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Dangerous Meat; Israel Issues Terror Warning

Aired April 13, 2010 - 18:00   ET



Happening now: A disturbing government study reveals potential dangers in the beef you may be buying for your family, among the hidden hazards, pesticides and heavy metals. We will tell you what you need to know. Stand by.

Another blow for Toyota. One of its luxury Lexus models gets a rare don't-buy rating from "Consumer Reports." What's behind this new safety concern?

And meet Zeta. She's part of the next generation of bomb- sniffing dogs. We will show you how their noses may help make America safer.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But we begin with an urgent warning about possible terror activity at a popular vacation destination. In unusually blunt terms, Israel's government is now delivering a dramatic message to Israel's citizens.

CNN's Paula Hancocks has the very latest from Jerusalem -- Paula.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, all Israelis should immediately evacuate Egypt's Sinai Peninsula area. This is the urgent warning that Israelis received this Tuesday evening from their counterterror bureau.

Now, the bureau said that they had concrete evidence of an expected terrorist attempt to kidnap Israelis in Sinai. They're also taking the unprecedented step of asking Israeli residents here in Israel that if they know of any relatives that are actually in the Sinai at the moment, to please call them immediately and tell them to evacuate the area.

Now, this is an unusual request from Israel. What we have seen over the years is a lot of travel advisories and travel warnings, but to say to Israeli citizens to get out of an area immediately shows that the counterterrorism bureau really does believe it has very strong, credible evidence of a real and imminent threat.

Now, we know that there was actually a travel warning to the Sinai area, just before the Jewish holiday of Passover, which ended last week. And according to Israeli military -- sorry, Israeli media -- about 20,000 Israelis traveled to the Sinai anyway. It's a very popular area for Israelis. Obviously, there's not many Arab neighbors that are actually friendly towards Israel, and they have a peace treaty, have done for about three decades.

So, certainly, it is an incredibly popular area, and despite the travel warnings, people have continued to go to that area -- Wolf.


BLITZER: Paula, thank you. We will stay on top of this story, several thousand Israelis often in Sinai, including now.

Meanwhile, terrorism was a major concern at the unprecedented nuclear security summit right here in Washington. There have been a series of agreements aimed at trying to safeguard nuclear materials around the world.

Let's go live to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, who's joining us.

The summit is just wrapping up right now. The president had a news conference, and he made some bold statements.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did, Wolf, and, again, the president focusing on this issue of getting these nuclear materials that are all across the world out of the hands or preventing them from getting in the hands of terrorists.

And what the White House is pointing to as success here is this communique which all of the nations who were involved in this summit, 47 nations, signed on to it, saying that they would take responsibility for securing or getting rid of this nuclear material.

Now, the big issue here is that there's not a lot of teeth to this. There is no -- nothing legally binding which will require these nations to abide by this, but the president, when asked that question, said that this is what treaties are about, and he fully expects these nations to back up what they're saying here.

BLITZER: Was the president, Dan, willing to say how close they are to an actual agreement among all of these 47 states?

LOTHIAN: Well, he did -- he wouldn't say exactly how -- if you're talking about Iran, which is the big key here, it hasn't been part of the actual summit, but that's been on the sidelines, as to whether or not there is any agreement by China to really step up tougher sanctions against Iran.

And the president just pretty much sounded an optimistic tone, that the both sides were talking in New York at the U.N. moving towards pushing for tougher sanctions. But even the president pointed out that tougher sanctions won't get Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions overnight. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, sanctions aren't a magic wand. What sanctions do accomplish is hopefully to change the calculus of a country like Iran, so that they see that there are more costs and fewer benefits to pursuing a nuclear weapons program.


LOTHIAN: Of course, China has been hesitant to really push for tougher sanctions, believing that this could be crippling on Iran, hurt them economically, but the president believing that further isolation, such as North Korea, what is happening in North Korea, will bring Iran back to the table, Wolf.

BLITZER: I noticed, at the news conference, I think he took eight questions from eight different reporters, all American, all men, no foreign correspondents, even though about 2,500 international correspondents are accredited to this summit. What was going on there? What was the thinking?

