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ISIS Seizes Iraq's Largest Christian Town; Cease-Fire Talks Underway in Cairo; Should Ebola be Given to More People?

Aired August 7, 2014 - 06:30   ET



MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Thirty minutes past the hour.

Breaking news out of Iraq: A horrific situation unfolding there this morning. Iraq's largest Christian city now seized by ISIS militants. Tens of thousands of Christians are now fleeing for their lives.

Our Nic Robertson is live in London this morning with more -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Michaela, Kirkuk (ph), the city just west of Irbil, the big stronghold of the Kurdish region, that town under attack by ISIS. All the Christians pouring out of there, moving towards the Kurdish area, looking for sanctuary there.

What is significant about this is that area has been under protection, if you will, of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, right next to the Kurdish autonomous region. Again, what makes it significant is that the Kurdish forces have now pulled back. Until now, they have been sort of seen as the last bulwark against the Islamic state fighters as they have swept across the north of Iraq and consolidated their control over territory there.

Now, it seems that they are falling back and the Christians from that will town are being forced to flee. It's causing widespread panic in the town of Irbil. People there concerned about whether they need to leave that city, which is now only 30 kilometers, 20 or so miles away from the front line.

So, increasing concern about the flight of those Christians and, of course, the Yazidis community forced out of their homes into the mountains, desperate for food and water that happened over the weekend -- Michaela.

Christians there among the minority in Iraq and the question is, who is going to help them? We do understand there's word that a well- regarded local archbishop is seeking help from the international community. Tell us more about that.

ROBERTSON: Yes, Joseph Thomas, he's the archbishop or one of the archbishops from the Kurdish region, from Kirkuk and Solomoniya (ph) in the north of Iraq. He's appealed to the U.N. He's calling this situation a catastrophe. He's appealed to the U.N. to intervene.

Now, why is he saying that? Again, if the Kurdish Peshmerga forces have fallen back and cannot stop the advance of the IS fighters that is a concern because they could push further, and what we're hearing from Kurdish officials is they are describing the advances by the IS farmers, wide columns and armored Humvees followed up by artillery and mortar fire, which means this is not just a small rebel force, they're fighting like an army, along a long front and backed up with artillery fire power and the feeling at the moment is there's no one who can step in and stop them and that's why the appeal is going out to the U.N. from this archbishop, Joseph Thomas.

PEREIRA: Kurdish forces had been holding them back, and now, we understand what they are up against.

Nic Robertson, thanks so much for that.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Of course, the question is who is going to defend the Christians, a largely underreported story. Same thing is going on in Jerusalem. It's interesting especially here in the U.S., where you have such a high population of Christians.

So, we're getting close to the weekend. What do you call this again?

PEREIRA: Weekend adjacent.

CUOMO: Weekend adjacent.

Meteorologist Indra Petersons, looking at your map before. Saw some rain, saw some sun. Have a little mix going for us.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Going for a sneak peek. Is that what you're doing?

CUOMO: Yes, I don't trust you. It's all about trust.

PEREIRA: Why don't we start with temperatures where it will be nicer in the Northeast as you get towards the weekend. A couple of wrap around showers fading away as high pressure moves in. Meanwhile, if you go down to the Southeast, not so lucky there. The air conditions will be worsening as we talk about temperatures above normal and also, yes, there's the rain Cuomo was peeking at.

We're talking about showers really anywhere from the Rockies all the down to the southeast, as cold front starts to sag further down the south. Conditions there not looking good. As far as rain, how much rain? A lot. We're talking anywhere from two to four inches, around St. Louis, especially look at Charlotte, talking about two to four inches there as well. So, some heavier rain moving in your direction.

I think what a lot of people are still concerned, of course, what's going on into the Pacific. We still have two storms making their way towards Hawaii. First one is still a hurricane. It did not weaken as quickly as they expected. The forecast now could bring landfall still as a hurricane as we go through this afternoon.

