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Pope Responds to Sex Abuse Scandal; Ramallah Siege Escalates

Aired April 23, 2002 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Now on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS, the pope makes it clear: Priests who molest children are committing a crime. U.S. cardinals get the message, and one issues an apology.

Yet another challenge facing the church...


BISHOP WILTON GREGORY, U.S. CONF. OF BISHOPS: A struggle to make sure that the Catholic priesthood is not dominated by homosexual men.


BLITZER: Explosions near Yasser Arafat's headquarters. And elsewhere, Israel eliminates a wanted enemy as Palestinians take bloody revenge on Palestinians.

For the second time in a week, a deadly train wreck, this one a head-on crash.

Airport employees are caught in a security sweep, while pilots look for ways to stay safe in the skies.

And can this ward off a form of diabetes? How about this?

It's Tuesday, April 23rd, 2002. Hello, I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Topping our news alert: American cardinals under pressure.

Pope John Paul II today told American cardinals and bishops there's no place in the priesthood or the church for those who would harm the young. Earlier, Boston Cardinal Bernard Law, under fire for his handling of sex abuse cases, apologized for -- quote -- "terrible mistakes." We'll have much more on this in a moment.

Two people were killed and more than 250 injured when a mile-long freight train ran head-on into a packed commuter train just south of Los Angeles. Authorities say they don't know how the trains ended up on the same track. We'll be following up on this story as well.

Immigration authorities today arrested at least 80 workers at Washington, D.C. area airports. Some were charged with overstaying their visas, others with fraudulently obtaining security credentials for restricted areas. Officials say none of the workers are suspected of any connection to terrorism. Since September 11th, there have been hundreds of such arrests nationwide.

She's been called the most influential person in his life, at least his political life. But Karen Hughes is stepping down as counselor to the president. She'll leave the White House this summer, saying she wants to return her family to Texas. I'll discuss the impact with another top White House adviser, Mary Matalin. That interview will be coming up live, shortly.

Now back to our top story. Pope John Paul II addressed an extraordinary Vatican meeting of American cardinals today and issued his strongest condemnation yet against priests who abuse children. The cardinals also heard an apology from within their own ranks. CNN's Jim Bittermann is in Rome.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The meetings here are over for the day. Twelve of the 13 American cardinals meeting all day long in two separate sessions with top Vatican officials, including the pope himself. John Paul II making it clear to the cardinals that sex abusing priests should be dealt with not only under church law, but under secular law as well.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory, the head of the U.S. Bishop's Conference, said that it's a question of reassuring American Catholics.

GREGORY: People need to know that there's no place in the priesthood and religious life for those who would harm the young. I think that's a pretty clear statement that encourages us to be very vigilant and indeed committed to making sure that children are not harmed, especially by those who are in the priesthood or religious life.

BITTERMAN: On the issue of Cardinal Bernard Law, who has been at the center of this crisis, many of the cardinals we spoke to said they did not expect Cardinal Law to resign, as had been reported in many newspapers over the weekend. However, one cardinal, Francis George of Chicago, said that Cardinal Law had made an apology to his colleagues.

CARDINAL FRANCIS GEORGE, CHICAGO: He started out saying that in a sense, if he had not made some terrible mistakes, we probably wouldn't be here. And he apologized for that. He's facing it very clearly. He didn't speak about a resignation and nobody asked him about it.

BITTERMAN (on camera): The cardinals will meet again tomorrow and try to get their policies and procedures in sync with Vatican officials, ahead of bishops conference meeting set for Dallas in June. Jim Bittermann, CNN, Rome.


BLITZER: And the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has raised eyebrows with some comments about the priesthood and homosexuality. Bishop Wilton Gregory suggested that church child abuse scandal can partly be blamed on gay priests.


GREGORY: It is an ongoing struggle. It's most importantly a struggle to make sure that the Catholic priesthood is not dominated by homosexual men. Not only is it not dominated by homosexual men, but that the candidates that we receive are healthy in every possible way: psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually. That is the ongoing concern of seminaries.


BLITZER: Father Andrew Greeley is an author and sociologist who's written and spoken frequently on church issues. He joins us now live from Chicago. Father Greeley, thank you for joining us. What do you make of this issue about gays in the priesthood?

FATHER ANDREW GREELEY, AUTHOR, SOCIOLOGIST: Well, we hear a lot in the last couple days among senior clerics. Cardinal Egan Stan (ph) in New York blamed it on gays. Cardinal Maida of Detroit said it's all gays. He said sociologists tell us it's all gays. And now Bishop Gregory tells us that the real problem is gay priests. That's scapegoat.

