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Senator Reid's Family; Deadline for Health Care; Divorced Men and Suicide; Airline Employee Investigation; Tiger Woods Comeback; Haiti Quake Reality Check

Aired March 11, 2010 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, a very serious accident involving members of Senator Harry Reid's family, we're going to have the latest on their condition and how this could affect the majority leader.

Also this hour, inside Haiti's tent cities, where uncertainty and fear reign as the rainy season approaches, will Haitians have the supplies and the strength to survive another disaster?

And a key clue for diseased detectives, how they're using the card you swipe at the grocery store to track a source of food poisoning.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But up first this hour, the Senate majority leader's wife and daughter in a very serious car accident here in the Washington, D.C. area. This emergency for Senator Harry Reid and his family during a crucial moment in the push for health care reform. Our congressional correspondent Brianna Keilar is here. She's got the details for us -- very disturbing information.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, these are serious injuries, very serious injuries. Not life threatening, but just listen to this. Mrs. Reid, Landra Reid, Harry Reid's wife suffered a broken nose, a broken back and a broken neck. And Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's daughter Lana has a neck injury and a facial laceration.

And Wolf, we just got a release from the Virginia state police. Someone has actually been charged because of this accident. It was a man who was driving a semi truck that rear-ended the car that Lana and Landra Reid were in. They were on I-95, which, of course, is a major highway here in the Washington, D.C. area. This was at about 1:00 p.m. Eastern this afternoon when this semi truck rear-ended them.

And it was such a force, Wolf that it actually forced the Honda Odyssey that the Reids were in to go into yet another car, and then those cars were shifted into another lane where they ran into another car. Everyone apparently was wearing their seat belts, and so they're all OK, but it's, of course, very serious. And Senator Reid, he's been to the hospital, but he actual came back to Capitol Hill after going to the hospital this afternoon to work on health care negotiations. He's been talking with the White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, he's been talking with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and you know of course he was asked if he thought about skipping these meetings. His spokesman said, look, you know he loves this woman -- he loves this woman more than life itself is what his spokesman said, but she's in good hands at the hospital. He said she's continuing to undergo tests. I mean these -- this is a couple that's known to be very close. They just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past year.

BLITZER: I'm just being told, by the way, he's now left Capitol Hill and he's now back on his way -- on his way back to the hospital in northern Virginia just across the Potomac River from Washington, wants to get back to see his wife who is 69 years old and their adult daughter, Lana. But these are pretty serious injuries that they sustained.

KEILAR: Yes, very serious. I mean you can think if this were to happen to someone in your family how concerned you would be. I do want to draw attention to a statement that we did get from Senator Reid's office because he said, you know even though it says Mrs. Reid has a broken nose, a broken back, a broken neck, Lana has a neck injury and facial lacerations, but he says, Wolf, both Mrs. Reid and Lana are conscious, can feel their extremities and according to doctors, their injuries are non life threatening. And we do know that Mrs. Reid continues to undergo tests or at least she was undergoing tests here in the last hour or so.

BLITZER: And basically what happened they were driving on I-95 and were rear-ended by a semi.

KEILAR: They were in Virginia just outside of Washington, D.C. A semi truck driven by a 59-year-old Ohio man, who's actually been charged for reckless driving now, he rear-ended the Honda Odyssey that the Reids were in, that pushed their car into yet another car, and then they ran into a fourth -- really, a fourth car. So this was a four-car accident. Obviously, this happened, we understand, from the state police, as these other cars were braking because they had to stop, and this semi obviously did not stop or certainly didn't stop in time.

BLITZER: Stand by because we're going to stay on top of this story. I want to get some perspective now. Joining us on the phone is Dr. Joel Geiderman. He's the co-chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Dr. Geiderman thanks very much. Based on what we're being told, a broken back, broken neck. It sounds pretty serious, but give us some perspective.

DR. JOEL GEIDERMAN, CEDARS-SINAI MEDICAL CENTER (via phone): You know, broken neck and broken back definitely sounds scary, but the real question is but what kind of fracture pattern is seen on the x- ray and whether or not this suggests any kind of injury to the cord. Some neck and back spine fractures are very stable. They can be compressions, they can just be a part that -- of the spine that's not as close to the spinal cord, and we pretty much know from the patterns whether -- from plain x-ray patterns whether or not cord injury is suggested.

