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Relief Efforts in Philippines Continue; Iranian Nuclear Talks

Aired November 15, 2013 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, thousands of typhoon refugees are on the move, desperate to find food, shelter and safety after a week of misery. CNN is live in the disaster zone.

Plus new information on a potential deal to roll back Iran's nuclear program. Critics fear U.S. negotiators may be doing more damage than good.

And new talks in the Miami Dolphins' bullying scandal. What does player Jonathan Martin telling the NFL now?

Wolf Blitzer is off, I'm Jake Tapper. And you, my friend, are in the SITUATION ROOM.

Glimmers of progress in the typhoon disaster zone one week after entire neighborhoods were flattened or swept out to sea. Some heavy machines are clearing away debris and more food, water and medical supplies are being distributed, but you can still see and smell the piles of dead bodies that have been sitting in the sun and rain for seven days.

The official death toll now stands at 3,631. More than 1,100 people are listed as missing. For many, the situation is still very, very grim.

Thousands of typhoon refugees are on the move right now in search of food to eat and a place to stay.

CNN's Anna Coren has been talking to some of them -- Anna.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, there's finally we are seeing an outpouring of foreign aid and assistance a week after Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines.

And, you know, millions of people, Jake, have been displaced. They're homeless, and they of course are the survivors of this typhoon. They want to get out, despite the aid coming in. And we caught up with the latest boatload of refugees to flee the disaster zone.


COREN (voice-over): Having escaped death and destruction on a scale never before seen in the Philippines... UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just a dead city now.

COREN: ... these survivors carry what few belongings they have down the ramp to safety. Transporting almost 3,000 people from Tacloban to Cebu, this Philippine naval vessel couldn't have come soon enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was feeling hopeless. If we stayed there another week, I don't think we would survive. Just lucky to be here.

COREN: The ship will continue to sail back and forth, making the slow 24-hour journey, until everyone who wants to leave gets out of the devastated city. While a critical shortage of food and water forced many on the boat, others say they had to flee because of serious safety concerns.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Security is not good. They ransack homes, and they're like savages there already.

COREN: Waiting for them on the dock, a meal and words of comfort and support.

(on camera): So many of these refugees have been living without basic necessities for a week. Finally, they're getting food, they're getting fresh water and desperately needed medical attention.

(voice-over): Like Marilyn Ramirez and her 10-day-old baby. They managed to survived the hypocrisy, but are now homeless. Overwhelmed by the enormous task ahead, she says she will do what she must to rebuild a life for her family.

MARILYN RAMIREZ, SURVIVOR: Sad. I'm very sad. But I was strong for my baby.


COREN: Jake, these survivors, they are arriving by boat, but also by plane. The C-130 Hercules behind me are ferrying people up. And you can probably see the stream of refugees walking past. A plane just landed a short time ago.

You know, Jake, these people are desperate and they have to rebuild their lives. They're going to these evacuation centers and are in desperate need of authorities to really help them put back the pieces.

TAPPER: Anna Coren, thank you.

We're going to go now to Anderson Cooper, who is live in Manila.

Anderson, good to see you.

Tell us, are you seeing any progress? We have had seven days now. Is the government able to get the supplies, these desperately needed supplies of food and medical supplies? Are they being able to get them to the people of the Philippines?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, I mean, certainly, with each day, it gets -- with each passing day, it gets better. There's no doubt about that.

The question is, is it fast enough for people who are desperate for water, who are desperate for food? Time is the enemy of somebody who is thirsty, for a child who doesn't have water, have clean water to drink. So there are still a lot of pileups of aid in certain areas. You know, at the airport, there's not enough forklifts, for instance, to move large pallets of goods. There's not enough vehicles, not enough trucks.

Even fuel is in short supply in a lot of these places. So it is a complex task, but it is not one that is moving smoothly, certainly, it should be said. You know, as the U.S. military ramps up, Marines are going to be bringing in more vehicles, more forklifts, trying to get forklifts some out in some of these distribution points that they're setting up. Certainly, the Philippine government will be trying to get more trucks in, but, you know, time is of the essence right now, Jake.

