Return to Transcripts main page


Pope on Gays: "Who Am I to Judge?"; Hawaiian Islands Brace for Flossie; After Explosion, Fireman Catches Baby; Bus Safety Concerns; Emotional Return to the Pulpit; Actor Pushing for Donor Legislation

Aired July 29, 2013 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, an extraordinary news conference. Pope Francis making some remarkable comments about gays and women. We're talking with a reporter who was on the plane.

Also, Hillary Clinton pays a social visit to the White House. That's not the only special access she's getting to the president.

Plus, some kind of stomach bug is out there across the United States, and spreading quickly. Stand by for what you need to know about this mystery illness.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


We begin with today's truly unbelievable moment for the papacy and the Catholic Church. During today's plane ride back from Brazil, Pope Francis met with reporters for a long, unscripted and very, very candid news conference. The pope's remarks about gays huge news out there.

Let's go to CNN's senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance.

He's in London.

He's got all the details -- Matthew, tell our viewers what happened.


Well, remember that Pope Francis has only been in office for less than five months. And he's really working hard to bolster this persona that is developing as a pope who is willing to tackle some of the most difficult issues facing the church.

He did that today concerning homosexuality, saying on board that plane, on the way back from Brazil, where he's been on his first official trip. An extraordinary press conference basically saying that gay people should not be marginalized, instead, they should be embraced into society.

Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) CHANCE (voice-over): For decades, gay activists have campaigned hard against church doctrine that frowns upon them, even staging controversial kiss-ins like this one during the papal visit to Spain.

But now, Pope Francis appears to be softening the Vatican line, telling reporters that while homosexuality remains sinful, being gay is not.

POPE FRANCIS (through translator): If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge him?

CHANCE: The comments come after a hugely popular papal tour of Brazil, his first trip as pontiff, which climaxed in this huge gathering on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana Beach for World Youth Day, a Catholic festival.

Reaction to the pope's comments online has been overwhelming. Posted on Twitter one comment reads, "Loving Pope Francis, progressive and knows how to throw a great beach party."

Another user says, "That sound you hear isn't thunder, it's God clapping."

"I genuinely believe," reads another, the Catholic Church had no idea what it was getting with Pope Francis."

(on camera): The pope's comments aren't exactly a shift in the Catholic Church's teachings. Its position is already that homosexuals should be treated with respect and love.

But Vatican analysts say the pontiff's remarks mark a massive change in tone, much more conciliatory than his predecessors.

(voice-over): There were other controversial remarks, too, criticism of what he called "lobbying" by gay people and a call for women to be given a greater role in the church, though not the right to become priests.

POPE FRANCIS: We cannot limit the role of the women in the church to altar girls or the president of a charity. There must be more.

CHANCE: It all adds to the sense that Pope Francis, still less than five months in office, is unafraid to tackle the big issues facing the Catholic Church and may even emerge as a popular reformer.


CHANCE: Well, Wolf, these issues, homosexuality, the role of women in the church, they're deeply divisive in the Catholic establishment. And so there's bound to be a good degree of opposition, although people may be reluctant to speak out at the moment.

Nevertheless, a lot of Roman Catholics out there will be absolutely over the moon to hear their pontiff, in their eyes, perhaps, bringing the church's doctrine a little bit more up to date, a little bit more in line in what they already think.

BLITZER: Matthew Chance reporting for us.

Matthew, thanks very much.

Let's dig a little bit deeper right now into how Pope Francis is changing the tone of the church's dialogue on these very, very sensitive issues with the world.

With us here in THE SITUATION ROOM is John Garvey.

He's the president of the Catholic University of America.

President Garvey, thanks very much for coming in.


I'm glad to be here.

BLITZER: And I know you just came back from Brazil yourself. You were there with the pontiff.

Were up surprised by the tone of his comments on these issues -- women, gay rights, for example, aboard this plane?

GARVEY: Not at all, although I wasn't on the plane, and to say that I was with him is to overstate it a little bit.

BLITZER: You would have been (INAUDIBLE).

GARVEY: I was the guy in the red hat in the picture that you saw in the Copacabana Beach.

I was there. And I was not surprised at the tone of it. It's very much consistent with the -- with the persona that he shows to the public.

The thing that was most striking about his appearance in Rio, if you were there, was that he rode in an open car with open sides and no roof on it, and at about two miles an hour, through a crowd of three million people. And women would run between guards to hold up their babies to be kissed. And the pope would get out to greet members of the congregation.

