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New Orleans Residents Visit Home; Law Enforcement Hoping For Pay; NOPD After Katrina; Tropical Storm Tammy Update; Bill Clinton Visits New Orleans

Aired October 5, 2005 - 19:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Lou, thanks very much.
Good evening, everyone. Could the avian flu be the next world- wide pandemic? And how prepared is the U.S. to deal with the deadly virus?

360 starts now.

ANNOUNCER: Millions of infected birds, 116 people sick -- nore than half of them now dead. Experts fear the Avian flu in Asia could mutate and spread.


DR. DAVID NABARRO, U.N. AVIAN FLU COORDINATOR: We cannot assume that a flu pandemic will remain isolated in one part of the globe.


ANNOUNCER: Fears that millions will die if it hits here. A 360 look at Avian flu, what the government proposes and the potential crisis that could hit the U.S.

Fallout from the storm. Up to 3,000 city workers being laid off in New Orleans. 360 investigates the cash crunch caused by Hurricane Katrina.

Former President Clinton bringing compassion and cold hard cash to the region. The Bush/Clinton Katrina fund topping $100 million. Now he wants to know how to spend it.

And . . .


DR. KENNETH STEVENS, OPPOSES RIGHT TO DIE: I would become a basically an executioner rather than a healer.


ANNOUNCER: Who controls life and death? Now the Supreme Court will decide. Tonight, the legal and moral arguments behind assisted suicide.

Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone. Welcome to 360. We have a lot to cover in the next hour.

First, here's a look at what's happening right now "At This Moment."

An outbreak of a mystery illness has killed at least 16 people in Toronto. All the victims were residents at one nursing home. At least 38 others are hospitalized. The city's medical officer of health says the outbreak has been contained and the risk to the rest of the community is - quote -- "very little."

In Iraq, a massive suicide bomb exploded inside a Shia mosque south of Baghdad. At least 25 people were killed, more than 80 others injured. We're talking about a major blast. It happened during a funeral service for a Shiite Muslim killed in another insurgent attack.

And we're keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Tammy. It is the nineteenth named storm this hurricane season. Right now, Tammy's about 35 miles east/southeast of Jacksonville, Florida, with sustained winds near 50 miles per hour. We'll have more on Tammy ahead on 360.

First, want to look at life after Katrina. And, yes, there is life. The one place on earth you cannot visit is home. That by definition is what visiting is -- being anywhere at all other than home. And yet in New Orleans now, even that has changed. There are people who are, in fact, doing that impossible thing, visiting their own homes -- just dropping by and then sadly turning around again to leave.

CNN's Lisa Sylvester has their story.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Sheryl Knouse and her daughter have to break a window to get into their home. The front door is warped.

SHERYL KNOUSE, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: Oh, my god. Oh, my god. Oh, everything -- nothing is where it ever was. Oh, lord.

SYLVESTER: When Katrina hit, Cheryl moved out and mold moved in. Now it's a scavenger hunt for what can be saved.

KNOUSE: This looks OK. This is my special jewelry. There's the ring my mom gave me, my dad got in Germany in the war. Oh, thank you, god, thank you for small favors.

SYLVESTER: She and other Lakeview area residents were allowed to see their homes for the first time. Councilman Jay Batt handed out water to families. Even his home was not spared.

JAY BATT, NEW ORLEANS COUNCILMAN: It looked like a tornado hit it. It looks like a tidal wave hit it. And it looks like someone went to got some horse dung and slung it around in the room. It is disgusting.

SYLVESTER: As residents sift through their belongings, they're also sorting through insurance matters. Many are finding even with flood insurance, their losses may not be covered. Sheryl Knouse's home was valued at $175,000.

KNOUSE: When I bought my house, it wasn't worth that much and I just never upped the insurance to that high.


SYLVESTER: Another thing to keep in mind is that flood insurance is capped at $250,000. So, for many of the people in this middle class neighborhood, they could find themselves in a situation where they are financially upside down -- meaning their mortgage is greater than what the insurance company is willing to pay them.


COOPER: Thanks very much, Lisa.

In the middle of the life and death emergency with the water rising around you, for instance, it's natural to daydream about the ordinary problems you used to have -- the day-to-day things that seemed so distressing at the time which you suddenly wish you were worrying about again. Well, down in Louisiana, there are people who do have their old worries back, money worries, but for an entirely new reason.

CNN's Dan Simon has their story.


JIMMY BARTHOLOMAE, ST. BERNARD PARISH SHERIFF'S DEPT.: It's nice to go to work. You know, you can still do the good thing and help people and all that.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): Law enforcement is in Jimmy Bartholomae's blood. A captain with the St. Bernard Sheriff's Department, he stayed on the job despite losing everything he owns and being separated from his wife and five kids.

BARTHOLOMAE: It's not easy to do that, to have a long distance family.

