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Abuses of Wounded Afghan Soldiers & Congressional Investigation; Elderly People Abusing Drugs; Russia Sends Military Ships to Syria; Consumer Borrowing Jumps
Aired July 10, 2012 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "CNN NEWSROOM": Carol Costello, thank you so much.
Hi, everybody. I am Ashleigh Banfield and it's 11:00 on the East Coast. That means 8:00 a.m. on the West Coast. A good time to get started.
If you thought the Supreme Court had the last word on healthcare, you might not have been paying attention because Republicans are trying once again to kill The Affordable Care Act. It is just the 31st time that we've had a whack at this thing. Will it be the charm?
Also today, repairing the Washington monument is one, tall order, even taller than anyone thought. What an earthquake can do in seconds can take years to fix.
And Sanjay Gupta joining us live this hour in Cambodia where children are dying after 24 hours of hell. How will they fix this? Where is the solution?
Hi, everybody, and we start with House Republicans renewing their efforts to overturn The Affordable Care Act. You know? That thing they call ObamaCare.
The healthcare law which was upheld by the Supreme Court, but there's always tomorrow. You're looking at one of the hearings on Capitol Hill dealing with healthcare. A whole lot of debate going on tomorrow, because that will set the stage for a vote tomorrow.
What you're looking at now -- the House Ways and Means Committee. Not long from now, the House oversight committee is going to tackle the very same subject. Our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash is in Washington, live.
It's hard to believe that there have been 31 attempts to either tweak, yank, pull, dissect or destroy this thing all together. What is the point of tomorrow's vote?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they, obviously, have fresh public debate about this, which, as you mentioned, was the Supreme Court decision, so they figure why not do it one more time to make the point, more clearly, thanks to the Supreme Court decision, that the major component of this healthcare law, the mandate, is, according to the Supreme Court, a tax.
As we've been talking about Ashleigh since last week or before, the Republicans feel like they are in pretty good shape with that. Listen to what the House Speaker John Boehner said, though, in response to your question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: The American people do not want to go down the path of ObamaCare. That's why we voted over 30 times to repeal it, de-fund it, replace it, and we're -- we are resolved to have this law go away, and we're going to do everything we can to stop it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Now, Ashleigh one question you might have, one question I have had, is are people out there really listening? Do they care? Do they want the House of Representatives to do this over and over again, even though they know it won't go anywhere?
Well, as you can imagine, Republicans say, yes, for the most part out there; Democrats say, no, But the key voting bloc that everybody is looking at, independents, we pulled up our latest poll to see what they think about whether it should be repealed and this is interesting.
Independent voters, 56 percent say that they believe all provisions should be repealed, 42 percent say keep provisions in place. Fifty-six percent of that key voting bloc, not a huge majority, but 6 percent for these swing voters in these swing districts could make all the difference.
BANFIELD: So, Dana, "The New York Times" is quoting a top Republican adviser, a consultant, who said that any time the Republicans are debating taxes and the economy they are winning, but any time the Democrats are debating healthcare they are winning.
So, what does that mean for Democrats today? Do they go on the offensive or do they go on the defensive?
BASH: Oh, they are insisting they are absolutely going on the offensive. They actually have been pretty disciplined with their response to the Supreme Court decision and that response is whether it is the Democratic candidate for Senate in Massachusetts who I was interviewing last week or the Democratic candidate out in, you know, out in Idaho.
What they have been saying is Republicans are fighting yesterday's battles. We need to move on. We need to focus on jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs because that really is what voters care most about.
Whether or not Democrats are going to actually feel pressure to go with Republicans and vote with them on this repeal, the last time there was an actual full repeal vote, there were only three Democrats crossed over, but I'm guessing that if Democrats feel that it is politically important for them to cross over in order to save face back home, they will be free to do so, according to the Democratic leadership.
BANFIELD: Only two of them did it the first time around. It will be fascinating to find out what happens again. Well, I say fascinating. We've only had 31 cracks at this, but it will be interesting, nonetheless.
Dana Bash in Washington, thank you very much.
Let me move on to this. President Obama taking his middle class tax cut pitch to Iowa. He's going to arrive this hour in the state that got him his first presidential campaign or got his presidential campaign off the ground. It's a state that he carried by ten points back during the general election and, today, he goes to Cedar Rapids, that little dot there on the right of your screen.
