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President Obama is being Blamed for the May Jobs Report; Another Massacre Happened in Syria; Donald Trump Pushing Obama Birth Questions Again; Unemployment Benefits Running Out; New Worries About Latin American Parasitic Disease; Bloomberg and Big Sugary Drinks; Amercia the Beautiful

Aired June 2, 2012 - 18:00   ET



Republicans blame President Obama for a shocking new setback in jobs growth. This hour, the state of the economic recovery and what it means for the presidential campaign.

Plus, Donald Trump on the so-called birther issue and whether he has hurting Mitt Romney. Stand by for my face-off with Trump and you'll see why I told him he sounds ridiculous.

And unchecked violence in Syria and bodies piling up, will the Bashar al Assad regime condemned for one massacre and now being blamed for a second slaughter.

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

Economists didn't see this one coming, one expert calling the May jobs report shockingly low. Only 69,000 jobs were added to America's workforce last month. That's the weakest growth in a year and the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.2 percent. It is a brutal setback for the economy and a serious setback for the Obama campaign as well.

The president out on the campaign trail is struggling to convince voters he is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar is traveling with the president.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, after a disappointing May, President Obama address the crowd here in the politically friendly state of Minnesota. He urged them to look at the broader economic trends and said the economy is improving, albeit slowly.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're still fighting our way back since the worst economy since the depression. The economy is growing again but it is not growing as fast as we want to grow. Our businesses have created almost 4.3 million new jobs over the last 27 months. But as we learned in today's jobs report, we're still not creating them as fast as we want, and just like at this time last year, our economy is still facing some serious head winds.


KEILAR: It's a defense that has become repetitive, this idea of head wins like the economic crisis in Europe and high gas prices amid concerns over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Here at this Honeywell factory that employees 65 veterans, President Obama announced a new program to help vets earn accreditation so they can take their military experience and turn it into jobs in the private sector. He also prodded congress, urging them to get to work on his so-called congressional to do list aimed to creating jobs telling them not to play politics but it was really the jobs numbers that eclipse that message. And the presumptive Republican nominee, governor Mitt Romney seized on this, calling the number devastating for President Obama and accusing him of passing the buck - Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna Keilar, thanks very much.

And as you would expect, Republicans are pouncing on the new jobs report and they're slamming the president.

Let's bring in our senior congressional correspondent Dana Bash.

Dana, the reaction has been pretty intense.


Look. It's a cold, hard fact that bad economic numbers, especially in the form of joblessness is good political news for Republicans, especially for Mitt Romney. Here's is how he reacted.

He said quote, "today's weak jobs report is devastating news for American workers and American families. This week has seen a cascade of one bad piece of economic news after another. Slowing GDP growth, plunging consumer confidence, an increase in unemployment plans, and now another dismal jobs report all stand as a harsh indictment of the president's handling of the economy."

Now Democrats have really tried to strip Romney of his credentials as a successful business man in the private sector with his their attacks on him as a job killer when he led the venture capital firm Bain Capital. But Romney's campaign argues that history is on their side.

And Wolf, they have a point. Modern president, incumbent president, they simply do not win re-election with unemployment at 8.2 percent at this point in the cycle. And the more of the bad news continues, the harder it's going to be for the Obama campaign to change the psyche of the American people. Romney aides know that full well.

BLITZER: You know, Dana, the Republicans on Capitol Hill, they are reacting very strongly as well.

BASH: That's right. The house speaker John Boehner had an interesting turn of phrase, Wolf. He borrowed it from the post 9/11. He called joblessness under the Obama administration, the new normal. Here what else he said.


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It's pretty clear the American people are still asking the question, where are the jobs? Another month of disappointing job gains, it's pretty clear that the American people are hurting, small businesses continue to avert hiring any additional people and it's clear that the policies that we've seen are not working.


BASH: And that line where are the jobs is one that Boehner uses pretty much every time he's at the microphone. He did that especially leading up to the last election. Wolf, he used it so much it became kind of an inside joke in the capital press corps but the joke was on us because the Republicans took the majority and he became speaker in large part because voters were asking that question, the frustrated voters, where are the jobs.

BLITZER: Job. Jobs. Jobs. Certainly issue number one, the economy, five months to go before the November 6th election.

Dana, thanks very much.

Donald Trump isn't the only billionaire, by the way, who is backing Mitt Romney. Wealthy conservatives are putting their money where their hearts are.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama is set fundraising records in this first campaign. The Republican overall fund-raising goal is staggering.