SIMON: The last thing he should have to worry about right now is whether he's going to receive his paycheck. But that's the personal crisis facing him and every single deputy and employee of the St. Bernard Sheriff's Department -- an estimated total of 400 people, half of whom already are on temporary furlough because of the storm.

BARTHOLOMAE: You know, I'm really pissed off about what the situation I'm involved in.

SIMON: The sheriff's reaction is understandable. His guys have worked hard putting in long hours to help the parish recover from Katrina. But the numbers don't lie. The tax revenue that funds the sheriff's office is no longer coming in. The situation on payday two weeks from now could even be worse, no money left at all. And no government agency, he says, federal or state, has offered to help.

BARTHOLOMAE: We're at the end of our rope now.

SIMON: The question you and your buddies have to answer right now is, how long would you be willing to work without a paycheck? I mean that's what we're looking at here.

BARTHOLOMAE: You know, I don't know. You know, nobody seems to know.

SIMON: The uncertainty hanging over his head, Bartholomae, for the first time in his 20-year career, is wondering what else he can do with his life. Adding to the stress, take a look at his home.

BARTHOLOMAE: My home's gone. A big glob of mess.

SIMON: And look across the street.

Let met me understand this correctly. The refrigerator from your house is now on this roof?

BARTHOLOMAE: Right. Across the street.

SIMON: Bartholomae is holding up. Others in the department are having more difficulty.

RHEA GUCCI, ST. BERNARD PARISH SHERIFF'S DEPT.: I don't know how much stronger I can be and last. I really don't. I really don't.

SIMON: Rhea Gucci (ph), her husband and her daughter all work for the sheriff. It's clear the stress has taken its toll.

GUCCI: I'm one of the people that do not have flood insurance, so I don't know what I'm going to get out of this. Maybe nothing. And I'll have to start from scratch again. Losing everything, you know, we worked all our life for. I just don't know.


SIMON: Anderson, I spoke to the woman who manages the money for that department and she told me that right now they do not have the funds to make the next payroll. And it's not hard to figure out why. You've got a lot of money going out and you've got no money that is in the way of taxes going in. And it's not just St. Bernard. I'm told there are other agencies in the area that are facing a similar cash crisis.


COOPER: All right. Thank very much for that.

Tough times for the New Orleans Police Department as well -- investigations into allegations of looting by a handful of officers, desertions, and city layoffs. We wanted to find out how the new head of the department's going to tackle all these things.

Joining us for a 360 exclusive, Acting Police Superintendent Warren Riley. Appreciate you being with us. Thanks very much, Superintendent.


COOPER: A lot of police I'm talking to are worried about the layoffs the mayor has just announced. They've laid off 3,000 city workers. Are your police vulnerable?

RILEY: No, not at this time. I mean we have no indication that we will be laid off. Three thousand city workers were, in fact, laid off. But at no point has the mayor mentioned that law enforcement or any public safety officials would be laid off.

COOPER: What about the 249 officers who disappeared during Katrina? Have any investigations begun? Have you, you know -- they were talking about tribunals where each would be dealt with on a case by case basis. Have you started that process? And has anyone been disciplined? Or what's going on?

RILEY: We started the process. No one's been disciplined at this point. There are 249 officers on the list. What we're doing is segmenting it. We're determining who was not here before the storm and who left after the storm.

We're making -- we're putting together a process to determine exactly who will be terminated because some officers will be terminated who were not here. But some officers left after the storm with legitimate reasons. And then we have officers who were actually stranded on rooftops and attics who showed up three or four days after beings rescued. So that 249 is a list that is compiled of all officers who were not here or who left after the storm. Those are . . .

COOPER: What do you say to the officers? Because, I mean, I talked to a lot of them behind the scenes and they said, look, I don't want to accept these guys back. I mean the officers who stayed on their job -- and the vast majority of them did -- I mean they were doing that in impossible circumstances. They had a million reasons why they should have left their post, but they didn't. What do you say to the officers who say, look, why should we take these guys back?

RILEY: Well, I think that we've already sent that message to those officers. We're determining who, in fact, as it was stated, is a deserter. Some people were absent without leave. Those who where it is determined that they, in fact, deserted their post, they will have serious consequences.

COOPER: Let me ask you, you've entered now the realm the public realm in a new way with your new position and with it, comes scrutiny. And I know you wanted to address some of the things that are floating out there tonight. We appreciate that. So I wanted to ask you, there has been a lot of talk about suspensions -- that you have been suspended at times in your past on the police force. How many times have you been suspended from the police force?

RILEY: Yes, I've actually there are some things that need to be cleared up. I have, in fact, been suspended five times in my career. Now, three of those were for traffic accidents. And we have a policy that if you're involved in a traffic accident that you're suspended. So I was, in fact, suspended three times. Minor accidents. No one was ever injured.