It is obviously a very good sign that there's no -- that they have no neurological symptoms. If there is any question that this could be an unstable fracture then the next step would be for the patient to undergo either a CT or MRI just to see if there is any cord injury.

BLITZER: Apparently they can move and feel their extremities, Dr. Geiderman, which is encouraging, right?

GEIDERMAN: It's very encouraging. The normal course, of course, we had to immobilize the spine while any other tests that need to be done are done, and while the spine is immobilized, you know there won't be any further injury to the cord.

BLITZER: Assuming there was no further injury to the cord, how long of a recuperation does Mrs. Reid basically face and will she have to wear a body cast? What are the -- what -- how do you deal with this right now?

GEIDERMAN: Well, again, if it's -- if it's a stable fracture, she wouldn't need to have a body cast. If it's an unstable fracture then surgery would be needed in order to stabilize it so that there is no injury to the cord. But as far as how long it could take for somebody to recover, even in injuries where there is no spinal cord injury, sometimes it can take a fairly long time for people to get -- come back to a fully normal of life.

And really it's variable. Some people will have pain for a few days and then it starts getting tolerable, and some people, as we know, go on for long periods of discomfort and disability based on just the soft tissue injuries that have occurred. There's ligament injuries -- there's other kinds of injuries that occur in association with these injuries. The basic mechanism is rapid flexion and extension of the neck with a rear-end injury, and again that causes some disruption of ligaments and other structures that can -- they can cause a lot of problems for a while. But I hope that's not the case with them. I certainly -- I personally wish them the best.

BLITZER: Of course. All of us do. Senator Reid's wife, Landra, who is 69 years old and daughter Lana, we -- they're recuperating in a hospital here in the Washington, D.C. area and we wish them the best. Dr. Geiderman thanks very much for your perspective.

GEIDERMAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Even before this accident involving the Reid family, it was becoming very clear that another would-be deadline for health care reform was not likely to be met. Top Democrats did not sound very optimistic today about the prospect of getting a bill to the president before he leaves for Asia on March 18th?


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: We will take up the bill when we're ready to take up the bill, but it is not something that we want to drag out.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Our hope is to get this done as soon as possible. If it takes a couple of extra days after a year, it takes a couple of extra days.


BLITZER: Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian. So many deadlines now over the past year have come and gone, I guess another one sort of par for the course.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It just might, Wolf, you know and that's the danger of setting a deadline is that you put that date out there people pay attention to it. If you miss it then it becomes the story. But you know the White House had been standing behind that March 18th date. And today Robert Gibbs, as you heard there, sort of trying to create a little bit of wiggle room.

Now over the last few days what we've seen from some Democrats is pushing back on that deadline, but nonetheless, the White House is pushing forward, hoping to get something done here in a matter of days and the White House here working very hard. You saw the president today meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. They met about a number of different issues including education and also jobs, but they also touch on health care reform, a top aide telling me that the president expressed a sense of urgency to them, making sure that they're on board with his plan, but also that they will help get others on board as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And let's switch gears, the White House announcing today the president was going to give away to charity that $1.4 million he received for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Today, the White House announced which charities would receive the money.

LOTHIAN: That's right, 10 different charities, the bulk of the money, $250,000 going to the Fisher House, which, of course, provides housing for military families when their relatives are in these military hospitals; $200,000 for the Clinton/Bush Haiti Fund; 125,000 each to various college funds, including the United Negro College Fund; also the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and others as well. So finally we have the answer to that $1.4 million just recently in the past few days or so we've been asking Robert Gibbs whether or not a decision had been made, specially which one of these organizations would be getting the money. Well, now we know.

BLITZER: (INAUDIBLE) all good causes, 100,000 went to the Central Asia Institute, which the White House describes as promoting and supporting community-based education and literacy, especially for girls in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, so a wide range of charities getting the $1.4 million Nobel Peace Prize money -- Dan, thanks very much.

Extraordinary terror charges against an airline employee. He's accused of stealing information on security measures, funding terrorists and volunteering to be a suicide bomber. And could golfing great Tiger Woods be making a comeback from a scandal sooner rather than later? There is new information coming into THE SITUATION ROOM on when we might be seeing Tiger Woods playing golf once again.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It is no secret that divorce can be ugly, messy and uncomfortable in many, many ways. Now there is research that suggests divorce is also one of the top reasons for suicide among men. AOL News reports that the stress and sadness associated with divorce take a much tougher toll on men than on women. Experts say suicide rates are higher among divorced men and lowest among men who are still married. Single men fall in between.

