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THE SITUATION ROOM
New Probe of Bioterror Germ Lab Leak; White House Says There Was No Cover-Up of "Fast and Furious"; Report: CIA Helping Arm Syrian Rebels; Historic Flooding Hammers Minnesota; Wealth Gap Between Races Grows; Interview with Marco Rubio
Aired June 21, 2012 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a new investigation into a potentially dangerous germ leak at a U.S. government lab.
This hour, is an agency that's supposed to protect us from disease putting people at risk?
Also, Senator Marco Rubio defends Mitt Romney, as the Republican presidential candidate changes his tone on illegal immigration. I'll talk to Senator Rubio this hour about an issue that's very close to him -- close -- that hits home to him, to be sure, and about his chances of becoming Romney's vice presidential running mate.
And a 68-year-old grandmother bullied by middle school students and even taunted about her son's suicide. Stand by to see her humiliating bus ride on a video that's gone viral.
We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Americans depend on the Centers for Disease Control to help keep all of us safe from the most deadly germs and viruses in the world. But the Atlanta-based agency now is under the microscope itself because of a leak that could have exposed people to germs so dangerous, terrorists might use them as weapons.
Brian Todd has been investigating this story for us.
He's getting new information -- Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we've investigated this ourselves and we've just learned a Congressional committee has requested documents and launched a probe into one particular CDC lab in Atlanta. This facility had an air leak from a room handling dangerous pathogens.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): It's a highly secured biogerm lab at the Centers for Disease Control conducting experiments with pathogens like monkey pox, bird flu, tuberculosis, rabies and other organisms that could be used as biological weapons.
CNN has learned a potentially dangerous air flow leak at the so- called biosafety level three lab will be investigated by a Congressional committee. Congressional sources and CDC officials tell us the leak occurred on February 16th of this year.
(on camera): What is your biggest concern of what could have happened here?
REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R-TX), ENERGY & COMMERCE COMMITTEE: Well, the biggest concern, obviously, as is my understanding, there was a contingent of visitors who were walking through the building. Had -- had one of those people been stricken or made ill, or worse, obviously, that would have been devastating.
TODD (voice-over): Congressman Michael Burgess will be part of the investigation by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Experts say if experiments had been underway at the time of that air leak, unprotected visitors could have gotten deadly exposure to germs, but an epidemic would have been very unlikely.
The air flow system in that lab is supposed to protect against the release of contaminated air.
(on camera): Air from a clean air corridor is pushed through vents into that lab, where experiments involving those pathogens and including small mammals take place. The air circulates and then is pushed to the outdoors through powerful HEPA filters. That air is supposed to be cleaner than the air that comes in.
But on February 16th of this year, visitors who were in a clean air corridor noticed a puff of air being pushed out to that corridor through a window in the slit of the door. That is not supposed to happen.
(voice-over): CDC officials say animals were in that lab at the time, but they were secured in filtered cages. They say the lab was clean, was not active at the time and no one got infected.
CDC officials told us they couldn't put anyone on camera. In a statement, a spokesman said: "At no time during recent incidents featured in the media were CDC workers or were the public in harm's way. This unique facility features multiple security layers specifically designed to protect workers and public in the event of an incident."
There's been at least one other safety-related incident in that same building at CDC. In 2008, it was discovered that a high containment lab door was sealed with duct tape.
Bob Hawley, former safety chief at a government infectious disease lab, talked about the safety layers at CDC, like biosafety cabinets researchers work in within that lab.
ROBERT HAWLEY: Nothing is handled outside that cabinet. So they're working with minute amounts of material and the chances of aerosol are negligible.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: But there are also questions about a possible cover-up. In an internal e-mail reported by "USA Today," a CDC biologist said the CDC will, quote, "Do anything to hide the fact that we have serious problems with the air flow and containment in this whole building."
We have not been able to independently verify that e-mail.
In response, a CDC spokesman said the agency will continue to be transparent in addressing safety challenges and that it will cooperate with that Congressional investigation -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Were any of those visitors or the CDC workers themselves tested -- formally tested after that incident in February?
TODD: The CDC official we spoke with says no one was tested because, he says, there was no need to. He says there were no biological agents circulating in that lab at that time, so no need to test anybody.