One time as a rookie police officer I was suspended for not appearing in court in municipal court. It was an oversight on my part. And then once for neglect where it was stated that I was I did not write a report on a domestic violence issue back in 1994-1995. This was a mix-up and it was a procedure that was not in place that I was judged by. So those are the three things. The most . . .

COOPER: Well let me ask you about that in particular, because that's the one that's gotten a lot of attention. When you ran for Orleans Parish Sheriff, questions were raised about your behavior. A woman named Sharon Robinson (ph) came to you asking for help. She said her boyfriend, a New Orleans police officer, was abusing her. It was domestic violence. Several months later she wound up dead. The case is still unsolved. Her family says basically you should have done more. You should have filed a report. Do you feel you did your due diligence?

RILEY: Yes, I did, in fact, do my due diligence. I am the person who actually brought that, at the time of her death, brought it to our Public Integrity Bureau because I was in Public Integrity. I was promoted to lieutenant. I think I guess maybe three months later this young lady's body was found in a lake. I notified PIB.

The person who she accused of doing that was never ever charged with this crime. He actually received $250,000 in a lawsuit because his name was slandered. I was never investigated for that by the FBI or anyone else and never had a part of it a part or anything to do with it. I did my job appropriately at the time. I was, in fact, reprimanded for it, but that was basically Superintendent Pennington, who as the chief at the time, basically stated in civil service that it was a mistake.

COOPER: Were you suspended for that, though, for three days?

RILEY: I was for three days, yes.

COOPER: OK. Your critics say basically -- and you've heard this before and I want to give you the opportunity to address it -- they say, look, your department has looting investigations ongoing, desertion investigation, and they ask, given your track record, are you the man to lead this department?

RILEY: Well, there's no one on the job that's more qualified. I've been on for 24 years. I'm not a perfect human being. If you look at my record, when I was suspended for the traffic accidents, I never appealed it -- we have an appeals process -- because I, in fact, was involved in accidents. And in three of those I was. They were minor accidents where I backed into someone or ran into someone but they were minor. So and the case with the neglect, I did do my job and I did appeal that through our civil service process.

So, other than that, I mean my career I have a master's degree, a bachelor's degree. I've been on 26 years. I've worked in every bureau that this department has and I've been in charge of two of those bureaus. So there's no one that's more qualified. And I admit in 24, 25 years, have I been perfect? Absolutely not. But I have been a dedicated professional with integrity, yes.

COOPER: I've got to tell you, the cops on the beat who I talk to speak very highly of you, and that means a lot to officers on the beat to have someone like you on the job. So I appreciate you joining us and talking about the allegations. Thanks very much.

RILEY: Thank you.

COOPER: Coming up next on 360, the latest on Tropical Storm Tammy off the coast of Florida and moving north.

Plus, new data on Hurricane Katrina. Was it truly a category 4 storm or was it actually weaker? Interesting thought that.

Also, former President Bill Clinton with more than $100 million raised talks about how he plans to spend the big bucks to rebuild the Big Easy.

And a growing fear of a bird flu pandemic in America. Is it hype or is it legitimate? And what's the response going to be? Are we ready? Millions fall ill in a matter of hours. We'll take a look at that.

Be right back.


COOPER: We'll have the latest on Tropical Storm Tammy.

And new data suggests that Katrina may not have been a category 4 storm at all but actually weaker. We'll explain why. 360 next.


COOPER: Well, it makes me sick to even say this, but we're watching yet another storm with a pretty name. This one called Tammy. Sounds innocent enough but then so, of course, did Katrina and Rita.

Best to check in with CNN Meteorologist Jacqui Jeras in Atlanta to find out exactly what Tropical Storm Tammy is really like. Jacqui, where is this thing?

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, it's fairly innocent, actually, Anderson. And it's trying to make landfall as we speak just to the north of Jacksonville, Florida. It is a tropical storm and it's packing winds about 50 miles per hour. But those strongest winds are well away from the center of the storm and they're way offshore. So the wind gusts across the Carolinas, across the Georgia coast and down into Florida have been only ranging maybe around 20 to 30 miles per hour.

What will be a big deal with this storm is going to be the heavy rain. We're going to see rainfall amounts around three to five inches. We'll zoom in here and there you can see kind of the center of circulation. It's kind of difficult to find.

It's very broad circulation and not well defined but you can see some of the strongest of storms between St. Mary's and Brunswick, Georgia, at this time. You can expect to see one to two inches per hour. Rainfall three to five expected generally but we could see some locally heavier amounts on the range of six to 10 inches.

The storm system is expected to slow down over the next couple of days. It's heading up to the north and to the west. As it does so, it will gradually weaken. But as it stalls out, that means heavy rain across much of Georgia Thursday and Friday.


COOPER: Jacqui, what's this new information that Katrina might have actually been a category 3 storm when it came ashore instead of category 4?