Lisa Sylvester is looking into that.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mitt Romney reached the magic number to clinch the Republican nomination but his supporters are focused on another number, $1 billion. That's the number outside groups hope to raise to support Mitt Romney according to Politico.

VIVECA NOVACK, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: A billion dollars just from the outside groups, the chamber of commerce, the Koch brothers and their groups, various super PACs. So, that is the big new world after Citizens United, the 2010 Supreme Court decision. And that is where the outer limits know no bounds at this point.

SYLVESTER: Reality TV star, Donald Trump, may be Romney's most famous Romney contributor but not his only. There is a list of Romney billionaires who have written big checks in support of the nominee.

Bill Koch, one of the Koch brothers, has a reported fortune of $4 billion. He owned the energy company Oxbow, and donated $2 million to the leading pro- Romney super PAC. Harold Simmons, owner of the chemical and house hazard wastes company According to Rolling Stone magazine, he has known to handout $100 bills to pin handlers. Simmons donated money to Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. For Mitt Romney he's given $800,000 to the super PAC.

Bob Perry, owner of Perry Homes, poured $4.5 million into swift boat ads to defeat John Kerrey in 2004. This time he has donated $4 million to elect Romney.

Bill Marriot erred to Marriot Hotel along with his brother, Richard, are tight with Mitt Romney. Romney has served on the Marriott board. They have each given a million dollars to the leading pro-Romney super PAC.

And Hedgefund tycoon and multi-billionaire, John Paulson has also given $1 million to the cause.

Romney's campaign donors draw from different industries, but share a common denominator.

BILL SCHNEIDER, POLITICAL ANALYST: What Romney is doing is following the traditional strategy of coalition building. That's how American politics has always worked. All you have to do is agree on one thing and you're part of this campaign. What is that? We want to fire Barack Obama.

SYLVESTER: Here's how the numbers stack up.

Romney's campaign has raised a little more over $100 million today date. Obama's campaign has done even better with $329 million. But the key difference, the super PAC money, those unlimited contributions. The leading pro-Obama super PAC has raised $10.5 million compared to leading pro-Romney super PAC at $56 million.

Romney's Wall Street background gives him a lot wealthy friends to call on. But support for Obama's re-election has the most money so far so they can say that won't be the issue.

ROBERT GIBBS, OBAMA CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: This election is going to be about the economy and the future of our country around it. Who is going to build an economy that grows and is secure for the middle class and lasts? I think that is the focus.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester, reporting for us.

Finally, Mitt Romney, he may have a lot of balance billionaires writing big checks but President Obama has a lot of heavy hitters in Hollywood. We saw that star studded affair as a lot of our viewers will remember with George Clooney.

We know a big part of this election is jobs, jobs, jobs, so does last month's dismal jobs report, the weakest growth in the year spell trouble for President Obama? Ron Brownstein standing by. And two gruesome massacres in Syria. CNN gets the firsthand look - CNN gets the firsthand look at a makeshift clinic in one Syrian town and the images will tear at your heart strings.

And my interview with Donald Trump, he is doubling down on the issue of where President Obama was a born. Stick around. This is a classic you'll want to see it.


BLITZER: Let's get back to our top story.

A new government report shows only 69,000 jobs were added in the month of May. That's far fewer than the 150,000 that had been expected by some economists. It was the weakest job growth in a year.

Joining us now to discuss the political fallout from all of this is Ron Brownstein. He is the CNN senior political analyst. He is also the editorial director over at the "the National Journal."

Ron, how bad is these new jobs numbers for President Obama in his re- election campaign?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think they're a body blow, Wolf. I mean no single month is going to be decisive but this is very bad news.

From the beginning, President Obama knew he was not going to be able to run morning in America by 2012. He knew that the history of financial crisis was such that the economy was not going to be roaring back by the time he faced the voters again.

But what he wanted to be able to argue was at three-part argument as you know, the worst is over, we're moving in the right direction, do you want to go back? And numbers like this attack the weakest link in the chain, the central arch there that we are moving in the right direction.

BLITZER: Because the numbers at least over the past few months seem to be moving in the wrong direction from 200,000 a month to 150, to 100, now 60,000. That seems like you ask that question right track, wrong track it looks like the country is on the wrong track of five months to go, though.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. BLITZER: Listen to this David Axelrod a vent that he had in the home state of Mitt Romney in Boston, Massachusetts. Let me play the clip.


DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA CHIEF CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: You can shut down speakers, my friend but it's hard to etch a sketch the truth away. These may be the only voters right here for Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. You can't handle the truth, my friends. You can handle the truth, you'll quiet down.

CROWD: Let him talk! Let him talk! Let him talk!


BLITZER: I find that awkward moment there. But I think it's fair to say, Ron, and I'm sure you'll agree, I'm sure even the Romney folks will agree they don't think they have much of a chance of carrying his home state of Massachusetts. That is going to be a democratic state.

BROWNSTEIN: It was a poll out just the other day with Obama at 59 in Massachusetts. But you know, in a way, it is a good metaphor. What the Obama campaign is trying to do with there, Wolf, is they are trying to between the Bain attacks and Massachusetts attacks, is they're trying to disqualify Romney before he gets a chance to fully introduce himself to the American people, to basically argue that he is in a Karl Rovian kind of way to go after his greatest strength, the idea he's a job creator. The initial instinct of many voters is the background in business does quip him to help get the economy growing faster. They want to go after that.

The problem I think, one of the big problems they face on that is that the threshold that voters are willing to accept about a challenger, the threshold of doubt, rises when is they're more dissatisfied with the incumbent. The more uneasy to error about the direction of the country and the direction of the economy, the more questions they're going to swallow about Mitt Romney.

And so, they're kind of fighting a battle on two fronts here in the Obama campaign. To the extent voters are dissatisfied where with things are, I think the clear history when voters dissatisfied with the incumbent, they're willing to make more of a risk on a challenger.

BLITZER: You know, Bill Clinton, the former president of the United States, he always speaks rather bluntly but he seemed to go off message in an interview we did with Harvey Weinstein on "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT." Listen to this.


BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A man who has been governor and had a sterling business career crosses the qualification threshold. But they have dramatically different proposals. And it's my opinion in a way that the Obama proposals and the Obama record would be far better for the American economy and most Americans than those that Governor Romney laid out.


BLITZER: The key word sterling business career, Ron.


BLITZER: Is this a problem when the former president, obviously one of the more popular Democrats out there, suggests that Mitt Romney's business record was in his word sterling?

BROWNSTEIN: Short answer is yes. I think the argument that Obama is trying to make here is not really about qualifications with Bain. What he's trying to do is talk about loyalty and inclination. What he wants to argue is in his private career Mitt Romney pursued a vision of capitalism that enriched a few at the expense of the many. And that that would in effect is of same priorities of his public policy agenda as president. He wants to use the private and the public.

But, what you see there, I think, is kind of a reminder that you covered that White House, the Bill Clinton White House, the Democratic Party in the 1990s was much less comfortable with populous rhetoric and this kind of sharp attempt to divide the elector along class lines that President Obama has pursued. That was not Bill Clinton's politics, the kind of new Democratic appeal and message went in a different direction. And it was kind of uncomfortable moment, I think, that kind of was probably an instinctive response from the former president that reflects that he's really not as comfortable as Obama is with this style of populous rhetoric and strategy.

BLITZER: It explains why Bill Clinton was part of that group that created the DLC, the democratic leadership conference, that centrist, moderate group of Democrats that resulted in some of the victories that Bill Clinton had throughout the 90s.

All right, Ron. Thanks very much. Good analysis.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Two gruesome massacres in Syria. CNN goes to a makeshift clinic in a Syrian town where one of those massacres took place. So, what we saw simply was shocking.

And tens of thousands of jobless Americans are bracing for a financial punch in the gut. Their unemployment checks are about to end sooner than they thought.

Stay with us. Lots of news happening, right here in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Gruesome images coming to us out of Syria. Before we go any further, though, I want to warn you the video you're about to see is very graphic.

CNN's Ivan Watson reports on the government's violent onslaught in one Syrian city and gets a firsthand look at the chaotic and heart wrenching scene where the wounded are treated.


IVAN WATSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Al Qusair, under attack. A tank shell strikes leaving wounded, bleeding in the streets. These are the final moments of a local activist and cameraman named (INAUDIBLE). He is rushed not to a hospital but to this makeshift clinic. This is how Syria's oppositions are forced to treat their wounded because the country's hospitals are under government control.