But it's the potential that pretty much scares everyone here.
BLITZER: We'll see what this Congressional investigation leads to, as well.
Brian, thank you.
The White House today is denying any cover-up of the botched Fast and Furious gun-running sting. Republicans are hammering the president for claiming executive privilege to keep Fast and Furious documents under wraps. And GOP leaders are moving toward a full House vote next week on citing the attorney general, Eric Holder, for contempt of Congress.
More now from our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian.
He's joining us at the White House -- Dan?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, White House spokesman Jay Carney said today that Republicans are essentially delivering on a promise to investigate the administration and damage the president politically.
But Republicans say they're just trying to take a look at something that the White House, so far, will not show them.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): The White House, under increasing pressure to explain why some documents related to the Fast and Furious gun- running sting should not be released, tried to shift the focus to its accusers, who smell a cover-up.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Instead of creating jobs or helping the middle class, Congressional Republicans are focused on this politically motivated, taxpayer-funded election year fishing expedition.
LOTHIAN: Far from a fishing expedition, House Speaker John Boehner wants to know what the administration is hiding.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The administration has an obligation to turn over the relevant documents right now. The decision to invoke executive privilege is an admission that White House officials were involved in decisions that misled Congress and covered up the truth.
LOTHIAN: White House aides insist the administration has turned over all documents related to the botched operation itself, but on, quote, "principle," is holding back on what they describe as after the fact internal communications.
Traveling in Denmark, Attorney Eric Holder lashed out at Wednesday's contempt vote in the House.
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I would say that the action that the committee took yesterday was both unwarranted, unnecessary and -- and unprecedented.
LOTHIAN: These kinds of disagreements are usually settled in negotiations behind closed doors. The White House says it hopes it can still be resolved, avoiding a contempt showdown.
But strong rhetoric is inflaming the debate. And House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, piled on when she accused Republicans of targeting Holder because of his fight against voter suppression in various states.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: This is no accident. It is no consi -- coincidence. It is a plan on the part of the Republicans.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
LOTHIAN: Now, Speaker Boehner did not directly challenge that point when asked about it today. Instead, he maintains that this quest to get at these documents in question is justified.
And one other point, Wolf, White House aides, while they talk very broadly about these documents, they won't say specifically what is in them and won't say if they include any communications with the White House.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens on that scheduled vote next week on the House floor.
Thank you, Dan.
Let's get to the bloody conflict in Syria right now and a new report that the CIA is playing a secret role in getting weapons to rebel forces.
Let's bring in our intelligence correspondent, Suzanne Kelly.
She filed this report.
SUZANNE KELLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): A small group of CIA officers working from Turkey, helping allies decide which opposition groups inside Syria should be receiving arms. That's according to "The New York Times," which cites unnamed sources saying rocket-propelled grenades and anti-tank weapons are being sent through Turkey into Syria.
CNN reported back in May that the U.S. was increasing its coordination with Gulf nations who are working to arm the opposition.
Officials insisted Thursday the U.S. is not providing arms to Syrian rebel groups, but is concerned about who makes up those groups.
GEORGE LITTLE, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: Any time that weapons fall into the wrong hands anywhere around the world is a -- is a problem.
KELLY: U.S. intelligence agencies now estimate an Al Qaeda force inside Syria to be some 500 strong. A new report by the Institute for the Study of War spells out the challenges in separating them from an opposition force that has now grown to some 40,000 men.
JOSEPH HOLLIDAY, INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF WAR: The more difficult question is the rebel groups that are more -- more Salafists, more, you know, conservative Islamist groups, that are not quite, you know, Al Qaeda organizations. They're not necessarily favor -- in favor of global Islamic jihad, but nonetheless have -- have a more conservative Sunni outlook and -- and that, you know, they could end up becoming more powerful over time.
KELLY: A U.S. official tells CNN that the opposition is clearly becoming more effective. Assad may have the upper hand militarily, but he now has to confront more than a ragtag bunch of guys.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
KELLY: So I spoke today with the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, about this. And he said that while he believes the U.S. should be in a position to better understand these opposition groups, he does not have a high level of comfort with the U.S. having any involvement in actually channeling the flow of any weapons that might be moving in to Syria right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne Kelly, thanks very, very much. In these hard economic times here in the United States, is the American dream only for white people?
