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Haitians' Struggle for Survival; Searching for Haiti's Orphans

Aired February 9, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening tonight from Port-au- Prince.

No one deserves to die in silence, and no one's struggle to live should go unnoticed as well. Too many people here have already died, at least 200,000, and that number keeps growing. They have died and they have literally disappeared, their names not recorded, their stories never told.

But on these streets behind me and all over Port-au-Prince, there is a struggle to live happening, and it's happening right now.

People are hungry right now. People are sick right now, and hundreds of thousands of people are homeless right now. And I know it's no longer the kind of story that makes headlines, and it's the kind of story a lot of people feel they have heard before, but the suffering is real.

And so is the strength and the courage of Haitians, young and old. Strength and courage, I know, doesn't make headlines either. And people feel they have heard that before. But they should make headlines. And people should pay attention.

So, once again tonight, we take you into the streets of Port-au- Prince, because no one should die in silence, and no one's struggle to live should go on unnoticed as well.

We begin tonight a search for orphans, a race against time to reunite families and look after kids in desperate need.


COOPER (voice-over): For a lost little girl, the world seems a very scary place. Stephanie Jacques (ph) is just 10 years old. She believes her parents are dead.

RAMSEY BEN-ACHOUR, HEARTLAND ALLIANCE: We have reports that she has no parents.

COOPER (on camera): Mm-hmm.

BEN-ACHOUR: So, we're going to go under the assumption that they -- that she doesn't, or we're going to try and ask, softly, calmly, as many questions as we possibly can, and -- and just try and get what we can out of here. And we will move from there. COOPER (voice-over): Ramsey Ben-Achour is with the Heartland Alliance. He's partnered with UNICEF locating and helping kids. The problem in Haiti right now is that no one knows exactly how many kids need help.

BEN-ACHOUR: It's an incredibly difficult problem to gauge. There's been 480,000 people who have left the city in the past -- less than a month. We're almost at one month since the earthquake.

And, I mean, just tracking the number of deaths and tracking the migration has been difficult enough, but then trying to figure out how many children have been abandoned or orphaned is a whole 'nother level of problem.

COOPER: Stephanie thinks she may have family elsewhere in Haiti.

MARIE-ELIE ALEXIS, HEARTLAND ALLIANCE: She said she has family from Ocha (ph). Her father was from Ocha. She had a grandmother. But you have to ask the kids different questions to kind of get there.

COOPER: So, these are essentially all pieces of the puzzle that would be used to try to trace whatever family she had.

ALEXIS: Exactly. Yes. She had an aunt, her mother's sister, that lived in Port-au-Prince too, but lived in a different area. So, she has a few relatives out there.

COOPER: Reuniting Stephanie with her relatives may take weeks. For others, however, it can be a matter of days. But time is running out.

MARIE DE LA SOUDIERE, UNICEF: If we wait a month or two, especially the little one, then it's too late to trace, because nobody knows where they are. They can be trafficked. So, the single most protection we can offer separated children in emergency is to find them and to register them. Before a separated child is registered, he or she does not exist.

We think of that. That child has no legal existence. Why? Because, outside of the environment, the child can be stolen. Nobody is going to look for him. They don't even knows he's there.

COOPER: Marie de la Soudiere is with UNICEF and is searching for the family of a 5-year-old boy named Kenzie Charles (ph), who is being treated on the USS Comfort.

DE LA SOUDIERE: I think they want to show me their house.

COOPER: Marie thinks she's found Kenzie's parents. They believe that their child died in the earthquake. After a short interview, Marie shows the couple a series of pictures of Kenzie. They know instantly it's their son.

(on camera): So, the little boy is just on the USS Comfort...

DE LA SOUDIERE: So, he's there. COOPER: ... which is actually just...


COOPER: ... right over there.

DE LA SOUDIERE: He's there, right there the whole time...


DE LA SOUDIERE: ... the whole time. They could see him every night, and they didn't know.


When you see him, what is the first thing you're going to say to him?




COOPER: Today must be a good day.

DE LA SOUDIERE: Fantastic. It's -- it's -- kind of keeps you going.

COOPER (voice-over): A happy ending, that new beginning, a glimmer of hope in these days of despair.


COOPER: And UNICEF hopes to reunite that family on the USS Comfort, where that little boy is staying, in the next day or two. We will keep you updated on that.

Sanjay Gupta joins us now.

Yesterday, we brought you the story of a man pulled from the rubble. His family said he had been there since the earthquake. What's the update on his condition?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, speaking of hope, I mean, it's quite an extraordinary story there as well.

The update is that he's doing pretty well. I mean, sometimes, the second day can be even harder in terms of medical triage than the first day. Can you hydrate someone well? Can you make their kidneys start to work again, not cause heart failure? All those things went well for him today. He did not require a breathing machine.

He's still talking, a little bit confused, but was asking for food. In fact, they were giving him chocolate. That's what he was craving for some reason. You know, one of the things he said, Anderson, was pretty haunting, though. And it's this whole idea that we're in a search-and-recovery mode, not search-and-rescue. And he talked about the fact that he heard -- heard these bulldozers coming in and...