CNN's Dan Lothian joining me from the White House. So, Dan, explain this to me. The swing states that he's visiting are actually doing pretty well, economically, so how does the president take this message that he was touting yesterday, the tax cuts only for those up to $250,000, and how does he sell is in Cedar Rapids to those who make over $250,000 and, namely, the small businesses that are complaining about this?
DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, look, I think, first of all, as you point out, you know, Iowa is one of these battleground states that's doing quite well. The unemployment rate there is just above 5 percent, well below the national average of 8.2 percent.
We also saw good unemployment numbers, if you put it that way, in Pennsylvania and also in Ohio where the president visited last week, at around 7.5 percent, but what you're seeing is that, even though the unemployment rate is low in these various battleground states, the race remains neck-and-neck.
It's basically tied up in the latest pollings in Iowa between the president and Mitt Romney and, so, there's something else that the president is trying to push to break through and that is tax fairness.
And he's selling it this way, that what he is pushing for will help the middle class, and it shows that voters really like this message. It really resonates with them, so that's why you see the president really pushing this.
And not only just the president going to these battleground states, but also surrogates and then the president sitting down, doing these local TV interviews as he did yesterday, so that he can appeal directly to the voters via local TV interviews.
Meanwhile, Republicans are pushing back, saying, look, the president is saying what he's doing is helping the middle class, but this is not the time in this economic environment to raise taxes on anyone. It will only further impact the economy and they say that the president's policies up to this point will hurt the middle class.
BANFIELD: Are we about to be introduced to a nice couple named Jason and Allie McLaughlin, who make $82,000 a year and I'm sure that they're thrilled that the entire country knows what their salary is now.
LOTHIAN: That's right. The president will be having this rally there, but prior to that rally, he'll be sitting down, having this roundtable with an Iowa family that the White House, the campaign says is a middle class family.
They have one child. They have another child on the way and this is a family that will benefit, the White House and the campaign says, from the president's policies and have benefited in the past as well.
And so this family offering up their personal experience to help the president in his campaign effort in a critical battleground state.
BANFIELD: All right. Dan Lothian, thank you for that. Live from the White House this morning.
Mitt Romney and his GOP allies are not exactly watching from the sidelines. Heck, no. It's a campaign already. We've got four months to go. The candidate speaks next hour in Colorado.
And, once again, a surrogate party chief, Reince Priebus, is pre- butting -- you know, the whole pre-buttal -- doing a pre-buttal to the president's remarks in the same city that the president is visiting, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I think we now all know that that is called bracketing, not March Madness, political bracketing.
The Romney remarks are going to be the first on-camera remarks since the president laid down this whole tax-cut challenge. Although he did speak on the radio about those small businesses in the high brackets.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Small businesses are overwhelmingly being taxed not at a corporate rate, but at the individual tax rate, so successful small businesses will see their taxes go up dramatically and that will kill jobs. That will be another kick in the gut to the middle class in America.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
Our Jim Acosta is watching Team Romney from D.C., as well. So this is kind of a bit of a one-two punch, I think, for the Obama campaign, as they've been laying out this whole tax policy. At the same time, they've been butting it up against, well, you know that Mitt Romney makes a whole lot of money. He's in that richest one percent.
So how is Mitt Romney going to offset some of that very, very strong campaigning. JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, he has a town hall in Colorado, as you mentioned, in a little while from now, in a couple of hours. Wouldn't it be nice to live in a swing state, Ashleigh, and have all the presidential candidates coming through your hometown?
BANFIELD: No, thank you, Jim Acosta. No, I like my television commercials with Celebrex and all the rest. I don't want to see all the campaign ads. They're nasty.
ACOSTA: Exactly. Well, you did hear Mitt Romney use that term, "kick in the gut." I would imagine he's going to use it later today at this town hall in Colorado.
You know, he's been talking a lot about the middle class and what he's trying to say in response to the president's message on these Bush tax cuts is that what the president would do would actually harm the middle class because it would raise taxes, he says, on people who own small businesses and small businesses will not hire people as a result of that.
You know, another interesting thing, Ashleigh, that Mitt Romney said in another interview with a radio station in Iowa. He started to lay out what his alternative would be to what the president wants to do with tax rates.
