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The Father Of Sandy Hook Victim Makes Emotional Plea To Congress; Forced Spending Cuts Being Implemented; Basketball Diplomacy; Yahoo! CEO Takes Hard Stance Against Telecommuting

Aired March 2, 2013 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: His life was ripped apart by the Newtown Connecticut massacre, now a grieving father makes An emotional plea to Congress. We will talk about gun violence with the New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Also, a wave of deadly violence, and new political upheaval in Iraq. I will speak with CNN's Arwa Damon who is just back from Baghdad.

Also, an unlikely visitor, the secret of North Korea, the vast of all-star Dennis Rodman.

We want to welcome our viewers from the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All that and more coming up but first let's check in with the CNN center in Atlanta for the latest headlines.

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, Wolf, thank you. I'm Alina Cho, at the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. We are taking a look at the headlines now.

The spending cuts once considered too painful even to consider are now the law of the land. President Obama and congressional Republicans could not reach a compromise to avoid the $85 billion in automatic cuts. They will not happen all at once, instead they will come over time. As you might expect, the president and Republicans are pointing fingers at each other over their failure to reach a deal.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Probably would be a lot better ways to reduce that spending than by the formula approach of the sequester. But we don't intend to reduce spending a penny less than we all promised to the American people we would reduce spending in August of 2011.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: These cuts are not smart. They will hurt our economy and cost us jobs. And Congress can turn them off at any time as soon as both sides are willing to compromise.


CHO: The cuts will hit different agencies in different ways. And there has been some confusion over how they will take effect. One good example is this. The FAA held a conference call yesterday to back away from the announcement earlier this week, that 160 air traffic controller towers around the country would have to close on April 1st. Contractors who were invited to listen in were told the original announcements of the cuts had not been authorized.

I'm Alina Cho at Atlanta. I will see you back here in one hour's time.

Now back to Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

BLITZER: Thanks very much.

Let's go in depth right now on those forced budget cuts. Joining us are CNN political - senior political analyst, Ron Brownstein, and our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

You know Gloria, they were not supposed to happen this so-called sequester forced budget cuts. What happened?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: This was supposed to be the sort of Damocles, right? And it was something that they would never allow to come down. And now if you look where we are, suddenly, people on both sides of the aisle are saying, you know what, this is something we could live with. They couldn't live with defaulting on the debt. They couldn't live with raising people's taxes on the middle class, on the fiscal crisis, suddenly, Democrats are saying we cut at the Pentagon and conservative Republicans are saying this is the down payment on budget cuts. Not the right way to do it, but suddenly we can do it.

The president of the United States came out on Friday, and said you know what? This is a choice the Republicans are making. And the Republicans came out and said this is quote, "the president's sequester." So, blame game going on. But privately, I think they can live with it.

BLITZER: We shouldn't be too surprised. He met on Friday, the president, with the Republican and Democratic leadership from the house and Senate. And then, he went in the White House briefing room and said this.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We just need Republicans in Congress to catch up with their own party and the country on this. And if they did so we could make a lot of progress. I do know that there are Republicans in Congress who privately, at least, say that they would rather close tax loopholes than let these cuts go through. I know that there are Democrats who would rather do smart entitlement reform than let these cuts go through. So there is a caucus of common sense up on Capitol Hill. It is just a silent group right now. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: I think he has got a good point. There is probably a caucus of common sense, but they are politically fearful, a lot of these guys, of speaking up.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We are seeing, we are living through an historic erosion of our capacity to solve problems as a country. I mean, you think about all the different mechanisms that are being used to force these sides to come together and make a deal whose basic construct is clear to everyone involve whether it was the debt ceiling, whether it was the fiscal cliff, whether it was the sequester or even the election of 2012. But send back a democratic and Republican congress, and yet still neither side can get across the lines to do what polls show the public would support, a broad balanced deal that include some entitlement reform and some additional revenue.

BORGER: And by the way, they support it. The president says --

BROWNSTEIN: Well, the Republicans don't support further revenue, no net revenue.

BORGER: No, the Republicans say they would support closing tax loopholes.

BROWNSTEIN: Only to cut rates.

BORGER: If it is in the context of lowering rates. So - OK, wait a minute.


