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House-to-House Fighting in Afghanistan; Study: Obesity Increases Risk of Cancer

Aired October 31, 2007 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Very sad, indeed, Jack.
Thanks you very much.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, bloody house-to-house fighting -- hundreds of Taliban diehards moving into Afghan villages. Allied troops right now trying to move them out.

But does NATO have what it needs to get the job done?

Cut the pounds to cut your risk of cancer -- there's a major new study that's out and it finds that even those who are not overweight should watch what they eat. We're going to get a Reality Check from our medical correspondent.

And he puts his life on the line fighting for his country, then he came home and he took his own life.

Did his country let this veteran down? Why is his family suing right now?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Right now there's a fierce battle underway in Afghanistan, where hundreds of Taliban die-hards are barricaded in civilian homes as allied troops are trying to drive them out.

Let's go straight to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

She's watching this story for us. It's described as very, very nasty business underway right now.

What do we know -- Barbara? BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, indeed. By all accounts, this is some of the toughest fighting for U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan in years.


STARR (voice-over): Afghan villagers, their vehicles piled high with possessions, are on the run from a new wave of fighting -- as hundreds of Taliban fighters have suddenly regrouped near Kandahar, once a safe haven for Osama bin Laden. One NATO official in Afghanistan confirms to CNN that troops are moving through the area where the Taliban have taken up fighting positions inside homes, drawing NATO forces into a house-to-house firefight. The coalition cannot drop bombs for fear of civilian casualties.

Canadian and British forces are on the attack. Officials say U.S. troops may also be called into to action.

The fighting comes days after Defense Secretary Robert Gates pressed NATO allies to do more in Afghanistan.

ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The mission still requires more maneuver elements and fewer restraints on how forces can be used.

STARR: One solution -- more contractors. To free up military choppers for combat duty, NATO is hiring a fleet of privately-owned helicopters to start hauling cargo around the country. But NATO and U.S. officials warn it still will take years of commitment and more than just troops to establish enough security in a country where the poppy crop and the warlords still reign.

BRIG. GEN. RODNEY ANDERSON, U.S. ARMY: There's evidence of corruption throughout the government and in almost every activity.

STARR: Even the CIA director agrees Afghanistan is now much more than a military challenge.

MICHAEL HAYDEN, CIA DIRECTOR: It's not solely a tactical issue. If it were, this would be a lot easier.


STARR: Now, Wolf, NATO and the U.S. really aren't sure exactly why the Taliban have launched this latest offensive. But one thing they want to make sure of is that the Taliban do not advance and enter Kandahar -- a city where they were driven from power six years ago -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us.

Thank you, Barbara.

Some are calling it a potential death sentence. U.S. diplomats today voiced their feelings about the State Department's decision to force foreign service officers to serve in Iraq. The comments came at a town hall meeting with senior officials in which some expressed deep concern about the ethics of sending diplomats to a war zone against their will.

Meanwhile in Iraq, a sharp decline in the war's civilian death toll. The Iraqi government figures released today show 758 civilians killed in October. That's the lowest monthly total this year. The monthly totaled average more than 1,500 for most of this year, then fell to 844 last month. Authorities credit the U.S. troop build-up, military successes against al Qaeda and a truce by the Mahdi Army of the Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr.

She ran the public relations operation over at the State Department, trying to change the Muslim world's image of the United States. Now, this close confidante of President Bush is leaving her post.

Let's turn to CNN's Mary Snow.

She is watching this story for us.

Was it mission accomplished or failed -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it's a mission that's far from being accomplished. Some say it failed.

The question being asked, also, is it a job that could even bring real results?


SNOW (voice-over): She was assigned to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world. Her boss, Condoleezza Rice, praised her 18 months on the job. But Arab media didn't give her high marks.

Octavia Nasr monitors the Arab media all day long.

OCTAVIA NASR, SENIOR EDITOR, ARAB AFFAIRS: This is seen as big news in the sense that the role that Miss. Hughes played and the mission that she was entrusted with -- which is changing the image of the U.S. in the Arab and Muslim world -- they feel that that was a failure.

SNOW: Early on, Hughes took what she called a listening tour of the region. There were occasional slip ups. In 2005 in Egypt, Hughes was quoted as incorrectly saying the U.S. Constitution contained the phrase "in God we trust." Hughes is credited with nearly doubling the public diplomacy budget. She created P.R. rapid response centers to monitor news and respond to it -- sending more Arabic speakers to be interviewed in the region.

