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Toronto Mayor's Brother Speaking Out; Meningitis Outbreak Hits Princeton University; Sinkhole Swallows Two Florida Homes; House Passed Obamacare Fix; Rescue Dog Climbs Mount Everest

Aired November 16, 2013 - 09:00   ET


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. A pleasure to be with you -- good to have you with us. 9:00 here on the East Coast; 6:00 out West -- this is NEW DAY SATURDAY.

SAMBOLIN: Prostitutes and drugs and abuse of power. The accusations sound like something out of a Hollywood thriller, but for embattled Toronto mayor, Rob Ford, his real-life drama is heating up.

BLACKWELL: In an unprecedented move Friday, the city council voted to strip Ford of powers that would allow him to govern during an emergency and appoint committee chairs.

Ford admitted last week to smoking crack cocaine.

SAMBOLIN: And this week, he apologized after making sexually explicit comments on live television. Many people are asking whether his erratic behavior makes him unfit to lead.

BLACKWELL: Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson joins us live from Toronto. Nic, this story develops every day with a new chapter. And Friday we read a new one.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Certainly a new one. The mayor and his brother, the Councilor Doug Ford, the only people to vote against the whole of the rest of the council to strip these powers from him. I sat down with his brother, Doug, and I asked him, isn't this just becoming humiliating for the mayor?


DOUG FORD, TORONTO MAYOR ROB FORD'S BROTHER: Just imagine if you took the CEO out and said, every one of you folks have the same power as the CEO. It would not work.

ROBERTSON: Isn't it going to be humiliating for your brother, though, to be put in that situation?

FORD: Well, you know something. This whole issue is humiliating.

ROBERTSON: This is what is going to be remembered. FORD: Well, he's be remembered by doing a great job. He's going to be remembered if he -- if he fails to move in the right direction. And he's going to be remembered as a comeback kid.


ROBERTSON: So even his brother here isn't entirely convinced that the mayor really can carry on with the job. He's privately said that he believes that his brother should step aside and take some time back. He is the only one that's supporting him. The mayor himself has said that he's going to fight this. He'll take it to the courts. And indeed, he says taking it to the courts is what actually going to ultimately will cost the taxpayers here money.


ROBERTSON: Your brother, the mayor, said today he will fight some of these issues in court.

FORD: That's right.

ROBERTSON: It won't be the public money. It will be his money. How much is this going to cost you? How long can you go on fighting?

FORD: Well, we've spent close to probably $1 million fighting on all the other court cases, three of them. Now you've got to keep in mind, this battle did not happen right now.

ROBERTSON: How many more --

FORD: This -- this started three years ago when Rob Ford said he was elected.

ROBERTSON: But this is going to cost big.


FORD: Well, every single -- that's fine. We've taken on bigger guys, too.

ROBERTSON: How deep are your pockets?

FORD: So -- I have, you know, short pockets.

ROBERTSON: Short pockets?

FORD: I have very short pockets.

ROBERTSON: And this is then you'll have to stop the fight pretty quickly.

FORD: We're never going to stop fighting.


ROBERTSON: You know he says never stop fighting, but almost just as bizarrely as some of the mayor's comments this week inside the city council chambers he actually said to the council members, if I was in your shoes, I will be doing exactly the same thing. Stripping powers from the mayor. But both he and his brother say this is politically unprecedented. Dangerous because it means in the future perhaps other politicians can step in and arrest power away from other people as they say they just don't like -- Victor, Zoraida.

SAMBOLIN: The thing is like such a circus. Victor and I were trying to figure out well, what happens next. We know there is some reality show, some television show that the brothers will participate in. But what do we expect to happen next here?

ROBERTSON: Well, that show will air on Monday. It's an hour-long recorded TV show. And it will be coming out the same day that we'll see more powers stripped away from the mayor. More powers given to the deputy mayor. Money taken away from him, staff taken away from him. Another day of humiliation for him. But he's going to continue as his brother Doug says.


ROBERTSON: They'll continue to fight. They have done entertainment radio shows before. This is a new venture for them. But the way that the mayor talks so much off the cuff, just anything can happen here.

SAMBOLIN: That is very true. Nic Robertson, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Some students at Princeton University say they are scared.

SAMBOLIN: Six students at the Ivy League school and a visitor to the New Jersey campus have all come down with a dangerous and really rare strain of meningitis. So now university trustees have a nail-biting decision to make this weekend.

BLACKWELL: And CNN's Alexandra Field joins us now from Princeton, New Jersey.

Alexandra, so the trustees are deciding whether to green light this vaccine that has not yet been approved here in the U.S. Explain that.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. And, Victor, we're expecting trustees will make that decision sometime this weekend. Here's the reason that they're in this position right now. There is no vaccine that's licensed and approved in the United States that protects against meningitis B. There is, however, a vaccine bexsero, it is licensed and approved in Europe and Australia. So the trustees are talking about importing that vaccine.

The CDC got permission from the FDA earlier this week to bring the vaccine in. If the trustees green light it, it could be made available to some 8,000 students on this campus. There have been seven confirmed cases of meningitis C. That constitutes an outbreak.