Somebody -- there's an Argentinean, mate, that they -- it's a sort of caffeinated bad-tasting beverage. Somebody handed a mate up to him and he drank it.


GARVEY: And I thought, God, it might be poisoned.


GARVEY: I -- but it's... BLITZER: So he's a real...

GARVEY: -- he's just very relaxed.

BLITZER: He wants to be, in his word, normal. He wants to be a man of the people.

But the comments on gays and lesbians, this is what he said on the plane. He said, "If they accept the Lord and have good will, who am I to judge them?

They shouldn't be marginalized. The tendency toward homosexuality is not the problem. They're our brothers."

Now, that sounds like a different tone from what we used to hear from Pope Benedict.

GARVEY: It is. And I think if we try to measure whether there might be space between Pope Francis and Pope Benedict with a caliper, you'll miss the really big story, which is the change in tone that you point to. The story is one about mercy, about the church's and the lord's love for all the -- for all the people and all of God's children.

BLITZER: It clearly is, because Benedict, in 2005, said -- he issued a directive barring the priesthood -- "any men from the priesthood who are actively homosexual, have deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called gay culture."

And that's obviously a different tone, 2005, Pope Benedict. Now in 2013, we hear a different tone, at least, from Pope Francis.

Let me bring in a reporter who was on the plane -- on the flight from Brazil back to Rome. Stacy Meichtry is with "The Wall Street Journal," one of the reporters who attended that news conference up in the skies.

What was it like?

I assume, Stacy, it was a total surprise when the pontiff addressed all the reporters.

STACY MEICHTRY, "WALL STREET JOURNAL" CORRESPONDENT: Yes, he definitely caught us off guard. I mean the news conference was sort of hastily organized and we all had to get ready with questions. And as you can see, he basically was willing to answer anything we threw at him, including this rather sensitive issue about, you know, where he stands on gays in the priesthood.

BLITZER: Now, what was your sense?

Did it mark a significant change?

It's clearly in tone, but what about as far as substance is concerned?

MEICHTRY: Well, I mean, I think it's better to maybe consult a Catholic theologian on the substance of his message. You know, in terms of the tone, I think it's, you know, all about emphasis. And when you look at, you know, Benedict and, you know, his preference for, you know, focusing on doctrine, focusing on abstractions, instead, you have a person -- a pope like Francis, who is dealing more with real world situations.

And in the case of gays in the priesthood, he simply steps back, he sees a problem and he's looking for solutions. He's looking for a way to fix it.

BLITZER: Now, John Garvey is here, the president of the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.

How do you think the pope's comments on gays will be received among American Catholics?

GARVEY: I hope they're received in their right spirit. I think Stacy identified the correct point. Pope Benedict was an academic and spoke in careful and measured terms. And the press got used to paying attention to what he spoke the way they do to Ben Bernanke or Alan Greenspan in another day, you know, a word change here or there is something. So this appears like a really dramatic difference.

But, in fact, this pope is more pastoral and his message is one of mercy.

BLITZER: The other thing I noticed and a lot of people noticed, Stacy, and you were there and John Garvey was there -- he likes to carry his own bag. There you see him carrying his own bag. He says -- and he joked. He said, "Certainly not the keys to the atomic bag. It's normal. We have to be normal. We have to be accustomed to being normal."

Stacy, what was your interpretation of that?

MEICHTRY: Well, I think the main thing is that he wants his flock, his faithful, to be able to identify with him. You know, he is, sort of, first and foremost, a pastor, the bishop of Rome. And he wants people to be able to relate to him on a human level.

I mean, just as a reporter, when we were sitting there in that press conference, a press conference on a plane, you had the turbulence going. You had, you know, the seat belt lights flashing, everyone sort of bracing. And meanwhile, you have the pontiff, he's standing there. He's completely relaxed. He was almost in this Zen-like state.

BLITZER: I took a tour of the Vatican in June, just last month, President Garvey, when I was in Rome, went to the Vatican and saw the apartment where -- you know, just from the outside. He isn't living in the -- sort of the royal residence, if you will.

GARVEY: Not very fancy, from what I hear.

