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Death Toll Rising From New Respiratory Virus; Chinese Cyber Spies Growing Threat; Al Qaeda Rubs Salt In Boston's Wounds; Parts Unknown Previews; Why Exercise When You Can Prancercise?

Aired June 1, 2013 - 18:29   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The death toll is rising from a newly discovered respiratory virus that health officials are calling a threat to the entire world. At least 50 people have been infected in eight countries, most of them in the Middle East. The world health organization says 30 of those patients have died, and that number will likely get higher because experts simply don't understand how the virus is spreading.

CNN's Mary Snow has more.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hollywood movies like Contagion are sobering reminders of the real threat of deadly viruses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The average person touches their face three to five times every waking hour.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Touching door knobs, water fountains, and each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, if we have a virus, no treatment protocol and no vaccine this time.

SNOW: Reports of a new strain of a corona virus overseas is nowhere near the movie version of an outbreak. So far, there are no reported cases in the United States. Its name, the Middle East respiratory syndrome corona virus. World health organization calls it a threat to the world.

GREGORY HARTL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: This is a grave concern to us here internationally and WHO, because there are so many unknowns around the virus which so far has killed 55 percent of the confirmed cases.

SNOW: Cases have been linked from the Middle East to U.K., Germany, France, and Tunisia. So far, 27 people have died with the largest number in Saudi Arabia.

Should people be concerned about this?

DR. W. IAN LIPKIN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: People should always be concerned whenever there's an emerging infectious disease because we don't really know, we don't have ways in which we can predict and project and appropriately prepare for some of these.

SNOW: Ian Lipkin is leading a team of scientists at Columbia University to investigate the virus, which is in the same family as sars and the common cold. Symptoms include fever and severe respiratory problems. Patients have also develop pneumonia and kidney failure. Officials have found some clusters of cases where the disease was transmitted between family members or in a health care setting. Researchers are looking at whether it was initially passed from animals to humans.

LIPKIN: The original host, the original reservoir for the virus in sars was a bat. And we think based on the analysis of the sequence of this virus it also originated in a bat.

SNOW: Where?

LIPKIN: Probably somewhere in the Middle East.

SNOW: Health officials don't know much about how the virus spreads, but at this point travel warnings have not been issued.

DOCTOR MARK DENISON, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: I don't think we should be concerned in terms of travel to the Middle East or to anywhere in the world right now, but to just be aware of it. Most cases and illnesses are associated with the elderly and those with pre-existing or severe underlying medical conditions.

SNOW: The world health organization is so concerned about this virus because there's no known treatment and no way to make a vaccine, not just yet. Doctors are currently working on that. In cases that have been found in eight countries, all have been linked to the Middle East.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Let's get more perspective now on this virus from one of the world's leading experts. I spoke with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the national institute of Allergy and infectious diseases.


BLITZER: Doctors don't know, correct me if I'm wrong, Dr. Fauci, how people are getting this disease. I assume it makes it harder to fight?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: That is absolutely correct, Wolf. We don't know how people are getting it. You can assume if it is directly from a bat that it is exposure to a bat. But if there's a secondary host or secondary animal like a mammal, you don't really understand because there is no direct epidemiological link, common link of transmisability, first a case pops up in the Middle East and some cases traveled from the Middle East to other countries like the U.K., like Tunisia or like France and other places where they have actually had people in those European and other countries who got infected in the Middle East and then came back. And there have been some what we call family clusters, people very closely related to the individuals, either in a family or even in a health care setting. But again, to emphasize, sustained person to person transmission has not occurred, thank goodness.

BLITZER: And let's hope it doesn't.

The United Nations world health organization as you know says this is, I am quoting now, a threat to the entire world. Here is the question for you, Dr. Fauci.

How big of a threat right now should we is see this in the United States, within the United States, if it went from the Middle East to Europe, could it come here?

FAUCI: Well, it could come here, Wolf, if someone has been in the Middle East and gotten infected and came here and a case came up. That would not surprise me. So, the thing that again to reemphasize is that there has not been sustained person to person transmissibility. So, although it is a threat, we don't know the degree of this threat because if it is acting the way it acts now and doesn't change, it isn't sustained transition. But, if it mutates or changes and assumes the capability of going more readily from person to person, that's what you need to be concerned about. But there's no way at all, Wolf, where you can now predict the likelihood of whether that will happen or not.