One sociologist who studies family structure and suicide rates says divorced men are almost 40 percent more likely to commit suicide than those who are still married and that number jumps to 50 percent for a man who is widowed. Yet for women there is a statistically insignificant difference when it comes to the risk of suicide among those who are married, divorced or widows, all about the same. Some think it's because marriage provides a support system that men rely on much more than do women.

There are also studies that show married men take fewer risks and are healthier, less likely to smoke, drink or use drugs. Another reason that women might be less suicidal is because of the children. Women often remain the primary caretakers for kids after a divorce, and research shows that for every additional child in a home the adult is less and less likely to commit suicide.

Overall, though, men in this country are four times more likely than women to take their own lives. So here's the question. Why does divorce make men more suicidal than women? Go to and post a comment on my blog. We've gotten some very touching and very sad e-mail on this question already, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm not surprised. It's a very, very painful issue.


BLITZER: Very painful subject -- all right Jack, thank you.

An airline employee appeared in court today accused of stealing security secrets, funding terrorism and planning suicide bombings including his own. Even more stunning the great efforts he allegedly made to maneuver himself into a position to do grave harm. Our CNN international security correspondent Paula Newton has the details from London.

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, quite an extraordinary profile of this man as alleged by prosecutors today in court. Rajeev Kareem (ph) is 30 years old. He's from Bangladesh, but prosecutors say he actually planned to come here, to gain his British citizenship, all of which he did, and gain access to an airline.

He happens to be a full-time employee for British Airways, prosecutors alleging that he used that kind of security clearance -- he was a computer developer there -- to gain access to secure information that apparently he handed over information to terrorists in possibly Yemen, Pakistan and Bangladesh they allege for plots, suicide bombings, that he also contributed to financing in those plots.

They say he himself volunteered to be a suicide bomber, and interesting here, Wolf, they claim that he most recently volunteered to train as a cabin crew member because British Airways may be in the middle of an industrial strike. Their cabin crew might walk off the job in the next few weeks, and he volunteered to be trained as temporary cabin crew. That would have given him unprecedented clearance not just to airports here in Britain but in airports around the world -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Paula Newton in London. Thank you. In seclusion after a stunning scandal, could Tiger Woods be making a return to golf competition sooner rather than later? Stand by.

And a school superintendent of a major American city decides to close almost half of the -- the district's schools. What's behind the controversial move?


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Lisa what's going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Wolf. Well a Kansas City, Missouri school superintendent is coming under fire from parents and teachers following his decision to close almost half of the district's schools. John Covington (ph) is defending what's being called the right size plan saying the financial future of the entire district is at stake. It would close almost 30 schools and cut 700 jobs to help reduce the district's budget.

And 12-year-olds today face a number of peer pressures, and a new survey shows one of the biggest is now getting high on inhalants. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration finds that almost seven percent of 12-year-olds have practiced what's called huffing (ph) while smaller percentages have smoked cigarettes or done drugs.

The death toll on the nation's highways has fallen to its lowest point since the 1950's. The Transportation Department credits that to safety improvements and the fact more drivers and passengers are buckling up, but it also points to the ailing economy. People are simply traveling less. The department says last year traffic deaths fell nine percent to just under 34,000.

President Obama says he wants to double U.S. exports over the next five years. That goal is part of his new national export initiative launched to help the economy. Among other things it will work to protect American intellectual property and promote high-tech industries. The president also announced an export promotion cabinet which will include the secretaries of state, treasury, agriculture, commerce and labor -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you. We will be back shortly. Stand by.

Almost two months after the earthquake in Haiti, tens of thousands of people are living in tent cities, and now experts say they need to be moved and moved quickly. We're going to tell you why.

And federal investigators are using a new tool to track the source of an outbreak of salmonella, grocery store shopper cards. We're going to tell you how they did it and why it's raising concerns among some privacy advocates.


BLITZER: We're getting some more information now on the condition of Mrs. Harry Reid, the wife of the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. She and her daughter Lana were in a car accident, a major car accident on I-95 here in the Washington, D.C. area earlier today. They were rear-ended by a semi truck.