BLITZER: Yes, and... GARVEY: You know, the remarkable thing -- this is consistent, too, with what Stacy said -- I viewed the procession from along the ground on the street level. And as the pope went by, people would throw flowers into the car, throw flags into the car. There was a monsignor behind him who kept getting hit with bouquets while he was trying to dodge out of the way. It was a -- it was a very unafraid, welcoming, reaching out normal way of behaving.

BLITZER: Well, he's just beginning his term, shall we say. So we'll see what happens in the months and years to come.

GARVEY: We look forward to it.

BLITZER: John Garvey is the president of the Catholic University of America.

Stacy Meichtry is with "The Wall Street Journal."

Thanks to both of you very much.

Up next, a tropical paradise in the path of a potentially very dangerous storm. We're going live there.

Plus, the frantic effort to rescue a baby after homes collapsed in Philadelphia. A fireman had to catch a baby who was tossed out a window.


BLITZER: Parts of the Hawaiian Islands are bracing right now for what could be the wrath of Tropical Storm Flossie. The storm, though weakened, is still packing a punch capable of dumping more than a foot of rain on the region.

Ben Gutierrez of CNN affiliate, KHNL, is in Maui, where the storm could make landfall just hours from now.

Ben is joining us -- Ben, what is the latest?

What's going on?

What are you hearing?

What are you seeing?

BEN GUTIERREZ, KHNL CORRESPONDENT: Actually, Wolf, a real slight correction here. We're just a little bit east. We're in Hilo, on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is the island east of Maui, which is where the storm was originally expected to make landfall, before the track was jiggled a little bit to the north a little bit earlier this morning.

And this is where the residents were definitely a bit more on edge, getting their supplies yesterday. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny day. Today, we still have gray skies. In about 45 minutes down the road in the (INAUDIBLE) area, we have some reports of wind. But one of the major effects of tropical storm Flossie at least right now in the Hilo area is the big waves and surf.

And you can see that we have waves that have been coming in from the east side and some surfers who've been trying to catch these waves, some of them with some success for what at best is a three-second-long ride. These waves are much larger than normal than you would expect for this spot here known as (INAUDIBLE) beach which is still one of the prime surfing spots on the big island of Hawaii.

But you can definitely also see the gray skies as well as a lot of the spectators who have come here to take a look at some of the power that Flossie is still packing. A lot of the other islands including Mali, (INAUDIBLE), and of course, the island of Oahu and Honolulu under a tropical storm warning as this Hawaii, and shelters are going to be opening up on of the island in Honolulu about three hours from now.

Shelters have been opened on this island for about seven hours now. So far, only five people have taken advantage of that opportunity -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, let's hope it stays like that. Ben Gutierrez from our CNN affiliate, KHNL. Ben, thanks very much.

Our meteorologist and severe weather expert, Chad Myers, is in the CNN Weather Center. He's tracking the storm. How rare is it for Hawaii potentially to be hit by a tropical storm of this nature?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: You know, I was in Hawaii not that long after Anike hit which was the biggest storm that they've seen in years, but it's really very rare for the Hawaiian Islands. You think about them just sitting out there waiting to be hit, very rare compared to sitting in Florida waiting to be hit. Only four or five tropical systems in the central Pacific at all any year and only eight storms have ever impacted Hawaii over the past 40 years.

So, really, yes, a kind of a rare even out there. Although, this is not going to be the big event that you could you see with a large tropical system. It is only a 40 mile-per-hour storm. I think that's why there's only four people, five people in the shelter. There will be winds bigger in Kansas than with this storm out here in Hawaii.

The issue will be not the wind, because 40-mile-per-hour sure will knock down a tree or two. But, what the wind is going to bring in is moisture. It's going to run up those hills. Those Hawaiian Islands are very mountainous. That mountain area will eventually get a lot of runoff and that runoff will cause flooding.

I can show you kind of the black and white here of it. Here's Honolulu. Here's Maui. Here's our reporter right there in Hilo, and the rain just about to hit the island all along the Kohala Coast. I shot my best round of golf right, there 82 right there, Wolf, in the Kohala Coast. So, we'll see what it does to Hawaii --

BLITZER: Probably not going to be playing a whole lot of golf in the next few days.

MYERS: Not today. BLITZER: All right. Chad, thanks very much.

Coming up, a nasty intestinal infection that is now spreading across the United States. So, what's behind the outbreak? What do you need to know? We'll have the very latest.

