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THE SITUATION ROOM
U.S. Drought Worsens; Tea Party Victory; Obama Leads Romney in 3 Battleground States; Whooping Cough on Rise in U.S.
Aired August 1, 2012 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Happening now: an epic drought. Disaster spreads to more than half the counties in the United States.
A long shot primary victory is giving the Tea Party new hope for wins in November.
And it is a day of dueling demonstrations for and against Chick- fil-A and its opposition to same-sex marriage.
BOLDUAN: Wolf Blitzer is off. I am Kate Bolduan. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It is the most severe and expensive drought to hit the United States in a quarter century, and now it is worse, much worse. More than half the counties in this country now have been declared disaster zones because of the drought.
Photos from our iReporters really tell the story here, destroyed crops, you see it right there, as well as lakes like this one in Illinois that are now bone dry.
Our severe weather expert, Chad Myers, is standing by.
But, first, I want to go to our Brian Todd, who has more on the spreading drought disaster.
Brian, July is going down as one of the driest months on record. Just how bad was it?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kate, we just spoke to the climatologist, the lead climatologist in the state of Iowa. Iowa is of course the number-one corn producer in U.S.
And the climatologist there gave us a pretty stark picture. He said that right now, as the end of July, July was recorded as the fifth driest month in Iowa in 140 years, the fourth warmest month in Iowa in the same time period, 140 years.
July, of course, one of the key months for the growing of corn in Iowa and in that region. So it is very stark there. Overall, across the country, it isn't much better. Two-thirds of all the livestock, two-thirds of al the crops in this country right now are produced and cultivated, cared for in areas that have experienced at least moderate drought.
Kate, it is a pretty grim picture right now across the country, but especially in the Corn Belt.
BOLDUAN: Absolutely. The pictures really tell the story here. What does this mean our viewers of course want to know for food prices across the U.S.?
TODD: Corn is key, especially in these regions of Iowa. Corn and other crops like it are key.
But corn affects the packaged and processed foods all over the country. What experts tell you is that it takes about a year for a surge in corn prices to kind of play out among other foods. It takes about a year for that to play out in your actual food buying process.
About this time next year, you're really going to feel it. But what the USDA is saying now is that food prices overall in the U.S. could surge by as much as 4.5 percent next year. Get ready to feel it at the grocery store.
BOLDUAN: Brian, I know there's been conversation or talk of this in Washington, but what is the federal government planning to do to help farmers through all this, if anything?
TODD: Well, it has gone beyond the talking stage at this point, Kate, because the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its secretary, Tom Vilsack, have just announced today that they're going to provide an extra almost four million acres of conservation land for grazing and haying of livestock.
This is land they normally would want to preserve, and normally they would not want to let livestock trample over it. But right now, the situation is so dire, that they're providing almost four million acres of conservation land for haying and grazing and livestock because the land has gotten a little bit more moister, the grass is of a little bit better quality.
That's the first phase of it. Second phase is that the USDA has announced that insurance companies have agreed to give farmers a grace period for paying their insurance premiums of about 30 more days. Farmers getting a little bit of a financial boost to try to get through this. But again they are going to need all the help they can get; 30 more days may not quite cover it as far as the financial concerns of farmers right now.
BOLDUAN: That's well-said, Brian.
Also I think is so interesting that July is a key growing season, growing month and a tough, tough go for it for so many farmers.
Brian Todd, thank you so much.
BOLDUAN: All right, let's turn now to presidential politics and a boost for the Obama campaign.
New polling shows the president leading Mitt Romney in three key states, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Ohio. Obama gets 50 percent support or slightly better in all three states in this recent poll. Zeroing in on Ohio here, Obama is six points ahead of Romney in the Quinnipiac/CBS/"New York Times" poll.
The president has been campaigning in Ohio today, driving home the state's importance in November. Probably don't need to remind you of that at this point.
Our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, joining me live from Akron right now.
Dan, what was the president's message to Ohio voters this time?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the president's message at both of the stops here in Ohio today was that he is fighting for the middle class.
