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THE SITUATION ROOM
No Mail on Saturdays?; Chile Struggles Following Killer Quake
Aired March 2, 2010 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Mail delivery on Saturdays, it could become a thing of the past, as the U.S. Postal Service looks for ways to stop the bleeding of billions and billions of dollars.
And government safety regulators once warned that a trainer would be killed by a whale at a SeaWorld park. Why did that report not -- was not paid attention to? What happened? It was a chilling report, but no one seemed to pay attention. We have new information for you.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We are following all of the latest developments in Chile's quake disaster zone, among them right now, a new death toll, 795. But that number is certain to climb -- 13,000 Chilean troops are being deployed to help deal with the looting and some of the hardest-hit areas still have not received any aid a full three days after that magnitude-8.8 quake.
Sara Sidner is live in the city of Concepcion, scene of some of the most intense devastation, some of the greatest unrest.
Sara, tell us what is going on right now.
SARA SIDNER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, let me tell you what is happening behind me. There are still rescue crews trying to pull people out of the rubble. We understand there are seven people. They will not say whether they are alive or dead, but obviously this has now gone on now into the fourth day after this earthquake hit, so the hopes of them being alive have lessened quite a bit.
Let's also talk about looting, because, yesterday, there were many incidents of looting that we saw ourselves, where the army was trying to use water cannons on people as they ran through the streets holding things like televisions. We even saw people trying to break apart children's toys that were bolted to the ground.
Today, a different story. Lots of military have arrived here in Concepcion. They are very visible on the street. They are going around well-armed with their trucks and walking the streets. We did though see this afternoon in one of the areas that's the business district of this city one incident that appeared to be looting where the soldiers basically had their guns pointed into the backs of three men who were outside of a pharmacy with fistfuls of pills, but other than that, we didn't see any other incidents, a lot of military that are trying to take control of the area here in Concepcion -- Wolf.
BLITZER: I understand, Sara, you also had a chance to go outside of the city center and see what is happening in the surrounding areas. What did you find out?
SIDNER: Well, Wolf, we wanted to see the neighborhoods. We wanted to talk to people to find out what their situation is right now, because, obviously, in the city, there is a lot of help that is starting to come to the people here.
Outside, they say they still don't have electricity, they still don't have water. They still don't have access to things for survival, and they are Very worried. They're also very worried about security, and they said that for the past 48 hours, they haven't seen any military or any police, so they have decided to take matters into their own hands.
There are groups now forming in neighborhoods. They have set up barricades with anything that they can, including tabletops, including some chicken wire. And they are literally taking names and becoming their own security force outside some of these neighborhoods, because some say they have been threatened by people who have come into the neighborhood trying to get in there late at night and trying to loot the homes, though, today, while we were at one of the neighborhoods, the authorities, military, did show up. They shook hands with some of the residents and told them that they would be back today and that they would help them secure their homes -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Sara Sidner is on the scene for us in Concepcion. We will check back with her.
The secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, made a brief visit to Chile. She took some time out from her Latin American tour, stopping for a short time at the airport in Santiago. She brought 20 desperately needed satellite phones with her, as well as a technician. And she promised more U.S. help is on the way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: And the United States is ready to respond to the request that the government of Chile has made so that we can provide not only solidarity, but specific supplies that are needed to help you recover from the earthquake.
After discussing the needs that Chile has, we will look to see if we can provide additional equipments from portable kitchens to helicopters to assist you in this massive rescue recovery effort that you are undertaking. And additionally, we will let the people of America, who are very anxious to help Chileans, know that they can contribute to the Chilean Red Cross.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The secretary of state in Santiago today. NASA, meanwhile, now says that the earthquake in Chile was so powerful, it actually made our days shorter. The force of it displaced so much of the Earth's mass that it impacted the planet's rotation, shifting the axis about three inches, but it is doubtful that you will notice the change. It is only 1.26 microseconds, which is just slightly longer than one -- one-millionth of a second, but people notice.
Back home here in the United States, the U.S. Postal Service is losing billions of dollars, and is now scrambling to find ways to cut costs. It said today it will reduce the work force by another 30,000 positions, and there is a push to stop Saturday mail deliveries altogether.
