March 28th, 2014
08:03 AM ET

Man Rescues Infant From Washington Landslide

A heroic moment in the midst of tragedy after a massive landslide in Washington state as an infant is pulled from the wreckage, reports CNN's Ana Cabrera.

Kody Wesson says "I was just the right guy there at the right time."

It was Saturday, just minutes after a hill collapsed on a community below when Wesson rushed into the disaster zone after hearing cries for help.

"I could see that baby's face, he was all bruised up. He wasn't breathing very good and he wasn't moving," he says.

The baby's mother was also trapped in the mud and severely injured.

"She said his name is Duke and I asked her if I could take him out of there. She said yeah"

In a brave and bold move, Wesson, a young father himself, scooped up the 6-month-old and ran to rescuers who had just arrived.

Baby Duke and his mother are survivors, but not all stories have the same happy outcome.

See more on the Washington landslide as the story develops at 








Slogging through sometimes waist-deep mud, rescuers returned to the "unreal" scene of a deadly Cascade Mountain landslide Thursday with the grim expectation that more bodies waited underneath them.

Later that day, medical examiners added one more death to the official toll, bringing it to 17.

Saturday's collapse dragged several homes downhill with it, scattering their contents among hundreds of acres of earth and smashed trees.

"Anything that anyone would have in a neighborhood is now strewn out here," said Steve Mason, a Snohomish County fire battalion chief. "... Some (houses) look like they've been put in a blender and dropped on the ground, so you have basically a big pile of debris."

The landslide near Oso, about 60 miles northeast of Seattle, has turned many lives upside down and cost far too many as well.

District Chief Travis Hots said that at least seven more bodies that have been found won't be added to the count until medical examiners can identify them.

"That number is going to likely change very, very much (Friday) morning," Hots said.

About 90 remained unaccounted for Thursday as rescuers dug into the ground with chainsaws, pumps and their hands in hopes of finding survivors - or least bringing solace to family members by finding remains. That figure was the same as it was on Wednesday, though it, too, could change.

"Sometimes it takes several hours to get somebody out of an area," Hots said. When a body is extracted, "You can almost hear a pin drop out there. You see seasoned veterans in this business, they start to tear up. Their eyes get glossy."

No survivors have been found for days, but this still isn't a recovery operation. Rescuers are using small excavators, shovels and their hands - not heavy machinery - in areas where a survivor could be.

"As far as I'm concerned, we're still in rescue mode," Hots said Thursday evening. "I haven't lost hope yet ... That chance is very slim, but we haven't given up yet."

While some families cling to that hope, others - like Rae Smith, whose daughter Summer Raffo was driving through the area when the slide hit - are in mourning.

"My heart is broken. It's broken," Rae Smith said.

Pointing out homes on a map, volunteer rescuer Peter Selvig noted the seemingly random nature of the fatalities.

"This guy lived and his wife died ... we were on the school board together for about 30 years," Selvig said.

More rain made the mud worse Thursday, slowing the search, rescuers reported.

Senior Airman Charlotte Gibson - part of an Air National Guard squadron assisting the search - said rescuers "fall in about waist-deep in some areas," knee-deep in others.

"Just walking through it, it's almost impossible," Gibson said.

And as bad as the conditions are, the scale of the devastation is worse. Master Sgt. Chris Martin told reporters, "I don't think anything could prepare you for what you see out there."

Workers worked Thursday to build an east-west emergency road to reconnect both sides of the landslide, along with pathways of plywood and logs to make it easier to get people and equipment into the search zone. Washington State Patrol spokesman Bob Calkins said those crews and those looking for victims had a productive day Thursday.

"The rescuers and the road-builders seem to be hitting their stride now," said Calkins. "We're several days into this, they are starting to get a rhythm."

That doesn't mean they're close to done, or that the job is easy. Mason noted that the mud also holds the remains of septic systems, requiring searchers to wash thoroughly at the end of their shifts. And the collapse cut off the Stillaguamish River, causing the water to back up into what's now a small lake, he said.

"You have homes on this side that are now islands," he said. On another side, "Cars are under water."

The area affected in the most recent calamity has been hit before, in 1951, 1967, 1988 and 2006. Daniel Miller, a geomorphologist who co-wrote a report in 1999 for the Army Corps of Engineers that looked at options to reduce sediments from area landslides, said that none of these events resulted in deaths, though at least the most recent one damaged houses.

This history, along with erosion from Stillaguamish River and worries about overlogging, prompted some mitigation and other efforts. A 2010 plan identified the area swept away as one of several "hot spots," John Pennington, Snohomish County's emergency management director, told reporters Wednesday.