Keep in mind it's that double whammy so by Sunday Julio will be right on its heels with a landfall right behind it. So, a lot to be watching here, especially later this afternoon.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. All right. Indra, thanks so much.

CUOMO: I asked science for some information about storms coming to Hawaii, she gave like a one-line e-mail. She's like overwhelms me of a hurricane of scientific data that would mean nothing.

BOLDUAN: She's been dreaming for someone to ask about.

PETERSONS: You shall receive.

CUOMO: How bad will it be? Numbers and degrees and I think I needed a sling psychrometer to figure it out.

BOLDUAN: And again, it was summary for too bad (ph).

CUOMO: What a mistake that question was.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, President Obama with very strong words for Hamas. While Israelis and Palestinians, they try to look for some common ground and a more lasting peace. Can they find it? What's the U.S. role in these talks in Cairo?

Our panel is weighing in next.

CUOMO: And good news and bad news. A secret serum against Ebola may have at least helped if not saved two Americans. But what about the hundreds of Africans left without it, really more like thousands and thousands?

Was it the right thing to do to use it at all, to give it only to these two people? Is it safe? What should we do? We have an expert ahead.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have no sympathy for Hamas. I have great sympathy for ordinary people who are struggling within Gaza.


BOLDUAN: No sympathy for Hamas. The president with strong language Wednesday night in a wide-ranging press conference that he held with reporters. The president's comments come as peace talks between Israel and Palestinian factions are still under way to try to work out a long-term peace deal.

Let's bring in John Avlon, CNN political analyst and editor-in-chief of "The Daily Beast", and Peter Beinart, CNN political commentator and senior columnist for the Israeli newspaper, "Haaretz."

We're going to solve this problem right here, right now, in just a few minutes.


BOLDUAN: Exactly right.

I want to get both of your takes, because that is the one line that has really, really stood out for the president's press conference. "I have no sympathy for Hamas." What do you make of what was the president trying to say?

AVLON: He's drawing a clear distinction between a terrorist organization that has achieved some governmental legitimacy but was firing rockets into Israel. He repeatedly said that the tunnels are closed and rockets can't be returned and the people of Gaza, which has been a humanitarian crisis. So, he's trying to make a clear distinction between the parties as a way of triangulating and creating a third path out of this conflict.

BOLDUAN: Is he really making that strong of a statement though, saying, "I have no sympathy for Hamas", though, Peter, since the United States has already declared Hamas a terrorist organization?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, that's not a surprise. But think his statement about the people of Gaza is important, because in these cease-fire negotiations, a key question is, is there going to be any relief from the blockade? Israel has some sort of legitimate security concerns, but the blockade has also had a terrible impact on the people of Gaza. For instance, it's virtually impossible to export out of Gaza, which is part of the reasons that most of the Gazan businesses have closed.

BOLDUAN: So, that's the important context, not just the fact that he says I have no sympathy for Hamas, but the people of Gaza need some relief.

BEINART: Right. This is a distinction between his position and the Israeli government. The Israeli government has not said at all that it is interested in lifting element, any elements of the blockade. I think Barack Obama is saying that there are important humanitarian economic aspect of dealing with this blockade that one can deal with without empowering Hamas. He is right, I actually think if you were to strengthen Hamas -- business people in Hamas and allow people to travel more freely, that would actually ultimately weaken Hamas.

AVLON: Yes. Well, he also kept hammering home the security concern of the Israeli people.


AVLON: That was one of the consistent refrains in the conference.

BOLDUAN: The Israeli government needs to hear that because there's a lot of question.

AVLON: Absolutely. You know, there's been a lot of talk about the strained relations between President Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu. But behind all of that is a paradox that U.S. aid to Israel is actually unprecedented under this president, over $3 billion a year. So, there isn't a high degree of leverage or there should be, and as the negotiations go on in Cairo and elsewhere, I think you're trying to see the administration strengthen its hand. There's not going to be an immediate economic relief out of this. That's a longer-term consideration.

