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President Does What No Other President Has; Angry G20 Summit Protests; Protester: Iranian President "Terrible" Man; Alleged Plot to Bomb Courthouse; President Obama's Latest Stop: G20; Op-Ed: President Obama Loved, Not Feared
Aired September 24, 2009 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, President Obama does what no other U.S. president ever has, as he commands the world's attention over nuclear weapons.
Protesters demand attention, meanwhile, over at the G20 Summit. And one of our reporters is tear gassed while covering the protests.
Officials say they've stopped two separate plots from men wanting to kill as many Americans as they could by setting off weapons of mass destruction in the United States.
In the history of the fight against AIDS, a breakthrough never seen -- researchers are cautious, but hopeful, after an HIV vaccine successfully stops AIDS infections.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
No other American president has done it before, but President Obama did it today. In a rare meeting over at the United Nations, President Obama presided over the UN's most powerful body. That would be the Security Council. At the top of the president's agenda, tackling a threat to every nation.
Let's go straight to our senior U.N. correspondent, Richard Roth -- Richard?
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the rallying cry among the nations of the world at the United Nations Security Council today -- no nukes. And they were led by President Barack Obama.
ROTH: (voice-over): Barack Obama caused some usually dull diplomats to come to life in the historic United Nations Security Council. Obama's U.N. debut created a stir even in a room packed with heads of state and government. And for a couple of hours, you could say Mr. Obama was president of the world. Flanked by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, Mr. Obama used the United States' one month Council presidency to drive approval of a resolution aimed at putting more teeth into curbing the spread of nuclear weapons. Prior to now, there have been only four such Security Council summits.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I called for this one so that we may address at the highest level a fundamental threat to the security of all peoples and all nations -- the spread and use of nuclear weapons.
ROTH: The resolution calls for tighter controls on nuclear materials to prevent military usage or theft. The U.S. wants the resolution to provide momentum for action on nukes, but it might also serve as diplomatic support for tougher action, if required, against Iran for its failure to open up about its nuclear program. The resolution doesn't name countries specifically and the president publicly sought to stay above the Iranian fray.
OBAMA: This is not about singling out individual nations, it is about standing up for the rights of all nations who do live up to their responsibilities.
ROTH: But no sooner than President Obama said the United States wouldn't call out individual nations, the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, began blasting away at Iran. Playing his role as the West's chief attack dog on Iran's nuclear program, he told the Council to get real.
PRES. NICOLAS SARKOZY, FRANCE (through translator): I support the extended hand of the Americans, President Obama. We must bring these dialogue proposals, but what has it brought to the international community?
Nothing, just more enriched uranium, more centrifugal machines and in addition, last, but not least, a declaration by -- of the leaders of Iran -- a proposal to wipe a U.N. member state off the map.
What are we doing about that?
ROTH: The president of Iran was elsewhere at the U.N., but his spokesman rushed out a statement denouncing the French and the British, claiming their nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ROTH: And with the unanimous vote in his pocket, President Obama left for Pittsburgh, saying it was a beautiful day -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It certainly was.
All right. Thanks very much.
Richard is at the U.N.
From the Big Apple to the City of Steel -- world leaders are moving from New York to Pittsburgh. It's the first day of the two day G20 Summit. President Obama hosts leaders from 19 nations and the European Union. Inside, they'll discuss the global recession. But outside, angry protests.
Our own Brian Todd was tear gassed while covering them.
Let's go straight to Brian.
Was it pepper spray, Brian, or tear gas?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we thought it was tear gas and all sorts of (INAUDIBLE) entirely. We're told that it might very well have been pepper spray. I'm not an expert. I can't tell you the difference. All I can tell you is it really burned our throats ands burned our eyes severely.
BLITZER: And -- and what's going on right now?
TODD: Well, we're on the corner of Penn Avenue and 34th Street. They just arrested a protester that was sitting in front of this phalanx of police that you see in front of me here. He was sitting there and flashing double peace signs right in the middle of the street. They pulled him up and hauled him off. And then they moved us about 30 or so yards back to where we are now. We just -- we just got pushed back to this location.
You can see the strong line of riot police here. They've been moving around this neighborhood -- I'm going to kind of switch the camera over here a little bit and you can see some of the protesters and some just bystanders just looking here and surveying the scene.