LOTHIAN: That's right. And I should point out, I did not get a question either, Wolf. I had three questions prepared, but I did not get called on.

But, yes, that's something that people have been talking about. We did not see the president call on any females. He did not call on any of the foreign press. And, as you point out, this is an international, a global event. The White House has been touting how unprecedented it is to have these 47 leaders here, yet they did not call on the foreign press.

And that's something that a lot of journalists have been sort of scratching their heads over. I asked Robert Gibbs sort of in general about why certain people were not called on, and he said, listen, there were just simply a lot of mouths to feed, and so the president was trying to call on as many people as he could.

BLITZER: All right. Too bad he didn't call on you, but maybe next time, Dan. Thank you. Thanks very much.


BLITZER: The White House says President Obama will travel to Poland this weekend for Sunday's state funeral of the president Lech Kaczynski and his wife. They were killed along with dozens of other Polish dignitaries in last week's plane crash in Russia.

President Obama and his summit guests today took time out to pay tribute to those who were lost in the crash with a moment of silence.

It's bad enough that beef is sometimes contaminated by dangerous bacteria. Those cases are widely reported when they happen, but now a Department of Agriculture study finds there are other hazards you need to be aware of.

Brian Todd has been looking in to this report.

Brian, what's going on here?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this new report is enough to give some shoppers pause the next time they're in the meat aisle. For some chemical residues, the USDA hasn't even set standards on possible levels of contamination in beef.


TODD (voice-over): Traces of pesticides, heavy metals, antibiotics, could they be in the meat we're buying? A report by the USDA's inspector general said standards are too lax, or, in some cases, nonexistent. For example, it says, in 2008, a shipment of American beef was turned away by Mexico because it contained too much copper.

But that same rejected meat could have been sold in the U.S. Why? Because America has no limit on copper levels in beef. As a result, the report says, meat containing traces of these substances can reach the food supply. Consumer advocates say that's a problem.

(on camera): How harmful are some of these substances?

TONY CORBO, FOOD AND WATER WATCH: Well, over time, as they accumulate in the body, they can affect, you know, organs. They can cause organ failure. Some of the products -- some of the residues could be carcinogenic.

TODD (voice-over): The USDA says it can't set standards on contaminants and drug residue without involvement from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration. The report says, do it. And what about ranchers and meat packers?

CORBO: If beef cattle are drinking water that's runoff from nearby cropland and is contaminated with pesticides, I'm not sure that there's a whole lot that they can do about that. On the other hand, when you look at something like antibiotics, there's a lot of antibiotic use in the beef industry. There's been a lot of criticism of that.

TODD: The National Cattlemen's Beef Association says in a statement, "While the U.S. beef supply is extraordinarily safe by any nation's standard, any incidence of a food safety issue is a concern." It adds, "The beef industry is constantly looking for ways to improve the systems."

Where can consumers turn in the meantime?

CORBO: Organic beef is going to be less likely to contain pesticides, less likely to contain antibiotics.


TODD: Now, a USDA spokesman told us that agency will implement all the report's recommendations, and the president has appointed a food safety working group to push on issues just like this one, Wolf.

BLITZER: The criticism over the years -- and you know this criticism.

TODD: Yes.

BLITZER: The industry knows this criticism, that it simply had too cozy a relationship with federal regulators, and that's a problem.

TODD: That's right. Tony Corbo with the group Food and Water Watch says that's historically been a problem, especially within this industry.

People from the meat and cattle industry taking positions within administrations, then going right back and working for the industry. It's happened for years. Now, the Obama team has been pretty careful about not letting lobbyists and other industry reps to take positions in these regulatory agencies, but it certainly does bear watching, given the history in this case.

BLITZER: So, should -- you did some reporting. Should people avoid eating beef? Is it as simple as that?

TODD: No. I mean, it's really -- Tony Corbo says he doesn't -- he wouldn't avoid eating beef. It's just what you have got to do is kind of contact your congressman. See if they can get at least some of these regulations tightened a little bit, pressure the industry to -- pressure the regulatory agencies to do this. But no widespread panic is needed. Most of the meat is very, very safe.