COOPER: Working nearby.

GUPTA: ... working nearby. And he knew what that meant. He knew that the lots were being excavated and put into dump trucks. And he was worried that that would be him as well, excavated and put into a dump truck. But you know, he's doing fine.

He has two children. And it was today that his mother, the children's grandmother, told them that, in fact, their father was alive.


GUPTA: She wanted to wait a day. So, they now know. They had thought for the last month that -- that he had died.

COOPER: In terms of just big-picture medical condition, how are things?

GUPTA: You know, the acute phase, to borrow a medical term, has been going a lot better than it was when you and I first...


COOPER: Acute means emergency, like...


GUPTA: Yes, acute in the short-term sort of phase. You know, the lifesaving part of -- the heroic part of all this has gone a lot better. People are getting a lot more of the procedures that they need -- not perfect, but better.

The real problem now, I think, is sort of how -- what happens to these patients after they leave. You know, an amputation patient back in the states would be in the hospital, then in an ICU, perhaps, general care floor, getting rehabilitation afterwards, getting prosthetics fit, and then refit, and then refit again if they're growing.

Most of that is simply not going to happen. I mean, you were here today, Anderson. And that's where a lot of this is -- these patients are going to end up.


We're going to have a lot more with Sanjay throughout this hour. Sanjay went over to a general hospital and looked at the threat of tuberculosis. They have a special area over there for that. We will talk about that ahead. But, as I said, most of the people, about a half-a-million people, as many as a half-a-million people, are living in these tent cities, the kind of you've seen that sprung up immediately after the earthquake.

We have been watching this one literally grow over our eyes over the last several weeks. They're really all over the city of Port-au- Prince. And they have become sort of much more like permanent settlements now. We wanted to show you what it's like inside one of these tent encampments.


COOPER (voice-over): For the homeless, the hungry, tent cities offer the only refuge.

(on camera): It's estimated there may be more than 450,000 homeless people living in makeshift settlements all throughout the city of Port-au-Prince. This is one of them in the -- in the park very close to the presidential palace, right in the downtown part of the city.

And, as you can see, it's become really like a mini-city within the larger city of Port-au-Prince.

(voice-over): The camps are filled with kids. Schools are shut and there's little for them to do. People here are constantly working, washing and cleaning whatever they have, building new structures to live in.

(on camera): The structures in these settlements have become much more permanent. Initially, people were using, you know, a bedsheet to block out the sun, to try to give themselves some shade. But now people started to scavenge pieces of wood, like this. They're building frames, as you can see right over there.

And then, on those frames, they will use particle board or in some cases corrugated tin like this to build walls.

(voice-over): At night, in some places, there are a few streetlights, but most people live in darkness.


COOPER: Someone's brought a truck with speakers and plays religious music to lift people's spirits.

(on camera): These makeshift encampments take on a whole different character at night. There's electricity in some areas. Like, here, you can actually see streetlights are working, so the city's actually got electricity going.

People have sort of set up some businesses around -- around the lights.

No. I'm OK. Thank you. A lot of people try to offer themselves up as translators. People are just looking for work wherever they can. Here are some folks selling jewelry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?

Good. How you doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very happy to see you.

COOPER: Yes? Thank you very much.


COOPER: Oh, thank you. Thank you.

A couple of people have been drinking a little bit, you can tell. But, at night, a lot of people who have spent the day out scavenging for food or for water or for any kind of employment, they come back here. This is where they're sleeping at night. So, it really takes on a whole new character.

Individuals and families get together and try to sell what they can. Little mini-restaurants have sprouted up. People basically find a table and put together whatever they can. Here, they're actually making juice called gee (ph). They're using papaya.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like, this one is selling spaghetti.

COOPER: They're selling spaghetti over here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, right -- I think so. I'm not too sure...


COOPER: Spaghetti and juice here?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, right there is the juice.

COOPER: A family cooking some -- some plantains to -- to sell.

It's become almost a cliche to talk about the strength and resilience of the Haitian people, but some cliches are true. And Haitian people have -- have suffered for generations, through many governments and through corruption. They have survived an awful lot. And what you see here in the streets on any given night is -- is survival.

(voice-over): Every day, every night is a struggle, and not everyone will make it through. We found this young woman burning with fever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need the help to go to hospital, you know?

COOPER (on camera): Yes. Yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's very, very, very sick.

COOPER: Very sick.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's supposed to see a doctor to see exactly what she has.

COOPER: Yes, what's wrong, right.

You -- you come across people who are sick and ill and in any other place would be under a doctor's care, but here, even now, it's hard to get to see a doctor. If you don't have something -- an acute emergency, getting to see a doctor for primary care, for pain management or something, is -- is not that easy.

(voice-over): A medic tells us the woman likely has a bad infection and could die if not treated. We stop filming and arrange for her to get taken to a hospital.

This is life in the new Port-au-Prince. Even now, it seem, the specter of death is never far away.


