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Vatican Distances Itself from Comments from Jews; Fliers to U.S. Face Tougher Screening; President Obama Gets Some Spiritual Guidance via Blackberry

Aired April 2, 2010 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Thanks very much.

Happening now, President Obama says America has broken the jobs slide. But one month of gains certainly isn't enough to satisfy anyone.

How much credit, though, does the Obama administration deserve?

Also, Afghan President Hamid Karzai -- he's in hot water right now with the White House after he lashed out at the West. Just days after President Obama's trip to Afghanistan, the U.S. says Mr. Karzai has some explaining to do.

And what if you thought you could get closer to God by joining Facebook?

Call it Church 2.0 or part of a new era of worshiping online.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


It's the best employment report in three years -- 162,000 jobs added to the payrolls in March. But President Obama tried to keep the celebrating in check because the unemployment rate still is stuck in high gear, at 9.7 percent.

It's a familiar balancing act for this president, claiming credit for the gains, while acknowledging that a lot more work needs to be done.

Listen to the president in North Carolina, sounding upbeat.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today is an encouraging day. We learned that the economy actually produced a substantial number of jobs instead of losing a substantial number of jobs.


OBAMA: We are beginning to turn the corner. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Now listen to this reminder that many Americans still are desperate for work.


OBAMA: Being unable to find work, being unable to provide for your family, that doesn't just affect your economic security, that affects your heart and your soul. It beats you up. It's hard. So we have to be mindful that today's job numbers, while welcome, leaves us with a lot more work to do.


BLITZER: It's an important balancing act for the president.

Let's discuss, bring in our Lisa Sylvester -- Lisa, here's a question on -- I've gotten all day. If -- if the economy has doing better and if jobs are being created, why is the unemployment rate remaining at 9.7 percent?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you have to think of it this way. We are adding jobs, we are just not adding enough jobs. What you're seeing is -- is a situation where there were a lot of people that got discouraged looking for jobs. They gave up.

Well, now they're coming back. Last month, 400,000 people began searching for jobs. And if we continue to see the labor force participation at that rate, to lower the unemployment rate, you're going to have to actually create some 250,000 to 300,000 jobs a month, according to the Economic Policy Institute. A hundred sixty-two thousand jobs -- that's what we saw in March last month. What we really -- Wolf, we really need to be upwards of 250,000.

BLITZER: And as bad as the unemployment rate is for white Americans, for minorities -- for African-Americans, it's so much worse.

SYLVESTER: Yes. We've got these numbers that we can share with you. From February to March, unemployment for whites remained the same, at 8.8 percent. For Hispanics, though, Latinos -- look at this -- it edged up a little bit, 12.4 percent to 12.6 percent. But for African-Americans, the unemployment picture from February to March -- it actually increased from 15.8 percent to 16.5 percent -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The political fallout from all of this could be enormous, looking ahead to the midterm elections in November...


BLITZER: If -- if it's nearly 10 percent unemployment by November, that could be a significant factor in -- in the voting.

SYLVESTER: Yes. That could be a real problem for Democrats. Taking a look at it by region, you know, you are still seeing high unemployment in the Midwest -- states like Illinois, 11.4 percent; Michigan, 14.1 percent; Ohio, 10.9 percent; and high unemployment in other states, these swing states, like Nevada, 13.2 percent; and Florida, 12.2 percent -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Amazing numbers and we'll watch them very closely.

We're going to have a top White House economic adviser joining us later, Austan Goolsbee, to assess what he thinks is going on, as well.

Lisa, thank you.

The Obama White House isn't very happy right now with a key ally. That would be the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, who very publicly lashed out at the West yesterday.

CNN's Kate Bolduan is over at the White House.

Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is over at the State Department.

Guys, listen to what President Karzai said, accusing the international community of interfering improperly in Afghan affairs.


PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN (through translator): This is the reality, brothers. For this reason today, I come here to talk to the members of the Independent Election Commission about fraud in the presidential election and provincial election. No doubt, there was huge fraud. There was vast fraud. The fraud is not by the Afghans. This fraud has been done by the foreigners.


BLITZER: Strong words from Hamid Karzai -- Kate, how is the White House reacting to that?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the White House is pushing back on President Karzai's unusually harsh words toward foreign presence in Afghanistan. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs calling the remarks, quote, "cause for real and genuine concern."

Gibbs, in an off-camera briefing with reporters today, said that without a doubt, these were troubling comments.