CNN's Brian Todd is here. He's working the story for us.
What are you hearing, Brian?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the post office is hemorrhaging money and wants to make some drastic changes. That is going to affect everyone from you and me to a gentleman who faithfully works his route everyday.
TODD (voice-over): For three decades, Delvin Johnson has been unloading, sorting, hoofing it house by house, becoming a fixture on his Northwest Washington beat. He survived the anthrax scare at his local station and other perils of the job.
(on camera): So, in about 30 years, how many dog bites have you had?
DELVIN JOHNSON, WASHINGTON, D.C., MAIL CARRIER: Recently, I had only one.
TODD: Just one?
JOHNSON: This one right here.
TODD: That one?
TODD: How long ago was that?
JOHNSON: That was about two years ago.
TODD: So, 28 years, you went without one? Then you got one...
JOHNSON: Twenty-eight years and got one, yes, yes, got one about two years ago.
TODD (voice-over): For mail carriers like Delvin, dog bites may be the least of their worries these days. The U.S. Postal Service is now on the government's list of high-risk agencies. It's projected for a net loss of $7 billion this fiscal year alone. We're all simply doing more e-mailing and online bill paying, and that means a lot less physical mail to and from your doorstep.
(on camera): What is the volume like now compared to, say, five years ago?
JOHNSON: Well, it has dropped off about maybe a third. And it seems to be, you know, picking up again, but it dropped off about a third.
TODD: A third just in the last five years.
JOHNSON: Just in the last five years.
TODD: Is that the most drastic drop you have ever experienced?
TODD (voice-over): It's drastic all over the postal system, which was built to handle so much more, and is now oversized, antiquated and considering benefits and work force.
As for our mail, the service has drawn up a list of more than 150 post offices for possible closure and may cut Saturday delivery.
Back in that D.C. neighborhood, we asked Janet Bachman about that.
(on camera): They may cut delivery from six days to five days. Do you think that is a good idea?
JANET BACHMAN, D.C. RESIDENT: I think it's an excellent idea. The great majority of the post that I get and I imagine most people get is frankly junk mail, so five days a week, no problem.
TODD (voice-over): Down the street, Tove Bjorgaas says she would miss that sixth day.
TOVE BJORGAAS, D.C. RESIDENT: Saturday is usually a day when you do the chores and it's good to get the mail everyday.
TODD: Still, it now looks like the icon that never stopped for snow, rain, heat, or gloom of night is about to become much less a part of our lives.
TODD: As for Delvin Johnson, he has been offered early retirement twice. He has held it off each time, and he would like to go at least two more years, until the mandatory age of 55, because he has got a daughter in college and a son who is going to be in college a couple of years, Wolf. He has to got to keep going.
BLITZER: Yes, of course. You have got a graphic that's pretty dramatic that shows the drop in traditional mail.
TODD: That's right. This graph, based on Postal Service numbers here, it shows the decline related to the past two decades. We had ups and downs over that period, but take a look at this. Fiscal years 2008, 2009, it's been nothing like those two years.
Look at this drop, about 35 billion pieces of total mail volume down over the past two years, that is a decline of 16.5 percent. Wolf, the Postal Service predicts that's going to keep going down until 2020.
BLITZER: If they cut delivery on Saturdays, would they also cut pickup on Saturdays? In other words, if you drop your mail in one of those little boxes in the neighborhood, would it just have to wait until Monday to be picked up?
TODD: Pretty much. A Postal Service official tells us, says, yes, they will not pick up mail at those mailboxes in your neighborhood on Saturdays. You can drop it at your local post office and it will likely go to a processing center, but not at those blue mailboxes. They won't pick it up on Saturdays.
One thing you have to remember here, this all has to be approved by Congress. Congress is asking them to come up with a plan to cut costs. This is one of the things that may go through.
BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that, a story that impacts almost all of our U.S. viewers.
BLITZER: Despite all of its problems, the U.S. Postal Service is the nation's second largest retailer. It still runs the nation's largest retail network, the largest fleet of civilian vehicles in the world, and the world's largest fleet capable of using alternative fuels.