In the garden of what used to be an ordinary house, doctors struggle to save Matar's life. But the wounds are just too deep.

More casualties, stream in and there's simply no place to put them. Some of the victims here are rebel fighters, others too young to even understand. The child's mother screams for a doctor and curses her president Bashar Al Assad.

For some the scene here is just too much. An emergency worker lost on the floor of a kitchen that's now become an emergency room. This is what the war looks like in Syria and it's probably going to get much, much worse.

Ivan Watson, CNN.


BLITZER: Let's discuss the situation in Syria with CNN's Hala Gorani. She is joining us right now.

Hala, we saw these horrible images of this clinic you just saw that report from Ivan Watson. The opposition says a dozen factory workers were hauled off a bus and executed by the pro regime militias in town.

Tell us about Houla a little bit. Hundred people, mostly -- at least half children killed. It's unbelievable really what's going on but it's presumably going to get even worse.

HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's a new level of horror and atrocity in Syria what happened in Houla last Friday, now a week ago today. The 100 -- more than 100 civilians killed, almost half of them children.

You know, when you see executions like the factory workers, for instance, you can sort of argue that perhaps it's within the realm of warfare situation but slaughtering children with knives the way some of these kids in Houla were killed really suggests that the situation in Syria is becoming worse, that the country is rapidly descending into all-out sectarian conflict. Some of those Sunni residents of Houla told Alex Samson, the channel 4 report, that they know the man who came to their town to kill their children, that they're Alowites from the nearby village. The Alowites sect is the first in control of -- in charge of Syria. Bashar Al Assad, the president, is from that faction.

BLITZER: It shocking what's going on. And as I said before, I think it's going to get a lot, a lot worse if you can just imagine.

Hala, thanks very much. We'll stay on top of this story.

Other news we're following, including Donald Trump. He is refusing to let the so-called birther issue die. Ahead, I will go one-on-one with him and ask him why he's doing what he's doing. Get ready, the interview gets heated.

Plus, banning supersize soda in the big apple, good idea or is it simply too much government?

And millions of people infected in one part of the world, ahead, the scary parasitic disease that could pose a threat in the United States.


BLITZER: Turning now to the politically charged issue of where President Obama was born and those who refuse to let it die. One of the most outspoken, the real estate giant Donald Trump who is stumping for Mitt Romney.

I spoke with Donald Trump the day that Mitt Romney clinched the Republican presidential nomination and I pressed him on why he's doubling down on this issue right now. The interview got very heated.


DONALD TRUMP, CHAIRMAN, CEO, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: His own publisher, as you know, using his words said he was born in Kenya and he lived in Indonesia. Of course now he's denying that amazingly, so.

But I'm not here to talk about that. I'm here to talk, as you said you would, jobs, China, what's going on with respect to China, what's going on with respect to China and how they're ripping this country, what's going on with respect to OPEC and how the nation of OPEC are laughing at the stupidity of our country.

BLITZER: All right...

TRUMP: That's what I'm here to talk about. You know that's what I'm here to talk about. And I thought your introduction was highly inappropriate.

BLITZER: Well...

TRUMP: But that's OK because I've gotten to know you over the years.

BLITZER: Well, I -- well, listen, Donald, first of all, I never said we weren't going talk about the birther issue. We had a conversation earlier today. We didn't discuss at all what we were going to talk about.


TRUMP: It's something that bothers Obama very much.

BLITZER: I don't know why you're...

TRUMP: And I will tell you, it's not an issue that he likes talking about. So what he does is uses reverse psychology on people like you, so that you report, like, Oh, gee, he's thrilled with it. He does not like that issue because it's hitting very close to home. You know it and he knows it...

BLITZER: I don't know it.

TRUMP: ... but if you don't report it accurately.

BLITZER: Donald, you and I have known each other for a long time. And I don't understand why you're doubling down on this birther issue after the state of Hawaii formally says this is the legitimate birth certificate. He was born in Hawaii. Why are you going through all of this, Donald?

TRUMP: Well, a lot of people don't agree with that birth certificate.

TRUMP: But the state of Hawaii...

TRUMP: A lot of people do not think it's authentic.

BLITZER: ... authorizes it -- if the state of Hawaii says, This is official, he was born in Hawaii on this date, here it is, why do you deny that?

TRUMP: A lot of people do not think it was an authentic certificate.

BLITZER: How can you say that if the...

TRUMP: A lot of people...