BLITZER: I guess more people, if they can afford it, will buy organic beef, as opposed to the regular.

TODD: That may be an option, yes.

BLITZER: Yes, all right.

TODD: It's a little bit more expensive sometimes.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much.

A surprise for Sarah Palin. If she has presidential hopes, she may want to take a closer look at our latest poll.

And dramatic video surfacing showing police officers repeatedly beating a college student. Now there's new fallout from those disturbing images.


BLITZER: Let's get right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Wolf, the Vatican claims to have it all figured out when it comes to the sexual abuse of children at the hands of priests in the Catholic Church. The pope's number two, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone insists the abuse is linked to homosexuality, not celibacy. Gay rights groups are outraged, saying it's a perverse strategy by the Vatican to shirk its own ethical and legal responsibility. Bingo. That's spot-on.

To top it off, this official made the ludicrous claim in Chile, where one pedophile priest had sex with young girls, impregnating at least one teenager. One of his victims says, when she told other priests about the abuse at confession -- quote -- "They just told me to pray. That was it" -- unquote.

Meanwhile, as the church says it's overhauling its rules on how it handles accusations of sexual abuse, the Associated Press may have discovered a smoking gun that proves Pope Benedict refused to do anything about this back when he had the chance.

AP reports on a letter written in the 1980s by then Cardinal Ratzinger, in which he resisted pleas to defrock a Catholic priest in California who had sexually abused children. After sitting on the request for a period of several years, Ratzinger eventually did nothing, instead asking the Oakland bishop to consider the -- quote -- "good of the universal church' -- unquote.

It eventually became the 11th commandant of Catholicism: Protect the church at all costs. To hell with the children.

Here's the question. Is the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church linked to homosexuality? Go to Post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I know you have been reading those Maureen Dowd columns on this issue, Jack. It's -- she's writing some pretty powerful stuff herself.

CAFFERTY: Yes. She's Irish Catholic and is rightfully outraged, as any decent human being ought to be. This is disgusting. It's been going on for decades, hundreds of years maybe, who knows.

And the Vatican continues to look for things like, oh, it's homosexuality.

Homosexuality has nothing to do with this stuff. It's criminal behavior. There's no statute of limitations on sin in the church. And these priests, many of them, go through life virtually unscathed, and -- and destroy young people's lives in the process. It's -- it's a horrible situation.

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly is. All right, Jack, thanks very much.

Other news we're following: Democrats, they took a lot of heat during the health care debate. That was certainly reflected in the polling, which last month showed Republicans slightly ahead looking toward the 2010 midterm elections. But our latest CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll, just out today, shows a turnaround of sorts. Registered voters now favor Democrats by a slight edge, 50 percent to 46 percent.

Our senior political analyst, Gloria Borger, is here.

Gloria, what do you make of these numbers?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if I were a Democrat, I would be smiling, but, you know, there is a caveat here, Wolf.

And I will tell you this. In 1994, when the Democrats lost 52 seats, they were also slightly ahead in this ballot that we call the generic ballot. If you look for an explanation and you kind of dig deeper into the numbers, the reason they might be gaining is health care reform.

They're gaining with women, who are, of course, the health care monitors of their families. And they're gaining with lower-income Americans, who may have the most to gain from health care reform.

But having said that, again, these generic numbers are not always really great indicators of what's going to happen in the election, but the Democrats at least feel like they made up some ground.

BLITZER: Now, there's some other numbers we have involving Sarah Palin and perhaps her presidential ambitions.

BORGER: Yes, I mean, Sarah Palin, we cover her a lot, Wolf, as you may well know. But the additional exposure doesn't mean she's got more popularity.

Take a look at these numbers. We asked about Republicans, who they would like to be the next nominee. You have got Huckabee at 24 percent, Romney 20 percent, Palin right in the middle, 15 percent, just above Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. So, despite all of this publicity, all of this name recognition, even Republicans have some questions about her.

BLITZER: On the president -- registered voters' choice for president...

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: ... right now, and look at these.


BORGER: This is fun. We couldn't resist, Wolf. Even though it's a little early, we pitted her against Barack Obama. And look at that. Barack Obama -- and this is, of course, among all voters, not Republicans -- he beats her by 13 points.