COOPER: We don't have an update on what happened to that woman. We made sure that she was taken to a hospital. But we haven't gotten an update on her condition.

We all -- we do have a late development tonight. And it's an incredibly disturbing about the Caribbean Market. Now, if you have been following the coverage at all, you know the Caribbean Market was a place where people had been buried alive. And there were a number of dramatic rescues from there, a number of people trapped, and some heroic efforts made to find people.

Well, now, as you know, it's moved into the recovery phase. And, so, there's heavy equipment in a lot of places, in particular in the Caribbean Market. So, they have been basically tearing down what remains of the building. A piece of earth-moving equipment was apparently trying to retrieve a body today, and it actually tipped into a hole, which brought down more debris.

There are reports now from the scene that crews believe there may be one, maybe more people now trapped in the rubble alive. These are not people trapped from the original earthquake. These are people just trapped today, when the rubble collapsed. U.S. and Mexican teams have been called in to try to help French crews which are already on the scene. We're going to try to get a development tonight. We will try to bring you up to date on that.

But it's just another -- another tragic development in that Caribbean Market, which has seen so much sadness and sorrow.

Coming up next tonight: the latest on those detained Americans, the 10 missionaries -- new details of an alleged earlier attempt made by them to round up kids. We will be right back.


COOPER: We have been following the story of those 10 American missionaries who are now in jail after they were caught trying to take 33 Haitian kids out of the country.

Now, we discovered last night that this may not have been their first attempt, that this actually may have been their second attempt at taking kids.

Today, Karl Penhaul met a mom who says that they asked her to give them her son and daughter. Take a look.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Children play in the dirt with the few toys they salvaged. It's not hard to imagine that any future would seem brighter than staying here.

Rosni Plesador's (ph) husband died in the quake. And, since then, she says she's had a hard time feeding 5-year-old daughter Erland (ph) and 2-year-old son Lucson (ph) at this tent city in Petionville. So, when a group of American missionaries showed up two weeks ago, offering a better life for the youngest, she was tempted.

"When I heard they were taking the children, I was about to give them a bath and put some clothes on them, so I could take them to the bus," she says. That was allegedly these Americans' first attempt to gather up Haitian children. It was stopped when a Haitian police officer stepped in.

Three days later, the missionaries would be arrested on the Haitian border with a separate group of 33 children. They're in jail, charged with kidnapping. They deny the charges, saying they wanted to take youngsters to a pleasant orphanage in the Dominican Republic.

Plesador says she changed her mind about handing over her son and daughter at the last minute. That same day, 8-year-old Wensley Sanjose (ph) says his dad put him on the bus without even telling him where he was going.

"He was forcing me to get on the bus. I was crying. I didn't want to go," he says. He said the Americans gave him water, candy, and even two stuffed animals. His aunt, who says she's looked after Wensley since he was a baby, realized he was missing and came running.

"I started crying and said, I will kill myself if they give my child away," she says.

A Haitian police officer has testified in the case against the Americans that he pulled up to 40 children off the bus. He says he told the Americans it was illegal to move the children without permission from the Haitian government. An attorney for the 10 Americans told CNN he was not aware of the attempt to gather children at a tent city. Last week, team leader Laura Silsby made no mention of trying to collect kids from that camp.

LAURA SILSBY, ARRESTED IN HAITI: We were really, at that point, just meeting with people and talking with them and seeing, you know, the needs of the children and trying to assess where were the needs the greatest and where was God leading us.

PENHAUL: That path led them to Haitian quake survivors tempted by the prospect of a slice of paradise for their children far from this hell.


COOPER: Karl Penhaul joins me now.

I mean, it's tragic to see that a father would give up his little boy because he can't care for him.

PENHAUL: I think that's the whole challenge of this, and really why I don't see this as a distraction from what's going on right now, because I think that's essential to Haiti's future reconstruction and development. We have got to give the children a brighter future here in Haiti, so their parents don't look towards the U.S. and other countries as the only way out.

COOPER: Also, I mean, there are -- I mean, I was out with child protection teams all day today. And they say, look, taking a child away from its family, even if you have good intentions, is -- if they have a family there, you know, and that family could -- you can make the situation better for that family, rather than remove the child from the country entirely, I mean, if people are really dedicated to helping kids, they can help lift up that entire family probably for a very small amount of money.

PENHAUL: And that's -- and that's exactly what some organizations actually do. Where the 33 kids that were taken off the missionaries' bus, SOS Children's Village, that's exactly what they do. They sponsor kids, they sponsor families, so that they can live in this country, and don't have to be adopted or don't have to go out of the country.

COOPER: Yes, SOS Children's Village.

Karl Penhaul, appreciate you staying on the story.

Up next: a new blast of winter weather back home, more than a foot of snow. We are going to show you who will get the -- hit hardest.

And we have a lot more from Haiti ahead in this hour.