BORGER: They both support closing loopholes in different context. They both support some kind of entitlement reform. What they can't figure out is how to get over this bump, right? How to get over this forced spending cut issue. But, in some grand bargain idea, which of course don't forget, the president and the speaker once almost got to, they first have to get to this. Speaker Boehner has to be able to deal with his Republican congress.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, the biggest hurdle now is that Republicans will not include further revenue. And that, I think, is a product in part of the decision the president the way the negotiations hold folded on the fiscal cliff where they took a deal that extended 82 percent of the Bush tax cuts. More than they believed they, you know, would be required to fund, the government going forward. So now, you are in a position of having to ask Republicans to raise a second time, which is not easier the second time.

BORGER: As one said to me, we already gave at the office, we're not going to do it again.

BLITZER: Although Lindsey Graham, the senator from South Carolina, I interviewed him this week. And he is part of what that, just for the president would call that, caucus of common sense, at least on this issue he made it clear, he is ready to work out a big picture deal. Let me play this little clip.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think the only way out is a big deal. Republicans are not going to raise revenue to pay for sequestration. And I don't really believe we can do anything in the short term, sequester --

BLITZER: When you say raise revenue, you mean raise taxes?

GRAHAM: Yes, eliminating deductions and loopholes, count me in for that but put the money on the debt.


BROWNSTEIN: Right, that is the framework of a deal that is out there. Further revenue coupled with entitlement reform. From the reality is what Lindsey Graham is saying, is virtually Republicans can't get what they prized most, entitlement reform that will slow the growth of government without President Obama's signature for the next four years. And the only way to get that is by tying it to revenue. And conversely, I think, you know, if you think about the president's long-term goals here, accelerating economic growth delivers better outcomes for the key groups is coalition is critical. And all of these constant land mine explosions inhibit that despite is serving neither side long-term interest rate.

BORGER: And in the long-term, when you look at public opinion, right, the president has the upper-hand, Wolf. His favorability is 49 percent, Republican favorability, 29 percent. But in the long-term, if they can't get past this, if they can't avert the shutting down of the government at the end of March, it is going to hurt all of them. And that is why we heard, the president at his press conference sort of point out you know what? We have got other things we want to do. We have got -- we passed the violence against women act. We're going to do immigration reform. He understands that his legacy is also at play in all of these continuing fiscal crises.

BLITZER: We have to wrap up the discussion. But, I will wrap it up with a quote from Ron Brownstein's excellent article, the new issue of "the National Journal." He writes the two sides are past the point for further confrontation will give either more leverage to achieve its goals. The fight ominously is now feeding on itself.

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, winning battles and losing the war on both sides at this point.

BLITZER: Ron, Gloria, guys, thanks very much.

BORGER: Third party?


BLITZER: Up next, I speak with Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York. We will talk about the impact of the cuts on his city. Why did the New York city mayor spend millions of dollars also on an Illinois house race?


BLITZER: Gun restrictions are certainly on the front burner on Capitol Hill right now. At a hearing, the father of one of the children killed in last December's school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, pleaded with lawmakers to ban the sale of automatic weapons.


NEIL HESLIN, FATHER OF NEWTOWN MASSACRE VICTIM: Jesse gave me a hug and a kiss at that time. Said good-bye, I love you. He stopped. He said I love mom, too. That was the last I saw of Jesse as he ducked around the corner. Prior to that when he was getting out of the truck, he hugged me and held me. That, I can still feel. That hug, and the pat on the back. He said everything is going to be OK, dad. It is all going to be OK. And it was not OK.

I have to go home at night to an empty house without my son. Something that should have never happened at an elementary school. People argue about the second amendment, well, the second amendment says well-regulated militia, to bear arms, safe, freedom of state. It has not been well-regulated.


BLITZER: Well, what a powerful statement. The New York city mayor Michael Bloomberg is taking an active role in the gun care fight, very active. He spent millions of dollars to help a pro-gun control congressional candidate who won her primary race in Illinois this past week.

The mayor and I spoke about that and more when we met on Capitol Hill.