The Postal Service uses 15 different modes of transportation, including hovercraft, helicopters, and streetcars. Its strangest delivery method -- get this -- and I'm not making this up -- mules. The mules carry thousands of pounds and supplies to a Native American village in Arizona each week.
Jack Cafferty is coming up next with "The Cafferty File."
Then, a call for a ban on Israelis in Dubai, fresh fallout from the high-profile hit on a Hamas leader. Also, the son of another Hamas official says he was a spy for Israel and now he says his father is disowning him. He tells his story to CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
Plus, back to the future in California. The newest candidate for governor held the office three decades ago. We are talking about Jerry Brown. He goes one-on-one with our own Jessica Yellin.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is in New York. He has got "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: There's a great political game of gotcha going on right now in our nation's capital, and it all comes down to one man, retiring Republican Senator Jim Bunning.
The Kentucky lawmaker is the only senator blocking an extension of unemployment benefits that could help millions of jobless Americans.
But Bunning says he's against the $10 billion aid package because it isn't paid for and he doesn't want to add to the growing deficit. The one-man filibuster is also blocking federal flood insurance, small business loans, and an extension of federal highway funding, which has meant the furlough of 2,000 highway workers. They're getting paid, but they're off the job.
So far it's been pretty much radio silence from Bunning's fellow Republicans, although they're not happy. And Democrats are loving it. They're pointing out that Bunning didn't make much noise under the Bush administration when there were two unpaid wars, along with those Bush tax cuts. The Democrats are challenging their Republican colleagues to come out and defend what Bunning is doing.
After all, the Republicans are making hay railing the Democrats spending the country into bankruptcy, right? And with all the preaching of fiscal conservatism, well, they ought to support Bunning's move to stop unemployment benefits if there is no money to pay for them, right? The Republicans probably just wish he would go away. But he's not going.
Meanwhile Bunning isn't exactly acting like a statesman. He's a former Major League Baseball player. He was a pretty good pitcher. After one Democrat criticized his move on the Senate floor, Bunning reportedly muttered, "tough excrement." Only, he used a different word for excrement. And the senator gave the middle finger to a producer from ABC News who tried to question him about all this.
Here's the question, then: Is Senator Jim Bunning right to hold up unemployment benefits because there's no money to pay for them?
Go to CNN.com/caffertyfile and post a comment on my blog.
BLITZER: Be anxious, Jack, to hear what your viewers and my viewers think. This is a good story.
CAFFERTY: It is a wonderful soap opera.
BLITZER: Yes, but a lot of people's lives are affected, though, in the process, so it is a serious business.
CAFFERTY: Yes, including all of us who are suffering under the weight of the deficit.
BLITZER: That's true. That would be every one of us.
BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. Stand by.
BLITZER: There are 27 suspects and the investigation stretches now around the world after the carefully choreographed killing of a top Hamas operative in Dubai. Dubai blames Israel and every day there is fresh fallout from the mysterious hit.
CNN's Paula Hancocks is covering the story for us in Dubai -- Paula.
PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Wolf, there is still this slow drip feed of information coming in to us from the Dubai police, which is ensuring that this story is staying in the headlines.
Now, this is what we know today. In fact, over the past couple of days, the police chief has been talking publicly, and he said that he wants to see if he can ban Israelis from coming into the country. Reports saying that he wants to see if he can catch them out at border control.
Now, the interesting thing is, is that Israeli nationals are already banned from entering Dubai or the United Arab Emirates. There are no diplomatic ties between Israel and the UAE. But what we have seen in the past and what the Dubai police chief says he has seen from these alleged suspects is that many Israelis have dual nationalities, so they are able to come into Dubai on a second passport.
Now, a source close to the investigation was talking to CNN and said that this is not a police matter. It's a federal border control matter, and they have no plans to change any of their rules at this point.
And, also, bear in mind, that just last month an Israeli tennis player, Shahar Peer, actually came here to Dubai. She was given a visa so that she could part of the Dubai competition. So, it seems as though the border control can actually overlook this ban on Israelis when it suits them.