JERAS: Well, it's a possibility. The word is still out. We haven't gotten the official word from the National Hurricane Center. But researchers who have gone through some of the data like from the hurricane hunters, from weather-observing sites on the ground and just from going out and assessing the damage, saying that the damage from the storm is more indicative of a three rather than a four. We're also seeing some of that from the Hurricane Research Center.

It can take weeks, months, sometimes even years to get the official word and pore through all of this data. For example, Hurricane Andrew we found out 10 years later that it was actually a category 5 rather than a category 4. The National Hurricane Center said it will probably be weeks, maybe a month or two, before they get final word. But it sounds like possibly the structural damage from the storm could have been worse.


COOPER: That's interesting. I didn't realize these things get amended over time. Jacqui, thanks very much.

In a moment, a look at how former Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush are trying to help Katrina victims.

First, Erica Hill from HEADLINE NEWS has some of the other stories we're following tonight. Erica, good evening.

ERICA HILL, CNNHN ANCHOR: Hey, Anderson, nice to see you.

Some more details for you on that suicide bombing inside a Shia mosque south of Baghdad. The bomber blew himself up during funeral services for a Shiite Muslim killed in a separate attack. And it turns out Iraqi police at the service may have been today's target. At least 25 people were killed in that attack, 87 others injured.

In Coconut Creek, Florida, a freak accident on a high school football field where a sudden thunderstorm spawned a lightning strike that hit at least two players who happened to be out practicing. They were rushed to the hospital, one by helicopter. No word at this point on the players' conditions.

A 57-year-old evacuee from New Orleans -- talk about a welcome change of luck here -- retired librarian, Jacquelyn Sherman, is now the proud winner of, oh, $1.6 million. The jackpot at the slot machine in Opelousas, Louisiana. She's staying there at her sister's home with more than two dozen other people displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Maybe she'll buy them dinner tonight.

And finally, the news so many of you, especially you, Anderson, I know, have been waiting for. "People" magazine revealing today Tom Cruise and his girlfriend, Katie Holmes, actually known as Tom Kat, expecting a little kitten. Cruise proposed to Holmes in Paris in June, in case you missed that one and you were living under a rock. They are together now and, as we learned today, Anderson, expecting a little bundle of joy. So congratulations.

COOPER: Did you say the Tom Kat expecting a kitten?

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: God bless you, Erica Hill. You know, I can honestly say, I've gone through the last month and a half without giving them a second thought.

HILL: I can't understand why.


HILL: Yes.

COOPER: It's been nice actually. Erica, thanks. Coming up next -- oh, we wish them the best though.

Next on 360, former President Clinton meets victims of Katrina in the Gulf Coast. Hear his take on the devastated region. He was wearing Mardi Gras beads all day long. Not in that video but maybe we'll get some video of him with the beads on.

Also tonight, the Avian flu. Some scientists fear we could be in for a worldwide pandemic. We're going to take a look at whether the U.S. is prepared to deal with the virus. And Barack Obama joins us for that.

Plus, the Supreme Court today takes on Oregon's right to die law. We'll meet one Oregon man who plans to use the law to die on his own terms.


COOPER: More victims of Hurricane Katrina got hugs and handshakes today from former President Bill Clinton. He walked the ruined streets of Gulfport, Mississippi, and met with residents and business owners and city officials in Bayou La Batre in Alabama. I hope I didn't mispronounce that too badly.

Clinton, along with former President George Bush, have collected about $100 million in donations for their hurricane fund. During his two-day tour of the region, Clinton is trying to figure out how to spend that money.

CNN's Kelly Wallace caught up with the former president yesterday after he got a look at the damage in New Orleans. And she started off by asking him why it took him so long to meet with evacuees in Louisiana.


WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was difficult, but I thought it was important, you know. I try not to forget that what someone like me or former President Bush can do is not just raise money and spend it, but also just be available to listen. A lot of these people have lost everything. I mean all they had was many times a little house and a car and a job. And all their memories, you know, they kept talking about their memories -- losing their papers and their pictures. And so if they've lost at all, at least they can do is have somebody listen for a while.

I also think, you know, that sometimes they raise legitimate complaints about the way they've been treated by the government or not treated. And then sometimes they just reflected the unbelievable magnitude of the task here. We have so many claims to be processed, people to be helped. And it's been a challenge for the government, for the Red Cross, for the United Way, for everyone. So I'm glad I came and I'm glad I did it.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You have a relationship with former President Bush. Do you ever say to him, here's what I think the president should do, and why not?

CLINTON: You know what, he knows what I think. But I've talked to the president about this. You know, I have a good relationship with him. But I don't, you know, I've passed the point in my life when I'm just always mad at people I disagree with. That's just not -- I just disagree. I would defend the president and the Congress stoutly for doing whatever it takes to honor our obligation to the victims of Katrina. That's what we do for everybody. It's no different for them than we've done anything any other time.