He says that all of those tax rates should basically stay where they are for an indefinite period of time, is the phrasing he used, in order to put in a brand-new tax system that would result in basically lower rates for nearly all Americans and he would offset that by changing some of the tax loopholes that are enjoyed by wealthier Americans.
So it's interesting to see the Republican contender talk a little bit about what he would do as an alternative to what the president is proposing.
BANFIELD: And then also, Jim, isn't he changing the narrative somewhat today, as well, by setting up a new website? I think they are calling it "Obamanomics," not sure if I pronounced it properly. Outsourced "Obamanomics?"
ACOSTA: Well, yeah, there are a couple things going on. One thing that Mitt Romney did do and the Romney campaign is going after the president on this, they are trying to turn the tables on the president with respect to these attacks on outsourcing.
As you know, the Obama campaign recently has been running these ads accusing Mitt Romney of outsourcing jobs when he was in charge over at Bain Capital. I will tell you, Ashleigh, there are some independent fact-checkers out there who have raised some questions about the accuracy of those ads and whether or not Mitt Romney was actually at Bain when some of that outsourcing went on.
There are some indications out there that he was not there at the time, that maybe he was just having a financial interest in Bain when that outsourcing was going on.
But another interesting thing, Ashleigh, that's going on is that they have been going after the Republican contender about his offshore holdings, the Swiss bank account, the investments in the Cayman Islands, this new company that's been disclosed in Bermuda, and Mitt Romney addressed some of that for the first time in an interview with an Iowa radio station, and here's what he had to say about that.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ROMNEY: I realize that the president's failure to actually reignite the economy makes it hard for him to discuss his own record and so he's going to try to attack me on every personal basis he can come up with, with regards to any foreign investments.
I understand and you understand, of course, that my investments have been held by a blind trust, have been managed by a trustee. I don't manage them. I don't even know where they are.
Those -- that trustee follows all U.S. laws. All the taxes are paid as appropriate. All of them have been reported to the government. There's nothing hidden there.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
ACOSTA: So it's interesting, Ashleigh, to hear Mitt Romney say it's the blind trust that's been managing these assets, so he doesn't really know where all of his investments are at this point.
The president went after Mitt Romney last night in a local interview with a TV station in New Hampshire, saying that Romney should be an open book about his investments, so this is going to be going on back and forth for quite a while, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: Yeah, if it's not the offshore accounts, it's the tax returns or it's what Bain did or didn't do or the job cuts. It's like the attacks have been fast and furious.
Oh, wait, that's his attack on the Obama administration, so there's that.
ACOSTA: Let's not go there. I don't have time.
BANFIELD: OK. Jim Acosta, thanks. Good to see you.
By the way, remember Mitt Romney is going to speak in Colorado, 12:35 Eastern time.
President Obama is going to land in Iowa later this hour. He's going to hold a rally, 1:50 Eastern time. We're going to bring you both live events.
BANFIELD: Right now doctors are racing to figure out what is killing dozens of children in Cambodia and the mystery illness, its speed and its deadly effects are starting to really baffle the top health experts in the world.
Almost every single child hospitalized with this disease has died after 24 hours, something our Sanjay Gupta has called "24 hours of hell."
Dr. Gupta is in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he's getting a firsthand look at the increasingly dire situation there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By no means are we at the conclusion of our investigation.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: An investigation into the mystery of what's killing some of Cambodia's children at a frightening pace.
DR. PIETER VAN MAAREN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The majority of these cases, mostly under the age of 3, were seriously ill and many of them have died within 24 hours of admission.
GUPTA: I mean, that's pretty frightening, I think, for people to hear.
VAN MAAREN: Absolutely.
GUPTA: There's a lot of diseases in this part of the world, many parts of the world, but to kill that quickly.
The backdrop is important here. Kantha Bopha Hospital treats thousands of children suffering from dengue fever, malaria, and tuberculosis, every week. And remember, this is a part of the world where bird flu and SARS originated.
Still, right away Dr. Beat Richner knew this was different.
DR. BEAT RICHNER, KANTHA BOPHA HOSPITAL: It's a big picture for us. We've never seen this in Cambodia before.
GUPTA: He's the head of the hospital and he allowed us into the ICU where the patients are treated.
To give you an idea of how this is, even as we were talking, Dr. Richner got called away to see another extreme child in shock. That's where we're going right now.