Meanwhile, an Australian team is about to land here in -- actually, land in Israel. They want to talk to those Israelis that alleged they have had their identities stolen by the suspects in the Hamas assassination. This is very similar to what we saw from the U.K. team as well -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Paula Hancocks covering the story for us in Dubai.
Thank you, Paula.
Last week, we told you about a new book by a Palestinian man who says he spent years working undercover for Israel's security service, nothing too extraordinary there, but get this. The father of this man is a key figure in Hamas who has been jailed by Israel.
The book is called "Son of Hamas." And the son has now been denounced by his father.
CNN's Christiane Amanpour spoke exclusively with the author. Listen to this.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is almost fantastical. How can this Palestinian young man whose father is the founder of Hamas completely switch sides with such passion as you're describing now? Many people are saying, how can this be true? Is this Israeli propaganda?
Your own father has written from prison, where he still is, a statement: "I, Sheikh Hassan Yousef Daoud Dar Khalil, and my entire family, my wife, sons and daughters, declare that we fully, inclusively and exhaustively denounce our eldest son, Mosab."
He said that you were a collaborator, collaborating with the enemy. He said that you're betraying the Palestinians, betraying Islam. How do you respond to that? I mean, is your father telling the truth?
MOSAB YOUSEF, AUTHOR, "SON OF HAMAS": My father is not saying -- telling his heart. My father is under lots of pressure, and he's committed to his God. This is not my father's will.
This is his God's will. And, unfortunately, his god unskins my father's humanity by doing this. My father in all his heart -- and I know that he loves me and I love him -- but this is his god's will, and he -- he didn't have an escape from that.
AMANPOUR: So let's -- let's say what you're saying is what happened. Why did you do it? You talk with great passion about it. What were you hoping to achieve? You say peace, but how?
YOUSEF: At that time, what I could do to stop killing people, even terrorists.
AMANPOUR: How was working for Shin Bet stopping killings of Palestinians?
YOUSEF: First of all, as a Shin Bet agent, when I had information about someone, that helped arresting them. When the Shin Bet didn't have information who carried the attack, they had to hit randomly without -- it's not -- they didn't have specific targets.
But when I specified that this person is responsible for that thing, and I had a condition that you don't kill that person -- I remember once I had five suicide bombers in one place, and Ariel Sharon decided to drop a bomb on them, and I said, "I cannot kill them, first, as a Christian, second, as a Palestinian, those are my people, and those people don't understand what they're doing."
Nobody did this in the Shin Bet. And this will show you that I wasn't working for the Shin Bet agenda. In fact, Shin Bet worked for my agenda.
AMANPOUR: So you're saying the information you provided prevented Palestinians, even suicide bombers, from being killed?
BLITZER: CNN has not been able to independently confirm Mosab Yousef's story. Israel's government and its security service, the Shin Bet, have not offered CNN any official comment.
And Mosab Yousef's family has broadly denied the story. But an intelligence source told Christiane that the core claims are true, calling this a modus operandi of how Israeli agents work to penetrate the opposite side, to try to get as much information as possible. But the source went on to say some of the high-profile claims of thwarting terrorism or helping with high-level captures are -- quote -- "gross exaggerations."
Don't miss "AMANPOUR." The interview will air Sunday 2:00 p.m., only here on CNN.
Now allegations and growing pressure for the New York state governor to resign. We are following new developments in the scandal swirling around David Paterson.
And hog wild in Australia. We are going to show you the new world record for the longest jump on a Harley.
BLITZER: New York's governor has been digging in his heels, but now some key supporters are urging him to step down. Should he listen? Stand by.
And Jerry Brown left California's governor's mansion more than a quarter-century ago, but now he wants to move back in.
And Italy's controversial prime minister once again accused of trying to pack parliament -- get this -- with showgirls. We are going to find out what is going on.
BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now: New York Governor David Paterson out of sight and under pressure to step down right now, as new developments crop up in the domestic abuse scandal involving one of his top aides.
Also, did government safety investigators predict the latest tragedy at SeaWorld? CNN has uncovered a report saying a trainer death caused by a killer whale was a matter of when, not if. So, why was that report changed?
