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CNN WOLF BLITZER REPORTS

Yasser Arafat's Health Deteriorating; Charges Fly Over Missing Explosives; Pat O'Brien Discusses Howard Stern, Bruce Springsteen, Rudy Giuliani

Aired October 27, 2004 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now -- Reports the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's health has deteriorated and that a team of doctors has gone to his Ramallah headquarters to examine him. We're looking at live pictures now of the Ramallah headquarters on the West Bank. Stand by for hard news on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): Missing explosives.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we're seeing is a White House that is dodging and bobbing and weaving

GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The senator is making wild charges.

BLITZER: Missing ballots.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It makes me feel like, in a way, we live in a third world country.

BLITZER: They're already voting, but it's not always easy.

Over a barrel -- can you afford to fill your gas tank? Does either candidate have an answer?

Insider -- what do Howard Stern, Bruce Springsteen, and Rudy Giuliani have in common? They're hot topics today for Pat O'Brien.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: This is WOLF BLITZER REPORTS for Wednesday, October 27th, 2004.

BLITZER (on camera): Thanks for joining us from New York City. We begin with late-breaking word out of the Middle East. The Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's health has deteriorated, and a team of doctors has returned to his compound on the West Bank, that according to Arafat's senior advisor.

Israel Radio reporting Arafat lost consciousness and has not yet regained it, but a Palestinian official is denying that. The 75-year- old Palestinian leader has been ill for the past two weeks. Your looking now at live pictures of his compound on the West Bank in Ramallah where he's been for the last two-and-a-half years, prevented by Israeli authorities from leaving there. They say he can leave, but there's no guarantee they'll ever let him back in, so he's stayed there for the past two-and-a-half years.

He's been sick for the past two weeks. His doctor said yesterday that tests showed he does not have cancer of the digestive track. Doctors have previously said he has a bad case of the flu.

For the very latest, though, let's go to Jerusalem. CNN's John Vause joining us on the phone. John, what are you hearing?

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as of a few moments ago, sources close to the Palestinian Authority told me that the Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat is still unconscious. He has not regained consciousness. That is what we're being told right now.

We're being told that he's in a serious condition, but that condition has stabilized over the last few hours or so, that ambulances and medical crew have been moved to his Muqata, his compound in Ramallah. And it is true that what I've been told by Palestinian sources, at least, that while doctors from Tunisia had conducted exploratory -- minor exploratory surgery in the last few days, an endoscopy to find out what the problem was. And they gave him the all-clear after that surgery.

What the problem is is they do not know what is causing him to continue to throw up. He's been unable to keep food down, I'm told, for the past 10 days. I've been told that Arafat has refused to take an IV drip. He has also refused to leave his compound, even though the Israeli government, the Defense Department has cleared the way for him to attend -- to travel to a hospital.

As you say, there's no guarantee he'll be allowed back into his Ramallah compound, so he's refusing to leave right now. Sources close to Arafat say there has been some kind of serious problem in the last couple of days with his white blood cell count. i don't know if it's incredibly high or whether it's particularly low. All I've been told is that there's some kind of problem with his white blood cell count.

Now, the Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei has been notified of the situation. And what I'm being told from out of Ramallah is that the prime minister will assume control -- temporary control of the Palestinian Authority if Yasser Arafat does not resume consciousness any time in the near future.

BLITZER: John Vause, I'm going hold you on for a second. There's no doubt that, over the years, Arafat has deliberately avoided letting an heir apparent step forward. But there is the Palestinian Authority prime minister right now, Ahmed Qurei, as you point out. The former prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, has been summoned to the Muqata, the Ramallah headquarters of Arafat, as well. And we're showing our viewers live pictures of that compound right now.

How much support does Ahmed Qurei have based on what you can tell among Palestinians to assume at least some sort of temporary position as the leader of the Palestinian Authority if, in fact, Arafat's health continues to deteriorate?

VAUSE: Well, any real support that Ahmed Qurei has is a legal support, if you like. He would be the one who would take over in the event of this kind of emergency. But he certainly does not enjoy widespread support amongst Palestinians.

And as you say, Wolf, there's been a deliberate policy by Yasser Arafat to ensure that there is no obvious successor, no challenger to him in any way so that he can maintain his grip on the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian people as well.