We're now being told by a spokesman for the Senate majority leader that she is listed in serious condition, will stay in the hospital overnight -- will not be released tonight. The daughter, Lana Barringer (ph), according to the Harry Reid spokesman, will be released from the hospital. Senator Reid found out about the accident around 2:15 local time earlier today. He went over to the hospital, but then he left to go back to do some work on health care reform up on Capitol Hill, but now is either already back at the hospital in northern Virginia just outside Washington or on his way.

The wife of the Senate majority leader suffered a broken neck and a broken back, a broken nose. The daughter suffered facial lacerations, among other injuries. We wish them, obviously, a speedy, speedy recovery. The spokesman for Harry Reid, by the way, says that the initial prognosis for Mrs. Reid is she will not -- repeat -- not need surgery, which is, of course, encouraging word for both of them, and earlier the spokesman said these injuries were not life threatening. So we wish them only the best.

We're also looking into new reports involving Tiger Woods and the possibility -- possibility -- that he may be returning to the world of golf sooner than some people thought. Brian Todd has been looking into these reports. What are you finding out, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, conflicting reports tonight about exactly when Tiger Woods may return to golf, The Associated Press reporting that Woods intends to stay away from the game at least until the Masters Tournament next month. The AP cites two people with knowledge of his plans, but a conflicting report by the "New York Post" says his comeback could begin earlier than that at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Florida in late March. Tiger Woods didn't give many hints himself during his news conference last month. He said basically at that point, quote, "I do plan to return to golf one day. I just don't know when that will be. I don't rule out that it will be this year." And at that time, Woods said that when he does return, he needs to make his behavior, as he put it, more respectful of the game. Woods has been practicing near his Orlando home with a coach, fueling speculation that a comeback is in the works, Wolf, and, of course, you know the TV ratings are really going to hinge on this. That first tournament that he comes back, one of the most highly anticipated events of the TV viewing year in golf.


TODD: People are really looking forward to that.

BLITZER: Yes, millions and millions --

TODD: That's right --

BLITZER: -- of folks will want to watch that. If he plays in the Masters that would be huge --

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: -- the financial ramifications not only for the TV networks and the sponsors, but the whole business of sports --

TODD: Absolutely.

BLITZER: -- would be enormous.

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: We're also told he now has a new high profile adviser or public relations authority.

TODD: Someone you may remember. The "New York Post" also citing golf community sources as saying that he has hired former Bush Administration Press Secretary Ari Fleischer to help rehabilitate his image, so you know clearly crisis management damage control, Ari Fleischer knows what to do there.

BLITZER: All right stay on top of this Tiger Woods, huge interest in this story. If we get definitive word he's going to play either this month, March, or wait until the Masters in early April. We want to get that story --

TODD: Absolutely.

BLITZER: -- on the air. A lot of people will have high interest --

TODD: Yes.

BLITZER: -- in this story. Thank you Brian Todd.

Let's go to Chile right now and the powerful aftershocks over a week after a major earthquake. Take a look at these power lines swaying during one of the more than 10 aftershocks over the course of six hours alone. There are reports of significant damage in at least one city and it all played out during a momentous day for Chile, the inauguration of the new president, hundreds of dignitaries and other guests nervously eyed what was going on. They eyed the ceiling, the swing of the light fixtures during the swearing-in ceremony.

It's been almost two month since Haiti's catastrophic earthquake. Despite a major influx of aid, the situation remains grim for countless survivors. CNN's Sara Sidner has a reality check from Port- au-Prince.




SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Seventy-year-old Anoise Pierre says he feels like he's living in a prison and he wants out. He lives among roughly 40,000 earthquake survivors in one of Haiti's largest tent cities.


SIDNER: "No one has told us what they will do for us. We are here like children in a prison who they feed a little bit every day", he says.

Nearly two months after the quake, all of these people simply don't know what to do or where to go. Most shocking, neither Pierre nor his neighbors have heard one word from their government.


SIDNER: "The government should know what to quickly do for us", he says.


SIDNER: And then there's Dr. Luige Lerco (ph), a psychologist volunteering in the camps.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What do you think of the response so far from the government?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no response from the government. I haven't seen the government here.

SIDNER: No response at all.

LERCO: I see -- I see the American government here. Not the Haitian government.