TAPPER: Anderson, on your show last night, you responded to critics who said that your reporting was too negative. Let's take a listen.


COOPER: ... body of your dead children? Can you imagine that strength?

I can't. And I have seen that strength day in and day out here in the Philippines. And we honor them with every broadcast that we do.


TAPPER: Anderson, you clearly got emotional. You have covered quite a few disasters. How does this one compare in terms of the relief efforts, the devastation?

COOPER: Well, you know, that was in response to -- the Philippine had president said that journalists, particularly foreign journalists, should not only be accurate, but should do stories that show the spirit and the resilience of the Filipino people.

And my point was, I believe we have been doing that with every broadcast we have done, with ever story that all our correspondents have been telling. You see the resilience, the resilience of a mother searching for her dead children without any help from the government, without any help in trying to find her dead children, whether they're alive or dead in the rubble, the resilience of a mother forced to sleep outside on the street for day after day after day close to the body and smelling the decomposing body of her child.

Can you imagine that strength? And so I believe our reports have certainly been accurate and, just as importantly, showing that resilience of the Filipino people. We have seen that -- you know, you always see that in disasters. You always see that people rise to the challenge more often than not.

But we have seen it particularly here. This is -- in many of these areas, these are poverty-stricken areas, where even in the best of times life is very hard, and the needs of the people are not met necessarily by their government. They're very much on their own, have been for generations.

And we certainly have seen the results of that playing out this week. And I just think it's kind of awe-inspiring, the strength of people here and the way that they have responded to this. They have every right to be angry. They have every right to give into despair, but they are getting up every day and they are searching and they're trying to survive for them and for their families.

TAPPER: Anderson, you and all of our correspondents in the field, you have seen some horrible scenes. Listen to this clip from CNN's Nick Paton Walsh.


NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is where it ends without ceremony or even their names spoken softly, the corpses that have littered Tacloban. So much of the city leaves -- come to rest here, and tell parts of is the horror of how they must have died, but they leave many questions, too, among the overpowering smell of looming disease.


TAPPER: Anderson, thousands and thousands of dead, many of them still not buried yet, how do you deal with it?

COOPER: You know, I was in that spot where Nick was. I was there probably I guess it was two days ago.

And, you know, what doesn't come across on television, and it's just the smell which permeates that entire area because of that location. That is where the few bodies that they have collected, the 200 or so, 300 or so that they have body bags for that they have put there, it is -- it's gut-wrenching. And everybody who lives around there, it is the daily reminder of the horror of what they have witnessed.

You know, the family members have to go open up those body bags and look at what remains of people, in trying to identify their loved ones. If you have ever seen the victims of a flood, of a storm surge, of a person who's been left out in the sun for five or six days, as many of these people have, they are very much unidentifiable unless they have some sort of document on them.

You could be looking at your mother, your father, your child and not recognize that person. And yet family members are going body bag to body bag opening them up and staring into the faces of horror, the faces of those who have passed and been killed. It's -- it is -- it is a grim task. It is a necessary task, but it is just a devastating task for families here.

TAPPER: It is incredible what the Philippine people are going through right now. Anderson, thank you for being our eyes and ears there. To find out how you can help typhoon victims in the Philippines, go to for more on this horrific story and what we can all do to help.

Still ahead, can a Florida State quarterback clear his name and win the Heisman Trophy? CNN's Rachel Nichols will have the latest on the sexual assault allegations against him and other big sports stories.

And we have new information about sensitive negotiations that prompted Senator John McCain to slam an old friend.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Look, this guy has been a human wrecking ball.



TAPPER: New signs of progress today in nuclear talks with Iran that have made some U.S. allies and members of Congress nervous.

Our chief national security correspondent, Jim Sciutto, is here with the latest -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, speaking to administration officials today, you really do get a sense that the sides are close, Iran and the West. They're going to be meeting this week in Geneva.

As you and I know, there are no guarantees here, but a senior administration official telling me they could reach agreement with Iran as soon as later this week.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): Iran and the West, senior administration officials tell CNN, are close to an interim nuclear deal that would stop Iran's program from expanding and rolling back in key areas.