BLITZER: Dr. Fauci, as usual, whenever there's an issue like this, we come to you.

Thank you very much for your expertise.

FAUCI: You are quite welcome, Wolf.



BLITZER: We are now getting a very troubling new look at a growing threat to America's military security. Chinese cyber spies reportedly are hacking into blueprints for the most sensitive Pentagon weapons systems in a much bigger and more dangerous way than we realized. Some defense experts say the amount of cyber spying has now been revealed in their word, staggering.

CNN's Brian Todd is here to break it down for us.

Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it is staggering the amount of weapons systems that are apparently been compromised by the Chinese. You know, the U.S. had a technological advantage in military capability, but the Chinese are catching up. In a new report bolsters accusations that they have hacked their way closer to the top. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: They are America's most advanced combat weapons and defense systems -- the FA-18 fighter jet, the Littoral combat ship, the Aegis ballistic missile defense system.

According to a new report, the designs for these and other high tech weapons have been breached by Chinese hackers. A confidential version of the report from defense science board, made up of government and civilian experts was given to "the Washington Post." The report doesn't accuse China of stealing entire designs, but if they didn't steal them, how did they compromise them?

We spoke with Kevin Mandia, a top cyber security expert who did a separate report this year on Chinese military hackers.

KEVIN MANDIA, CEO, MANDIAN: Bits and pieces of things will be taken from many different sources, different laptops, different computer systems that have been compromised. But it is hard to take a lot of these pieces and gel them into one comprehensive picture of what might be being built or what the designs are.

TODD: CNN couldn't independently verify the latest report findings. Several members of the defense science board who we contacted declined to speak to us.

U.S. defense and other officials downplayed the report, saying some of the information is dated, that they've taken steps to address the concerns, one saying, quote, "The idea that somehow whoever the intruders were got the keys to the weapons kingdom is a stretch."

But the Pentagon has recently accused China of trying to extract information from U.S. government computers, including military ones.

If the Chinese even got into parts of a combat or missile defense system, how could they have gotten past the safeguards?

MANDIA: There's a lot of engineering that gets done in an academic setting. There's a lot of engineering that gets done at defense industrial base. And a lot of these places have been compromised for over 10 years.

TODD: China's military ambition has been off the charts in recent years. They've launched a satellite-killer missile into space.

Just over the past two years they've deployed their first aircraft carrier and they have test-flown their first stealth fighter jet. One expert told me the technology from that was taken from the U.S.

And China's alleged hacking could be deadly for U.S. forces on the battlefield. I asked one expert about the publicly released part of this latest report on the consequences of the cyber snatching of weapons technology.

JAMES LEWIS, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: If you mess with that software, the airplane won't fly, the missile will miss its target and the ship might not get to where it was intended to go.

TODD: China's embassy in Washington did not respond to our calls and e-mail about this latest report.

China's government has repeatedly insisted it does not conduct cyber espionage on U.S. agencies or companies. Wolf.

BLITZER: So, what are the experts telling you? How can the U.S. stop this?

TODD: They say the major defense contractors have to reduce their target area in cyberspace, basically reducing blueprints, documents, other things they put in cyberspace so the Chinese don't have as much to hack.

Secondly, they can jump on this when they sense there's been a breach, jump on it to minimize the impact. And they say also U.S. officials have to sit down with the Chinese and really kind of lay out why this is such a huge problem and that they have to stop it.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Brian, thanks very, very much.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now. The United States, as you know, has spent trillions of dollars to develop sophisticated weapons only to have Chinese hackers steal a lot of these plans. I asked the House intelligence committee chairman Mike Rogers how serious a problem this really is.


REP. MIKE ROGERS, (R-MI), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, it is tremendously serious. This is something the intelligence committees have seen for awhile. Our intelligence community has been trying to get ahead of for awhile.

But the viciousness in this, the volume of attacks, not only by the Chinese, but Russians and others, trying to get the blueprints of our most sensitive material, is just breathtaking.

And they're getting better, so their capability for getting into systems and getting that kind of information. It is not just government networks, Wolf. They're also doing the supply chain. Anybody that is connected to any of our defense industry is really vulnerable to this type of attack.