He details some of the progress that he said he's made so far, but pointed out to supporters that there are no quick fixes, that this thing is not going to be turned around very quickly. But then he went after his opponent, Mitt Romney, saying that what he is offering is not a plan and not a solution for the future of Americans that taxpayers can support.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Carol?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. I'm Leah.
OBAMA: Hey, Leah.
LOTHIAN (voice-over): It's standard operating procedure on the campaign trail. Drop in for burgers or sweets at popular local spots.
OBAMA: I think this would be perfect for Michelle.
LOTHIAN: A photo-op meant to reinforce the president's reelection message, that he's looking out for hardworking Americans and small business owners and his opponent, Mitt Romney's policies will only benefit the very rich.
OBAMA: Folks making $3 million a year or more would get a quarter-of-a-million-dollar tax cut.
LOTHIAN: To drive that point home, the president touted a new report by the Tax Policy Center. It didn't specifically analyze Romney's plan, but found that similar proposals benefit high-income families and increase the tax burden on the middle class.
OBAMA: Does that sound like a good plan for economic growth? Does that sound like a plan you can afford?
CROWD: No! No!
LOTHIAN: The Romney campaign that sent its bus to circle the president's event in Akron dismissed the report as another liberal study and blamed the president's failed policies for the ailing economy. And they took another shot at the president's auto bailout, releasing a new ad in a state where one out of every eight jobs is tied to the auto industry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The dream that we worked for and that we worked so hard for was gone.
OBAMA: And if you still believe in me like I believe in you...
LOTHIAN: But in campaign ads and on the trail, the president routinely takes credit for rescuing the auto industry and saving hundreds of thousands of jobs.
It wasn't just autos in the crosshairs on this visit, but airplanes. Air Force One touched down at the National Guard base in Mansfield, home to the 179th Airlift Wing and the C-27 cargo plane. Defense budget cuts threaten the plane's future and this base's mission.
In a statement, Republican Ohio Senator Rob Portman said -- quote -- "These Ohioans have answered the call to serve. They must be pretty frustrated to see the president drop into town and fail to give them a straight answer about his plans to end their important mission."
LOTHIAN: Now, yesterday, White House spokesman Jay Carney seemed unaware of the issue when he was asked about this during his briefing. But today he said that President Obama was committed to finding another mission for that unit -- Kate.
BOLDUAN: Dan Lothian in Akron, Ohio, Dan, thank you very much. Safe travels back home.
A big story in politics tonight: a major Tea Party victory by a grassroots Senate candidate -- what it could mean for the future of gridlock on Capitol Hill right after the break.
Also, new information about Israel's plans for a possible attack on Iran. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta tells CNN what he knows in an exclusive interview.
BOLDUAN: An upset primary victory in Texas is giving the Tea Party new hope of influencing the balance of power in Congress.
Democrats now control the U.S. Senate with a slim majority, 51 members, plus two independents who vote with Democrats. And there's now new excitement surrounding a race in Texas for the open Republican Senate seat there.
That's because the Tea Party favorite, Ted Cruz, beat an establishment candidate for the GOP nomination.
Let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, for more on this.
Dana, what are you learning about Mr. Cruz and really the potential impact of his big win last night?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Kate, the answer to that is that if Ted Cruz does win in November, it won't do anything to change the balance of power next year in the Senate, but it could do a lot to change the tone.
BASH (voice-over): A GOP Texas upstart with a familiar Tea Party rallying cry.
TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Millions of Texans, millions of Americans are rising up to reclaim our country, to defend liberty and to restore the Constitution.
BASH: Forty-one-year-old first-time candidate Ted Cruz walloped the well-funded Republican establishment candidate in the GOP Senate primary with this promise.
NARRATOR: Politicians cut deals. Principled conservatives deliver.
BASH: Democratic leaders warn if Cruz wins in November, gridlock in the Senate will be even worse.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN (D-IL), MAJORITY WHIP: Anyone elected to the Senate who starts off by saying "I won't compromise" isn't going to help us.
BASH: The Tea Party is a good foil for Democrats. But the reality is Cruz's vote probably won't make that much difference because he is replacing Kay Bailey Hutchison, and she votes with the GOP 90 percent of the time.
