Return to Transcripts main page


Deadly Flu Outbreak Hits Early and Hard; How Do Flu Germs Spread?; Is Iran Behind Cyber Attacks on U.S. Banks?; Chris Christie As "The Boss"

Aired January 9, 2013 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: And they should take that very seriously.

Thanks very much, Lisa.


Happening now, the worst flu season in a decade sweeps across the United States. We're going to tell you what to look for to avoid the flu. You're going to learn something new right here.

Also, a high speed commuter ferry slams into a dock in New York City and dozens of people are injured. We'll hear from a passenger about those terrifying moments.

And a Nobel Prize winner, a diplomat and a top TV star -- they're all investigated for treason in Egypt. I'll ask Egypt's controversial new president, Mohamed Morsy, the tough questions about human rights in his country.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


A severe outbreak of the flu strikes surprisingly early and very hard. New reports coming out of states across the country are only getting worse. In just a minute, I'll speak with a doctor feeling the effects of this outbreak.

But first, in Boston, a public health emergency has been declared. The mayor, Thomas Menino's warning -- is warning of tough days ahead. They could be difficult.


MAYOR THOMAS MENINO, BOSTON: We are less than halfway through the flu season, but Boston has already seen about 700 confirmed cases of the flu since October 1. That's 10 times the amount of total cases we saw all of last year.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: In Michigan, at least four pediatric flu-related deaths are reported, the youngest of them just six months old. The health department says to have been almost 300 cases since the start of the season, a number they don't typically see until the end of February.

And in Minnesota, this...


BRAD KRIER, MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: So far, to date, we've had over 900 hospitalized cases here in the state of Minnesota.


BLITZER: Among the victims there, this 14-year-old girl, who died from complications from the illness despite -- despite getting her flu shot.

Joining us now on the phone from Minnesota is Dr. Joan Krikava.

She's the medal corrector at the New Ulm Medical Center.

Doctor, thanks very much for joining us.

So how bad is it where you are?

A lot of folks think Minnesota is the epicenter of this problem.

DR. JOAN KRIKAVA, MDCL DIRECTOR, NEW ULM MEDICAL CENTER: We have a high prevalence of flu in our region of Minnesota right now.

BLITZER: When you say high, give us an example of how serious it is.

KRIKAVA: Our community of New Ulm is small. We're 13,000 people. And in the month of December, we had 50 positive flu patients within our clinic in a very short time. And, in fact, this week, about half of our inpatients in our hospital are -- are flu-related illnesses.

BLITZER: So what measures, new measures, have you taken now to deal with this, I -- I think it's fair to call it a crisis?

KRIKAVA: We have one nursing home in our community that has a established outbreak of influenza. And a lot of the residents in that nursing home are now on anti-viral prevention medication to avoid additional illnesses.

Our hospital has some visitor restrictions in place, as well. We know -- we are restricting the numbers of visitors and we're restricting the visitors to immediate family only.

BLITZER: Do you have enough medicine?

Is there any shortage of medicine that you might need? KRIKAVA: At this time, no, we don't. We are still giving and strongly encouraging people to get their immunizations. And we still do have adequate immunizations and we do have adequate anti-viral medications, as well.

BLITZER: The anti-viral medications, meaning if someone comes down with the -- with the flu and gets sick, this is the medication they need?

KRIKAVA: There are actually two ways to use anti-viral medications. For ill people, that does shorten the length of time a person is ill. Also, in higher risk individuals, using anti-viral medications to prevent illness is also recommended.

BLITZER: What are you telling the people in your community to do?

KRIKAVA: The most important thing is get your flu shot. That is the best protection. Good hand washing is very important. If a person is ill, they should stay home from work and school. And, of course, avoid being around individuals who are sick.

BLITZER: And just to reiterate what Dr. Anthony Fauci and our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta have been telling us, those who are most at risk are the elderly, pregnant women and young children, is -- is that right?

KRIKAVA: That is absolutely correct. Also, individuals with chronic illness, like diabetes or heart disease.

BLITZER: So everybody should be really careful. This is a serious problem.

Dr. Joan Krikava, thanks very much for helping us.

KRIKAVA: You're very welcome.

BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester has been looking at the different ways the flu can spread -- and, Lisa, it's surprising how these germs can easily spread. This is information you're getting that I want you to share with our viewers.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this -- Wolf, this goes without saying, but if you suspect someone has the flu, well, keep your distance. The flu is passed from droplets, usual when an infected person coughs or sneezes in your vicinity. But it can also be passed by touching a surface with the flu virus on it.


SYLVESTER (voice-over): We touch so many things without even realizing it. Take a simple trip on the subway...

(on camera): Buying a Metro card, going down the escalator.