It isn't gay priests that reassign these people to parishes where they could abuse children again. IT's presumably heterosexual cardinals. And now they're trying to blame it all on gay priests.

The church has always had gay men in the priesthood. There have been gay bishops, gay popes, gay saints. Some of the great Catholic writers of the last century presumably had gay inclinations. It's just not fair to blame them for this.

The issue about a gay priest is the same as the issue about a straight priest. One, is he chaste and two, is he a good priest. And I, you know, it seems to me that at least some of the people in Rome are struggling to find someone to blame. And now they've got somebody to blame. And that will please the Romans who like to blame gay people too.

BLITZER: You're suggesting, Father Greeley, that there were gay popes, gay cardinals, gay priests. But gay popes, we have to go back hundreds of years for that, don't we?

GREELEY: I'm not going to try to assign sexual orientation to more recent popes, Wolf. But -- and I'm saying these men were not active gays. They probably -- they didn't have the word gay or homosexual. They just found men more attractive than women. But most of them, I'm sure, at least since 1700, were chaste.

BLITZER: Is the issue more celibacy than homosexuality?

GREELEY: Well, see, the Catholic left tries to blame it on celibacy and right on homosexuality. They're both pushing their own agenda. And in fact, the issue is bishops reassigning priests that ought not to be reassigned. That's the nub of the problem. And as for the various ideological churches push their agendas, I think it just makes matters worse. It confuses people and befogs the issue.

BLITZER: Do you get the sense that the Vatican, at the highest level, namely pope John Paul II, understands what's going on here in the Catholic Church in the United States right now?

GREELEY: No, I don't think the Vatican understands what's going on in the church in the United States. First of all, they don't have a large staff. They don't really have the wherewithal to understand what's going on here. They don't do surveys. They don't need sociologists.

So they fall back -- being Europeans, they fall back on anti- American cliches. It's all about money or America is a sex mad country. Or it's the gays that are doing it. These are all anti- American cliches. And unfortunately, that shapes the prism, the lens, through which the Vatican looks at this country. They don't have a clue about it.

BLITZER: All right. On that depressing note, Father Andrew Greeley, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it very much.

CNN will have much more on the Vatican conference later today. Connie Chung will be live from Rome at 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific.

In other news closer to home, another fatal train wreck is in the news, this one in southern California. Two people died and hundreds were hurt this morning in a crash involving a freight train and a Metrolink commuter train. CNN's Anne McDermott reports from Orange County, California.


ANNE MCDERMOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A mile-long freight train hit a small commuter train in Placentia, California this morning, as this woman watched.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I started screaming, oh, my god, they're on the same track. They're going to hit, they're going to hit! Then right when I got there, they hit. And the force of the hit threw me backwards.

MCDERMOTT: And sent passengers like Roberto Almeida flying through the air.

ROBERTO ALMEIDA, PASSENGER: It was just a loud crash. I never heard anything like it before.

MCDERMOTT: Besides the dead, there were dozens of people injured seriously enough to go to the hospital. And at least 100 others on the Metrolink train were classified as walking wounded.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two months pregnant!

MCDERMOTT: Pregnant, but OK, she said.


MCDERMOTT: And these women were simply shaken.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I'm fine, thank you.

MCDERMOTT: As dazed passengers waited while some 30 ambulances pulled up at the scene, investigators were trying to figure out what happened.

SHARON GAVIN, METROLINK: We don't have all the details on this incident right now. Obviously this is very tragic and a very complicated situation.

MCDERMOTT: The Metrolink commuter line has been running for 10 years now. And company officials say this is far and away their worst accident ever. Anne McDermott, CNN, Los Angeles.


BLITZER: Turning now to the situation in the Middle East and the continuing aftershocks in the West Bank. But following this developing story right now, Israel says it's suspending its cooperation with the U.N. fact-finding mission into the violence at the Jenin refugee camp. Officials say the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan did not consult with Israel about the composition of the U.N. team. And there's a feeling within the Israeli government, they say, that Israel is being set up.

Explosions, meanwhile, rattled the Ramallah compound where the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat remains under siege by Israeli troops. Palestinians say the blast came from a prison complex adjacent to Arafat's office. The Israeli military later said it had detonated grenades found inside the compound.

In Hebron, also on the West Bank, the head of the local Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and another member of the militant group were killed when an Israeli missile turned their car into a ball of fire yesterday. The group, an offshoot of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, has claimed responsibility for a number of suicide attacks on Israeli civilians.

After the missile strike, Palestinian gunmen sought revenge. They killed three other Palestinians suspected, they say, of being informers, dragged their bodies through the streets to the spot where the Israeli helicopter attack took place, and then strung them up from utility poles as a crowd screamed its approval.