We're going to talk about a disturbing new snapshot of the wealth gap between the races.
And Senator Marco Rubio's moving memories of his father's sacrifices so he could achieve the American dream. My interview with the senator coming up.
And we'll go live to Minnesota, now in a state of emergency because of historic flooding.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with The Cafferty File -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So it turns out that most of the world's extra body fat is attached to bodies living right here in the United States.
New data from the U.N. And World Health Organization shows that the entire adult global population is nearly 17 million tons overweight. And researchers in London found that while the average global body weight is 137 pounds, the average weight here in North America is 178 pounds. In other words, we're 41 pounds heavier, on average, than the people in the rest of the world.
Not shocking, since two-thirds of the United States is either overweight or obese. But there's more to this.
While North America has only 6 percent of the world's population, we make up a third of the world's weight due to obesity.
Compare that to Asia. They have 61 percent of the world's population, but just 13 percent of the weight due to obesity.
One researcher told the BBC that if every country had the same fatness that we have here in the U.S., it would be like an extra billion people of average weight.
Scientists say this global fatness is a real concern. It strains the world's food supply and environmental resources. Fatter people need more energy and they eat more.
This means the competition for environmental resources isn't always about population growth. Quote, "When it comes down to it, it's not how many mouths there are to feed, it's how much flesh there is on the planet."
And we've got plenty of flesh right here -- spare flesh.
Experts suggest the best way to fight global fatness -- programs that encourage more physical activity, like walking and cycling. Oh, yes, and put down the fork. Here's the question. What does it mean if most of the world's excess body fat is in the United States? Go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Good thing you work out every day, Jack.
CAFFERTY: A little. And so do you, right? You still do the treadmill every morning.
BLITZER: I'm trying. I'm trying my best.
CAFFERTY: All right.
BLITZER: All right. Jack, thank you.
Roads have been turned into rivers, hundreds of people forced out of their homes, and land washed away in historic flooding battering parts of Minnesota. The city of Duluth is under a declaration of emergency right now. Residents there say this is unlike anything they've ever seen.
Let's bring in our meteorologist and severe weather expert, Chad Myers with the very latest. More rain could be headed that way, Chad? What's going on?
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. You bet. Kind of an underreported story, I think, as we just didn't have very good pictures coming out of Duluth, Minnesota. Everywhere that you see here in orange, pink, or red, eight inches of rain in the past 48 hours. And this is what eight inches of rain will do to any city or any countryside.
Look at these dreadful pictures. Roads are gone. There are sink holes all over the city of Duluth. There was a state of emergency for a while that said nobody get on the road, unless, you're going somewhere in an emergency. And so, this is what we have up in Duluth. It rained all Monday into Tuesday, finally stopped now, but it's the heat of the summer.
We're finally in that summer pattern. Showers will pop up all afternoon long today, tomorrow, even into the weekend. And not like we're not going to see a lot of this runoff finally get into lake superior, but even one more inch of rain was not going to soak in. It's going to run off again and make some of these rivers go back up. Dramatic pictures, Wolf.
BLITZER: You see that bridge over there, Chad?
BLITZER: Simple gone. Right.
BLITZER: That is amazing. Our heart goes out to all the folks in the Duluth area. Wow!
BLITZER: And you say no end in sight right now?
MYERS: Well, you know, you're kind of in that pattern where the sun comes out during the day. There's so much water on the ground. That water evaporates, makes humidity. The humidity goes in the sky and makes another thunderstorm right where it's so flooded.
More rain on top of the rain because the humidity and the water's right there on the ground just to make another thunderstorm right on top of where it's already wet.
BLITZER: Yes. OK. Chad, thank you. We'll continue to update our viewers on this.
Also, a disturbing new snapshot of the wealth gap between the races here in the United States. And it's now raising this question, is the American dream only for White people? That's coming up. Stay with us here in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: We have some startling new evidence that the wealth gap between White and Black Americans nearly doubled during the years of the recession. Census figures show the disparity between white households and minority households. The median net worth for whites more than $110,000 is 22 times greater than it is for Blacks.