BOLDUAN: That's an important point. Where is the leverage? Is there leverage? What is the role of the United States, Secretary Kerry, President Obama in these negotiations?

We heard the president say that the secretary is very involved. We've heard from the other sides that he's been making calls constantly, constantly, as far as John Kerry's part. But is to you -- it kind of appears that the United States is on the sidelines here.

BEINART: Right. I'm not sure that Israel wants the U.S. that involved. I mean, you have what is unique about the circumstance and different from 2012 at the end of the last round of fighting, is you have an Egyptian government that's also very hostile to Hamas and who's very aligned with Israel.

I think what Israel and Egypt want to do is pressure Hamas as much as possible to allow the Palestinian Authority to go back into parts of Gaza. And they're not terribly interested in lifting elements of this blockade, and that's why I think you see that they're not terribly interested in having John Kerry there --

BOLDUAN: How can John Kerry stand for that? This is something that he's been trying for, try, failure, try, failure try, try, try again.

AVLON: The Rolling Stones once said, you can't always get what you want. I mean, really --

BOLDUAN: John Kerry does not want to hear that right now.

AVLON: Yes, no. But what's really significant that's going on with massive implications, as Peter said, is actually the Arab states and Egypt, not only the Camp David Accord effectively, that Israeli Egyptian alliance, but many Arabs states siding with Israel against Hamas. That is really enormous significance, this particular moment in the region's history.

BOLDUAN: There's also then in a strange way offer an opportunity for the Obama administration to rebuild some of those relationships?

BEINART: American power in general has been declining in the Middle East. Our leverage over Egypt is not as great as it was under Mubarak. Our leverage over Israel is not as great because Obama is not that popular there and partly because Obama doesn't want a confrontation with Benjamin Netanyahu which would cause him problems in Washington.

So, I think the macro story here is although there are interesting regional alliances going on against the Muslim Brotherhood, against Islamist parties like Hamas by Israel and Arab countries, that the United States' role is diminishing a little bit. We may have to get used to an environment where we are not brokering things, we're not at the center of things as much as we were in the past.

BOLDUAN: That also then begs the question the president said yesterday that the immediate goal for the United States with regard here is to make sure that the cease-fire holds. What do you think is going to happen come tomorrow, I think we're 20, 19 hours away from the cease- fire kind of expiring, are we going to see rockets firing again?

BEINART: It seems to me unlikely. I think Hamas will come under tremendous pressure, including from the Palestinian authority not to let that happen.

BOLDUAN: Does Hamas care? It's not like they have shown that they listened to Palestinian authority.

BEINART: No, Hamas doesn't care that much. But the question is does Hamas think that even launching those rockets would get them anything? What I do think is worrying here is that ultimately if Gaza remains blockaded and people can't move and people can't take care of themselves economically, that is going to remain a powder keg, and this cease-fire, even if it continues until next week and next month ultimately I'm afraid its going to unravel again.

AVLON: And then the big question is, you know, with all the splinter organizations what does Hamas actually control with these bad actors? There's a degree of exhaustion and devastation that actually is empowering the chances of a cease-fire and behind it all the U.S. is trying to exert influence indirectly through regional actors.


BOLDUAN: John, Peter, great to see. Thank you so much.

Alright, coming up next on NEW DAY, secret experimental, potentially life-saving and also controversial. Was it right to give that experimental serum to two Americans when more than 1,000 Africans are suffering with the virus? That debate ahead.



BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I think we've got to let the science guide us, and, you know, I don't think all the information is in on whether this drug is helpful. What we do know is that the Ebola virus, both currently and in the past, is controllable if you have a strong public health infrastructure in place.


CUOMO: It's also deadly. That, of course, President Obama weighing in on the so-called secret serum against Ebola which is actually called ZMapp. Now sometimes the rules are bent, and they just were.


CUOMO (voice-over): The drug was given to two Americans with Ebola, and it was so effective one of them was able to walk off the medevac plane under his own power. Great news, but also troubling questions. Why only the two Americans getting this drug?