SIDNER (voice-over): Most troubling of all, the fast approaching rainy season. There is a U.N.-backed plan to help move some 150,000 people who need to get to higher ground. But no one has started to move. And most people we talked to know nothing about it.

The U.N. says it has already distributed tarps or tents to more than 700,000 people. Look at them, though, doesn't bring much confidence.

(On camera): It is scorching hot in here right now, but they are extremely worried about the rain, and here's why. There are a lot of gaps in the tarp where the water can come in and wash out everything that they have.

(Voice-over): And these are the lucky ones.

(On camera): Here. You don't have a tarp?


SIDNER: You have no tarp.


SIDNER: Only this? .

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just that. (Speaking in foreign language).

SIDNER (voice-over): So after the attention paid to Haiti, how is this possible?

We went to talk to the Haitian government to find out. It admits the country has not yet prepared for the next potential disaster.

ABY BRUN, HAITIAN COMM. FOR RECONSTRUCTION: There's a high risk of loss of lives. We have so much (INAUDIBLE) risk because of the weight has been built on the other side. And thirdly, a lot of (INAUDIBLE) are over crowded so we have epidemics. And with the wet soil, with the concentrated (INAUDIBLE), et cetera, we have to move out 150,000 people very quickly.

That will only require about $126 million.

SIDNER (on camera): Do you have that money right now?

BRUN: No. No.

SIDNER: Where is it?

BRUN: The money is in the hands of the donor countries.

SIDNER (voice-over): But the U.N. says much has been accomplished.

NEILS SCOTT, UNITED NATIONS OFFICIAL: I think we should -- I think we shouldn't underestimate the amount of which has been achieved in terms of getting 4.3 million people with food, 2.3 million people who received water.

SIDNER: Haiti will make a final push for the pledge money at the end of the month but nothing is guaranteed. In the meantime, all of these people wait. They wait for word from their government and they wait for the usual torrential rains.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: the United States is trying to provide more substantial shelter for Haiti's quake survivors.

Our foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty is looking into that.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (on camera): This is really the model size.

DAVID HUMPHRIES, CHF INTERNATIONAL: This is what we call a transitional shelter. It's a temporary home. It's designed to last for up to one to two years.

DOUGHERTY: This is earthquake proof.

HUMPHRIES: This nailed together. It's a triangular structure. So when the -- one that shakes, the whole thing will shake. And the whole building will shake together. And it has given it, it can move, it can vibrate.

DOUGHERTY: How much does this cost? Let's say just the structure itself.

HUMPHRIES: The overall cost is around about $800. And not designed for a family of five people, which is the average family size in Haiti.

DOUGHERTY: This could be expanded to almost size, right?

HUMPHRIES: Yes. And we -- and this is -- this is a kind of 50 percent scale model. It will only 10 by 20.

DOUGHERTY: And this is steel?

HUMPHRIES: Steel roofing so the rain come -- that could soak and so you have to get it coming off. Hopefully we'll be able to gather to use as drinking water from rain. To use it for that.

DOUGHERTY: And yet this material is fascinating. You said this is one sheet?

HUMPHRIES: Yes. They come into rolls. The sheet -- one sheet will be able to cover this -- you know a bigger, a proper transitional shelter through size one.

DOUGHERTY: What's the sense of urgency right now about this? PAUL WEISENFELD, USAID: It's -- the sense of urgency is tremendous. Having the materials delivered to people by May 1st is a race against time.

DOUGHERTY: How quickly can you get set up? This really change the situation for people.

WEISENFELD: These houses can be put up in a day to two days. Depending upon how many people you have. If you have four to six people, you can do it in a day.

DOUGHERTY: This does give you a very good idea of how bad it is and the conditions that they're living in.

WEISENFELD: It's -- living conditions like this is -- you're susceptible to the elements, you're susceptible to diseases.

HUMPHRIES: The point in this sanitary, safe, you know, weather resistant, wind resistant, earthquake (ph), so people can live in them for several years in this kind of reconfiguration while full reconstruction takes place.

Frankly, it's a huge improvement on the living condition in a lot of cases. If you go to some of the slumps in Haiti, and people are living in, you know, brick walls, some rusty tent, you know, it's pretty terrible conditions.

So to have something that's safe, sanitary, designed to international standards, it's a big improvement.