Dr. Richner says 66 children came to the hospital with the mystery illness. For 64 of them, it was "24 hours of hell" before they died. You heard right. All but two died.
In many of these children it started off rather mild, a mild fever, but then things progressed quickly from there. For example, in (INAUDIBLE) case who is 2-years old, we don't know what's causing his encephalitis, but this is typically what happens. The fontanel over here starts to bulge and the eyes, as you can see over here, become disconjugate, as well. From there, it just becomes merciless. It goes from the head and the brain to the lungs.
RICHNER: You can see these lungs here and five hours later you see the lungs.
GUPTA: In the last few hours of life, this unknown illness completely destroyed the child's lungs and there was no way to stop it.
You've never seen anything like this before?
RICHNER: No. This is the first time at the end of April and this makes us worried.
GUPTA: Something called enterovirus-71, something typically associated with hand, foot and mouth disease was found in more than a dozen patients, but that's only adding to the mystery.
Would the enterovirus lead to this?
RICHNER: Never, never, never.
GUPTA: So it has to be something else?
RICHNER: I think so, but we cannot prove. But we must look for.
GUPTA: And that's where the investigation goes next. Cambodian health officials and the WHO say they are now looking into whether expired medication, the wrong medication or inappropriate medication, such as steroids, could be a blame.
Steroids can also make a relatively harmless infection suddenly much more severe.
VAN MAAREN: Yes. That is definitely a possibility.
BANFIELD: And Dr. Sanjay Gupta is live with us now from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Sanjay, it's so disturbing to see those tiny little kids in the hospital beds knowing that the death rate is so extraordinary.
What on earth are they going to be able to do with that last bit of information that you told us regarding medication, whether it's the wrong medication or outdated medication? How are they going to investigate this?
GUPTA: Well, you know, it's very difficult, Ashleigh, to find this via a blood test, for example. Even the blood test that found the enterovirus, what we were just talking about, was difficult to perform, so finding a medication, probably even more challenging.
So, what's happening is it's real investigative work, Ashleigh. They are going out to some of the areas where these children lived, trying to figure out, did these children get a medication. And, if so, is there something in common between all these children and then investigating that medication.
It could be that just simply a wrong medication was given, or it could be that it was just a bad batch in some way, but that's sort of the leading hypothesis by the doctor you just met there, Dr. Richner.
He believes the virus alone couldn't account for this. He thinks it's some kind of toxic interaction with the medication, so that's where they are looking, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: And, so, since we last spoke yesterday, we discussed the possibility of it being a contagious virus. In this respect, it doesn't really look like it, but why this area? Why just Cambodia? Why is it centralized here?
GUPTA: You know, you've had various outbreaks around the world over the years. In fact, it probably was in California in the late '60s that you first saw an enterovirus-71 sort of outbreak like this and then we've seen outbreaks in Taiwan and China.
So, I think that does happen and it just happens sporadically. We're not entirely sure what brings it on, but what's a little bit different here is just how quickly the virus is affecting these little kids, I mean, and infecting their lungs like you saw in the picture there.
That's the confusing part of this there. The enterovirus exists. Why it's become so virulent and deadly is harder to figure out.
BANFIELD: And it's just so troubling, as you said, with the little kids being the ones who are infected. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, excellent, excellent work in Phnom Penh for us, live.
I want to just add to Dr. Gupta's report that the World Health Organization says that the kids who have been infected with this mystery illness range in age from 3 months, really tiny kids, to 11 years old, but the bulk of those who have died have been under the age of 3-years old.
BANFIELD: Looks like a popular Washington landmark is going to stay closed a little longer than we all expected. Actually could be another year before you get a chance to visit the Washington Monument again.
Again, you can walk around it. You just can't go up. A 5.8 magnitude earthquake closed the monument back in August of last year.
Look at pictures. Imagine being that person down at the bottom there, wondering what is going on. Crews have been repairing it ever since this quake.
Sandra Endo is in Washington to tell us more about this. This is one expensive job. SANDRA ENDO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, and a lengthy job, Ashleigh. Repairs are going to start in earnest in the fall and, as you mentioned, the Washington Monument has been closed since last August's 5.8 magnitude earthquake that struck this area.
And the monument has been undergoing extensive investigations. Engineers have been determining the safety and structural integrity of it and they determined that this 555-foot tall monument will need extensive internal and external repairs.