The gap between Whites and Hispanics isn't much better. Asians also lost wealth falling behind Whites. It's all a new wake-up call for families trying to fulfill the American dream. That's the focus of "Time" magazine's new cover story.
We're joined now by "Time's" managing editor, Rick Stengel. Rick, thanks very much for coming in. So, is the American dream dead for all practical purposes when it comes to minorities in the United States?
RICK STENGEL, TIME MAGAZINE MANAGING EDITOR: I don't think so, Wolf. I mean, if you look at median net worth for all Americans between 2007 and 2010, it went down by about 40 percent. There is an increasing income inequality, and that's not just by race. That's by income. So, the one percent are increasing their lead over the rest of us. The top 20 percent are increasing their lead over the vast middle class.
But I do believe, and I do hope that the American dream, of course, is still possible, and there are people who are socially mobile in all races, in all classes throughout America. And what we have to do is empower those people to move up the ladder.
BLITZER: So, if you're born into a certain class, how realistic is it nowadays that you're going to move up beyond that class? STENGEL: Well, you know, this is the argument about economic inequality in America where if the zip code you're born in is below a certain level, then it's very likely, much more likely than it has been since World War II that you will stay in that same zip code and stay in that same economic level.
I mean, it hurt me to see the statistics that came out last year that France has greater social mobility than America does now, and that is something we really need to overcome because the American dream is really about overcoming zip code that you were born in and moving up. And we need to empower and enable people to do that.
BLITZER: In the cover story "The History of the American Dream" in the new issue of "Time" magazine, did the folks you interviewed, what did they say about the president, President Obama and his role in shaping their attitudes about potentially having a better life?
STENGEL: Yes. I think the election will boil down to speaking of the American dream, which candidate can best realize that dream and realize the potential of that dream for most Americans. And for most Americans, that idea is about income and about moving up in their kind of economic scale. And right now, things are stuck.
I mean, an average median income of Americans is back what it was when Bill Clinton was president. And they're looking at both candidates from the perspective of who can change that? Who can move things up? Who can make it better?
BLITZER: So, an important and powerful cover story in the new issue of "Time," our sister publication. Rick, thanks very much.
STENGEL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Jurors are now considering the child rape case against the former Penn State assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, but we're learning about a new bombshell from one of his adopted children. Let's go straight to our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti. What did you learn here, Susan?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, there's no other way to describe it as you just did. It's a bombshell. We have just learned from an attorney representing Matt Sandusky, Matt Sandusky is one of the adopted children of Jerry Sandusky, that he was prepared to testify for prosecutors in this case.
And now, through his lawyer, he is announcing that he, Matt Sandusky, was molested by his father, is a victim of child abuse by his own father. Now, Matt Sandusky, Wolf, prior to now, has always been supportive in public statements about his father, Jerry after he was charged with, at first, 52 counts of child abuse, now down to 48 counts.
And we've not heard much from him in public other than those previous statements. But, he was seen coming into the courthouse yesterday. And he was believed to be part of the government's rebuttal case -- the prosecutor's rebuttal case, but they never put one on after Jerry Sandusky did not testify.
But now, we are learning this incredible information from a lawyer representing him that Matt Sandusky asking for privacy is saying that he is a child of sex abuse at the hands of his own father. We don't know how this will impact this case, if any, because this jury is sequestered.
Should not be seeing news reports at all, should not be talking to anyone about this case, and they have been deliberating for four hours now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And they're continuing to deliberate. Do they deliberate throughout the weekend or do they take a break until Monday?
CANDIOTTI: The judge has told them they can set their own hours. We believe that they will, indeed, be working through the weekend. We understand that a little while ago, both the prosecutors and defense attorney representing Mr. Sandusky are involved in a meeting in the judge's chambers.
We don't know the nature of it. We don't know whether this has something to do with this bit of news or whether it has something to do with the jury possibly wanting to end their day. They've been in court since nine o'clock this morning.
BLITZER: All right. You'll keep us inform if there's a decision. Thanks very much, Susan Candiotti.
The issue of illegal immigration on the front burner right now. I'll ask Senator Marco Rubio of Florida if he'd allow illegal immigrants to enlist in the United States military. The possible, possible vice presidential contender, he'll join us next.