BLITZER: Why did you decide to come to Washington?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: Well, yesterday in Illinois, the public had a chance to learn all the facts about who stood for what in terms of enforcing gun laws that are on the books and keeping people safe. And they spoke. And the results were exactly what the polls had said they would be. Ninety percent of the people in this country want responsible gun laws. And I'm down here to try to explain to others that this is a great victory for the public. It is a great victory for our kids who have been getting murdered in the streets. And they have been getting murdered in the streets in urban as well as rural as well as suburban areas.

BLITZER: And you were willing to put your money where your mouth is?

BLOOMBERG: Well, you know, it is the NRA has had the field to itself of talking about guns. And it is time for a balanced approach so the public can get the information, and then let the public decide.

BLITZER: That win in Chicago, did it underscore that in order to fight the NRA, you really have to come up with a lot of money. Is that the lesson you learned?

BLOOMBERG: No, but I think it is a harbinger of what is happening here. You don't have to put the money into the race. In the end, the money doesn't matter. It is the people that show up at the polls.

BORGER: But, money doesn't hurt.

BLOOMBERG: Well, it does take something to get information out. Media costs money. CNN charges for --

BLITZER: For advertising.

BLOOMBERG: But it is o-- this is really a chance for the public to just get the facts.

BLITZER: So your message to the NRA right now is?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I don't have a message for the NRA. I have a message for people that if they want to be heard, if they want to make this country safer for themselves and their kids, you got to go to the polls. And you have got to express yourself. And vote for people who want sensible gun rules. Sensible interpretation of the second amendment, protect the second amendment, but also make sure people who are minors, have criminal records are substance abuse problems or mental illness, don't get their hands on the guns. And it is particularly poignant, when you think about every year in America, 12 thousand people will get murdered with handguns, has de-capped at the same in the rural areas as the urban areas, but even more tragic to someone like 19,000 suicides with handguns. Every year, every parent's worst nightmare. And we have to make it harder to get guns.

In New York, our suicide rate is half the national average and that's because our suicide rate with guns is at the tenth the national average. If you make it somewhat harder to get guns, people don't kill themselves.

BLITZER: But you're willing to put in can we say tens of millions, hundreds of millions?

BLOOMBERG: You know the most important thing here is making people understand. They will, from watching your program, and you explaining what happened in Illinois, and the fact that the people have spoken, have spoken, I think that will have as much impact as anybody else will have.

BLITZER: I have been watching Congress for a long time. I think you and your side have an excellent chance to expand the background checks. Maybe a chance on the magazines. Not much of a chance on assault weapons, then.

BLOOMBERG: Well, Wolf, you see -- BLITZER: I mean, here is the question. Are you ready to see all of these individual components split up into separate pieces of legislation? Or is it all in one big package?

BLOOMBERG: Well, I would be in favor of all of those things. But, there are a number of military people that talk about assault weapons saying these are instruments of war. They don't belong on our streets. They certainly don't keep you safe. If anything, they increase the danger, they get into the wrong hands and you will be the victim. Same thing with the high-capacity magazines. You don't need these things to sports and you certainly don't them for hunting. But, what we need to do is pass these. And if they can be done as one package or be done individually, as long as they get done, I think the country will be a lot better off.

BLITZER: Have you decided what you're going to do after you leave office?

BLOOMBERG: 307 days from now, I have not.

BLITZER: Who is counting?

BLOOMBERG: Well, we have a big count-down clock where it says make every day count. Yes, my first concern is to get people jobs who have been loyal and that sort of thing. And then I'll worry about it.

BLITZER: You have an endorsement --

BLOOMBERG: Not yet, no.

BLITZER: Do you think you will?

BLOOMBERG: We'll see.

BLITZER: Is it possible?

BLOOMBERG: Yes, it is possible.


BLITZER: Hard to believe to some of us, but this some month marks ten years since the invasion of Iraq. Could it actually be worse now than it was before? What is going on in Baghdad? And Iraq right now. Arwa Damon is on scene.


BLITZER: There is no sugar coating the situation, Iraq right now is a mess. The string of roadside bombs, protests daily against the Shiite-led government of Nouri al-Maliki. I spoke about all of this with somebody who has reported from Iraq for years and years. She was there ten years ago when the U.S. went in and removed Saddam Hussein.