We are talking about sealing cracks, removing loose stones, repairing joints and reinforcing beams inside the monument and at least nine outside marble panels near the top are cracked, and those each weigh nearly 2,000 pounds, so that's what we're talking about in terms of the magnitude of this.
And the National Park Service says this attraction, obviously, is a big draw here to the nation's capital. It lures in 700,000 tourists each year, and, of course, now those tourists may have to wait until 2014 to actually go up inside the monument.
But here's what the National Park Service had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB VOGEL, SUPERINTENDENT, NATIONAL MALL AND MEMORIAL PARKS: I mean, it truly is a monumental task. This is certainly an icon not only of Washington, but of our entire nation.
And, so, that's why we've done this very meticulous analysis and have some of the best experts in the United States working on the project.
And, you know, we don't want the monument to be closed one day longer than it needs to be, but we also have to make sure that we repair it correctly so that it will be here for all time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ENDO: And the price tag for the repairs, $15 million. Half of that pretty much is from a wealthy donor. The other half, good old taxpayer money. Ashleigh?
BANFIELD: And let's give credit where it's due. David Rubenstein is his name, a wealthy Washington businessman. Boy, I wish I had friends like that.
Sandra Endo, thank you. Nice it see you.
And by the way, the Washington Monument has been repaired three times recently, if you're counting, and the most recent work done it was done between 1997 and the year 2000.
BANFIELD: Afghan soldiers who are wounded in battle often wind up at a military hospital in Kabul and, all too often, their suffering is only compounded and even exploited at a hospital.
This afternoon, U.S. lawmakers are going to hold a hearing on the abysmal conditions that have been brought to light by a U.S. doctor and then later by Pentagon inspectors.
CNN's Barbara Starr has an exclusive report, but first, a warning. Some of the images are very difficult to watch.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Afghan soldiers starving, lying in dirty beds with festering wounds, denied painkillers. All of this at the Kabul National Military Hospital, a hospital the U.S. paid more than $200 million to help the Afghans run.
COL. SCHUYLER GELLER, M.D. RETIRED AIR FORCE PHYSICIAN: Things as simple as dressing changes are not done. Patients become infected, and they die.
STARR: These days, a world away, Schuyler Geller, a retired Air Force doctor, tends to his Tennessee farm.
GELLER: This will be kind of a little haven.
STARR: From February 2010 to February 2011, he oversaw training of Afghans at the hospital. These are photos were taken by his American military staff.
GELLER: There are patients that are starving to death because they can't buy the food. They have to bribe for food. They have to bribe for medicine. Patients were beaten when they complained about no pain medicine or no medicine.
STARR (on camera): And you're not supposed to worry about that?
GELLER: That's what we were told.
STARR (voice-over): Pentagon officials do not dispute that the photos from 2010 show hidden but deliberate abuse from Afghan staff, but they insist, after a U.S. inspection, conditions have improved significantly.
In this memo to Congress, Geller alleges two senior U.S. generals who oversaw Afghan training, Lieutenant General William Caldwell and his deputy brigadier general, Patton, in 2010, delayed bringing in Pentagon investigators because of their political concerns over the looming mid-term U.S. elections.
Geller says Caldwell was angry. His staff wanted the inspector general to investigate, and that Patton ordered a delay out of concern it would embarrass the Obama White House.
GELLER: And then he said, but we don't want to put that request in right now because there's an upcoming general election, and we wouldn't want this to leak out.
REP. JASON CHAFFETZ, (R), UTAH: That's just not acceptable.
STARR: Congressman Jason Chaffetz House Oversight Subcommittee is investigating the general's behavior.
CHAFFETZ: That's a very serious allegation. But it didn't just come from one high-ranking military official on the ground, or two. We have several of them who have stepped forward that said, yes, indeed this is the case.
STARR: Geller says he wants the truth to come out.
GELLER: The biggest frustration is our own leadership's response and how slow that was and how inadequate that was.
BANFIELD: Barbara Starr joins me live now.
Barbara, I'm not sure which is worse, the unbearable suffering or the fact that the U.S. has pumped millions and millions into this hospital. I get it. It's been 10 years that we've been at war in this country, but this is absolutely -- it's -- it defies logic. What is happening in terms of Congress being held accountable for this?