But the protesters have been moving around to the point where they may be mostly dispersed, at this point. And the -- and the riot police have shifted with them and basically followed them from street to street along a lot of narrow streets. You see up this street now there is a line of riot police marching down the street to join their -- to join their colleagues here.
BLITZER: We -- we know there are a lot of demonstrators, some of them anarchists, who've come to the G20. They often come to these G7, G8s or G20 meetings to -- to rail against globalism and whatever.
Do we have any idea how many folks have come to Pittsburgh to protest?
TODD: You know, those figures, Wolf, are kind of all over the place. I can tell you that at this march and these demonstrations today, I would roughly estimate the crowd at 400 or 500 people. A lot of them were anarchists. The anarchists were right out in front kind of leading the way down some of these streets.
So at least for today, this march, that got kind of out of control at one point, I'd say you have at least a few hundred on your hands here.
It seemed -- it seemed like a lot more, but I'd say, conservatively, a few hundred people here today. There are marches scheduled for tomorrow that may kind of just, in total, go to -- grow to a bigger number.
BLITZER: All right, Brian. We'll stay in close touch with you. Be careful over there.
Brian Todd reporting.
Protester also took to the streets in New York City today. They railed against the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who spoke at the United Nations last night.
Our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff, is joining us now with more on this part of the story.
How did it go today -- Allan?
ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, quite peaceful here in New York. Last night, Ahmadinejad, before the United Nations, celebrated what he called Iran's glorious and fully democratic election. Protesters who marched across the Brooklyn Bridge say it was anything but that.
CHERNOFF: (voice-over): A scroll of green stretching from Brooklyn to Manhattan across New York's most famous span, the Brooklyn Bridge. A call for human rights in Iran and a rejection of President Ahmadinejad.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm here to raise my voice against the murderous regime of Iran and especially tell the world that Ahmadinejad is not our president at all. He's a monster. He's a murderer. And so is the rest of the regime in Iran.
CHERNOFF: (on camera): Thousands and thousands of people of Iranian descent have signed the banner or left messages on it. Right here it says, "Ahmadinejad is not Iran's president. Genoa, Italy." The banner has toured in Stockholm and Paris and now on the Brooklyn Bridge. The organizers intend to keep using it for protests elsewhere.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Raise your hands, please.
CHERNOFF: (voice-over): Across from the United Nations, a broad coalition organized by Jewish organizations provided further opposition to Ahmadinejad's regime.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is a -- a terrible human being. He shouldn't be -- be allowed to come into America. And they -- and I feel sorry for the Iranian people. They -- I hope to God they get rid of him.
CHERNOFF: Brutal repression across Iran and last week's forceful rallies in Tehran and other Iranian cities motivated demonstrators to travel to New York from across the U.S. and Canada.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm so inspired because they -- they are very brave, very courage. And their wants and needs is very simple. They want freedom -- only freedom. They want freedom of speech. They want freedom after speech. CHERNOFF: Yet, even as protesters speak freely in New York, some of them fear for their families back home, refusing to share their last names.
(on camera): What is your name?
MANDY: Mandy (ph).
CHERNOFF: And your last name?
MANDY: I'd rather not say.
CHERNOFF: And your last name?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd rather not to say my last name.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
CHERNOFF: Demonstrators are rallying for change so that they won't fear for their friends and family back home. They won't have to worry that there could be repercussions because they dared to speak openly here in the United States -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Good point.
Thanks very much, Allan, for that.
The claims are chilling -- officials say they've stopped a plot in Illinois of a man wanting to set off weapons of mass destruction. Officials say he went so far as to push the button on what he thought was a massive truck bomb at a federal building.
Stand by. We have details.
A potential breakthrough in the fight against AIDS -- potential. An HIV vaccine successfully stops AIDS infections for the first time ever.
What promise does that offer?
And Michael Moore is in THE SITUATION ROOM. He explains why he thinks U.S. capitalism is no better than a Ponzi scheme.
BLITZER: Federal authorities are now investigating two separate alleged terror plots on U.S. soil. We're just getting details about an alleged attempt to bomb a federal courthouse in Illinois.
Let's go to our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve.
She's in Denver.
What can you tell us about this alleged plot -- Jeanne?
JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the suspect in this case, Wolf, is a 29-year-old man from Decatur, Illinois. He's called Michael Finton. He also went by the name Talib Islam. Authorities say he was very much an admirer of John Walker Lynn, the American Taliban, who was picked up fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
And according to authorities, Finton wanted to become a jihadist. A couple of weeks ago, he met with an undercover FBI agent, allegedly, and said he wanted to blow up the federal building in Springfield, Illinois. He was provided with a truck, which yesterday he drove up in front of the federal building and courthouse in Springfield.
According to documents from the Justice Department, he got out of that truck and got into a car with the undercover FBI agent. He drove a few blocks and then he tried to detonate the bomb with a cell phone. But nothing happened because that truck was not full of explosives. The FBI had put some sort of dummy material in there, inside.
However, Finton was arrested. He's been charged with attempted murder of federal employees and attempted detonation of a truck bomb. Authorities say that case has absolutely no relationship to the alleged explosives plot unfolding in Denver and in New York -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And on that other case, with no connection to this one in Illinois, there was a major development today. Najibullah Zazi formally charged -- and not only charged with lying to FBI and law enforcement authorities, but actually plotting some sort of a weapons of mass destruction attack on New York.
Give us some details.
MESERVE: Yes, charged with conspiring to detonate improvised explosives devices. The penalty for that -- the maximum penalty, life in prison.
MESERVE: (voice-over): The explosive that ripped apart London transit cars in 2005, killing 52 people, was TATP, triacetone triperoxide. The government alleges that Najibullah Zazi was attempting to cook up the same deadly concoction and use it.
LEO WEST, FORMER FBI EXPLOSIVES EXPERT: There's no known commercial use for TATP. It's a -- it's an improvised explosive mixture. It really has no other person and, really, only somebody intent on some sort of criminal or terrorist act would be interested in making it.
MESERVE: The government alleges that Zazi had instructions for making TATP on his computer and did Internet searches for component chemicals. Over the summer, the government says, Zazi and others bought large quantities of some of those chemicals from beauty supply stores in the Denver area.
(on camera): How many times did he come in?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like, four times. MESERVE: (voice-over): September 6th and 7th, Zazi allegedly stayed in a Denver area hotel, where authorities believe he may have cooked the chemicals to concentrate them. On those same dates, the government says, Zazi tried with increasing urgency to contact someone about the explosives recipe, saying he need answers right away.
September 8th court documents allege Zazi searched the Internet for places in Queens, New York to buy one final component of TATP, muriatic acid. The next day, he started his drive east, to New York. The government says a search of the Queens apartment where he stayed turned up a scale with Zazi's fingerprints which could have been used in weighing components for a bomb.
Two others arrested and charged in the case were released today on bond, Najibullah Zazi's father, Mahommad, and Ahmed Afzali, the imam picked up in New York.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MESERVE: Najibullah Zazi is expected to make another court appearance here in Denver tomorrow. Sometime after that, he'll be moved to New York to face the charge of conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, namely explosives -- Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Jeanne, thank you.
Scientists make a surprising discovery on the moon -- something that might -- repeat, might allow humans to work and even live there one day in the future.
And bullfighting goes commercial and the macho image of Spain's matadors take a hit.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Fred, what's going on?
WHITFIELD: Hello again, Wolf.
More than a dozen Al Qaeda in Iraq prisoners escape from a prison in Tikrit. Now an intense manhunt is on to find them. Iraqi police officials say the prisoners called through an air vent then climbed over a concrete wall yesterday. Some are suspects in killings and kidnappings. Others allegedly made explosive devices. Iraq's interior ministry has taken charge of the investigation and all prison guards at Tikrit are being investigated.
A researcher says there's more water on the moon in more places than originally thought and that's a boon to NASA's longstanding goal of having an outpost there. Now, to be clear, there isn't a huge amount. But researchers say they can take the water they find and use it to make more.
And an underemployed matador is breaking tradition and it has many in the bull fighting community seeing red. Joselito Ortega is advertising on his cape. The product? An energy drink aimed at the gay community called Gay Up. Ortega says he's trying to break macho stereotypes, but critics say it isn't necessarily about the product, but the placement. One former bullfighter says, "The cape is a sacred thing."
And Honda just unveiled this personal mobility gadget called the U3X. It looks like a tricked out motorcycle -- or a unicycle, that is. Honda says it can move in any direction riders want to go without pedaling at all. They just have to lean in the right direction.
You want one?
Well, sorry, Honda says the U3X is just a prototype and that there are still no plans on actually selling it.
