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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Edge of Disaster: Are you Prepared?

Aired February 20, 2007 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, I'm Kiran Chetry in New York, along with John King. And Anderson joins us shortly.
There is news tonight on the national security front, All of it tied to Iraq. British news outlets are reporting that nearly half of Britain's troops will withdraw from Iraq by the end of the year. The White House says that's a sign of progress, but critics, including many Democrats, are turning it into a political football.

Plus, there is a new report saying the Justice Department, including the FBI, used inaccurate statistics in describing the government's successes in the war on terror the inspector general of the Justice Department said it happened often, but did not appear to be intentional. The Justice Department says it has now fixed the problems that led to those inaccuracies.

And then there's this. A troubling study co-authored by CNN Terror Analyst Peter Bergen, suggesting the war in Iraq has actually fueled terror attacks around the world instead of making us safer.

Well, now with a look at just how vulnerable we are, here is Anderson Cooper with our special report, "Edge of Disaster."

(BEGIN GRAPHIC)

Terrorism will be like the flu. The only thing we can safely predict is that each season where will be new strains.

(END GRAPHIC)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: More now on the battle against terror in our post-9/11 world. So far tonight we've laid out some pretty scary scenarios -- bombings of an oil refinery in Philadelphia and of a massive tanker moving liquefied natural gas into Boston Harbor.

Again, just what ifs and preventable ones at that, Stephen Flynn writes about them in his new book, "The Edge of Disaster." He points out these nightmare scenarios won't become a reality if we take some simple steps to protect ourselves.

He joins me again to discuss that. A new way to fight the war on terror. First of all, is it wrong to be talking about this stuff, to be pointing out these scenarios? There are going to be some people who see this and say, well look, you're giving ideas to terrorists.

STEPHEN FLYNN, AUTHOR, "THE EDGE OF DISASTER": I really think it's just the opposite. We are robbing ourselves of our greatest strength in dealing with the risk of terrorism and basically by not engaging the American people. And we can't engage them if we don't talk about these risks.

But also because virtually all these risks do have solutions. There are ways -- not to eliminate it, but to make them far less attractive and make the consequences far less.

COOPER: So you don't think you are giving terrorists any ideas about a stadium or a harbor?

FLYNN: Let's be clear about -- these scenarios that we have here are real scenarios that have played out in the Middle East.

One of the things that has happened in Iraq is that the skill set of taking out refineries, the skill set of going after the electric grid, going after water treatment plants, these things have been getting refined.

The attack on an oil tanker happened off the coast of Yemen, a French oil tanker named the Lindbergh.

So, the terrorists know of these vulnerabilities. They practice it over there.

But in today's world, we have to realize that the idea that it's going to stay in one neighborhood and never get to our neighborhood is probably a bit of a stretch.

COOPER: So we have all seen the -- you know, up tick in security in airports, the color-coded alert system, certainly the increase in funds for the war on terror overseas. How is that missing the mark?

FLYNN: It's basically about gates, guards and guns largely. It's saying I want to harden things that may be targeted here and hope that I can prevent every possible intrusion. I think that's a bit of a stretch. You are not going to be able do that with a sophisticated adversary.

COOPER: In hearing you talk and reading your book, you know, some people are going to say, well, look, it sounds like you are wanting to turn the United States into a police state or into this hyper vigilant culture where fear is kind of pushing us into this constant state of readiness and vigilance.

FLYNN: Just the opposite, I would argue. Fear only works when you know there is a threat and you feel powerless to deal with the threat.

As a society, the biggest danger we face is not terrorist attacks. The biggest danger we face is how we react to the terrorist attacks. It's not the damage that terrorists do to us. It's what we do to ourselves when we are spooked.

And by...

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: What do you mean by that?

FLYNN: What I mean by that is that when we have an attack on U.S. soil and it leads to essentially our government overreacting with very costly programs or potentially going after our civil liberties and clamping down on them because of that event, that's where real harm is done. And that's where there is a benefit for our adversaries to use terrorism.

If, on the other hand, we have thought through the worst-case scenarios, we've worked our way through how we would respond to them, we have plans in place, one is we'll be able to deal with the natural disasters we cannot prevent. But should bad guys decide to take us on, we will roll with those punches, too.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Terrorism isn't the only threat we face, of course. Nearly 90 percent of us live in locations that put us right in the path of potential natural disasters -- 90 percent.

We have seen it in Florida, a primary target for hurricanes. In the Midwest, where tornadoes often strike with deadly force. And now we take you to California, the states most vulnerable to nature's wrath.