PROF. FAWAZ GERGES, SARAH LAWRENCE COLLEGE: I would give her B on performance and D on results because there has been little really positive results in the U.S. -- in improving U.S. image in the Muslim world. And I think it's not her fault.

PROF. BRIGITTE NACOS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: To be fair to Karen Hughes, I think it's an impossible job. If you do public diplomacy, you cannot divorce it from the actual policy.

SNOW: As opposition to the war grows, the opinion abroad of the U.S. drops. The Pew Research Center in June found the favorability rating of the U.S. is less than 50 percent in Middle Eastern countries, except Israel.

One crisis management consultant doesn't fault Hughes, but does fault the idea of selling the U.S., as you would a product. ERIC DEZENHALL, CRISIS MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT: I think that Americans have a very delusional notion that you can spin an audience that doesn't want to be spun. The fact is, is that P.R. is not quite that powerful.


SNOW: The crisis management consultant we did speak with says that the most effective damage control is to have realistic goals and here events, not P.R. campaigns, is the only way to be effective -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Mary, thank you.

Mary Snow in New York for us.

Let's go back to Jack.

He's also in New York.

He's got The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Is it just a coincidence, do you suppose, Wolf, that Karen Hughes left the State Department the day after we found out that the State Department granted some sort of immunity to 17 -- to these Blackwater guards who are suspected in the murders of 17 Iraqi civilians?

I mean how do you sell the American point of view in the Arab street when you're walking for a secretary of state who runs a department that, without anybody knowing about it, gives some sort of immunity to these -- to these mercenaries who apparently killed a bunch of Iraqi civilians?

I mean there's no way you can overcome stuff like that. I wonder if her resignation had anything to do with that little piece of news we got yesterday.

BLITZER: We invited her, Jack, to come into THE SITUATION ROOM today, but she declined our invitation.

CAFFERTY: Yes. And she's, arguably, one of the brighter bulbs in that whole administration and probably did as good a job as anybody could have done. But you can't overcome stuff like this. The State Department that she works for is giving immunity to people who are murder suspects in the killing of Iraqi civilians. That's an impossible hill to get up. We'll talk about that some more in this roundtable, I guess, that we're going to we'll have later on in the -- is it third hour of THE SITUATION ROOM?

BLITZER: That's right, the 7:00 p.m. Hour.

CAFFERTY: You know, I'm working too hard, all of a sudden, on this program. I should get a raise.

Clinton bombs debate -- that's how "The Politico" describes Senator Hillary Clinton's showing last night in Philadelphia, calling it the worst performance of her entire campaign and saying that for two hours she "dodged and weaved, parsed and stone-walled."

On the top of the list was Clinton's non-answer about whether illegal aliens should be given driver's licenses in New York State. That's the state she represents in the Senate.

First came a long, complicated defense of Governor Spitzer's plan. But after Chris Dodd attacked the idea of giving licenses to these people, then Clinton said, well, I didn't say it ought to be done.

John Edwards pounced immediately: "Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes."

She was also asked about conflicting statements on Social Security -- a question she ducked, saying she believed in fiscal responsibility.

What the hell does that mean?

And when Clinton was asked why she wouldn't release her White House records from the time she was first lady, her answer was, well that's not my decision to make.


Whose decision is it -- the Easter Bunny's?

Come on.

Here's the question -- why won't Hillary Clinton give a straight answer to the questions she's being asked?

E-mail us at or go to

You know, when Jim Carville told you a few minutes ago it wasn't her best night, I was surprised. He's pretty close to them and a big, big supporter. So it was fairly obvious to everybody.

BLITZER: Yes. He acknowledged it himself.

All right, thanks very much, Jack.

See you in a few moments.

Military suicides -- the hidden cost of wars.


DEBBIE LUCEY, SISTER OF JEFFREY LUCEY: Standing right here, actually where you are, and he looked at me and as he took two dog tags off of his neck and tossed them at me and said, "Don't you understand, your brother is a murderer?"


BLITZER: A look at why hundreds of troops survived battle only to come home and take their own lives. It's a heartbreaking story.

Plus, another conservative Republican caught up now in a gay sex scandal -- accusations of extortion and a male prostitute. We have the detailed police report.

And military funeral protests -- they show up at burials with signs that say: "Thank God for dead soldiers." Now, a radical church is being slapped with a nearly $3 million verdict.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: A Maryland jury has just awarded almost $3 million to the father of a Marine killed in Iraq. He sued a fundamentalist Kansas church notorious for picketing military funerals, saying the deaths are punishment for U.S. tolerance of homosexuality.