In Bethlehem, Israelis and Palestinians he been holding intensive talks, seeking to end their three-week standoff at the Church of the Nativity. Here's CNN's John Vause. He has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After two sessions of face-to-face talks here in Bethlehem, the Israelis and the Palestinians seem no closer to resolving this stand-off here at the Church the Nativity. They met earlier today, that first round of course described as optimistic, upbeat, even positive.

However, the second round of negotiations were anything but. A source close to the Palestinian team said that when the Palestinian negotiators asked for food, water, medicine and electricity be returned to the Church of the Nativity, the Israelis very firmly said no. The Israelis also, according to this Palestinians source, refused to allow the bodies of two dead Palestinians to be removed from the church.

Also, according to this Palestinian source, the Israelis were very firm in rejecting a Palestinian offer which had been put on the table at the first round of discussions. That offer would have the 30 Palestinian gunmen inside the church, who Israel says are in fact terrorists, would have them be taken to Gaza and stand trial there and face Palestinian law. The Israelis very firmly rejecting that offer.

The Palestinians, for their part, though, had earlier rejected an Israeli which would see those men stand trial in Israel or be exiled to a third country. There is, however, some hope still on the horizon. Both these sides plan to resume talks Wednesday here in Bethlehem. John Vause, CNN, Bethlehem.


BLITZER: After Secretary of State Colin Powell returned to Washington from the Middle East, there was talk that the CIA director George Tenet would visit the region to pick up where Secretary Powell left off. So far, that hasn't happened. CNN national security correspondent David Ensor explains why.


DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the Middle East last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the president was prepared to send CIA director George Tenet to the region soon, trying to get the Palestinian and Israeli security chiefs cooperating again, something he has been able to do in the past since the CIA has the confidence of both parties.

Other officials said Tenet might go the following week. But he will not go this week, aides say. In fact, administration officials privately say Tenet has advised the president not to send him yet to avoid a public failure. After all, Arafat's West Bank security chief, Jabril Rajoub, is now saying he won't work with the Israelis.

One look at his headquarters building and you can see his ability to function, against terrorists or in any other way, has been decimated by Israeli forces.

(END VIDEOTAPE) U.S. officials say when the president wants Tenet to go, of course he will. But the way things stand, a large part of the task at first would be to figure out what the Palestinian security forces will now need, in the way of money, equipment and support, to get back to where they could seriously help control terrorism. And to where they might feel it would be in their interest to do so -- Wolf.

BLITZER: David, on a different subject, Abu Zubaydah -- he's the al Qaeda leader in U.S. custody right now, making all sort of claims, apparently, in these debriefings, or these questions, interrogations. He's undergoing about a dirty bomb that al Qaeda might be able to have, a so-called radiation bomb. How credible is what he's saying, as far as what you're hearing?

ENSOR: Well, that's right. He says a dirty bomb, he talks about an attack possibly on a bank in the Northeast. He started to say quite a few things. And that is the key question. The trouble for the U.S. interrogators is, they have to take him very seriously. He was a very senior man in al Qaeda. He obviously knows a lot.

But is he boasting? Is he exaggerating? Is he pulling their chain, as some of them say? They can't know until they check against many other intelligence sources and, over a period of time, establish whether this man is just basically a liar or not. And the jury is still out on that -- Wolf.

BLITZER: In the meantime, very worrying stuff. David Ensor, national security correspondent, thank you very much.

Our Web question of the day is this: Should the United States believe Abu Zubaydah's claim of al Qaeda's dirty bomb know-how? You can vote. Go to my Web page, While you're there, let me know what you're thinking. There's a "click here" icon on the left side of the page. Send me your comments and I'll read some of them on the air each day at the end of this program. That's also, by the way, where you can read my daily online column,

Bush adviser Karen Hughes signs off from the White House. What's driving her back to Texas? Mary Matalin will join us live with the inside word right after the break.

And weapons in the cockpit. Which airline wants to arm pilots with stun guns?

Plus, the best place to take a big gulp. Where to find the tastiest tap water in the country.


BLITZER: Welcome back. For the last eight years, she's been a member of George W. Bush's inner, inner, inner circle. But now the White House counselor Karen Hughes says it's time for a change, and she's heading back home to Texas.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Karen Hughes will be changing her address, but she will still be in my inner circle. I value her judgment and I will have her judgment. I value her advice. I have her advice. And I value her friendship, and I will have friendship.

BLITZER (voice-over): Her title is White House communications director, but that doesn't adequately describe Karen Hughes' relationship with the president. By all accounts, she's been one of his closest advisers, going way back to when he first ran for governor of Texas in 1994.