All of this coming on the heels of President Obama's first visit to Afghanistan, where he was hosted at the presidential palace -- a visit that, during which, President Obama pushed President Karzai to do more to combat corruption in his government, to do more to strengthen their ability to govern and do more to improve the security of the Afghan -- Afghan people.

You can be sure that, clearly, the White House is looking for Karzai to explain himself now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Hold on a moment, Kate.

Jill Dougherty is watching this story, as well -- and we understand, Jill, you've learned that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is now involved in this?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's the very latest, Wolf. In fact, the State Department is confirming that they had that conversation. They spoke this afternoon by phone. Senior administration officials tell CNN that Karzai called Clinton. And that conversation lasted for 25 minutes.

Now, Karzai appears to have backed off some of his statements. In fact, one U.S. official says the Afghan president expressed surprise that his statements had caused a stir. They say, we're happy with the call, we reached a good understanding, we pledged to move on and focus on the work ahead and the tone was very constructive -- on and on. We thought it was useful that he reached out.

You know, Wolf, seriously, judging from the reaction coming out of the White House and from the State Department, you'd have to say that they were stunned by Karzai's comments, because, potentially, this could undermine Afghan citizens' trust in the U.S. and their -- its allies.

BLITZER: And it comes at a critical moment, Kate, when the U.S. is still building up its military presence -- that surge that the president announced a few months ago. Those troops are still on the way. But this is a moment when the -- we -- we only saw, last Sunday, President Obama make that surprise trip to Kabul. And all of a sudden, you get this reaction from Karzai. That's not necessarily all that encouraging.

BOLDUAN: not necessarily. Definitely not necessarily what this White House is looking to hear at this moment. And you'll remember, Wolf, that during his surprise visit to Afghanistan, President Obama extended an invitation to President Karzai to visit Washington. And we checked and were told by the White House that that visit, which was sched -- is scheduled for May 12th, right now it's still on. So, clearly, they're hoping that the talks continue.

BLITZER: A little bit more than a month from now.

All right, guys, thanks very much.

New damage control for the Vatican today. It's trying to distance the pope from remarks made by his personal preacher likening the child sex abuse allegations against the church to anti-Semitism.

And international travelers, brace yourself for some tough new security measures if you're planning to fly here to the United States. The crackdown is underway right now.

And we'll remember the patriarch of TV's "Dynasty" and the voice of Charlie in "Charlie's Angels." The actor, John Forsythe, has died. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

CAFFERTY: It's been a -- a bad week for the Republicans -- very bad.

The party of family values and morality began the week addressing revelations of RNC-funded trips to a risque Hollywood nightclub that features bondage and finished it off with mailers that mistakenly directed party members to a phone sex hot line.

At a time when Republicans could be capitalizing on dissatisfaction with the Democratic agenda in Washington, particularly health care reform, they're stuck, instead, talking about bondage and phone sex.

The RNC says Chairman Michael Steele is ordering "substantive changes" -- that's a quote -- to their accounting procedures. This comes after reports the RNC reimbursed a Republican donor almost $2,000 for a single night out on the town in LA. The evening included a trip to a nightclub where topless dancers mimicked sex and bondage acts.

Is bondage a family value?

I'm just asking.

It gets better. The RNC unintentionally sent a phone sex number on a fundraising letter to potential donors. People who called the number were offered, quote, "live one-on-one talk with a nasty girl for $3 a minute," unquote.

You can't make this stuff up.

These P.R. nightmares are hurting the party in one of the worst ways possible. That would be financially. The GOP needs to raise a lot of bucks for the upcoming midterm elections. But one top social conservative leader, the president of the Family Research Council, is calling on members to stop giving money to the national Republican Party. He says these incidents show the party is completely tone deaf to the values and concerns of its members.

So here's the question -- how do trips to risque nightclubs and mailers with sex hot line numbers help the Republican Party?

Go to and post a comment on my blog Wolf.

It's tough to do this one with a straight face...

BLITZER: There must...

CAFFERTY: -- Wolf.

BLITZER: There must be a niche group that are -- that might be responsive -- responsive to that kind of appeal. What do you think?

CAFFERTY: I don't know.

Is bondage a family value?


CAFFERTY: No. Of course not.

BLITZER: Not the type of bondage you're talking about.


BLITZER: Thank you.

CAFFERTY: No. No, that's a good -- a good distinction.


All right, thank you.

Let's get back to the new tension -- serious tension right now between the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, and the White House, only days after President Obama's surprise visit to Kabul on Sunday. The United States wants Karzai to explain his new claim that foreigners -- foreigners are to blame for election fraud in his country.