CNN's Ed Lavandera shows us why their tactics are highly offensive to most people.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fred Phelps is on his way to another military funeral -- laughing at all the people trying to silence him.

FRED PHELPS: It's like popping popcorn. Here goes a kernel, pow! Here goes a kernel, pow! This state, that state.

LAVANDERA: He says that's how lawmakers are reacting to the military funeral protests Phelps and his family have launched. They believe U.S. soldiers deserve to fight because they fight for a country that tolerates homosexuality. Now, four states have recently passed laws that restrict how close Phelps and his family can be to the funerals. Another dozen states are considering similar laws.

PHELPS: If those guys knew how I'm appreciating all this work they're doing, I think they'd quit doing it just for spite.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You crossed the line. Now God is your enemy.

LAVANDERA: The Phelps family says it has picketed more than 100 military funerals since last summer. But because of these new laws, the Phelps say they'll stay away from funerals in Wisconsin, Missouri, Indiana and Oklahoma -- but not for long. Several family members are attorneys, who say these laws violate their first amendment right to free speech.

PHELPS: I want Congress to pass a law that says I can't picket so we can immediately get it all brought to the nation's attention in one gulp.

LAVANDERA: The protests have sparked great outrage. They carry signs that read: "Thank God for IEDs" and "Thank God for dead soldiers." The message is so callous, nasty and disruptive, it inspired a group of motorcycle riders from around the country to show up in support of the military families.

Randy Wendling lost a son in Iraq. He still struggles to understand how anyone can be so mean-spirited. Today, he welcomed the news that these new laws might be slowing down the Phelps family.

RANDY WENDLING: Families that are mourning should have the freedom to privacy to mourn the loss of their loved one. And it's very important that this situation, if it arises again, that the people would be protected.

LAVANDERA: The Phelps family says it will continue picketing legally. These new laws won't slow them down because, they say, there are plenty of other funerals in other places that will get their attention now.

PHELPS: Love it. You've got to love it.

LAVANDERA: Ed Lavandera, CNN, Dallas.


BLITZER: And just to recap, a jury today in Maryland awarded this family $2.9 million -- a verdict against this church. Another family in Maryland is going to get $2.9 million as part of this verdict against this fundamentalist church.

They put their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, back home, they're taking their own lives. According to the Associated Press, a study by the Veterans Affairs Department now shows that more than 400 combat veterans have committed suicide since they came back from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. All that starting some six years ago.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick is joining us now with one family's tragedy -- Deb?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we can tell you that this is the first time the Veterans Affairs Department has even released these suicide numbers. As you mentioned, some 430 men and women who killed themselves after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. This doesn't include the combat troops who killed themselves once they got back in the States. They're not considered casualties of war.

Now, the V.A. has set up a 24-hour hotline. However, for some people, that help is just simply too late.


FEYERICK (voice-over): Jeff Lucey's room is much the way he left it -- his uniform pressed, his rucksack packed, a picture of his Marine platoon on the wall.

D. LUCEY: Jeffrey didn't get the chance. He didn't get the chance.

FEYERICK: He left a note: "Dad, please don't look. Just call the police. I love you, Jeff."

K. LUCEY: The hose was double looped around his neck. But, you know, this is not going to make any sense to you -- for the first time in months, he really looked at peace.

FEYERICK: Lance Corporal Jeff Lucey, who had never been away from home before, was haunted by what he saw and did in Iraq.

D. LUCEY: Standing right here, actually where you are. And he looked at me and as he took two dog tags off of his neck and tossed them at me and said: "Don't you understand, your brother is a murderer?"

FEYERICK: He had been home less than a year. He was depressed, hallucinating and drinking heavily to numb the pain. Finally, his family convinced him to get help. They had him involuntarily committed at a V.A. hospital 40 minutes away.

K. LUCEY: The day that I brought Jeff over to the V.A., I really felt like I was putting him in the arms of the angels. I really did. Because they are the experts. They've been dealing with PTSD and military PTSD for decades.

FEYERICK: But Jeff was not diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He wasn't diagnosed at all.

(on camera): Jeffrey Lucey lasted all of four days. His family says he was sent home -- told by the medical staff that they couldn't do an assessment until he was alcohol-free. Well, Jeffrey Lucey began to freefall.

(voice-over): His sister, Debbie, tried to bring him back.