Why does he beat her? Take a look at this number. We asked, is Palin qualified to be president? Yes, only 30 percent, no, 69 percent. So, when people don't think you're qualified by a 2-1 margin, Wolf, I think you have a lot of work to do.

BLITZER: Yes, she obviously does. But it's still very, very early in this contest.


BLITZER: Thanks, Gloria.

The first lady makes a surprise visit to Haiti today. You're going to hear what she did there, what she's doing now, where she's heading next.

Plus, this married couple is not hiding their identity for anything they have done. They're wearing masks for what they have won. We will reveal their amazing story. That's coming up next.

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



BLITZER: Caught on tape -- a college student is beaten repeatedly by police officers. Now there's new fallout from this very disturbing video.

Plus, a new headache for Toyota and fresh concerns for drivers, as "Consumer Reports" gives a very rare don't-buy rating to a certain Lexus luxury model.


BLITZER: All right. There's a new development involving Toyota, and it's a new blow for Toyota, which is still struggling to restore the trust of drivers after recalls involving eight million vehicles.

This time, though, the concern is focused on a luxury SUV from its Lexus division.

Brian Todd is working this story for us.

And it involves a "Consumer Reports" don't-buy rating.

TODD: That's right.

BLITZER: But now there's a new development, apparently.

TODD: There is, Wolf, the Associated Press reporting that Toyota is going to temporarily stop selling this model, the Lexus GX460, after this rating was issued.

This rating is rarely given by the magazine. The last time was in 2001. "Consumer Reports" says the GX460 has a rollover risk that could cause injury or death. We have the video of their test. The car can slip sideways because the electronic stability control kicks in too late, that according to the testing director at "Consumer Reports."


DAVID CHAMPION, "CONSUMER REPORTS": If you came off an exit ramp a little bit too fast, got into the corner, realized the corner was tighter than you thought, lifted off on the throttle, the tail of the vehicle could swing way out. If that caught a curb or the side of the road, it could easily make the vehicle roll over.


TODD: Now, an important note here: This warning is only for the 2010 model GX460, which went on sale just three months ago. Only about 5,000 of them have been sold so far. No injuries or deaths attributable to this as far as "Consumer Reports" can tell.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it's in the middle of testing this vehicle. Lexus says this -- quote -- "Our engineers conduct similar tests. However, we will try to duplicate the 'Consumer Reports' test to determine if appropriate steps need to be taken."

They also thanked "Consumer Reports" for flagging this issue California.

BLITZER: And just to repeat, the Associated Press now reporting they're going to stop sale of this particular SUV, this luxury model, at least for now.

TODD: At least for now.

BLITZER: ... as they deal with this problem.

How difficult would it be for Lexus to fix this problem?

TODD: Well, if "Consumer Reports" is correct, and there is a problem with the electronic stability control, the testing director told us that it could be just as simple as maybe changing a setting. But, again, Lexus has said the first step is for them to see for themselves if this is indeed a problem. So, we're going to wait for Lexus to report back.

BLITZER: And I guess, if you own this particular model, the first thing you should do is go -- go to your Lexus dealership and talk to them...

TODD: Take it in, absolutely.

BLITZER: -- and see what they want to do about either fixing it or getting your money back or whatever.

TODD: That's the safest thing to do for now. And since Toyota/Lexus has temporarily, you know, suspended the -- the sale of this, at least according to A.P., you know, that that's the next step coming. BLITZER: And the other important thing, if you're still driving this car, be very careful as you exit -- you use an exit ramp, because when you go around these exit ramps, as you can see from that video...

TODD: Right. Right.

BLITZER: -- there's a potential for that car to flip over.

TODD: Absolutely. Absolutely.

BLITZER: So you've got to be really, really...

TODD: That's scary to look at.

BLITZER: -- careful if you -- if you read the "Consumer Reports" story, just be careful if you have this model.

TODD: Right.

BLITZER: It's not a cheap car, I should point out.

TODD: No, it is not.


Brian, thanks very much.