Still, Democrats do have a point that Cruz, like any senator, would have a lot of power to grind business to a halt.
DURBIN: You know what the Senate is like. One senator stands up and says no, we stop the train.
BASH: And Cruz wouldn't be the only possible new senator willing to do that. In Indiana, Richard Mourdock beat veteran Republican incumbent Richard Lugar, vowing confrontation over compromise.
RICHARD MOURDOCK (R), INDIANA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: What I have said is and what I continue to believe, certainly, is one side or the other must prevail. And I'm hoping this candidacy will help move the Republican Party forward to become a permanent majority.
BASH: And the Senate was already bound to be a more polarized place next year, because so many moderates chose to leave. Nearly half-a-dozen are retiring this year. Still, it is an open question whether Tea Party rhetoric on the campaign trail translates into action in office.
Two years ago, a handful of Tea Party-backed senators promised to hold their own leadership's feet to the fire to slash spending, shrink the government and protect civil liberties, but once there, only a few uncompromising demands, like Rand Paul on the Patriot Act.
RICHARD MOURDOCK (R), INDIANA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Call your Republican leadership in Washington. Tell them you're unhappy.
BASH: Jim DeMint is a sort of Tea Party kingmaker, helping candidates across the country, including Ted Cruz.
SEN. JIM DEMINT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Ted Cruz comes in, and I think he can help empower some of the Democrats to make those hard decisions.
BASH: He argues the more Tea Party-backed senators, the less gridlock. Here's why.
DEMINT: I think there are enough Democrats if we have a strong mandate election who will work with people like Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, and Pat Toomey and these new senators here in a sensible way to change the course of our country.
BASH: But in talking to Republicans in the hallways here, it is pretty clear that Republican leaders understand that if they do succeed in winning back control of the Senate next year, they are going to have a lot different pressure on them.
In fact, expectations are going to be very, very high to do what they say they're doing on the campaign trail, and that is effectively, as you well know, to shrink the government big-time, Kate.
BOLDUAN: And, Dana, give our viewers a quick update on where things stand over in the House right now, as the House is taking up a vote on extending Bush era tax cuts, a hugely contentious issue this year.
BASH: A hugely contentious issue and of course a highly political vote that Republicans in the House are holding.
If you take a look, I think we can put it up on the screen now. It's not a surprise, this bill has already it looks like passed. Republicans have successfully passed it. What we are looking for though is to see how many Democrats cross over and feel the pressure to vote for this. This is a one-year extension of all Bush era tax cuts. I'm just looking at the screen here. It looks like so far 20 Democrats have voted yes. That's a lot fewer than two years ago, when they voted to extend this for two years. I think there are about 89 Democrats -- excuse me -- 86 Democrats still in the House who voted for the two-year extension.
BOLDUAN: And, again, a hugely political vote. As we know, these have been going back and forth in the Senate, and it's not going anywhere at the moment.
BASH: Not going anywhere at the moment.
This is not going to become law, and it simple -- just like Senate Democrats did last week when they passed their version of this, which is just to extend the middle-class tax cuts, it is just so that they have for their five-week recess, which they're going on tomorrow, to have this as a political issue to head into the campaign.
BOLDUAN: All right, Dana Bash, thank you so much.
So is Israel any closer to taking military action against Iran? Defense Secretary Leon Panetta tells CNN what he has learned from the Israelis. Stand by for that in an exclusive interview.
Also, did an American cyclist make a huge comeback from injury? We will give you the Olympic results before they air on prime-time TV.
BOLDUAN: Taking a look at some pictures we have right now, this chopper picture was actually much closer, and hopefully they will zoom in again so you can see it once again.
These are pictures of a fire just engulfing a home in Riverside, California, Riverside County, California. This was a fire that we were just talking about earlier with our severe weather expert, Chad Myers.
Just amazing to see the damage that it is doing right now. And you're looking at these pictures just live here in THE SITUATION ROOM. So sad as they work to contain the wildfire. Thank you to our affiliate for helping us out with those live pictures.
Moving on, though, the prime minister of Israel is warning that time is running out for a peaceful solution to Iran's nuclear defiance.