So then why tempt us with it?
Just to show what technology can do, I suppose -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I would try it, but with helmets...
WHITFIELD: I would, too.
BLITZER: ...and all sorts of padding.
WHITFIELD: Yes, I could see you sporting D.C. On that.
BLITZER: Oh, yes. Yes. It sounds great.
WHITFIELD: As if you don't get enough attention...
WHITFIELD: -- attention as it is.
BLITZER: Thanks, Fred.
WHITFIELD: There's Wolf on a sort of unicycle.
BLITZER: Whatever it is.
Coming up, lots of important news, including a potential -- repeat, potential AIDS breakthrough. An HIV vaccine shows some promise. We're going to take a closer look and talk about it with perhaps the world's leading AIDS expert.
And too much of a good thing -- could the global love for President Obama actually hurt him on the world stage?
We're going to discuss that. And get this -- a Russian billionaire makes a play to buy the New Jersey Nets.
What's going on?
We'll tell you right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, a vaccine that prevents HIV -- is it too good to be true?
I'll put that question to one top doctor who says he's cautiously -- cautiously optimistic.
A system of legalized greed that's really no better than a Ponzi scheme -- that's how the filmmaker, Michael Moore, describes capitalism. I'll ask him if he's being hypocritical when he joins us to talk about his brand new movie.
And why Brooklyn may soon be thanking a Russian billionaire for saving its plans for an NBA basketball team.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
President Obama is not is not leaving the international spotlight from the United Nations to New York. He's moved on to the G20 Economic Summit in Pittsburgh.
Let's talk about these global meetings and what they mean for the president with our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley -- Candy, how did he do over at the United Nations and how might he do in these next rounds -- round of global talks?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you that sometimes when we look at polls after these big sort of presidential events, what we find is that the American people love seeing their president in presidential venues. Certainly at the U.N., he benefits from some of those other speeches that we saw from Moammar Gadhafi, from Ahmadinejad, looking presidential, being in control of the Security Council meeting -- a rare meeting of the Security Council at that high a level.
I think it's going to be very different at the G20, simply because that they're dealing with a much more relatable problems, and that is the worldwide economy. All of these countries -- sort of the economic powerhouses of the world -- have a vested interest because this has not just been a U.S. recession, it's been a global recession. A number of these countries blame the U.S. for being the first domino and are looking for some regulatory reform from the US, as the president is looking for regulatory reform globally.
BLITZER: These are the 20 richest countries in the world.
BLITZER: But tell our viewers why they should really care what happens in Pittsburgh today and tomorrow.
What will that mean for people watching?
CROWLEY: What have we talked about for the last, what, year plus?
And that's the economy. Because no longer is it the U.S. economy. It is the global economy. So what we have here are these big -- these 20 countries, all of whom are interlaced. I mean they -- they have to talk about what kind of regulatory reform can we have across the board with all these countries, because it doesn't do any good if one country has regulatory reform of the financial markets but another doesn't.
So this is all about the economy. This is all about are we going to -- is the recession really ending?
Because these countries are getting together saying, OK, it looks like we've turned the corner, but now what's our exit strategy pulling back on government input.
And I think when you look at the trade issues, if you've lost your job recently and if it has to do with international trade, there are trade issues between them.
So jobs and the economy, the economy's health in general, are dependent on the sorts of decisions that are made not necessarily in this one summit, but across the board when they're talking back and forth sort of behind-the-scenes.
BLITZER: Good point.
Thanks very much, Candy, for that.
Here's a question now for you -- is President Obama perceived as too much of a nice guy by other world leaders?
Let's talk about that with our two political contributors, Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, and Republican strategist, Mary Matalin.
Here's what a columnist who wrote in the Australian newspaper, Paul, said about President Obama: "Here's my worry about Obama. Lots of people love him and he is, indeed, very lovable. But I wonder if anyone at all anywhere in the world really fears him."
PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I wonder if anyone anywhere in the world gives damn what Greg Sheridan in Australia thinks. He writes for a Murdoch publication and he's a big George W. Bush lover. That's fine. He has a perfect right to say that. But I really don't care what he thinks.
You know what I care about? I care that our president is moving on the world front to make America safer. Today Candy just referred to it, chairing for the first time, chairing a U.N. Security Council Meeting, working on nonproliferation.