And just weeks after a deadly building collapse in Philadelphia, an apparent explosion reduces homes to rubble, putting a baby's life in danger.


MIKE MCGRAW, JR., WITNESS: They threw this baby out the window because the girl was on fire and the fireman had to catch the baby and all.


BLITZER: A dramatic rescue today in Philadelphia. Witnesses say a fireman caught a baby who was thrown from a window after an explosion caused several row houses to collapse. Eight people, including two children, were taken to the hospitals. Here's how one eyewitness described it.


MCGRAW: I saw the whole house was down. I saw the house next to it, it was falling over. I saw firemen whose suit was burned up. They were hosing him down with the fire hose. They threw this baby out the window because the girl was on fire and the firemen had to catch the baby and all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The firefighters actually caught the baby being dropped out the window?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was pretty amazing. What were they doing? Were they saying you can drop her or you can drop them --

MCGRAW: No. The girl just threw him right out the window and was hoping the firefighter caught him.


BLITZER: Wow. Pretty young eyewitness but very, very articulate. A deputy fire chief says a contractor was doing rehab work on a vacant house. Other witnesses report smelling gas after they heard an explosion. Today's incident comes only weeks after another building collapse in Philadelphia. That one was being demolished and fell on to a Salvation Army thrift store killing six people.

Take a quick look at some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now.

University of Pittsburgh research professor is expected to waive extradition to Pennsylvania where he's accused of killing his wife with a lethal dose of cyanide last April. The professor was arrested Thursday at West Virginia ending a nationwide manhunt. His attorney says his actions to have his (ph) day in court can prove his innocence. His wife was a prominent Pittsburgh doctor.

A verdict is set to be announced in the military trial of Private First Class Bradley Manning. The judge will read it less than 24 hours from now, actually, exactly 1:00 p.m. eastern tomorrow. That would be Tuesday. Manning is accused in the largest leak of classified information in U.S. history, allegedly handing over hundreds of thousands of top-secret documents to WikiLeaks.

Manning, among other counts, he's charged with aiding the enemy, which carries a possible life sentence.

Wild video from Southern California's Huntington Beach where fighting erupted into a full scale riot at the end of a multiday surfing and skateboarding competition. Scores of people flooded the street Sunday, damaging properties and overturning portable toilets. Police fired pepper spray, pellets to try and break up the rampage. At least eight people were arrested. No injuries were reported.

Amazon has announced plans to hire 7,000 new workers for its U.S.- based operation with most of the jobs offering pay and benefits that far exceed typical retail wages, that according to the company. Amazon has been increasing its network of warehouses in order to offer customers quicker shipping. The company's growing sales have heard a number of big name retailers.

Up next, she doesn't hold any office but look who's taking advantage of her special access to President Obama. Stay there. We're going to tell you what's going on.

And later, one of the country's most popular preachers makes an emotional return to the pulpit. Rick Warren has a special message he wants all of us to hear.


BLITZER: Happening now --


BLITZER (voice-over): Lunch with President Obama today, breakfast with Vice President Joe Biden tomorrow. So, what's behind Hillary Clinton's big return to Washington? Could there be any hints, hints about 2016?

Plus, growing concerns over a nasty intestinal infection now spreading across the United States. The cause still a mystery.

And a deadly weekend for bus passengers in this country and abroad after three separate crashes. Is it time to take a closer look at bus safety?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (on-camera): Hillary Clinton came to the White House today for what's being called a, quote, "social visit." Her lunch with President Obama is raising, though, plenty of questions. Our chief White House correspondent, Jessica Yellin, is covering the story for us. Jessica, what happened? Why did they meet today?

JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There are always questions when these two get together, aren't there, Wolf? Sources tell me this lunch has been in the works since the two of them saw one another at the dedication of the Bush Library. That was in late April. They saw one another then and they said let's do lunch. So, their schedules were both really busy and they saw this as the first available date they go could both meet.

So, they arranged to have a lunch. It was so pretty. They did it al fresco, that means outdoors, outside the oval office. And you see that picture, that is what you can call a power lunch. So, the president in shirt sleeves, the former secretary of state was here for just under two hours and guess who was here at the same time? The current secretary of state, John Kerry.

He was in a meeting with Susan Rice, the new national security adviser and Secretary Clinton swung by to say hi to both of them before she left. And as you point out, she is also doing another power meal tomorrow, having breakfast with Vice President Biden at his residence in the morning.