Her profile rose along with George W. Bush's during his run for the presidency in 2000. Just before the New Hampshire primary, which Bush lost to Senator John McCain, I asked her whether Bush would be the next president of the United States.

KAREN HUGHES, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I think he will. I think he's got a message that's optimistic. He's a leader.

BLITZER: Later that summer, little did she know how right she would be in predicting the outcome of the race.

HUGHES: Well, Wolf, we said all along that it's going to be a close election. We expect it to be a close, hard-fought election all the way until November. It's 79 days from today, who's counting? I think I am.

BLITZER: Now, after becoming one of the most powerful women in Washington, she says she has decided to head back to Texas to spend more time with her family.

HUGHES: My husband and I made a very difficult decision. As you know, I love the president dearly. And he's not only my boss, but he and Mrs. Bush are also very close friends.

And I'm known as his No. 1 advocate and I plan to continue to be his advocate. But he always says that if you're a mom or dad, your responsibilities as a mom or dad come first. And I agree with that.


BLITZER: A dramatic shift indeed, in the president's inner circle. With me now is another White House insider, Mary Matalin. She's an assistant to President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Mary, thanks for joining us. So what is the real story behind Karen Hughes' decision to leave? Nobody leaves Washington that quickly, do they?

MARY MATALIN, ASST. TO THE PRESIDENT: Yes, Karen Hughes, who is just a force of nature and one of a kind, knows how to set her priorities and get done what she wants to get done. I have no doubt that she is going to be able to serve the president at the level at which she's grown accustomed and also be able to keep her family happy and get her son rooted in Texas, which is where they're from. And you know, Wolf, this is one of these cases where it is what it is. There's nothing behind the story than what the president and Karen have said.

BLITZER: How big of a loss is this for the president? There's going to be a void there at the White House, won't there?

MATALIN: Well, the president has made it clear that Karen will maintain and sustain those roles that she's fulfilled so well throughout his political career, but particularly since he's been in the White House. She'll write all the big speeches. She'll be his strategic communications adviser. She's the big messenger.

And she'll be up here frequently. And they'll talk on the phone frequently, as they do now. The biggest void will be for those of us who love her so much. I'm calling it a precipitous diminution of the fun factor.

BLITZER: So who's going to fill that void?

MATALIN: There is no one to fill that void. She is -- the job was created for her. She'll continue doing that job, just from a different venue. Dan Bartlett has been doing the communication director's job since we've been here, or was promoted quickly after we were here. And he does the day-to-day operation.

So it will pretty much carry on. We'll all be carrying on in the communications sphere, as we had. And she is unique. The relationship with the president is unique.

And that's why they'll be able to work out, and she'll work out what it is that he needs. And you know, so we'll have less fun every day, less frequently. But we'll still see her plenty.

BLITZER: How much of a problem -- what does this say about women in the White House in general? Not only this White House, but earlier White Houses. The normal pressure on women to spend more time with their family, as opposed to, for example, men?

MATALIN: I don't know if it's a pressure. It's a choice. It's a preference. And what it says more than anything else is how unique this White House is, that this president would have -- would be able to provide a situation where he can get the good quality work that he gets, only from Karen, in the unique abilities that she has, while she's able to prioritize her family.

And there are many mothers throughout this White House who are given lot of flexibility to be able to get their jobs done. It's a great testament to the president, that there are as many of us around here as there are. My two kids are running around on Pebble Beach right now, as we speak. And it's a pretty regular occurrence around here.

BLITZER: So how much pressure are you under, Mary, to be more, let's say, of a mother, less of a White House adviser? MATALIN: My kids are fine. It's my husband with the attitude of a 2-year-old. But no, everybody is fine. Everybody has to pull together. Karen's family has been very supportive, but they want to go home and she wants to go home. And we're just -- we're excited that she's kind of paving, with the president's respect and admiration and support, something new for a White House culture.

BLITZER: Mary Matalin, a former co-host of CNN's "CROSSFIRE," now at the White House. Thanks so much for joining us.

MATALIN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Appreciate it.

How far would you go to see the birth of your child? The story of a national guardsman who zigzagged around the world for the big day.

Plus, got milk? How dairy products may help ward off a serious health threat.

And health news for women that may keep them out of the doctor's office. Stay with us.


BLITZER: In our News Alert, American cardinals are continuing their discussion at the Vatican about the church child abuse scandal. Pope John Paul II told the cardinals that priests who have abused children have done -- quote -- "great harm." Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law told the cardinals he had made some terrible mistakes in dealing with the reports of abuse by priests.