Our senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: I know you just came back, you spent what? About a month in Iraq preparing for some reports to be released next month, the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion, the removal of Saddam Hussein. I was in Kuwait getting ready for that. You were there, as well, among the first reporters in Baghdad. I'm very worried about what is going on in Iraq right now, the regime of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki since all U.S. trips are out of Iraq seems to be getting closer and closer towards Iran right now and letting weapons go from Iran through Iraq to Syria. There are tensions between the Shiite government and Sunnis, the Kurds in the north. They basically want their own little independent enclave. How bad is the situation?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is devastating, Wolf. It is incredibly depressing when one looks at all that has been sacrificed in Iraq over the last ten years. And as you were saying, I have been going there regularly. And I can say that during this last trip, even the Iraqis who used to be hopeful throughout all of it, throughout the worst of the violence, are now telling me they have lost hope. That they are ready to turn their back on the country at this point, because of all the various factors and realities that you just mentioned there.

We now have a nation that effectively looks more towards Iran than it does towards the west. We have a nation that is allowing weapons to cross its border, turning a blind eye effectively to the weapons moving from Iran in to the Syrian battlefield.

The sectarian tensions in Iraq are threatening to boil over. The Iraqi prime minister is increasingly being compared to a Shiite version of Saddam Hussein. You have a government that in its essence, that in its very formation is so fundamentally flawed, built upon blocks that have nothing to do with nationalism or wanting to better nation, but rather blocks that are based in, in a sectarian nature that continue to prevent the country from really being able to move forward.

Iraq has, in fact, managed to significantly increase its oil production, as oil revenue. But none of that is cycling back into the population, things like basic services, power, it is still only being provided for around two to six hours a day.

And the Iraqi population, Wolf, having been through everything that they went through, having survived the violence now feel as if they emerged from this era of fierce death and destruction. But they look around themselves and they don't really see a nation that they can truly recognize. Many of them say that they feel lost within their own country. So Iraq's future is most certainly not stable or secure at this moment. And right now we are also hearing from the prime minister himself, from other senior members within the Iraqi government, they're incredibly concerned about what is going to happen to Iraq should the Assad regime fall. They are very worried about violence significantly spilling over there. They're also very worried. And this is a very realistic likelihood that the sectarian violence there could erupt once more, Wolf.

BLITZER: We are going to be talking a lot about this in the coming days, Arwa, you and me and a lot of other experts. This is a heartbreaking story.

Ten years ago there were such great expectations. The U.S. went in with hundreds of thousands of troops, lost 4500 U.S. men and women. Tens of thousands came home severely injured or crippled or burned with post-traumatic stress disorder. And millions were spent, and what emerges from all of this is obviously a disaster unfolding right now. We are going to have a lot more on this story in Iraq. We have not really paid a whole lot of attention to it since the U.S. pulled out all the military forces. But it is a real disaster unfolding right now, and Arwa will join us.

Thanks very much, Arwa, for that report.

And when we come back, odd photos of a real odd couple. North Korea's Kim Jong-Un and basketball star, Dennis Rodman. That's next.


BLITZER: In the history of the international diplomacy, these have to be some of the strangest pictures ever. Take a look. The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Un, and the former Nba superstar, Dennis Rodman, sharing laughs at a basketball game in Pyongyang. That makes Rodman, for all practical purposes as much as we know, the first American to meet the reclusive North Korean leader.

CNN's Mary Snow has more pictures and more on what's going on.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These two give new meaning to the odd couple. Basketball Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman and North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, chumming it up courtside in Pyongyang. Rodman is said to have told his new buddy that he now has a friend for life. They watched the Harlem Globetrotters play basketball as part of a new HBO show being filmed.

SHANE SMITH, FOUNDER, VICE (ph): Our sort of tagline for the show is "it's the absurdity of the modern condition." Well, if anything shows the absurdity of the modern condition, it's this.

SNOW: Shane Smith is the show's producer. He sent Rodman and the Globetrotters to North Korea earlier this week for a little basketball diplomacy. State media showed them touring Pyongyang.

It was not assured they'd have an audience with the feared leader, but in the end, they not only met with him, but dined with him at his palace after the game.

Once at the palace, the theme from the show "Dallas" was said to be constantly playing in the background.