Our senior political analyst, David Gergen, is joining us -- I -- I've covered Karzai, David, for a long time.

I was pretty surprised by this new tone from him.

But what do you -- how do you see it?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, the administration is smoking on this one, Wolf. You know, they put an awful lot of effort into this. These extra 30,000 troops are on the way. They're -- and we're having great success militarily with the -- in the last few months, our troops have reversed the momentum in the war on the ground.

But everything now depends upon that not only continued momentum, but the Karzai government coming in and filling in behind and winning the hearts and minds of the people.

And for him to blast the U.S. after we've put in all this -- and the West -- after we put all these -- this treasure and blood in, is really angering people in -- in the administration. And it's going to anger the American people.

This guy is pulling on the tail of the wrong tiger. He's going to get swallowed by this if he's not careful. There -- the view in the administration, Wolf, is he's mercurial. They're not sure they can totally trust him. They'd like to see him succeed. But if he's not going to work with them, they're going to work around him. And they -- they'll make this thing work, because we're not going to put up with a guy who is -- is not only ungrateful, but mercurial and maybe corrupt -- and discouraged with corruption (ph) and, by the way, has recently been making forays into Iran and China.

Iran has been playing a double game with us on Afghanistan and China is no friend of -- of the NATO mission there.

BLITZER: Yes. And he just arrived back in Kabul only a few hours after returning from Tehran, as the president of the United States was getting ready to land in Kabul. I know U.S. officials aren't very happy with him cozying up to Ahmadinejad in Tehran.

But, you know, he didn't necessarily -- he didn't specifically blame the U.S. He blamed foreigners. He blamed Westerners, although the implication is certainly -- the major foreign presence in Afghanistan is the United States. So the implication is he's blaming the United States.

But listen to Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who ran against him, the former Afghan foreign minister.

Listen to what he said.


ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, FORMER AFGHANISTAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He thinks by giving that message, he has taken a populist stand -- anti- foreigner. The people of Afghanistan may be -- there might -- may be widespread illiteracy, poverty, and many, many other illnesses. At the same time, to underestimate their awareness is a fatal mistake.


BLITZER: You know, he makes the point that a lot of Afghans, they really want a strong, close alliance with the United States. They're not very happy about this.

GERGEN: Absolutely right, Wolf. And there are ministers around Karzai who are very friendly to the United States and we can work with, if this guy won't work with us and is not relia -- or not a reliable partner.

And you'll remember that General Eikenberry, who is now the ambassador, warned some time ago, before we sent troops in, that the only question he had and one of the reasons he raised a lot of questions about the surge was that Karzai and his -- and many of the people who are his allies are not reliable partners for the United States.

I -- I -- I can guarantee you that Eikenberry, who went to see him before Karzai called Hillary Clinton -- Eikenberry went to see him. I can guarantee you he read the riot act to him. There's bad blood there anyway. And the administration is not happy. And I don't know whether we can succeed with -- with Karzai. But I can tell you, there's going to be an effort made to succeed without him if he doesn't get on the team. BLITZER: Yes. It's a critical moment and we'll see what happens when he comes here, assuming he still comes on May 12th.

GERGEN: He's going to come.


All right, David.

Thank you.

GERGEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: On the high seas, pirates resume their dirty business. We now have pictures of their latest clash with an American tanker that delivered a clear message -- don't mess with the U.S. Navy.

And the federal guidelines are in -- thousands of U.S. homeowners could see their homes gutted thanks to defective drywall from China.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM -- Lisa, what else is going on?


Well, Hollywood is mourning the death of John Forsythe. The veteran actor died yesterday in California after a year long battle with cancer. Forsythe appeared in dozens of movies over his career, but is probably best known for his portrayal of Denver oil man, Blake Carrington, on TVs "Dynasty" and before that as the voice of Charlie in the '70s series, "Charlie's Angels." John Forsythe was 92.

Federal aid above and beyond the usual may be available to flood- battered Rhode Island. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says the administration is considering a request to waive a requirement that the state pick up 25 percent of the cost of the disaster response. She toured the small economically strapped state today and called the damage significant. Massive flooding is said to be the worst in Rhode Island in at least 200 years.

The federal government is calling for thousands of U.S. homes built with Chinese drywall to be gutted and rebuilt. New guidelines by the Consumer Product Safety Commission were released today. They say not only the drywall, but wiring, outlets, circuit breakers, fire and carbon monoxide alarms, sprinklers and gas pipes, they all need to go. The drywall was imported during a housing boom after a string of Gulf Coast hurricanes. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Chinese manufacturers.