This issue has come up over the past few years every time there's been talk of Israel sending Yasser Arafat into exile or possibly even assassinating him, there's often been talk of, well, who will take over from Yasser Arafat.

And while legally it looks as if Abu Ala Ahmed Qurei, the Palestinian prime minister, is the man who would take over, there is not one strong standout candidate who is likely to step into the shoes of Yasser Arafat, certainly not easily, Wolf.

BLITZER: John, I just want to clarify, also, the position of the Israeli government. Based on what you know, Israeli Radio is reporting now that the Israeli government would give Yasser Arafat permission to go to that hospital in Ramallah for treatment and presumably allow him to go back to the compound.

What have Israeli authorities, Israeli officials said to you? I know they're letting Tunisian and other doctors from Egypt and Jordan cross into the West Bank to treat him. John Vause?

Unfortunately, I think we have lost John Vause, but we'll try to reconnect with John Vause shortly.

We're going to continue to monitor this story. Yasser Arafat, once again, the 75-year-old Palestinian Authority leader, his health has taken a turn for the worse. It's deteriorated. We'll continue to get some more information for you, update you on that significant development once we get some more information. Once again, these are live pictures from Ramallah, where ambulances in the last hour or two showed up to try to treat Yasser Arafat. We're not exactly sure what the cause of his health problems are.

More on that coming up. Let's move on to other important news we're following right now.

President Bush has taken a hammering on those hundreds of tons of high explosives missing in Iraq. Today, after several days, he finally broke his silence, coming out publicly, coming out swinging on a trip through some of the swing states.

Our White House correspondent Dana Bash joining us now. She has this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After ignoring reporters' questions a day earlier about missing Iraq explosives, the president finally responded.

BUSH: Our military is now investigating a number of possible scenarios, including that the explosives may have been moved before our troops even arrived at the site.

BASH: Under growing pressure, Mr. Bush abandoned past practice of ignoring his opponent's attacks, saying John Kerry's, quote, "wild charges the president's to blame for explosives gone missing are based on fuzzy facts."

BUSH: This investigation is important and it's ongoing. And a political candidate who jumps to conclusions without knowing the facts is not a person you want as your commander-in-chief.

BASH: Bush aides insist the president not back on his heels. They spin this unusually stark defense as offense, that calling Senator Kerry someone who will say anything to get elected works to their advantage.

But Kerry aides say they scored a win by forcing the president to explain and defend the situation in Iraq six days before the election.

Bush officials still claim talking about national security benefits them.

BUSH: If you're a Democrat who wants America to lead with strength and idealism, I would be honored to have your vote.

BASH: Security is one of the issues the president used to appeal to conservative Democrats in rural Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. With Zel Miller at his side, Mr. Bush is trying to win this state and Ohio with a straightforward pitch. From education to abortion to gay marriage, the president said he's more in line with the values of rural Democrats than John Kerry.

BUSH: My opponent is running away from some of the great traditions of the Democrat party.

BASH (on camera): The president's court the Democrats tour ends in Detroit. Michigan is state where John Kerry is doing well, but Bush aides insist they're doing better and they want to make the Kerry campaign work for it.

Dana Bash, CNN, (INAUDIBLE), Ohio.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The Democratic candidate, John Kerry, is keeping up the pressure, clearly betting that a missing weapons scandal on a far off battlefield will ring home in battleground states.

The senator stumping in the Midwest. Our national correspondent Frank Buckley joining us now live in Rochester, Minnesota -- Frank? FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you're hearing so much about this issue because Kerry advisors believe that it is really exposes President Bush to a reexamination of his ability as a commander-in-chief. As you know, this has been an area of strength for President Bush in the polls.

Expect to hear more criticism on Iraq during this final stretch as Senator Kerry tries to get voters to take a closer look at President Bush and his handling of the war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(voice-over): Senator John Kerry rallied supporters in Rochester, Minnesota, and railed against President Bush for the third straight day on the missing explosives in Iraq.

KERRY: Mr. President, for the sake of our brave men and women in uniform, for the sake of those troops who are in danger, because of your wrong decisions, you owe America real answers about what happened, not just political attacks.