The bizarre meeting comes just weeks after North Korea had announced it had conducted a nuclear test and tensions with the U.S. Are particularly high. Former White House adviser and negotiator, Victor Cha, says while this meeting is surprising, Kim Jong-un has done a lot of unpredictable things since taking over. PROFESSOR VICTOR CHA, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: Well, I think the North Koreans try to use opportunities like this to congratulate themselves on their accomplishments, as they see them, as well as congratulate this new leadership and try to give him legitimacy on a world stage. So, yes, it is a poke in the eye of the administration, because outside the world of basketball diplomacy, things are moving in a completely different direction.

SNOW: While North Korea has no love for the U.S., it does have a soft spot for basketball and the Chicago Bulls. Former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, even gave former leader Kim Jong-Il a basketball signed by Michael Jordan as part of her negotiations. Since Rodman played for the Bulls and seems up for anything, the show's producer saw an opening.

SMITH: So if we can open line of communication, if we can have dialogue, it's always better to talk than to fight. So that's what we hope comes out of this.

SNOW: The film crew was said to have invited Kim Jong-un to America, which was apparently met with laughter. And in case you're wondering in that exhibition game, which had mixed teams of both Americans and North Koreans, the final score was tied and 110. The show was slated to air in April on HBO, which like CNN, isowned by Time Warner.

Mary Snow, CNN, New York.



BLITZER: Joining us now with the inside story on how this all came about is the vice co-founder, Shane Smith. Shane, thanks very much for coming in. I assume like you - like me, you were amazed by what is going on right now?

SHANE SMITH, CO-FOUNDER, VICE: It's beyond words, really. I mean, I've been there twice. I know you've been there as well, and it's one of the hardest countries to get in to, especially as a journalist. And so, after my second time, I realized that basketball was the sort of only American pastime or cultural pursuit that is acceptable in North Korea.

So, we put together the idea along with our producer, Jason Mohika (ph), to go over there with Dennis and the Harlem Globetrotters to have this sort of basketball diplomacy, if you will.

BLITZER: Yes. It's an amazing diplomacy. I will point out that they did invite a few years ago, the New York Philharmonic to come over as well, and they were well received when they performed in Pyongyang. The New York Philharmonic, Dennis Rodman, the Harlem Globetrotters, obviously, very different, but it does send a message.

So, walk us through. You pitched this idea. Was it your initiative? Was it their initiative? How did it come about? SMITH: It came about when I went to the Kim Il-Song Hall of Treasures, which is deep down in the mountain, all the treasures that people have given to Kim Il-Song, and there was the famous basketball that was actually given to Kim Jong-Il that Madeleine Albright gave to him signed by Michael Jordan.

So, that -- since then, basketball and the Bulls, in particular, have become sort of, you know, I won't say heroes but, you know, very, very respected within North Korea. So, we came back and we thought, hey, you know, why don't we put together a team, go over there, play some basketball, you know, work with the kids, and, you know, see what comes up.

We thought that Kim Jong-Un would come to the game, but we weren't sure. Then, he showed up to the game, had a blast, was hanging out with Dennis Rodman, and they were enjoying it, and then invited the whole crew, the "Vice" crew and Globetrotters and Dennis back to his palace for a big banquet and a hang and lots of speeches, and apparently, that went great.

BLITZER: You know, it is really amazing when you think about it. We're showing you some pictures of Dennis and the Harlem Globetrotters there. I'll give you -- I'll give them a shout out. The "Vice" correspondent, Ryan Duffy (ph), and then from the Harlem Globetrotters, Moose Weekes, Buckets Blakes, and Bull Bullard. They are all there right now.

By the way, that interpreter that you see there, when I was there, he was the same guy. Very nice guy, by the way. What are you hearing from them? Have you been in communication with them? Are they allowed to make phone calls to you, send e-mails? Have you been in direct touch?

SMITH: I have been, and you know, which, as you know, it's quite a change, because it used to be when you went in, you couldn't take computers or phones. You, for sure, couldn't tweet or send e-mails. But I talked to Ryan, our correspondent this morning. He told me about this speech in which he invited Kim Jong-Un and his delegation to come to America and see how we live.