And when nature attacks the capital city of Sacramento, it could be beyond belief.

Again, here's David Mattingly.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the scenario. It's been raining for days. The normally dry, hard ground is near saturated. But the California sun is out now, peeking through the clouds in Sacramento.

A rain cloud has at last lifted and the streets of the capital are busy again. People enjoying the outdoors.

Then suddenly, a few hours later, the storms return. The wind kicks up and the Sacramento River, already swollen from the earlier rains, now surges. Lashing at the 2,400 miles of aging, crumbling levees that snake around much of northern California.

(on camera): Here the water rises higher and higher. This is the city most vulnerable to flooding in the entire United States. Even more so than New Orleans. But the real danger is beginning to unfold just over there beyond the capital dome and the skyscrapers of downtown.

(voice-over): In sprawling tracks of suburban housing built right up to the edge of the levees, people are anxious. Can the levees hold back a flood?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's really blowing now.

MATTINGLY: And as the water rises, anxiety turns to fear. But the worst is yet to come. A powerful earthquake strikes. And the decrepit water-soaked levees begin to shake and start to dissolve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the real thing.

MATTINGLY: Homes alongside the levees are instantly under water. Owners who haven't evacuated, swept away in a rush of muddy torrents.

Thousands drove or were airlifted to shelters scattered across the northern Sacramento region.

(on camera): In downtown Sacramento, city streets are swamped, important government buildings are cut off. And as waters continue to surge, the affects of this catastrophe are just beginning.

(voice-over): To the southwest, the earthquake has transformed the levees holding back the sea and the San Francisco bay into jelly. Saltwater rushes in from the coast and up into the San Joaquin river basin. California's biggest source of drinking water is contaminated.

As aftershocks continue, fragile levees breach in as many as 30 places. Entire cities and 16 islands disappear under water. Farms become lakes. Essential highways and rail lines are wiped out. Train loads of fruits and vegetables destined for refrigerators all across the country are ruined. In the end, economic losses are staggering. More than 300,000 people are left homeless.

GOVERNOR ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: We want to make sure we don't have the same thing as like in a disaster, the Katrina disaster, where you wipe out the whole city just because we didn't take care of the levees.

MATTINGLY: Though our scenario is fiction, it describes a genuine and terrible risk, punctuated by recent and very real levy failures and floods. Some California officials are trying to stop development near the old levees.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to stop adding more people to areas where there is no -- not enough protection. Don't build houses unless there is sufficient protection.

MATTINGLY: At the same time, the state is pleading for more federal money to repair the crumbling levees. Many reduced to big piles of dirt, weakened by invading tree roots and animal burrows.

In just the last year, the list of critically damaged levees has grown more than 10 times over. LESTER SNOW, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES: There have been a whole sweep of probably 400 additional sites that have been identified. About 100 of those being critical.

MATTINGLY: Now a levee system on the edge of disaster when not so long ago it was a manageable problem that everyone simply ignored.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: When the "Edge of Disaster" returns, flames engulf a nightclub. A tragedy in a small town, a lesson for the entire country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER (voice-over): In just minutes...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are fully engulfed, fully engulfed building. We have people on fire inside.

COOPER: Panic and chaos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've had poor communications. We didn't know how many hospitals. There was no system in place to follow.

COOPER: First responders couldn't handle a small town fire. Are they ready for another Katrina or another 9/11?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, AUTHOR, "AMERICANS AT RISK": The medical system in the United States, generally speaking, is not at all ready for a true mass casualty event.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: What has to be done, when "Edge of Disaster" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER (on camera): When disaster strikes, it's the first responders who are called in to action. Yet, as Hurricane Katrina showed us, sometimes it takes hours, even days for help to arrive.

Are America's response teams really ready to handle another large-scale catastrophe, an earthquake on the Sacramento flood plain or a terrorist attack in Boston Harbor? What about that bird flu pandemic we keep hearing about?

Well, for a big picture answer, we look back on a much smaller scale tragedy. A nightmare that played out four years ago tonight in Warwick, Rhode Island.

Once again, here's CNN's Jeanne Meserve.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It only took minutes. A few horrific minutes. For 100 people to die in the flames and smoke of Rhode Island's Station Nightclub fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are fully engulfed building, fully engulfed building. We have people on fire inside.

MESERVE: Many of the hundreds who escaped were severely burned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are looking at close to 50 to 75. We're transporting at least 10 this time, five critical.