The proposal would address every aspect of Iran's nuclear program, from uranium enrichment to uranium stockpiles to monitoring of the most secretive military facilities. In return, the West would provide limited sanctions relief, the extent of which the administration has been very careful to downplay.

SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: The temporary, modest, reversible, limited relief that we are promising in return would freeze the program, they dilute some of the highly enriched uranium, and we get a much more aggressive inspection verification regime.

SCIUTTO: So far, that sales pitch has failed to impress Republicans and even some Democrats on the Hill, who claim the administration's case has been long on emotion, short on details. MCCAIN: I'm told yesterday that Secretary Kerry refused to give any details of the negotiations, position of the United States in these negotiations, and yet at the same time wants to rely on our goodwill. Look, this guy has been a human wrecking ball.

SCIUTTO: The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, however, has found some modest progress already. A new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency shows Iran has halted the installation of new advanced centrifuges which are quicker at generated highly enriched uranium, and work on a new heavy water reactor thought to be a second path to a nuclear weapon has ceased.


SCIUTTO: I'm told the IAEA assessment of Iran's slowdown is that it was voluntary, if not due to technical difficulties. This interim agreement that they're talking about, they're describing it as confidence-buildings for a longer-term agreement.

So you can call what's happening in Iran right now, this pre-slowdown, as something of a pre-confidence-building measure, but possibly a sign that they're serious.

TAPPER: And still some questions, big questions about what exactly the deal is. Jim Sciutto, thank you very much.

Now to Obamacare damage control. The president met a short while ago with insurance executives. He needs their help to carry out his new plan to let people keep canceled policies for an extra year.

That idea is just one slice of the controversy right now.

Here's Chris Frates of CNN Investigations.


CHRIS FRATES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since the Obamacare rollout began, mailboxes across the country have been filled with bad news from insurance companies, but some insurers are getting in trouble to misleading their customers.

In Kentucky, officials fined Humana after the insurer sent this letter to more than 6,500 customers. It says customers have to choose one of two options within 30 days, either legally extend their current policy through 2014, or choose a new, more expensive policy that complies with Obamacare.

The letter never mentions buying insurance through the new exchange. Kentucky Insurance Commissioner Sharon Clark calls the letter high- pressure and misleading.

SHARON CLARK, KENTUCKY INSURANCE COMMISSIONER: When you are told you have got to do something in 30 days, and if you don't do it, we're going to make the choice for you, that's disconcerting.

FRATES: And illegal, according to Clark. She says Humana broke the law when it included a form with the letter that had not gotten the required approve from her office.

(on camera): Why do you think Humana worded the letter the way they did?

CLARK: I think they were interested in keeping those policy holders, and also I think at the end it was lack of understanding of Kentucky law.

FRATES (voice-over): Clark fined Humana more than $65,000 and voided the letter. She required the company to send customers a correction with a full range of options. That included buying insurance from the exchange, working with a broker, or keeping their current coverage under it expires. Kentucky is not alone.

In Colorado, Humana sent the renewal letter that the state insurance commissioner calls threatening and incorrect. Humana was required to retract and rescind the letter and apologize to its policy holders. And in Missouri, regulators are looking into whether Humana's letter broke any laws.

Humana declined multiple interview requests, but in a statement to CNN said: "Humana has been reaching out to our individual insurance policy holders to let them know of their full range of coverage options beginning January 1, 2014, when ACA's new insurance laws become effective."


SCIUTTO: Now, Jake, when you're talking about a company that is a Fortune 100 company like Humana, $65,000 really doesn't seem like much of a fine, so I asked the insurance commissioner, what gives? She told me that just to keep the fine low at $10 per letter, because she was trying to send a message, and she worried that a bigger fine would just get passed along to the consumers in the form of a higher premium.

TAPPER: Chris Frates, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Coming up ahead, the Louisville guard Kevin Ware is back on the basketball court after his gruesome leg injury that horrified fans during the NCAA Tournament. He talked about his comeback with CNN's Rachel Nichols. She's standing by to join us live with a clip of her interview and much, much more.


TAPPER: Disturbing allegations in the sports world, from bullying to sexual assault, but also an uplifting story of a college basketball player's comeback from a gruesome injury.