COOPER: By the way, just one thing that wasn't in Karl's report, just an addendum, according to one of the children that Karl talked to, the little boy who had been on that bus with the American missionaries, who had given him Toyotas, when he was taken off the bus in order to go back to his family, after the police officer allegedly intervened, apparently, the missionaries asked for their toys back. They took back two toys from that little boy. So, he no longer has the toys that he had been briefly given.

We're going to have more from Haiti ahead, but, first, the latest on the monster snowstorm bearing down on the Northeast. If it sounds like deja vu, well, it certainly is. In and around Washington, they're digging out from last weekend's storm, which dropped more than two feet in some places. It's amazing pictures.

Now the same stretch of the country is bracing to be buried again. This time, tens of millions of people, from the Appalachians, to southern New England, could feel the effects.

Meteorologist Chad Myers joins us with the latest.

Chad, how bad is it going to be?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Bad enough that some of your colleagues back at CNN in New York are spending the night in hotels, because I don't think they can get back to work tomorrow afternoon. That's how bad it will be.

D.C. right now, you're going to see six to 10 new inches of snow. And it's snowing in D.C. now. Here's a live shot from the capital. It's light. Before, you could really almost see snow as a haze. But the snow has tapered off a little bit. There will be a few more brief bursts of snow, but this is not a D.C. snow event for you.

I have -- I have a photographer here. Here's the future of television. Here's -- here's Skip Nociolo (ph) in D.C., one of our photojournalists, driving home. And we can actually see him driving in this bad weather here. So, at least D.C., you're not in the bullseye this time.

But where is in the bullseye, what cities? I would say north, into Baltimore, would see snow, Philadelphia, 16 to 22, New York City, an awful lot of snow, 16, even 20 inches of snow. Here's WBAL, snowing there. You're going to see 10 new inches of snow. It's probably heavy enough that some of this could start to collapse some of these big flat roofs up there with an awful lot of weight on them -- Anderson.

COOPER: Wow. Unbelievable pictures. Chad, thanks very much for that.

We're going to have much more from Haiti ahead, but, first, the latest on some other important stories we're following.

Candy Crowley joins us again with a 360 bulletin -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Anderson. New word that the Taliban's leader in Pakistan is dead. Three Taliban sources and a Pakistani official are making the claim. Authorities are checking reports that Hakimullah Mehsud suffered fatal wounds in a drone attack last month. Last week, a Taliban spokesman said Mehsud was alive and hiding.

President Obama says there are signs Iran is still pursuing nuclear weapons, and while the door is still open to discussions with the regime, the U.S. is moving forward with negotiations to impose sanctions. Mr. Obama made the comments during a surprise appearance at the daily White House press briefing.

Important information for parents of infants. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is recalling Generation 2 Worldwide and ChildESIGNS drop-side cribs. The recall comes after the death of three infants and injuries to a number of others. Officials say the cribs can cause strangulation and suffocation. They are urging caregivers to stop using the cribs immediately. Again, we are talking about Generation 2 Worldwide and ChildESIGNS drop-side cribs.

And a new discovery in China, ancient spider fossils almost perfectly preserved and dating back to the middle Jurassic era, 165 million years ago, making them 120 million years older than other specimens of this type -- Anderson.

COOPER: They -- they still kind of creep me out.



CROWLEY: Even if they're fossils, they're creepy, I agree.


COOPER: Hey, Candy, congratulations on "STATE OF THE UNION."

CROWLEY: Thank you.

COOPER: It was a great kickoff edition with Hillary Clinton. You said you were a little bit nauseous when I talked to you on Friday night. How was it?


COOPER: How did -- were you happy with it?

CROWLEY: I was. I was.

Look, it was great talking to the secretary of state. It just takes a little while to kind of make it your own. So, we're a work in progress. But I'm a little steadier tonight.

COOPER: No vomiting?


COOPER: That's good. That's always a good thing for a debut.




COOPER: I think I might have vomited my debut on 360.


CROWLEY: It -- it helps, when you're an anchor, not to do that.


COOPER: Yes, exactly, at least not on camera.

Again, thanks for being with us tonight.


COOPER: Just ahead, we're going to focus on tuberculosis, a serious problem in Haiti before the quake. Now the threat may be even bigger. Tonight, Sanjay Gupta investigates that, the race to keep it under control. We will have that.

And, also, we will talk to actor Sean Penn, who actually has been here now for quite some time on the ground doing a lot of good work. We will talk to him about why he's here.


COOPER: You're looking at the -- one of those makeshift tent cities that have sprung up, nearly 500,000 people now said to be living all around Port-au-Prince in tents and corrugated tin structures. A lot of them are kids.

This is the kind of situation where diseases can spread rapidly, stomach illnesses, infection. Sanitation is bare-bones. Medical care is limited. You can have drug-resistant opportunist infections that were already rampant before the quake.

And one of the worst that -- that existed in Haiti is tuberculosis. According to USAID, Haiti, before the quake, actually had the highest incident of T.B. per person in the region.

Sanjay Gupta looked today to find out whether it's still a problem.


GUPTA: There is something happening here in these blue tents behind me. And I can tell you, what's happening inside there could impact people all over the world.