One police officer has been suspended and now prosecutors are now looking into an incident in which a University of Maryland student was beaten repeatedly by officers wielding nightsticks. It happened last month after students took to the streets after a basketball victory.

But now, there's dramatic and disturbing video of the incident that has surfaced.

Brad Bell of CNN affiliate WJLA has the story.


BRAD BELL, WJLA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the video, University of Maryland student John McKenna first appears skipping down the sidewalk next to Knox Road. He is singing a cheer celebrating Maryland's basketball win over Duke, when he comes face- to-face with a park police mounted officer. He stops dead in his tracks and actually backs up.

Watch carefully what happens now, as he is slammed into the wall, knocked unconscious and then beaten more than a dozen times by Prince George's County police officers. McKenna's lawyers say there is only one way to characterize what happened.

CHRIS GRIFFITHS, MCKENNA'S ATTORNEY: This is police brutality, pure and simple.

BELL: And Griffiths says the actual beating is only half the story. This is the sworn statement of charges against McKenna by the police. It alleges assault on a police officer and disorderly conduct. It claims that McKenna, quote, "struck those officers and their horses, causing minor injuries" and that McKenna was, quote, "kicked by the horses and sustained minor injuries."

GRIFFITHS: Clearly, the charging document is a lie. As you can see from the tape, there's not a single fact in that statement of charges that's true.

BELL: We showed the video and charging documents to Prince George's County Police Major Andy Ellis today, who says the police internal affairs office will begin an immediate investigation.

MAJ. ANDY ELLIS, PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY POLICE: There are things in that video that concern me, Brad. And -- and we're going to take a look at it.

BELL: Federal investigators will also be looking at the tape to determine if civil rights violations occurred. County prosecutors may now pursue assault charges if the officers involved are identified.


BLITZER: That report from Brad Bell of our affiliate, WJLA, here in Washington.

Just a short while ago, the Prince George's County police chief said his force will change the way it handles disturbances. But he also said students were setting fires and throwing rocks at police officers.

Listen to this.


CHIEF ROBERT HYLTON, PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, MARYLAND POLICE: It was a very disruptive scene that, yes, this incident was -- caused me some disturbance, some concern. But yet still, I'm also concerned that we continuously allow this type of behavior at the college campuses that, after an event that should be -- should be celebrated, we have individuals that are in a mob type situation, throwing projectiles, dis -- disobeying directives. And so there's a two party fault here. There's the students and also, as you can see, I'm very disappointed about the actions of my officers.


BLITZER: Yes, it looked like some other students may have been doing what the police chief said. But that particular student, you could see he was just walking casually, as the police got to him. Some very, very disturbing video.

We'll stay on top of this story and update you as we get more information.

President Obama is planning a bipartisan meeting of the minds, talking with top senators. He wants to focus in on the upcoming U.S. Supreme Court vacancy.

Our own John King takes an in-depth look at what input, if any, Republicans will have. We'll speak with John in a moment.

And mourners pack the streets of downtown Los Angeles, bidding a final farewell to a hero on the battlefield and on the home front.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Brianna Keilar is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Brianna, what do you have?

KEILAR: Wolf, one of Mexico's five anti-kidnapping task force supervisors is missing. The Mexico City prosecutor's office says Edgar Contreras Silva has not shown up to work since last week. But it also says it isn't sure what happened to him, if maybe he's been kidnapped or killed. And the supervisor is currently being investigated for crimes committed by a public servant.

The bodies of all 29 miners who perished in last week's West Virginia explosion have now been recovered. And, as a result, federal investigators will be able to get back into the mine to try to determine what caused that tragic blast. Recovery efforts were hindered by dangerous gas levels. West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller says the state's Congressional delegation will receive a briefing on the disaster later this week.

A funeral procession was held in Los Angeles today for a police officer turned Marine Reservist who was killed in Afghanistan. Robert Cottle was killed with another Marine last month when their armored vehicle was bombed. He was the first LAPD officer to die in combat in Afghanistan, where he had served two previous tours of duty. He leaves behind a wife and an infant daughter.

And Americans will soon get a rare peek inside the life of the late Jackie Kennedy. Publisher Hyperion has announced that it will put out the transcripts from more than six hours of interviews done just months after President Kennedy was assassinated. The book was authorized and will be edited by the daughter of the former first lady, Caroline Kennedy. It's expected to be released in September of next year.