BUCKLEY: Kerry referring to President Bush's answer to Kerry's continuing criticism. Bush suggesting the senator was denigrating the troops on the ground. Senior Kerry adviser Joe Lockhart was quick to respond with a statement: "For a commander in chief to sidestep these important questions and to somehow imply that John Kerry does anything less than fully support our troops is beneath contempt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our soldiers fighting in Iraq are heroes.

BUCKLEY: The campaign also went up with a new ad on cable in battleground states to make sure Kerry wasn't misunderstood.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will always support those and honor those who serve.

BUCKLEY: The ad echoing Kerry's praise of the troops at rallies.

KERRY: Our troops are doing a heroic job. The president, the commander in chief, is not doing his job.

BUCKLEY: Kerry left Rochester bound for Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Earlier he had campaigned in Sioux City. The two visits to the Hawkeye State on the day an indication of how tight the race is in a state that went to Al Gore by a mere 4,100 votes in 2000.

A new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows Mr. Bush with the support of 50 percent of likely voters, compared to 46 percent for Mr. Kerry; among registered voters it's 47 to 48.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BUCKLEY: And Vice President Al Gore won here in 2000 by 2 points. This has been, traditionally here in Minnesota, a Democratic base. But a couple of things have happened in the past four years. One, a Republican governor has been elected. Two, the late senator, Paul Wellstone, the progressive Democrat, his seat was filled by a Republican.

So those things are forcing Democrats in a tight race in this battleground state to do everything they can to get out the vote -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Frank Buckley, reporting for us, Frank, thanks very much. And we'll have more on the dispute over the missing explosives coming up shortly.

But I want to get back to our top story now. The health of the 75-year-old Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, it has clearly has deteriorated in recent days perhaps even in recent hours. Let's go to the West Bank, to Ramallah. Standing outside the compound, Yasser Arafat's compound, known as the Muqata, Saida Hamad. She is with the Arabic language newspaper "Al Hayat."

Cida, tell our viewers what you know precisely about Yasser Arafat's health?

SAIDA HAMAD, "AL HAYAT": Yes. Arafat's spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, came out just a few minutes ago and he said that Arafat's condition is stable. However, he said that the medical team -- a Tunesian medical team that arrived a few days ago along with a Palestinian medical team have been in close touch with him, following up with his condition.

What we know also that an Egyptian medical team is supposed to arrive tomorrow morning to see how and what should they do to manage this deterioration of his health. What we know also that Mr. Arafat summoned the prime minister, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Ahmed Qorei and also the general secretary of the PLO executive committee, Mahmoud Abbas, a few minutes after his health deteriorated.

We don't know exactly -- there are conflicting reports about what happened then. But both leaders came out of the compound in one car and we don't know so far what's going on up until now.

BLITZER: Saida, we understand the Israeli defense minister, Shaul Mofaz, has given permission to Arafat to go to a hospital in Ramallah. What are the prospects that he would leave the Muqata, the compound there and go to that hospital in Ramallah?

HAMAD: Yes. Mr. Arafat has been -- as you know, maybe the viewers know, has been under virtually house arrest in his compound for almost three years because of the Israeli government's decision not to allow him to leave Ramallah neither to any other West Bank city or to Gaza Strip or even outside Palestinian territories.

And Mr. Arafat and all of the Palestinians around him, leaders around him, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that the minute he would leave the Muqata, the compound meaning, that the Israeli army, the occupation army will come and take over the Muqata. It's the only place that Arafat as a president of the Palestinian people since the Intifada in 2000.

So what I'm saying is that the decision to send him to a hospital in Ramallah or even to take him outside of Palestinian terrority, or if it is up to Arafat, he wouldn't, but if his condition is really deteriorated maybe he won't have a say in it, doctors will determined this.

Maybe this decision will be taken, as I was told by some sources, tomorrow morning when the Egyptian medical team will arrive and also his personal doctor, al-Kurdi from Jordan.

BLITZER: Saida, one final question. You said that there were ambulances that have already arrived at the compound and we're looking at live pictures of the compound right now from Ramallah on the West Bank. Are two or three ambulances are already there in case he makes that decision to go to the hospital in Ramallah or perhaps go to another hospital?

HAMAD: Well, we don't know exactly -- the compound itself -- already Arafat has an ambulance 24 hours inside the compound. So this is not new. But two other ambulances did arrive from the other Palestinian hospitals in the city. But there is no decision yet about whether to transfer him to any hospital yet.