(voice-over): That's only the beginning. (on camera): The flu virus can spread easily in an enclosed space, like a subway station.

DR. ASSIL SALEH, INTERNIST: The flu is a virus that is usually spread through contact. So any time we cough or sneeze if we're infected with the virus, we can be contagious to anyone who's not affected.

SYLVESTER: The flu virus can spread to others up to six feet away, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And flu germs can remain suspended in the air.

The top three ways to catch the flu -- being near someone who is sick who sneezes, coughs or talks spreading infected droplets; drinking from the same cup or sharing a utensil; and touching a germy surface and then touching your eyes or mouth. And you can pass the virus to someone before you even know you're sick.

SALEH: Somebody can be contagious with the -- with influenza up to a day prior to developing symptoms, symptoms typically they present as sneezing and coughing and so on, and up to seven days the -- post developing those symptoms. So the flu virus can be fairly contagious over a long period of time.

SYLVESTER: To see how easy it is to spread germs, we tried out this experiment with something called Glow Germ. Just look at what this black light picked up. If this were the flu virus or cold germs, I would be leaving a trail behind for someone else to catch. Using cleaning products to keep surfaces germ-free can minimize the chances of spreading the flu. And it's important to wash hands thoroughly.

Jessica Benton is with Calico Industries, a company that distributes Glow Germ as a way to teach proper hygiene.

JESSICA BENTON, CALICO INDUSTRIES, INC.: Some people sing the ABCs, "Happy Birthday" two times. But at least 20 seconds of vigorous washing. I do know when people do wash their hands, they may not go in between their fingers, get underneath their fingers, so there's lots of germs that you can't -- obviously, you can't see germs -- but do get stuck behind when you don't wash your hands properly.


SYLVESTER: And you might wonder, so how long can germs live on surfaces?

Well, Dr. Assil Saleh says typically, it's two to eight hours, but there have been reports of even up to 48 hours.

Soap and water is the best way for washing hands. But if you don't have access to them, then hand sanitizer can also be effective.

And, again, we keep hearing this again and again, but if you have not done so already, doctors are recommending that you get a flu shot. And, of course, Wolf, the common advice is if you have the flu, well, stay home. Don't go to work. Don't infect your co-workers and colleagues and so forth -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I mean that's just better -- you know, just stay at home.

And you make a good point when you say wash your hands. You know, washing your hands, and people do it for two or three seconds, wash their hands, and they think their hands are clean.


BLITZER: You've got to really wash your hands.

SYLVESTER: They say wash them vigorously. And you want that water to be warm. You want that water to be really warm, as well as, you know, they'll say 20 seconds. So sing the "Happy Birthday" song, for instance, a couple of times. Those are good ways to remember.

But here's the key thing, and people may not realize this. You actually have to wash in between your fingers. You know, when we did that test with the Glow Germ, you could see it, that it gets stuck in your rings, between your rings and fingers and so forth. You go up to somebody else, you shake their hands, it's a very common, a very polite thing to do. And that's how easy it is to spread these germs.

And that's another thing they'll say, Wolf, too, is just -- you can say to somebody, you know what, I don't want to pass the flu germ or the flu virus, I'm not shaking hands. You can politely decline to shake hands. In this day and era, it's perfectly OK to decline.


SYLVESTER: People will understand -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And make sure you use a lot of soap, too.


BLITZER: Don't just use some water. Wash (INAUDIBLE)...

SYLVESTER: That's important, too.

BLITZER: Good advice.

Thank you.

Other news that we're following, a crowded passenger ferry slammed into a New York City pier at the height of this morning's rush hour. At least 57 people were injured, two of them critically. Passengers were ready to disembark when the high speed ferry crashed. Some were thrown into the air before hitting the deck.

The Sea Streak Wall Street concerned 326 passengers from Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey to Manhattan's Financial District. Up to 100,000 people a day ride ferries to and from New York City. Two- thirds of them ride on the Staten Island ferries operated by the city. The other ferries are privately run. Let's turn to someone now who was on that ferry when it crashed.

Passenger Elizabeth Bent is joining us on the phone.

Elizabeth, I'm glad you're OK.

Tell us what it was like.

ELIZABETH BANTA, PASSENGER ON CRASHED FERRY: Well, I take the boat every day. And so I started off with my normal commute until the very end, when -- I was actually finishing up an episode of "Boardwalk Empire" on my iPad. And so I had stayed seated.

But normally, people do come up and they stand near the door and get ready to disembark from the boat. So all of a sudden, everyone just felt this large jolt. It kind of felt like we were in a car accident.

So no one knew what was going on. Everyone was very confused. Some people were yelling because they had fallen down. And there were some people who had blood on their clothes and some people who were still laying on the ground.