DOUGHERTY (voice-over): Jill Dougherty, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: How could something that you may have in your wallet right now be used to track down the source of salmonella poisoning. We're going to tell you about a new tool for federal food safety investigators.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, what else is going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a story that we've been tracking all evening. And we have the latest on our top story. The wife and daughter of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are in the hospital tonight following a serious crash on Interstate 95 in Virginia.

An Ohio man has been charged with reckless driving for triggering the four-vehicle collision.

Senator Reid's wife Landra suffered a broken back, neck and broken nose. His daughter, Lana, who was behind the wheel, suffered less serious injuries.

Virginia State Police say the man was driving a tractor trailer that rear-ended their vehicle and caused a chain reaction.

Vice President Joe Biden is wrapping up what's been a sometimes tense trip to the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly apologized to Biden today for announcing new construction in a disputed area of East Jerusalem during the vice president's visit. Biden welcomed that statement.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas says the building announcement will make it difficult for Palestinians to negotiate with Israelis.

Authorities in Yemen are holding an American of Somali origin after a deadly shootout at a Yemeni hospital. Yemeni officials say 26-year-old Sharif Mobley was detained and being treated in the hospital after a roundup of suspended al Qaeda members. He allegedly shot and killed a guard when he tried to escape.

Mobley graduated from high school in New Jersey and moved to Yemen two years ago. The FBI confirms the agency is investigating what would -- but would not comment further.

Officials in Somalia say heavy fighting in the capital of Mogadishu has killed 43 people over the span of two days.. Insurgents have been battling government troops and have gotten to within a mile of the heart of the capital. It's estimated more than half of the city's residents have fled to the countryside and that those who remained are either too poor or are afraid to leave their homes. Wolf?

BLITZER: Lisa, thank you.

You may have one in your wallet right now. We're talking about a grocery store shopper card. But you may be surprised how much data it contains and how these cards are now being used by federal food safety investigators.


BLITZER: A number of common grocery items manufactured by two companies are now being recalled because they could be contaminated with salmonella. And now federal investigators say they have a new tool for tracing such outbreaks.

Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's been looking into how health investigators are using data from the supermarket shopper cards to help them with their investigations.

What are you finding out, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the CDC considers this a breakthrough of sorts. It says while it's tried to use shopper cards in the past to trace outbreaks, food safety investigators just recently had success doing it. And basically when people get sick, information from what they purchased is used to find the source.


SNOW (voice-over): Call her a disease detective. That's how Casey Barton Behravesh sums up her job at the Centers for Disease Control. And she's touting a new tool after the CDC tracked the source of a salmonella outbreak that affected but all but six states.

The culprit was salami with crack pepper. But Behravesh says the key clue came from data collected by the Department of Health in Washington state using cards that shoppers swiped at grocery stores.

CASEY BARTON BEHRAVESH, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL: That was definitely an "aha" moment for us when we saw that they all had the same product and that all of them had purchased it before they became ill.

SNOW: Behravesh says the CDC expanded the search to many states and got help from retailer Costco which has 56 million members. Both the CDC and Costco say they only got information with shopper's permission. And these were people who had become sick.

We treat all the information we get from shopper cards as very confidential just like we do with any of the information provided from medical records or from case interviews.

SNOW: Tracing outbreaks, say some experts, can be extremely difficult. NYU professor Marion Nestle who writes the "Food Politics" blog thinks these cards could be very useful.

MARION NESTLE, NYU PROFESSOR: If you don't know what people are eating and if people can't remember what they were eating when you go back and interview people who've had poisoning, and you say, what did you eat, they can't remember.

SNOW: But tracking information from shopping cards also raises questions about privacy.

Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union says in this case the information was put to good use. But he's concerned about the potential for the information to be misused.

JAY STANLEY, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: They could be used by an insurance company to decide that you don't live a healthy enough lifestyle because you buy too much junk food or you buy too much alcohol. So it's quite a private thing, you know? What your supermarket bill looks like.


SNOW: Even so, the CDC says it sees these shopping cards as being an important tool going forward. And it plans to use them to trace future outbreaks.


BLITZER: Mary, thank you.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 76 million cases of food-borne disease occur each year in this country. And there are an estimated 325,000 hospitalizations. Five thousand deaths related to these diseases each year. The most severe cases tend to occur in those who are either very old, very young or those who already have an illness affecting their immune system.