The issue that George W. Bush said, was the most important issue in the whole wild world an issue frankly Mr. Bush failed on. The Iranians are stronger after Bush not weaker, they're closer to a nuclear weapon, not further; the North Koreans have a more active nuclear program than when Mr. Bush took office.
And so now President Obama inheriting all that threat; he's moving on that. He's got the Russian and the Chinese now working with America to try to toughen the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, to reduce the production of fissile materials, to try to crack down on proliferation and shipments around the world.
So I'm really proud that the president's doing what he's doing. And I guess I just don't care what Mr. Shrimp on a Barbie thinks.
BLITZER: I'm going to get some mail from Australia.
BEGALA: Good. Good. Maybe some beer. They do make good beer.
BLITZER: Excellent wine in Australia as well.
Mary, let's talk a little bit about the substance, though. Do the folks and the leaders in Iran or North Korea or the Taliban for that matter or al Qaeda, do they fear President Obama?
MARY MATLIN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, absolutely not. And what Paul just said is emblematic of how the Democrats think about foreign policy in general. That's demean our strongest friends our greatest allies, like the Australians, like the Polish, like the Czechs, like the central and eastern Europeans who are working so hard at democracy and just demean any kind of opinion.
Look, this is not some sort of partisan or right wing or Murdoch thought. Since the beginning of time the history of the world is that weakness invites provocation. And we have -- and talking is good and relationships are fine. But our allies need to know that they can rely on those relationships and that there will be consequences for the bad guys when the talk runs out and they're not doing the walk.
As for proliferation and chairing a U.N. committee, great. Oh, isn't that wonderful? It's the U.N. that wouldn't enforce 17 of its resolutions against Saddam in the first place, so big deal. He's chairing and talking in another instance.
But the proliferation security initiative of the Bush administration was responsible for quantum leaps in the reduction of proliferation and including the disarmament of Libya, the capture and detention...
MATLIN: ... of A.Q. Kahn (ph) who's just been let out. So there is some substance and caucus is fine but walk is what just keeps peace in the world. BLITZER: Because as far as President Bush was concerned, Paul, I think you'll agree, the adversaries, they hated them, they didn't like him, but they did fear him.
BEGALA: I completely disagree. They didn't fear him at all because he weakened America. He tied us up in a completely unnecessary and unjust war in Iraq which allowed our adversaries to strengthen themselves. Iran became much stronger, not weaker. Iran is immeasurably a greater threat today because of Mr. Bush.
Al Qaeda used Bush as a recruiting tool and as for the Taliban, what about Baitullah Mehsud? He's the Taliban leader in Pakistan. He doesn't fear Barack Obama, because he's dead. He is dead because Barack Obama stepped up the use of lethal force in that Pakistani border region that George W. Bush was too afraid to do.
In fact when Mr. Obama was campaigning and he said he would go into Pakistan and kill al Qaeda and Taliban leaders if he found them, it was the Republicans who said that that was unwise. And so here was an example actually of a Democrat being more effective in the deployment of deadly force, than any Republican.
BLITZER: All right...
MATLIN: Wolf, if we all know the reason...
BLITZER: I want to move on.
MATLIN: Wait, wait, Wolf. No. Please.
BLITZER: I'm going to let you respond. But wait a second. Just be patient. Go ahead and respond to...
MATLIN: He just says so many things that are so completely patently false.
BEGALA: So Baitullah Mehsud is alive?
BLITZER: I know. I want you to respond, did the adversaries fear President Bush?
MATLIN: They feared the power of America and that we used it judiciously and that when we do use it, we use it not just for might or imperialism but to defend ourselves. And we're serious about it. We do -- did we do what we say we're going to do.
The reason that -- we've been able to take out so many of these Taliban and al Qaeda leaders recently in Waziristan, in Iran and with the drones in conjunction with assistance from the pacts, which was a Bush breakthrough to have a different relationship with the Pakistanis, is because of the intelligence we gathered under the system set up by Bush, which this president is dismantling.
So we can have these little political shows. But if the notion is that if we just all talk and we just all hold hands and we're transnational, the world peace, one world, that's great in adolescent aspirational dorm room conversations. It's not the way the world works today. It's not the way the world has ever worked since Adam and Eve.
BLITZER: All right, we'll leave that on that note.
But I want to move on and talk about the upcoming - the new U.S. Senator about to be from the state of Massachusetts, Paul Kirk, the former DNC party chairman.