STARR: Well, this is what the hearings are going to take a look at, Ashleigh, or at least that's what we're told. They want to talk to the Pentagon about how did this happen, what are you doing to fix it? Who knew? Who knew what, when? You know, fundamentally, can they even provide basic medical care for the Afghan troops? One of the things on the table is the whole notion that two U.S. generals, when they knew about it, delayed an investigation into it because of their political concerns. I should say we reached out to General Caldwell and General Patton, and they declined to comment on this.
BANFIELD: And there's the political fallout because the pictures are out. Who knows what that will do in terms of the local response in Afghanistan?
Barbara Starr, thank you, at the Pentagon.
The subcommittee hearing that Barbara was talking about, it's going to start at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. And if there's any news that breaks out of it, you bet your bottom dollar that you'll be hearing about it right here first on CNN.
BANFIELD: Do you think it's only young people who abuse alcohol and drugs? You might want to think again, because there's a new report out from the Institute of Medicine that says there aren't enough mental health and substance abuse experts who are trained to treat older people, and that if this doesn't change, it could really put a major strain on our health care system. So why is this a big deal? Because between 14 percent and 20 percent of the nation's elderly have one or more mental health issues or problems stemming from substance abuse, misuse or abuse actually together. Our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is live in Atlanta to tell us more about this.
I'm absolutely perplexed by this, Elizabeth, because it's not like we didn't know that the baby boom was coming.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, and now the question is, did we prepare for it? And this Institute of Medicine report, Ashleigh, the authors put it in very strong, very certain terms, and it's really worth even quoting from it. This is what they wrote in the Institute of Medicine report. The author said, "The burden of mental illness and substance abuse disorders in older adults in the United States borders on a crisis," borders on a crisis. so we know that this is a real problem, and you're right. I mean, we weren't as prepared for it as we should be.
BANFIELD: So I think I'm learning a new term here, geriatricians. And the fact that I've never heard it is exactly the issue we're talking about. Are there enough geriatricians? Are there students looking into this discipline?
COHEN: Unfortunately, there aren't enough students looking into this discipline. It doesn't pay well. You don't get paid well for doing surgery. You don't get paid well, relatively speaking, for taking care of elderly people.
So I'm going to give you two sets of numbers, which will show you this shortage in very stark terms. And the first is the number of elderly. Right now, in the United States, every year, when you look at people who are turning 65, three million to four million new elderly people in this country. In other words, three to four people are turning 65 in this country every year. And, on average, they have 40 doctors visits a year, so there's a high need.
Let's look at who is filling that need. Fellowships for geriatricians, 60 percent remain unfilled. Very unpopular with medical students, partly because it doesn't pay very well.
BANFIELD: So, as I understand, it's also a bit of a paperwork problem in terms of just the filings and the payment codes. Can a lot of this be fixed with some tweaking? I mean, we've got Obama-care coming, and somewhere in the thousands of pages, is there something that exists that helps this?
COHEN: There's something in Obama-care that may help what we were talking about and that's trying to get more loan forgiveness and more funding so that people will go into specialties like geriatrics.
But let's talk about Medicare funding. The way it works, Medicare pays quite well for hospitalizations. If you end up sick enough to go to the hospital, they will pay for that. But, of course, the point is that we don't want people to end up in the hospital. And we were speaking with the head of geriatrics at Washington Hospital Center, named Eric Deon (ph), and he told us this really horrifying story. He had a patient with psychiatric problems. And she would be calling 911, and she would end up in the hospital. And they would pay for that, but they wouldn't fully pay for a social worker to go visit the woman. They wouldn't pay for the visit, which is cheap, and wouldn't reimburse that but would take care of her when she's in the hospital. Not a very smart use of funds I think a lot of people would say.
BANFIELD: Yes, the proactive versus the reactive --
BANFIELD: -- is so often the argument. I can't believe I haven't heard of that term, geriatrician. Maybe the free market will show that this is an area that needs more students and the salaries will go up.
COHEN: Let's hope so.
BANFIELD: Let's hope so.
Elizabeth Cohen, thank you for that.
BANFIELD: For more information about this story, go to our blog at CNNhealth.com.