As I told you, Arafat (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or Arafat leaving the compound is a very complicated process. It's not just like his health has deteroriated can go to the hospital. No. It has political implications. It has even military implications. This means -- if Arafat leaves the compound, this means Mr. Sharon, the Israeli prime minister had his what he wanted, meaning that Arafat won't be in his presidential compound anymore.

BLITZER: All right. Saida Hamad, from "Al Hayat," just outside the compound in Ramallah on the West Bank with the latest on Yasser Arafat, the 75-year-old Palestinian leader whose health has deteriorated. Our State Department correspondent, Andrea Koppel, is also gathering information.

What are you hearing, Andrea? Andrea Koppel, can you hear me?

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, I'm here.

BLITZER: Go ahead, tell our viewers what you've learned.

KOPPEL: Wolf, I've just gotten off the phone with a very well- placed source -- an Arab source in the Middle East region. This source is in very close touch with the Palestinian Authority and with Yasser Arafat's inner circle. And what he told me in a nutshell is the following.

That Palestinian authorities right now don't know what is wrong with Yasser Arafat. They know he's had the flu which led to an infection. They fear -- and I emphasize that they don't know but they fear that it could be something more serious. Perhaps a blood ailment or something with his digestive system.

Because they don't know and because the doctors who are on site right now in Ramallah, the Tunesian doctors, also are not sure, they're bringing in over the next couple of days a total of 15 to 20 doctors, including the doctors from Tunesia, other doctors from Jordan, as we've been reporting, from Egypt, from Europe and from the United States.

These doctors will then assess on the ground in Ramallah whether or not they believe that what is in fact ailing Yasser Arafat is serious enough that he should leave the Palestinian territory, something he has not done for years because he's afraid that Israel would not allow him to return.

So there is a lot of speculation going on. This source told me as well that Yasser Arafat did not -- was not unconscious today but that is he very weak. That yes, it's true that his aides have had to help him get around whenever he has wanted to move but that he is resting right now. And I guess we have our sources in Israel and in the territories who are telling us that he's going to be transported to the hospital in Ramallah.

But as things stand right now he's supposed to be stable but he's very tired. He has been losing a lot of fluid. And I'm also told by this Arab source that the Israeli prime minister's office has been extremely helpful, that there have been no obstacles whatsoever in either getting doctors to come from overseas into the Palestinian territories or to get equipment in there.

That the Israelis are doing everything they can to help as well. So in a nutshell, Wolf, a lot of questions. They do fear that it is something serious but they don't know and that is why they're assembling this team of doctors from around the world, quite literally, to go into the Palestinian territories over the next day or so to try to make their assessment and then present what their findings are to Yasser Arafat and to his aides to decide whether or not it is serious enough for him to leave the territories -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Andrea, what are State Department officials saying, if anything, or other U.S. government official saying?

KOPPEL: Wolf, quite honestly, I haven't had a chance yet to speak to any State Department officials or U.S. officials. We have been focusing right now as I'm sure they are here at the State Department and elsewhere in trying to speak to Palestinians and to close Arab sources to see if they can hear it from the horse's mouth as to what's going on right now. But as soon as I get off the phone with you, you can bet I'll be on the phone with them.

BLITZER: I'll let you get off the phone with me then so you can collect more information for our viewers. Andrea Koppel, reporting for us, our State Department correspondent.

Once again for viewers just tuning in, the health of the 75-year- old Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat clearly deteriorating perhaps even as we speak right now. Let's get some more information.

Joining us now is the Palestinian cabinet secretary Hassan Abu- Libdeh. What can you tell us, sir, about the health of Yasser Arafat right now? HASSAN ABU-LIBDEH, PALESTINIAN CABINET SECRETARY: Well, he has been going through a very slow recovery during the last few days including the last six hours (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and now he is in critical condition. But he's conscious and they want him to be examined by three groups of doctors from Tunisia, Egypt, and Jordan and (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: Why not just move him if he's in critical condition, sir, right now? Why not simply move him to that Palestinian hospital in Ramallah where he might be able to go in intensive care and have better treatment than he would get in the Bukata, the Ramallah compound?