And what are the odds -- for thousands of lottery players in Pennsylvania the magic number was seven in quadruplet. The state's lottery paid out -- get this -- $7.77 million on its Big Four drawing Wednesday after the number 7777 came up. More than 3,100 tickets had those winning numbers. Each won $2,500 or $5,000, depending on whether they wagered 50 cents or a buck. That is pretty amazing. Look at those triple -- those quadruple sevens, actually -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. That's a lucky number.

SYLVESTER: It's certainly a lucky number, yes.

BLITZER: Seven has always been a lucky number and certainly for a lot of folks in Pennsylvania.

SYLVESTER: I think people are going to be playing those numbers in other states now.

BLITZER: Seven. You know, go for it.

Thanks very much.

President Obama says the nation has now turned the corner when it comes to jobs.

But how much credit does he deserve for it?

Former Clinton Labor secretary, Robert Reich, and former Nixon speechwriter, Ben Stein -- they're both here standing by for our Strategy Session.

And on this Good Friday, more bad P.R. for the Vatican. The pope's personal preacher defended him against allegations he covered up sex abuse cases, but he managed to offend Jews in the process.


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

Happening now, growing signs that Iran could be gearing up to ship weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan as part of an effort to interfere with coalition efforts there. We'll have the exclusive new details. That's coming up.

And a new warning from an extremist group demanding that the governors of more than 30 states step down or be removed. We're going inside the investigation.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Let's get back to our top story, the new jobs report that has just come out from the federal government. A significant development, indeed.

Let's talk about it with Robert Reich. He's the former Labor secretary for President Clinton, now a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.

Also joining us, Ben Stein, the former Nixon speechwriter and the author of a brand new book entitled, "The Little Book of Bulletproof Investing: Dos and Don'ts to Protect Your Financial Life." Guys, thanks to both of you for coming in.

Professor Reich, I'll start with you. A hundred and sixty-two thousand jobs added in March. That's a huge improvement over losing, a year ago, 750,000 jobs in a month. But it certainly doesn't indicate -- and maybe -- maybe I'm wrong -- it doesn't indicate that everything is going to be great any time soon.

ROBERT REICH, FORMER CLINTON LABOR SECRETARY, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA-BERKELEY: No, Wolf. And it -- it doesn't really indicate a major turnaround, either. I mean the job market is much better than it was. But about 48,000 to maybe 100,000 of those jobs are temporary Census worker jobs. So they -- they just have to be subtracted from the number. And also, remember, the economy needs to produce about 150,000 jobs a month just to keep up with population growth. So we still have a very, very long way to go.

BLITZER: Well, Ben, the president says the economy, though, has turned the corner.

Is he right?

BEN STEIN, COLUMNIST, FORMER NIXON SPEECHWRITER, AUTHOR, "THE LITTLE BOOK OF BULLETPROOF INVESTING": I think he's completely right. It's called a business cycle for a reason. It has a beginning, a middle and an end. And we're, I think, at the end part of the down part of the down cycle, the cycle that Winston Churchill said is not the beginning of the end, but it's the end of the beginning. And we -- and I think, at this point, we should be very thankful that we're not losing 300,000 jobs a month, as we were not too many months ago.

And the fact that 50,000 or so of those jobs are Census workers is not a big cause for concern. It's great that they're employed. It's great that 100,000 people in the private sector were employed, in addition to what were employed before. We are seeing signs of a recovery.

There -- I mean it -- it could be that it's a tentative recovery. They often are at the beginning. But it's a recovery.

BLITZER: Do you see a possibility, Ben, that the recovery, though, could collapse any time soon or we could go back to the so- called bad old days of the great recession?

STEIN: No, I -- I'm not a -- a soothsayer. I don't have a crystal ball. But it would be unusual. A true double dip recession is genuinely rare. I mean, there have been some. But a true one is genuinely rare.

BLITZER: Was the economic stimulus package, Robert Reich, big enough to deal with this recession?

REICH: I think it should have been bigger, Wolf. And I am a soothsayer, unlike Ben Stein. And my worry, frankly, is that when the stimulus is over -- and it's going to be over in a few months. And when the Federal Reserve Board begins to -- the Federal Reserve Board begins to tighten again, that is, you know, make sure that the -- make sure interest rates are -- are higher and pull in the reins of the money supply to avoid inflation, when those things kick in, then we may not have enough demand to keep the economy going, because consumers just can't use their homes as ATMs like they used to.