BLITZER: Can you confirm that just "The Washington Post" story, that it was Chinese military hackers, if you will, that stole all this material?

ROGERS: I can't confirm what they have gotten, but I can tell you that it was the Chinese military, and they have been aggressively pursuing it.

And I will tell you this. And for folks at home, well, what does this mean to me? We in some cases have to go back for any material that may have been stolen, as you can imagine, and redesign it. It costs more money. It costs billions and billions of dollars extra to try to make sure that we are staying ahead of our adversaries with technology.

When they steal it, they leap ahead. That means we have to invest more and change that technology. It is a serious problem.

BLITZER: In the real world, though, you can't blame the Chinese for trying to steal it. You can't blame the Russians or others for trying to steal this kind of stuff, but you can blame the U.S. national security infrastructure, if you will, if it can't protect this kind of information.

ROGERS: Well, here is something to think about.

So, about 10 percent of the networks are government networks. And so we ask our intelligence agencies to go overseas and find out what the bad guys are up to. They bring information back and do a pretty good job about protecting government networks. It is that 90 percent. There's a common myth that the government or the NSA, the National Security Agency, CIA, others, are monitoring the private network. They're not.

BLITZER: It's one thing trying to steal blueprints -- steal technology. It's another to use that hacking ability to undermine a power grid or telecommunications network, to do something like that that could grind a big chunk of this country to a halt. Is there any evidence the Chinese, for that matter the Russians, want to do that?

ROGERS: Absolutely. We've seen -- it's now and forever more part of military planning. We saw that in Estonia, where the Russians went in, because they took a statue of a Soviet soldier down from a square. They did a very vicious and effective cyber attack. They prepped the battlefield, if you will, before they went into South Pacefia (ph) in Georgia with a cyber attack before they sent their takes in.

You know that now this is part of nation-state military planning. They will launch an aggressive cyber attack when we're in conflict. Now what should worry people is, yes, Chinese have the capability. Yes, the Russians have the capability, but now who is creeping up are Iran, South Korea. They're still a little ways behind.

BLITZER: South Korea, an ally?

ROGERS: Excuse me, North Korea. I apologize. I should have brought...


ROGERS: Well, we hope they have a defensive capability anyway.

BLITZER: So, what you're saying, you're saying that Iran and North Korea have what?

ROGERS: Well, they're gaining in their capability, and they're not rational actors. China isn't going to necessarily shut down our electric grid unless we're in conflict. You can't say that about Iran or North Korea.

What's happening is that you've seen that the Iranians are here on our shores. They have been probing our financial institutions. We know that they have been probing certain electric grids and whatnot. That's a real problem for us because again, there's a cyber war going on now. Most Americans aren't aware of it. And it is not one that we're well- prepared to.


BLITZER: Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee joining me. Obviously very, very disturbing information.

Coming up, new video showing what the alleged Boston bombers did just a couple days before the blast. We're going to show it to you.

And al Qaeda rubs salt in Boston's wounds with a cruel look at the marathon bombings in its online magazine.


BLITZER: Newly released video from a security camera shows both suspects in the Boston marathon bombings working out at a gym just three days before the attack. The gym's manager tells CNN Tamerlan Tsarnaev on the left had just shaved a bushy beard he had been growing for about two years. None of this surprises CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank.


PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Shaving the beard may be a way to blend in, not to attract scrutiny from security services in carrying out the Boston attack. We have seen with Western militants, wannabe jihadists a real emphasis on physical training, physical fitness, wanting to be prepared for jihad.


BLITZER: Also a very twist in the aftermath of the Boston bombings. Al Qaeda is apparently using that tragedy to encourage new attacks. CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr is joining us with more on this part of the story. What's going on here, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just as Boston is trying to heal, one of the most ruthless branches of al Qaeda is launching a new propaganda effort.


STARR: This is the latest version of "Inspire," the magazine published by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and much of it, including this article, titled "The Inevitable," is cruelly devoted to the Boston Marathon bombing.

CRUICKSHANK: What it tells you is this group, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is opportunistically trying to take advantage of this attack.

STARR: The magazine calls the Tsarnaev brother, quote, "brilliant" in carrying out the attacks, which al Qaeda says were, quote, "an absolute success."

The magazine mentions Copley Square, Fenway Park and Boston University. It says, "These heroic bombings have exposed many hidden shortcomings of the American security and intelligence system."