MESERVE: Rescuers and doctors struggled to cope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Multiple rescues. I've got four on the scene now -- we could use 10.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Four from 10, they're overwhelmed with burn patients.

PETER GINAITT, RHODE ISLAND HOSPITAL: We never really knew, when we are were handling triage, how many rescues or ambulances were headed in.

MESERVE: Peter Ginaitt was a firefighter at the scene.

GINAITT: No system in place to follow the patients. We had poor communications. How are we going to get through this?

MESERVE: The fire had hundreds of victims. But what if there were thousands or tens of thousands hurt in a natural disaster or terror attack?

DR. IRWIN REDLENER, AUTHOR, "AMERICANS AT RISK": The medical system in the United States, generally speaking, is not at all ready for a true mass casualty event, for a mega-disaster.

MESERVE: First problem, where to put the ill or injured? For economic reasons, the number of hospital beds has shrunk by more than 100,000. And overcrowded emergency rooms turn patients away in normal circumstances.

Second problem, supplies. To economize, most hospitals stock only a few days worth of equipment and medicines. If transportation is disrupted by a terrorist attack or natural catastrophe, they could run out quickly.

Third problem, staffing. A chronic shortage of nurses, lab workers, EMTs and others, could become critical.

(on camera): In a flu pandemic, some studies show as much as 70 percent of medical personnel will not show up for work, leading some experts to conclude the system could collapse altogether.

(voice-over): New York Presbyterian Hospital is trying to better prepare its staff and facility. But these are tough economic times for hospitals, and the federal government has given them a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year to prepare. DR. HERBERT PARDES, N.Y. PRESBYTERIAN HOSPITAL: Not giving particularly those areas like New York, which are so much under the gun, more in the way of help in terms of emergency preparedness is really outrageous. A few hundred thousand dollars? We spent $1.5 million a year just for increased security.

MESERVE: The federal government has stockpiled some pharmaceuticals and supplies, done planning, enlisted retired medical personnel to help in a crisis.

But the man in charge of the effort says not everyone in government or in medicine understands what the country could be facing.

DR. CRAIG VANDERWAGEN, HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES, ASSISTANT SECRETARY: I think it's difficult for people to imagine some of these scenarios. Unless you were in Indonesia after the tsunami where bulldozers were used to bury people, unless you have been to Darfur.

MESERVE: Unless you have witnessed the Station Nightclub fire.

Peter Ginaitt took the difficult lessons of that night and helped establish a new system which lets Rhode Island hospitals and first responders see in real-time where there are beds and specialized care.

GINAITT: Different levels of respiratory protection.

MESERVE: The state now has more equipment on hand for mass casualty events.

It was the Station fire that moved Rhode Island to prepare. Will it take some similar tragedy to motivate those that have not?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, next on this special edition of 360, Hurricane Katrina, were lessons learned or will history repeat itself?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER (voice-over): There were warnings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody said, it's going to happen one day. Well, it happened.

COOPER: All along America's coastlines, it could happen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just haven't done the analysis to be able to determine if those levees will hold up.

COOPER: And the outcome could be catastrophic. Katrina on an even larger scale, when "Edge of Disaster" continues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN GRAPHIC)

We have to stop pretending that disasters are extremely rare and unforeseeable.

(END GRAPHIC)

COOPER (on camera): Over the past hour we have been exploring America, the vulnerable. How gaps in our security have made us weak, put us in the crosshairs of hidden terrorists and nature's fury.

From the crumbling levees in California, to the reckless developments in danger zones like Boston Harbor, to the chaotic emergency response to the great white fire in Rhode Island, it is clear that as a nation, we are not where we need to be.

There is one place where all our failures combined to create true American tragedy. That place, of course, is New Orleans. A city under water became a city under siege. And now as it rebuilds, many are asking, can New Orleans avoid the mistakes from the past.

Once again, here's CNN's David Mattingly.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTINGLY (voice-over): A year and a half after the water swamped this fabled American city, they are dancing in the streets again, pledging to come back bigger and better.

Rebuilding even here, in the Lower Ninth Ward, which was totally under water and even today remains deserted.

It's not hard to feel happy for people like Josephine Butler, who has lived here since 1949 and can't wait to move back into her rebuilt home.

JOSEPHINE BUTLER, NEW ORLEANS RESIDENT: This is the kitchen. That's the kitchen.

MATTINGLY: But while optimistic, Ms. Butler can see history repeating itself and another big storm washing her away.