BLITZER: So are you saying we need another economic stimulus package, we need more?

REICH: I think we -- I -- I am afraid to say that we probably are going to need more stimulus.

BLITZER: What do you think, Ben Stein?

STEIN: I don't think we need anymore stimulus. Look, we had the TARP program that rescued Wall Street and rescued the financial sector. The stimulus plan, after that, really produced a very small number of jobs relative to the amount of money that the taxpayers spent. The business cycle, I think, can now we -- can now be said to be at the stage where the private sector will pull it along.

But Mr. Reich, Professor Reich raised a very good point. If the Fed tightens too much, the results could be extremely unfortunate. I'm hoping that Mr. Bernanke has read his Milton Friedman and his Schwartzman enough to know that -- they're the experts on this subject -- to know that he should not be tightening at this stage in any meaningful way.

BLITZER: Speaking of the Fed, Robert Reich, you wrote a blistering critique -- or attack, I should say -- on the Federal Reserve, the secrecy of the Federal...

REICH: Blistering?

BLITZER: Blistering.

REICH: Blistering.

BLITZER: It was...

REICH: Oh, dear.

BLITZER: It was a strong -- a strongly written article. But give -- in 30 seconds, tell us what you hate about the Fed.

REICH: Well, I don't hate anything about the Fed. I'm concerned because they went way, way, way beyond their normal mandate of maintaining interest rates and adjustment in the money supply in terms of fighting inflation and balancing that against unemployment. They really have revealed now something we all suspected and many of us knew and that is, they got into deciding which banks were going to live and which died. Bear Stearns, they smoothed the way for Bear Stearns in terms of the takeover by JP Morgan Chase. And they essentially let Lehman Brothers die.

BLITZER: You hate the fact that they did that in secrecy. REICH: They did it in secret. They're not accountable. They're not a part of our democracy as we understand democracy. The Central Bank has got to be independent. But when it starts picking winners and losers and doing a lot of the things that the Fed has been doing without any accountability or supervision, then frankly, I do worry a little bit.

BLITZER: Are you worried about that also, Ben?

STEIN: I am worried about it. Once they become more than a central bank, it becomes a super legislature that decides whether enormous parts of the financial sector, Lehman Brothers, the fourth biggest bank in the United States, whether or not that would succeed or die -- survive or die, that's a huge thing and deserves public scrutiny in a big, big way.

REICH: Ben Stein and I agree on something, you better pay attention.

BLITZER: Yes, but listen to this. I'm going to read something, you tell me who said this. Ben Stein, listen. "Some people don't think of them as part of the government because they're so secretive. But we created it, we can end it, we take no responsibility to supervise it, and look at what they're doing. We've spend hundreds of billions but the Fed deals in trillions and they don't have any responsibility to tell us about it." Who said that, Robert Reich?

REICH: Well, I'm not sure. It doesn't sound like Thomas Jefferson, although the sentiments are very close to Thomas Jefferson when he was battling Alexander Hamilton. I don't know.

BLITZER: Ron Paul, the former Republican...

STEIN: I was just going to guess.


BLITZER: I should have asked Ben Stein because you know what? He knows everything.

STEIN: No, I don't know everything. But it sounds like Ron Paul. And there's much that I question about Ron Paul, but I think he's right about this. The Fed requires some scrutiny. Not overwhelming minute by minute, second by second scrutiny, but some scrutiny that too powerful.

BLITZER: Robert Reich, Ben Stein and Ron Paul. Guess what? They agree at least....

REICH: No, no. Don't go that far.

BLITZER: No, we don't go that far.

REICH: No, no. Just very quickly, we do have to keep the independence of the Fed with regard to its traditional role of setting monetary policy. That's got to be independent. But these other things when you start blurring the lines between branches and start legislating, it really does become very tricky. They're does need to be more over sight.

BLITZER: Good discussion, Robert Reich, Ben Stein. Guys, thanks very much.

All right. We're learning there was more to that pirate attack on a u.s. navy ship than we first thought. We have the photos to prove it.

Also over three months after the failed Christmas bomb attack, there are new security measures that are now taking effect for travelers flying in to the United States.


BLITZER: More from the Catholic Church this Good Friday. In the wake of a growing sexual abuse scandal, now some distancing from remarks made from a preacher comparing accusation directed at the pope to anti-Semitism. Our Diana Magnay is in Rome with more of what's going on. Diane, did the pope specifically mention the scandal today?