And packing parliament with showgirls. We're looking at new allegations and new controversy for the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
The New York state governor, David Paterson, is under mounting pressure right now to resign, as new allegations surface in a scandal involving a top aide.
Mary Snow has been looking into the story for us.
All right, Mary, what are you discovering?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, don't let the calm exterior of this capitol building fool you. This capitol has been buzzing with questions about Governor David Paterson's future. This, of course, after new allegations that Governor Paterson may have intervened in a domestic abuse case involving one of his aides. And many here are asking the question, will another shoe drop?
SNOW: (voice-over): Keeping out of public sight, Governor David Paterson met privately with Democratic leaders inside the governor's mansion in Albany. And at the capital, it left Richard Ravitch, the lieutenant governor Paterson only appointed this summer, facing questions about whether he'll take over.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY CAPITAL NEWS)
QUESTION: Mr. Ravitch, are you making preparations to become governor?
LT. GOV. RICHARD RAVITCH (D), NEW YORK: No.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: Just days after announcing he won't seek reelection, Paterson now faces pressure to step down altogether. "The New York Times" reported Paterson directed two staffers to contact a woman who accused a Paterson aide of domestic abuse.
The governor's office did not respond to requests for comment.
It prompted Marcia Pappas, head of the National Organization for Women in New York, to call on Paterson to resign. (on camera): Was this a tough call for you to make?
MARCIA PAPPAS, NEW YORK NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN: This is a really tough call for our organization to make because the governor has historically been a champion of women's rights.
SNOW: Among the events featured on the governor's Web site, an observance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM OCTOBER 14,2000, COUNTRY NEW YORK.GOV)
GOV. DAVID PATERSON (D), NEW YORK: We want to prevent these incidents from occurring. We want to protect the victims who are hurt. And we want to prosecute the perpetrators of these crimes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: While the pressure builds for Paterson to step aside, Democrats like State Senator Eric Adams, a former
City police officer, says he wants to first see what an ongoing investigation will find.
ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK STATE SENATE: Domestic violence is a serious issue and we should not take it lightly. That's why I'm glad that the attorney general is looking at it. But I think it's important that we have maintain our system of due process.
SNOW: Paterson has been tight-lipped about his role, citing the investigation. But the latest allegations prompted the state's Democratic chairman to travel to Albany and meet with Paterson.
JAY JACOBS, CHAIRMAN, NEW YORK STATE DEMOCRATIC PARTY: He expressed to me very clearly and with strong conviction that when the facts come out, he will be exonerated and people will understand what he did. And my answer to that was that it has to happen soon.
SNOW: But former New York City Mayor Ed Koch is one Democrat who thinks it's too late for Paterson.
ED KOCH (D), FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: I told him directly that he ought to resign, get out, because he will never have another happy day until he's out of office.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
SNOW: And, Wolf, the woman that Governor Paterson put into office, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, said today that if these ledest -- latest allegations are true, she feels that Paterson would have to resign -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Mary Snow is in Albany, the state capital.
Mary will continue to work the story.
Thank you. The former governor who saw California through much of the free- wheeling '70s is running for the same office he left more than a quarter century ago. Jerry Brown, currently California's attorney general, posted this announcement on his Web site.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERRY BROWN, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Hi, I'm Jerry Brown, your attorney general. I've lived in California all my life. As a former governor, secretary of state and mayor, I've seen our government from every angle, when it works and when it doesn't work.
And it's no secret that Sacramento isn't working today. The partisanship is poisonous. Political posturing has replaced leadership. And the budget -- it's always late, it's always in the red and it's always wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: CNN national political correspondent, Jessica Yellin, talked to Jerry Brown and has more now on his bid for governor -- Jessica.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Governor Moonbeam is back. Even before Jerry Brown announced he is in the California governor's race, polls showed him leading the top Republican contenders.
JERRY BROWN, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: This is a...
YELLIN (voice-over): More than two decades after leaving the California governor's office, Jerry Brown announced he wants the job back.
BROWN: The next governor must have the preparation and the knowledge and the know-how to get California working again.
YELLIN: So how would Brown fix the state's budget and gridlock crises?
We sat down with him last year.
