of the implications and just the memories that are still very fresh in everyone's mind. Now, that's not an indictment. I am in no way indicting our current military down here. I'm simply saying that there's a residual effect from what was going on -- what's been going on in the recent past history of this country.
BLITZER: We know the outpouring of international assistance that came into Haiti. What about in Chile right now? Do they want international aid? Do they want experts, medical personnel, for example, to come in from outside of Chile or do they think they have that situation under control?
SANTOS: No, I think the reality is they want all the help that they can get, just like anybody would. I mean, they understand, this is a country that has lived through a lot of earthquakes, as we've been reporting over the last few years, but this is an extraordinary event by any standard. It truly rocked the country. There's some pride actually in Chile -- and we used to joke about the fact that I lived in California and saw my share of earthquakes, including the Northridge (ph) earthquake in Los Angeles, and there was kind of the one upmanship (ph) and joking around and no you haven't been through an earthquake until you've been through one in Chile.
And now people -- even those people are going like, oh, my god what is this? It was you know yes, we need help. We need the military to come in and there is no situation here where they wouldn't accept the help at this point.
BLITZER: Rolando Santos is the senior vice president and general manager of CNN Chile. We'll check in with you again tomorrow, Rolando, thanks very much.
SANTOS: You got it, Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's get to a different kind of suffering right now. Here in the United States, unemployment checks for hundreds of thousands of Americans right now in jeopardy because federal funding for their benefits has run out. Democrats are pointing angry fingers at one Republican senator and he's getting pretty angry himself.
Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash who had a chance to catch up with Senator Bunning earlier in the day. Did not necessarily go all that well, I take it Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, some people might not Jim Bunning as a Hall of Fame pitcher, but since he's been in the Senate, he's been known -- he's gotten a reputation for somebody with a short fuse. And we certainly did witness that today when he refused to answer questions about why he is blocking some of those benefits that would go to people who are unemployed, for example and he says he is taking a stand against deficit spending. But try to ask him that and don't get an answer.
BASH (voice-over): It's a package of $10 billion to extend funding for laid-off workers, road projects and more. But one senator, Kentucky's Jim Bunning, is blocking it, and he angrily refused to answer questions about why.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People who are unemployed --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got to go to the floor.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Senator, can you just explain to us why you're holding this up? I'm sure you have an explanation --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me!
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: OK, are you concerned about those that are going to lose their benefits? I guess we have our answer. BASH: Bunning's move is having a real world affect, construction workers here started the morning on the job, rebuilding a bridge outside Washington, but as the clock ticked towards noon, workers on this $36 million project were told to stop and leave. The site locked up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell everybody to go home at 12:00. Tell everybody to go home.
BASH: The Department of Transportation says it furloughed 2,000 workers around the country because Congress failed to pass legislation to extend funding for the projects. The $10 billion measure Bunning is blocking also includes unemployment benefits for some 400,000 people, COBRA health subsidies for laid-off workers and small business loans. Bunning did go to the Senate floor and did explain. He is for extending benefits, but he wants to pay for them, not add to the deficit.
SEN. JIM BUNNING (R), KENTUCKY: If we can't find $10 billion to pay for something that we all support, we will never pay for anything on the floor of this U.S. Senate.
BASH: Bunning even formally offered a measure to pay for the benefits. Democrats objected.
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: But where was my friend from Kentucky when we had two wars that were unpaid for during the Bush administration, tax cuts that cost more than $1 trillion unpaid for, where was my friend and the Republicans objecting to that?
BASH: Democrats immediately saw the political benefit in playing up a GOP senator blocking legislation that would help hard-hit Americans. The Department of Transportation's press release carefully detailed for reporters examples of popular projects halted because of Bunning. And the vice president jumped in too.
JOSEPH BIDEN, (D-DE) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will mean the state and local governments won't get paid for projects they've already done. It means furloughing 2,000 people this week alone.