WALLACE: I'm going to ask you one more question because you've got to go especially. Someone's calling you, too.

CLINTON: I think it's Hillary. That's who it is.

WALLACE: Well, she's important.

CLINTON: Yes. WALLACE: A personal -- on a personal note, what was it like for you? We drove with you through the Lower Ninth Ward. As someone who loves this city, what was that like?

CLINTON: Well, it was very emotional because, you know, this is the first city I ever visited. My family's, I guess only out-of-state vacation my family ever took when I was a boy was here and to Gulfport and Biloxi ironically. We went to New Orleans, Gulfport and Biloxi when I was 15. So I've loved this place all my life.

Hillary and I stayed in the Corn Stalk Hotel in the French Quarter shortly after we were married when we were recruiting law professors at the University of Arkansas. I've just -- I've been here for Sugar Bowl games. I you know, I just it's a big part of my life. To see it was breathtaking.

On the other hand, when I drove down the street tonight and I saw the, you know, the neon lights and all that, it just I said, you know, I just know somehow this is going to work. And my job is to make sure that nobody's left out and left behind.


COOPER: Well, coming up next on 360, an avian flu pandemic. Now we're all at risk but can modern medicine prevent millions from potentially dying? You may be surprised at the disturbing report, well, we all need to see, I think.

Plus, the first major case for Chief Justice John Roberts over the right to die. We'll show you a personal side to what is a very public battle.


COOPER: Welcome back to 360 about half past the hour. Let's see what's happening right now, "At this Moment".

Investigators say the sister boat of a tour boat that capsized Sunday failed a stability test. Examinations showed the boat was not stable enough to hold 48 people. On Sunday, 20 elderly aboard the sister ship, the Ethan Allen, died when it flipped over on Lake George, New York, with 48 people aboard.

Beyond repair. That is the verdict for two of the biggest hospitals in New Orleans. The head of the Charity and University Hospital buildings said both facilities were destroyed by Katrina and should be closed. Replacing them will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

There are other signs the city is recovering. Amtrak today announced that rail service out of New Orleans will resume October 9. Amtrak's main terminal in New Orleans suffered extensive damage, but operations are expected to be restored by Sunday.

We turn to a subject you're going to hear a lot more about in the coming days and months no doubt about it, the avian or bird flu. We hope and pray that it never dominates our lives but, you know, a lot of scientists think it is just a matter of time before it will or some form of pandemic flu will.

There's a great concern that this flu -- this avian -- flu could become the world's next pandemic killing millions of people, and killing them very quickly. A person infected could be dead in about a week. There's still a lot of questions about this flu. Some we can answer, some no one can. We are going to try to cover a lot of them tonight. We begin with what we know.


COOPER (voice-over): This mainstay of much of the world's diet has become an enemy in a battle against a deadly disease. It's called avian flu, bird flu, or by the more technical term, H5N1. But by any name, it's seen by scientists as a serious threat, a possible pandemic, capable of killing millions, even hundreds of millions around the world.

NABARRO: What we think may happen is that this virus' genetic material will come into a human flu virus and form a new mutant strain. This has happened before. It's how pandemics occur.

COOPER: It is a horrible disease, drowning its victims in their own fluids, killing half of those infected in just seven to 10 days. According to the Centers for Disease Control, this latest outbreak of bird flu was spotted in poultry in eight Asian countries in 2003.

Doctors thought they had it under control until another series of deadly outbreaks began in late 2004. More than 100 million birds either died from the disease or were slaughtered in an attempt to stop its spread. But it didn't work. Instead, the disease continued its deadly march westward, the disease killing now not only poultry but people, 60 in four Asian countries so far, mostly people who had close contact with birds.

Those studying the disease say what's keeping the death count down is that the flu has not mutated to allow easy spread from person to person. But that could, and medical researchers say, probably will change.

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN: We think that we are potentially very close to that virus mutating into one that can be readily transmitted to humans.

COOPER: That potential for mutation has scientists searching for similarities with another pandemic, and fearing the worst. The 1918 outbreak of the so-called Spanish flu was the worst in history. In just 12 months, it killed as many as 100 million people worldwide and swept around the world three times. It hit at the end of World War I, killing more American soldiers than all the bloody battles of the Great War.

Scientists say this could be worse. One victim infected with one H5N1 virus cell could now carry it across continents and spread it through aircraft cabins, hotels, hospitals, anywhere where crowds gather. Some doctors say it can't be prevented, so we need to be prepared.

OSTERHOLM: We won't have vaccines in the foreseeable future in any amount. We won't have drugs in any amount that will be effective. We just have to make sure that we've got our base communities prepared for how you are going to provide food and water for 12 to 18 months? How are you going to provide people housing? How are you going to take care of your health care system?

COOPER: But how prepared are we now? Last year the U.S. government ordered 2.3 million packs of Tamiflu, the one drug known to have some effect against the current form of this virus. That's only enough to treat 1 percent of the population for a week. Some scientists say make no mistake, this deadly virus is coming.