BROWN: I can contribute in a very positive way of getting to this more enlightened state -- this more accommodating, collaborate state of representation.
YELLIN: It would be an astounding comeback. In the 1970s, he surprised voters by dating Linda Ronstadt, driving his own car to work and sleeping on a futon here to save the state money. He earned the nickname "Governor Moonbeam" for his then new age ideas, like his push for alternative energy.
BROWN: A year ago, when we talked about using woodchips for energy, people laughed.
YELLIN: And his suggestion the state put a weather satellite in space, now a common practice. Brown says he feels vindicated and ready for another go-round.
BROWN: I like the -- the combat. I like the -- I like the conflict and the exploration.
YELLIN: Laughed out of office, Brown licked his wounds studying Buddhism in Japan and India.
BROWN: I'm very drawn to anything that will get at the deeper aspects of life.
YELLIN: But he returned to public service, first as mayor of the blighted city of Oakland, now as state attorney general. (VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: With no other big name Democrats in the governor's race, Brown has a clear shot at winning his party's nomination. But come November, he'll face a stiff fight from his Republican opponent, likely either former eBay CEO Meg Whitman or State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. Both are funding their campaigns with tens of millions of dollars from their personal fortunes.
Jerry Brown tells CNN what crisis-ridden California needs is a touch of his Zen philosophy.
BROWN: Action and contemplation joined together is what I could call the highest path that we can follow.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
YELLIN: Jerry Brown isn't the only former governor looking to rise again. In at least three other states, one time governors are making a bid to reclaim the office -- that's Iowa, Georgia and Oregon. Maybe this is the year of the comeback -- Wolf.
BLITZER: You never know.
Jessica, thanks very much.
Jessica, she knows California. She's from California.
Jerry Brown, by the way, will be Larry King's guest tonight for an exclusive interview -- his first since announcing his candidacy. It's another "LARRY KING LIVE" exclusive. It airs at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.
President Obama has written to Republican Congressional leaders saying he's willing to consider some of their ideas on a compromise plan on health care reform. Tomorrow, the president will outline the final details of his proposals, his game plan.
The House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, seems to suggest the president has gone as far as he can.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: For one solid year, he has striven for that bipartisanship, took us all through the summer, the fall and to now, up until last Thursday.
So what we'll -- what we will, you know, what we'll do is, you know, hope that he can still find 60 votes. But if not, we'll have to go to the simple majority. And that simple majority confines the issues that we can address.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The president has rejected the Republican calls to start over -- to start over from scratch. He says that is not going to happen.
New controversy swirling right now around the Italian prime minister.
Is he trying to fill his parliament with showgirls, as some critics claim?
And a troubling report on SeaWorld's killer whales -- why was that report changed?
We're digging deeper.
BLITZER: It was a troubling report by federal safety investigators warning of a fatal attack by a killer whale at SeaWorld. But that warning never saw the light of day. Instead, the report was changed.
CNN's Randi Kaye is trying to find out why.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Look, closely. This whale trainer is in fight of his life. A tourist took this video in November 2006 at SeaWorld in San Diego.
Veteran trainer Ken Peters, gently rubbing a 5,000 pound killer whale, desperately trying to get the female orca to release his left foot from its jaws. Just minutes before, during a trick, the whale trapped the trainer under water for nearly one minute. He survived with some broken bones.
The attack prompted a major health and safety agency in California to release a scathing report of SeaWorld and issue a stern warning.
In 2006, OSHA investigators predicted a whale trainer would be killed by a whale at the San Diego park, concluding, quote: "Swimming with captive orcas is inherently dangerous and if someone hasn't been killed already, it is only a matter of time."
Orca biologist Naomi Rose agrees with the findings.
NAOMI ROSE, ORCA BIOLOGIST: If they decide to act out, there will be nothing the trainer can do about it.
KAYE: Rose says since the 1970s, at least two dozen people have been injured by killer whales -- four killed. In 2004, this trainer at SeaWorld in San Antonio nearly drowned when the whale suddenly began diving over him during the show -- repeatedly forcing him under water. He eventually made it to the side of the pool.