BASH: And Democrats say they just disagree with Senator Bunning. They say that this is emergency money that does not need to be paid for. And now Democrats do have the ability to work around Senator Bunning's objection. But right now, at least in the near future, they say they have no plans to do that.
BLITZER: Why not? What's the -- they could find a way to -- since they have considerably Republican support, to go ahead and break this challenge from Bunning.
BASH: Political brinksmanship. In the near future, we're talking the next couple of days, Democrats say that it's up to Jim Bunning to change his mind and they feel that they are on the political right side of this and it would take a couple of days procedurally to work around him and they think that they are, again, winning here politically.
Now I will tell you that they do have plans, long term, to deal with all of these benefits, to put them back in place for several months, if not more, but legislation to do that won't really get started probably until the end of the week. That's in the Senate. It still has to go through the House. That could take some time.
BLITZER: Dana Bash watching this story, thank you Dana. Thanks very much.
Right now about 11.5 million people depend on jobless benefits in the United States. Almost half of them, a record 41.2 percent, have been out of work for at least six months. Most states fund 26 weeks of jobless benefits. And in this economic downturn, Congress has dramatically extended federal funding. So in some states, you can get up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits.
Killed in a horrifying spectacle, now laid to rest, the woman pulled under water to her death by that 12,000-pound whale. You're going to see how mourners remember her.
And if you build it, will they come? Businesses in one community say they invested there because the U.S. Army told them troops were on the way. Those troops have not yet come. Now those businesses say they're hurting. So what happened?
And in Texas, the boots-wearing governor is pitted against a horse- riding senator and a gun-toting nurse. Who will win this Texas-style Republican primary tomorrow?
BLITZER: Right back to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hiding debt can hurt a relationship more than adultery. It's no secret Americans are swimming in credit card debt. But a piece on CNNMoney.com talks about how some husbands, wives, even children, try to keep debt a secret from their loved ones. One expert says hidden debt is, quote, "a form of cheating so subtle you don't even know you're doing it", unquote.
The problem is when one half of a couple tries to hide debt, it's impossible to keep it hidden forever. The article talks about a case where a woman in Dallas, Texas, began racking up thousands of dollars in credit card debt behind her husband's back. She got the card and began shopping to relieve stress, planning to, of course, pay it off each month. Well that didn't happen and eventually her husband found out her secret when he checked the family's credit report.
He says it was a slap in the face. In other cases, one spouse might rack up credit card debt in order to get a small business off the ground, only to be found out when the family goes to take out a home loan or some such thing. And it's not just spouses who lie about money. Kids sometimes do it too. This article on CNNMoney.com talks about a son who got interested in the stock market as a child and wound up losing a $250,000 day trading.
A lot of it was his mother's money. Money is always a sensitive issue and it certainly ended more than a few relationships, so here's the question. Is hiding debt the same as cheating? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a comment on my blog.
BLITZER: Good question, Jack -- a fascinating subject too.
It's one race you might say symbolizes the Wild West -- the boots wearing governor of Texas under political assault right now from a horse riding senator and a wild card, an activist riding high with many Tea Party activists. They're all Republicans and a climax in this political drama happens tomorrow. Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is in Austin watching the politics for us -- a fascinating race, Candy.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It really is, Wolf. And it pretty much at this point is all over but the voting, which begins tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. Texas time. What we have here in this Republican race for the nomination to run for governor is a conservative versus a conservative versus a conservative and everybody versus Washington.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he in a car? No --
CROWLEY (voice-over): This weekend, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was out flaunting her roots.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) she's riding a horse, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.
CROWLEY: Why does the great, great granddaughter of a man who signed the Texas Declaration of Independence in 1836 have to remind Texans that she's one of them?
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: When you've spent the last 17 years of your life as a United States senator in Washington, D.C., when you voted for the bailout that in hindsight was an absolute atrocity, then you must go to the people of the state of Texas and explain to them why you're not a creature of the Washington culture.
CROWLEY: The race to be the Republican nominee for Texas governor is all about Washington.