Think of this as a quarantine tent. People in here have been quarantined since the quake. Many of them have tuberculosis, which is why we're going to wear a mask like this.

You will notice the door is open. If you stay about 10 feet away from someone with tuberculosis, you will be OK. And sunlight kills the bacteria as well. But, once we go inside, you have to wear a mask like this. Let's go meet some of the patients.

This is Syndia. She's 20 years old. We've spoken to her already. You take a look at her. She's obviously had a lot of difficulty since the quake. She lost her home. She also lost her medications, which puts her at high risk of developing drug-resistant tuberculosis.

How are you feeling?



GRAPHIC: I don't feel well.

There's a lot of things doctors pay attention to. Syndia, she definitely has some sweating. It's hot outside, but the sweating is a little bit more than that. Also, those sweats often occur at night.

Her lips are so chapped, as well. You can see just from the dehydration. A bit hard to tell, but she's breathing quite quickly. Seems to have a little bit of difficulty breathing. Tuberculosis is a disease of the lungs.

What really brought her in here was this dramatic loss of weight. I mean, just look at her arms. She's lost so much weight. Malnutrition, difficulty eating, that often happens, as well.

A lot of these patients, including Syndia, say, you know, after the earthquake they lost so many things, including her home and also her medication. So she couldn't take her medications for a period of time. What's the risk there?

DR. MEGAN COFFEE, UCSF DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE: There's too big risks. One, of course, we worry about the most is developing multi-drug resistance. She might be taking only one med that's working for TB. And she might then develop resistance to all the other meds. And then she might be more infectious, because the TB can grow back.

And most of these patients here are living in tent cities where they're sleeping nose to nose with their families, with hundreds of thousands of other people sleeping nose to nose with them. So it's a chance of just spreading it and spreading it.

GUPTA: People think of Haiti as over there, some place else, not here. London, New York, Atlanta, San Francisco, do people need to be worried about what's happening in this tent?

COFFEE: Over time this is going to grow and grow. If we allow TB to grow in Haiti, people are going to travel. People are going to be infected. Even workers like us here. And that can really spread to Miami, New York City, and eventually to San Francisco and the southeast. And we really do not wish to have multi-drug resistance. It's something that even in the U.S. we can't treat well. So it'd be terrible if we had that spread.

GUPTA: Where will you go after you leave here?





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She doesn't have a house to go to.

GUPTA: What happens to someone like Syndia? I mean, is she medically -- from a medical standpoint, is she going to be OK?

COFFEE: I hope so, if the right infrastructure's in place. She has totally treatable diseases in the U.S. And right now I know I can treat all her diseases.


COOPER: This is a dumb question: TB, how do you get TB?

GUPTA: Well, it's a bacterial infection. You know, it's spread mainly through people coughing, respiratory. That's why people wear masks inside these types of tents. You stand a certain distance away, you can lower your risk. But, you know, nose to nose, as Dr. Coffee said. That's how people are sleeping. That's how...

COOPER: Right. And so in these tent cities, where you don't really have adequate sanitation -- you've got a bug on you. You don't have adequate sanitation, water is carted in. Sometimes people are drinking out of hoses. There's a hose on the street here people drink out of all the time. I mean, stomach illnesses just can pass very easily through shared food and the like.

GUPTA: No question. I mean, sanitation in these places is how a lot of these infectious diseases are spread. And a lot of the waterborne diseases, as well. I mean, you just get -- the water gets contaminated in all sorts of different ways.

COOPER: Right.

GUPTA: TB is a particular risk. I mean, it's the highest rated, as you mentioned, in the Americas, here in Haiti, it's about 30,000 new cases a year. But you know, you and I have traveled to Africa. We know how big a problem TB is over there. This is a disease that kills 5,000 people a day around the world.


GUPTA: If this starts to develop drug resistance because people lost their medications and simply can't take them. People become carriers and travel around the world. I mean, this could be the epicenter of a real big problem. And that's what was so fascinating to me, is that, you know, people think of Haiti as over there, a different place. But what's happening over here, it could potentially affect the whole world.

COOPER: Right. And I mean, I've seen -- we've seen just how illnesses move through all of us, and we're constantly, you know, using stuff on our hands and washing and stuff. We've all been sick numerous times. You can only imagine what, for people out in these camps, it's 20 times, 30 times worse.

All right. Sanjay, thanks very much.

Just ahead, actor/director Sean Penn's efforts here to help here in Haiti. He's been on the ground for nearly three weeks. My interview with him ahead.


COOPER: I've got to be honest. I'm always wary about celebrities who come to disaster zones, and they usually stay for very short periods of time, appear before the cameras and then take off.

But actor/director Sean Penn has been here now for almost three weeks, helping with relief work with his own organization. Just days after the quake, he co-founded the Jenkins-Penn Haitian Relief Organization with an entrepreneur named Diana Jenkins.

I talked to Sean Penn earlier tonight.


COOPER: I knew you had come. I didn't know that you stayed. I mean, you've been here now -- why have you stayed so long?