No word if that will also be outdoors but, Wolf, I'm told all these occasions are simply personal visits, social catch-ups. No specific agenda at all. These people have all been, as you know, friends for some time.

BLITZER: How often, Jessica, does the president speak with Hillary Clinton?

YELLIN: I'm told they have phone calls since she left Foggy Bottom and she e-mails - they e-mail as well. She's one of the people who's actually cleared to get through to the president's personal Blackberry. I'd also point out that she and former president Bill Clinton dined with the president on March 8th. So, they've had a number of contacts since she left office.

BLIZTER: Do we have any idea what they have for lunch?


YELLIN: We do. On the menu grilled chicken, pasta jambalaya, and you could in the picture see some salad. There were no drinks in the picture, so we don't know what was served as a beverage with their lunch, Wolf. These are the important questions. I don't know if we'll ever get to the bottom of it.

BLITZER: Yes, we'll have to keep digging and digging for that. Jessica, thanks very much. Let's bring in our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger and our senior political analyst Ron Brownstein. He's the editorial director of "The National Journal."

What do you read into it, lunch today with the president, breakfast tomorrow with the vice president? What's going on?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, I think we can overanalyze all of this. These are people she worked with for an entire administration. There are lots of important issues they all dealt with together. Don't forget, Joe Biden very involved in foreign policy. So, maybe, Wolf, it was personal, and maybe they talked about issues like Syria, John Kerry's negotiations on the Middle East beginning today. I'm sure those kind of things would come up in a conversation between a president and his former secretary of state as well as tomorrow with Joe Biden.

BLITZER: I assume the president just wants to pick her brain a little bit. He's got so many issues on the agenda, maybe he thinks she can come up with some guide ideas. But what do you think?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. I think is more about his presidency than her presidential ambitions.

Look, 2008 was an extraordinary race. They divided the Democratic Party about as close in half as mathematical precision could get. They were probably the only candidates other than Bill Clinton who could have beaten either one of them in the past 40 years of the Democratic primary. Obama was probably the only one who would beat Hillary Clinton. It is remarkable how much they have been able to rebuild their ties. And I think you kind of see that today, an ease and a comfort.

BLITZER: Take a look at these two pictures. We'll show you first a picture -- this is a picture, obviously, of the lunch today. Let's put it up there. They're there, they're smiling, they're having a great time, having a little grilled chicken, whatever they were having.

Now look at this picture back in 2009. It looks a lot more serious over there --

BLITZER: Well, this is a relationship, Wolf, that has progressed. Don't forget, when she first became secretary of state, team of rivals. The questions, particularly by people who weren't big fans of Hillary Clinton was would she be able to work with this president, or would she lead an insurrection as part of the cabinet? And as it turns out, she was a loyal member of this cabinet; even when she disagreed with him on policy issues, we did not hear about it. And I think that was a grateful president. And you see the two of them now, the body language is completely different.

BROWNSTEIN: And not only her. Think about all the conflict between President Obama and President Clinton in 2008 and at the Democratic convention, which was kind of an eh, he delivered the unequivocal highlight, a speech that made the case for reelection probably better than any other single address by the president himself in the campaign.

BLITZER: And I know President Obama was grateful to President Clinton for that speech.

BORGER: And Hillary Clinton understands second terms and what can be achieved in second terms and what can be squandered in second terms. So maybe they're talking about that.

BLITZER: I can't resist. Here's the most recent McClatchy/Marist poll. Democrats -- among Democrats' choice for the 2016 presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton with a mere 63 percent, and Joe Biden is13 percent. Andrew Cuomo 6 percent, the governor of New York. Martin O'Malley, the governor of Maryland not doing so well right now.

You study polls as lot. What's your assessment?

BROWNSTEIN: This has been extraordinarily consistent. Normally you'd say three-and-a-half years out, it doesn't mean anything. But I think this actually does tell you something. We've had very consistent findings with her in the 60s. In 2008, the Democratic Party divided between her strength among blue-collar whites and Hispanics versus the president among African-Americans and white-collar whites. Without President Obama in the race, you move the African-Americans into her coalition, it doesn't leave a lot of space. She has the potential for not having a truly serious mainstream establishment opponent.

BORGER: And I think that poll will not come up at breakfast tomorrow with Joe Biden. I can guarantee you --

BLITZER: But you're convinced - and we've talked about this - you're convinced that if she runs, Biden won't run.