Dennis made a very heartfelt speech that was very well-received. There was a lot of laughter, a lot of clapping. Now, what Ryan said to me was that Dennis had told him, so I can't really confirm it until I talk to Dennis, that, you know, he wished that this would bring North Korea and American relations closer or in a better way. So, for us that was just -- we couldn't believe that.

So, I mean, hopefully, obviously, look, there's a lot of problems. You've been there. You understand. It's as diametrically opposed as you can possibly be philosophically to America. But, you know, if you go there and play some basketball and I mean, who doesn't love the Harlem Globetrotters? So, they put a smile on everybody's face.

BLITZER: They certainly do. You know, it's amazing because those of us old enough to remember Ping-Pong diplomacy in the bad old day of U.S.-China relations, that was a bridge. Maybe this will do something. Did you get clearance? Did you ask the state department, the Obama administration for a green light before you went?

SMITH: No, we did not. You know, we put it together ourselves. I had had some contacts from my trips over there. They then sent it here to the United Nations delegation and their team here. We worked a lot with them. They came out to our offices. We ran through the whole program with them and, you know, we actually didn't really know, you know, if we were all going to get in until we got to Beijing.

So, it was a sort of a last minute -thing - not last minute, but we didn't really know until the last minute.

BLITZER: And with all due respect, Dennis Rodman, all of us remember, was a great, great player for the Chicago Bulls and we all love the Harlem Globetrotters. There's only one thing, based on my conversations with North Koreans when I was there, Shane, that would have topped this. That would have been if Michael Jordan, himself, would have gone, that would have blown out the entire place over there, I can assure you. Don't you agree?

SMITH: A 100 percent. A 100 percent. I mean, Michael Jordan is a god, the greatest player that ever played the game, but he's a huge god in North Korea. Michael, if you're watching this, basketball diplomacy, man. Get over there. We need your help.

BLITZER: It would have been amazing if he goes. Let me just point out, I'm happy to go with him. I'd like to meet Kim Jong-Un as well. You know, so many people have gone over there, but it's rare. I think -- is it fair to say this picture -- when I was there with Bill Richardson, the former United States ambassador to the United Nations, we were there for six days.

And more recently, Richardson was back with the head of Google. They met with top officials, but certainly, not with Kim Jong-Un. What you're saying is there was no guarantee of this meeting, but you assumed it would take place. They would watch a little basketball together?

SMITH: We didn't assume. We hoped. We hoped it would take place. We thought that because we knew of his love of basketball and his love of the Chicago Bulls, much like his father, that he would come out and he did and enjoyed the game, and then, you know, much to our surprise and reality, asked everybody back to his house and they had supper and a lot of talks.

And so, you know, we're waiting to get the footage back with bated breath.

BLITZER: We'd love to speak to Dennis and the other guys either from there or from Beijing. I know they used to have to fly from Pyongyang to Beijing and then connect back to New York. Would you let him know that as soon as they got some phone contact, we'd like to put him on the air here in the SITUATION ROOM and get their first person eyewitness accounts of what's going on? SMITH: A 100 percent we'll get Dennis and also Ryan Duffy (ph), our correspondent. They both have some crazy stories to tell, I'm sure.

BLITZER: I'm sure they do. And we're anxious to share with our viewers here in the United States and around the world. And I just want to point out our show, CNN International, at least (ph) the hotel I was stayed at in Pyongyang, we did get CNN International. There's folks who are watching. They might be watching you right now even as we speak.

Shane, give our best to Dennis and the other guys. And we hopefully, the next couple of days, we'll be talking with him. Appreciate it very much.

SMITH: Thank you, Wolf.


BLITZER: An historic moment for civil rights. Rosa Parks' statue unveiled up on Capitol Hill. And when we come back, my special interview with someone who knew her quite well, the Reverend Jesse Jackson. He's opening up about that and much more.


BLITZER: From the back of the bus in the 1950s, all the way to a permanent spot up on Capitol Hill. Democrats and Republicans alike joined this week to honor Rosa Parks as her statue was unveiled. And it was an extraordinary moment in the history civil rights movement. I spoke about it with a civil rights activist, the Reverend Jesse Jackson.