The county had been saturated by "amazing" rains for weeks on end that made the ground even less stable, Pennington added. Then there was a small, recent earthquake that may or may not have shaken things up more.

But he said no one anticipated an event of the scale of what happened Saturday morning: "Sometimes, big events just happen." And he said residents knew the area was "landslide-prone" - an assertion one of them challenged.

"Nobody ever told us that there were geology reports," Robin Youngblood told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "... This is criminal, as far as I'm concerned."

Determining whether the human toll from this disaster could have been abated is a key question, but one best answered another day, Gov. Jay Inslee has said. For now, the focus is on the ground - and in the air - scouring through the rubble.

And once again, Mother Nature is making things complicated. While Snohomish County reported late Thursday afternoon that water levels on one side of the slide had fallen two feet - a "big help for rescuers," the county tweeted - there's the reality of yet more rain and all the perils and complications that brings.

The National Weather Service's forecast calls for more rain Friday and beyond; in fact, there's a chance if not an all but guarantee of showers for the next full week, at least.

For that reason, rescuers are keeping an eye on the weather even as they sift through silt, wood and rubble, according to Snohomish County Public Works Director Steve Thompson.

"Right now there's no risk of further slides, but we're watching the rain," Thompson said.

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February 26th, 2014
11:21 AM ET

FDA Considering '3-Parent Babies'

A promising way to stop a deadly disease, or an uncomfortable step toward what one leading ethicist called eugenics?

U.S. health officials are weighing whether to approve trials of a pioneering in vitro fertilization technique using DNA from three people in an attempt to prevent illnesses like muscular dystrophy and respiratory problems. The proposed treatment would allow a woman to have a baby without passing on diseases of the mitochondria, the "powerhouses" that drive cells.

The procedure is "not without its risks, but it's treating a disease," medical ethicist Art Caplan told CNN's "New Day" on Wednesday. Preventing a disease that can be passed down for generations would be ethical "as long as it proves to be safe," he said.

"These little embryos, these are people born with a disease, they can't make power. You're giving them a new battery. That's a therapy. I think that's a humane ethical thing to do," said Caplan, the director of medical ethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center.

"Where we get into the sticky part is, what if you get past transplanting batteries and start to say, 'While we're at it, why don't we make you taller, stronger, faster or smarter?' "

But Susan Solomon, the director of the New York Stem Cell Foundation, said there are no changes to existing genes involved.

"There is no genetic engineering. It isn't a slippery slope. It's a way to allow these families to have healthy children," said Solomon, whose organization developed the technique along with Columbia University researchers.

"What we're doing is, without at all changing the DNA of the mother, just allowing it to grow in an environment that isn't sick," she added.

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel concluded two days of hearings into the procedure Wednesday. The panel discussed what controls might be used in trials, how a developing embryo might be monitored during those tests and who should oversee the trials, but no decisions were made at the end of the session.

Mitochondrial disorders are inherited from the mother. In the procedure under discussion in Washington, genetic material from the nucleus of a mother's egg or an embryo gets transferred to a donor egg or embryo that's had its nuclear DNA removed.

The real reason behind the multiples baby boom

The new embryo will contain nuclear DNA from the intended father and mother, as well as healthy mitochondrial DNA from the donor embryo - effectively creating a "three-parent" baby.

In June, Britain took a step toward becoming the first country to allow the technique. One in 6,500 babies in the United Kingdom is born with a mitochondrial disorder, which can lead to serious health issues such as heart and liver disease.

Caplan said the same technology could be used to modify an embryo to "making super babies," a practice he said amounted to "eugenics."

"The big issue over the next 5 to 10 years is going to become how far do we go in pursuit of the perfect baby," said Caplan. "Do I think we're going down that road? Yes. Does it creep me out? Yes. Are you going to be able to draw a clear line? I don't think so."

But Solomon said the procedure is closer to an expansion of in vitro fertilization, which has been available for nearly 40 years.

"It's a complicated science, so people need to understand the particulars of the biology and not jump to calling it something it isn't," she said. The last thing she would want, she said, "is for the New York Stem Cell Foundation to be involved in anything like designer babies."

"I have children and grandchildren, and I can't imagine anything worse."


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February 18th, 2014
07:00 AM ET

Murder Suspect's Bombshell Claims Raise Questions

Reporter Francis Scarcella walked into the Northumberland County Prison in Sunbury, Pennsylvania, with plenty of questions for the woman accused along with her husband of luring a man with a Craigslist ad, then killing him.

He walked out with a bombshell of a story that's sent police and the press alike scrambling for answers.

Miranda Barbour told Scarcella, a reporter for the Daily Item newspaper in Sunbury, that she'd killed before. And not just once or twice.