BUTLER: Either way you go, you're not safe. So I think I will be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) anything happen, I will move out again.

MATTINGLY: She understands the risk. But does the government? Why are people being allowed to rebuild in areas that have been hit before and will almost certainly be hit again?

FLYNN: We are actually compounding our risk on a daily basis. Katrina is a perfect illustration of this. We are putting people back where they were before. Basically living in areas that are underwater.

MATTINGLY: It seems so obvious. People were clearing debris from the streets of the French Quarter well before Katrina. Back in 1965 after Hurricane Betsy. In 1998, Hurricane George walloped New Orleans. Here is what that storm looked like off the Gulf Coast in a satellite image. Here's how Katrina looked seven years later. It is a familiar cycle.

The next big one may not happen again this year or the next or even the next, but it will happen again.

Max Mayfield, who headed up the National Hurricane Center during Katrina, quit earlier this year. He said he was tired of his warnings falling on deaf ears.

WALTER MAESTRI, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT EXPERT: As someone mentioned to me right after the storm, well, what does it feel like to be right? And my answer was horrible.

MATTINGLY: Well before Katrina, Disaster Expert Walter Maestri was laying out nightmare scenarios. Today he's not confident the city will be able to guard against another major hurricane.

MAESTRI: We just haven't done the analysis to be able to determine that those levees will hold up, that they are safe and they provide the safety that everybody expects.

MATTINGLY: New houses are being built higher off the ground, but not high enough to have kept people dry during Katrina.

(on camera): Some of the old houses still show a water line on the outside. You can see this one is well above my head. It's a constant reminder of what happened here and what could happen again, even as construction goes on right across the street.

(voice-over): Local politicians who want people to return have encouraged the rebuilding. But even they can do the math.

(on camera): Three feet off the ground.

OLIVER THOMAS (D), NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCIL: How does that help with 10 or 12 feet of water?

MATTINGLY: Right. THOMAS: The levees, we pray, won't break this time.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Mayor Ray Nagin has repeatedly said he wants all of New Orleans rebuilt, including the devastated Lower Ninth Ward.

MAYOR RAY NAGIN, NEW ORLEANS: The Lower Ninth Ward will come back. Our street grids are fine. And it's just a matter of getting the money to the people so that they can rebuild their homes.

MATTINGLY: In the early days after Katrina hit when the nation was still reeling, Dennis Hastert, the speaker of the House, said it looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed. Rebuilding a whole city below sea level didn't make sense to him. Not very P.C., and Hastert quickly back pedaled. But today, as we watch people sweat to rebuild right in danger's path, we wonder, Katrina may have scared us, but did it teach us enough?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Throughout this hour, Stephen Flynn, author of the new book, "The Edge of Disaster," has offered some basic and common sense solutions to prevent catastrophes we can already predict.

He joins us again to talk more in depth about what we as a nation have to do.

Katrina, it really showed us how vulnerable we are and how many mistakes we really can make. I mean, when you think about Katrina, if we had thought about it as an al Qaeda attack on a major American city and we have 24 hours or 48 hours advance notice, I can't believe the response would not have been better.

FLYNN: I think it definitely would have been better. And this is one of the disconnects here. You know, we have been approaching the issue of dealing with terrorism as that is the ultimate disaster, and these other things, that really, it's just a state and local responsibility.

Unfortunately, what we know is that if we had an avian flu pandemic, for instance, a massive flu outbreak, our states and locals are going to be overwhelmed.

What we clearly need to do is re-rack this whole role that our federal government plays. It's not all taking over. It's about providing essentially a forward leaning support for states and locals. Because we can anticipate these events.

COOPER: Have we learned the lessons of Katrina? I mean, FEMA will say, look, we've learned a lot of lessons and we've made, you know, a lot of changes.

FLYNN: We're not making any hard decisions about learning from disaster, what we should do differently next time around. Again, imagine somehow that these things are just rare events or so rare that we shouldn't have to change our behavior.

The fact is, in the 21st century, we are going to face disruptions. They're going to come from acts of God, and they are going to come just old infrastructure that's ailing on us. And they're also going to come from bad guys intent on doing bad things. This is a reality.

But every generation, every American generation, has had to deal with adversity. Some have had to deal with wars. Some have had to deal with great depressions. Some have had to deal with natural disasters.

Our nation didn't become less of something by not confronting those and learning from them. It became a stronger nation. I am convinced we can do the same if we accept disasters as a part of our life and prepare ourselves to confront that and move on.

COOPER: You talk about the word resilience a lot. Why is that so important?