BLITZER: And a lot of people don't know, that it was your son, Jesse Jackson, Jr., as a United States congressman, who introduced the legislation to create the statue that was unveiled today. We have a picture that we're showing our viewers -- there he is standing right behind President Bush. He signed that legislation into law.

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW PUSH COALITION: That was a very proud moment. He was able to get both the Rosa Parks statue -- and a standing statue, in contrast with Arthur King's bust -- a standing statue, with her facing Jefferson Davis, the head of the Confederacy. And behind her, to her left and right, are the Confederates. So she was right into history.

He also was able to get the new visitor's hall named Emancipation Hall, and so he is very steeped in history. And so it was -- that was a proud moment as well.

BLITZER: How sad are you, as a result of what has happened -- he's pleading guilty now. He's about to go to jail.

JACKSON: Well, that could be the case. It's zero-to-five. It is a very painful moment. It's a sad chapter, perhaps not the last chapter. He has been quite contrite, accepted his responsibility. He did not lean on his sickness, his bipolar disorder, which has been considerable. He said, I face the consequences of my decisions, and I think he is standing up with dignity, fighting these odds, and made me -- I love him so much, and so very proud of him yet.

BLITZER: You're still very proud of him. Because I'm going to play a clip -- this is the U.S. attorney, in Chicago, who prosecuted. Listen to what he said. As you know, your son let a lot of people down.


RONALD MACHEN, U.S. ATTORNEY: Those contributors were people of modest means -- senior citizens, on fixed income, auto workers, teachers, plumbers. They donated their hard-earned money so that he could, through his political movement, somehow better their lives. He betrayed their trust. He spent their money, that was designed, or intended, to be used to further his elections, on items of excess.


BLITZER: You hear that powerful sound bite --

JACKSON: He said he let them down. That was his contrition toward his supporters. I don't feel any need to try to counter the argument, because that's in the legal domain. There will be a sentencing hearing June 24th. Suffice to say, I'm his father, and I have -- once I got into -- his first issue was his health. He's still battling with biploar disorder. He's now spending his time on his medical regimen and scribbling out notes how to help other people with bipolar disorder. So even as he comes unto himself, he is still serving.

Look back at the record he did achieve, and what I think he will achieve beyond this moment, I still embrace him very much.

BLITZER: So you think, if he goes to jail, if he comes out of jail, he's got a chapter two?

JACKSON: Jesse's 47 years old; he has more work to do.

BLITZER: Is it because of the biploar disease that he broke down like this?

JACKSON: You know, I do not know. I'm reluctant to put forth an argument. I could make a case if it were someone else. But this case now goes to the judge, and the federal judge must make a determination. I don't want anything I say, do, or write to have an impact on the outcome.

There are people now who are writing letters all over the nation from things he has done for them. A woman came up to me a few days ago, a United Airlines worker. On the back of her card, she wrote, Thank you, Congressman Jackson. You helped save my house -- thank you.

Someone else said, I was in Ford Heights (ph), and we didn't have drinkable water. The water was golden (ph), and we could not wash our clothes in that water. You got us a water tank. So, thank you.

These kind of letters, of course, has an impact upon what the jury finally sees the character of Jesse Jr, as it unfolds. And so, I'll let that case rest. I'll just be his loving father.

BLITZER: It's now up to one judge, who will determine if he goes to jail, and how long he spends in jail. As part of the plea bargain agreement --

JACKSON: The judge will have to weigh what the prosecutor's argument is, and what Jesse's lawyers' argument is. There are mutual arguments, and the judge will make a final decision. And so, it's not for me, at this point, to weigh in with an opinion.

BLITZER: What about your daughter-in-law?

JACKSON: Wolf, likewise, it's a family, and they both pled guilty. They both pled with contrition and a sense of sorrow. But they will keep working. They'll keep serving the people. And I appreciate that about the both of them.

BLITZER: The other issue I want to raise with you, the violence that's going on. The killing, the slaughter in Chicago, your hometown right now. A lot more Americans have been killed in Chicago this past year than were killed in Afghanistan.