BLITZER: ... if the...

TRUMP: Now, you won't report it, Wolf, but many people do not think it was authentic.

His mother was not in the hospital. There are many other things that came out. And frankly, if you would report it accurately, I think you'd probably get better ratings than you're getting, which are pretty small.

BLITZER: Donald, have you seen the actual newspaper announcements within days of his birth in Honolulu? For example, "The Honolulu Star- Bulletin" -- we will put it up there. You see the birth announcement back in 1961?

TRUMP: Yes, and many people did that and...

BLITZER: The Honolulu...

TRUMP: ... they put those...

BLITZER: Listen. Listen to me, Donald.


BLITZER: Can I ask...


TRUMP: Am I allowed to talk, if you could stop defending Obama?


BLITZER: Donald, Donald, you're beginning to sound a little ridiculous, I have to tell you. TRUMP: No, I think you are, Wolf. And let me tell you something. I think you sound ridiculous. And if you'd ask me a question and let me answer it, instead of making...

BLITZER: Here's the question. Did the conspiracy start in 1961, when "The Honolulu-Star Bulletin" and "The Honolulu Advertiser" contemporaneously published announcements that he was born in Hawaii?

TRUMP: That's right. That's right. And many people put those announcements in because they wanted to get the benefit of being so- called born in this country. Many people did it. It was something that was done by many people, even if they weren't born in the country. You know it, and so do I.

BLITZER: All right, so explain...

TRUMP: And so do...

BLITZER: So explain why...

TRUMP: And so do a lot of your viewers...

BLITZER: Donald, explain why...

TRUMP: ... although you don't have so many viewers.

BLITZER: So why did the state of Hawaii authorize that live birth certificate? Why did they do it? Are they part of this conspiracy, as well?

TRUMP: Well, you know, your Democratic governor, who was the one that was really leading it -- a lot of people say, Where did it come from? And they're saying, How come he didn't show it to John McCain, Hillary Clinton? It was only Donald Trump that got him to do it.

So you know that, and I know that. And you know, when you say that Obama doesn't mind this -- Obama hates this subject. When his publisher comes out with a statement from him made in the 1990s that he was born in Kenya and that he was raised in Indonesia, and all of a sudden it comes out, I think it's something that he doesn't like at all.

Now, what he says is, Oh, we love it, we love it, we love it...

BLITZER: Donald...

TRUMP: ... because that's -- that's...

BLITZER: Let me tell you -- let me tell you who hates this -- who hates this subject. It is Mitt Romney who totally disagrees with you on this, including today. He issued a statement...


TRUMP: I don't speak to Mitt Romney about it.


BLITZER: Mitt Romney says...

TRUMP: What I speak to Mitt Romney about is jobs...

BLITZER: Is Mitt Romney a Democrat? Is he an Obama supporter?

TRUMP: Mitt -- what I speak to Mitt Romney about is jobs. What I speak to Mitt Romney about is China because he's got a great view on China and how they're trying to destroy our country by taking our jobs and making our product and manipulating their currency so that it makes it almost impossible for our companies to compete. What I speak to him about is OPEC.

I don't speak to him about this. You bring it up because you feel it's probably going to get a few more people watching your station, which, unfortunately, they're not doing.

BLITZER: Here's what Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said today -- today, not yesterday, not last week, not six months ago. "Governor Romney has said repeatedly that he believes President Obama was born in the United States." Now, he's not a Democrat.


BLITZER: He's not an Obama supporter. He's Governor Romney, the presidential Republican nominee. He says you're wrong.

TRUMP: You know what? Everybody's entitled to their opinion, Wolf. You know my opinion. You know his opinion. And that's fine. We're entitled -- as he said yesterday in the airplane, we're all entitled to our opinions. And he's entitled to his opinion, and I think that's wonderful. I don't happen to share that opinion, and that's wonderful, also.

BLITZER: But the state of Hawaii says it's not an opinion, it's a fact.

TRUMP: No, I don't think so. I think if you look at the birth certificate, take a look, and you tell me, really -- you analyze the birth certificate. There are many people that don't agree with that birth certificate. They don't think it's authentic, Wolf.

BLITZER: I don't know when you say many people who don't agree...

TRUMP: Many people.

BLITZER: Like who?

TRUMP: There are many people...

BLITZER: Give me an -- give me a name of somebody...

TRUMP: There are many people...