And so the scene was -- the -- the authority figures were pretty calm and, you know, trying to reassure everyone that it was just a mechanical problem. But I stayed seated. And some people had -- were able to get up, but others were not.

BLITZER: Was there calmness or panic?

How would you describe the reaction to what you saw?

BANTA: Well, I was sitting at the back of the boat, which was relatively calm compared to the front. But there were definitely some people who were frantic, who, you know, couldn't get off the ground or who were confused. It was definitely a confusing scene.

BLITZER: Do you take this ferry every day?

BANTA: I do.

BLITZER: From where to where?

BANTA: I take it from Highlands, New Jersey to Wall Street.

BLITZER: And how long is the whole ride?

BANTA: It's about 45 minutes.

BLITZER: So it's a good way for you to commute to Wall Street, where I presume you're working.

So what is -- are you going to do it again?

Are you scared?

Do you trust this -- this operation?

What do you think?

BANTA: I do trust it. I live pretty far from the city and I actually don't even work in Wall Street. I work at a P.R. agency in midtown. So I even have a further commute once I get off the boat.

But it's probably the most enjoyable ride that you can have as a commuter. So I will definitely continue to keep taking it.

BLITZER: Elizabeth, I'm happy you're OK, and I wish everyone on that ferry only the best.

Thanks very much for joining us.

BANTA: Thanks so much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Hacking your bank -- we're going to tell you who's been targeting some of the biggest U.S. financial institutions. This is also information you should know.

And well-known Egyptians investigated, supposedly for treason, including a Nobel Prize winner.

Is democracy in Egypt in real danger?

I'll speak about that and more with Egypt's controversial new president, Mohamed Morsy.


BLITZER: Turning now to a series of hacking attacks against big American financial institutions.

Here's the question -- is your bank being targeted for online assaults by Iran?

Brian Todd has been looking into this story for us. I know you've been working on it for a few weeks.

What are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we know that the size, scope and sophistication of these attacks is unlike anything experts have ever seen. Twenty of America's top banks have been targeted in three waves of attacks since September. And many believe this had to be state-sponsored.


TODD (voice-over): Experts say they've never seen anything like it -- a massive onslaught of cyber attacks on America's biggest banks, slowing down their Web sites, even forcing some to shut down temporarily, costing them money.

CARL HERBERGER, RADWARE: This has now, as a persistent threat, been the longest industrial sector attack that we've seen in a recorded cyber attack history.

TODD: The security firm, Radware, has investigated the attacks for the banks. They say it's been happening in three waves since September with two attacks in just the past month. What makes this so alarming, the total number of banks attacked, 20 of America's top institutions. Carl Herberger of Radware won't name them, but CNN had confirmed during the first wave that these five had been hit, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, U.S. Bank, and PNC Bank.

The scope and sophistication of the attacks, according to experts, points to a nation being behind this, not just a loose group of hackers. When the wave started in September, Senator Joe Lieberman, then chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said "I think this was done by Iran."

Analyst, James Lewis, agrees, saying it's likely retaliation for previous cyber attacks on Iran and for other things.

JAMES LEWIS, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTL. STUDIES: The Iranians have paid a lot of attention since Stuxnet to cyber security and to developing their own attack capabilities. The trigger in this case was probably some attacks by unknown foreign parties against Iran's main oil terminal, Kharg Island, back in the summer. And that appears to have led them to retaliate a respond and it's a good way to make a point that they're unhappy with sanctions.

TODD: Carl Herberger of Radware says Iran may not be behind this. Whoever it is, how are they doing it?

(on-camera) Hackers often lasso a bunch of computers making them do their bidding, just overflowing websites with requests and slowing them down or shutting them down. But in this case, experts say, the hackers possibly Iran, are not just taking control of a bunch of computers but entire data centers which bring more fire power to attack the banks.

And Herberger says the hackers are also infiltrating the encryption process, the way we secure our online payments.

(voice-over) Herberger says no accounts have been breached. No money has been stolen, but --

HERBERGER: These attacks are harbingers for the onslaught of potentially data leakage attacks or integrity-based attacks.


TODD (on-camera): Translation, that means people's accounts could soon be breached in these attacks. Now, contacted by CNN, an Iranian official at the U.N. said this is a, quote, "false allegation that Iran is behind these attacks," that his government categorically denies being behind them and that these accusations are an attempt to poison the climate of negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I know that there's a lot of suspicion that Iran was behind a recent cyber attack on Saudi Arabia's oil industry.

TODD: That's right. This is back in October. U.S. officials said at that time they believe that Iran was behind the attack against the Saudi oil giant, Aramco. This is an attack in which more than 30,000 computers were rendered useless. It was pretty massive. Iran, they denied involvement in that attack as well.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much. Good work.

"Time" magazine calls him "the boss." Up next, details on the New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, and his media tour. What it could mean for 2016?