JACKSON: Wolf, to be sure, there are no gun (INAUDIBLE) in Chicago. But the guns are made Barrington (ph) in the suburbs and in Rock Island. And so, we have no capacity to stop the guns - if you're in Iraq and you're a general, you knew where guns were manufactured and where they were sold from, you would stop their trail. We can't stop the flow of guns coming in.

BLITZER: You have confidence in the mayor, Rahm Emanuel?

JACKSON: I think he's done a good job, but he has a limited - he cannot stop guns from coming in. He cannot stop drugs from coming. He cannot stop jobs from going out. He cannot stop banks (INAUDIBLE) poverty.

So, when the president comes to town and says let's stop the killing. Let's (INAUDIBLE) gun laws, that day (INAUDIBLE). Because unless you look at it comprehensively, you will not in fact be able to deal with a several-legged stool (ph). This is guns are in, drugs in, jobs out, home (INAUDIBLE), poverty, unemployment that equals the need for some kind of plan for economic reconstruction. We need a kind of economic reconstruction. Development banks (ph) start to begin to lift people up out of the pain of recycling their fears.

BLITZER: Reverend Jackson, an emotional day for you here in Washington. Thanks for coming in.

JACKSON: Thank you, sir.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: And coming up, one of America's leading high-tech companies has a new low-tech tech policy regarding how and where its employees do their work. The surprising decision from Yahoo! -- that is just ahead.


BLITZER: Tech companies have been trendsetters when it comes to allowing works to telecommute. But now Yahoo! is reversing course, telling its employees no more working from home. Here's our Lisa Sylvester.


LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Marissa Mayer, named one of "Fortune" magazine's most powerful women, says she has to ruthlessly prioritize. Mayer, who famously or infamously, depending on who you asked, returned to work two weeks after giving birth, is shaking up the debate over work-life balance issues.

In this memo first obtained by the tech blog AllThingsD, Yahoo's human resources director outlines a new policy. No more working from home. Quote, "To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important. So we need to be working side by side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices." Workers currently telecommuting have until June to either get comfy working out of the office or leave.

Yahoo's new policy was ripped by some commentators. Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin, said the decision seems backwards at a time when remote working is easier and more effective than ever, adding, quote, "Yours truly has never worked out of an office and never will." Blogger Lisa Belkin, writing for "The Huffington Post," sees it as a direct dig against working parents.

LISA BELKIN, BLOGGER: I think it's backwards. I think it's the opposite what she -- of what she should have done.

SYLVESTER: And CEO Eric Holtzclaw of marketing company Laddering Works, says not only does he let his employees work from home, he logs time away from the office as well.

ERIC HOLTZCLAW, CEO, LADDERING WORKS: I am always more efficient when I work from home and working from home or working from a third location. So, I do a lot of writing and I think that if you work in a coffee shop, and some of those kind of places, you'll get more inspiration.

SYLVESTER: Mayer is bucking the trend. Nine-and-a-half percent of workers worked from home at least one day a week in 2010. That's up from seven percent in 1997.

But her decision doesn't come out of the blue. She came from Google, a company that likes the collaborative atmosphere when workers have face-to-face time. And she is in the middle of a turnaround for Yahoo!. We reached out to Yahoo! but the company declined to comment. The Web site Business Insider did talk to some Yahoo! employees and not all of them are upset.

ALYSON SHONTELL, BUSINESS INSIDER: It was getting way too lenient and people weren't using their best judgment, necessarily with working for home versus working in the office, to the point that some of them didn't even realize their colleagues still work for Yahoo!.They were coming in so infrequently or not at all.

SYLVESTER (on camera): It's surprising, though, because it's coming from Yahoo!. Tech companies have traditionally been trailblazers when it comes to telecommuting. Take Cisco, for example. Ninety percent of its workers work from home at least one day a week.

Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: When we come back, a unique display at a Chinese shopping mall, next. Hot Shots. They're next.


BLITZER: Let's wrap it up with a look at this hour's Hot Shots. Look at these. In Gaza, fishermen collect stingrays on the beach. In Yemen, presidential supporters climb up flag poles during a celebration. In China, toy soldiers and wolves are on display at a mall. And in Tunisia, a student performs the Internet sensation the Harlem Shake. Hot Shots, pictures coming in from around the world.

That's it for me, thanks so much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. The news continues next on CNN.