The Tsarnaev brothers are believed to have read a 2010 "Inspire" article entitled "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom," which detailed the type of pressure cooker bombs used to carry out the attack in Boston.

And now Boston may be leading al Qaeda in Yemen to offer new guidance to its followers.

CRUICKSHANK: The message they're putting out to their followers in the West is, don't come and join us here in Yemen. Stay home, launch attacks there and we'll give you the how-to advice in magazines like "Inspire," bomb-making recipes so you can do that.


STARR: And because "Inspire" magazine is an online publication, it is almost impossible to shut it down. And it is becoming a big worry to counter terrorism officials. Wolf?

BLITZER: Do you see any evidence over there at the Pentagon that the military is beginning to get more involved in these controversial drone strikes, taking over responsibility from the CIA, going after suspected terrorists?

STARR: Well, we know that that is where this is all headed, that there has been a policy decision to try and at least publicly say they're going to put more of the drone strikes with the U.S. military, that is purportedly to give it more visibility to the American public and to people around the world, make it not so secret. But I think it is a very safe bet that the CIA certainly will continue drone strikes in some critical parts of the world -- Pakistan, Yemen, perhaps even in North Africa. Wolf?

BLITZER: While I have you quickly, Barbara, there are still 60,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan right now. All of them are supposed to be out by the end of 2014. Another year-and-a-half. Will most stay, though, at least through much of next year? This withdrawal, how quickly will it develop?

STARR: Well, Wolf, it is very interesting. Afghanistan is scheduled for a major national election next April, April, 2014. You're going to see some draw down. But right before the election, that's going to stop. They're going to leave a big chunk of U.S. troops in place for that security backup of the April 2014 election in Afghanistan, and then the draw down will start again after that.

What we have not seen yet is the Obama administration's decision on how exactly they're going to finish carrying out the draw down. They arre committed to getting almost all troops out of Afghanistan by the end of next year.

BLITZER: All right, Barbara, thank you. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.

When we come back, Anthony Bourdain's final PARTS UNKNOWN destinations, Peru and then Congo. You're going to find out why he says one of them was the most terrifying shoot of his life. He joins us next.


BLITZER: We are down to the final two episodes of Anthony Bourdain's excellent CNN show, PARTS UNKNOWN. We will see him in Peru this weekend and in Congo the next. Right now, he joins us from New York.

Let's start, want to start, Anthony, with a little clip from your visit to Congo. Listen to this.


ANTHONY BOURDAIN, CNN HOST: I've had something of a multi-decade obsession with the Congo. It's been kind of a personal dream if you will to travel the Congo River. Now, for better or worse, I get that chance. We have rented a vessel and I shall dub the Captain Willard.

All right. Did you maggots load the chickens?

Finding food on the way, it is anticipated, will be a challenge. Refrigeration of any kind is impossible.

OK. Well, I am psyched. My dream has finally come true. Blocked by officials, this could be months. Okay. Let the probing begin.

How do we do this?

Get underway before they figure a new tax to levy on us.


BLITZER: Wow. I can't wait to see the full hour. Anthony, you called the Congo shoot, I'm quoting you now, "the most terrifying, stressful, physically difficult shoot" of your life. Why is that?

BOURDAIN: You know, Congo is a country where everything is okay until it's not. Things can change very, very quickly. There are over 20 active militia groups duking it out at any given moment. Central government forces who are pretty much at least as bad if not worse than any of the militia groups. It's a large, very unstable country with a lot of problems.

It's also incredibly beautiful and fascinating place. So it was a challenge both physically and a challenge to try to tell people about a very large, very complicated subject.

BLITZER: Were you ever worried that it was actually too dangerous?

BOURDAIN: There were definitely some moments. I mean, we were robbed, extorted or threatened with imprisonment or physical harm on a fairly regular basis. We had very good local contacts who really saved us every day. Otherwise, shooting there would have been really close to impossible. It's really tough, predatory environment. Officials don't seem to get paid,and they get theirs by taking advantage of the situation. It was a very -- very difficult, both bureaucratically -- and just simple things like running water, electricity, food. This is a country where people -- ordinary people fight to live every day.

BLITZER: You've also said traveling the Congo River was a personal dream. Why is that?