FLYNN: It forces you to say, what is the real value in our society? And what are our values? And what is the worth we want to protect? That if they are hurt, that we can bounce back and bounce back quickly.

We don't want to get ourselves on a dynamic where we throw away the things that we most value to make ourselves more safe and secure. What we are trying to do is safeguard those, being resilient when things go wrong so we protect them. Our civil liberties, our critical infrastructures, our populations, our way of life.

COOPER: Cost as lot of money, a lot of the solutions you come up with in the book. I mean, can we afford it?

FLYNN: Really, we can't afford not to do it is what we really think. It's a bit like, you know, if you buy a used car and never do preventative maintenance, you're going to have a very big bill at the end of the day. So, if you are going to have earthquakes and you don't have a public -- if you don't have public health and emergency responders equipped to go, you're going to lose a lot of lives. If you have a flood control system tat is not being kept up, then a bad weather event turns into a major disaster.

The investments that we will make to make ourselves a society that can take these punches, roads that work better, the public health care that can manage a serious event, these are the kind of thing that will improve our quality of life.

COOPER: So when we think of national security, in the last couple of years when we thought of national security, we have often thought more about what's happening overseas and foreign policy, not so much what's happening here at home and what we are doing here.

FLYNN: For every nation in the world, national security is first and foremost about protecting the nation. And if have you any power left over, protecting your interests beyond your shores. That's every nation, but the United States that's dealt with national security as only that second part. This is crazy.

The fact is, as a more resilient nation, as a more safe nation, as one where our civil society is fully engaged in the process of thinking through and preparing for bad things, we will be a stronger nation.

COOPER: The book is "The Edge of Disaster," a new way of fighting the war on terror.

Stephen Flynn, thanks.

FLYNN: Thanks for having me.

COOPER: We began this hour by saying we didn't want to scare you. And while what we have shown you can be terrifying, the threats can be minimized so that the next time disaster strikes, our country as resourceful and resilient as ours will be ready.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm John King in New York. Still much more tonight on 360, including more from Anderson, on a differently battle.

Inside the Amazon, a vital ecosystem disappearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: What happens here in the rain forest affects us in the United States and affects people literally around the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Anderson's reality check on our "Planet in Peril."

Plus, tiny baby beats big odds.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I finally held her. I was a little afraid because she was so small.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: This little baby has fired up the debate over abortion rights. All the angles, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I'm John King in New York.

CHETRY: And I'm Kiran Chetry.

Anderson, wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin, and the entire 360 team are in the Amazon rainforest for the first in our yearlong series of special reports that we're calling "Planet in Peril."

KING: Quite an adventure, don't you think?

It has been. They flew into Brazil last Monday, and after lading in Manaus, they went to the port city of Belem.

From there, they met the Kraho Indian tribe. Next, off to the city of Imperatriz, known as the gates of the Amazon rainforest. Then it was back to Belem and Manaus, before heading off to a secret location in northwest Brazil. Secret, because Anderson was with Brazilian authorities searching for illegal loggers.

Tonight, Anderson and the team are once again in Belem with this final update.

COOPER: John, thanks very much. We are in Belem, in northern Brazil. We've just landed after being out with agents from IBAMA, which are the environmental protection agency essentially of Brazil. They and a federal police of Brazil were patrolling one part of the Amazon rainforest. We've been spending two days out on patrol with them and with wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin.

Jeff, basically this is the completion of a week and a half here in Brazil and the Amazon. Some of your thoughts?

CORWIN: Well, it's been an incredible journey. I think what I take true stock of this experience is that it has been a great opportunity to really show the world what this ecosystem is potentially facing, which is destruction. And there have been many, many parts of this experience that will forever leave a lasting impression on me.

Of course, that includes these bands right here. We went some time with the Kraho people, an indigenous community in the remote part of this country. And...

COOPER: You better explain to viewers, because it's a little confusing when you see one of these...

CORWIN: It is. I know. I look like I just broke from a chain gang. But in fact, there is a logical explanation behind this.

So they welcomed us into the community and they marked us with these pigments. And, of course, they looked rather flimsy at first, but the next morning when you wake up, it's like, oh, my goodness. And I have been scrubbing and scrubbing.

COOPER: Yes. I must say, I've been scrubbing a little bit more effectively, apparently, or more regularly.

CORWIN: Well, I think they welcomed me more.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Yes.

CORWIN: I think it was from the very rare sharpi (ph) tree.

COOPER: Is that right?