SEAN PENN, CO-FOUNDER, JENKINS-PENN HAITIAN RELIEF ORGANIZATION: Because our organization, JPHRO, was being so effective. And -- and with every day, I knew that I couldn't leave it until we had set up everything that -- we have a really great team of people who know how to do this stuff.

But my part in it really singularly had to do with being able to make certain -- certain networking situations in terms of the United Nations, State Department, those kinds of things. And that, to be here on the ground, to be one of the participants in the actions that we were taking, was to know what it would mean for them. And so now we have a pretty good frame on that. I'll go home for about a week.

COOPER: Has this changed you? I mean, has this experience in some way -- I don't think anyone could be here and not be changed by it.

PENN: You know, when I was in Miami, somebody -- I guess Sanjay Gupta had heard that might be coming, and I got an e-mail from him that said, "Awful indelible, fixable."

And this is a situation -- I've been on auto pilot like a lot of us have. I've surveyed the doctors, everybody. Because the circumstances are so emotional that you really -- you can't afford to invest too much in that. And you're too tired to be emotional. It's hot here and all those things.

But the thing that is most changing about it is to see the character of the Haitian people. The people who have been through so much in the first place, so resilient. And there's something so touching about that level of human courage that is -- slash character that is built into these people. Challenged with the thing. It's like OK, you can take it. Try this. And it's just...

COOPER: And it's been going for -- I mean, there's generations of, you know, corruption and mismanagement and abuse and murders. And I mean, just -- it's one thing after another.

PENN: ... fully (ph) by God. And it's time that, you know, we all stepped in and did what, you know, the America we all believe in can do. And of course, with all the other countries that are involved. But I think the United States, in particular, the military on a humanitarian mission here has, to a man, been so extraordinary, and I mean, humanly so extraordinary.

And then to bring a group like that of such disciplined, skilled people into something like this, it's made a tremendous impact. And the United States should be prouder than ever of its military. I've seen it firsthand.

COOPER: Do you plan to come back? Yes?

PENN: Yes, I'll be back next week.

COOPER: Next week. Do you -- I mean, one of the things I worry a lot about is when -- and it's, you know, worrying about the rains coming, obviously, and what happens to all these people who are living outside.

But in terms of the coverage and keeping people's attention on this, is the Olympics are starting soon. And everyone's going to be focused on watching the Olympics. And I feel like this is going to drop off the face of the earth.

PENN: Well, so often, and I don't even agree with it when this happens. People say, you know, don't politicize this; don't politicize that. If there was -- you know, they even say it at the Academy Awards. Don't politicize it. They're not nothing, it's not political.

This is not political. This is the most unpolitical thing there is. This is human beings that are great, strong human beings that are -- that need help. They're stronger than most of us are. And they need our help now. They're so down.

So in terms of keeping the eye on it, I think that they should politicize the Olympics, if that's what they want to call it. And every Olympian should speak about Haiti every time they talk. Everybody should keep the light on this.

COOPER: Yes. It's -- I mean, one of the things I was thinking about yesterday is that, I mean, nobody should die in silence, and nobody's struggle to live should go unnoticed, as well.

I mean, what we're seeing every single day, while much of the world is turned away, is this struggle to live. And it is just as brutal and horrific and impactful as we saw people being pulled out of the rubble.

PENN: Yes. And you have, you know, for all of the thrill and all the deserving of an Olympian winning a gold medal, if the United States as a people win a gold medal on humanitarian effort here, I think that's going to be more important.

COOPER: Well, Sean, appreciate all you've done.

PENN: Thanks a lot.


COOPER: Coming up next on 360, more on the efforts to help the kids of Haiti and the troubles right now with airlifting kids in need out of the country. We'll be right back.


COOPER: New information tonight on a story we started following this week: the chilling effect of the missionary arrest on legitimate flights taking kids out of the country for medical attention. The "New York Times" and "The Miami Herald" have reported on this. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has been doing some investigating.

What did you find?

GUPTA: Well, I think the situation has gotten a lot better. I think there's no questions there were problems of Haitians literally showing up at the airports ,critically ill, needing to be transferred, because they simply could not take care of those patients here in Haiti and, because of paperwork, pilots not wanting to let those patients getting on.

COOPER: Because they were afraid of being accused of somehow trafficking a child?

GUPTA: I mean, that -- as you said, that really had an impact, a ripple effect on those pilots who said, "Look, until we can verify this, we simply cannot put these children or adults on these planes."

But I think things have gotten better. We went to four of the biggest hospitals and talked to people at the four biggest hospitals today. And one of two things has happened at this point. Either patients have been transferred now at this point, or they haven't survived. And that's sort of at the point that we're at now.

COOPER: Who's paying for if a child is airlifted to the United States and treated in the United States or an adult? Who's paying for that?

GUPTA: Well, it's very interesting. The way things stand now, they sort of have these decision trees. If someone was a quake survivor, as opposed to having some sort of chronic illness or if they had a risk of losing a limb, losing their eyesight, or losing their life, they would be eligible for transfer.