Paul, someone you know quite well. Here's what a columnist in the "Boston Globe" which is not a Murdoch-owned newspaper wrote today. "He's a good man for the interim job. But let's not over-wrap it in Camelot's gauze. Pushing Kirk as the temporary bearer of the Kennedy torch is typical backroom politics. And, it's being done with the typically sharp Kennedy elbows."
BEGALA: So what? He's going to be an interim senator. He will carry the Kennedy torch. I do know Paul Kirk. And when -- I can't wait to see him as Senator Kirk. He will vote exactly, I think, the way Senator Kennedy would have.
He's the Chairman now, the Director of the John F. Kennedy Library. He's the perfect person to -- for a temporary amount of time -- carry that torch.
Now, I'm a little Democrat as well as big D, I want to have an election. They'll have an election in Massachusetts in about 75 days. But for those 75 days, issues of health care and the rights of women, minorities, unions to organize, Paul Kirk will be very strong. He'll be -- he will vote just like Ted Kennedy. No one will ever fill Teddy's shoes. But Paul will do a very good job of casting votes there.
BLITZER: And Mary, there's no doubt Mary, if the president needs 60 votes to break a Republican filibuster on health care, that vote from the state of Massachusetts could be decisive.
MATLIN: Sure. And you know, this is not about Paul Kirk. He's a wonderful man. I know him. He's a great Democrat. But this is about how the Democrats do standard operating procedure. When they can't win on the merits, they change the rules.
So they've changed the rules in this instance to get that vote. And they're still not going to get the votes. So then they're going to change another rule. They're going to vote this out of reconciliation and so they'll need less votes.
How about let's try to pass policy that people want so you don't have to keep moving the goal post. There's an idea.
BLITZER: An idea from Mary Matlin and some good ideas from Paul Begala as well. Guys, good discussion. Thank you.
After years of trying, there is a potential -- emphasis on the word potential -- breakthrough in the fight against HIV. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta is joining us with more on that.
Plus the controversial film maker Michael Moore. What does he really have against capitalism? Guess what, I'll ask him. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Never before in the history of battling the virus that causes AIDS have researchers been seeing what they're actually seeing right now in what's being called the world's largest experiment of its kind. An HIV vaccine is successful, at least in part in preventing HIV for the first time ever. Researchers are very, very cautious.
This does not mean at all that there's an effective HIV vaccine yet. But this could be -- could be a major first step. Our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explains.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think it's fair to say that this is a pretty big deal when it comes to the world of infectious disease. Something people have been focused on for some time.
This idea, could a vaccine possibly provide an answer when it comes to trying to curb the numbers of HIV infections.
Look, there's been a lot of pessimism around this for some time, Wolf. We've reported on two vaccine trials in the past. Neither of which worked, frankly. One showed absolutely no benefit. The second one possibly increased the likelihood of someone developing an HIV infection.
A lot of people have thought for some time, look, a vaccine just isn't in the cards. Now keep that in mind as I give you a little bit of context here around this particular study. 16,000 people studied over a period of a few years, three years. This study took place in Thailand, focusing on people considered high risk for developing an HIV infection.
About half the group gets the vaccine. About half the group gets a placebo, does not get the vaccine. Take a look at the numbers here three years later. 74 people in the placebo group got the HIV infection as compared to 51. Now, Wolf, you may look at those numbers and think that doesn't seem like it's that big of deal. About a 31 percent increase overall if you didn't get the vaccine. The way the trial works specifically, these people got a series of six shots over six months.
Now, a lot of people, again, before these studies came out, said we don't know if a vaccine is going to be the answer. But now that we've seen this, this is proof of principle that a vaccine can work. Again, Wolf, a lot of excitement around this particular issue and probably a lot more news to come in the days and weeks as well. We'll bring it to you, Wolf.
Back to you.
BLITZER: Thanks very much. All right Sanjay, thank you.
My next guest says this apparent HIV vaccine breakthrough gives him some cautious optimism. Dr. Anthony Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He's joining us from Bethesda, Maryland.
Dr. Fauci thanks very much for coming in. Is this a big deal or not necessarily such a big deal?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, it depends on what you mean by big deal. It's important because as you heard from Sanjay, we've tried vaccine trials before for over two decades, Wolf. We haven't even had the slightest inkling of any -- what we call -- positive signal that we were able to induce anything that would be resulting in protection.