BLITZER: The New Jersey Republican governor, Chris Christie, is back in the spotlight this week. His high-profile state of the state address focused in on recovery efforts from the superstorm Sandy, and his leadership during that crisis has revived talk about a possible 2016 presidential run. That's been a hot topic as Christie makes the rounds of some of the television talk shows.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: My job is to be governor of New Jersey. And I think people have seen over time, whether it's working with the president, if means criticizing my own party, my job is to govern and advocate for my --

The fact of the matter is, everybody has to come to the table of wanting to come to an agreement, ultimately, and that's what we've been doing in New Jersey for the last three years.

Your politics (ph) to win to get your ideas -- we've lost two national elections in a row. We need to be thinking about doing something different.


BLITZER: Tough-looking Governor Christie appears on the cover of the new issue of "Time" magazine. Joining us now is Rick Stengel, the managing editor of "Time," our corporate sibling. Rick, what made you decide to put Governor Christie on the cover?

RICK STENGEL, MANAGING EDITOR, TIME: Wolf, he's definitely the man of the hour, as he said. The Republicans have lost two times in a row, and he's thinking, well, maybe, I need to run against my fellow Republicans in order to become the most popular person in the party.

And the larger question is, does he represent a new kind of Republican? A kind of more centrist, a more direct, a more candid Republican who speaks his mind and could actually challenge the Democrats.

BLITZER: I think he does represent all of that, don't you? STENGEL: I do. I do, indeed. And I think he thinks he does as well, and I think there are a lot of voters who felt like nobody was speaking for them last time. Neither candidate, not the president nor Governor Romney and he is such a straight talker. I think people feel like, yes, he's sticking up for me. He's talking for me.

BLITZER: He's almost like a breath of fresh air the way he's so blunt, even going after his own fellow Republicans from time to time, including the speaker of House. You know, he gave some reaction on Fox earlier today to your cover picture. I'll play what he said.


CHRISTIE: I'm reporting "Time" magazine to the like anti-Italian (ph) defamation league. I mean, look at that thing --


CHRISTIE: Come on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It makes you look like Tony Soprano.

CHRISTIE: I can't wait for that to come home and for my kids to see it.


BLITZER: It was on Fox Business with Don Imus. What do you think of that reaction?

STENGEL: Well, I think he was having a little bit of fun at our expense, and we had a little bit of fun at his expense. Wolf, you know, of course, that Governor Christie idolizes the real boss, that is Bruce Springsteen. So, it's a bit of a double entendre to call him the boss and I think the governor got the joke, too.

BLITZER: What do you make of the sort of media tour that he's on right now? Do you conclude, you and your reporters, that this potentially is, in fact, a prelude for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016?

STENGEL: Well, Wolf, I think, you know, folks like us are probably the only people talking about 2016. Maybe not the only people thinking about it, and certainly, I think, you know, in this day and age, the age of the perpetual campaign, if you're a candidate or an office holder, you want to capitalize on something that's going in your favor.

And I think it's simply the governor seeing, look, people are interested in him now. He's doing some bold things, and he wants to capitalize on that.

BLITZER: The only issue that ever comes up with Governor Christie, I don't know if it's a fair issue or not, is his weight. Did you guys get into that with him? STENGEL: We didn't really get into it, Wolf. And, I think, you know, if and when he decides to run for president, I think it will be something that people talk about and people discuss and, you know, he doesn't hide the fact, and you know, he talks about it himself, but I think it's a valid issue that's worth discussing.

BLITZER: Rich Stengel, the managing editor of "Time" magazine, thanks very much for doing this.

STENGEL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: So, what did James Holmes do before he allegedly went on a killing spree in Aurora, Colorado at a movie theater? You won't believe it. Stand by.

And a Noble Prize winner is among leading Egyptians being investigated for treason. Just ahead, in a CNN exclusive, I put some tough questions about democracy to the controversial new president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi.


BLITZER: The prosecution has wrapped its preliminary case against the Colorado shooting suspect, James Holmes, calling the man who didn't care who he killed. This, after disturbing new cell phone images were revealed allegedly taken just hours before the attack. CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us now with more. Ed, more brutal information coming out?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, those pictures put a cap on this three-day preliminary hearing. And after all of this, Wolf, it's clear that James Holmes' attorneys are going to be arguing that Holmes suffered some sort of mental illness and that, perhaps, contributed to this attack. But everyone else on the other side, the victims' families and the prosecutors say that he is not crazy. He's simply just a deviant killer.


LAVANDERA (voice-over): Six hours before James Holmes burst into theater 9, the accused killer snapped self-portraits using his iPhone. These are sketches of the photographs shown in court wearing black eye contacts, Holmes smiled while holding a handgun near his face, fully dressed in the all black bulletproof gear he'd later wear into the theater.