That sort of got pared down a little bit to say people who are at a loss -- risk of losing their life could be transferred, medevacked and paid for by the U.S. government. In fact, they had a rate of about 110 percent of what Medicare typically pays for that procedure.

COOPER: Wait. So basically, the government, which means the U.S. taxpayers, are paying for a Haitian child who's treated in a hospital with a life-threatening condition. But why is Medicare paying 110 percent to a hospital as opposed to just paying 100 percent?

GUPTA: Right. I mean, I asked that same question. And they said it was really two reasons. One is it provides some incentives for hospitals all over the country in various states to accept these patients. The patients have to have a hospital they can go to.

The second reason is there are some costs associated with the transfer. Air flights may be involved, and other things may be involved, as well.

COOPER: All right. We'll see how people feel about that. Dr. Gupta, appreciate that, as well. Thank you.

Moving on to a major development in -- back in Washington. This morning, President Obama signed a presidential memorandum aimed at battling childhood obesity in America, a fight being led, of course, by the first lady.

Winning the battle has become a top priority for her. Millions of kids in America, of course, are overweight or obese. With the Let's Move campaign, Mrs. Obama is hoping this epidemic will end. She spoke about the cause earlier tonight with Larry King, shared some insight on life inside the White House. Here she is in her own words.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY: One thing that I try to emphasize is that this isn't about weight, and it's not about looks. It's not -- it's not a physical issue. It's really about the quality of life of our kids.

Do I think I can make some end roads?


M. OBAMA: I think that working with the rest of the country, with parents and business leaders and industry leaders, and entertainment and sports leagues, and parents and doctors, and everyone. Yes, I think that we can make a difference.

KING: Does he get down easily, your husband?

OBAMA: He doesn't get down easily. He gets very focused and very serious when he's facing a challenge.

But, you know, the thing about Barack is that he stays humble and keeps things in perspective. I mean, the challenges that he faces or has faced over this year are not what irk him. It's really, you know, our inability to solve basic fundamental problems facing the American people.

COOPER: What's your read on the former governor of Alaska?

M. OBAMA: You know, I don't have a read. I mean, I try not to make -- or set opinions about people that I haven't had any, you know, substantive interaction with. I mean, I know what you see on TV.

KING: Does it irk you when she criticizes?

M. OBAMA: You know, democracy is about critique. And the president is not immune to criticism. I think he's doing a phenomenal job.

KING: Is she a phenomena to you?

M. OBAMA: Again, I mean, I think -- I think it's wonderful to have strong female voices out there, but I don't know her.

KING: So raising kids in the White House, hard, right?

M. OBAMA: It's different. But it's easier in so many ways. Well, there are some things he can't do. But there are many things he can do. He gets up every morning. He sees his kids before they leave, not something he did two years ago, could do two or three years ago.

He comes home at a certain time. He can have dinner. He can read to the kids at night, tuck them into bed. We have much more quality time. We can't go out, necessarily, but he still goes to parent-teacher conferences. He still goes to...

KING: He goes to the school?

M. OBAMA: Oh, absolutely. He goes to every performance and play. He goes to basketball games and soccer games. He can't go to every single one of them because on Saturdays often times he's working.

But, you know, he is as involved as he's been. It's just, for example, he can't take the kids to school everyday. Quite frankly, they don't want him to. They think his motorcade is a complete embarrassment.


COOPER: That's funny. They think the motorcade is an embarrassment.

Coming up, something to make you smile, maybe, before you go to bed or before you continue watching the rest of the program. The Saints come marching home. A big day in New Orleans. We're going to celebrate with New Orleans native Donna Brazile.

We'll be right back.


COOPER: Let's get caught up on some of tonight's other important stories. Candy Crowley has that "360 Bulletin" -- Candy.


The death of skater Nancy Kerrigan's dad is being called a homicide. Daniel Kerrigan died last week after an alleged fight with his son at the family's Massachusetts home. The son is already facing assault and battery charges. The D.A. is not saying if those charges will change.

The Los Angeles coroner released Michael Jackson's autopsy report. The 51 pages give insight on the ruling the singer died from acute Propofol intoxication. Propofol is a powerful anesthetic almost always administered in a hospital, not a private home. The report says Jackson's personal physician acted with malice in administering the anesthetic. Yesterday, that doctor, Conrad Murray, pled not guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the case.

And to Capitol Hill, where Republican Senator Richard Shelby has dropped his hold on about 70 of President Obama's nominees. But Shelby is still blocking Senate consideration of three Pentagon nominees. His office insists the tactic is not about pork-barrel spending in his state. Instead, the issue is national security, specifically getting a new Air Force aerial refueling tanker and building a forensic facility to examine L.A. -- IEDs, projects that would bring jobs and money to Shelby's state of Alabama.

And if you want to beat the chill on an American Airlines domestic flight, you better pack a sweater or fork over $8 for a blanket and a pillow. The new policy that will take effect May 1 and follows in the steps of JetBlue and U.S. Airways.