CUOMO (on camera): Should it be immediately mass produced and given to the nearly 2,000 Africans who need it? Ethical questions, difficult solutions, not as obvious as it seems. Let's discuss with Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel. He's a bio ethicist, chair of the department of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. Doc, its good to have you here.


CUOMO: That's the obvious, what's the obvious reaction here? It works, give it to the people who need it now in big numbers, not just to the two, white, wealthy Americans. Wealthy by country of origin, fair criticism?

EMANUEL: Well, first of all, we don't know that it works. You've given it to two people. Not everyone dies from Ebola. It's about 55 percent mortality rate. Could have been their natural immunity coming back because they are, you know, they weren't exposed to that big a volume or their immune system works better so we don't know.

CUOMO: Dr. Brantly said he thought he was going to die and then he took the dose of the serum and the next day, that doesn't suggest anything?

EMANUEL: No, not necessarily. You have to do a clinical trial to know whether things work, whether drugs work or not and we were at a very early stage of developing this. It was still doing animal testing, which is usually necessary before human trials, but, you know, there's interest in expanding it and doing a rigorous trial to find out whether it works and how effective it is, and is it more effective, you know, on some people rather than others and one distribution rather than another? These are big scientific questions, and we really shouldn't pre-judge this works so we should rush it out there without trying to get the data to really know how well it works.

CUOMO: But when people see that it was given as a charitable exception or whatever --

EMANUEL: Compassionate use.

CUOMO: Compassionate use exception, whatever the bend in the rule is to these two people, why wasn't a compassionate use for some of the Africans?

EMANUEL: Well, first of all, we have a very limited supply. Again, the company that was developing this was not anticipating trials in humans, was not anticipating using it for a big outbreak in Africa. They were anticipating using it for more animal testing, which we usually do before human testing. Again, to be sure that what we're giving to people works. We've had a lot of cases in history, they're full of cases where something looks promising in animals, either doesn't work in people or worse actually makes things worse under some circumstances.

CUOMO: Right.

EMANUEL: That's the whole reason for a very orderly drug development process. In emergencies where you have a big mortality rate, you sometimes jump that que, especially in the public health emergency and outbreak. And this is one of the cases where they are looking to break the que, but they don't even have enough drug yet to give to thousands of people, much less hundreds of people.

CUOMO: Now, in a way, the key word you just said is they. Just to be clear, Dr. Emanuel has nothing to do with this decision process, he didn't do this, deciding who gets it and who doesn't, but I do want to center on that question again because there was a decision made to give it to these two Americans instead of anybody else.


CUOMO: That raises an obvious suspicion of preference.

EMANUEL: Well, look, let's distinguish two things. In compassionate care where you're making exceptions for an individual, it always looks suspicious because you're picking one individual out of a mass, and I actually am somewhat hesitant about doing that. When you run a clinical trial, and you look at the principles for running a clinical trial where you're going to give it and try to get data, see if it works or doesn't, one of the main principles is fair subject selection. Don't give preference to rich people and don't subject poor people to very high risk, untested treatments. Both need to be adhered to, and if we were to run a clinical trial in Africa and get enough of the ZMapp drug to do it, you would definitely adhere to that principle of fair subject selection, and I think that's one of the reasons to run a clinical trial rather than these one-off exceptions on compassionate use.

CUOMO: So ethically you're not bothered by the two Americans getting this serum. Ethically, would it be okay to run a trial on Africans right now and see if it works?

EMANUEL: First of all, you couldn't run it on anyone else. You'd have to run it on Africans because that's where the disease is.

CUOMO: Okay.