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: There is an anger all over America, certainly all over Texas, about what's happening in government, the overreach in Washington. People think what on earth are those people thinking up there and I don't disagree with them. I agree with them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And when it comes to being conservative, Kay Bailey Hutchison is the real deal.
CROWLEY: A year ago Hutchison was the fave, a popular Republican seen as the establishment candidate who would broaden GOP appeal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How's everybody?
CROWLEY: But that's so 2009, before incumbent Governor Rick Perry's year-long full embrace of anti-Washington, anti-tax, socially conservative rhetoric that includes a declaration at a Tea Party event that Texas should consider succeeding from the union.
WAYNE SLATER, DALLAS MORNING NEWS: That got enormous response not because Texans want to succeed but because they hear the word succession as code for "we don't like Washington", unbelievably successful.
CROWLEY: Perry now leads Hutchison by double digits. Not that it's that simple.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm here to tell you today we're going to win --
CROWLEY: Debra Medina has promised to abolish property taxes and ignore federal laws she thinks are unconstitutional, a gun owning nurse who home schools her children, Medina is a Tea Party activist, campaigning as the real anti-spending, anti-Washington conservative.
DEBRA MEDINA (R), TEXAS GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Boy, they sing the song well during campaign season but they don't legislate that way.
CROWLEY: Medina's presence in the race could force a runoff if no one gets to the 50 percent threshold. But she took a hit recently and her numbers began to fall when she did not immediately repudiate the notion that the U.S. government was involved in 9/11.
CROWLEY: Pretty much every poll here in Texas suggests that Rick Perry, the sitting governor, will, in fact, win tomorrow. The question of course, again, is whether he will hit that 50 percent mark. If he doesn't, Hutchison has promised to come back stronger than ever -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Candy Crowley will watch this race for us tomorrow in Austin. Thanks, Candy, very much.
In a store you may pay $10 for a name-brand pain killer, so why did one hospital charge $140 or get this, how about $53 for a pair of disposable gloves that you could find for 24 cents? We're looking at some crazy health care bills. Stand by.
BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa what's going on?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Chile tomorrow delivering 20 satellite phones. It's the first wave of U.S. aid in the wake of the country's massive earthquake. Clinton is rearranging her Latin American tour because of the disaster, also on her itinerary Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica and Guatemala.
And the man charged in the Fort Hood massacre will be moved to a county jail near the base. His lawyer says Major Nadal Hassan (ph) could be transferred this week from a San Antonio military hospital where he has spent the past four months. Hassan (ph) was shot by police officers during the attack, leaving him paralyzed. He now faces a military trial in the killing of 13 people, the worst mass shooting ever on a U.S. military installation.
And the SeaWorld trainer killed by a giant whale was remembered today as someone who loved animals and loved her job. A funeral service for Dawn Brancheau (ph) was held in a packed church in Chicago. Brancheau (ph) died on Wednesday when a six-ton killer whale grabbed her ponytail and pulled her under water. A memorial service also will be held for the 40-year-old near SeaWorld in Orlando -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sad story indeed -- all right, thanks for that, Lisa.
In the international murder mystery involving the assassination of a top Hamas operative, the number of suspects grows and get this, CNN has now learned part of the story leads right here to the United States. We have new details.
And if you build it will they come? In one community developers say they invested there expecting more troops to come, those troops have not yet come. Now those businesses tell our Barbara Starr they're hurting big time, so what happened?
BLITZER: In many cases, U.S. military bases are the financial life blood of communities surrounding them. A growing base often means a growing town. But the reverse is also true, as one city is now finding out. Our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr shows us -- Barbara.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a decision made hundreds of miles away back in the Pentagon is having unexpected consequences here on Main Street in Hinesville, Georgia.
STARR (voice-over): This was Hinesville's bright future. Thousands of homes were going to be built because the Army said thousands of additional troops were coming here to Fort Stewart (ph). Soldiers and their families needed a place to live. Now it's a nightmare.