Benjamin Netanyahu met today with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta in Jerusalem, and the subject of a possible Israeli attack on Iran definitely came up.
Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is traveling with Panetta and she spoke with him in an exclusive interview. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It's a question that has dominated international diplomacy all year. Will Israel attack Iran's nuclear facilities, and if so, when?
In an exclusive interview with CNN, while in Jerusalem, meeting with Israeli leaders, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told me what he had heard.
(on camera): What have the Israeli told you about their current assessment, how close Iran is to having a nuclear weapon?
LEON PANETTA, U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: They have not made a decision.
STARR: Not made a decision to do what?
PANETTA: They have not made a decision with regards to whether they're going to attack Iran.
STARR (voice-over): It seems that Iran is yet to decide whether to transform its growing nuclear program into a bid to build a nuclear weapon.
But Panetta and the Israelis agree that Iran's uranium enrichment program is bringing it ever closer to a weapons capability. And that would push the U.S. and Israel into making the decision about what to do next, a decision that may not be far away.
PANETTA: A new point in the intelligence community is that if they made the decision to go ahead in order develop the enriched uranium, and develop the kind of weaponization that they would have to do, that we're probably looking at approximately a year.
STARR: Panetta is also stepping up his own talk of a possible U.S. strike on Iran, in case diplomacy and a growing raft of sanctions fail. The current sequence of meetings between Iran and the major powers have yet to yield any agreement.
PANETTA: If for some reason that doesn't work and they make the decision to proceed with a weapon, then we have options to deal with that militarily if necessary.
STARR: All that's required is a political decision.
PANETTA: We remain fully prepared to be able to exercise whatever option the president of the United States decides with regard to this issue.
STARR (on camera): And what about the Israelis? Well, Defense Minister Ehud Barak says , yes, the sanctions against Iran are tightening, but he doesn't believe that Iran's ayatollahs, his words, are suddenly going to change their minds and give up the nuclear program.
Barbara Starr, CNN, Jerusalem.
BOLDUAN: Barbara, thank you.
President Obama is billing himself as the underdog in fund- raising. Is his campaign getting desperate for cash? We're going to talk about it.
And an alarming rise in the number of kids with a childhood disease and new worries that a common vaccine might not be enough.
BOLDUAN: Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you for joining me here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
I am going to dig a little -- I'm going to take a harder look now at the new presidential polls in three battleground states.
As we told you a little earlier, President Obama is leading Mitt Romney among likely voters in Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. The real question is, why?
Let's talk about that and much, much more with Democratic strategist and former Obama spokesman Bill Burton. Bill is also part of the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action. And also joining me now is economist and former Nixon speechwriter, Ben Stein.
Thank you, gentlemen, for being here with me. Sorry we're not all in the same room. Let's dig into the poll numbers. Ben, first to you.
Looking at these state polls, it's a pretty tight race when you look specifically on their handling of the economy, and Romney has really been polling well in terms of his business -- his business credentials. And that's really what he's running on. So that's why it begs the question to me, shouldn't he be doing better in terms of these polls? I mean, he's -- they're one, two points apart, three points apart in how they're handling the economy.
BEN STEIN, ECONOMIST/FORMER NIXON SPEECH WRITER: I think Mr. Romney would do a lot better if he had an actual plan. I mean, he can point out that Mr. Obama has failed to arrest the unemployment very much, failed to arrest the general feeling of malaise, failed to address the problem of America competitive with China, failed to address the budget deficit. He has failed at all these things, but Mr. Romney has not displayed a better or more convincing plan. And Mr. Obama is an incomparably more charismatic campaigner. The difference is night and day.
So that is the problem. By all -- by all reasonable accounts, people should be holding Obama to blame. They're not, I think, because there's -- Mr. Romney hasn't shown why he could do better.
BOLDUAN: So in short, in 100 days or less if you were advising him, how would you advise Romney to kind of step it up and remind people that he thinks he's a better guy to fix the economy? STEIN: I would get some serious heavy-duty thinkers in the world of economics, way beyond me, to come out with a really serious, realistic plan, not just a plan for less regulation, but an actual meaningful plan to resolve the deficit crisis and to get the economy stimulated.