And I'm sure a lot of people will buy that -- Wolf.

I bet it's going to be pretty fascinating.

BLITZER: I -- I assume it will be a huge best-seller, because people are still fascinated by the Kennedy legacy.

KEILAR: Definitely.

BLITZER: Brianna, thank you. President Obama is about to make one of his biggest decisions of his presidency, picking someone to replace the retiring Supreme Court justice, John Paul Stevens. He's starting the selection process by calling a meeting at the White House next week with Senate leaders from both parties.

CNN John King is here.

He's covering the story. He'll be covering a lot more of it at the top of the hour on "JOHN BLITZER USA." This is pretty unusual to invite the Republican and the Democratic leadership in saying, let's discuss.

JOHN KING, HOST, "JOHN KING USA": Presidents, in the past, have reached out to the other party, Wolf. Orrin Hatch used to say when Bill Clinton was president, a Democrat, he used to call Orrin Hatch, a Republican, just to say what if I picked this person?

Is there anybody he would be absolutely opposed to?

A little consultations. In the current political climate -- I talked a senior White House official today who said the president wanted to do this as a bigger event. The health care debate very divisive. The financial reform debate now, a big divide between Democrats and Republicans.

On this one, such a big one, the president wanted to make an attempt to show in a big way he's bringing in all the key Republicans and all the key Democrats to talk. Maybe some names. We'll see how that goes. The White House won't confirm that, but maybe bounce a few names around, but especially talk about the process.

There has been a dustup -- we went through this in the Bush administration and the Clinton administration -- about the pace of the lower court judicial confirmation processes. The White House wants this one done quickly. And Democrats -- it's most interesting -- the Democrats on Capitol Hill are saying in this election year, they don't want a huge fight.

So this will be fascinating to watch.

BLITZER: Yes. They certainly don't want a filibuster. They want to try to get some bipartisan support -- get some Republicans on board. But this is a huge, huge issue because John Paul Stevens may be close to 90. He's a liberal. If the president is going to name someone who's also a liberal, that's understandable. But it would be someone 30 years younger, at least -- maybe 40 years younger, someone who could stay on that court for a long, long time.

KING: One of the reasons you have heard the name of Elena Kagan -- she's the solicitor general, a former Harvard Law dean. One of the reasons you've heard her name from a lot of people is because she's 49 years old, just to the point you just made.

And the interesting thing here is the divide within the Democratic Party. This will be a meeting with the Republicans, as well, as the president tries to feel out the politics.

But Justice Stevens is not only the eldest member of the court, but he's the leading liberal voice -- somebody who is viewed as somebody with the stature, the gravitas, the intellectual power to go up against the very strong conservative intellectuals on the court. And a lot of liberals will say, Mr. President, that's what you need. You need somebody with a very sharp legal mind, somebody who's ready to do battle with Justice Alito and Justice Scalia on the big issues of the day.

There are others who are elected, Wolf, who are on the ballot this year, saying, let's not get into a big liberal fight right now. Pick somebody safer, maybe somebody more middle of the road. So where there's a tug of war on this issue, it's actually more on the left, as the right sits back and says, all right, Mr. President, we'll come to your meeting. We want to see your choice is. Only after we see the choice will we get a sense of just how dug in the Republicans will be on this one.

BLITZER: Yes. And, you know, all this talk about Bill Clinton or Hillary Clinton, they're both in their early 60s. And I think this president wants someone much younger so that they'd have an extra decade or longer on this U.S. Supreme Court, continuing his legacy, if you will.

KING: It's great political drama for us to talk about the possibilities of one of the Clintons. It's not going to happen. Hillary Clinton was more of a possibility than the former President Clinton -- now Secretary Clinton, I should be respectful. She has sent word, we are told, she's not interested. And the White House has made clear she's not on the list.

It's great political theater. But I think you're dead right. I would look for a line at about 55, maybe 57. The president, to come lower than that, because presidents want to look at pictures of the court when they're in retirement, 15, 20 years later, and say those are my two, those are my three. This will be the president's second in just 14 months. And he could well get a third even in just his first term. These are the big picks presidents care deeply about. It's his shot at a legacy.