D. LUCEY: I said, you know, if you don't help him, he's not going to be here this time next month. And that was on June 5th. And on June 22nd, he died.

FEYERICK: Jeff killed himself in 2004. But a wrongful death lawsuit filed recently by the family says Jeff was turned away without ever being evaluated by a psychiatrist.

So what went wrong?

Harvard's Linda Bilmes, who did extensive research on the cost of veteran's care, says the veterans health administration is overwhelmed.

LINDA BILMES, KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: There has been no planning for how much money the V.A. needs, how much capacity they need, how many mental health care practitioners they need. It's as if we expected to send out all these young men and women to war and not to take care of them when they came home.

FEYERICK: The Veterans Administration office could not comment on the Lucey case because of the lawsuit, but they say V.A. has made changes.

ANTOINETTE ZEISS, VETERANS ADMINISTRATION: We've hired, in the last two years, over 3,400 new mental health professionals. And that includes things like placing a suicide prevention coordinator in every single facility in the country.

FEYERICK: Small consolation for the Luceys.

K. LUCEY: If they did this to our son, how many others are they doing it to and have they done it to?


FEYERICK: Now, the Harvard expert you heard from told us that in some parts of the country, there have been vacancies for psychologists and psychiatrists for more than a year. And that's especially a problem in area where sometimes Marines and soldiers and troops have to drive more than 100 miles just to get the help from a veterans' facility -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What a heartbreaking story.

All right, Deb Feyerick, thanks very much for doing that.

Still ahead, Democratic and Republican presidential candidates turning up the heat on Hillary Clinton. We're going to show you how they're trying to chip away at her lead.

Also, a stunning new study on fat, alcohol and cancer. Simple steps to seriously cut your risk for getting the deadly disease.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Let's check in with Carol Costello once again.

She's monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- hi, Carol.


Hello to all of you.

It turns out one of those massive wildfires in Southern California was started accidentally by a boy playing with matches. The Buckwheat Fire destroyed 21 homes, charred 38,000 acres and forced 15,000 people to evacuate. The preteen boy's name and exact age are not being released. He's with his parents while prosecutors consider charges. Store workers in Northern California are cleaning up today from the largest earthquake to hit the San Francisco Bay Area since 1989. The moderate magnitude 5.6 quake struck last night. It was centered about nine miles from San Jose. No serious damage or injuries are reported, but a spokesman for Governor Schwarzenegger says all important infrastructure will be inspected.

A whole new itinerary for the Shuttle Discovery mission to the International Space Station. A spacewalk planned for tomorrow to fix a rotary joint has now been scratched. Instead, astronauts will step into space Friday and try to repair a torn solar panel. Now, depending on how it goes, NASA may extend the mission by one day and schedule another spacewalk.

Here's a Halloween scare for you -- and it's no trick. The government is announcing a very last minute recall of fake Halloween treats containing as much as 100 times the allowable amount of lead. No surprise they're made in China. They're called Ugly Teeth. An eight piece package sells for about $2. If you or your kids have them, do not wear them.

That's a look at the headlines right now -- Wolf.

Good advice for parents going out trick or treating tonight.

Thanks very much, Carol, for that.

Coming up, ganging up on Hillary Clinton.


JOHN EDWARDS, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Will she be the person who brings about the change in this country?

You know, I believe in Santa Claus. I believe in the tooth fairy. But I don't think that's going to happen.


BLITZER: The Democratic frontrunner takes a pounding in last night's debate. We'll take a closer look at the sharp shift on the campaign trail.

Plus, allegations of extortion, prostitution and a conservative Republican -- another gay sex scandal for the GOP. We have a very detailed police report.

And a stunning new study that connects what's on your dinner table with your risk for cancer. Stick around -- information you need to know right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, a tropical storm watch has just been issued for parts of Southeast Florida. People there are being urged to keep an eye out for Tropical Storm Noel, now blamed for at least 60 deaths in the Caribbean. We're watching that.

Also, the Federal Reserve is cutting interest rates as expected. The benchmark federal funds rate trimmed by a quarter of a point, to 4-1/2 percent -- the lowest level since April 2001.

And a serious step in a mock campaign. Sources telling CNN Comedy Central's Steven Colbert will file to run as a Democrat in South Carolina's presidential primary. They say Colbert can't afford the Republican filing fee.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Her rivals went after Hillary Clinton in last night's debate with a vengeance hoping to chip away at Clinton's lead. The other democratic candidates attacked her credibility, her consistency and her electability.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), ILLINOIS: She has taken one position on torture several months ago and then most recently has taken a different position. She voted for a war to authorize sending troops into Iraq and then later said this is a war for diplomacy.