BLITZER: ... in a position of authority... TRUMP: -- that do not believe...

BLITZER: -- in Hawaii who says -- but give me a name.

TRUMP: There are many people -- I don't give names. There are many people that do not believe that birth certificate is authentic.

BLITZER: Well, you know what?

TRUMP: Many people.

BLITZER: Let me ask you -- ask you this and -- because you said -- when you were thinking about running for the Republican nomination, you had a -- an exchange with Meredith Vieira on the Today" show.

I'm going to play the little clip because I want to follow up on this because it -- it got me interested at the time, and I want to see if there is a follow-up. But listen to this.

TRUMP: I have people that actually have been studying it and they cannot believe what they're finding.

MEREDITH VIEIRA, CO-HOST, "TODAY": You have people now down there searching?

TRUMP: Absolutely.

VIEIRA: I mean in Hawaii?

TRUMP: Absolutely. And they cannot believe what they're finding.

BLITZER: All right, tell us what your people who were investigating in Hawaii, what they found.

TRUMP: We don't have to go into old news. That's old news. There's been plenty...

BLITZER: Well, what did they find?

TRUMP: ... found. You can call many people. You can read many, many articles on the authenticity of the certificate. You can read many articles from just recently as to what the publisher printed in a brochure as to what Obama told him as to where his place of birth is. And that's fine, Wolf.

Now, it's appropriate, I think, that we get to the subject of hand, which is -- at hand, which is jobs, which is the economy, which is how our country is not doing well at all under this leadership, which is how are we going to do something about energy, which is really the things that I wanted to talk to you about, but you like to keep going back to the place of birth.

I actually think that's an important subject, but I think we've covered that pretty well now, don't you?

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: That was my interview with Donald Trump. One footnote I just want to point out. In 2010, the then Republican governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle -- she certified that the birth certificate was, in fact, the real deal, it was authentic. And now the current Democratic governor, Neil Abercrombie -- he certifies it's the real birth certificate, as well. No one in a position of authority in Hawaii says it a forgery or anything along those lines.

Tens of thousands of jobless Americans bracing for a financial punch in the gut. Just ahead, details on whose long-term unemployment checks may be about to end sooner than they thought.

And New York City wants to ban supersize soft drinks. It may be a move for our health, but should government be making these kinds of decisions about our diet?


BLITZER: Right now, tens of thousands of jobless Americans are bracing for a financial punch in the gut. Their long-term unemployment checks are about to end sooner than they thought. That's a blow that many others have already suffered.

Tom Foreman is joining us now to tell us who's affected and why. What are you seeing there, Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, this new jobs report this week was bad news for everybody out here in the 12.5 million people who are unemployed in this country, but it's really bad for the people who are now running out of all of their benefits. That's more than 400,000 people, and the number is climbing rapidly.

Let's talk about why it is climbing so rapidly. This is the percentage right now of long-term unemployed people. All those people who came out in the jobs report and all the people who are unemployed in this country, almost 43 percent of them have been out of work for six months or more, some more than a year.

That's a problem in two different ways. One, the longer you're out of the workforce, the harder it is to get back in, the harder it is to keep your energy up and want to keep trying. But also, people are less likely to hire you at that point. And you're stringing yourself up further in this chain of benefits.

Here's what people had at one point. State and federal emergency benefits would add up together to about 79 weeks of coverage. Federal extended benefits added another 20. So people at one point in the middle of this could count on about 99 weeks.

This is the result of an awful lot of work by Congress to say, Let's extend the benefits, extend the benefits because so many people are out of work for so long.

But now they're also looking at the deficit. They're trying to believe that the economy is getting better, so this part has been going away at states all over the country at different times based on the employment rate in that state, and more importantly, the change in that rate. So a state could actually have very bad unemployment, but if it's not getting worse, they may fall out of the system.

The bottom line is by September of this year, everybody is out of this system. This number is also being reduced in various places. So the number of people who are having no coverage at all, who are simply out of a job, out of money, out of all help, they're simply out there teetering on poverty, frankly.

So look at the country right now. Where are they? These are all the states and the various unemployment rates. You can see the terrible places like Nevada over here, California, huge problems there.

But now look at how many states have now triggered off of all those extended benefits. Right there, every yellow state -- and as I said, Wolf, by the end of the year, every single state will be this way, and that means even as the unemployment rate continues to be a problem, the hope that many people are counting on is getting less and less -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom, as you point out, some of those states do have very high unemployment problems right now. How and why are they being cut off?