Now for those of you who are not consulting your medical dictionaries right now and you may heard of a meningitis vaccine, that applies to other strains of meningitis including meningitis C which is the strain which is more commonly found on college campuses.

SAMBOLIN: You know what we're finding pretty surprising here is that this dates back to March and we're just learning about this now. Do you have any idea why?

FIELD: Well, this is something that the university has been putting out there. We are told that this student came back in March from spring break and was then diagnosed with a case of meningitis B. From then, the number of cases again to build the most recent diagnosis was made in the last week.

The university has taken some steps to educate the community. They launched campaigns geared at educating students about the way that meningitis can be transmitted. That's cough, saliva, sharing cups. They've even put out a number of cups on campus that say "mine not yours" in order to remind students of the risk of passing on any kinds of infections.

But we are learning now that there are seven cases that the university is taking some additional steps. Including looking at importing these vaccines in order to really stem this from spreading any farther.

BLACKWELL: So seven cases. Is there a link? I mean, do we know that there is some common denominator for all of the people who have this strain?

FIELD: Well, as these cases have materialized, health officials have been looking into it right now. New Jersey health officials tell us they can't find any specific common link. But again, this is the kind of disease or infection which is common when people live in close quarters. Again it can be easily transmitted through a number of ways in which we would interact with each other on a regular basis.

So it makes sense that these cases will be centralized around the campus. But we haven't been pointed specifically to say a dorm or a building or a classroom were these people would have interacted with one another.

BLACKWELL: Yes, understandably a scary time for students and faculty there at Princeton.

Alexandra Field, thank you.

SAMBOLIN: Natural disasters come in many forms in Florida. Hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, floods and even sinkholes.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Two families lost their homes this week when a sinkhole opened up.

CNN's John Zarrella has more from the Tampa Bay area.

John, good morning.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Victor, Zoraida, local officials here in Dunedin are keeping a close eye on just how big the sinkhole is growing. And meantime, demolition got under way Friday on two homes that fell in.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): Mike Dupre's home came down. What the sinkhole started, demolition equipment finished. Across the street, Dupre, his wife Janke and his daughter Ivy looked on. Nothing they could do, but watch it go.

MIKE DUPRE, HOMEOWNER: It's bizarre. It hurts, obviously. You know, it hurts. It's your home. Going down.

ZARRELLA: Dupre's home and one next door were marked for immediate demolition. Too unstable for anyone to go inside. Periodically firefighters would walk over to the Dupres handing them a few small salvaged items. Books. An American flag. As more of the house was pulled down, a few more memories were recovered.

DUPRE: Family pictures.

ZARRELLA (on camera): That's the most important.

DUPRE: That's the most -- that's what we're hoping for.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): There is tragic irony in what happened here. Both Mike Dupre and his wife work at a homeless shelter in Clearwater. Now it is the Dupres who find themselves homeless. But they are getting more support than they could have imagined.

DUPRE: I'm very amazed. I mean, it blows us away. That's we've been talking about all night last night. That we have never expected that how the community, how strong it is here.

ZARRELLA: Authorities evacuated several other homes around the Dupres, at least until they are sure the hole isn't still expanding.

Sinkholes have become an increasingly frequent problem in Florida. Some with deadly consequences. Earlier this year, a young man swallowed up and killed while he slept. And near Orlando, no deaths, but an entire section of a resort collapsing in a hole. People escaping with just the clothes on their backs.


ZARRELLA: Now the state has begun a three-year study to identify areas that are most prone to sinkholes, but for the people here in this Dunedin neighborhood, that's too little too late -- Zoraida, Victor.

SAMBOLIN: Thank you so much, John Zarrella, reporting for us.

BLACKWELL: Still to come on NEW DAY, there was a lot of tinkering going on with Obamacare this week. We'll explain these changes.

SAMBOLIN: Plus he might just be the most adorable mountaineer Everest has ever seen. His name is Rupee and we'll tell you how he went from living in the slums to living it up on the world's tallest mountain. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. Thirteen minutes past the hour.

Some presidential memorabilia goes up for auction today. More than 1,000 items in fact that belonged to the late president Gerald Ford will hit the auction block. This is in Indian Wild, California.

BLACKWELL: And proceeds from the auction will go to three local charities including the Betty Ford Clinic which was founded by the former first lady. Some of the items for sale, clothing, golf clubs, even a Faberge -style egg that President Clinton gave to Mrs. Ford as a gift.

SAMBOLIN: That's kind of cool.


SAMBOLIN: All right. So Republicans branded it a fix. But a new House bill essentially guts Obamacare. Dozens of Democrats abandoned the president and they voted for the Republican measure.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk to CNN's Erin McPike. She's in Washington this morning. E McP as I like to call her.

So at first glance, this bill looks a lot like the fix the president offered this week, but tell us about this distinction because it's really important.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, it would allow any American who has had his or her insurance plan canceled under the new law to extend that plan for a year. But the difference is it would also allow any kind of new customer to buy that plan for another year. So it would, in effect, delay the implementation of Obamacare, but also these plans don't meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. And then it would, of course, defeat the purpose of that very law.

Well, Fred Upton, the Republican who authored this plan, was on the SITUATION ROOM yesterday and here's what he had to say about it.