President Bush met today with Morocco's King Mohammed and the meeting seemed to go better than a recent meeting between the king and the Secretary of State Colin Powell. During Powell's recent Middle East tour, the king publicly hinted that the Bush administration was moving too slowly to restrain Israeli operations against the Palestinians. Today the king praised the Bush administration's peace efforts.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will travel to Afghanistan this week. He'll also visit some neighboring countries. There's no word on exactly when Rumsfeld will leave. He says the details of his travel schedule have not yet been worked out.

Georgia authorities are investigating a bizarre case of abduction. A woman says that a trucker grabbed her and held her against her will for more than a year. The truck driver has now been formally charged. With us on the phone is one of the investigators, Sergeant Gerald Frazier. He's from the Laurens County sheriff's office in Dublin, Georgia.

Sergeant, thanks for joining us. Briefly tell us what happened. How could this have happened? SGT. GERALD FRAZIER, LAURENS CO. SHERIFF'S OFFICE: Well, Saturday morning we received a call from the county sheriff's department in Tennessee, that they had found a note written on a stall in the lady's room, that a woman had requested help. And through the tracking of the truck, GPS tracking of the truck, we were able to identify the truck was in our county.

Two of our deputies went to the location and found the woman in the truck and Mr. Shannon Jones there. The woman apparently had been severely beaten. And she told the deputies that she had been trying get to get away from this person for about six months. She had actually been with him for a year, but had actually been trying to actively get away from him for about six months.

BLITZER: Are you suggesting, Sergeant, the relationship started off on a good note, but then deteriorated, and then he just held her for six months, even though she tried to escape?

FRAZIER: Yes, apparently that's what ti seems to be. It began on a right note, boyfriend-girlfriend situation, but several months into the relationship it seemed that she was trying to leave and he would not allow her to leave.

BLITZER: And what happens now? How is she doing, and what happens to him?

FRAZIER: She's currently being treated in a local hospital and he is under arrest for aggravated assault at this time, and we'll be seeking further charges in the morning.

BLITZER: All right, Sergeant Gerald Frazier, up in the Lawrence County Sheriff's office, thanks for that report.

Meanwhile, the actor Robert Blake remains in custody. He's being held without bail after entering a not guilty plea yesterday to charges he murdered his wife. Reporter Harvey Levin of the T.V. show, "Extra" is following the Blake case. He's in our Los Angeles bureau.

Harvey, thanks for joining us. What do you make of the strategy, the strategy that the lawyers -- Harland Braun, for example, a lawyer for Robert Blake -- are going to make to try to show there are a lot of others out there who had a motive in going after Bonny Lee Bakley.

HARVEY LEVIN, "EXTRA": Well, I think that's interesting. I talked to Braun about 45 minutes ago, and we're going to actually air this on tomorrow night's "Extra" -- and we talked about whether he's going to make that the central issue in the case. It doesn't sound like that will be the centerpiece. The centerpiece is going to be the defense trying to, basically, cut down all of the circumstantial evidence that the District Attorney and the police are presenting.

He said to me, very clearly, from the two people that allegedly were solicited by Mr. Blake to commit the murders to the list from -- that was retrieved, apparently, that showed various items that Earle Caldwell, the bodyguard had -- he is going to try and dismantle their evidence. He hasn't received it all yet; he's only received about 20,000 of the 35,000 pages, but that seems to be his M.O., at least at this point.

BLITZER: Is there anything in Robert Blake's personal past -- violence, crime, that suggests he could have done this?

LEVIN: You know, there were incidents on the "Baretta" set. Dominick Dunne actually wrote an article about this -- I don't know, about -- I'm guessing six or seven months ago, where he talked about reports that Blake may have put his hand through a door on the set in a fit of rage. Whether that's admitted into the trial, I'm not sure that will happen.

You know, I was thinking, Wolf, on the way over here, that one of the things everybody is doing is they're saying, look, you look at the case against Blake, he has to be dead to rights, he has to be guilty -- they're going to try to cop a plea. And I can only tell you -- in Los Angeles, the most bizarre things happen in these cases.

If you look at the John DeLorean case, there was a videotape of John DeLorean making a drug deal. He was found not guilty. Damien Williams is seen on live television beating Reginald Denny: found not guilty. You look at the Rodney King videotape. Ninety-one seconds of the police with Rodney King: not guilty in the state trial. And O.J. Simpson in a slow speed chase. So, I think there's a rich history of unexpected things happening in these trials, and it's hard to look at anything in a snapshot and say, well, he must be guilty or he must be innocent.

I think this case is going to take a lot of twists and turns.