(on camera): Back to the OSHA report. It also found trainers, quote, "recognized this risk and train not for if an attack will happen, but when."
SeaWorld was furious and said the report was full of, quote, "inaccuracies and speculation." It convinced the agency to rewrite it without any predictions or warnings.
Remember OSHA's warning in the original report, "It's only a matter of time before a trainer is killed?"
Gone. And the conclusion that trainers plan for when an attack will take place, not if?
That's gone, too.
ROSE: They did not want it to seem as if, you know, killer whales were inherently dangerous. They wanted it to seem as though working with killer whales in the water was inherently safe.
KAYE: Keeping them honest, we called SeaWorld to ask why it quashed the report. A spokesman told us the OSHA employee who did it was, quote, "uninformed and reckless."
When we asked OSHA why it agreed to rewrite the report, the agency told us it was inappropriate and speculative and that scientific analysis could not support the statements.
ROSE: It's unbelievable that a commercial corporation was able to influence what should have been an objective investigation by an agency whose sole function is to protect worker safety.
KAYE: We counted. The original report was 18 pages. The revised report -- 10 pages shorter. What was lost in the rewrite, orca biologist Naomi Rose warns, could have saved a life.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: It's one controversy after another for Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. Now he's again taking heat for backing showgirls as candidates for parliament.
Stay with us.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: He's had a tough time lately, most recently back in December, when an assailant hit him in the face with a model of Milan's cathedral.
But Italy's controversial prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has bounced back. He's again being accused of trying to pack parliament -- get this -- with showgirls.
CNN's Morgan Neill has the story from Rome.
MORGAN NEILL, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: It's been a year since Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi got in trouble with his wife for putting up a group of showgirls as candidates in European elections. Soon after, she asked for a divorce.
Now, you might think that after a year in which he's been attacked at a political rally then brought up on corruption charges in two separate cases and been criticized for having a prostitute visit him here at his residence in Rome, he might change his ways.
Well, you'd be wrong.
(voice-over): Just look at the candidates he and his party have chosen this year. Among them, you'll find Minetti, a former showgirl. She later became a dental hygienist and reportedly helped to treat the prime minister after he was attacked last year.
Another name put forward, Giovanna Del Giudice, former weather girl on one of Mr. Berlusconi's TV channels and hostess at a Sardinian nightclub
And, not to be forgotten, Italia Caruso, a former Miss Italy finalist.
At times, the prime minister seems to enjoy thumbing his nose at political convention. His supporters say it takes a strong hand like that to get things done in Italy.
But critics say that what the prime minister really needs is a healthy dose of humility. Morgan Neill, CNN, Rome.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is next with your e-mail.
And we'll take you back to the earthquake zone in Chile and one town that suffered a double disaster -- first the shaking and then the devastating tsunami.
BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for The Cafferty File -- Jack.
CAFFERTY: The question this hour, is Senator Jim Bunning right to hold up unemployment benefits because there's no money to pay for them?
J.D. writes: "No money? When did that ever prevent the Republicans from passing legislation that they had no way of paying for? What a hypocrite -- and a jerk, too. These were -- there are other ways to make his point, instead on the backs of the unemployed."
Perry in Council Bluffs, Iowa, writes: "A senator who's trying to follow the rule of law that he and the rest of Congress pay now -- that's the real headline."
Minesh in Troy, Michigan: "Senator Bunning is right. He can stand on principle as he's not running for re-election. He's basically calling the bluff of the Democrats to not add to the deficit. If Democrats can't find $10 billion from the stimulus funds for this, how are they going to fund a trillion dollar health care reform monstrosity?"
Leta in Chicago writes: "It's funny how no one objected to giving hundreds of billions to the big banks and AIG. I guess Main Street really doesn't matter. We should all just shut up and give the rich what little money we have and then die off peacefully so we don't bother them anymore."
Fred writes: "Of course he's right. I'm in a debt management program and have been for 16 months. Our government should do the same."
"According to this administration," writes Chad, "he's the devil for doing so. There's nothing wrong with him wanting to know where the money is coming from. It's called being responsible. The claims of it being an emergency are blown out of proportion. People on unemployment know their benefits are expiring and ought to be prepared for that. It's not up to the government to support everyone on a permanent basis."