In another, Holmes bright orange hair is seen flaring out of a dark stocking cap while he sticks out his tongue. James Holmes smiled in court as he looked at the pictures of himself pop up on a TV screen. Tom Teves, whose son was murdered in the theater, says Holmes is an animal.

TOM TEVES, FATHER SHOOTING VICTIM: He was smiling. He was having a hard time controlling himself. But he's not crazy one bit. He's very, very cold. He's very, very calculated.

LAVANDERA: Prosecutors spent the last three days laying out a detailed timeline of how Holmes planned the Aurora theater massacre.

(on-camera) Investigators say James Holmes started casing the century 16 movie theater about three weeks before the shooting. They say he came here on three different occasion and snapped off a series of pictures they found on his iPhone that showed various hallways and doors, even the exit area of theater number 9.

(voice-over) James Holmes' deviant and deadly plan feels more like a deranged creation of fictional character in a "Batman" movie. Prosecutors say Holmes spent weeks planning the attack, stockpiling weapons, and rigging an explosive system in his apartment timed to detonate just before he started the killing spree.

(on-camera) This is the backside of the Century 16 movie theater. It's still closed surrounded by a chain-link fence. But we've learned from investigators that they say James Holmes parked his car right there and walked into the theater just like anybody else, but in his pocket, he was carrying a metal clip that you would use to fasten a table cloth to a picnic table.

Holmes walked in the theater and then came out through this exit door. That's the exit door to Theater 9. The investigators say he put that clip on the door to prop it open. He came out here, put on his ballistic gear, picked up his ammunition and weaponry, and was able to walk right back into the theater.

JESSICA WATTS, COUSIN OF SHOOTING VICTIM: It was complete, you know, planning. It was competency, it was everything on his part to make sure that this act was carried out from start to finish.

KAREN TEVES, MOTHER OF SHOOTING VICTIM: It was well thought out. It was very deliberate. It was -- it was calculated.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): But all these disturbing details we've learned in the past three days still don't explain why James Holmes wanted to kill so many people.


LAVANDERA: Wolf, the judge in this case will make his final ruling as to how this case will move forward on Friday morning and it was supposed that this case will obviously go forward. There was plenty of evidence suggesting that there should be a trial, obviously, after everything that we've heard over the last three days. And then we suspect that James Holmes would enter a plea at that point during the arraignment.

So it will be interesting to see exactly what defense attorneys say then about how they plan on moving forward and what their strategy will be -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Ed Lavandera on the scene for us. We'll watch this story unfold.

Meanwhile, very sadly we've been seeing more emergency situations like the Colorado theater shootings and the Connecticut school shootings. Law enforcement personnel, first responders, even civilians are getting training for dealing with them.

CNN's Miguel Marquez got a firsthand look. Miguel is joining us now live -- Miguel.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, there are so many of these shootings now it's creating a whole new industry in the world of security. It is a very chilling sign of the times we live in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lockdown, lockdown, lockdown.

MARQUEZ (VOICE-OVER): It's called active shooter training.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're good as dead.

MARQUEZ: The scenarios horrifying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey. Don't run from me.

MARQUEZ: A heavily armed masked killer all too possible.

(On camera): The scenario has just ended. They used masks in this scenario to make this as real as possible. They use air guns so the masks are necessary. In this one, the gunman tried to get in through this door. The people in this room barricaded themselves in.

Is it helpful? I mean, these scenarios, how realistic are they?

DOMINOE FRANCO, SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY: They are absolutely realistic. Even though you know that they are not real bullet, immediately I think, OK, I don't want to get shot at even if it's -- you know, with the soft pellet gun.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Southern California's San Diego State University, home to 30,000 students, has opened its doors to Response Options, a Texas company teaching civilians survival skills for mass shootings.

(On camera): The lessons that you are teaching are incredibly simple.


MARQUEZ: Why is that so important?

HARRIS: First off, what has been taught to them before has been shown not to work.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): What doesn't work, he says, is only trying to hide from a gunman. The company teaches other options, like providing good information, barricading, escaping, and in extreme situations, countering a gunman.

Students at Alabama's Auburn University also underwent the training. Here at San Diego State, all incoming freshman will undergo active shooter training starting this fall.

CAPT. LAMINE SECKA, SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY POLICE: We want people to know what their options are before they happen so that they don't waste time trying to figure out what they're going to do next.

MARQUEZ: Rampage shootings aren't new to SDSU. In 1996, graduate student Frederick Martin Davidson, stressed about defending his master's thesis, killed three staff members. Today it seems just about everyone has a connection to public shootings. Gale Etschmaier's son now attends Virginia Tech where 49 people were killed or injured in a 2007 massacre.