The problem is there is no such plan. There is simply nothing either of them can do. We're really stuck in a very difficult situation. So it's not -- he just can't magically come up with a plan. There is no magic plan.
BOLDUAN: Well, Bill, let's look at this from a different way. Because I'm sure you'll say this is music to a Democrat's ears when you hear that from Ben Stein.
Look at these polls specifically in Ohio. Maybe we can throw out these numbers again. Ohio, for example, where the president campaigned today, he's leading -- Obama is leading Romney by six points. But when it comes to his handling of the economy, he's only leading by one point. Does that mean there are other things at play here in what's influencing the election? And more so, does this still just show that the economy is a drag on the Obama campaign?
BILL BURTON, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think there are a lot of factors that are worth looking at. But if I'm the Romney campaign, the thing that makes me the most nervous is the top line numbers, where the president holds a little bit of a lead. It's the fact that if you look underneath those numbers, some of the things that people now think about Mitt Romney that they didn't previously-- for example, that when he was in private business, he was more worried about profits than he was about the middle class, and that that would carry into the kind of president that he -- that he would be.
I actually think the reason the president is doing well in these states is because he has shown a great deal of economic leadership. And the American people, especially in these places where the race is really engaged, think that he was dealt a tough hand and he's got a better vision for this country than Mitt Romney does. But I don't take a lot of stock in the fact that he has these leads in these states right now. I think it's just a real short snap -- snapshot of where we are.
I more think that it's the undercarriage that people ought to be watching, the fact that people just don't trust Mitt Romney on the economy. Like you would think that maybe they did in such a tough economic climate for the president.
BOLDUAN: Do you think that -- do you think that's what the problem is, Ben, that they don't trust Mitt Romney with the economy?
STEIN: Well, I don't think it's so much that. I think it is a huge issue that he has not shown his income tax returns. I must say, even my Republican friends are very -- and they're -- almost all my friends are Republicans -- are very, very concerned that he has not shown more of his income-tax returns, and it would be awfully good if he did, unless they showed he paid zero tax, that would not look good. I think what the whole body of journalists has ignored, is that when he was at Bain Capital and made those enormous profits, he wasn't just making them for himself and his wife and his children. He was making them for student -- endowment funds at universities, for pension plans for municipal workers, pension plans for state workers. Those profits were going to fund the retirement of ordinary middle- class Americans.
I think in terms of what he has done for middle-class Americans, when he was at Bain Capital, he did an awful, awful lot. And although Mr. Obama's economic leadership plan may look good to Mr. Burton, the results have been quite disappointing, to put it mildly.
BURTON: Well, just on this point.
BOLDUAN: Go ahead.
BURTON: For starters, I think that the private-sector growth of over 4 million jobs during this recovery is actually pretty impressive.
And the point that Ben made about the pension funds that did better, in fact, there are cases where Mitt Romney came in and helped drive companies into bankruptcy. And even when his investors lost money, like those investors that Ben Stein is talking about, he still made money. They still made a profit at Bain because of the way that they had structured the deals. So I think that...
STEIN: That was a small part.
BURTON: If I just -- that was in many cases. But if I just take off my personal hat for a minute and just put on my analyst.
BOLDUAN: Real quick.
BURTON: It's been malpractice that Mitt Romney has not told a positive story about his business experience. And the fact that he hasn't, I think is really starting to have an impact on what people fundamentally believe about him and has really turned off some voters.
BOLDUAN: Let me jump in here real quick, because I have one last question. Bill, you're big on fund-raising, obviously. You're part of the pro-Obama super PAC.
President Obama has now donated $5,000 of his own money to his reelection campaign. This is what he wrote in an e-mail to supporters. I'll read this to you in part. It says, "What I gave won't be enough to surmount the unprecedented fund-raising we've seen on the other side, both from our opponent's campaign and from the outside groups and special interests supporting him."