OSTERHOLM: The question is when. None of us know. Could it be tonight? Yes. Could it be next year? Could it be several years from now? All those are possibilities but it's one that I think most of us believe it will be inevitable.


COOPER: I don't know if you heard him say that. The question is when -- not if -- but when. Words none of us want to hear, certainly. What's even more disturbing are the similarities the bird flu has to the 1918 flu that killed up to 100 million people which is a staggering number. Scientists have mapped the flu's DNA. And it's the focus of three alarming new papers in the journals "Nature" and "Science."

360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta has more.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Back in 1918, the medical advice was basic: avoid crowds, wear a mask, hope for the best.

KEN CORRATI, 1918 SPANISH FLU SURVIVOR: Every morning when you got up, you asked who died during the night. Death was there all the time.

GUPTA: Ken Corrati (ph) didn't die. He lived through the 1918 flu pandemic. He was lucky. Virtually everyone on Earth breathed in the so-called Spanish Flu. And it killed tens of millions of people around the world.

Now, researchers Jeffery Taubenberger and Terry Tumbe (ph) say they have found a frightening similarity in the genetic make-up of the 1918 virus and the flu now sweeping birds in Asia. That avian flu has already killed more than 60 people. Taubenberger said the 1918 flu was almost certainly another avian flu that came from birds and somehow acquired the ability to pass quickly from person to person.

DR. JEFFERY TAUBENBERGER, ARMED FORCED INST. OF PATHOLOGY: We find its kind of eerie that there are some parallels between the 1918 and the current H5 viruses. GUPTA: The bird flu in Asia, also called H5N1, has not yet developed the means to jump easily from person to person.

But what's disturbing scientists is the way the current virus mutates. Much like that killer flu of 1918, if the bird flu did develop person to person infection, given the global economy, airline travel, and relatively open borders, public health officials warn a modern pandemic could spread within days killing millions.

TAUBENBERGER: Right now we can't say with certainly whether H5 viruses are adapting to humans or not. We really have no way to measure that. But we are doing surveillance now.

GUPTA: To get clues about what to look for, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention have been carefully studying the 1918 flu virus. In high security containment labs, scientists infected mice with a recreated version of the old flu. The mice died, and fast.

Tamiflu, a prescription drug, helped some mice survive. What's not clear is whether that drug would work if avian flu mutates from infecting birds to infecting people. Back in 1918 when Kenneth Corrati watched so many of his neighbors die, the treatment options were very limited.

CORRATI: There were no antibiotics. It was just hope that you would get through, that faith was kind enough that it wouldn't hit you or yours.

GUPTA: Scientists warn that while they are getting a better understanding of the current bird flu from the 1918 version, if the virus mutates, there's little that could be done to stop a global outbreak.


COOPER: All right, Sanjay. So they say if the virus mutates and it becomes transferred from human to human then millions could die. Is that a hard reality? I mean, are there those who say it's just not the case?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, there are certainly skeptics out there who are saying that we are maybe over blowing this, but a couple of things to keep in mind. If the two things happen that you just said -- the virus mutates so that it's spread from human to human and it continues to be such a killer -- Anderson, this kills one out of two people that get infected right now. That's a really high number.

If those two things stay constant, then I think it's going to be an alarmingly high number of people who will probably be affected and die from this. We don't know if it's going to happen. That's the right answer right now. We don't know if that mutation will occur, but it's got to be something that people are preparing for, thinking about.

COOPER: Just to argue the skeptics position though, from what I've read, if it does go human to human, the form as it goes from human to human becomes weaker and weaker. GUPTA: Yes, you know, it does become weaker and weaker. And just to give you a sake of reference, the 1918 flu killed five out of every 100 people. It had about a 5 percent mortality. This has a 50 percent mortality.

The reason I bring that up is even if it does become weaker from 50 percent -- let's say it goes to 20 percent -- it's still going to kill 20 out of 100 people. When it was 5 percent, almost 100 million people died around the world. If it kills 20 out of 100, Anderson, it's going to be really, really hard to predict how many people will be affected by this.

COOPER: And 100 million people dying from that flu back in 1918 is staggering. I had no idea.

GUPTA: And the population was one-third of what it is now, so really remarkable.

COOPER: Incredible. That was Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks.

Coming up next on 360, a man wanting more weapons in the battle against this bird flu. I'll talk with Senator Barack Obama. Find out how he would like the U.S. to prepare for the pandemic. And he says, just like most people say, we are not ready at this point, no doubt about it.

Plus, the fight over the right to die playing out before the Supreme Court. Let's get a perspective from a man with terminal illness, how he plans to face his own death.


COOPER: We've been looking tonight a lot at the bird flu -- how it would be, or could become, I should say, the world's next pandemic perhaps killing millions, and how the federal government really lacks enough vaccines to treat that kind of pandemic if it does hit here.

Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has been urging the Bush administration to do more to prepare for and respond to a bird flu outbreak. I spoke with him earlier tonight.


COOPER: Senator Obama, if avian flu hit our shores today, are ready for it?

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) ILLINOIS: We are not ready for it. If you look at the last pandemic we had on U.S. soil, that was the Spanish flu that took place in 1918, 1919, you had literally millions of deaths. And unfortunately this is one of these situations where if you had a flu that mutated that was brand new, had human to human transmission, you could see a million deaths. You could see 10 million people hospitalized. We don't have the infrastructure or the capacity to deal with that.

COOPER: You know, there's some people who are going to hear this. And say, look, this is just like cable news hype. You know, remember the killer bees. When I was a kid, everyone was worried about killer bees coming to our shores and we weren't prepared for it. Why do you think this is real, this is different?

OBAMA: We know that every several decades you get these kinds of pandemics that sweep through the populations. We don't know that this particular bird flu will show up next year and we won't be ready. But we know that some time in the next decade or two there is going to be a pandemic, and we've got to put the infrastructure now to be prepared for it.

COOPER: And what we know about this bird flu which is ominous enough, is number one, there is a new strain. Number two, it jumps between species. The only thing yet we don't have evidence of is it easily transmissible from human to human. But if that happens, that's really the final step.

OBAMA: There are a couple of things we've got to do. Number one, we have got to have good surveillance mechanisms set up not just in this country but internationally. And I already allocated about $35 million to start cooperating with other countries on that process.

Number two, we've got to have a stockpile of antiviral drugs that cut down the fatalities so that even if you contract the disease, you don't die from it. Other countries like Great Britain have 25 to 40 percent of their population covered with their stockpiles. Right now we only have enough stockpiles for about 2 percent of our population. We have to ramp that up.

And then we have to put together an infrastructure to develop the kinds of vaccines. And figure out how we distribute those in local areas.

COOPER: To create a vaccine, you have to have an actual sample of the mutation. You are not going to have a sample of the mutation until this thing actually hits. And then when it does hit, it's going to take at least four to six months, say authorities, to actually develop enough of a vaccine to give to people. So if this thing suddenly develops, I mean there's very little to stop it from coming here.

OBAMA: Well, here's what already happened, the NIH, CDC, they have been working on a vaccine based on projections of how the current avian flu might mutate. And the problem is, is that although it appears that it might be effective in providing some protection, you need much higher doses, and we don't have the production capacity for the vaccine that's currently being developed. We can probably produce about 450,000 of these vaccines.

We know that there's going to be some sort of pandemic in our lifetimes. We don't know whether this will be the big one. And I hope that people realize that if we have a sense of urgency about this, and this particular bird flu doesn't end up being a pandemic, our money's not wasted. We've got to set up the kinds of infrastructure that's required regardless of what happens with this particular strain of flu in order that we are prepared when an actual pandemic hits.


COOPER: It is scary stuff.

Coming up next on 360, death with dignity: how doctors in Oregon are helping people die. The White House says it's illegal, and now the Supreme Court is weighing in. A very personal story ahead.


COOPER: A battle over the right to die before the U.S. Supreme Court is next on 360.

But first, let's find out what's at the top of the hour on PAULA ZAHN NOW. Hey, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Anderson. Straight up at 8:00, we are going to go in depth on a story you've been talking about tonight -- the new and frankly very scary bird flu virus. Could it become a worldwide pandemic?

We're going to have some tough questions for the man who's in charge of keeping our country safe: Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt. And try to find out what needs to be done to protect us if this disease can ever be passed from human to human. Join me more much more of that including a look at countries at the source of this very deadly virus.


COOPER: Certainly scary. Paula, thanks. That's at the top of the hour in about ten minutes from now.

The era of the John Roberts Court got under way today with one of those profound divisive cases that touch us all: the right to die. Now, on its face, Gonzalez v. Oregon is about state's rights and interpretation of a federal law. But what it really comes down to is this: should doctors be allowed to help terminally ill people end their lives? It's a question facing the U.S. Supreme Court. And it's a question already answered by one dying man.

CNN's Frank Sesno has his story.


FRANK SESNO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a good day for Greg Yaden, so he's off to enjoy one of his favorite pastimes. But at 59, he knows he hasn't got much fishing left. You see, about a year ago, Greg collapsed after a business trip. He ended up in the hospital. The diagnosis: acute myoloid leukemia.

Chemotherapy bought some time, but doctors could not find most, a suitable bone marrow donor. The disease is moving fast now. And Greg measures his future in weeks.

GREG YADEN, CANCER PATIENT: Yes, I'm scared. But I'm also accepting. I would be terrified if I didn't have some say in how this was going to end.

SESNO: Greg is taking charge of his death. He showed me the room where he plans to die.