BOURDAIN: Well, I'm obsessed with the book "Heart Of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad and the King Leopold Belgian period of history that's described in that book. It's a subject that I've long been obsessed with. So people - so few people know what King Leopold, one, the king of Belgium did to the Congo, what he was able to do. Basically make it his personal treasure chest and slaughter the population by the millions. This is an era of history that few people are aware of. And it's a story I've wanted to tell for a long time.

BLITZER: This weekend you visit Peru with a particular quest in mind. Tell us about that.

BOURDAIN: A much more lighthearted show. I got into a high-end chocolate venture last year for a little while with my friend, Eric Rapare (ph). I asked myself, well, we all like chocolate; we're obsessed with it, in fact. Most of us in the Western world. Where does it come from? Who makes it? Who gets paid? You know, where does the money go on your average bar of chocolate? And in particular, where does the money go on a high-end bar of chocolate like I was selling?

So I decided to go all the way up into the Andean mountain range to a valley where they grow wild, very rare variety of cocoa and answer some of those questions.

BLITZER: It's been a great first season for you and for CNN. I've watched all the episodes. Libya, I'm looking forward to the Congo, Peru this weekend. What's next on your wish list?

BOURDAIN: I'm hoping Iran sometime next year. That would be an interesting subject. A very old society. And I'm told delicious food.

BLITZER: I'm sure it will be great all around. This Sunday night, you're going to Peru, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. The following Sunday, that's June 9th, Congo. We're look forward to both.

Anthony Bourdain, what a remarkable season it's been for you. Thanks very much for joining the CNN family.

BOURDAIN: Thank you so much, Wolf.

BLITZER: When we come back, if exercise doesn't work for you, maybe Prancer size - let me say that again. Prancercise. There you see it right now. Jeanne Moos is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: CNN's Jeanne Moos has discovered a strange looking way to get your exercise.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wild horses couldn't keep us from reporting on this new exercise routine. Why exercise when you can prancercise? Is it a workout or is it a spoof? It is definitely something to behold. Let's pick up the pace.

JOANNA ROHRBACK, CREATOR, PRANCERCISE: With the prancercise strut, it's really hot.

MOOS: The outfit, the jewelry, the 1980s style. Is this real?

(on-camera) When you prancercise, what's it make you feel like?

ROHRBACK: Um, it makes me feel liberated.

MOOS (voice-over): Sixty-year-old Joanna Rohrback (ph) of Florida invented prancersizing 25 years ago.

ROHRBACK: It didn't start catching on until this week, I think.


MOOS: When blogs started featuring the video she put online last year. She'd already written a book and created a website. She describes prancercise as --

ROHRBACK: Springy, rhythmic, movement forward, similar to a horses gait, ideally induced by elation.

MOOS: She's elated by the web's sudden discovery of prancercise, even if much of the commentary is mocking. On "Huffington Post," her fitness routine was put on the comedy page.

(on-camera) The web, though, can be kind of harsh.

ROHRBACK: Oh, I know it can, but you know what? I'll take all of it, the harsh, the goof, everything, because hey, that's what getting famous is about, right?

MOOS (voice-over): The lady's got horse sense. There are four modes of prancercise, most of them done wearing ankle weights.

ROHRBACK: We're going to really cut the noose and let it loose with the prancercise gallop.

MOOS: Joanna says prancercise is great aerobic exercise, low impact on the body, and lots of fun, reminded us of an episode of "Friends," in which Rachel discovers that running unself-consciously, like a goofball, can feel great.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel so free and so graceful!


MOOS: See? Even Jennifer Aniston prancercises.

ROHRBACK: Now, it's your turn.

MOOS (on-camera): I'm channeling my inner horse. Exhausting.

(voice-over) As for all that mockery, Joanna takes it in stride.

ROHRBACK: Well, maybe my presence, because I'm not a youngster and I'm not wearing, you know, the usual pierced earrings and the punk hairdo.

MOOS: She's a horse of a different color, all right.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: I was Prancercising a little bit earlier today in the newsroom. You're not going to see that anytime soon, though.

Remember, you can follow what's going on in THE SITUATION ROOM on Twitter. Tweet me @WolfBlitzer. You can tweet the show @CNNSitRoom. You can like us on Facebook. Thanks very much for watching. The news continues next on CNN.