EMANUEL: You'd have to run it on who is being subjected to the disease, and that right now is three countries in West Africa. I am ethically troubled by just picking people out because they are Americans and giving them the drug, right. It's a natural response, but -- from an American government, but I don't think from a fairness standpoint. That's why I don't like compassionate use. By the way, we should notice that there's a lot of pressure to -- for compassionate use exceptions in the United States for life-threatening illnesses. People say, you know, there's this beautiful 15-year-old, give them this drug. Well, it raises all the same kind of questions of fairness, so these new laws that have been passed in Colorado, Missouri and other places about getting people access to drugs, you know, they raise all the same ethical questions you're raising here. Remember, the most effective way of getting a drug to a lot of people is to show it works in a clinical trial and not to have these one-off compassionate use where you don't know whether the drug worked or didn't work.

CUOMO: So you're saying with Ebola, even though there's a 60 percent mortality or failure rate against the virus, don't be so quick to think this is a magic cure. We don't know enough to expose people to the risk. There's enough risk to offset the benefit.

EMANUEL: No, no, there's enough uncertainty that we need to run a trial.

We don't know what the risks are because the drug hasn't been tried in humans. We need data on both the benefits. How effective is this thing, does it really prevent people from dying from Ebola? We also need to know are there big risks if people get it? Could there be an adverse reaction from the body that might actually increase the mortality rate?

CUOMO: Even worse than Ebola?

EMANUEL: That's happened.

CUOMO: Alright, Dr. Emanuel, thank you so much.

EMANUEL: No problem

CUOMO: Appreciate the insight.

EMANUEL: Thank you very much.

CUOMO: Alright, that's one of the stories we're following this morning, but there is a lot of news to tell you about, so let's get right to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably things could have been done a little better here and there, but, you know, this is war.

OBAMA: I have no sympathy for Hamas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The goal of Operation Protective Edge remains to protect Israeli civilians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I could care less if someone is pro-Israel or someone is pro-Palestine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just think it is naturally going to be spreading throughout the world eventually.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're pretty confident that any large hospital could handle an Ebola case.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is on its way to becoming the worst Ebola outbreak in history.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a threat, a threat that was coming in my house.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You either shot on purpose because you were in fear or the gun went off accidentally, which one is it?


CUOMO: Good morning, welcome back to NEW DAY. Some progress but no big breakthroughs in the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian factions.


CUOMO (voice-over): Indirect negotiations have resumed in Cairo with time running out. Remember, 18 hours remain in the cease-fire that began Tuesday.

BOLDUAN (voice-over): Both sides are holding their fire.


BOLDUAN (on camera): But what happens if no deal is reached? The Israelis have already agreed to extend the cease-fire. Last hour the chief Palestinian negotiator told CNN he was working to extend it, but at least some factions aren't on board. At least not yet. We're going to get the perspective from both sides this morning, this hour. Let's start with the Israeli side, then we will be speaking with a representative from Hamas. Let's begin with Dore Gold. He's a senior foreign policy advisor to the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Mr. Gold, thank you so much for your time.


BOLDUAN: So, from your perspective, where do the talks stand?

GOLD: Well, Israel is prepared to extend the cease-fire without any special reservations. It's not asking for preconditions in order to have quiet. Unfortunately, in the Palestinian team there are voices from Hamas that are demanding some kind of breakthrough in the things they are looking for. Hamas is insisting that after this war, it have a port. It have, you know, this complete access to the sea. We're, of course, concerned, if something like that occurs, that the Iranians or others will bring missile boats into the Mediterranean and to that Gaza port. So it's not so simple just to say give them a port. In any case, foodstuffs and pharmaceuticals and humanitarian items are getting into Gaza.

BOLDUAN: I did want to ask you about that. You say that some inside the Palestinian factions, that gets to a key question. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, was on the show speaking to Chris earlier in the show and he said the following. That the Palestinian delegation is unified, he says. He says there is not a Hamas delegation, (inaudible) delegation, Fatah delegation. We are the Palestinian delegation unified. Do you agree with that?

GOLD: Well, that's an ideological position for a Palestinian leader, but, in fact, we do see different voices. Look, Hamas and Fatah were virtually at war with each other not long ago. Then they had this new agreement reached by Mahmoud Abbas before the current struggles occurred, so, you know, sometimes they voice different views. Sometimes they try and work together.