CLAY SIKES, REAL ESTATE DEVELOPER: I'll soon be 62 years of age. And I'm facing losing everything that I own to my name.
JOHNNY CARNES, REAL ESTATE DEVELOPER: I've got my life savings and everything I've ever worked for in this county and city because this is where the growth was coming.
STARR: Real estate developers Clay Sikes and Johnny Carnes say they invested millions after Major General Anthony Cucolo (ph), commanding general at Fort Stewart, promised them and Hinesville that troops were on the way. That was in 2007.
(on camera): Fort Stewart lies just beyond these trees. The developers have spent more than $20 million laying in water, electricity and sewer lines for homes that may never be built. They now fear foreclosure.
STARR: What happened? Last year, the pentagon said the troops were no longer coming.
CLAY SIKES, REAL ESTATE DEVELOPER: In April of 2009, we were told they're not coming. And by then of course in two years we had millions and millions and millions of dollars invested.
STARR: The army wouldn't talk on camera. General Cucolo is now serving in Iraq. An army official tells CNN the army never promised the troops. The town's banker remembers it very differently.
JAMES ROGERS, HERITAGE BANK: We had a meeting. General Cucolo was the featured speaker. And we invited builders, contractors and bankers from all over South Georgia.
STARR: What did the army basically say to you that day?
ROGERS: He was basically saying I need ya'll this time. I've never said I need you before, I need you this time. I need you to step up, I need you to build the lots, the infrastructure, the housing, so we can support these 5,000 troops that are coming and all the family members.
STARR: Now Rogers says the financial end is near for his customers but in Hinesville, it's more than just business.
ROGERS: We've got clients that have banked here for 50 years. I've got clients that I went to high school with. Kids are friends with. You see them in school functions, church functions. And now you're having to -- foreclosure.
STARR: Mayor James Thomas told us the city and county are getting reimbursed by the pentagon. But nearly $40 million they invested in facilities like waste water treatment plants and schools. But, he says, the full financial impact on Hinesville's main street businesses may never be known.
MAYOR JAMES THOMAS, HINESVILLE, GEORGIA: Many of the financial investments we can't quantify because people made those investments based on what they heard were coming.
STARR: When the army declined to talk about why the decision was reversed, they said we had to talk to higher level pentagon officials to find out why. So we did.
DR. JANINE DAVIDSON, DEFENSE DEPARTMENT: Strategic level decisions and strategic thinking often ripples into local communities. But in this case, I think the army is probably best capable of answering that question.
STARR: Troops aren't on the move, but the shape of this town is changed forever.
SIKES: All over this community, we can show you one project after another after another after another. Where there are empty lots. There are houses that are empty. There's subdivisions, infrastructure, streets.
STARR: And this is right here what the army promised you would -- it's not supposed to be a dirt lot?
SIKES: That's correct.
STARR: Sikes says he may lose $20 million. If that promise had been kept, what would be here right now?
SIKES: All of this would look like this. There would be families. There would be buildings built. There would be housing. And activity.
STARR: Both men want people to know they invested their money because the military told them the troops needed their help. How do you feel about the pentagon now?
SIKES: Well, we got a real strong mistrust right there because we trusted them, telling us we were doing the right thing.
STARR: So what really happened here? Did developers and bankers simply risk too much on a speculative investment? Or did the army make a promise and just change its mind? Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Barbara Starr working the story for us as she always does, thank you. Fascinating.
After the killing of a Hamas operative two of the suspects escaped to the United States. How did they get out of Dubai into this country? We have new information.
And Russia normally piles up Olympic gold. Not this time. Tough talk from Russia's president about the showing in the winter games.