BANFIELD: U.S. officials are closely watching two Russian military ships that are on their way to Syria, and more specifically that spot right there, the port of Tartous. The Russians say any weapons and manpower on board are only to reinforce their naval base there and that they, quote, "have nothing to do with the crisis in Syria." A Russian official said just yesterday that Russia would not deliver any new weapons to the country while the situation in Syria remains unstable, and they have billions in contracts that still need to be fulfilled. That's a big deal. All this at a time when special envoy, Kofi Annan, is in Baghdad today. It's his latest effort to push the resurrection of the peace plan to end the violence in Syria. Mr. Annan is planning to meet with Iran's prime minister to talk about the escalating crisis there and, of course, the impact on the neighboring countries like Iraq and others. And all of this coming after Kofi Annan met with the Syrian president. Pictures tell the story. Bashar al Assad with him. They are trying to hash out a compromise.
And then there's this. An official that's close to the Russian government has told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that Russian officials told him they would not oppose, at least officially intervene against any kind of military action the countries take against Syria. They wouldn't prefer it, but they would not oppose it or do anything to stop it. And they went so far as to add it wouldn't actually affect the U.S. relationship with Russia as well. Another big step in the noose tightening around Bashar al Assad's neck.
And going against orders to the contrary, to the south, Egypt's parliament, defiantly holding its first session since being dissolved and since the presidential election. Do you remember they were shut down by the country's military rulers hours before the polls opened in Egypt's historic election? And it was the man who won the vote, Mohamed Morsi, who gave the order to start back up, get parliament back in business, despite the fact that the high court in that country dissolved that parliament. Can you say controversy?
CNN's Ivan Watson is live outside, near to those parliament buildings.
So, Ivan, essentially, these parliamentarians, those who prefer to come back to work and actually sit in a session for the first time this morning, had to actually pass by riot police and barriers to go into that building and -- and yet they did pull it off.
IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They did. And the riot police let them through, really for the first time in nearly a month. So basically, what you had here were the generals and the judges said no. The president said yes. And in the end, you had the first meeting of parliament, an elected parliament, I might add, in nearly a month. And even so, some of the parliament members actually, Ashleigh, were not totally comfortable with the meeting.
Take a listen to what one man had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: Was in a good day today that parliament met again?
MOHAMED ANWAR EL SADAT, MEMBER OF EGYPT'S PARLIAMENT: Well, it's -- it's -- yes and no, because there is such a big confusion within the Egyptians because of all those who are -- again, it's this decree. Some of them say it's not legitimate. Some of them, they say, you know, we have the full right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WATSON: And what you have now is a meeting that lasted less than an hour, Ashleigh, and the speaker of parliament basically said we're going to try to take this case to reopen the parliament to a court, to the court of appeals. What we're seeing now is competing court cases, in different branches of the Egyptian judiciary, the constitutional court, the court of appeals, the administrative court, with different groups, the Muslim Brotherhood on one side and. for the most part, the secular army generals and their allies on the other launching competing court cases against each other as part of kind of a political chess game over who can get the upper hand. At least they are doing this in court, and they are not fighting out in the streets. And we've seen far too much fighting in Cairo over the last year and a half.
BANFIELD: Yes, let's hope that strain continues. But I suppose a good question might be, if essentially the -- the new president is breaking the law of the land, or at least what the supreme court has determined to be the law of the land, and convened parliament, could he be arrested? Could Mohamed Morsi actually be arrested? And would that be disastrous in terms of what we just talked about and that's the possibility of violence?
WATSON: We saw a warning of that just a few hours ago. Outside the administrative court building, there were some 27 court cases lodged against the president, Mohamed Morsi. And you might add, he's only been inaugurated about two weeks -- less than two weeks ago. And outside the front of that court building, Ashleigh, where hundreds of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi, and that crowd was angry. They were throwing water bottles. They were cursing one man who came out of the courthouse. And I saw the riot police putting on their helmets and armor. I thought we'd start seeing tear gas. In the end, the judges decided to postpone the verdict on those 27 court cases and the crowd peacefully dispersed. But it was a warning of what could happen if someone tries to press charges against this recently elected president.
BANFIELD: Quiet now, but keep an eye on things.
Ivan Watson live from Cairo. Thanks so much for that.
