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State of Emergency in Egypt; Senate to Vote on Sandy Aid; Ariel Sharon Showing Signs of Brain Activity; Examining the Story Presented in the Movie Argo

Aired January 28, 2013 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Two years after its revolution, a state of emergency has been declared in Egypt.

Look at these crowds. At least three people were shot dead here. This is Port Said, during the funerals of 3 men. These men were killed during a weekend of violent clashes with police.

And in Cairo, thousands gathered in Tahrir Square, chanting, leave, leave. These words for one man, President Mohamed Morsi. After his constitutional power grab a couple of months ago, more anger in the streets today after he approved new laws allowing the army to arrest civilians while ordering a month-long overnight curfew in three cities.

But here's something you may not know. As the unrest is spreading all across this country, four U.S. warplanes sit in Egyptian bunkers, F-16 fighter jets. They were sent there last week. Sixteen more are on the way. It is a gift for a president who has called President Obama a liar, while urging a boycott of America, a president who many Egyptians say is no better than the dictator they toppled two years ago.

Our veteran international journalist Jim Clancy joining me here. And this weapons deal, it was inked in 2010 when Mubarak was still in power. Tell me about that.

JIM CLANCY, ANCHOR, CNN INTERNATIONAL: Well, look, we have long had a relationship with Egypt's military. The U.S. sees them as vital, if you will, in a chain that goes around the world.

But this is a chain in the Middle East and nothing could be more important to the United States. They want to keep their promises and, so, they're going to go ahead with the military aid that they have promised.

They want to cooperate with this government. They know they need to be in it in order to have some influence over what is happening now.

And when you look at the streets of Cairo today, you look at the streets in Port Said, in Ismail province and the other areas that are now under curfew tonight, you see a president that is in trouble. President Morsi, who, even though he's got his supporters, has very limited options.

To many Egyptians his crackdown, his curfews are making him look more and more like Hosni Mubarak.

BALDWIN: But, Jim Clancy, just perspective, right? So, as we're talking Egypt and we're talking about another North African nation all over the headlines recently, Mali, we know French troops are there. They need assistance, specifically in terms of weapons.

And while they're fighting these insurgents in Mali, the U.S. can't give them anything. Why is that? (INAUDIBLE) happening in Egypt.

CLANCY: Well, yeah. It is because we trained the man who led the coup in Mali and the U.S. Congress has passed a law. We don't give assistance anymore to people who lead coups because we have recognized it is not in the interest of the United States, not in the interest of Africa, to have governments being toppled left and right.

Sit down, negotiate, make things happen diplomatically, not just a series of one coup after another.

By the way, the African Union is in support of this kind of a policy, but we find ourselves stuck with it right now.

I think the French have more than enough to handle the situation there. They seem to be making great progress. I'm less worried frankly about what is going on in Mali right now than what is going on in streets of Egypt.

I think Morsi needs help. We already have seen him diplomatically. He's hand fisted. He cannot simply keep sending his Muslim Brotherhood supporters out into the streets to do battle with his political opponents.

Here is a man that needs some help. You've got to respect the sovereignty of Egypt, but, you know, I hear this man crying for help because he cannot figure out how is he going to handle this situation.

Egypt is the beating heart of the Arab world. The way Egypt goes, so will go this Arab Spring in country after country. It has got to work there.

BALDWIN: Jim Clancy, thank you.

Back here in the United States, three months now after Superstorm Sandy, the Senate is finally expected to vote on that $50 billion aid package to help those still reeling.

Remember, Republicans, they had balked at getting money to disaster victims unless costs were, quote/unquote, "offset" and that idea infuriated folks on the Northeast. Remember, New Jersey governor Chris Christie, just a couple of weeks ago?


GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Disaster relief was something that you didn't play games with, but now in this current atmosphere, everything is the subject of one-ups-manship. Everything is a possibility, a potential piece of bait, for the political game.

And it is just -- it is why the American people hate Congress.


BALDWIN: Fast-forward to today. We have our national correspondent, Jason Carroll there, standing in, obviously, a very hard hit area of Staten Island.

Jason, you're talking to people there. How are they responding to the fact that this aid package will likely be passed?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me put it to you this way, Brooke. I was out here in November. I was back here in December. Here again now, the end of January and the neighborhood still pretty much looks the same, like this, piles of debris from homes that have been condemned.

Some homes like this one -- I remember this house here when I was here in December -- it has got the red tag on it. It is still waiting to be possibly demolished. The home that used to be there on the corner, once again, still the same situation.

And that's really the problem here. There are many people in this area of Staten Island who feel like the situation that they -- that existed way back in early November, and in December, still exists now.

They're waiting for aid. They say they're out of time and they are out of money. I want you to listen to a woman I spoke to who lives just a few blocks from here, Fran Spano.

She says that she has been dealing with this, living with this every day. She really explained the frustration that so many people like her are continuously dealing with.


FRAN SPANO, STATEN ISLAND RESIDENT: My home here is destroyed. As you can see, I can't live in it. I have no electric. I have no plumbing. I have no boiler. And I need some help over here.