And we're talking about the obesity epidemic and why Americans are a lot heavier than the rest of the world.
BLITZER: A grandmother bullied by children, taunted over her son's death. You're going to see the secret video. That's coming up this hour right here in the SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney today trying to convince skeptical Latino leaders that he'd be a good alternative to President Obama. He criticized the president's policy on immigration, calling his decision to stop deporting many young illegal immigrants temporary.
But the Republican presidential candidate offered few specifics about what he'd do. The immigration issue certainly now front and center for the White House contenders and for a possible Romney running mate. And joining us now from Capitol Hill, the junior senator from the state of Florida, Marco Rubio. He's the author of a brand new book entitled -- simply entitled "An American Son." There it is. You see it up on the screen.
Hey, Senator Rubio, thanks very much for coming in. Really appreciate it.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLA.: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: I want to get to the book in a few moments. Let's talk a little bit about immigration right now, the search for Latino support out there. You heard -- I assume you heard Mitt Romney's address before elected Latino officials earlier in the day. And to me, at least, it seemed sort of different, the tone, at least, compared to what he was saying during the primary. Did you hear that?
RUBIO: Well, what I've heard, Wolf, is that we're the pro-legal immigration party. That's the argument I've always made it that the Republican Party is not simply the anti-illegal immigration party, it's the pro-legal immigration policy. We understand legal immigration is good for America and important for America's economic future.
We recognize that America has one of the most generous immigration programs in the world. Over a million people a year immigrate here legally. No other country even comes close. But we have an illegal immigration problem, and that's a legitimate concern as well.
BLITZER: The Obama campaign wasted no time coming out with a tough statement reacting to what Romney said today. They recall that during the Republican primaries, he said he would -- he called the DREAM Act -- and a variation of that you seemed to have liked --the DREAM Act a handout and he promised he would veto it if it were enacted and he were president.
Today we didn't hear that from Romney.
RUBIO: Well, first of all, I think he's been pretty clear he doesn't support the DREAM Act. And I don't support the DREAM Act either. I do think there's a better way to do it. I talk about that in my book.
There is a way to accommodate these kids that find themselves in this circumstance through no fault of their own, but there's a way to accommodate them without encouraging or incentivizing illegal immigration in the future.
And I think that's what you saw Governor Romney say today, is that if he's president, he's not going to find a political solution or a talking point, he's not going to find a stopgap measure, he's going to find a real serious, balanced and responsible approach that honors our legacy as a nation of immigrants, that understands the humanitarian component of this problem, but that does so in a way that doesn't encourage or reward illegal immigration in the future. Look, I think you can understand the human component of this. And these are human beings. I talk about this in my book, who, what they want us to provide their families a better future. Some come from very desperate situations.
Of course you understand why they're doing that. But we also have to have immigration laws. We can't be the only country in the world that doesn't have immigration laws and doesn't enforce them. And I think there's a balance there that we have to find. And I think that's what he'll do as president. He's not going to politicize it the way this president has done.
BLITZER: When you heard the president last week come out with his new directive on allowing some young illegal immigrants to stay in the United States, to get legal status for two years at a time to go get jobs, et cetera, you, immediately afterwards, you pulled off from your alternative to the DREAM Act.
You were hoping to work with Democrats and others to find some sort of alternative way to deal with this. You've backed away from that now. Why?
RUBIO: Well, what I said was that I thought that by doing it the way he did, it's going to make it harder to find the kind of solution in the long-term that we all want to do.
Look, what I first encountered when I came to the Senate was no one wanted to talk about immigration. There were too many scars. People gone through too much in years past. This is a very highly charged, very politicized issue.
And the argument that I was making was that this was a humanitarian issue, not simply an immigration one. These kids are here in the circumstance through no fault of their own. There's got to be a way to accommodate them without rewarding or encouraging illegal immigration.
And that's what we're working on. And then in comes the president without talking to anybody and basically does it by executive order, and five months before the election in a blatant effort to try to win Hispanic votes or at least to energize the Hispanic vote and to turn it against Republicans. He's politicized it.
So if it's going to be a political ping-pong and a political talking point, it's going to be very difficult to come up with the kind of measured, responsible approach that we've been working on.