This is not the first e-mail, really, that we've seen. It sounds -- the Obama campaign is really trying to bill itself and present itself as the financial fundraising underdog here. But why do they have to be -- seem so desperate right now? BURTON: Well, I don't think this is a move of desperation. I think this is a moment where the president is saying, "All hands on deck, including mine." He thinks that everybody ought to get involved. If Democrats don't get involved, then the wave of special- interest money that is going to come over into these right-wing groups is going to be very difficult to beat in the fall.
BOLDUAN: And one final thought from you, Ben?
STEIN: The -- matter of fact, the truth is the Democrats have overwhelmingly out-fundraised the Democrats [SIC] this time and the last time. All those figures from the Democrats are myth. The data from all sources of the Democrats have wildly outraised the Republicans this time and last time.
BOLDUAN: The money is a big story this election. We will keep talking about it.
Ben Stein, thank you very much. Bill Burton, thank you. As always, gentlemen. Talk to you soon.
We have new information now about the U.S. involvement in Syria. Want to bring that to you right after the break. Stay with us.
BOLDUAN: Bringing some new information just in now to THE SITUATION ROOM about the U.S. involvement in Syria. I want to go over to the State Department, where our foreign affairs reporter, Elise Labott, is with all the details.
Elsie, what do you have?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Look, hey, we've been seeing that the U.S. is talking about ramping up its support for the Syrian rebels who are battling President Bashar al- Assad. We understand that the president has signed what they call an intelligence finding.
Now, it's an authorization that authorizes covert assistance to the rebels. I have to be careful to note that this is not lethal assistance. The U.S. has made quite clear that it's not ready to arm the rebels. It's leaving that to allies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar. But certainly, the U.S. is stepping up its assistance.
And so we're not really clear when the president signed this authorization. We believe it's in the last few months. So what it does is it allows the U.S., the CIA and other intelligence agencies to provide covert assistance, things that might be classified.
Now, we also see that the U.S. has also been ramping up its assistance to the rebels. It just signed a license from the treasury to allow other groups to start supporting the rebels, but all has to be nonlethal assistance. U.S. not ready to arm the rebels, leaving it to other allies, but stepping up intelligence cooperation. BOLDUAN: Elisa, that's definitely a significant development, while as you well know, there's a lot of calls -- there are a lot of calls here in the U.S. for actually arming the rebels and giving that kind of assistance. This is a significant development as the bloodshed continues in that country, especially in Aleppo. We've seen some amazing, and really shocking images out of there.
Elise Labott at the State Department for us tonight. Elise, thank you so much.
So it's busier -- it's been busier than usual at Chick-fil-A restaurants across the country. One-time presidential candidate Mike Huckabee declared August 1 to Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day in support of the restaurant chain's president, who's a vocal opponent of same- sex marriage. Among those following Huckabee's advice, Sarah Palin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Yes. Going to Chick-fil-A. We're on our way to Missouri to help out at a campaign, and then Nebraska and Iowa. But today we're in Phoenix, where there's good Chick-fil-A. And can't wait to eat those waffle fries and spicy chicken.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOLDUAN: Supporters of same-sex marriage are trying to organize a national Same-Sex Kiss Day to be held at -- you probably guessed it -- Chick-fil-A restaurants, getting a lot of people talking across the country, though.
Straight ahead, any parent who's ever heard it can never forget the sound of whooping cough. Now the U.S. is seeing a sudden spike in the number of cases.
And no need to wait until tonight. At 52 past the hour, the latest results from the London Olympic games, right here. I'm giving you a spoiler alert. Coming at you.
BOLDUAN: It is one of the more frightening diseases of childhood, one that many health experts thought we had under control. But now there's an alarming rise in cases of the whooping cough. And suspicion is falling on the vaccine itself. CNN's Mary Snow is working that story for us.
Mary, this is pretty scary. What are you finding out?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Kate. And you know, the U.S. is on track to have the highest number of cases of whooping cough since 1959. There's a lot of questions about what's behind the spike.
And a new study takes a look at just how effective vaccines are.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SNOW (voice-over): Paloma Rodriguez says she'd never heard of whooping cough. That is, until the day she gave birth to her son, Devon (ph). Doctors warned her about it then and there. She says she didn't hesitate to get Devon (ph) vaccinated as soon as he was two months old.