GALE ETSCHMAIER, SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY: I think you have concerns about your student going to any college, given the tragedy of Virginia Tech. There was a little bit more concern.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to kill all of you.

MARQUEZ: The hard fact of our reality, getting students and staff to think about the unthinkable.


MARQUEZ: And a little sense of just how this industry has grown, Wolf, that company Response Options, they started in 2001, they just had a few clients there -- then. Today they have over 800 clients. They've charged 7900 bucks for the session that we saw but they do a lot of it pro bono as well and they work out a deal with certain organizations so this thing is just growing like wildfire -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, Miguel, how many universities approximately out there are doing this?

MARQUEZ: A dozen of universities that they've worked with. The interesting thing about SDSU, San Diego State University, is that they are going to offer it to all 6,000 to 8,000 freshmen this year, starting in the fall. The entire class will take part in this. That they'll now have some coping skills in the event something like this happens on the campus there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Miguel, thanks very much for that report.

Insurance giant AIG considering whether to join a $25 billion lawsuit against the federal government and you, the taxpayer. We're bringing you their decision. That's next.


BLITZER: The ailing Venezuela President Hugo Chavez set to begin a new term tomorrow even if he hasn't sworn in.

Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's going on?


Well, today's ruling from Venezuela's Supreme Court backs the government and counters opposition claims that the country would face a power vacuum if tomorrow's inauguration was postponed. Chavez is being treated for cancer in Cuba and most recently has been battling respiratory complications.

And an update to a story we first brought you yesterday. The board of insurance giant AIG revealing today it has decided not to join a shareholder lawsuit against taxpayers over the $182 billion bailout that saved the company from bankruptcy. The board didn't detail its reasons for the decision, saying it will make that information clear in court filings in the coming weeks.

And President Obama's second inauguration will include an impressive lineup of star power. Among the performers, Beyonce Knowles singing the national anthem. She's serenaded the president and first lady at one of the 2009 inaugural balls. Also James Taylor is singing "America the Beautiful" and Kelly Clarkson performing "My Country 'Tis of Thee."

President Obama will officially be sworn in Sunday, January 20th, as mandated by the Constitution. The public ceremony, though, is Monday, January 21st.

And heads up Monopoly fans. Now is your chance to save your favorite game piece. Hasbro is replacing one of its classics with a new piece and has launched a Facebook campaign for your input. You can vote to save any one of the originals, seen here, and then vote in one of these new ones like the ring or guitar. You can even check the leader boards to see which pieces are safe and which are in trouble. The new piece is going to be revealed February 6th.

So did you have a favorite Monopoly piece, Wolf?

BLITZER: I was never, never a big Monopoly guy.

SYLVESTER: I actually had to sit and think for a moment some of the pieces. So I think you have like the boot, we were talking about this sort of backstage.


SYLVESTER: I think the iron, the dog. So we'll see which ones actually stay alive.

BLITZER: You know a lot about Monopoly.

SYLVESTER: Learning.


BLITZER: Thank you.

Just under two years ago, it was a symbol of hope. But now Cairo's Tahrir Square is dirty and depressing. The graffiti tells a story you're going to want to hear.


BLITZER: During the Arab spring two years ago, Cairo's Tahrir Square became the heart of Egypt's revolution. None of us will ever forget the images of demonstrators crowding into the square that day.

But when I visited Egypt last weekend to interview the country's new president, I found Tahrir Square to be a much different place.


BLITZER (voice-over): I stood in Tahrir Square a few days ago. The symbol of the Egyptian revolution was largely deserted. It looked very different two years ago during those intense days leading up to the overthrow of the Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak.

Horses charging into the crowds, tank and armored vehicles, and snipers all over the place. Hundreds of Egyptian protesters killed. And then it was over.

The Arab spring had come to Egypt. Those were days of high optimism.

I was in Egypt with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a few weeks after the revolution. We walked around Tahrir Square with little security. Egyptians were thrilled to see her. I remember the near euphoria when she went to the nearby U.S. embassy to thank the American diplomats for all their hard work during those tumultuous and historic days.

(On camera): Madam Secretary, what did you think of Tahrir Square? Were you moved by what you saw there?

HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, it's been very exciting and moving for me to go to Tahrir Square and to have some sense of what those amazing days must have been like here in Cairo and I am so looking forward to helping in any way that we can in this transformation and all the work that needs to be done.

BLITZER (voice-over): That was then. This is Egypt now. Huge concrete blocks surround all entrances to the U.S. embassy. That graffiti reads, "No Morsi. Free Egypt. Free Palestine. No America."

Last September, anti-American protesters stormed the compound scaling the walls and burning the American flag. President Obama had to personally phone Egyptian President Morsi to get the Egyptian military and police finally to stop the assault and protect the American staff.