CORWIN: But I thought, you know, that was an awesome experience to see the challenges that these people face.

COOPER: Because they are really fighting to save their part of the rainforest.

CORWIN: Absolutely. And, of course, beyond the human experience, there is the experience of the wildlife that lives here.

And people who view this special will actually see wildlife facing potential extinction. We just came back from the remote interior, experiencing some really profound stuff involving poachers and the destruction of wildlife. We will tell that story.

COOPER: It's also, I don't think -- at least I didn't get until I came here and been researching it, just how interconnected we all are and how what happens here in the rainforest affects us in the United States and affects people literally around the world.

CORWIN: Very much so. The survival of wildlife in this ecosystem is very much dependent upon symbiosis, our relationships. And in some ways, the conservation of this ecosystem will depend upon the relationship between people and the environment.

But I think leaving this place, the best experience I have is that the people of Brazil are committed to conservation, whether it was the work we did with the sloths, or the various conservation organizations. I believe there is hope for salvation for this habitat.

COOPER: Yes. I keep thinking of releasing that sloth back into the wild and seeing those sloths in the wild being studied, a small sign of hope, a small sign of species continuing. And we are going to be looking a lot of that in the next weeks and months ahead as we continue traveling around the world and taking a look at the ways our planet is in peril.

Jeff, thanks very much. It's been great. We'll continue to do it.

And John, let's go back to you.

KING: Thank you, Anderson.

And still ahead, showings statistics about women in prison. Most of them are mothers. So what's happening to their kids? Our special report.

Plus, she weighed less than a can of soda when she was born. The tiny baby that is sparking a huge debate on 360 next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Her name means resilience. And Amillia Sonja Taylor is definitely living up to her name.

Amillia was born after spending only 21 weeks and six days in the womb. She only weighed 10 ounces. Her extremely premature birth and her amazing progress are now raising some new questions about when a baby should be considered viable.

360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): You are looking at the latest miracle of modern science. She was born the length of a pen. Little Amillia Taylor is the earliest premature baby on record to survive outside the womb. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Amillia really surprised us all by really having very little complications for her size.

GUPTA: That's an understatement. The chances that a baby born after less than 22 weeks in the womb will survive are nearly zero.

Trying to resuscitate them is considered experimental. But doctors are encouraged to try if they see signs of life.

In this case, Emily's mother, Sonja, knew that doctors probably wouldn't try. So she lied and said the baby was 23 weeks. Her gamble paid off.

SONJA TAYLOR, AMILLIA'S MOTHER: I guess I'm still in amazement. I really am. Even looking at her now, and sometimes it is hard to imagine that she would get this far.

GUPTA: Experts say babies born this premature usually don't make it because their lungs have not grown enough to breathe.

DR. ARNOLD COHEN, CHAIRMAN, EINSTEIN MEDICAL CENTER: But it certainly is a miracle that the baby has done so well, and if you look at the development of the lungs of babies, they don't develop really the breathing bubbles at the end of their lungs until about 22 weeks. So, even if they are born before 22 weeks, you can't get oxygen to get to the bloodstream through their lungs.

GUPTA: Baby Amillia continues to defy the odds, but she may not be out of the woods yet.

COHEN: The real small babies have problems first with breathing, they have trouble with eating, they have trouble getting nutrients. There are so many difficult problems when they are this small. And hopefully the baby will grow up and not have any of the neurological complications. And that would really be a miracle.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: And joining me now, 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta.

Hi, Sanjay. Good to see you.

GUPTA: Hi, Kiran. Welcome.

CHETRY: You know, we all were just transfixed by this story today. And I think a lot of people are wondering, how is it that she even survived?

GUPTA: Well, you know, it is pretty remarkable. There are several things that could have gone wrong.

One is that essentially the lungs, if you think about them at that age, that early an age, they are sort of like hard sponges. They can't contract and relax very well. And that's because they haven't produced enough substances to allow them do that. So it was amazing that she got through that, the lungs somehow worked. Also, she didn't develop any significant bleeding within the brain. Think about these blood vessels that are so tiny, they are not formed yet, and they're more likely to bleed after the actual labor itself. So that can be a problem.

And then just the likelihood of infection. Your immune system isn't working well, you're still getting all your immune cells from your mom at that age. You can't make them that well on your own yet.

So there were lots of things to consider. And I think they were quite frankly, Karen, quite pessimistic when she -- when she was born. But she managed to just cross all those hurdles.

CHETRY: Yes. I mean, she certainly proved them wrong so far. But as we know, preemies are prone to developmental problems.