BLITZER: More twists today in the case of a top Hamas operative killed by an apparent hit team in Dubai. The authorities there have raised the number of suspects to 27. CNN has learned two of them actually entered the United States. One had an Irish passport on the day after the January killing. The other had a British passport in mid-February. But why did the killing take place in Dubai? For starters, it's a wealthy, wide-open crossroads in the Middle East and a hub for money laundering and smuggling. CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Dubai with the rest of the story.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: If we didn't know before, we are now aware that Dubai has an extensive security footage system. 27 suspects and one Hamas target were picked up on camera numerous times by Dubai police. The only shot that's missing is when the police claim the alleged assassins drugged and then suffocated Mahmoud al- Mabhouh. But what was the Hamas leader and a supposed key link between Iran and Hamas doing in Dubai?
THEODORE KARASIK, SECURITY ANALYST: The rule is from the authorities is that you can come here but leave your weapons and your political ideology at home.
HANCOCKS: Hamas won't comment on why al Mabhouh was in Dubai. Sources say he was an arms smuggler. Between Iran and Gaza. Dubai police believe he was in transit.
CHIEF DAHI KHALFAN, DUBAI POLICE (through translator): Listen to the lie. Some countries said he came to have talks with Iranians in Dubai. I say he could have gone to Iran where no one would know his whereabouts and have secret talks and reach a deal.
HANCOCKS: Dubai was built on foreign money and has been open to investment for years.
SAUD MASUD, HEAD OF RESEARCH, UBS: The regulatory -- you can call it cushion -- has been there for people to come in and set up shop. And transact --
HANCOCKS: With the vast pool of foreign investment comes a melting pot of foreigners. It's very easy to be anonymous here in Dubai. With up to 93% of the population being expats ie, nonamarati, it's very easy for any nationality to simply blend into the background.
KARASIK: Dubai sometimes functions as a rendezvous center. This is not only true for perhaps smuggling weapons, but also in negotiations with pirates for the Gulf of Aden. It's seen as a brokerage center.
HANCOCKS: The door is open to all in Dubai. Religious locals brush shoulders with tourists from around the world. The Dubai police force is trying to deter similar murky crimes being committed on its territory.
BLITZER: Joining us from Dubai is Paula Hancocks who's been covering the story for us. Paula, thanks very much. What about these two individuals who went by the names Evan Dennings and Roy Allan Cannon? They supposedly left Dubai, went to Europe, and then came to the United States, is that what you're hearing?
HANCOCKS: That's what we are hearing. We know Evan Dennings, if that is his real name, he may have stolen that identity, traveled on an Irish passport. He got to Dubai on the 18th of January. That was the day before Mahmoud al Mabhouh was assassinated. He left on the 20th, a day after the day that the body was found and the 21st, the Dubai police have records that he went to the United States. Also, Roy Allan Cannon on a British passport. Again, we don't know if it is a fraudulent passport. He was one of those that came here on a forward planning trip back in 2009, back in November, he was here, and on February 14th, he entered the United States. Here's the key factor here, any non-U.S. passport holder has to have their fingerprints taken and also have their picture taken when they go into the U.S. Certainly the sources we are talking to are saying they hope they'll be able to track these two down at least through those finger prints. Now, we don't know if they're still in the U.S. They could have left not on the same passports but on other documents. Wolf?
BLITZER: Do Dubai police believe they can apprehend the suspects?
HANCOCKS: They really do and they have added another suspect today. We have spoken to Dubai police. And they say there are now 27 suspects. They haven't given us the nationality of the latest addition. And they do tell us -- we just spoke to the chief of police yesterday. He said he has DNA of at least one of these suspects. Of course we have the passport pictures. We have the passports, many of which are fraudulent. So that could be tricky. But he does say that some of them traveled on real passports. Some of them used their real names. Now, he hasn't specified which ones, but one would imagine it would be far easier to track down those that use real names.
BLITZER: We are also learning new details about the actual assassination, the actual death of this Hamas official, right?
HANCOCKS: That's right. Dubai police have confirmed to us that al Mabhouh was drugged before he was suffocated. The assassins used a drug called succinylcholine, excuse me if I'm not pronouncing that correctly, but it basically relaxes a patient's muscles during surgery or when they are on a ventilator. So Dubai police tell CNN what they have done is injected him with this particular drug and then they have suffocated him. Wolf?