Hopefully someone who is listening out there, possibly can help me get back into my home.


CARROLL: Don't move.

And when you listen to people like Fran, it really tugs at the heart because you know that there are at least -- according to the city, Brooke, some 2,100 families just in the New York City area that are in the same situation as the woman that you just heard from.

And the thought is that, even though Washington is expected to approve this financial aid package, there is a worry here, Brooke, that aid won't trickle down to the people here in this neighborhood who so desperately need it.

BALDWIN: Just waking up here in the city this morning and all the snow was falling, I couldn't help but think of the people who are absolutely freezing and some of them don't have homes where you are, Jason Carroll.

Jason, thank you very much for sharing that story.

It has been several years here since he's been in a coma. Now, doctors say the brain of former Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, is active.

Coming up next, Elizabeth Cohen explains what this could possibly mean.


BALDWIN: After seven years in a coma, a former world leader is now showing signs of brain activity.

Ariel Sharon became prime minister of Israel back in 2001. He was a major player in the 2003 talks, called for a Palestinian state, but then in 2006 he suffered a massive stroke and brain hemorrhage that put him in a vegetative state.

Well, today, his doctors say that Sharon appeared to respond to his son's voice and other items connected to his family.

Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here with me because I just -- I heard about this and thought seven years. First, be specific. When we say he responded, what specifically was he responding to and what might this mean?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: This is so interesting, I almost interrupted you.

I'll give you two examples of things he responded to. So, doctors showed him pictures of random houses, just houses he would never have known.

And then they showed him a picture of his own house, and they saw brain activity that they didn't see in the same way with the random houses.

And it was the kind of brain activity, Brooke, you or I would register if we saw a picture of our own house, of something we're familiar with. And so that, you know, was very interesting to them.

And then they tried something else. They put his son's voice through some kind of a modulator so that it came out as gibberish. And they played that for him, just nonsense words. And it didn't register in the same way as it did when his son actually spoke to him.

So, they had his son speak real words to him and it registered again in the same way -- not exactly the same way, but in the same areas of the brain they saw activity as when anyone is speaking to someone who they know.

Now, this doesn't mean he knows who his son is, it doesn't mean he recognizes his own house. I said to this Israeli doctor, who did the procedure, I said, doctor what does it mean?

And I want to tell you exactly what he said. I want to use his words. Be very careful here. He said there is some kind of consciousness. There is some kind of processing going on, but he wouldn't characterize what kind.

BALDWIN: When you talk about words coming from his son, it makes me think, if he's been in a coma for seven years, has he not heard his son speak to him? Why now? I imagine the son is elated.

COHEN: The son has been speaking to him on a daily basis. The why now is because this is the first time they have done this MRI. It is called the functional MRI. You watch and see how someone functions as you do the MRI.

So, you know, I don't mean to sort of be sort of a bummer here, but you maybe could have done this functional MRI on him five years ago and gotten the same results. It is possible.

So, maybe there hasn't been improvement, maybe there has. We don't know. This is the first time they have done it. So we don't have anything to compare it to.

BALDWIN: So, again, what is his family saying after this MRI?

COHEN: The doctor, we haven't spoken with his family, but the doctor has, and he said the family has been feeling for quite some time that they -- that he recognized them, that he knew them, there was some kind of a connection, some level of consciousness and he said that now they feel that they have the objective data to show that.

BALDWIN: That is incredible.

COHEN: It really is.

BALDWIN: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

BALDWIN: "Argo", the CIA thriller directed by Ben Affleck, cleaned up last night at the SAG awards. If you haven't seen it, it is amazing, a gripping film about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis and the story behind the film is just as thrilling.

Coming up, you'll hear interviews with the actual real life players. Don't miss that.


BALDWIN: Another awards show, another big night for "Argo." It took home best ensemble cast at last night's Screen Actors Guild awards.

And after winning best picture at the Golden Globes, "Argo" is a strong front-runner for best picture at the Academy Awards.

CNN's Alina Cho sat down and spoke with the real life people behind such an incredible story.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE, ACTOR, "ARGO": Six of the hostages went out a back exit.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE, ACTOR, "ARGO": The Canadian ambassador's house.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the movie "Argo," Ben Affleck plays Tony Mendez, a real life CIA operative who hatches a plan to rescue six Americans who elude capture during the Iranian revolution.

BEN AFFLECK, ACTOR, "ARGO": I got an idea.

They're a Canadian film crew for a science fiction movie.

I fly into Tehran. We fly out together as a film crew.

CHO: That fake science fiction movie is called "Argo".

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, ACTOR, "ARGO": If I'm doing a fake movie, it is going to be a fake hit.

CHO: These are the real embassy workers on which the film is based.

What was your first thought when you saw it?

BOB ANDERS, FORMER CONSULAR OFFICER: It was more exciting than the real thing.