BLITZER: Yes. You're going to have more at the top of the hour?

KING: Absolutely.

BLITZER: "JOHN KING USA" coming up at the top of the hour.

John, thank you.

Their noses may help make America safer -- we're going to show you the next generation of explosive sniffing dogs. And we're going to show you what they can do.

Stick around.


BLITZER: All right. We just got a statement in from Lexus on the 2010 GX460, which has had some problems, according to "Consumer Reports".

Let me read part of that statement for you: "We are taking the situation with the GX460 very seriously and are determined to identify and correct the issue "Consumer Reports" identified. At this time, we have asked our dealers to temporarily suspend sales of the 2010 GX460."

That's the luxury SUV. It goes on to say: "If people who bought a 2010 GX460, if they're concerned about driving this car right now," the statement goes on to say, "we will provide a loaner car until a remedy is available."

Lexus obviously taking this "Consumer Reports" report very, very seriously -- taking dramatic action very quickly.

Other news we're following right now, between x-ray scanners and detectors, transportation security is a high tech endeavor. But one of the most effective tools comes on four legs with a nose that no technology can match.

Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, reports.


JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A dog's nose samples the air many times a second. This dog sniffs it for explosives. Zeta (ph) is what's called a vapor wake dog, trained to pick up the scent of explosives in the air despite crowds, crosscurrents and other smells in Washington, D.C.'s Union Station. Her nose can ferret out TATP, TNT and other explosives in a huge space, even though a person carrying them may have passed by as much as 15 minutes earlier.

The head of Amtrak's canine program compares these animals to a top athlete.


CAPT. WILLIAM PARKER, AMTRAK POLICE K-9 PROGRAM: It's Michael Jordan. And the reason why I say that is because Michael Jordan was one of the best basketball players of all time. And these vapor wake dogs I'd put in that same category.

MESERVE: Only 1 percent or 2 percent of puppies from Auburn University's breeding program have what it takes what it to be a vapor wake dog.

JEANNE BROCK, AUBURN UNIVERSITY PUPPY PROGRAM: They'll hunt and hunt and hunt and won't come back without it.

MESERVE: They are introduced at an early age to slippery surfaces and a variety of environments before being sent to prisons in Georgia, Florida and Mississippi, where inmates begin training the dogs to use their noses.

Back at the Auburn facility, older dogs are conditioned on a souped up golf cart to handle the rigors of their future jobs. They recognize about a dozen explosives and can be trained to find additional ones in just a day or two. I take a backpack containing explosives into a building to test a dog. I walk, sit and walk some more.

(on camera): And now I'm going to hide this backpack full of smokeless powder right here.

(voice-over): A minute later, Ranger, still in the early stages of training, tracks the explosive scent right to the source.

DR. ROB GILLETTE, AUBURN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF VETERINARY MEDICINE: There's certain chefs that will smell a pot of stew and then say, oh, that's oregano or that's this type of spice. The dog walks into it, smells this whole thing and says, oh, that's C-4.

MESERVE: The U.S. Capitol Police are just starting to use vapor wake dogs. They've already augmented security at sporting events and other large gatherings. But Amtrak has embraced them, despite the $20,000 price tag per dog. The rail carrier believes that in a high risk, ever-changing transit environment, the dogs have advantages over machines -- even those that can only work for about 90 minutes at a stretch.

JOHN PEARCE, AUBURN UNIVERSITY, CANINE DETECTION INSTITUTE: There's nothing like a dog, as far as mobility, as far as how quickly it can detect explosives and take us to the source of it. And the cost is basically less then any type of technology out there.

MESERVE: Even fans of this program don't think these dogs are the be all and end all in explosives detection. But they also believe we don't know yet the full capacity of these animals to keep us safe.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Anniston, Alabama.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty and your e-mail next. He's been asking, is the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church linked to homosexuality?

Stick around.



BLITZER: Let's check back with Jack for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: The question this hour, Wolf, is the sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church linked to homosexuality?