JOHN EDWARDS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you believe that combat missions should be continued in Iraq, over the long term, if you believe that combat troops will remain stationed in Iraq, and if you believe there should be no actual timetable for withdrawal, then Senator Clinton is your candidate.

OBAMA: Part of the reason that republicans, I think, are obsessed with you, Hillary, that's a fight they're very comfortable having. It is the fight that we've been through since the '90s.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: The fact of the matter is that my colleague from New York, Senator Clinton, 50 percent of the American public say they're not going to vote for her.

EDWARDS: Will she be the person that brings about the change in this country? You know, I believe in Santa Claus, I believe in the tooth fairy, but I don't think that is going to happen.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I have been standing against the republicans, George Bush and Dick Cheney and I will continue to do so and I think democrats know that.


BLITZER: And joining us now, our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger. A lot of pundits are suggesting the campaign all of a sudden changed last night. GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It did. The gloves came off. I think the other candidates, Barack Obama, John Edwards, in particular, realized they're running out of time, Wolf. It's two months before Iowa and they have to start taking on Hillary Clinton, whose campaign had gained the sense of inevitability and invincibility and they called her names without calling her names. They called her unelectable. They called her untrustworthy. They said that she was part of an old, corrupt Washington culture that's got to go. They're the candidates of change, they said. She's the status quo and that's bad in this election year.

BLITZER: Some of those democrats sounded like republicans going after her. What is her Achilles' heel out there?

BORGER: I think they really got to her last night on her Achilles' heel which Steve Colbert might says is truthiness, this whole notion that goes back to the '90s about the Clintons, whether they're evasive, particularly her answer on refusing to say whether illegal immigrants should have drivers' licenses or not. Clearly she was trying to protect her friend, the governor of the state. It's a difficult political position for her, but, nonetheless, she didn't answer the question. And every time she doesn't answer a question, there's a question in the voters' minds about whether she's being evasive and that's not exactly a quality that voters admire in their candidates.

BLITZER: They all say they want, that they represent change out there, but is that really what the public wants?

BORGER: The public does want change and that's clear. It's harder for a republican to make the case for change than it is for a democrat, obviously. But the question is, what kind of change? And how much change does the public want risk? No. The public doesn't want a risky candidate. So when you talk to the Clinton campaign they'll say, she is credible, she has the experience, she will bring you change, but she's not a risk and they'll say, someone like Barack Obama or John Edwards, they're risky.

BLITZER: Gloria, thanks very much. Gloria Borger doing some analysis for us.

Remember, on November 15th I'll be in Las Vegas, Nevada to moderate a debate in that key state, that western state. The democratic candidates will all be out there in Nevada. That's the next democratic presidential debate in Vegas.

A gay black male scandal is swirling around a conservative Washington State Representative who denies having sex with men. Carol Costello is watching this story unfold for us. Allegedly involving blackmail among other things. What is going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is such an ugly story. You know one the Log Cabin Republicans, a group that represents gay Americans, call another shameful example of the effects of life lived in the closet.


COSTELLO: It has been a truly scandalous few months for the GOP. For the third time in three months a republican lawmaker is accused of soliciting gay sex. This time it's Washington State Representative Richard Curtis, whose defense sounds a lot like Florida State Representative Bob Allen and Idaho Senator Larry Craig's.

SEN. LARRY CRAIG (R), IDAHO: I am not gay.

COSTELLO: Craig pled guilty to disorderly conduct and then tried to change his plea. As for Curtis, he told the "Columbia Newspaper" he did not have sex with the man and is not gay. But here's what Spokane police told me. On October 26th, Representative Curtis dressed in women's lingerie, and picked up a young man in the Hollywood Erotic Boutique and the rest of the story is contained in a graphic 50-page police document. The young man alleges Curtis offered him $1,000 for unprotected sex at a nearby hotel and he says "At the conclusion of the sexual activity, Curtis fell asleep." Police say Curtis' sex partner, Cody Castagna, then took his wallet in order to extort money from the representative and, "Threatened to publicly expose Richard Curtis' gay lifestyle to his wife." At that point Curtis called on an officer to investigate. Police say Curtis hoped the incident would go away once police nabbed a suspect. Instead the media got wind of the case and they found Curtis' alleged sex partner, who promptly went public with his attorney.