PALOMA RODRIGUEZ, MOTHER: I'm very worried, because I heard that cough, you know, causes a lot of -- it can choke him. And it can possibly -- he could turn blue.
SNOW: Paloma's concern comes as the Centers for Disease Control reports more than 19,000 cases of pertussis or whooping cough so far this year. That would be a 50-year record outbreak.
Pertussis can cause violent, rapid coughing, pushing air from the lungs, and leaving those battling with it to inhale with a distinct whoop sound. It can be fatal in some infants. Nine babies in the U.S. have died this year from it. Increases in whooping cough are reported in 37 states, with the highest rates so far in Washington and Wisconsin.
DR. TOM CLARK, CDC: If protection wears off even slightly faster, pertussis is really transmissible. If you send somebody into a room with 100 people, and that person has pertussis, about 15 people are going to get it if they're susceptible.
SNOW: The CDC's Tom Clark says the vaccine is being closely examined following changes made to it back in the 1990s. And a new study from Australia, published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association, found the newer vaccine was not as effective as the older one. Clark says while the study is a small one, he believes it's important and says the CDC is working to confirm those results.
In the meantime, doctors are raising awareness of whooping cough, which at first can mimic the symptoms of the common cold.
CLARK: Infants are at greatest risk of pertussis or whooping cough.
SNOW: Nine babies in the U.S. have died this year from it. Pediatric pulmonologist Rajik Shah (ph) says in babies, coughing is not necessarily always a symptom.
(on camera) A six-week-old baby came in, and he stopped breathing for seconds at a time?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
SNOW: And you knew right away it was whooping cough?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
SNOW (voice-over): Dr. Shah (ph) is encouraging mothers to get their children vaccinated. Babies can't get it until they are two months old. At four months, Devon (ph) is on round two of five doses of the vaccination. His mother hopes it will protect him from the disease she is now becoming an expert in.
SNOW: Now, the CDC is encouraging adolescents and adults to get a booster dose. Its newest recommendation, though, is for pregnant mothers to do the same. Until babies can get the vaccine and build up immunity, they're dependent on the people around them to protect them from getting sick -- Kate
BOLDUAN: So, so scary. Have to be so careful. Mary in New York, thanks so much.
BOLDUAN: Want to bring you some more pictures that I think that we have here right now from our affiliate, WKAL -- KAL and KCBS, sorry. These are pictures of a wildfire we've been tracking for more than an hour now, really.
When we last saw it, this fire -- this wildfire in Riverside County, California, was moving towards this home. And you can see now, my gosh, it's just completely engulfed this home, as you can -- this is 80 miles, I'm told, from Los Angeles. This poor family. Probably hope they're seeing this right now on CNN.
You can see it's just absolutely engulfed this home, and firefighters are obviously working to contain this fire. But we have these live pictures now. Thank you to our affiliates for bringing that to us. We'll continue to track that, as well.
Find out who won gold at the London Olympics before the results air on primetime TV. You'll see it right here first in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BOLDUAN: Mary Snow is back monitoring some of the other stories right now coming into THE SITUATION ROOM. Mary, what do you have?
SNOW: Well, Kate, at the San Antonio International Airport, police have given the all-clear on three vehicles inside the parking garage after a caller claimed there were bombs planted inside. Nearly 1,000 travelers and workers were evacuated. An airport spokesman said several planes were held on the tarmac for safety, but they were being allowed to deplane into the terminal building.
To Miami International Airport. Two TSA agents trained to spot terrorists saved a kidnapping victim. The behavior detection officers saw a young woman trembling and trying to hide her battered face as she stood at the ticket counter. Two New Jersey women were arrested for beating the 25-year-old, holding her against her will, and forcing her to take money out of her bank account.
And an inmate set to walk the green mile gets a job at a state pen instead. Chief, a Columbia wolf and shepherd mix, set to be euthanized, is now at Angola Prison in Louisiana, where he patrols the grounds. Budget cuts led to the prison using dogs to guard inmates. It worked well enough. They are now breeding the wolf-dog hybrid.