DIANA MAGNAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. No, the pope did not mention the scandal. There was quite a lot of expectation that he might in his papal address at the end of the way of the cross, which is the re-enactment of the final hours of Christ's life that he carries the cross to Calvary, but the pope made no mention of it at all. But the preacher of the papal household did in this ceremony of Christ's passion a couple of hours beforehand. And he likened this criticism and attacks that we've seen in recent days against the pope and against the Catholic Church because of this sex abuse scandal, he said that a Jewish friend had written to him likening it to the worst of anti-Semitism. Let's just listen to what his friend said.


REV. RANIERO CANTALAMESSA, POPE'S PERSONAL PREACHER (through a translator): I am following with disgust the violent and uncensored attack against the church, the pope and all the faithful from the whole world. The use of the stereotype, the passage from the responsibility and personal wrong to that of the whole reminds me of the most shameful aspects of anti-Semitism.


MAGNAY: He said that he thought -- the preacher said that he thought of this particular reference from his Jewish friend because this year Good Friday falls on the same day as Passover. But as you can imagine, Wolf, the Vatican were very quick to distance themselves from those comments. The Vatican spokesman telling us just a short time ago that this was certainly not an official position on the Vatican, that in no way did the Vatican wish to appear to be likening the criticism against it to anti-Semitism in any kind of way -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Are they still going after the news media, specifically, "The New York Times," Diana?

MAGNAY: Absolutely. We saw from Cardinal Lovato, who is a very high Vatican official, a slamming really of "The New York Times" the day before yesterday in which he accused it of sloppy journalism. But I think what you're seeing from the Vatican right now is a sense that they cannot simply accuse the media in general of a smear campaign which they have in recent days, that they're trying really to take a more reasoned argument and to take a comprehensive kind of rebuttal which that letter by Cardinal Lovato of individual points raised in the media. But what you're also seeing, even if the pope himself is not speaking, is individual bishops and cardinals around the world using Holy Week to defend the pope against what they think is a media campaign to attack him -- Wolf.

MAGNAY: Diana Magnay covering a huge story in Rome for us. So, we'll check back with you, Diana. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: Let's go back to Lisa right now. She's monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM. What else is going on, Lisa?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, we're now learning that u.s. navy ships succeeded in fending off not one but two suspected Somali pirate attacks. Take a look at this photo from the second incident. The crew of the MB La Vida (ph) tanker was targeted by pirates about 300 miles northwest of Seychelles yesterday with the help of other ships in the area. The pirates were disarmed and one of their boats were destroyed. You see the pictures there.

Well, a hundred days and soldiers are likely eager, very eager to get home from their tour in Afghanistan this hour. The soldiers are stranded right now at Kabul airport after their transport plane never arrived to pick them up. The aircraft was denied permission to fly through the air space necessary to get them. Officials say they are working on solutions.

And this year's White House Easter egg roll won't be just about bunnies. First Lady Michelle Obama is planning to incorporate her childhood obesity campaign into Monday's festivities. Now, the size of the usual egg rolling, a sport zone and dance center will be on hand to promote exercise. And White House chefs will be on hand to discussing healthy eating. Looks like a panafan (ph). Those are pictures from last year. But one thing that President Obama, there he is rolling the egg.

BLITZER: He's going to have a busy day on Monday. The Easter egg roll in the morning, then he's going to go to Nats Park to throw out the first pitch for the Washington National's home opener against the Philadelphia Phillies.


BLITZER: He will be a busy guy on Monday.

SYLVESTER: Sounds like a fun day though that's a pretty funny...


BLITZER: Easter egg roll, baseball, can't be too bad. Thank you.

On a day when President Obama celebrates encouraging jobs numbers, we get an inside look at some businesses that are benefiting while others are still waiting for things to turn around.


BLITZER: Starting today, if you're flying into the United States, you may go through a body scanner or face some other kind of extra security screening. The new measures are a response to the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing. Mary Snow has been watching what's going on, what fliers will be facing. Mary, let's give our viewers of the latest, what they should expect if they're coming into the u.s?

MARY SNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, as you mentioned, these new rules apply to passengers flying in to the U.S. and to change from what they had been facing for the past few months. These new guidelines replace old rules which required automatic screening for travelers who pass through any one of these 14 countries. You see on the screen here. Those countries were put on that list after a Nigerian national was charged with trying to blow up a plane flying from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas. Now, starting today, new rules mean that specific descriptions could be used to single out passengers for more screening if there is reliable intelligence to warrant it. And administration official insists that it does not amount to racial profiling. One security expert applauding this move is a Former Department of Homeland Security official Stewart Baker. He calls it common sense.