ABU-LIBDEH: Well, the doctors who are examining him right now, they don't see that he has to move immediately. Tomorrow morning Palestinian time a group of doctors from Jordan and Egypt will be arriving to do further examinations and on the basis of that will be ready to take the proper steps to protect the life of (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: Do you know what the source of his illness is? We had heard over the past two weeks he was suffering from the flu, then gall stone problems, upper digestive track problems. Something in his stomach. Do you know specific what has caused this deterioration in his health?

ABU-LIBDEH: The one thing that we're very sure of that he has gone to a very acute flu syndrome and now a lot of examinations, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) are taking place right now and then we'll be able to know more about the exact condition and the exact (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: What kind of cooperation are you getting from Israeli authorities in allowing doctors or ambulances or movement in order to assist the Palestinian leader at this point?

ABU-LIBDEH: At least the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: I think we're losing Hassan Abu-Libdeh, the Palestinian cabinet authority spokesman. Unfortunately we're losing him. But we'll try to reconnect. But the gist is he's in critical condition right now, Yasser Arafat. And they're going to wait until morning, that's only a few hours in Ramallah time on the West Bank to get further assessment whether he should be transported by ambulance to a hospital in Ramallah as opposed to staying in that compound. We'll continue to watch this story for you. We'll get you more information as it becomes available.

The potential ramifications not only for the Middle East but for U.S. policy in that part of the world with Yasser Arafat's health on the line, right now, potentially very significant, potentially lots of fallout could develop if his health continues to deteriorate. We'll watch that story for you.

We are also watching other stories including election frustration right here in the United States. Hundreds of ballots could be missing in Florida and there are long lines around the country. A record number of people turning out to cast their vote early but not without incident.

Also ahead...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you deny that your father got you this job?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would deny it exceedingly. You can look at my resume if you want, Howard. I'm not ashamed of it and I think it justifies my existence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Unexpected ambush. The shock jock Howard Stern confronting the head of the FCC during a live radio interview. The inside scoop from veteran entertainment reporter Pat O'Brien. He joins us later. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: We'll have much more on Yasser Arafat's deteriorating health. That's coming up. Let's check some other news happening right now. With less than a week before the election, our latest so- called poll of polls remains unchanged from yesterday. Our average of six national polls shows George W. Bush with a two-point lead over John Kerry. 49 percent to 47 percent. In the battleground state of New Jersey, yes, New Jersey. The Quinnipiac University poll has the race dead even at 46 percent for both candidates. Independent candidate Ralph Nader has 2 percent. In the swing state of Missouri, the latest Research 2000 poll shows Bush ahead of Kerry by three points. 48 percent to 45 percent. All of these polls well within the sampling error.

It may not turn out to be as bad as it was four years ago but Florida is again having some voting problems. The issue right now, missing absentee ballots. CNN national correspondent Susan Candiotti is in Miami with the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Poor Diane Willis. About two weeks ago the young mother applied for an absentee ballot to avoid this. And during her two-hour wait at the polls with her toddler in tow. But when her absentee ballot failed to show, Willis drove to the polls any way.

DIANE WILLIS, EARLY VOTER: It is not perfect. But if that's what it takes in order for me to get my vote counted, then that's what I have to do.

CANDIOTTI: In Broward County, Florida, officials say about 60,000 absentee ballots were mailed out three weeks ago. And that now hundreds could be missing in action.

GISELA SALAS, DEP. SUPERVISOR OF ELECTIONS: This is a real concern to us as election officials.

CANDIOTTI: State and federal investigators are trying to figure out where the elusive ballots are. The largest batch was delivered to the main post office for distribution. Election officials tried to get answers from the postal service.

SALAS: They really provided no real explanation. They assured us that those ballots had actually left their facility. So where the ballots were were really in question.

CANDIOTTI: Early voter Arthur Balau (ph) got wind of the trouble and got himself to the polls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not going gamble on it. After I read in the paper today that 60,000 ballots -- absentee ballots missing I'm not going to be waiting around.

CANDIOTTI: The U.S. Postal Service issued a statement insisting local delivery normally takes one day. "All absentee ballots are processed and delivered immediately. There is no backlog of absentee ballots in postal facilities."

This would be absentee voter not willing to wait another day.

(on camera): You're here today because you don't want to take any chance.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want my vote counted. I want to make sure I get it done. I don't want it to get lost in the mail.