BLITZER: Should illegal immigrants be allowed to volunteer to serve in the United States military?
RUBIO: Well, as part of the alternative we were working on, there was a component where those who are honorably discharged in the service of this country would be allowed access to a legalization process fairly quickly. And I think the vast majority of Americans would agree with that. But that's not really -- that's an important point. And it's one that we should talk about. And it should certainly be part of any accommodation. It doesn't really cover that many people. I mean, at the end of the day it's not easy to get into the U.S. military. You can't just walk in and say I want to be in the Army.
I mean, they don't have to accept you. And it's not as easy as it once was. Their standards are pretty high. And not everyone can get in. So what about everybody else? That's what we're trying to tackle here is the fact that you do have young people that came in when they were 5 years old.
Some of them don't even know they're undocumented till they try to go to college and they're the valedictorian of their high school; they've been accepted to a Dartmouth or a Yale. And we're going to deport them. That doesn't seem right to people. So we do want to address that. But we can't do it in a way that ignores the fact that we have an illegal immigration problem.
BLITZER: Stand by for much more of my interview with Senator Marco Rubio. I'll ask him about Mitt Romney's public declaration that Rubio is being vetted as a possible vice presidential candidate.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news right now. The credit rating agency, Moody's, has just downgraded 15 major global banks, including the two largest banks in the United States, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America. Our chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, is joining us on the phone right now.
Ali, what does this mean?
ALI VELSHI, CNN HOST: Well, this is a review that Moody's had undertaken of the major banks in the world. For those viewers who are listening who are clients of JPMorgan Chase or Bank of America, Citigroup is in this bunch as well.
Basically this is a reduction in the rating of the bank's ability to pay back their loan, their debt, their bond. So this isn't about your deposits in those banks. Those in the United States are still covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
This is if you are a bondholder, if you invest in these banks' bonds, their ability to repay those banks is now judged to be lower because of all their exposure to the dangerous things going on in the world, particularly Europe.
So not entirely unexpected, Wolf. But in this gathering storm of things that are happening and slowing down the U.S. economy, this is one more assurance that we are all connected and that the bad stuff that's going on in Europe actually does effect us here in the United States.
BLITZER: So what you're saying is -- what I hear you're saying is that people who have money in those banks, they don't necessarily need to rush over to those banks and take out that money. That money is secure.
VELSHI: That is correct. In the United States, unlike in Europe -- and this is for our U.S. viewers, you have insurance from the FDIC up to $250,000 per account. If you have more than $250,000 in an account, it is not necessarily guaranteed.
There's no danger. These are -- they have taken these banks down from the highest of ratings to either one or two notches below the highest. So we're not talking about the fact that these banks are like Greece or Lehman Brothers, where they're not going to be able to pay back their debt.
What we are saying is some of the safest institutions in the country are actually at some risk of what Moody's calls outside losses if things continue to go down. This is risk management. This is saying that if things were to continue to get worse and worse and worse, some of these major banks could take a hit and be at greater risk of not paying back their loans to bondholders.
But if you are an account holder at these banks with less than $250,000 in the normal deposit account, you are fine.
BLITZER: Ali, thanks very, very much. We'll watch this story. Certainly it's not going to instill a whole lot of confidence as far as the economic recovery is concerned. But we'll watch it closely. Appreciate it.
Let's get back to my interview now with Senator Marco Rubio on his new book and his chances of becoming Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How did you feel in the past few days when Mitt Romney singled you out? You're the only one he's publicly acknowledged as being vetted as a potential vice presidential running mate.
RUBIO: Well, I don't pay a lot of attention to the back-and- forth -- it's like a sport up here, that stuff. But I've made a decision a couple months ago, Wolf, not to comment on the vice presidential process any more out of respect for Governor Romney and the work he's putting into that.
The only thing I can tell you definitively is that I am -- I know 100 percent without any doubt and with great certainty that Governor Romney is going to make a great choice for vice president.
BLITZER: Without commenting on the vice presidential running mate slot, do you think you're qualified, though, to be President of the United States?
RUBIO: Well, I'm qualified to be a U.S. senator, which is my job right now. And I think if I do a good job here in the Senate and continue to do a good job that people look at me and say, hey, this is someone that works and is serious about the issues. I may not agree with him on everything, but I know where he stands and he works hard on behalf of what he stands.