BORGER: I believe that he would not run.

BLITZER: Because he doesn't think he'll have a chance?

BORGER: Well, look at that poll. But I also believe he would not stand in the way of potentially the first woman president getting elected.


BLITZER: If she runs, you don't think he'll run?

BROWNSTEIN: I don't know. Today on balance -- don't forget, because of the gender gap, Democratic primaries are now almost 60 percent female voters. So if you get to one-on-one, there is an intrinsic advantage. As I said, other than Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, it's hard to see who else has run for the nomination in the past 40 years who would have beaten her in 2008. 2016, if she wants it, she is very hard to deny.

BLITZER: You know, this whole notion -- the president last week spoke of these "phony scandals" out there. That was an apparent reference, I assume -

BORGER: IRS, Benghazi -

BLITZER: Well, you hear about Benghazi and you think of the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. And you wonder if she does return, is that going to --

BORGER: Obviously if she runs, those who have been raising this as an issue in the Republican Party will continue to raise it as an issue of leadership, for example. You see that it's now an issue on Capitol Hill that has not gone away. She left office, right? You see her testifying there --

BLITZER: About Benghazi.

BORGER: About Benghazi. Remember she kind of -

BLITZER: What did you think when the president spoke of these, quote, "phony scandals"?

BROWNSTEIN: Well, look. He's trying to make the broader case that Republicans are interested more in obstruction and weakening the Democrats for 2014 and 2016 than in governing. And so he's kind of using it as part of the ammunition there.

Can I make one other point about Hillary Clinton and polling? There is a big debate in the Republican Party now about whether they need to do immigration, whether they need to improve among minority voters for 2016, and whether in fact they can do even better among white voters without having to change on things like immigration.

One thing to keep in mind, Barack Obama in 2012 lost white women by the biggest margin of any Democrat since Walter Mondale in 1984. And I think it would be a heavy bet for Republicans to wager they could expand that margin even further against Hillary Clinton if she is the first woman nominee of a major party. There's kind of a bank shot effect on the immigration debate here. It's a big wager for Republicans to assume they can do even better among white voters against Hillary Clinton than they did against Barack Obama, especially given how much room there is to grow among women.

BORGER: Yes. And they're going to be thinking about putting a woman on the ticket, too, if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.

BLITZER: I believe they had a woman on the ticket in 2008.

BORGER: Yes, I believe they did. And I believe they can possibly...

BROWNSTEIN: Find a different one?

BORGER: Find a different one.


BLITZER: Hey, guys, thanks very much. Ron Brownstein and Gloria Borger.

Just ahead, we'll have the latest on a mysterious stomach bug. It's turning up now in at least 14 states. It could be where you live. This is information you need to know. Stand by for that.

And in our next hour, we have details of a nationwide crackdown on a shocking and disgusting crime.


BLITZER: Growing concerns this hour over an outbreak of a nasty intestinal bug that seems to be spreading across the United States. The Centers For Disease Control now reporting 353 people are sick across 14 states, as well as in New York City. And the cause is still a mystery.

Our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is joining us now with details. Elizabeth, what do we know? What's making these people so sick?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we know this is a parasite called cyclospora. And we also know some people get sick and their immune system fights it off, basically. There's a little bit of diarrhea or vomiting and they're fine. But other people, it can take weeks and weeks to get over this.

Now one thing that's important to know is there are medicines that can help. So, this is not something thankfully, we're seeing people die from.

BLITZER: Is there a specific cause pinpointed?

COHEN: You know what, that's the mystery part of this, Wolf. They haven't pinpointed it yet. Usually cyclospora is caused by produce, something in produce. And so they're focusing in on that, but still, they haven't figured out what it is.

BLITZER: When you say produce -- like specifically do they have any better idea than that?

COHEN: They don't. They don't even know that it is produce. All they know is in the past, produce has been responsible for causing these outbreaks of cyclospora. So they're thinking, okay, well, maybe it's produce this time as well. But really they don't know anything at this point. Or at least, they're not telling us.

BLITZER: So what do we do to avoid it?

COHEN: Well, we would never want to tell people to stop eating produce. That's not a good idea. So you want to wash your produce. It's not 100 percent effective at getting rid of it, but it's still something you should do. You want to wash your hands. Again, not 100 percent effective, but still something you should do.