Tom Hatches and Steven Spielberg say they want you to feel the fear of American soldiers fighting in the Pacific during World War II.

Our Brian Todd spoke to them today about their new HBO miniseries.


BLITZER: Let's go right to Jack for "The Cafferty File." Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: The question this hour, why does divorce make men more suicidal than women by a substantial margin, by the way?

G. writes, "Try paying 50 percent of your income in child support, another 20 percent in taxes, and being threatened with jail and loss of your professional license if you don't pay. Then to top it off, you don't get to see your children because the court won't enforce visitation. See what that does to you emotionally."

Phillip says, "As a divorced man, I can honestly say, I contemplated suicide for the first time in my life during the first year or two of my separation. It's incredibly difficult to have your entire your family life -- children, home and wife -- pulled away from you. Prior to the divorce, I was happy, made a good salary, lived in a nice neighborhood. Soon after the divorce, I was saddled with high child support payments, debt from legal fees and was barely had enough money left over to pay the rent on a small one-bedroom apartment."

Martha writes, "It's a known fact women have always been able to live alone much better than men. Simply put, women are built to survive being alone better because I believe we get less emotional support from men than they get from us."

Bob writes, "Divorce takes everything away from a man. Money, family, self-esteem, et cetera. A divorced father of a daughter is treated like a potential child molester. No sleepovers at your house for your daughter's friends during her weekend visits with you. Despair sets in. And then you ask yourself in the quiet times by yourself, why not?"

Rosemarie in Oregon, "Because a man loses everything, wife, children, money, friends and family, who may have been close but are now suddenly distant. There is a lot involved in the loss of a marriage. It's like a death in your close family. Almost unbearable." And finally RJ writes this. "I divorced my wife last year after 30 years of a dead marriage. I tried all a man could try, even my two teenagers chose to live with me full time. Some days the pain of missing my family -- not her -- is so great I just wish it was over. The kicker is, I'm a professional counselor and I try to help other people. I will go on. I will love again and remarry, I hope. But this isn't how it was supposed to be. Not when I tried so hard to make it work."

If you want to read more of these, and we got a lot of them, you can go to my blog at

BLITZER: It was real -- some of them very, very emotional and very painful.


BLITZER: All right. Jack, thank you.

On our "Political Ticker," attention over the abortion language in the health care debate is triggering a new re-election challenge for one antiabortion Democrat from inside his own party.

Michigan representative Bart Stupak will now face off against retired businesswoman Connie Saltonstall in the upcoming primary. She's accused Stupak of being willing to sacrifice health care reform because of abortion funding.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has recused himself from the probe swirling around the embattled Governor David Paterson. At issue whether Paterson illegally took World Series tickets or had improper contact with a woman who accused one of his aides of domestic violence.

Cuomo says he is acting cautiously because of concerns over a possible conflict of interest. He's appointed an independent counsel to investigate.

Former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's latest book is soaring to number one in "The New York Times" bestseller list. The source says the book entitled "No Apology: The Case For American Greatness," set to debut at the top spot on March 21st.

Romney, who's widely believed to be a contender for the 2010 Republican presidential nomination is in the midst of a nationwide book tour.

Former Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, is trying his hand at a late-night -- as a late-night comedian. Blagojevich, who was impeached after being accused of trying to sell President Obama's former Senate seat, delivered the top 10 list on David Letterman's show last night and he didn't hold back.


ROD BLAGOJEVICH (D), FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: How about my own show? "The Haircut Ref."


BLAGOJEVICH: How come I'm not a governor and Paterson is?

LETTERMAN: Yes, well.

BLAGOJEVICH: Will my hair get along with Trump's hair?


BLITZER: Blagojevich who will appear in the new season of the NBC series "Celebrity Apprentice" is in New York promoting the show's premiere next week.

Remember for the latest political news any time, you can always check out

Let's check in with Campbell to see what's coming up at the top of the hour. Campbell?

CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, Wolf. Well, coming up, one of America's biggest cities closing nearly half its schools. Will students have to pay the price for their -- for the city's budget woes?

We're going to talk to the man who led the charge to close the schools and who believes this is the best thing for the children there.

And then on a lighter note, Wolf, Conan O'Brien made her a star, at least in the Twitter world. And we're going to find -- and we're going to talk to her and find out how she got mixed up with the former late-night star as well. All coming up, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Campbell. See you in a few moments.