This is a modest effect: 31 percent is not an overwhelming efficacy effect. But it's the first time we've seen any positive signal. The reason why we think it's important, it's important from a scientific standpoint because it's going to serve as the steppingstone or a foundation to start to take a look at what are the mechanisms in this? What have we induced in these people that has resulted in this modest good effect?
Once you identify that then you start to amplify it and maximize it so that the next vaccine we may be able to get a much greater efficacy effect. It's important as a first step -- sort of opening the door towards something when you know now you're getting on the right road, whereas before, we were essentially fishing around in the dark with no indication of efficacy at all in any trial that we did.
BLITZER: Because I'm looking at these 16,000 people who participated in this clinical trial. And I assume all of them were checked out in advance to see if they had the HIV/AIDS virus or anything like that. I assume they didn't. 16,000 and half 8,000 or so got the placebo, 8,000 the vaccine.
74 of those with the placebo came down with the HIV virus, 51 with the vaccine. As Sanjay said, I'm not a statistician but 51 people who got the vaccine, which is supposedly going to prevent you from getting HIV, they still got it. What happened here?
FAUCI: That's exactly right. That's why it's only 31 percent effective. If none of them got it we'd be saying it's 100 percent effective. It's not. It's modestly effective in dampening the infection -- or the rate of infection.
BLITZER: Could it be just a statistical flaw in that sampling? That maybe the 8,000 that were getting the vaccine or the 8,000 getting the placebo, that they were behaving differently or whatever?
FAUCI: Well, actually, that's a very good question. This is a randomized trial, Wolf which means that it is put into one limb or the other so that if you look at it at the end of the day, there's a balance of behavior. There's a balance of sex. There's a balance of age. So when you randomize so many people into one limb or another, everything really is the same among them.
There still is a chance that it could be a statistical fluke. The statisticians tell us that it's a significant value. The significance which doesn't mean much to people is a .04 or .039 which means that there's a 4 percent chance that it's a fluke and a 90 percent-plus chance that it's not.
That's the reason this is not the end game. This is only a modest effect. But it's important because we can then start building on it so that we have more than a modest effect.
BLITZER: Are they replicating this clinical trial elsewhere?
FAUCI: You know, this is an efficacy trial which means that you have to have thousands of people if you're going to get a statistical point on this. This is the only efficacy trial that has been ongoing. We have a number of smaller clinical trials that are not asking about whether it's effective or not, but are trying to determine what the best immune response it is that you can induce.
So there's not another trial going on of this magnitude. And there won't be for a while. We need to now use this as a way to plan the next approach. And that's going to take years.
That's the reason why we say we have to be cautious about this. It's an important step in the right direction. But it's not a prime time vaccine.
BLITZER: So you're not ready at NIH where you work -- and you're one of the preeminent experts in the world on the HIV virus -- you're not ready at this point to take that vaccine that was given in Thailand and start distributing it, giving it to people here in the United States?
FAUCI: Not even close, Wolf.
BLITZER: Not even a limited number to just see what's going on?
FAUCI: No. We're going to be -- we're going to continue vaccine trials. But the idea of using this as a vaccine, that's not what's going to happen.
We need to learn an awful lot more. We need to use this knowledge that we've gained to do more vaccine trials, to do more basic research to try to get those correlates of what it is that we actually did to induce this modest amount of protection. When we find that out, we can build upon it. But to say we're going to now use this particular candidate as a vaccine here in the United States, absolutely not.
BLITZER: All right. So we got a modest breakthrough, as you say, right now. The statisticians say it's potentially significant.
Give us a time frame. How long are we realistically talking about that there will be an effective -- a 100 percent or a 98 percent effective vaccine that will prevent people in the United States and all around the world from getting HIV/AIDS. FAUCI: Wolf, I doubt, seriously, if we'll ever get a 98 percent effective aids vaccine. If we get something around the 60s and 70s I'll be really happy about that.
And I think we're still years away from that. That's just the nature of this very elusive virus. I don't think we'll be talking about a vaccine like a polio vaccine or measles vaccine. That's just not the way this virus works.
BLITZER: Excellent perspective and I know you're on the front lines in this battle Dr. Fauci. Good luck to you and all your colleagues. We'll be checking back with you.
FAUCI: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Dr. Anthony Fauci joining us.