Let's bring in CNN's Rachel Nichols. Her show "UNGUARDED" airs tonight at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.

Rachel, great to see you.

Miami Dolphins player Jonathan Martin met with the NFL's independent investigator. He says he will look into the bullying scandal that has led Martin to leave the team and teammate Richie Incognito to be suspended indefinitely for allegedly berating Martin with threats in that racially charged voice-mail message.

Take us inside a meeting like this. How much is at stake here?

RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The fact that Martin just left the offices tells you something. It lasted about seven hours.

There's quite a bit at stake. Martin has to go through all of his allegations and then describe, hey, what evidence does he have to back up these allegations? The investigator is trying to find out, is this a very unfortunate incident between two players, or is this more of an institutional problem, something that has to be addressed across the culture of the NFL?

There's been a report out there that Dolphins management actually asked Richie Incognito to -- quote -- "toughen Jonathan Martin up." If that's true, that's something the investigator needs to address with the entire league. And it also affects Richie Incognito. He filed a grievance yesterday. Remember, he's suspended. His livelihood is being cut off. He said that's not fair punishment. He says, instead, he's being scapegoated.

So a lot of issues to untangle in these meetings that are happening right now. And, by the way, Jake, don't forget that Jonathan Martin's mother is not just a lawyer. She's a lawyer who has spent the last 20 years working with workplace harassment. So all those I's better be dotted and the T's better be crossed.

TAPPER: That's right.

Let's stay in Florida now. Florida State freshman quarterback Jameis Winston, who is a Heisman Trophy front-runner, he's facing allegations as part of a sexual assault investigation. He's cooperating with authorities, but why is this report coming out now 11 months later? Was it covered up? Could this be an attempt to hurt his career? What's your take?

NICHOLS: Well, certainly, his lawyer believes it's the latter.

His lawyer pointed out this is the month when the Heisman voting happens, and he thinks there's a conspiracy going on here. Now, that just might be college football conspiracy theories in the heart of college football country, but it is a valid question. It's also interesting to note that the police report that has been released -- and it has been heavily redacted, so we really don't have a lot of context here.

But in the part that has been released, that lists the assailant as being 5'10'', 5'11''. Well, Winston is 6'4''. That leads to more questions. How is he being involved in this investigation? Is he an accomplice? Is that the kind of thing that they're looking into? We just don't know.

What we do know is that Florida State is playing him this weekend. TAPPER: And, of course, Rachel, we wouldn't -- it would be naive to think that that kind of thing doesn't go on. I guess just the question is, is there any evidence it did?

Tonight, on your show, you sit down with University of Louisville guard Kevin Ware, who we all remember severely broke his leg, that compound fracture during the NCAA playoffs last year, and, of course, his coach, legendary Louisville coach Rick Pitino. What did they have to tell you?

NICHOLS: Well, the big headline is just the recovery of Kevin Ware.

It was eight months ago when Kevin Ware's bone was popping out of his leg in the middle of a basketball arena. Now he's dunking in practice, even played in an exhibition game. And I talked to both Kevin and coach Pitino about just that journey of recovery starting with the incident with his leg, and asked him, hey, have you watched that video again? Take a listen.


RICK PITINO, UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE BASKETBALL COACH: I have seen it happened one time. And that was enough. And I told him not to watch it. It serves no purpose at all.

KEVIN WARE, UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE GUARD: Honestly, I'm strong mentally because I haven't seen the video. I kind of feel like I will start doubting myself if I was to watch the video.

I wouldn't want to jump off the leg and land on it how I'm starting to do now. So I kind of feel like that would just backtrack me.


NICHOLS: Now, Kevin hasn't played in an official game yet. That will come in a week or so, but he does have a bet going with Kobe Bryant, Kobe, of course, coming back from injury as well.

And Kobe told him, hey, whoever gets back to the court first, the other one comes and watches their game. So, Kevin has told Kobe, "You better come see me sometime soon." He said, "I win."

TAPPER: All right, sounds great.

Rachel's show, "UNGUARDED," airs at 10:30 Eastern. Remember to watch that.

And, also, to follow us on Twitter, just tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.