I mean, I'm sorry -- that's just really...

COOPER: Wow. And it's not even a real pillow. They should invent a new word for it. Because it's not a pillow. It's like a little Styrofoam something that is not big enough to give you any satisfaction whatsoever.

CROWLEY: It has that, like, white gauzy thing over it and then that icky blanket that they just sort of slip into a plastic thing to make you believe they cleaned it.


CROWLEY: Folks, bring your own blanket. T hat's all I've got to say.

COOPER: Well, the only benefit, I guess, of buying is that you know that no one else has used it. Or at least, I'm guessing no one else has used it. For $8, I guess that's -- I would hope no one else has gotten to use it.

CROWLEY: I don't know, Anderson. I'd take a bet on that. Just saying. Bring your own.

COOPER: All right.

Time for "The Shot," Candy. What else, the big Super Bowl party for the New Orleans Saints. Mardi Gras and New Year's Eve, July 4, probably all rolled into one today as the great city saluted the winning team.

Tens of thousands of people lined the streets. The players threw beads from floats. The parade, I'm sure, is officially over. I'm sure there's a lot of after parties going on.

Contributor Donna Brazil knows politics, but as a New Orleans native, she is joining in the super celebration. We spoke earlier tonight.


COOPER: And "The Shot" tonight. For this I'm joined by none other than Donna Brazil.

Donna, thank you for being with us. "The Shot" tonight is you and Blitzer on "THE SITUATION ROOM." I want to show our viewers that.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Donna Brazil, she's celebrating here in "THE SITUATION ROOM," celebrating the New Orleans Saints. She's celebrating...

BRAZILE: Come on, Wolf. Show us something. Show me something.

BLITZER: We're moving -- as we go to break, Donna Brazil. And New Orleans. We'll be right back.


COOPER: You know you're celebrating. How badly do you want to be in New Orleans right now?

BRAZILE: Oh, Anderson, I'm there in spirit. You know, I've been crying for the last two weeks, crying because it is a joyful celebration. The New Orleans Saints has come to epitomize what we have been really fighting for: a team that came from behind, the underdog in the Super Bowl. They have lifted our spirits. They have brought the joy back to the city of New Orleans.

So this is a wonderful day to celebrate the Saints. We call it Lombardi Gras, and next week we'll celebrate Fat Tuesday on the actual Mardi Gras.

COOPER: Yes, I'm not sure the city is going to be able to handle so much celebration all at once. But actually, what am I saying? Of course New Orleans is going to be able to handle it.

It is also -- I was talking to James Carville and Mary Matalin about this yesterday -- it really is a capper to a lot of the great things that are happening in New Orleans, with the education system, just had a mayoral race that brought out a lot of people to the ballot. There's a lot of really good things happening right now.

BRAZILE: There's a renaissance going on in New Orleans. Tourists are coming back; the neighborhoods are coming back. The restaurants are back.

You know, Anderson, just a few years ago, and you know this so well -- I believe that you're one of our most favorite sons. But the city was dead right after the storm. So many homes destroyed, so many businesses destroyed, schools closed.

And now you see the people coming back. The city's uniting. We have a new mayor, Mitch Landrieu, who will take office in May. He will continue the recovery efforts, working with the city council, the governor, and of course, working with the people of New Orleans. This city will come back stronger and, Anderson, let the good times roll.

COOPER: And I've got to point out there's more restaurants open than before Katrina. My favorite, Stella. I love Commanders Palace for the tradition of it. And of course, for lunch, for po-boys, in my mind nothing beats Domilise's, a family-run joint that's really a must-stop place along with Stella and Commander's Palace.

Donna, I appreciate it. I know you're going to be heading back to celebrate with your town. Good luck getting back. I hope the snow doesn't delay. Thanks for being with us.

BRAZILE: And Anderson, next time you want some good Creole gumbo, come to Chez Damez (ph), my house, baby.

COOPER: All right. I'll do that.

BRAZILE: It's on me. Bring your own liquor, though. Thank you.


COOPER: Bring your own liquor. Candy, it's just like a CNN party.

CROWLEY: It really does. So here's my quick question to you. If Donna's on your set and she's dancing and asks you to join in, would you do it?

COOPER: I don't think I would. I mean, maybe slow dancing is fine, but just like, you know, other kind of dancing? Yes, no.

CROWLEY: yes, I was -- I was good when it was just Donna dancing, and then when she brought Wolf into it, I was thinking, OK, you know, cut to the break.

COOPER: Well, Wolf -- Wolf loves the music, you know. He was in that band when he was a kid. And he claims he was in the original band called The Monkeys. He had a band that he claims predated the actually Monkees. Because I'm not sure I believe him. But...

CROWLEY: I -- I think we should...

COOPER: I want to see the pictures.

CROWLEY: Let's at least Google it and see.

COOPER: Thanks. Exactly. All right, Candy, thanks very much.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

COOPER: Enjoyed it. Good night.

There'll be more news in a moment. Stay tuned.