That suggestion has been made by the pope's number two at the Vatican.

Judy in California: "It sounds very much like the nonsense spewed by some of the priests and nuns when I attended Catholic schools many years ago. Children were necessary evils to some of them. I guess the tangled Web of deceit is going to catch up to them now. I just wonder how many innocent people went to their graves thinking that what happened to them was their fault." Sean in St. Louis: "I don't think it's linked to homosexuality. I think it's linked to a lot of sick people who think their position ensures that they're not going to get caught."

Janet in Iowa: "No. At least 30 percent of victims, including myself, were female. To say priests abused boys because they were homosexual is like saying some men abuse little girls or rape women because they're straight."

Louis writes: "A disproportionate amount of the sexual abuse by priests is male on male and generally post-pubescent male. If the molesters were pedophiles, they'd stick to prepubescents. And if they were heterosexual, they wouldn't focus on males. It looks like a slam dunk for the Vatican case, despite exceptions. And I'm not and never have been religious."

Michael in New York writes: "I'm a homosexual male and not a pedophile. I think the Catholic Church just needs someone to blame or it needs another story to make up to continue the hate that it spreads. Homosexuality is not a choice. I would never choose to be homosexual if it was."

And Brian in Washington writes: "Sex abuse against children within the Catholic Church is connected to homosexuality as much as the Vatican is connected to legitimate Christian values such as love, compassion and empathy. In short, there is no connection whatsoever."

If you want to read more on this, you'll find it on my blog at -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll do so. Jack, thanks.

See you tomorrow.

Conan O'Brien's comeback on cable -- hear what other comics are saying about the "Late Night" host's surprise deal with our sister network, TBS.



BLITZER: Just when it seemed like comedian Conan O'Brien was gone from late night for good, he's now back.

Jeanne Moos finds that Moost Unusual. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): You'd be dancing, too...


MOOS: -- if you just got a new TV show and started a concert tour. No wonder Conan O'Brien is singing, I will survive.


CONAN O'BRIEN, COMEDIAN: I'll be strong and my beard grew very long. They threw me out.


MOOS: Actually, the beard is not that long -- not as long as the one on this Conan fan.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you can see, I've been growing and on strike against television in general, Beard, ever since the peacock gave you the boot.


MOOS: From the NBC peacock, Conan flew the coop to cable, to CNN's sister network, TBS.


WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST: A lot of people are going, oh, what a step down to TBS.

But is it -- is it a step down?



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: TBS, are you kidding me?



BARBARA WALTERS, CO-HOST: Ten million to do a cable show. Wow!


MOOS: Conan was acting like a million bucks at his first concert in Eugene, Oregon.

(VIDEO CLIP) MOOS: One fan shot him bestowing a hug on her.


MOOS: When his 11:00 p.m. TBS show starts in November, Conan will push the George Lopez show back an hour to midnight. But Lopez welcomes the lead-in Conan will supply.


GEORGE LOPEZ, COMEDIAN: A Latino and a red head. It's worked before. Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball -- a same-sex Lucy and Ricky.

We've got some 'xplanin' to do.


MOOS (on camera): Now, there is the big Conan announcement, everyone wondered how Jay Leno would react after all the acrimony.


JAY LENO, HOST: I want to start off by...


LENO: Congratulations to...


MOOS: To whom?

Spit it out, Jay.


LENO: Phil Mickelson. Phil Mickelson won The Masters on Sunday.


MOOS: Jay maintained a Conan of silence.

(on camera): And just as Conan announced he's coming back, Leno's sidekick announced he's going away.


KEVIN EUBANKS: I'm going to be leaving "The Tonight Show" after 18 years.


MOOS: Good-bye, Kevin Eubanks and good-bye to a certain bear known for touching himself.

Conan was worried NBC would lay claim to the bear character. So...


O'BRIEN: Say hello to a brand new character that I own in its entirety -- the self-pleasuring panda.


MOOS: It's a self-pleasure to meet you, as Conan panders to a new audience on basic cable.

Jeanne Moos, CNN...


O'BRIEN: I've got so many shows to give.


MOOS: -- New York.


BLITZER: That's it for me.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.