BLITZER: Blake's long-term bodyguard, Earle Caldwell -- he's charged with the conspiracy to commit murder. Where does he fit in to the entire picture?

LEVIN: Well, what the prosecution and the police are saying is that Earle Caldwell supplied a gun to Robert Blake, and there's also an allegation that on a trip, I believe, to Arizona when they were at a lake, the three of them -- Blake, Bakley and Caldwell -- that Caldwell had jumped out of the bushes with a gun and pointed it at Bonnie Bakley, although there was no allegation that he fired it. So, they're saying that there were overt acts on Caldwell's part that would cause him to be charged along with Blake.

My guess is, though, that if this case does end up going to trial, as to both of them, they'll be tried separately.

BLITZER: Your bottom line is that as a result anything -- anything is possible in this mysterious case.

LEVIN: Wolf, I have to tell you. I've covered so many of these cases in Los Angeles -- and it's not even about the quantity of the evidence, it's about the quality of the evidence. Will the witnesses hold up in cross-examination? Is there a problem with the way the police handled certain evidence? Are there explanations -- and remember, Robert Blake doesn't have to prove that he's innocent -- all he has to do is create reasonable doubt. So, to that extent, the prosecution has a harder job. This is going to be an interesting mystery.

BLITZER: Harvey Levin, you're probably right. Thanks for joining us.

So how did Fidel Castro get revenge? We'll have the tapes, later.

Assessing a new threat to Jewish people around the world.

And, should pilots on your next flight be packing weapons? The weapon and the drawback of using it, when we come back.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Checking some international stories making news this hour. The Cuban president, Fidel Castro, has taken revenge for an act of inhospitality. Mexico has been denying claims that Castro was asked to leave a recent summit before the arrival of President Bush. Now, on Cuban television, Castro has played a tape of the phone call in which Mexico's president, Vicente Fox, made that request. CNN's Lucia Newman helps us out with the translation.


LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "Where should I go? To the hotel? To the island of Cuba," asks Castro?

"Correct," answers President Fox; "that way I'll be free."

"That's what I asked you to do for me. That you free me on Friday, so you don't complicate Friday for me."


BLITZER: That was Friday, the day in which the president -- President Bush, that is -- addressed the Monterey Economic Summit.

The Pentagon says it's informally looking into the actions of U.S. military officers during a recent failed coup against Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez. Meanwhile, a Venezuelan legislator is accusing the U.S. Ambassador, and two U.S. military attaches, of playing a role, charges the embassy is calling ridiculous.

In France, protests continue against the election results, which put right-wing candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen in a runoff for the presidency. Thousands gathered in more than a dozen cities, and President Jacques Chirac said he's refused to hold a televised debate with Le Pen, citing what he calls the rival's racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia.

In Germany, police today apologize for an official suggestion that Jews should stop wearing skullcaps and other religious symbols on the streets to avoid anti-Semitic attacks. Jewish leaders and government officials throughout Europe have been discussing a wave of recent attacks. Earlier this week, the Senate Intelligence Chairman Bob Graham told me that such attacks may represent a new front in the Middle East conflict.


SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL), SENATE INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: There's another risk of this conflict going on -- is that the targets will expand. I think, frankly, the most vulnerable targets now are Jewish targets outside of Israel as we have seen, particularly, in France, attacks against synagogues.


BLITZER: Joining me now in our Washington bureau is Abe Foxman; he's the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League. Mr. Foxman, thanks for joining us. How serious of a problem is this?

ABRAHAM FOXMAN, PRESIDENT, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: It's very serious. It's been growing in the last several months. Attacks against Jewish institutions, synagogues, Jewish schools, Jewish children's school buses, have swept across Europe. It's a lot more serious because the response of European governments -- whether it be France of Belgium -- or many of the others, has been silence, indifference. And that sort of legitimizes or edges them on -- that it can happen.

BLITZER: Is this a direct result of the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation, or are other factors playing on this anti-Semitism.

FOXMAN: The answer is that it is both. Some of it is a result of the Middle East conflict because bigots and anti-Semites and racists are using it to flare up anti-Semitism. We find alliances between David Duke and the Arabs here. We find Linda LaRouche, a known anti-Semite, working now with Arab extremists and militants. So it is a coming together of those who are anti-Semites, who hate Jews -- now they have a platform, a legitimate platform they claim, and that is an international conflict.

BLITZER: So these are not Arabs in Europe -- Europeans of Arab ancestry or Palestinian ancestry -- these are other Europeans who are just anti-Semites, is that what you're saying?