And if you have these symptoms, the vomiting, the diarrhea, the low- grade fever, it is worth talking to your doctor. And here's why. As I said, there are drugs that can help. There are antibiotics out there. So, go to your doctor and say, hey, I heard about this outbreak. Could that be what I have? Can you test me? There really are some drugs that can help. BLITZER: Can it be deadly?

COHEN: I suppose theoretically it can be deadly. But we're not seeing in this case that anyone has died. We've seen about 20 people go into the hospital. This typically is not something that kills people.

BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

Coming up in our next hour, by the way, we have new cancer drug that could potentially save thousands of lives each your. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be with us.

Plus, a deadly weekend for bus passengers here in the United States and abroad. After three separate crashes, is it time to toughen safety regulations?


BLITZER: A very somber scene inside a Spanish cathedral today where a memorial service was held for the 79 victims who perished in last week's horrific train crash.

The driver of the train that careened around a curve before derailing and breaking apart has been charged now with 79 counts of homicide and an undetermined number counts of causing injury. About 70 of the people injured in the crash remain hospitalized as of Sunday.

Meantime, in Switzerland two commuter trains collided head on today injuring at least 40 people, including five seriously, according to a local official. One train's engineer is said to be missing. A railway spokesman says it's still too early to know what caused this crash.

From trains to buses and a series of accidents, two of them deadly just in the last couple of days and it's all raising very serious questions about bus safety and whether or not tougher regulations are needed.

CNN's Rene Marsh is joining us now. She's been investigating what is going on.

Rene, what are you seeing?

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, this -- this weekend it was a deadly weekend for people traveling. Today we're looking specifically at bus safety after two crashes in the U.S. and a third, one overseas.


MARSH (voice-over): In Indianapolis youth pastor Chad Phelps, his pregnant wife and a chaperone were killed returning from a church trip.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The bus just flew into my vision right away and flips just in an instant. MARSH: The driver told investigators his brakes failed.

In Italy, 38 died, their bus shredded to pieces after plunging some 100 feet. Police suspect brake problems.

And in Arizona, floodwaters knocked over and swept away a bus but everyone survived.

Three bus accidents in just two days and earlier this year bus crashes in Oregon and California killed nine each.

It's enough to make some passengers question bus safety. The federal government regulates commercial carriers like tour buses but privately owned noncommercial buses for private schools or church groups like the one in Indiana fall under looser regulations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are people, you know, crawling out of the bus, there were people who were severely injured, people who were dead.

MARSH: In Indianapolis, the driver of this church bus was required to have a commercial driver's license and limit his time behind the wheel. But he was not required to keep a log. Private buses not used for business are required to get annual inspections but aren't required to keep maintenance records. Like commercial carriers.

A Department of Transportation Web site shows no prior accidents for the bus involved in the deadly Indianapolis crash. Industry insiders say consumers should be proactive.

DAN RONAN, AMERICAN BUS ASSOCIATION: You have the right to ask the bus company about the hours of service, about their drug and alcohol program, about the type of drivers they have. After all it's your money.


MARSH: Well, Wolf, also a proactive consumer also finds out the trip planned, the final itinerary to make sure that it is in compliance with the federal limits on how many hours are allowed behind the wheel for that driver. Meaning you want to know that your bus driver will be allowed to get a break or get a relief driver if this is a long trip. Also you -- also have the right to know what kind of insurance the bus company has as well.

BLITZER: If you go on a bus trip, do you have a right to know the track record, the safety record of the bus company, shall we say?

MARSH: You absolutely do. Actually, what you want to do is you want to find out the US DOT number. With that number in hand, you can simply log on to the Department of Transportation's Web site, plug in that number, and it will pull up, if there were any prior accidents and you can get that information as far as the safety ratings as well.

BLITZER: I personally think they should have seatbelts on these buses, but that's a subject for another day you and I will discuss, Rene.


BLITZER: Thanks very much.

When we come back, one of the country's most respected preachers back in the pulpit after a shocking family tragedy.

And in our next hour, an arrest after more of D.C.'s landmarks are vandalized with green paint.


BLITZER: Here's a look at this hour's iReport "Hot Shots." Check them out.

In Iceland, the statue has a great view over the city pond. In India, a woman shows off her henna tattoos. In Rhode Island, fishing boats line up in the harbor. And in the Philippines, boats wait for riders at an enchanting island.