"She said, she has, you know, done this before," Scarcella told CNN affiliate WNEP of his Friday interview with the 19-year-old murder suspect. "And I said, 'What's the actual number?'"

"And she said, 'Under a hundred,'" Scarcella told the station. Barbour said she had stopped counting at 22 killings, according to Scarcella's story in the Daily Item.

"She kind of floored me," Scarcella told CNN affiliate WBRE.

Barbour told the Daily Item that the killings occurred over the past six years in Alaska, Texas, North Carolina and California. That's sent investigators in those states back to their cold-case files, but it's also raising questions among people who study serial killers.

"Anything is possible, and of course it's conceivable that she's a serial killer," Northeastern University criminologist Jack Levin told CNN. But he said few women are serial killers, and those few are typically older and don't use knives, as Barbour is accused of doing in the Pennsylvania case.

Authorities haven't yet corroborated any of Barbour's claims, including statements that she was involved in Satanism. Her alleged confession has raised questions among attorneys, missing persons experts and even a representative of the Church of Satan, the nation's largest satanic body.

"Thorough investigation will likely demonstrate that this cult story is fiction," said Peter Gilmore, the New York-based head of the Church of Satan.

In Alaska, state police are looking into the claims and will pursue "any leads that may present themselves," Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Megan Peters told CNN. And Monica Caison, the founder of a missing persons center in North Carolina, said her phone started ringing Sunday night with questions from families whose loved ones haven't turned up in years.

"It sends everybody into a panic mode - a hopeful panic mode," Caison said. "They want to be one of those, but they don't want to be one of those. They want their nightmare to end."

For more, visit 

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January 28th, 2014
09:53 AM ET

Deep Freeze Could Bring Deep Snow to Deep South

The Deep South will plunge into a deep freeze again this week, this time with ice and snow expected to fall all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Of course, it's not just the South that will be shuddering. Midwesterners and others more accustomed to bitter weather will also be freezing. Here's what to expect around the country


New Orleans and its suburbs could get half an inch of snow and ice by Tuesday evening, forecasters said. Parishes farther north could see 3 inches, with temperatures plunging into the single digits on Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.

"This town is shutting down" on Tuesday, New Orleans cab driver August Delaney said Monday. "Some bridges are going to shut down. Schools are closed. We are not going to put our kids on school buses."

Mayor Mitch Landrieu declared a state of emergency and warned residents to remember what happened when temperatures dipped toward the freezing mark less than a week ago.

"We had bridges that were frozen over, as you might remember," Landrieu said. "We had accidents on those bridges, a fairly large pile-up on the Green Bridge. Sometime not long ago, when they had a similar event, there were a thousand crashes, and there were fatalities, and we want to make sure that we avoid all of that."


State officials say up to 4 inches of snow could fall in the south-central part of Mississippi, and the Gulf Coast could see three-quarters of an inch.

Robert Latham, the state's emergency management director, warned residents to expect power outages as well.

"We're looking at a part of the state that has a large number of pine trees," Latham said. "I can tell you that as ice accumulates on pine trees, limbs will break. Trees will fall. Power will be out."


Houston is closing all public services not related to public safety as the city braces for freezing rain and sleet on Tuesday.

The Houston Independent School District, the largest in the state, will also be closed.


For a city not accustomed to flurries, Atlanta will have a 30 to 40% chance of snow Tuesday.

Farther south in Macon, where about 3 inches of snow could fall,students will get both Tuesday and Wednesday off from school.


Montgomery, the state capital, also has a 40% chance of snow for Tuesday.

Schools in both Montgomery and Birmingham will be closed Tuesday. Up to 3 inches of snow are forecast for Montgomery.

Farther north

Much of the northern Plains, Midwest and Northeast will likely shiver through daytime high temperatures 10 to 30 degrees below normal through Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.

Chicago's temperature Tuesday could reach a whopping 3 degrees, but the wind chill in the Windy City will likely make it feel like minus-30 degrees.

In Wisconsin, the state department of transportation urged people to avoid driving if possible. If they must drive, they should carry a fully charged cell phone, have at least half a tank of gasoline and tell somebody where they're going.

In Milwaukee, two motorists seconded that advice.

"It's going to be pure ice. It's all fluffy and light snow like this and it's going to melt down — going to be a mess," Gary Lukowitz told CNN affiliate WITI.

"Even though you see the streets are plowed and it's still slippery out there, still a lot of wet snow on the ground, still freezing and cars are still slipping around," Adam Bernstein said.

And Minnesota authorities advised everyone to stay off the roads in the southern and western parts of the state.

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