STEWART BAKER, FORMER DHS ASSISTANT SECRETARY: It depends a lot on exactly what the intelligence says. If the intelligence tells the government that Al-Qaeda has been able to get hold of a cadre of women from Chechnya who has volunteered to attack the United States, then they will be looking for women from Chechnya and giving them more scrutiny.


SNOW: Now, other information that will now be looked at, travel itinerary, age, passport information and partial names. One problem with the attempted bombing on Christmas Day was that the suspect was not on a terror watch list, but there had been information about a Nigerian man and a potential mission. So, these new rules are aimed at addressing those gaps -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. I assume though there will still concerns though, at least some concerns that this could be turn out to be profiling.

SNOW: Yes, but you know, a little bit of a surprise here. Because we don't always see security experts and civil liberties groups in agreement. However, the people that we did talk to today all say that they believe these new screening rules are an improvement from what had been in place. The American Civil Liberties Union for one says, the rules put in place in December really amounted to racial profiling. It calls these new measures a step in the right direction, however it also says improvement is still need.


MIKE GERMAN, ACLU: Where we have some concerns with the policy going forward is its continued reliance on the watch lists which the Department of Justice Inspector General has issued numerous reports over the last several years highlighting growing problems with this system that have not been addressed.


SNOW: Now, the government report did show that as many as 35 percent of people on those watch lists were there improperly. One of other group that we did talk to, Wolf, Muslim advocates. And this group also said that they applaud these new security measures. However, they do say that they're going to be closely watching how these new rules are going to be implemented -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow, thanks very much. Good report.

Some pilots taking medication for mild or moderate depression will be able to fly again as soon as next week. The new government policy takes effect on Monday reversing a ban on flying for pilots taking Prozac and similar drugs. The FAA says, the old rule was outdated and discouraged pilots from disclosing their treatment. Pilots taking any of four popular anti-depressants will be able to fly if they've been medicated for a year without any side effects that might post a hazard in the cockpit.

We will take you behind the scene. Right now, the president's trip to North Carolina. We'll show you the real people being affected by the latest job numbers. Our White House Correspondent Dan Lothian is traveling with the president.

DAN LOTHIAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're inside the cell guard company. They made battery parts that will end up in hybrid and electric cars. On a day that saw positive employment numbers, President Obama came here to talk about what's working.


(voice-over) In Charlotte, a city dealing with double digit unemployment, there's good news and bad news.

(on camera) The job losses have waned to a great extent. But we're not seeing businesses buying into the wholesale notion that the economy is recovering sufficiently to add jobs.

LOTHIAN: President Obama came to tout the good news. Touring a company that makes advanced battery parts, received almost $50 million in stimulus money and hopes to add almost 300 jobs over the next five years.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What we can see here at this plant is that the worst of the storm is over.


LOTHIAN: But just across town there are still storm clouds hovering over Terri Deboo roofing company.


TERRI DEBOO, ALL AMERICAN ROOFING: We're looking at probably a worst year this year than we were last year.


LOTHIAN: A steep decline in new construction has hit their bottom line. They laid off 20 employees and became creative to keep the rest of their workforce of 80 people in place.


DEBOO: Job sharing, we do some four-day work weeks. We cut out things that we didn't seem to be the most important, such as we did our own landscaping.


LOTHIAN: They're also diversifying, mounting solar panels and building ties with insurance companies to get storm damage work. Deboo welcomes the president's efforts to stimulate the economy but worries that health care costs despite promises of tax credits will also hurt her small business.


DEBOO: That's a price tag that is going to have to be paid by someone. And unfortunately, being a taxpayer that's going to come out of our pocket.



LOTHIAN (on camera): Deboo says, her company is not out of the woods yet, but she's optimistic, and she hopes the government will do much more to sustain small businesses over the long term -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dan Lothian reporting for us from Charlotte. He's been traveling with the president.

Jack Cafferty will be back in a moment with your e-mail. And then some governors of both parties have received letters from extremists with an ominous warning. The FBI is taking all of these very seriously.


BLITZER: Jack's back with the Cafferty file -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, THE CAFFERTY FILE: The question on this sunny Friday afternoon in spring, how much do trips to risque nightclubs and mailers with phone sex hotline numbers help the Republican Party?