YADEN: All my friends can come up and visit and that sort of thing. We'll have hospice up here. There are a series of questions...

SESNO: And read from this form he signed requesting a lethal dose of barbiturates.

YADEN: I understand the full import of this request. And I expect to die when I take this medicine to be prescribed.

I'm not going to take it unless I'm really, really, really losing it. And so it's not going to be, oh, gosh, I'm committing suicide. It will be like oh, God, please release me from this. I just can't take this anymore. Give me some help here.

SESNO: Greg's help comes from his fellow Oregonians who twice have voted for the state's Death With Dignity Act, the only such law in the country. It allows a doctor to write a lethal prescription if a patient is certified mentally competent and within six months of death from disease. Between 1997 and 2004, 208 terminally ill Oregonians took their lives in this way. The vast majority saying they wanted some autonomy at the end, as does Greg.

YADEN: If there was any question I could live, I'd be fighting tooth and nail. I would fight tooth and nail to live. But, quirk of fate, whatever, I don't. I don't.

STEVENS: This is not what we need.

YADEN: Greg's prescription, Oregon's law, has triggered a debate as passionate as it is eternal. Who controls life and death?


COOPER: That is the question, of course. Coming up next on 360, death with dignity or breaking a vow. We hear from a doctor who wants Oregon's assisted suicide law struck down for good.


COOPER: Today the Supreme Court took up the hot button issue of the right to die. Now, before the break we heard from one MD who supports Oregon's Death With Dignity Act. But others believe their job is to save lives not end them. More mow from CNN's Frank Sesno.


SESNO: For 38 years, Dr. Kenneth Stevens has been a radiation oncologist in Oregon. He believes the Death With Dignity Act breaks faith with patients and his profession.

STEVENS: What I see with assisted suicide is that the patient is basically saying I want to die. Breathing is my symptom, and the cure for that breathing is to cause my death. And that is not what medicine is about.

SESNO: The United States Justice Department agrees. In 2001 under Attorney General John Ashcroft, it challenged Oregon's law and lost. But the government appealed, so now the Supreme Court will decide.

Greg Yaden doesn't know if he'll still be around when the case is argued, but he has a message for everyone involved, especially the justices who will hear the case.

YADEN: I would just ask what business is it of yours? Do you know what I've gone through? Do you know what I'm going through?

SESNO: Missy, Greg's partner for 12 years is right there with him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The ferns are doing good.

SESNO: They face the disease and his decision together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's terminal. He's not changing what's going to happen to him. He's just hastening it in a manner to give him peace of mind.

DR. NICK GIDEONS, FAMILY HEALTH PHYSICIAN: Looking at today's patient list...

SESNO: Dr. Nick Gideons, director of a family health clinic with more than 2,000 patients, is not Greg's doctor. But he has written seven lethal prescriptions and been present at five deaths.

GIDEONS: I won't deny that I've cried at times around this. But it's been a tremendous privilege. I feel that I've relieved suffering in a very palpable, real way for patients. And I think I've also helped families honor their family member's final wishes in the face of terrible illness.

SESNO: The Supreme Court will determine whether doctors like Gideons can continue to write their prescriptions or whether they are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act. Gideons is well aware of the legal and moral arguments. And the Hippocratic Oath I notice I notice on his wall.

(on camera): I will give no deadly medicine to anyone if asked, nor suggest any such counsel.

GIDEONS: I can provide the aid anyone wants. I don't feel I am breaking the goal to help patients in any way that we can.

STEVENS: I could not do it. I would become basically an excuser rather than a healer.

SESNO: Dr. Stevens' opposition to Oregon's law isn't just professional, it's also very personal. Shortly before his first wife died of cancer in 1982, her doctor suggested an extra large dose of morphine. STEVENS: As I help midwife to the car she said, Ken, he wants me to kill myself. It really devastated her that her doctor, her trusted doctor would basically feel that her life was no longer of value.

SESNO: None of this changes the way Greg Yaden or those close to him, including his brother Dave, see things.

DAVE YADEN, BROTHER OF GREG: For those who say we should be in the business of living, well, my brother's dying, period. He's going to be dead. He ought to have a chance to do that in a way that gives him as much comfort and the rest of us as possible.

SESNO: Greg doesn't know if he'll swallow the bitter liquid at the end. But he sees it as an insurance policy. He'll use if he must.

YADEN: And we'll call ahead and say we have an expected death. They won't then send an ambulance with sirens screaming and bells ringing and that sort of thing. And my neighbors know, we are close. So I'll just go to sleep.

SESNO: On your terms?

YADEN: On my terms.


COOPER: I'm Anderson Cooper, thanks very much for joining me. You can join Aaron Brown and myself from 10:00 to midnight tonight for a special edition of NEWSNIGHT.

CNN's primetime coverage continues right now, however, with Paula Zahn.


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