CODY CASTAGNA: I am freaked out, you know. He gave his wallet.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did he give you his wallet?

CASTAGNA: As collateral.


CASTAGNA: The money that he promised me.

COSTELLO: It is a particularly ugly drama unfolding yet around another conservative republican lawmaker. Like Florida State Representative Bob Allen, who has pled not guilty to a charge of soliciting gay sex in July, and Senator Larry Craig, Curtis is married with children and votes conservatively. Voting against a domestic partnership bill and a bill that would have outlawed discrimination based on sexual orientation.


COSTELLO: And just about 40 minutes ago, I received an e-mail from Representative Curtis, he has resigned his office saying, "Events that have recently come to light have hurt a lot of people. I sincerely apologize for any pain my actions may have caused. This has been damaging to my family and I don't want to subject them to any additional pain that might result from carrying out this matter under the scrutiny that comes with holding public office." And I must say that I got an e-mail from a lot of representatives out in Washington State and it seems he was pressured, also, to resign.

BLITZER: What a story. All right, thanks very much, Carol Costello reporting for us.

Cut the pounds to cut your risk of cancer; a new study shows why even a little bit of extra weight may be worth taking off.

And remember the attack on the "U.S. Cole"? While small boats could pose a very big threat to ships in ports right here in the United States.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Surprising new medical news that could impact tens of millions of people. When it comes to getting cancer, researchers now say that being overweight is just as dangerous as smoking. Sue Saville, of Britain's ITN reports.


SUE SAVILLE, ITV NEWS: The advice from the global study is the most authoritative yet on how to prevent cancer. The key recommendations are be lean at the low end of your weight range, avoid processed meats, mothers should breast feed their children for at least six months, avoid fatty and sugary foods, cut down on salt and drink only moderately. For the first time the data shows that it's not just being obese that risks cancer, but even being slightly overweight and excess fat is now as thought to be as high a cancer risk as is smoking.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The factors that related to food and nutrition probably account for the same sort of number of cancers as does smoking in current western societies.

SAVILLE: The western habits of too much alcohol, smoking and fatty, sugary foods are killing us. And the evidence is piling up that we must take quite drastic action to prevent cancer. Sue Saville, ITV news.


BLITZER: So, how concerned should all of us be? Elizabeth Cohen is joining us from CNN Center. Fat they're pointing to is a major risk. First of all, how good a study are experts suggesting this study was?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this study actually, Wolf, was a study of studies. These were experts who looked at thousands of studies and really what they found is very similar to what other people have found. So it's quite trustworthy and that is being fat will put you at a higher risk for cancer and eating too much fat in your diet will also put you at a higher risk.

BLITZER: When they talk about meat, red meat specifically, what are they suggesting in terms of cutting back?

COHEN: What they mean is that when you eat a portion of meat, it should be about the size of a deck of cards. So none of these huge, you saw in the story a bunch of meatballs on one plate. They're saying don't do that. Eat a relatively small portion. This report just says limit red meats. They don't give a specific amount for how much you're supposed to have. They say it should account for no more than 10 percent of your diet, but I know people have a hard time making that calculation. But the basic message is you can eat it, but don't eat too much of it.

BLITZER: If you take all the recommended steps that they're now suggesting, how much will you reduce your risk of getting cancer?

COHEN: You know, we asked them that question and the experts said, who wrote this report, said they can't tell you exactly how much you'll reduce your risk if you take all their dietary advice, but what they can tell you if everybody, let's say if all Americans took this advice, we could decrease the number of cancers in this country by as much as 30 percent to 40 percent. That is a lot, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lower the fat, lower the red meat, lower the salt, lower the sugar. It's going to get pretty boring out there, isn't it?

COHEN: Well, you can also look at this as eat things in moderation. In other words, do you really need that huge steak on your plate? How about a steak that is maybe one-third the size of what people are looking at? There are very few things that experts say don't eat at all. They just say mix it up a bit, have some fruits and vegetables with your steak and with your processed white flour.

BLITZER: And have some grilled fish or maybe grilled chicken instead as well.

COHEN: There you go. Right.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Elizabeth Cohen joining us. Important information you need to know.

Up ahead, small boats posing potentially a big terror threat. They're able to pull right up to some buildings and landmarks. Brian Todd standing by to find out whether anything is being done about it.