CANDIOTTI: So far there is no evidence of any crime and no firm number of missing ballots. It does highlight one more chink in Florida's election process that already has a lot of voters on edge. Susan Candiotti, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Here is your chance to weigh in on this story. Our web question of the day is this, "do you think there will be another recount in this election on the scale of the Florida recount of 2000?" You can vote right now. Go to CNN.com/wolf. We'll have the results coming up later in this forecast.

And don't forget election day less than a week from today. Six days to be precise. CNN's entire election team will be here in New York City broadcasting live from the Nasdaq Market site right in the heart of Times Square. We'll use the technology of the world's largest stock market to bring you details about every candidate in every race as you've never seen it before. Election Day coming up less than one week, six days from today. We'll all be right there.

It is a political hot button, tons of missing explosives in Iraq. Coming up, I'll speak about that with the former chief U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq. Also, he pushed through a controversial pullout plan. What is next for Israel's Ariel Sharon?

President Kennedy's daughters has some harsh words for President Bush. We'll tell you what prompted them.

And this, Bruce Springsteen campaigning for John Kerry. Can the Boss make difference?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back.

Coming up, our developing story, our top story right now, more on Yasser Arafat. He is seriously ill in his compound in Ramallah. You're looking at live pictures of that compound. We'll have the latest, much more information on this coming up.

First, though, a quick check of some other stories now in the news.

Talks in Vienna on a European plan to be end Iran's enrichment program have ended. European negotiators reported some progress and an agreement to meet again, but the Iranian News Agency notes there was no tangible results. Iran says its nuclear program is for peaceful civilian purposes.

A Florida man is charged with assault for allegedly trying to run down a Republican Congresswoman Katherine Harris of Florida and a group of her supporters and to try to -- run her down in his car. You might recall Harris was Florida's secretary of state during the 2000 election. Police say Barry Seltzer admits he was trying to intimidate the group, citing political expression.

Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg is taking a swipe at President Bush for invoking her father's name on the campaign trail. The daughter of JFK released a statement saying it is hard for her to listen -- and I'm quoting now -- "to listen to President Kennedy inspired -- and how -- President Kennedy inspired the country. And so will John Kerry." She said that President Bush is just doing the opposite of what her late father would be doing.

Keeping you informed, CNN, the most trusted name in news. Now back to our top story, the health of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Once again, John Vause joining us on the phone from Jerusalem with the latest information.

What else have you learned, John?

VAUSE: Wolf, I spoke to sources close to the Palestinian Authority just a short time ago.

What they are saying is that they have confirmed to us that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat did in fact lose consciousness, that he passed out. His condition right now is unknown, although the Palestinian Authority has issued a number of confusing statements, at first denying that Yasser Arafat ever passed out and now saying that he has in fact resumed consciousness.

We know that he has been ill for about 10 days now. Doctors from Egypt and also from Tunisia have been unable to find out why Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat has been unable to keep food down. His condition is described as very serious. He's extremely weak. He has refused an I.V. He has also refused to leave his compound in Ramallah to seek medical help at a hospital facility.

We also understand from the wire services that his wife, Suha, who is in Paris, is on her way to Ramallah and also that Arafat's personal doctor from Jordan is also traveling to Ramallah. They should be there by tomorrow morning -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Looks like they are summoning all the Palestinian leaders to Ramallah.

And our viewers have been looking at that live picture. John Vause, thanks very much.

Much more on Yasser Arafat's health coming up. Stay with CNN for complete coverage of this breaking story.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, nine years ago today, by the Hebrew calender, the Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was gunned down by a Jewish extremist. Now the day after the current prime minister, Ariel Sharon, narrowly won parliamentary backing for his Gaza pullout plan, settlers, Jewish settlers, are vowing to resist. And hard- liners are threatening to bring down the Sharon government, amid ominous echoes of that earlier time.

CNN's Guy Raz reports from Jerusalem.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUY RAZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ariel Sharon seeking guidance at the grave of his former political nemesis Yitzhak Rabin. At a memorial service marking nine years since Rabin's assassination, Ariel Sharon, now a target of death threats himself, trying to speak the language of Yitzhak Rabin.

"We miss him," said Sharpton. "We miss the way in which he was leading us towards peace."