FOREMAN: They're being cut off because of the relative rate of unemployment. So for example, you could have 15 percent unemployment or 13 percent unemployment. If it's not getting worse, then you reach after a period of time the point where they say, OK, you no longer need the extended benefits.

That's because the system was really designed for more temporary fluctuations in our economy. We -- frankly, it was designed for states having 12 percent unemployment and staying there for three years. It was designed for them going there for a year maybe, and then getting better, getting worse, whatever. That's why it's happening.

But the bottom line is they're essentially shutting the program down after many, many extensions because they're saying we simply don't have enough money to do this indefinitely. That's why they're all getting cut off, Wolf.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman, thanks very much.

Banning supersize sodas in the Big Apple -- a good idea or too much big government? Mayor Michael Bloomberg is firing back at critics.

And a troubling cause of death in Latin America. Does this scary parasitic disease pose a real threat in the United States?


BLITZER: New Yorkers could soon see limits on how much soda they're allowed to drink when they go out. It's all part of a new ban the city is proposing on so-called supersize sugary beverages as part of its controversial war on obesity. Our Mary Snow has the details.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Supersize drinks like this are the target of a first-of-its-kind ban that New York mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to impose. His proposal, prohibit sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces. He canceled an appearance at a news conference with his health commissioner, and instead went on MSNBC to answer to critics who say he's running a nanny state that's gone too far.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK: We're not taking away anybody's right to do anything. All we're trying to do is to remind you that this is something that could be -- should be -- is -- not should be, is detrimental to your health, and to do something about this national epidemic. It's not perfect.

SNOW: This is Bloomberg's latest health initiative to make waves. He's banned smoking in public places, cut out transfat in restaurants, and has restaurants post calories. In Harlem, which has some of the highest obesity and diabetes rates in the city, there's mixed opinions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that's not a bad idea. But if you raise the price or if you ban it, then our children have a better chance of, you know a healthy life

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's ridiculous. I think it's just another step in trying to control what people are doing, and I think it's unnecessary.

SNOW (on camera): Right now at McDonald's, this is a large. It's 32 ounces. But if this ban on large sugary drinks goes through, this small would be the new large.

(voice-over): McDonald's for one calls it "a narrowly-focused and misguided ban." A trade group for the city's restaurants say they'd be hit with burdensome restrictions. Movie theaters are calling it a "nanny approach." Vendors are also among the groups that would be affected since they rely on a health grade from the Board of Health. Supermarkets and convenience stores would not be impacted.

(on camera): Do you think this will make any difference?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do think it will make a difference.

SNOW (voice-over): Dr. Ileana Vargas, a pediatric endocrinologist, says the city's obesity rate among children is particularly high in poor neighborhoods, and she thinks sugar is a big problem.

DR. ILEANA VARGAS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Well, basically, it's about 13 to 14 teaspoons of sugar in this bottle.

SNOW: But the American Beverage Association says soda isn't driving the obesity rates, and it's not the first battle it's had with Mayor Bloomberg since he's tried but failed in the past to slap a tax on soda.

SUSAN NEELY, PRES. & CEO, AMERICAN BEVERAGE ASSOCIATION: Yes, soft drinks are a source of calories. We consume lots of other calories. Let's try to do serious things to fight obesity. And just picking on one source of food or beverage is not going to be the solution.

SNOW (on camera): The board of health is going to start considering this proposal next month. Now, if it's approved, it wouldn't go into effect until next year, and then restaurants would have nine months before they face $200 fines.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Millions of people are infected and it's a leading killer in Latin America. It's very, very tough to treat. So does this scary parasitic disease pose a growing threat in the United States?

Brian Todd has been digging into this important story for us. Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there is new concern about this disease because of the number of people infected. There is debate over whether it's a growing threat in the U.S. In some circles, it's drawing comparisons to another disease.


(voice-over): AIDS, the scourge of the post-war era, killing more than 25 million people over the past three decades. Is there a new AIDS on the horizon? Experts worry about a disease now affecting millions in Latin America.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: I like to call Chagas disease arguably the most important infection you've never heard about. And you've never heard about it because it almost exclusively affects people living in extreme poverty.

TODD: Chagas, a parasitic infection prevalent in poor areas of Central and South America. Dr. Peter Hotez is lead author of a recent editorial about Chagas in a respected medical journal. Health authorities say roughly 10 million people are infected with Chagas. Hotez estimates it kills at least 20,000 people a year.