Security is very tight at the embassy now.

(On camera): Come on over here. You can see -- we can walk over. You can see the barricades outside the embassy and if you take a look right behind those barricades you can see the American flag flying on the U.S. embassy grounds. It's a huge complex over there. It's one of the largest U.S. embassies in the world and you can see more barricades over here. We're only, what, half a block or so from Tahrir Square? We're heading over there right now.

(Voice-over): I went back to Tahrir Square with CNN's Ian Lee who is based in Cairo and covered the revolution.

IAN LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: About 60 yards, 70 yards you've got the American embassy this way.

BLITZER: There were folks still living in tents, but there was no traffic and few protesters.

(On camera): Ian, give me a little tour of Tahrir Square over here because we're going to walk around, and we can see the tents. There are folks still here but this is a lot different than it used to be.

LEE: This is completely different than it used to be. Right now we just have remnants of the protests that we saw before the lead-up to the constitutional referendum. People were really upset with President Mohamed Morsi and wanted the cancellation of the -- of the referendum.

This isn't really -- what we're seeing right now isn't really, you know, popular amongst the people. If you go outside Tahrir Square, most people say this square should be opened, should be functioning again, it's the heart of the city. But there are still a lot of people who are upset with the president and we're seeing --

BLITZER: And so these folks here in these tents, these are the opposition to President Morsi?

LEE: Yes, a lot of them are the opposition but they don't make up all the opposition. A lot of the opposition -- it ranges really from poor people to wealthy people.

BLITZER: All right. So we're walking around Tahrir Square. And obviously -- I remember when I was here, I guess it must have been almost two years ago, right after Mubarak fell, I came here with Hillary Clinton and she just walked right in and it was very upbeat, it was very confident, everybody was pretty pleased about what was going on. There seemed to be an unusually euphoric attitude but that's changed dramatically since then.

LEE: It really has changed. The country is deeply divided between people who support the president and people who oppose him, the opposition. But this whole euphoric stage wasn't going to last long. The people were going to be divided because there are very different groups going for power. So it wasn't about to last long but we've really seen in the last month Egypt become very divided.

BLITZER (voice-over): On the walls around Tahrir Square, the graffiti tells the story of this Egyptian revolution. I took another tour with Ahmed Sadik (ph), an Egyptologist and guide here in Cairo. (On camera): Ahmed, let's take a little stroll down all this graffiti. Tell us what we're seeing over here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you know, one of the key demands of the revolution was to clean up the police because the criminal activity was with the police and the nefarious activities are involved. And so here, as you say, police are still criminal. So they have not restructured the Interior Ministry yet and you still have massacres, some violations of human rights.

BLITZER: These are some of the people that were killed during the revolution?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. And afterwards as well. Then you have the president in the garb of a pharaoh. This is (INAUDIBLE), unidentified a pharaoh, you have the insignia.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The unmistakable --

BLITZER: President Mubarak.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. And here you have Morsi.

BLITZER: Yes. President Morsi. Oh, I see. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's beneath invalids, like illegitimate.

BLITZER: So these are anti-President Morsi graffiti?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Then you have in red, (INAUDIBLE), which means no. No for the constitution of the Brother. It's repeated. And then you have this beautiful poem by (INAUDIBLE). It says, how -- how hard is that wall when it rises in the face of the sunrise? You might spend a whole -- your entire life to make a hole in that wall, so that light passes for the generation, but for this wall, you wouldn't have appreciated the free light.

BLITZER: And who's this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Those are the officers of the revolution. You know, when -- during the revolution last year, some officers defected. And they said Mubarak, we are not supporting you. And they were arrested immediately.

BLITZER: Interesting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we have the -- this gentleman, who is fighting. His tool is -- he's painting to fight oppression, while a general is attacking him.


BLITZER: During our next hour, more of my exclusive interview with the Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi. I asked him, why in a supposedly free and new democratic Egypt, three of his most prominent critics are now subjects of treason investigations.

Stand by for that in our next hour.

Along Syria's border with Jordan, hundreds of refugees now are living in a soggy, muddy mess.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is there.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, that cold front of weather that's moved in in the past few days to the region around Syria has, we've seen today, really hit those in Jordan the hardest. We went to the (INAUDIBLE) refugee camp near the border and saw really intolerable conditions that will only be worsened by what I'm standing in now, and that's an inch of freshly fallen snow.


WALSH (voice-over): In Jordan, life was supposed to get better for these Syrians, but in the al-Zaatari camp, lives are collapsing all over again.

These flatlands conjuring unimaginable cold, rain, wind, and simply too many people to fit. Some nights, nearly 2,000 Syrians arrive here. It can't grow fast enough.

"There were children sleeping inside," he says. "See what happened."