RA'ANAN GISSIN, SENIOR ADVISER TO ARIEL SHARON: Both Rabin and Prime Minister Sharon come from the same generation. I think Sharon is today alone. In other words, he doesn't have a Rabin to rely on.

RAZ: Rabin and Sharon have something else in common, the wrath of Benjamin Netanyahu. In two weeks, Netanyahu is threatening to bring down the government unless Ariel Sharon agrees to put his plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip to a national referendum. Sharon has rejected Netanyahu's ultimatum.

But many of the 8,000 Jewish settlers in Gaza, all of whom watched Tuesday's parliamentary vote, are vowing to fight their evacuation notices. Perhaps out of denial, settlers in Gaza continue to build homes, determined to stay on occupied land forever.

But Ariel Sharon has made up his mind. He's convinced the Jewish settlements in Gaza are no longer tenable. The evacuation is being cared unilaterally. And Palestinian leaders fear it is part of a plan to solidify Israel's occupation of the Palestinian West Bank.

SAEB EREKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: What was being discussed is the Palestinian future, the Palestinian people's future. And the only thing that was absent from these discussions were the Palestinians.

RAZ: And, in Gaza, where 1.5 million Palestinians live, uncertainty over whether their lives will really improve at all. Four years of bloody violence in Gaza has left hundreds of Palestinians dead. Hamas says Israel's withdrawal from Gaza is evidence that its campaign of violence against the country is now paying off, despite the fact that Israel will maintain control over Gaza's borders and airspace.

SAMMI ABU ZUHRI, HAMAS SPOKESMAN (through translator): We consider this result a victory for the Palestinian people and the Palestinian resistance.

RAZ: And at Yitzhak Rabin's grave, hope that perhaps Israel's government will reignite his legacy.

Guy Raz, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Death threats against Yitzhak -- excuse me, Ariel Sharon -- by Jewish zealots and Yasser Arafat's health clearly deteriorating. And he's in critical condition, according to one of his aides. We'll continue to monitor those stories.

There are other stories we're monitoring as well, including the explosive issue of those missing explosives in Iraq.

Jamie McIntyre, our senior Pentagon correspondent, is standing by. He's got new information -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Pentagon is scrambling today to come up with more evidence to support its theory that those explosives were missing before U.S. troops arrived at the Al-Qaqaa facility in Iraq.

Today, they provided a commander of the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Infantry, Colonel David Perkins, who spoke to reporters here and said that he thought it would be -- quote -- "almost impossible" for those weapons, explosives, to have been sneaked out, because he said there's not a very well developed road network in Iraq.

He said there's one main road that was packed for weeks bumper to bumper with U.S. convoys pushing towards Baghdad. He offered the opinion that it would be very, highly improbable that somehow, somebody, he said, the enemy, put together a convoy of trucks and sneaked them in and hauled this stuff away in the dark of night, the assessment of Colonel David Perkins, the commander there. But he did acknowledge there could be some small-scale looting, but he said that that was basically the situation up until May 8, when the special Task Force 75 arrived and did a more comprehensive check.

The Pentagon is also searching to see if it has any satellite image to back up its theory that some of this stuff might have been moved long before U.S. troops got there. So far, they haven't come up with any -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jamie McIntyre, thanks very much for that information.

Let's get some more information now, some perspective, from David Kay, a former chief United States weapons inspector in Iraq who formally worked for the U.N. He was head of the Iraq Survey Group before Charles Duelfer.

David, thank you very much for joining us.

Give us your assessment. You know this facility. You knew it from your days in the 90s when you worked for the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency. What's going on?

DAVID KAY, FORMER CHIEF U.S. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, Wolf, this is a very large facility.

And I'm afraid we're into a zone of which we won't know definitively what happened. We do know that the U.N. certified in early March that the explosives were there. We know that by May, when the 75th Exploitation Task Force went in, they were not there. There's a gap of about three weeks, two and a half weeks, before the war took place until a month after the war took place and we simply don't know what happened.

I must say, I find it hard to believe that a convoy of 40 to 60 trucks left that facility prior to or during the war, and we didn't spot it on satellite or UAV. That is, because it is the main road to Baghdad from the south, was a road that was constantly under surveillance. I also don't find it hard to believe that looters could carry it off in the dead of night or during the day and not use the road network.