Also, is Vice President Cheney dressing up for Halloween? President Bush offers hint.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Nearly 200 were killed in the 2004 Madrid railway bombings. Nearly 2,000 others were wounded. Eight key defendants faced justice today in a Spanish court, but it was a surprisingly mixed verdict. Three of the eight were convicted of mass murder, others received lesser convictions and one alleged ring leader was acquitted of all charges. Those convicted of murder were sentenced to tens of thousands of years in prison, but in the end, will serve no more than 40 years, the maximum penalty under Spanish law. They've crippled the U.S. warship and commercial vessels and there are growing concerns right now that terrorists in small boats could pose a serious threat in waters right here at home.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's joining us in Washington with more on what he's learning. Brian, we see a lot of boats around you. Tell our viewers what is going on.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, homeland security officials say they poured a lot of resources into securing containers and tankers at major ports, but a significant security gap remains in the form of smaller, faster vessels.


TODD: The "U.S. Cole" in 2000, the French tanker Lindbergh in 2002, deadly attacks from small boats that moved in very close, very quickly. American ports and vessels still vulnerable to suicide attacks, rocket-propelled grenades and terrorists surveillance from small vessels. Ports aren't the only facilities that are vulnerable to attacks from small boats. Landmarks and government buildings are as well. We can cruise here along the Potomac River at high speed and under this bridge, past this marina and come within a few hundred yards of the Pentagon. Targets that are as accessible by water as they are by land. A Pentagon official says measures have been taken to counter those threats. Nearby, Coast Guard vessels are patrolling sensitive areas, but small boats like ours can still move freely up and down the Potomac; even pulling up to the tarmac at Reagan National Airport, planes moving in right above us; under bridges, close to famous landmarks. To balance this open access with security, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is taking action.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: I've tasked the Commandant of the Coast Guard, Admiral Allen, to work with customs and border protection on a plan to begin a much more robust screening and inspection of small boats.

TODD: Possible new measures, according to Coast Guard officials, making small boat operators carry IDs when on the water, training boat operators on what security threats to look out for. Our guide, Chip Johnston, has worked with security officials.

Tell me what to look out for.

CHIP JOHNSTON, BOAT OWNER, MARINA MANAGER: I look out for anybody that doesn't look like they should take 100 pictures of one bridge or something, or they're sneaking up and taking a handful of pictures. And if they are, I ask them what they're doing.

TODD: Former Coast Guard Captain Mark Johnson once managed security at a major U.S. port. He says the U.S. guard is stepping up patrols in sensitive areas and ...

CAPT. MARK JOHNSON, U.S. COAST GUARD (RET.): There are areas that are now putting port security barriers in place. These are like water fences that can be very effective against suicide boat attacks and things like that.


TODD: Johnson says building tall security fences and barriers at water access points near places like the Pentagon isn't very practical, but he says security cameras, surveillance cameras and sensors could be installed in some of those areas and coupled with more security patrols on the water, some gaps could be closed. Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us; Brian, thanks very much.

Guarding America's waterways is a daunting task. When you add it all up, coasts, rivers, ports, so on, the United States has more than 95,000 miles of shoreline and over 290,000 square miles of water. There are approximately 70 million recreational boaters in this country and fewer than 50,000 members of the U.S. Coast Guard to keep an eye on everything going on.

Let's turn to Lou Dobbs to see what's coming up at the top of the hour. Lou.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, thank you.

Tonight, we're reporting on startling new evidence that our defenses against dangerous imports have utterly collapsed. The last- minute recall today of tens of thousands of tainted Halloween toys on Halloween day from where else? Communist China. We'll have complete coverage.

Also, Senator Hillary Clinton apparently having a little trouble decide whether she's for or against Governor Eliot Spitzer's plan to give away drivers' licenses to illegal aliens. How important is the issue of illegal immigration in this presidential election?

And ferocious new criticism in the United States senate of the governor's outrageous plan. We'll be joined by New York's State Senate Major Leader, Joe Bruno, who says it is time for the governor to pull the plug. Joe Bruno is among our guests here tonight.

Please join us for all of that, all the day's news at the top of the hour right here on CNN. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: A lot of people thought that issue of drivers' licenses in New York State and illegal immigrants was really a local issue in New York but it got a lot of exposure in the democratic debate last night.

DOBBS: How did that happen?

BLITZER: Hillary Clinton was asked about it and I guess she didn't satisfy -- her answer was not satisfying. What did you think?