BLITZER: Was the intention apparently to make it look like some sort of natural death, as opposed to an assassination?
HANCOCKS: Now, this is what Dubai police are telling us and medically it would make sense, the fact that they are planning to make it look like a natural death, thinking they could make an easy getaway and in that respect, maybe they wouldn't have to worry about the extensive security camera footage that we have seen. But the fact is they are picked up so many times on the security camera footage. The system is extensive within the airport, within the hotel, and we have heard from some experts that actually some of these suspects are looking up at the cameras at certain moments, smirking at certain moments. Did they assume they had got away with it because they were trying to make it look like an accident?
BLITZER: Paula Hancocks covering the story for us in Dubai. We'll check back with you, Paula. Thank you.
This additional note, national security source here in the United States has cast doubt on all of these reports. The source telling CNN that federal authorities ran the two names, Ray Allan Cannon and Evan Dennings through databases and found no indication that the people with these names or using these names have entered the United States in the period since the killing in Dubai. We'll stay on top of this story and get more information for you. Clearly, the story not going away.
We're also just getting world in to THE SITUATION ROOM of a prominent Democrat who won't, repeat, won't, be running this fall. Information you'll be interested in right after this.
BLITZER: An important development in the world of politics in New York State. Let's go back to Candy Crowley, our senior political correspondent. What are we learning, Candy?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: We are learning two sources confirming to CNN that Harold Ford Jr. who had been eyeing the U.S. Senate seat in New York will not, will not, go ahead and run for that. This was first reported in "The New York Times." Which says that in an editorial tomorrow, Ford will say that he decided not to challenge sitting U.S. Senator Gellibrand because he thought it would deplete the Democratic Party funds and perhaps give that seat to a Republican. So Ford has decided he will not join in that primary and challenge fellow Democrat Gellibrand because he thought this would hand it to the Republicans. As you know, Wolf, Ford had been eyeing this seat. There were some donors in New York who were less than enthused about Gellibrand, who encouraged him to run. But a lot of the party people really suspecting this would drain funds and make a weak candidate going into the fall against a Republican. Had to ask Ford to stay out of it. The white house didn't want Ford in it because they can't afford to lose another seat. They looked at Massachusetts, saw where a Republican got in, as you know, in Massachusetts, and they didn't want another replay and lose. What really is a pretty safe U.S. Senate seat, although after Massachusetts went to a Republican, I'm not sure exactly what's safe anymore. But Ford said he didn't want to take that chance. He didn't want to do anything that would help Republicans. So he is not going to be running, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yeah, he was under enormous pressure from the Democratic establishment and the white house to drop out. He never actually formally announced that he was in. But now he's definitely out. All right, candy, thanks very much for that, Harold Ford will not be running for the United States Senate from New York.
Jack Cafferty is asking, is hiding a debt from your spouse as bad as cheating on your spouse? He's standing by with your e-mail.
And toothbrushes that cost as much as some big-screen TVs. These are shocking examples we're about to show you of hospital markups and medical waste. What is going on?
BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for the Cafferty file. Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question this hour is hiding debt the same as cheating?
Bea writes from Tennessee, "My wife cranked up $22,000 in credit card debt I didn't know about until I opened a statement, and much of it was obtained in my name. Our relationship has been strained at best ever since. We managed to stay married, and this is after a year or so of marriage counseling so I think it's as bad as an affair."
Bob writes, "Hiding debt is worse than cheating. More marriage failures are due to financial problems than infidelity. It's a harder pill to swallow. I'd liken it more to emotional rape. In cheating there are usually several reasons that can be attributed to both sides. Hiding debt doesn't allow for any rationalization. It's raw and powerful."
Alex in Washington writes, "It's not the same but still a violation of trust in a relationship. You might marry for love, but marriage is also a business contract that combines your assets and liabilities. Hiding a debt damages the financial partnership of the marriage."