What is the likelihood that she will be able to grow up and live a normal life?

GUPTA: Well, you know, the interesting thing about that question is that we don't know because there has not been enough babies sort of born that early to be able to say here's how they do in the long term. A couple of things.

With regards to this bleeding in the brain, that's a real concern. That can cause cerebral palsy, that can cause learning difficulties, that can cause developmental delays later on down the road. That's the bad news.

The good news, though, Kiran, is that she would have already shown some signs of that bleeding in the brain. That usually happens right at birth, whether it is, you know, a caesarian or any kind of delivery. That's what happens typically at birth.

It didn't happen in her case. So she may have scooted by that. We won't really know until she starts to learn and until she starts to talk.

CHETRY: Wow. So she really is the true meaning of a miracle if this all works out.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much for joining us tonight.

GUPTA: Thanks, Kiran.

CHETRY: And we have more now on how this is fueling the already contentious abortion debate. I spoke to bioethicist Art Caplan earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: Thanks for being with us, Art.

And we're all following today the story, really a miracle of this little Amillia. The American Association of Pediatrics doesn't consider a child born at 21 weeks who weighs less than a pound to even be viable.

Now, this child was born just over 21 weeks. She weighed just 10 ounces. So is the fact that she survived going to lead people to try to redefine medical standards when it comes to fetus viability?

ART CAPLAN, BIOETHICIST, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: I think it will. You see people out there really opposed to abortion, looking for evidence that it's time to make a change in any way they can restrict abortion. And I think some people will point to the survival of this baby and say, here is a 21-week-old baby, we've got a line in the sand in the Roe decision that says 24 weeks, maybe that's too old, let's restrict it, let's take it down a couple of more weeks.

I think people who oppose abortion are going to look to this case and try to build an argument around it that we should restrict abortion so that even more infants, if you will, are going to survive older than 21 weeks.

CHETRY: The other thing is that -- that's been studied is that usually premature babies do have a whole host of problems that can come up. Things like hyperactivity disorder, attention deficit, some learning disabilities, and things like that. So, it's also the question of, just because science can bring the baby along out of the neonatal intensive care unit, what are the questions about what that child faces as life continues?

CAPLAN: That's a great question, because survival is one thing, quality of life is a separate issue. And, you know, if we were saying that a couple of children survived at -- born at 21 weeks, made it to be able to leave the hospital and go home, but every one of them was severely retarded, every one of them had massive physical disabilities, every one of them wound up institutionalized, I think we would say we still don't know how to keep a 21-year-old (sic) at serious viability so that it isn't just a question of biological life, it's also a question of at what price to the child.

CHETRY: Right. And, you know, we do want to point out, though, the doctors are saying right now that the baby's outlook is excellent. And some of the things premature infants may have fallen victim to she didn't. So that is great.

But the other question also is, sometimes -- are we ahead of ourselves when it comes to science? I mean, we have the ability to do so much and to intervene so much, and it does raise the question of, you know, when should we let nature take its course and when should we be as invasive as we sometimes are?

CAPLAN: Well, you know, this is a really fascinating case, and it triggers off all kinds of thoughts about viability and implications for abortion. But, you know, the thing you have to keep in mind, Kiran, is no new technology, no new therapy came into play.

Here was this baby, no child had ever survived being born at 21 weeks. Nothing was done differently. We don't in this case have a new miracle technology to try. So the question really becomes, if we don't have any better means to treat children like this, then even the one child, maybe because it developed faster, maybe because it was just a highly unusual child, survives and apparently is going to do pretty well -- apparently, because we still don't really know -- is that the reason to say we should change our policies and we should change our laws? And I'm going to argue that one single case, it really isn't enough to do it.

And we still don't have any treatments or technologies to go after 21, 22-week-old babies. This child made and it that's great, but it wasn't because of anything that medicine or science had to offer.

CHETRY: Art Caplan, chair of the Department of Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Thank you.

CAPLAN: My pleasure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHETRY: She really is a miracle baby, though.

Still ahead on 360, women in prison. Why so many young mothers end up behind bars. And what happens to the children they leave behind?

It's our special report, up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: On 360 this week, we're looking behind locked doors, prisons doors, in fact. Tonight's story challenges the notion that life stops at the penitentiary gates. Award-winning documentary filmmaker Shola Lynch is our guide for this eye-opening series.

Welcome again.

SHOLA LYNCH, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Hi.