Paul writes, "It's the hypocrisy of it all, Jack. Plain and simple. One thing to have an affair, it's another to tell everybody you're a promise keeper who cares only about family values. And then sneak around, tapping your foot on bathroom floors or hiking in Argentina."

Dave in Woodbury, Connecticut, "I'd always hoped my party would loosen up a little bit, but phone sex, and risque clubs and bondage is a lot more than what I expected."

Brian in Idaho writes, "At least it's better than getting busted exchanging homosexual text messages with underage boys or buying meth from gay prostitutes. In fact, over the last ten years, strip clubs and phone sex hotlines are some of the most promising signs I've seen that the Republican Party's moving in the right direction. Some of these are a little tough."

Mike in California, "Family values and conservatism, kind of like Palin's then-16-year-old daughter getting pregnant. How's that abstinency thingie working for you? Really, if the republicans would just drop the holler than thou moniker, they'd like to brandish and admit that they are ordinary mistake prone people like everyone else, they probably get liked a lot more."

Drew writes, "How can republicans be intellectually honest and claim it's bad for gay Americans to want to settle down and get married, then turn around and get caught in engaging in heterosexual licentiousness? Makes you wonder about the moral standards of the self proclaim party of family values."

And Greg writes, "Jack, the answer is so obvious. The republicans are going to bondage clubs because they don't feel like they got their butts whipped hard enough in the last election."

If you want to read more on this, and you should, because there's some pretty funny stuff there, go to the blogs,

BLITZER: I know people are going to go there, Jack.

CAFFERTY: These are worth reading.

BLITZER: Words like "bondage" that's going to do it.

CAFFERTY: Right away. It's a tripwire.

BLITZER: Don't go too far away. President Obama recently shared that he gets some daily spiritual guidance via his blackberry, which got us thinking, what if -- what if you could worship online?

And new evidence today that Iran may be stepping up its support for the Taliban in Afghanistan, and that could spell some trouble for the U.S. League Coalition.


BLITZER: This week President Obama revealed he gets a daily devotional tour on his blackberry. So, what if -- what if people could go one step further and actually go to church online? Here's CNN's Carol Costello.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): God's house, a place with far less room than, say, a church on Facebook.

(on camera) How many parishioners do you hope to gather in the church of Facebook?

PASTOR JOEL HUNTER, NORTHLAND CHURCH: You know, it's literally unlimited.

COSTELLO (voice-over): It is conceivable, as one church official put it, if Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest in the world.

HUNTER: There are a whole lot of people who are believers, or would be believers, if it weren't for having to walk into a church building.

The suffering that you have to go through.

COSTELLO: Pastor Joel Hunter is Senior Pastor of Northland. He boasts a congregation of 18,000 people who worship the old-fashioned way. He hopes to attract thousands more by creating a new church, available only on Facebook. Call it an outgrowth of church 2.0. The thing in worship.

Even President Obama practices a version of church 2.0. He worships in part via blackberry.

COSTELLO: Hunter is one of a group of pastors who e-mail the president.

HUNTER: What I do is I take a portion of scripture, and then I devise a commentary, explain that, and how that might be relevant for -- for a Christian who's trying to follow Christ, and I hit "send." And there it is.

COSTELLO: Hunter has lately sent passages from the gospel of Mark. HUNTER: The lessons are always relevant to anyone, anywhere, and so what applies to you and I, also applies to him, because he's a person. He's not just the president, he's a person.

COSTELLO: Pastor Hunter's e-mailed sermons are just one way the president worships outside of a traditional church. Some insist this can be an effective way to God. Others aren't so sure. Jon Acuff uses a satirical blog called stuff Christians like to inspire spirituality online.

JON ACUFF, STUFFCHRISTIANSLIKE.NET: I think the internet's a great starter. I don't know that if it's the best finisher.

COSTELLO (on camera): Like other relationships that start online, like the dating service,

ACUFF: Eventually the people that meet on match go to dinner. You know, eventually when you interact on Craig list to buy something, you go to that person's house, and every other interaction online, there's some level where you take it real, if it's meaningful and significant.

COSTELLO (voice-over): If that happens, then the world of church 2.0 will be more than an online success, in a country where fewer and fewer people feel the need to go to church at all.


(on camera) The idea here, if you feel uncomfortable, or like a sinner just walking into church, you can attend church online, on Facebook, with your friends. As Pastor Hunter told me, a building means nothing. You can worship God anywhere. Carol Costello, CNN, Washington.