Joe in North Carolina writes, "It probably is cheating, but to me it's more about immaturity. So many Americans just know that they want something, but they never stop to think about the consequences. If we're to have a more stable financial future credit has been to be something someone earns rather than something people view as some sort of right."
Greg writes, "Absolutely it's the same as cheating my ex-wife who is a psychiatrist who is into talking and sharing angst and all the psycho babble racked up $20,000 a year on her credit card and couldn't remember what she spent it on. I only found out about it because after she insisted on handling the finances for a couple of years I wanted my turn to do it."
Scott writes from Alabama, "Now, they are not the same. Swiping your credit card behind your spouse's back is a lot different than swiping your you know what behind your spouse's back."
If you want to read more about this, you can go to my blog and check it out. CNN.com/Caffertyfile. Swiping your you know what.
BLITZER: Jack, thank you very much.
CAFFERTY: My pleasure.
BLITZER: We'll read some more right now.
Would you pay $140 for a single Tylenol tablet? Some insurance companies do. We're going to show you more outrageous medical waste. Stand by.
BLITZER: This next story made me sick when I heard about it. You're about to see some outrageous examples of medical waste. Truly outrageous. The kind that demonstrates just how badly broken the health care system is. Our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is digging deeper for us. Elizabeth.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, according to a 2008 report, a trillion dollars is wasted on wasteful medical spending. When you look through hospital bills, you begin to see how all those little numbers can add up.
COHEN: When you or I go shopping for a toothbrush, how much do we pay? 2, 3, $4. Guess what one hospital charged a patient for a toothbrush? $1,000. Can you believe it? We end up paying for it. It comes out of our pocket in one way or another. That's not the only crazy hospital cost I've run into. Come on. Come with me. At the store how much does a bottle of Tylenol cost? $10 for 100 pills. We know of someone who at the hospital was charged $140 for one Tylenol. Can you believe it? $140 for this. Here's a box of disposable gloves. When you buy them here at the store they come out to 24 cents a pair, but I know of a hospital that charged $53 for a pair of gloves. That's right. $53 for a pair of disposable gloves. What the heck is going on here? So I'm here in the home office of a medical billing advocate. This is Cindy Holtman, and she helps people go through all these crazy charges and she has all sorts of examples. This is one of my favorite ones. This is just like a little alcohol prep swab. We've all had these. How much did a hospital charge for these once?
CINDY HOLTMAN, BILLING ADVOCATE: $23 apiece.
COHEN: $23 for this tiny piece of cotton.
HOLTMAN: On one bill there were 44 of them. It becomes very expensive.
COHEN: This isn't even the craziest thing you've seen. Tell me about one of your crazier charges?
HOLTMAN: Recently I had somebody charged for 41 IV bags when she went to the ER for a two-hour visit.
COHEN: You heard that right. A woman went to the emergency room with a migraine headache, and they gave her one bag of saline, and then they charged her for 41 bags of saline to the tune of $4,182. Now, the really crazy thing about this is that her insurance company actually paid this bill. They didn't even question it. Why did her insurance company pay for this when it was obviously wrong?
HOLTMAN: There's not many people working at these companies anymore and they're very busy and any kind of bill under $100,000, they don't look at the detail. So they just write a check.
COHEN: The hospital that made that $4,000 mistake, they did correct it when the patient brought to their attention. A hospital spokesman wouldn't talk to us about it, and a spokesman for the insurance company that paid that charge even though it was wrong, they also wouldn't talk to us. A lot of people say if the insurance company is paying for my hospital stay, what do I care if there are charges in there wrong? The reason why you should care is that when medical bills go up, up, up, your premiums go up, up, up. It's coming right out of your pocket.
BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen doing excellent work for us. That is shocking stuff. Helps us understand what's wrong with the health care system. A trillion dollars in waste she said. Does it pay to bargain shop for health care? We'll have part two of the report tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING." Stand by. You'll see that.
You can follow what's going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'm on twitter and you can get my tweets. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Up next, Campbell Brown.