DOBBS: I think that Senator Clinton is in big trouble. I think Senator Obama is in big trouble. The American people have had a belly full of these presidential candidates and elected officials from the White House right through the Senate and the Congress pandering to socioethnocentric interest groups, pandering to corporate America. They want representation of the middle class, working men and women in this country. Three hundred million American citizens who, by the way, do not enjoy being broken apart, sliced and diced into ethnicities and to racial groups and interest groups. They want leaders who understand this is one nation; the most diverse nation on the face of the earth with leaders committed to the common good, the well being of American citizens and the national interests. And they're ready to accept a leader who will step in that direction and they've really, in my opinion, had a belly full of both parties. That's one of the reasons we're seeing independent registration sore in this country, Wolf.

BLITZER: Do you think it's going to be a big issue illegal immigration between democrats and the republicans?

DOBBS: I think it's going to be a very big issue because each one of these democrats is basically pandering. I was pleased to see that Senator Christopher Dodd is being independent minded, is not following the party line, and to watch what Senator Obama, Senator Clinton, and others are doing is just disgusting. It's going to be a huge issue for the Democratic Party. It is going to be a problem for them in the general election, if not the primaries. I suspect it's going to be an issue in the primaries, as well.

And the republicans, my gosh, Wolf, I mean they haven't done much better. This president, the Senate leadership, Republican Senate leadership supporting amnesty and open borders, it's time for them to grow up and understand that these are serious issues and that the American people have had it with their just utter propaganda and their spin and their just, frankly, B.S. It's time to grow up and do your jobs when you're elected to represent the American people. And the American people have got to make it clear they're not going to accept anything less.

BLITZER: We'll see you in a few minutes. Lou.

DOBBS: You got it. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Let's check back with Jack Cafferty right now for the Cafferty File. You know, Lou Dobbs, we have to get him to really tell us how he feels on these issues, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I listen pretty carefully to what most of what Lou says because I happen to agree with almost everything he says. The problem is, we're not going to get anything approaching the kind of representation of leadership he's talking about because, based on the fields of candidates on both sides and the way the system is structured, it just can't happen unless a lot more people register independent than have.

The question this hour is, why won't Hillary Clinton give a straight answer to the question she's being asked? And besides the fact that she's a politician, here are some other suggestions. Dan in New York writes, "What do you mean, Jack? Yes, I do and no I don't in the same sentence. They're straight answers just like yes, I did before I didn't are straight answers. Hillary is attending the Alan Greenspan School of how to speak for hours and say nothing. Wait till she graduates. You'll get more straight answers than you can possibly comprehend."

Kichi, Pennsylvania, "Hillary is the democratic Nixon. She will make Bush look like Mary Poppins when it comes to secrecy and obfuscation. And I'm a life-long Democrat."

Steve, Sparks, Nevada, "Did anyone pick up on how uncomfortable Hillary got when the pressing continued at the debate on "if and when she would OK the White House files to be released to the public?" That was some serious fancy dancing she did. She couldn't wait for the subject to be changed. Things like that make you go, hmmm."

Sandy in Georgia, "I'm a Hillary supporter. I'm having a hard time understanding why the media is giving her a hard time. I feel she's as honest with her answers as Obama is. I'm confused about why the media is still making such a big deal Bill and the Monica scandal, but you never see any coverage about Rudy and Judy. Maybe because Rudy and Judy are married."

Martin in California, "Hillary Clinton is the consummate politician. She does whatever it takes to get elected. Her position on any one subject changes like a chameleon changes its colors. Politicians like her are a dime a dozen in Washington, D.C. She's exactly what we don't need as president. As a democrat, I'd prefer Biden, Edwards, Gore or Obama."

And Bucky writes from Florida, "Hey Jack, it's an easy one, her name is Clinton. It depends on what the definition of question is."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to where we post more online along with video clips of the Cafferty File for your viewing enjoyment. Wolf.

BLITZER: See you in a few minutes. Actually, see you in an hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Jack, thank you.

Up ahead, what is Dick Cheney's Halloween costume going to be this year? That's what President Bush asked the vice president today. The answer, just ahead.


BLITZER: Critics compared him to Darth Vader is Dick Cheney dressing up for Halloween this year? President Bush offers this clue.

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES: This morning I was with the vice president. I was asking him what costume he was planning. He said, "Well I'm already wearing it," and then he mumbled something about the dark side of the force.

BLITZER: Would that be Darth Vader? All right. Mark your calendars. Starting next Monday, one year exactly from Election Day, THE SITUATION ROOM will be on back-to-back three hours nonstop from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. eastern. Lou will start at 7:00. Let's go to Lou right now. Lou.

DOBBS: Wolf, thank you.