I think if I do that, I'll have plenty opportunities in the future to do things inside and outside of politics. So that's what I'm focused on.
BLITZER: You've really written a very personal book about yourself and your family coming to America from Cuba, "An American Son," but what was most powerful, at least in my opinion, and most moving was what you wrote about your dad. And, unfortunately, he passed away and he's not able to see you right now doing what you're doing.
What would you say to your dad right now if you could?
RUBIO: Well, I would just say that, you know, our version of the American dream, in terms of what the American dream's meant for our family -- and that's really the story I wanted to tell -- was that my parents were able to provide opportunities for me that they themselves didn't have.
And I hope what my dad can realize -- because my faith teaches me he can see what's going on, even -- not just on television -- is that his life meant something. It had a purpose. It opened doors for us that weren't open for him.
My mom is still here with us. Hopefully, she sees it the same way. Their hard work and their sacrifice, I know their dreams became impossible for them, but they opened a lot of doors for us and we'll always be grateful for that.
BLITZER: What's the most important thing you hope that readers of "An American Son" will emerge with? What thought do you want them to leave knowing about you?
RUBIO: Well, not just knowing about me but knowing about my family, is that the only reason why I've been able to have the opportunities I've had is because my parents worked very hard, they gave up a lot of things so that we could have a better life and because I was born an American son. And that's what the title of the book is about.
I think my parents -- I know my parents were once my age. They had dreams and hopes themselves. It became impossible for them. But things were possible for me that were impossible for them for one very profound reason, and that is because I am an American son.
BLITZER: I'm sure your mom is very, very proud. And I'm sure your dad -- and I assume you agree he's looking down -- he's very proud as well. It is an American dream that has come true for you. Thanks so much, Senator, for joining us.
RUBIO: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: A grandmother forced to endure a horrifying tirade of verbal abuse from students at a school bus. That's coming up.
BLITZER: The video's almost too disturbing to watch. A 68-year- old grandmother here in the United States forced to endure a barrage of horrifying insults from students on board a school bus. Here's CNN's Mary Snow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It only takes seconds to see why this video has sparked outrage far beyond the upstate New York town where it happened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God, you're so fat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Karen, you're fat. You're so fat. You take up like the whole entire seat.
SNOW (voice-over): School bus monitor Karen Klein, wipes her eyes as four seventh grade boys taunt her. At one point she tells them she's crying. But the abuse only gets worse, as the boys hurl expletives and insults, one could be seen poking Karen.
Then one makes a particularly painful comment, a reference to her son's suicide 10 years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't have a family because they all killed themselves because they didn't want to be near you.
KAREN KLEIN, BUS DRIVER: I didn't like it.
SNOW (voice-over): Klein, a 68-year-old grandmother of eight who's worked for the Grace New York School District for more than two decades says she did her best to ignore the students.
KLEIN: And I sat there and took it until they got off the bus. And I thought, it's done. It's over. Little did I know.
Oh, boy, am I glad this year's over.
I was trying to ignore it. I really was. I was trying to black it out big time. And I would turn my head and I was looking out the window and hmm, maybe they'll go away. They're still there. So I just was really trying to ignore everything that was going on.
SNOW (voice-over): Ignoring it was no longer an option. The video went viral. Now a stream of young people are stepping up to voice their disgust about the incident.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The kids that were in the video are part of my age group, and I feel like I should apologize on behalf of my whole entire age group that that had to happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's kind of like that, what is this world coming to type of thing? You know? And it's just how -- how are these, you know, parents, you know, disciplining these kids? SNOW (voice-over): A complete stranger even set up a website to raise funds for Klein to take a vacation. Money is pouring in, along with messages of support like this one.
"God bless you, Mrs. Klein and all other victims of bullying. Let this be a lesson to the bullies."
Police in Greece, New York, say, as of now, they're not pressing charges because Karen Klein has decided against it. It's partly because of the global outrage being directed at the students.
CAPT. STEVE CHATTERTON, GREECE, NEW YORK, POLICE: They've received death threats, they've -- we've received 9-1-1 calls to their home, saying that somebody was holding them hostage.