Israel's prime minister asked this question. "Have you no shame?" Benjamin Netanyahu rails against Holocaust deniers during his speech at the United Nations today. His anger especially aimed at the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
An American basketball team potentially in one Russian's hands -- a multi-million dollar bid to invest in a team could help the NBA. But what might it do to ownership in American sports?
BLITZER: The Israeli Prime Minister took direct aim today at the Iranian president accusing him of running a terrorist regime. Benjamin Netanyahu used some of his speech at the U.N. General assembly to blast Ahmadinejad for his so-called anti-Semitic rant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHI, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL: Yesterday the man who calls the Holocaust a lie spoke from this podium. To those who refused to come, and to those who left in protest, I commend you. You stood up for moral clarity and you brought honor to your countries. But to those who gave this Holocaust denier a hearing, I say on behalf of my people, the Jewish people, and decent people everywhere, have you no shame? Have you no decency?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Prime Minister Netanyahu went on to urge world leaders to condemn Iran's president and his alleged nuclear weapons program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NETANYAHO: The most urgent challenge facing this body today is to prevent the tyrants of Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Are the members of the United Nations up to that challenge? Will the international community confront the despotism that terrorizes its own people as they bravely stand up for freedom? Will it take action against the dictators who stole an election in broad daylight and then gunned down Iranian protesters who died in the sidewalks on the street, choking in their own blood?
Will the international community forge the world's most pernicious sponsor and practitioner of terrorism? Above all, will the international community stop the terrorist regime of Iran from developing atomic weapons, thereby endangers the peace of the entire world?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Israeli diplomats walked out when the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at the U.N. General Assembly yesterday.
An American basketball team potentially in one Russian's hands; a multimillion dollar bid to invest in a team could help the NBA. We're standing by for details.
And Michael Moore, he is here in THE SITUATION ROOM talking about his newest film which takes direct aim at capitalism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL MOORE, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: For a documentary filmmaker, I have done very well.
BLITZER: You've done very well and there's the allegations of...
MOOR: Why am I against capitalism if I've done so well?
BLITZER: A Russian billionaire wants to buy the New Jersey Nets in the NBA. What's going on?
Mary Snow is joining us with some details. What is going on, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a deal that's still in play, Wolf. It's a tentative deal getting a lot of attention both here and in Russia.
SNOW: He's tall enough to be a basketball player and professes a passion for the game. But it's Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov's cash that landed him on the center court. Prokhorov, considered Russia's richest man, reached a deal with the New Jersey Nets.
It's expected he'll take over the struggling team and help finance a new arena. Plans for that arena have been in the works since 2004. That's when the team's current owner announced the Nets would move to Brooklyn. But since then the move has hit serious roadblocks.
Financial adviser Rob Tilliss worked on that 2004 acquisition.
(on camera): How significant is this deal.
ROB TILLIS, CEO, INNER CIRCLE SPORTS: It's a significant development, I think in U.S. professional sports because it's the first time we have had a major foreign investor come to take control of a major professional sports team. We've seen this trend more frequently in Europe though in years past.
SNOW: A Russian oligarch made big headlines when he took over Britain's Chelsey soccer team. Here in the U.S., Prokhorov's $200 million foray into basketball could see the same kind of attention. But it's also seen as significant from a financial standpoint for the National Basketball Association.
KURT BADENHAUSEN, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, FORBES: This is a huge deal for the NBA. Revenues last year for the NBA we're up only 2 percent. This year potentially they could be down. The NBA is really hurting financially.
SNOW: The Cleveland Cavaliers for one are getting a boost from a Chinese investor who took a minority stake in the team earlier this year. And those who work in sports marketing say expect more overseas investments in U.S. teams.
SHAWN MCBRIDE, KETCHUM SPORTS NETWORK: If the vision of the NBA is to become a truly global league then they're going to need the involvement of the international business community.
SNOW: NBA commissioner David Stern says interest in basketball is growing globally, saying, quote, "We are especially encouraged by Mr. Prokhorov's commitment to the Nets and the opportunity it presents to continue the growth of basketball in Russia.
But in Russia, Prokhorov is facing criticism from some lawmakers questioning why he isn't investing the money there.
SNOW: Prokhorov has said part of his interest in acquiring the Nets is to develop basketball back Russia. The deal still needs to be examined by the NBA and get final approval by its board of governors -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary Snow, thank you.