CHO: Bob Anders, Lee Schatz, Mark and Cora Lijek, Kathleen Stafford, five of the six, the first time they've all sat down together for a TV interview.

The only one who couldn't be with us is Kathleen's husband ,Joe, currently working for the State Department in the Sudan.

These are the actors who played you. What do you think?



STAFFORD: They even got his little sweater right. He used to wear little sleeveless sweater vests. That's him.

CHO: They took me back to the day, November 4th, 1979, when Iranian students climbed the wall and stormed the U.S. embassy.

What went through your mind?

LEE SCHATZ, FORMER AGRICULTURE ATTACHE: This will only last for a little while before the government will come and stop this. And I just tried to keep my staff kind of calm and collected.

STAFFORD: I remember calling my mother after about the first 24, 48 hours and said, don't worry, you're going to see some things on the news but I'm safe and I'll call you in a few days and, of course, I didn't call back for three months.

CHO: Seventy-nine days, they hid from the Iranians in the homes of Canadian diplomats and came to be known as the houseguests.

STAFFORD: People would come to the house. We would go upstairs and hide. And at one point there were Revolutionary Guards posted outside the door.

CHO: Then, on January 26th, 1980 ...

SCHATZ: There was a knock on the door, I opened the door and there's two guys standing there in trench coats. And I said, really? Trench coats?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, ACTOR, "ARGO": Have you gotten people out this way before?


This is what I do. And I've never left anyone behind.

CORA LIJEK, FORMER CONSULAR ASSISTANT: Tony is a very charming guy, very convincing.

CHO: Did you trust him?

MARK LIJEK, FORMER CONSULAR OFFICER: We didn't have a whole lot of trust. I think if we'd said, no thanks. Just send in any infiltration expert.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, ACTOR, "ARGO": You really believe your little story's going to make a difference when there's a gun to your heads?

AFFLECK: I think my little story's the only thing between you and a gun to your head.

CHO: Movie spoiler alert, it worked. And, once they cleared Iranian airspace ...

SCHATZ: We all ordered drinks. And I'm sure that the people on the plane, if they wondered, you know, wondered why there were these arms that went up as we made eye contact because we were sitting in different places, but we knew why.

CHO: Alina Cho, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BALDWIN: Incredible how they turned to Hollywood to get those hostages freed. The film "Argo" is nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Back after this.


BALDWIN: Some of the hottest stories in a flash, "Rapid Fire."

Sudden about-face from the Boy Scouts of America here. The group may drop the ban on gay scouts and gay Scout leaders.

A spokesman for the Boy Scouts says the group is, quote, "currently discussing potentially removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation." We will keep you posted on that.

Also, the countdown to the Super Bowl is on. You have the Baltimore Ravens. The fans sent their team off to New Orleans with a victory rally today.


JIM HARBAUGH, HEAD COACH, BALTIMORE RAVENS: It's going to be a glorious day in New Orleans a week from Sunday.

ED REED, SAFETY, BALTIMORE RAVENS: We got two tickets to paradise.


BALDWIN: There is head coach Jim Harbaugh and safety Ed Reed firing up the crowd if that is what you want to call that singing. The Ravens are expected to arrive in the Big Easy a little later today.

As for their opponents, the 49ers, they arrived last night. The team spared no expense in keeping its players comfortable. The team upgraded its usual charter plane to a massive 747 here normally used for international flights.

Super Bowl week rolls on tomorrow with always interesting media day.

And some pretty stunning rescue video. Watch this. This is northeastern Australia here. A helicopter hovering above, a mother stuffs her scared crying baby boy into a bag on the back of her truck stranded on a flooded road.

The baby is hoisted away, but how about this for a favorite part. The baby popping his head out of the bag from the safety of the helicopter. What's going on?

Rescuers are still trying to reach hundreds of people stranded on rooftops and on cars. Look at that fast water there. Three people already have died. The flooding on the heels of devastating fires in Australia. A man accused of threatening to blow up the Liberty Bell now behind bars. The feds say he claimed to have explosives as he walked into the historic site yesterday. The bomb squad was called in. Ultimately, we're told neither bag contained explosives.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You can if you want. It's your world, man.


BALDWIN: It's your world, Lebron. Yep, that was the president having a little fun with the members of the Miami Heat. Lebron James there.

The president honored the 2012 NBA champs in a ceremony at the White House a little about two hours ago. He said he was disappointed his Chicago Bulls did not make it, but the Heat's championship victory was, in the president's words, well earned.

Not often you see the president looking short amongst folks.

A semi truck skidding out of control in China, loses control, flips on its side. In its path, a man on a motorcycle. We have the video. We'll show you after the break.


BALDWIN: Before I let you go, an 18-wheeler tries to make a sharp turn too fast, flips over on the other side. You see him? This guy on a motorcycle escapes being flattened, walks away without a scratch. Unreal.

Got to go. I'm Brooke Baldwin in New York. See you at 7:00 in the morning. I'm in for Soledad on "Starting Point."

Let's go to Washington. "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer begins now.

WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Brooke, thanks very much.