BOLDUAN: Fully acknowledged, this is the first time I've heard of the wolf-dog hybrid. You learn something new -- you learn something new every day. Mary, thank you so much.
BOLDUAN: More U.S. athletes won gold today at the Olympics. Stay right there and you won't have to wait for tonight's reruns to find out who the winners are.
Spoiler alert, CNN's Tom Foreman is keeping track of all the big stories at the games. Hey, there, Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kate. As we always say, it's a spoiler alert. Turn your sound down. Turn away from the TV for two minutes if you don't want to know. And don't blame us if you stick around, and you don't want to know.
Let's take a look at what happened out there. Some big news today. Women's cycling, Christian Armstrong, almost 39 years old, great, great, great story. She won the gold in Beijing. Didn't know if she was going to compete this time around, because she was having a child. She went out there, blew the doors off and won gold, big-time. There she is with her son, Lucas. Huge celebration. Oldest woman to ever accomplish this. Huge win for the U.S. Very important there.
Another big win. In gymnastics, Danell Leyva did this, winning the all-around men's gymnastics bronze medal. This is a huge deal, because Paul Hamm did this back in 2004. Before that, it was in the 1980s when we did this.
By the way, Kate, this little trick right here, I can actually do that, but I don't like to show off. So here he is. That's his gold. That was a huge, huge, wonderful thing for him.
Let's look at swimming. The swimming was also a big event today. The women in the 4 x 200 freestyle relay, they grabbed gold. That was terrific. And this swim by Nathan Adrian. He wasn't supposed to win. He was against an Australian guy who, they call him a missile who was supposed to win. At the end, he edged him out by 0.01 second. That's faster than a congressman can grab a bribe.
And he got the gold. So that was a huge breakthrough there. Really terrific, terrific showing by all of our athletes today. The medal count, let me bring it up here, if I can. There's the medal count for the day: China, 30; USA, 29. Seventeen golds to 12. Very, very tight race at the top, Kate.
BOLDUAN: And we need to tell our viewers Tom was joking on the reference to a member of Congress, Tom. You're a wild man.
FOREMAN: Don't -- I've seen it.
BOLDUAN: Tom Foreman, thank you so much.
We've all had bad service in a store, at some point in our lives. But wait until you see one clerk's over-the-top rant on video.
BOLDUAN: If you've ever been treated badly by a store clerk, you might want to have your cell-phone camera ready the next time it happens. A man in Florida did. It landed him and that rude employee in this report by Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We've all experienced bad service. But what do you call it when you're served a middle finger?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you.
MOOS: Holding the camera was a guy named Chris who came into this 7-Eleven in Orlando, Florida, with his 3-year-old son. The worker asked the boy if he wanted a ride on the broom she was using. The dad said no. He said she started yelling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I asked her to stop. I said, "If you don't stop, I'm going to record you and put it on YouTube." And she kept going.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get out of my face.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She just gave me the finger and cursed me.
MOOS: Chris complained to the manager.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She just gave me the finger. I have it on video. I have the whole thing right here on video.
MOOS: But this was only part one. After Chris left the store, guess who showed up, once again with an upraised finger? You can hear Chris' son asking a very good question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This lady's chasing us in the car. There she is again. She's chasing me down in her car.
MOOS: Maybe this is her idea of curb service.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've got the whole thing on video.
MOOS: But both drivers stayed in their cars.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm being followed by this lady. I'm an armed citizen.
MOOS (on camera): He may say he was armed, but at least no shots were fired. Actually, the only thing fired was the employee, which explains the "Now Hiring" sign. (voice-over) We weren't able to track down the worker to get her version of events. Neither the 7-Eleven's manager nor corporate headquarters would comment. But Chris had this reaction to the employee's firing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very happy with it. By her actions, she should have been arrested.
MOOS: Instead of pressing charges, Chris pressed his case in the court of public opinion, a.k.a. YouTube, where he musically chewed her out, chewing him up.
MOOS: At least you can't say this worker never lifted a finger.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED) you.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
BOLDUAN: Only Jeanne.
That's all for me tonight. I'll be right back here tomorrow. Please join me. I'm Kate Bolduan right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.