FOXMAN: It is both -- it is being spearheaded and led by Arabs and Muslims in the European capitals. And it has increased because the French government, specifically, neither Mr. Le Pen or President Chirac were willing to condemn it, were willing to beat it head on, were willing to say what it was.

BLITZER: Why not?

FOXMAN: Well, it's called political expediency because they didn't want to lose any votes in the election. The irony of...

BLITZER: But Jacques Chirac, the president of France, is no enemy of the Jewish people.

FOXMAN: No, he's not an enemy of the Jewish people, but he wants to be re-elected. And we've found political expediency -- that colors all kinds of visions and understanding of morality. The irony, Wolf, is that it boomeranged. And that is, what it did is strengthen the hand of the racists. Now here's a Le Pen whose a racist and anti- Semite, as you know full -- and yet, the people felt that both major candidates were ignoring the anti-Semitism, the violence, the crime out there -- and therefore they've voted him in a second.

BLITZER: You heard the Berlin police earlier recommended that Jews in Berlin, for example -- Berlin, Germany -- not walk around with skullcaps or Stars of David or anything suggesting they are Jewish. Is that good advice?

FOXMAN: Well, it's terrible advice -- it's a chilling advice -- because that means that, the bigots and the racists and the anti- Semites have won. Because, just by the threat, Jews will stop being Jews. They will stop acting out as Jews going to synagogues and, God forbid, sending their children to Jewish schools.

I think the answer is the will of a government to deal with the anti-Semites. The will of a government to arrest them, to make consequences rather than telling the Jews not to be Jewish.

BLITZER: And very briefly, any indication -- any of that European anti-Semitism is heading towards the United States?

FOXMAN: We are beginning to see some signs. In some of the cities, there are Jews -- that have been attacked. In Sacramento, for example, there were two incidents last week where a young man with a yarmulke was attacked and another man identifiably Jewish was attacked. I hope it's just an aberration, not a trend.

BLITZER: Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League thanks for joining us.

FOXMAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Appreciate it. In just a moment, preventing chaos in the cockpit. Do you want your pilots using these? How one airline hopes to arm its captains.

And later, a Dad's dedication even a war couldn't stop him from showing up for an important date.

And, could dairy products help prevent a disease affecting millions of Americans? Stay with us.


BLITZER: Welcome back. Since the events of September 11, there's been a nationwide call for improved airport and airline security. After much debate, one of the major carriers wants to issue stun guns to its pilots. CNN's Patty Davis has more.


PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A training session at United Airlines. Each of its 9,000 pilots learning how to defend the cockpit against intruders with a taser stun gun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our goal is to make sure we keep the bad guys off the airplanes. If they get on the airplanes, to keep them out of the cockpit. And if they try to get into the cockpit that we have a way of absolutely stopping them.

DAVIS: United is the first of the major airlines to do the training. It's convinced that as in this real-life example, tasers will bring potential attackers down with a jolt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One shot anywhere on the body: immediate incapacitation, and you don't' have to be a marksman to use it.

DAVIS: Before United can go ahead with plans to put two stun guns in each cockpit; it has to get transportation department approval.

(on-camera): In the wake of the September 11th terror attacks, both the airlines and the federal government have been looking for ways to stop potential hijackers and restore passenger confidence in air travel.

(voice-over): But the union representing United pilots says stun guns aren't the answer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In the case of September 11, there was more than one terrorist. There's an issue with recharging and reloading the stun gun. It's a single shot type of weapon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no way that a person with a stun gun, regardless of how well they're trained -- forget about the movies -- would ever stand up after the second hijacker. They're dead.

DAVIS: The pilot's union wants to arm pilots with real guns but says for now; stun guns are a good first step. Patty Davis, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: Many of us have made that mad rush for the hospital for the birth of a child. Brian Ackerman's (ph) mad rush took him halfway around the world. Deployed to Afghanistan last fall, Ackerman had left his pregnant wife Laura (ph) at home in Westchester, Pennsylvania -- that's a suburb of Philadelphia. As a flight nurse with the U.S. National Guard, Ackerman helps transport the sick and wounded from Afghanistan to military hospitals in Germany.

Here's a closer look at his journey to the delivery room.


(voice-over): Wednesday, March 27. During a stopover in Adana, Turkey, Brian Ackerman learns his wife has gone into premature labor six weeks' before her due date. Scrambling for any way to get home, he manages to grab military and commercial flights to Istanbul, then New York -- where he arrives on Friday the 29. But with no direct flights from New York to Philadelphia, Ackerman is forced to fly through Cincinnati. He finally gets to Philadelphia at midnight, Friday night. As he walks into his house at 1:40 a.m. on Saturday, the phone rings. His wife is having an emergency C-section.