Film stars Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg -- they're here in Washington, D.C.. You're going to find out how their compelling new drama series is honoring World War II veterans.


BLITZER: Here's a look at the hot shots coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press. Pictures likely to be in your newspapers tomorrow.

In Puerto Rico, a golf cart navigates through a partially flooded golf course during a PGA Tournament.

In England, a man shows off his brightly colored auto G-Yrox which he will attempt to fly around the world to raise awareness and money for cancer.

In Romania, a worker walks between two trains during a snowstorm. Blizzards have closed roads and disrupted traffic in the southern part of the country.

And in Birmingham, England, a girl and her dogs take a breather during the annual (INAUDIBLE) dog show.

Hot shots. Pictures worth a thousand words.

Now a powerful tribute to World War II veterans from two of the most powerful men in Hollywood. That would be the director, Steven Spielberg, and the actor, Tom Hanks. They're behind a new TV series called "The Pacific."

They came to Washington today to promote the drama and to honor veterans in person at the World War II Memorial.

Our Brian Todd was there. Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a lot of buzz around this series which kicks off this Sunday. There was a screening tonight at the White House. And we caught up with the filmmakers who came here to this memorial to pay tribute to the veterans who inspired this work.


TODD (voice-over): What Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg say they're after is for you to feel the fear, the physical discomfort, the true climate of war. With their new series "The Pacific" on CNN's sister network HBO, they believe they've captured it.

STEVEN SPIELBERG, CO-EXEC. PROD., "THE PACIFIC": It's just that the Pacific war, by its very nature on being fought on islands, in jungles, was a much more inhospitable, you know, kind of -- you know, real estate to fight and die on and the jungle was just as, you know, pernicious and all consuming as the enemy that we were fighting. So it was a much different warp.

TODD: Spielberg and Hanks said they want viewers to get the under-the-helmet view of the Pacific campaign in World War II. Actor James Badge Dale told us how they captured all that shooting mostly in Australia.

JAMES BADGE DALE, ACTOR: The mud is real, the rain is real, the heat, the dust, the fire, the explosions. I mean, it was an immersive environment.

TODD: Dale plays one of three actual U.S. Marines whose stories are intertwined in the series from Pearl Harbor though VJ Day. None of those three men are still alive but the series is based on books written by two of them.

A dedication and wreath laying in Washington brought the filmmakers together with hundreds of Pacific veterans. Many of whom believe this is overdue.

(On camera): If you talk to a lot of veterans around here, many of them feel that Americans as a whole aren't quite getting enough awareness of the Pacific theater of World War II. Many of them are hopeful that this series changes that.

(Voice-over): Hanks and Spielberg have already produced highly acclaimed depictions of the European campaign in World War II. I asked Hanks about Hollywood's historical commitment to the Pacific.

(On camera): Does the Pacific theater in American movies and TV get enough attention in your view?

TOM HANKS, CO-EXEC. PROD., "THE PACIFIC": Well, it certainly does. I mean it gets a lot of attention, but it ends up running into this basic problem, is that there's no real geographical logic to the Pacific.

We had never heard of these places. We'd heard of Paris, we had heard of Berlin, we had heard of the English Channel in London. We had not heard of New Gloucester and New Caledonia. No one could pick Saipan out on a map on a bet.

TODD: Jerome Freund is ecstatic about the series. Freund was a radar operator on a destroyer that did convoy duty at the battles of Iwo Jima in Saipan and can barely speak about those he left behind.

JEROME FREUND, WORLD WAR II VETERAN: I look at that memorial and I get broken up to look at those gold stars. I'm sorry. Now I know what the hell I've fought for.


TODD: Tom Hanks says this project is all about people like Jerome Freund. When I ask Hans if he thinks he's properly honored the veterans depicted, he said that all depends on its authenticity. He says if they get that right, which he thinks they have, then the honor will come. Wolf?

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much.

Once again, that series -- that miniseries, "The Pacific," starts on our sister network HBO Sunday night, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. I'm sure -- haven't seen it yet, but I'm sure it's going to be amazing. An amazing, amazing film.

Thanks very much to Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks for doing this important work.

Remember you can always follow me on Twitter. I'm at WolfblitzerCNN. That's all one word.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Up next, Campbell Brown.