"Hot Shots," pictures coming in from our CNN iReporters around the world.

Pastor Rick Warren suffered a shattering family tragedy this year, and now for the first time since his son's suicide, he's back in the pulpit.

And as CNN's Paul Vercammen reports, Pastor Warren has a special message he wants the whole country to hear.


PASTOR RICK WARREN, SADDLEBACK CHURCH: In the past 16 weeks since mental illness took my son Matthew's life --

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER (voice-over): An impassioned Rick Warren delivered his first sermon since his son Matthew killed himself at age 27 in April. With his wife Kay by his side, Warren told his Saddleback Church congregation Matthew suffered from mental illness since childhood.

WARREN: We had gone to the best doctors money could buy. We had gotten the best medications. We had the best therapy. We had the best people praying. Thousands of people praying. We have an incredibly strong family with deep, deep faith. It just did not make sense.

VERCAMMEN: The grieving couple's influence reaches far beyond the walls of his church. Warren is the author of the mega bestseller "The Purpose Driven Life." With Kay at the forefront, Saddleback Church launched a global initiative to provide help for people who are HIV positive and remove any associated stigmas.

After their son's suicide, the Warrens' new pledge is to erase any shame associated with mental illness. WARREN: It's amazing to me that any other organ in your body can break down and there's no shame and stigma to it, but if your brain breaks down, you're supposed to keep it a secret. Huh? There's no stigma. You get diabetes, no problem. You get heart disease, no problem. Your lungs don't work, no problem. You break a bone, break the back, if your liver stops working, no stigma. But if your brain doesn't work right, why should you be ashamed of that?

VERCAMMEN: Warren credits relatives, especially Matthew's surviving older siblings Josh and Amy, with leading the family through its darkest moments.

WARREN: I am in a family of spiritual redwoods. I mean, they are giants of faith. It is a rock-solid family, and actually, when Matthew died, Amy said, you know, Daddy, she said, Satan picked the wrong family to pick on. He's going to lose big time on this one.

VERCAMMEN (on camera): Saddleback Church officials say Rick Warren will not grant any interviews soon, but they say we will hear a lot from the pastor, especially as he begins his mission to remove the stigma of mental illness.

Paul Vercammen, CNN, Orange County, California.


BLITZER: The actor Jason Patric is making a high-profile push for new legislation in California to protect sperm donors. His crusade stemmed from a custody dispute with a former girlfriend. The new bill would allow donors to sue for parental rights. He told "NEW DAY's" Chris Cuomo about what happened in his case.


JASON PATRIC, ACTOR: Well, that's a known donor sperm form, which means you waive all your rights, if you have a known donor.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN'S NEW DAY: Right. But what was signed by you and Danielle is an intended -- intended, sorry, parent form.

PATRIC: Right.

CUOMO: That's like 20-plus pages.

PATRIC: That's right.

CUOMO: Of your signatures. It says in here that obviously you're intended parents. That you have to notify the state if you change your partnership.

PATRIC: That's right.

CUOMO: And that if -- God forbid, something happens to the mother, the embryos would go to you?

PATRIC: That's right. CUOMO: And all of this was signed by you and Danielle?

PATRIC: And a witness at the fertility firm. Yes.

CUOMO: And to you, what does this mean?

PATRIC: That I intend to parent this child. The word parent means to birth, nourish, or raise a child. So if I'm signing Jason Patric intends to parent and Danielle Shriver signing intended parent next to me, not only are we the parents, but she's in effect confirming that she wants to raise this child with me.

CUOMO: But the judge like kicked you right out of court. He didn't -- why didn't he regard this as the contract for parenting?

PATRIC: Because he misinterpreted this and that's the whole point of this bill that Senator Hill is putting out. It's not really a new law. It's a clarification of the law's original intent. It was never meant to stop someone who just wasn't married and have to use IVF from proving he's a father in another way.


BLITZER: The California State Assembly, by the way, is expected to vote on the bill next month.

Happening now, fears the crisis in Egypt could explode again at any moment. We're live in Cairo following protests, violence and deep worries there could potentially be a new civil war.

Plus, we go behind the scenes of an FBI rescue. More than 100 teenagers across the United States pulled out of the sleazy world of prostitution.

And harsh reality for one of the "Real Housewives of New Jersey." She and her husband now face a 39-count federal criminal indictment.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.