Ackerman gets to the hospital within ten minutes, convinces a nurse to wave a security check, frantically pulls scrubs on over his fatigues and combat boots, and gets to the delivery room in time to see his daughter, Catherine (ph) Hope Ackerman, born at 1:54 a.m., Saturday, March 30th.

LAURA ACKERMAN, BRIAN'S WIFE: They were -- they'd actually done the incision and they were taking Catherine out of me -- at the time that I felt something on my shoulder and I turned and it was Brian.


BLITZER (on camera): All told, Ackerman covered more than 6,300 miles in just over two days for the timely arrival. Congratulations to the Ackerman's.

And you've heard milk does a body good, but wait until you hear what dairy products might do for those of you at risk for diabetes.

Also, on tap, learn where to travel to drink the best-tasting water in the United States.


BLITZER: Now checking these stories on today's news wire. Call it a matter of taste on Capitol Hill here in Washington; three judges selected the best-tasting tap water in rural America. The winner: tap-water from White Salmon, Washington -- that's Washington State, not Washington, D.C.

The journal of the American Medical Association has come up with another reason to drink milk. It reports that people who consume dairy products, are less likely to develop a condition called Insulin- Resistance Syndrome, which often leads to adult-onset diabetes.

A panel of experts is recommending some new guidelines for Pap tests and it could mean fewer return visits, and less anxiety for millions of women.

CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now. She has details. A lot of women are going to be interested in this, Elizabeth.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, absolutely. We have to get one every year, and every year, Wolf, 3.5 million women are told they've had an abnormal Pap smear, and doctor's often disagree with each other on what to do, and that results in numerous trips back to see the doctor, and sometimes unnecessary surgical procedures. Well, a new report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has tried to get rid of the confusion. The report recommends that in many cases, doctors should do a DNA-based test as a follow-up, instead of the conventional Pap smear that many women still receive.

Now, according to studies, the newer test catches more malignancies than conventional tests, and the newer test is also less likely to yield what are called false-positives. In other words, the result that says a woman has a malignancy when she really doesn't. Now, some doctors believe this newer DNA-based test will replace the conventional test altogether in the future. One reason doctors are still using the conventional test is that insurance often doesn't pay for the more accurate one. Wolf.

BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much for that update. Appreciate it very much.

Let's go to New York now, and get a preview of Lou Dobbs' Money Line; that begins right at the top of the hour. Lou?

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you very much. Coming up, talks end at the three-week standoff at the Church of the Nativity without agreement.

Israel, tonight, is not supporting the U.N.'s fact-finding mission. We'll have the latest for you from Ramallah and go live to Jerusalem.

And tonight I'll be joined by James Zogby, the president of the Arab-American Institute and Mort Zuckerman, editor of U.S. News and World Report and supporter of Israel.

And, one of the world's most powerful women in Washington is stepping down. We'll have the latest for you on the resignation of the White House aide, Karen Hughes.

All of that and a lot more. Please join us at the top of the hour. And now back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Okay, Zogby and Zuckerman, Lou, I'm going to be looking forward to that.

And you can still vote before we reveal our poll results. You'll find the question of the day at -- that's my web page. Should the United States believe Abu Zubaydah's claim about Al Qaeda and dirty bombs? The results are next, as well as your comments on CNN's coverage of the Middle East crisis.


BLITZER: Now the results of our web question of the day. Should the U.S. believe Abu Zubaydah's claim of Al Qaeda dirty bomb know-how?

Most of you, 75 percent, say yes; 26 percent say no. Remember, this is not a scientific poll. And time to hear directly from you.

Arafat. Not Yasser, but someone else with that first name, writes this: "CNN is just a rubber stamp for the government and for Israel. Looking at the hosts and guests daily confirms that the Cable News Network is more like ZNN -- the Zionist News Network."

But Judy says just the opposite: "CNN is the most pro- Palestinian network. They recently showed a group of peace activists sneaking into Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah. Why? Would the U.S. allow such behavior if Guantanamo -- would any government allow that?"

Donny writes, "I believe that Yasser Arafat is a classic psychopath who cannot tolerate a real peace. Do you think the Israelis or Colin Powell have seriously considered that possibility?"

And from Meredith: "How do you justify Israel ignoring all United Nations resolutions and the Geneva Convention? The Palestinians have a right to self-defense. When people are kept from obtaining their freedom, what do you expect them to do?"

That's all the time that we have right now. Tomorrow on this program, re-creating a fantastic flight -- the grandson of Charles Lindberg has grandiose plans. I'll speak with him live, tomorrow, five Eastern.

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE begins right now.





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