What to do an international story for you, but a bit of a mystery and kind of a weird mystery at that. Let's just say she's the lady in black. She's seen here sitting to the left of North Korea's new leader, Kim Jung Un, dressed in black. Is she his wife, his lover, possibly his sister? Going to a concert with him? Being touted around at official events. Here's the weird thing. Nobody knows who the lady in black is. It's kind of the way it goes in that country. They never really talked about the significant others of the leaders there. In fact, North Korea is such a closed society, we just don't know for sure what his age is or if he is even married. What we do know though is this young woman has been seen at his side at several recent official functions. So there's that.
BANFIELD: Busy week for business. Earnings week this week, and also banks in Spain accepting a bailout.
Alison Kosik is at the New York Stock Exchange to talk about the effects on the U.S. economy.
Up arrows, down arrows, how are we doing?
ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi. How are you doing? We're seeing a mixed showing right now. The Dow is up 22 points. The NASDAQ, S&P 500 down a bit. You know, gains were pretty strong at the opening bell but they kind of fizzled out on worries about how second quarter earnings season is going to turn out. Alcoa reported yesterday after the bell kind of with lackluster earnings. So Wall Street is a bit concerned about how that April through June quarter is going to turn out -- Ashleigh?
BANFIELD: All right, Alison, thanks so much. Keep an eye on things. Alison Kosik at the New York Stock Exchange.
We mentioned the Spanish banks and the boost they gave to the markets. Beside the $37 billion infusion, Spain gets the next three years or two to get the government's financial house in order. That's important.
BANFIELD: The famous Farnborough Air Show is going on in England right now, already grabbing a new $7 billion contract for some of their planes. Really, this is just an excuse to show you extraordinarily cool video. This is the massive Airbus A-380 luxury plane, and it's doing tricks. Not the kind of tricks they do with you on board. That is awful cool, isn't it? Look at that thing banking. As part of their sales presentation. And it's just not that often you get to see a 600-ton plane doing a 360 like that on purpose. What they'd be saying. Man, that is awesome.
She is a fashion icon from a designer dynasty -- Donatella Versace. She opens up about her brother's murder 15 years ago and her personal and professional struggles ever since that happened.
Here's Alina Cho with a backstage fashion pass.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's nearly show time at Paris' Ritz Hotel. Why are they here?
CHO: This is an event.
(on camera): How does it feel when you wear Versace?
JESSICA ALBA, ACTRESS: You feel very sexy, very glamorous.
CHO (voice-over): They've come out for a fashion show. What will go down in history as Donatella's return to the Ritz.
(on camera): You never came back.
DONATELLA VERSACE, FASHION DESIGNER: It was too painful for me.
CHO: Painful because it was here at the Ritz in July, 1997, that Gianni, the man who started the Versace label, showed his last collection. Nine days later, he was gunned down on the steps of his Miami mansion by Andrew Cunanon.
VERSACE: After the show, two days after, I would never see him again.
CHO: They were close as can be. She his muse, he the creative force who popularized the notion of dressing celebrities for the red carpet, the first to pay high salaries to models creating the supermodel.
When Gianni was killed, Donatella took over so the brand Versace would live on. VERSACE: (INAUDIBLE). I need to find my own voice.
CHO: There are highs and lows. J-Lo in this Versace gown brought a lot of attention. But the company lost money. Donatella struggled with drug addiction. Versace lost its way.
Then Lady Gaga came along.
CHO: Gaga opened Versace to a whole new generation, young buyers who don't remember Gianni Versace.
That gave Donatella the courage to do a collection for H&M, and gave her the strength to return to the Ritz.
VERSACE: I'm not afraid anymore. That's the worse. I'm not afraid any more.
CHO: And the clothes, reminiscent of her brother's designs, and yet all her own.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one knows a woman's body like Donatella Versace.
STEFANO TONCHI, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, W. MAGAZINE: I look at Donatella as really like a hero in sort of a way.
CHO: (n 2011, Versace became profitable again. Emotionally, how do you feel?
VERSACE: It's difficult, but I'm very happy. Gianni would be very happy.
CHO: Alina Cho, CNN, Paris.
BANFIELD: Cool assignment, Alina.
And the top names are in Paris for fashion week, showcasing their latest designs. Hear more from the top designers and get an exclusive backstage pass from Paris because Alina can get it. Alina Cho, Saturday, 2:30 p.m. eastern time. Don't miss it.
Thanks for watching NEWSROOM, everyone. And NEWSROOM INTERNATIONAL starts now with my colleague, Suzanne Malveaux.