Water destroyed here, his family's second home in four months. Fire, lit by the regime, destroyed their first in the city of Daraa.

"They destroyed everything," he says. "We left the house because it was burned."

"They destroyed the house," she says. "The police came in and burned it."

There's water in the tent, inside, everywhere around. All our blankets are destroyed.

(On camera): They may have lost their original homes to the war, but now in the dead of night, their new tents so often flooded with icy, cold rainwater causing thousands of people in this camp to seek drier areas, if at all possible. And still, every night, hundreds pour in, seeking refuge, even here from the escalating violence inside Syria.

(Voice-over): They pack up, hoping for new tents, but in these icy storms, without solid prefab housing, it's a matter of time until they may move again.

The U.N. say they can't afford to do more.

ANDREW HARPER, UNHCR REPRESENTATIVE TO JORDAN: About 20 percent of the population is under the age of 4. But we're getting children five days old, nine days old, 10 days old, and they're coming across in these sort of conditions. We knew this was coming. We knew that the weather was going to get worse, and it's not going to be the last of the wet weather and the snow, unfortunately.

WALSH (on camera): So why isn't there more prefab housing if you knew it was coming?

HARPER: It's money, as simple as that. Our funding is about 25 to 50 percent of what we asked for.

WALSH: So far, the U.N. insists despite rumors flooding the camp, children are not dying of the cold. But they are simply holding back tide. Snow is coming.

French soldiers providing medical care to those who reach their tiny field hospital.

(On camera): What are the kinds of injuries you see?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Essentially, war injuries. Shrapnel wounds, gunshot wounds, explosions.

WALSH (voice-over):. The trauma of 22 months' brutality evident in the faces of the old and of the young. Numbed perhaps. But tellingly finding this cruel world better than the maelstrom they left behind.


WALSH: Wolf, as you heard, the U.N. says there's little more they can do without extra cash, and we ask the Jordanian government really for their response to those conditions inside the camp, which I'm sure anybody watching can agree are unbearable. They had to comment and said the camps are what they are, but those conditions will surely only worsen for those inside, in the freezing weeks ahead, and of course, as people continue to pour in, as many as 2,000 in one night, we heard, life will just get more and more intolerable, Wolf.

BLITZER: Nick Paton Walsh. Thank you.

And to find out how you can make a donation to relief efforts for the Syrian refugees, go to our "Impact Your World" Web site at


BLITZER: Gadgets and gizmos galore at this week's massive consumer electronics show in Las Vegas.

CNN's Dan Simon has the story from Las Vegas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): In between the robotic cleaners and back massagers, the indestructible cell phone cases. And ingenious smart pens, here are a few products that caught our eye at CES.

(Voice-over): First up, the water save iPhone. Liquipel has a waterproof coating that makes any phone or tablet immune to the hazards of H2O.

SAM WINKLER, LIQUIPEL: So Liquipel is a thousand times thinner than the human hair. So it doesn't affect the look. It doesn't affect the feel, and doesn't affect the functionality.

SIMON: Cost, about $60 for phones. Just send it to the company, they'll apply the chemical and send it back.

Next, ultra-HD TV. The headliner at this year's Consumer Electronics Show.

PHILIP JONES, SONY: 4K Ultra HD is four times the resolution of a traditional HD TV, which means you can have a bigger TV in your room, you can sit closer to that TV, and that TV will be much, much, much clearer.

SIMON: They are, in fact, stunning. Content, though, was limited and the price for the big sets can go upwards of a whopping $20,000. Don't look for them just yet at Wal-Mart, but look for the price to come down in a few years.

We found this item to be a bit more affordable.

(On camera): If you're someone who likes to watch TV in bed, here's a product that might appeal to you. This is from Brookstone and it's a pillow that has speakers inside it. And the selling point is, if you're listening to the TV, watching whatever show or movie you've got on, you can listen to it without disturbing the person lying next to you.

STEVE SCHWARTZ, BROOKSTONE: We think it's going to be a terrific father's day gift, may even save a few marriages.

SIMON (voice-over): Finally, there was the HapiFork, which might be able to save you a few pounds. The electronic utensil lets you know when you're eating too fast.

(On camera): If you're eating too fast, it's going to buzz or it's going to light up and tell you to slow down, right?

FABRICE BOUTAIN, HAPIFORK: You're going to have a gentle vibration.

SIMON (voice-over): At $99, it's being called the world's first smart fork.

BOUTAIN: So that's why eating slowly is very important because you can lose weight but also your digestion is going to be much better.

SIMON (on camera): Another of the cutting edge exhibits that caught our eye at CES, where 2,000 companies from all over the world are showing off their new products to the 150,000 people who came here to be dazzled.

Dan Simon, CNN, Las Vegas.