So, the women's prison population has exploded. It's grown exponentially. About 30 years ago, there were 11,000 women incarcerated nationwide. There are now 11,000 women incarcerated in Texas alone.

This poses special issues. So in the second part of the incarcerated series, we take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LYNCH (voice over): I met Tamara here outside of Lincoln, Nebraska, where she is serving out a 22-month prison sentence. Her crime, check fraud, and then a parole violation for marijuana use.

TAMARA, INMATE: I came back here when I was two and a half months pregnant.

LYNCH: Tamara gave birth to her son Tamir (ph) while locked up.

(on camera): Somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 women when they are convicted are pregnant. The usual case is, a woman has her child, it's taken away and immediately put into foster care or given to a family member.

ANN JACOBS, WOMEN'S PRISON ASSOCIATION: It's tremendously upsetting for mothers to not know where their children are and to not feel like they can play any kind of role in taking care of them or...

LYNCH (voice over): Ann Jacobs is the president of the nonprofit Women's Prison Association.

JACOBS: The number of women in prison has increased 757 percent in the period of time between 1977 and 2004. That's a shocking statistic on its own. And this is not because there's more crime. In fact, a significant part of it is because we have put so much of our energy into this war on drugs.

LYNCH: The biggest losers in this war, the 1.3 million children whose mothers are in prison in this country.

(on camera): How is it affecting their lives and their futures? We don't know. What we don't want is prison to become a revolving door. We don't want prison to be the answer to the problem.

(voice over): But here in the small nursery, Nebraska prison officials are trying to invest in the future of these kids and these mothers, just 15 at a time, hoping to give them both a second chance.

JOHN DAHM, WARDEN, NEBRASKA CORRECTIONAL CENTER FOR WOMEN: Statistics nationally show that a child is more likely to grow up and go to prison if one or both parents have been in prison.

TAMARA: Even though I take classes and I go to meals and things without him, partly out of a 24-hour period, I spend 22, 21 hours with him, you know. So, just -- we have that bond.

LYNCH: I thought it would be rows of, you know, cribs and bars everywhere. And while it is a prison and the nursery is guarded and locked, when you go through those doors, it feels like daycare, it feels like a nursery.

TAMARA: It's as comfortable as it can possibly be for the babies. And it really is an environment that's set up for the babies. It is not, you know, for us, you know -- enough for us to even have our babies with us. But it's set up for them.

Without a program like this, I wouldn't be able to learn how to be a mom. You know, hands on. I wouldn't be able to say, OK, yes, I made mistakes, but I am being an active part in my son's life.

LYNCH: That's something John Dahm gets. He is the warden of the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women. DAHM: In that litany of failure, failure, failure, failure -- and I recognize that we get people, you know, at the bottom end of the funnel. And somehow we've got to break that litany of failure.

TAMARA: I just can't imagine my life without my son. Yes, I can't imagine my life without my son. It's not an option. I can never imagine my baby calling anybody else "Mommy". And I can never imagine my baby waking up and saying, "Where is Mommy?"

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Just a remarkable look at life there. You mentioned 1.3 million children. Is there any one answer to the question, what happens to them?

LYNCH: Oh, no. There isn't one answer.

What we found is that the mothers are the primary caretakers, so sometimes they have to go with other family members. Often they are put in foster care. And that's an additional cost. So, it's the cost sometimes of incarcerating the mother, and then the cost of to take care of the child if it has gone to foster care.

KING: And the warden there in Nebraska seemed to get it, that his job is not just to lock up criminals when it comes to mothers and their children.

Is that taking hold more and more across the country? Or is this an isolated success, if you will?

LYNCH: It's an isolated success. There are about four states that have program likes this.

And I think it's really important to understand, with 70 percent of the women that are incarcerated being mothers, and 1.3 million children affected, the statistic that becomes alarming is that a child with a parent that has been incarcerated is six times more likely to be incarcerated than their peers. So we have to ask, you know, is it creating a revolving door? Or how can we spend money in a better way like they are in Nebraska?

KING: A fascinating look both nights.

Shola Lynch, thank you very much.

LYNCH: Thank you.

KING: Thank you.

And just ahead, Britain's plan to bring nearly half of its troops home from Iraq and the spin cycle that news has set off -- next on 360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHETRY: Now a 360 news and business bulletin. (NEWSBREAK)

CHETRY: Well, thanks for joining us. I'm Kiran Chetry.

KING: And I'm John King. We'll do it again tomorrow.

Larry King is next with the latest on the Anna Nicole Smith case.

Good night.

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