(on camera): Is this difficult or impossible to cure?

HOTEZ: There are two medicines available, which if you catch the infection very early on, seem to have some beneficial effect on treating the patient.

The problem is, once the heart symptoms start, which is the most dreaded complication, the Chagas cardiomyopathy, the medicines no longer work very well, problem number one. Problem number two, the medicines are extremely toxic.

TODD (voice-over): Also, Hotez says, Chagas is like AIDS because it's contaminated part of the blood supply in South America.

(on camera): This is ground zero for Chagas, the reduviiae bug prevalent in Latin America. Experts say the parasite for Chagas lives in its guts. It likes to hide in wall crevices and thatched roofs. Then at night, it drops onto people who are sleeping.

It likes to bite you on the face. It's called the kissing bug. When it ingests your blood, it excretes the parasite at the same time. When you wake up and scratch the itch, the parasite moves into the wound and you're infected.

You can be infected with Chagas for decades before you actually get the severe symptoms of the disease. But then when you move into the severe stage, you can develop an enlarged heart or intestines that can burst.

(voice-over): But Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health says Hotez and others are overstating the danger of Chagas.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF HEALTH (via telephone): I'm concerned that when people talk about comparisons with HIV that that comparison would translate into thinking it's transmitted like it is with HIV, which is just not the case.

TODD: Fauci says Chagas is transmitted primarily by the bug biting you, by pregnant women infecting their children, and by people living in areas where it's prevalent donating blood that's not screened.


TODD: Dr. Fauci says only about 20 percent of people who get infected will go on to get the life-threatening form of the disease. Fauci says Chagas does not pose a significant danger to people in the United States, but Dr. Peter Hotez disagrees, saying there is transmission in south Texas, that those reduviiae bugs can be found in south Texas and that many dogs in that area have Chagas -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thanks very much for that report. We'll continue to watch that story.

Mitt Romney getting some grief for a rather embarrassing misspelling involving the very country he wants to be president of.


BLITZER: Mitt Romney wants to be president of the United States of America, but this week, it was the word "America" that was causing him some grief. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


MITT ROMNEY (R-MA), FMR. GOV., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: (SINGING) -- above the fruited plain...

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The candidate may love singing about it... ROMNEY: (SINGING) -- America...

MOOS: ... but that didn't stop his campaign from misspelling it.

(on camera): How would you pronounce this word?





UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow. Who was the genius?

MOOS (voice-over): It was whoever did this campaign app. Supporters are supposed to download A Better America and put photos of themselves in the frame. But instead, there was the apparent typo that no one caught, which, of course, spawned T-shirts, and then smart-alecs began putting all kinds of things in the background, from an Etch-a-Sketch to a dictionary to a photo of school misspelled at a school crossing. One guy reviewed the campaign app as being hours of fun.

(on camera): A "do-it-yourself political satire kit," he called it.

(voice-over): Another critic juxtaposed the misspelling with a "respect our country, speak English" photo. The Romney campaign would say only that the mistake has been fixed. Not since vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle encouraged a kid to put an "e" at the end of potato...


MOOS: -- has a political spelling mistake been so much f-u-n. And though many pronounced the typo ...



MOOS: ... we prefer Amercia.

(on camera): Amercia! It's a sound you can immerse yourself in.

(voice-over): It probably sounds like a beautiful country to the person who tweeted "If Mitt Romney wins, I'm moving to Amercia." As for Romney himself ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We should probably see his birth certificate to make sure he's not from Amercia.

MOOS (on camera): Or maybe it sounds more like a disease to the person who tweeted, "If you or somebody you love is suffering from Amercia," related perhaps to inertia. We can almost understand how someone could spell "yield" wrong or put an extra "e" in a tattoo that's supposed to include the word "else."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you look it up in the dictionary, there ain't even a word such as "elese."

MOOS: And no wonder kids have trouble spelling words like...



MOOS: But come on, this is the word "America."

ROMNEY: America the beautiful ...

MOOS: Also known as "Amercia teh buetiflu."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, maybe he should run for president there.

MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN ...

ROMNEY: (SINGING) -- America ...

MOOS: ... in New York.

ROMNEY: (SINGING) -- God shed his grace...


BLITZER: Stuff happens.

That does it for me. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.