That's not funny. That's a crime. That's a form of bullying and that makes everyone doing it no better than the four kids who did this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: Now police say they're still investigating. So is the school district, which says it will discipline the students to the fullest extent. They also say they are now looking at other videos posted before this one.
Meantime, donations to the fund set up to help Karen Klein have now topped $330,000. The initial goal was to raise $5,000. Wolf?
BLITZER: Wow. What a story that is. All right. Thanks very much for that. Elder abuse, it's a huge, huge problem in our country. We'll have more on that story coming up over the next few weeks.
Jack is back with your e-mails. That's next.
BLITZER: Let's get back to Jack for "The Cafferty File." Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Here's something we're leading the world in, Wolf. What does it mean if most of the world's excess body fat is here in the United States?
Larry in Houston says it means we don't do the manual labor like our forefathers used to do and it's not going to change any time soon as long as the computer age stays around.
Richard in South Dakota sums it up like this, "Obesity is the price of convenience."
Irene says, "I'm not sure, but it's not an excuse for the government to control what free Americans eat and drink. Shame on Mayor Bloomberg and those like him."
The mayor wants to outlaw those large sugary drinks, the big Slurpees and Big Gulps and stuff. Gordon in Virginia writes, "While we're blessed in this country by an overabundance for things to eat, there's an effort underway for quite a while to try to get people to think healthy, eat healthy and exercise. Unfortunately, I don't think it's working real well."
Robert writes, "It's called prosperity. It's something they don't have in Ethiopia."
And Ed in Maryland writes, "America finally has something to export. We're back!"
You want to read more on the subject, go to the blog, CNN.com/caffertyfile or through our posts on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. Wolf?
BLITZER: Jack, thank you.
He may be man's best friend. But every once in a while you can expect a dog to bite. What you may not expect is when it's the other way around and the man is the one biting the dog. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They say take a bite out of crime, but this is about taking a crime out of a crime biter.
TRAVIS GLASPIE, DOG BITER: The dog went for my upper, my upper thing up here, and I ain't never been bit by a dog or nothing, so I bit the dog on the ear.
MOOS (voice-over): Twenty-two-year-old Travis Glaspie has some bite marks, all right, but the dog's look worse.
MOOS: This isn't just a man-bites-dog story. It's a man-bites- police-dog-as police-dog-bites-man.
MOOS (voice-over): Wilmington, North Carolina, officers and police dog, Max, were chasing Glaspie, a convicted felon wanted for shooting a firearm into an occupied car. Max got Glaspie by the leg while the suspect tried to get the dog off.
CPL. DAVID PELLEGRINO, WILMINGTON POLICE: He was actually poking at his eyes.
GLASPIE: I was terrified. The dog came up here on me, I just -- I just bit, the closest thing, I just bit the dog. And that's what got him off me.
MOOS: Did the dog yelp when the guy bit him?
PELLEGRINO: Of course, yes, he did.
MOOS (voice-over): The bite on Max's ear required stitches.
PELLEGRINO: Max was bleeding pretty bad. I was covered in Max's blood. I didn't know ears bled that much.
MOOS (voice-over): Lest you think man bites dog only in movies like "The World According to Garp," we even heard of woman bites dog, when this woman was being attacked by a Rottweiler.
And this man says he bit his neighbor's growling dog after it messed with him and his dogs for years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was intoxicated plus I'm manic-depressive. I hadn't been on my lithium and I had a mood swing. You know, mood swings?
MOOS: There were swings of a different sort during Glaspie's arrest.
GLASPIE: So he pulled the dog off me and punched me again, like bong, bong.
MOOS: Did you hit him twice?
PELLEGRINO: I did hit him twice when he was poking the dog's eyes out and also when he was chewing on his -- or biting on his ear, I did.
MOOS (voice-over): Glaspie admits biting the dog wasn't exactly a smart move. On the other hand --
GLASPIE: That got the dog off me. So evidently I must have did something right because I could have been killed.
MOOS: Max, by the way, is doing fine. It was his first bite, dog or human. After only 10 months on K-9 duty, he's already looking a little dog-eared. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Thanks for that. That's it for me. Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Remember the conversation continues, you can follow me on Twitter @WolfBlitzer. The news continues next on CNN.