And Chris writes: "There's plenty of money left in the stimulus to pay for this. Oh, yes, I forgot, that's to buy votes closer to November. Our government's a joke -- all of them."
If you want to read more on this, you'll find it on my blog at CNN.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thank you.
We'll go read some of those other blogs after the show.
There's another way, by the way, for you to follow what's going on here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Remember, I'm on Twitter. You can get my Tweets at Twitter.com/wolfblitzercnn -- wolfblitzercnn all one word.
For some it's a political refuge; for others, a personal hell -- elevator antics.
CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look.
BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press -- pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.
In France, a wrecked sailboat lies on the side of the road. Powerful storms have caused extensive damage all over Europe.
In Florida, a Houston Astros player throws a pitch during spring training.
In Washington, D.C. The first lady, Michelle Obama, shares a candid moment with "The Cat in the Hat" at an event celebrating Read Across America Day.
And in Georgia, a child sleds down a snowy hill -- Georgia in the United States. That's what we're talking about.
Hot Shots -- pictures worth a thousand words.
I love Hot Shots. We do them every day.
For most people riding an elevator, it's about as mundane as it gets. But not -- not for everyone.
CNN's Jeanne Moos takes a Moost Unusual look.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): When the elevator dings...
SEN. JIM BUNNING (R), KENTUCKY: Well, you'd have to ask them.
MOOS: -- think of it as the opening round of a fight.
BUNNING: Excuse me.
MOOS: With the press underfoot...
BUNNING: Excuse me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry.
MOOS: Pressing in.
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) these people...
BUNNING: Excuse me. QUESTION: They're...
BUNNING: Excuse me.
MOOS: Senator Jim Bunning, a former Major League pitcher, has had an up and down battle with reporters that ends in an elevator reserved for senators. Watch Senator Bunning push the button and the ABC reporter wave his hand to keep the door open.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It turned about the...
BUNNING: Excuse me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- people who are unemployed.
BUNNING: I've got to go to the floor.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Senator, can you just explain to us why you're holding this up?
I'm sure you have an explanation that you can (INAUDIBLE)...
BUNNING: Excuse me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, are -- are you concerned about those that -- that are going to lose their benefits?
I guess we have our answer.
MOOS (on camera): When a public figure is being chased, an elevator can be his best friend or his worst enemy.
(voice-over): Best friend because at the end of a long hallway pursuit, there's an escape from questions like this...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is your reaction to Congressman Weiner saying that you're one fry short of a Happy Meal, sir?
MOOS: The happiest part of this meal...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what did you mean when you called Fox News an enemy of peace, sir?
MOOS: -- was when the closing doors left the congressman in peace. Even The Terminator took refuge in the elevator.
On the other hand, the elevator is your enemy as you wait exposed for those doors to close, as the late Congressman John Murtha did.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY HOTAIR.COM)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the process...
SEN. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Out. Out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- being... MURTHA: Out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- being dismissed?
MURTHA: This is an elevator.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you like besmirching our troops, sir?
Do you like besmirching our troops, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's something that would come from Al Jazeera (INAUDIBLE).
MOOS (on camera): It's better to be trapped by the press than trapped in an elevator.
(voice-over): This guy had no food or water for almost two days. He got trapped in a New York skyscraper late at night returning to his job from a smoking break -- trapped for almost 41 hours. Almost delirious with thirst, he relieved himself by opening the doors, hoping someone below would notice the elevator leaking. Now that's reason to yell...
BUNNING: Excuse me.
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN...
(on camera): What does he think this does?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't do that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Security, may I help you?
MOOS: No. Everything's OK.
(voice-over): New York.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
BLITZER: And happening now, one U.S. Senator keeps holding jobless benefits hostage. This hour, Jim Bunning's defiant stand against the deficit and the reaction from lawmakers and unemployed workers.
Plus, a coastal town in Chile is reduced to little more than firewood -- what the earthquake didn't destroy, the tsunami did.
And chew on this -- President Obama is asking reporters to keep a secret from his wife.
I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.