I saw many Iraqi facilities in which they came by pickup truck and constantly -- it's amazing to see whole buildings disappear at the hands of looters who are not organized, who do not have heavy equipment. But I also think we ought to put it in perspective. We're talking about 400 tons of high explosives. It would be a great tool in the hands of insurgents and terrorists. But that's a country that is awash with tens of thousands of tons of explosives that have been used now for well over a year against the coalition forces there.

Iraq is not short of explosives. The insurgents are not short of explosives.

BLITZER: When you were head of the U.S. government's Iraq Survey Group, you spent, what, about nine months in Iraq before Charles Duelfer completed the job, didn't come up with any stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Did you visit this Al-Qaqaa facility over there, because you knew, presumably in advance, that it had been closely monitored throughout the '90s?

KAY: Well, in fact, it was a team of mine that discovered the original HMX and RDX there as part of their weapons program in late '91.

No, by the time I got there, we had definitive evidence from the 75th Exploitation Task Force that the facility was empty of the explosives. Now, I did send teams there. This is a very large facility. It was originally the home of Gerald Bull's super gun. It had a phosgene production plant, a chemical dual-use nature that could be used for chemical weapons.

So we sent teams there, but they weren't looking for the explosives. The explosives were definitively gone by the time the ISG was created and on the ground.

BLITZER: Three hundred and eighty tons -- tons -- of this material. One pound of it -- one pound of it -- could bring dune jetliner like Pan Am 103.

David Kay, thanks very much. We'll continue to speak with you and get some more information on this story. Appreciate it.

We'll also continue to monitor our top story, the deteriorating health of the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.

Also ahead, President Giuliani -- yes, President Giuliani in 2008? We'll get the scoop when I talk to "The Insider"'s Pat O'Brien. He spoke with Giuliani and Pat will tell us what he says.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is a live picture of the Mukata. That's compound in Ramallah on the West Bank, inside, Yasser Arafat, the 75-year-old Palestinian leader, his health quickly deteriorating, that according to his senior aides.

Many of them have been summoned to his bedside. His wife, Suha, on the way from Paris to Ramallah. Doctors on the way as well. We'll continue to watch this story. We'll bring you more information as it becomes available.

In other news, in a season of sometimes very bitter and vicious political TV ads, this one stands out, although the people behind it say it is not a political ad at all.

CNN's Brian Todd joining us now live with the story behind this controversial commercial -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, many people who have seen the ad agree it is powerful. But there are clear differences between the wide interpretation of the ad's message and the points that the people who made it say they're trying to make.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice-over): He was an unanimous Iraq war vet until this ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

ROBERTA ACOSTA, IRAN WAR VETERAN: They told us that we would win the war and be home soon, but we're still there. So when people ask me where my arm went, I try to find the words, but they're not there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD: This happened to an Army Specialist Robert Acosta when he and a buddy took their Humvee outside Baghdad Airport to get sodas. Someone threw a grenade through the window. It took his right hand and badly injured his left leg.

Now this high school dropout who got his equivalency degree just to qualify for the Army finds himself on the national stage.

ACOSTA: I think awareness should be just raised and people should know really what is going on, how people are coming back from this war.

TODD: Acosta was back from the war recovering from his wounds when he heard the man on the left, another Iraq war vet named Paul Rieckhoff, on the radio. He e-mailed Rieckhoff, who was forming a group called Operation Truth.

PAUL RIECKHOFF, OPERATION TRUTH: We want to wake the American people up and let them know there's a human cost to war.

TODD: It may be that simple or far more complex. Rieckhoff says the ad that so far has run on CNN, Fox and MSNBC is not partisan, despite its timing and message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)

ACOSTA: I was called to serve in Iraq because the government said there were weapons of mass destruction. But they weren't there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD (on camera): They say they are nonpartisan. Do you buy it?

IRA TEINOWITZ, "ADVERTISING AGE": No, I don't. It looks like an ad for a group that is supporting John Kerry.

TODD (voice-over): A Kerry campaign official tells CNN the campaign has no connection with Operation Truth.

(on camera): It is clearly an anti-war ad.

RIECKHOFF: It is not an anti-war ad. That's important to understand. It's a soldier's experience. And we're not an anti-war -- it's not an anti-war ad. We're not an anti-war group. People say, are you speaking out against the war? We're not speaking out against the war. We're speaking out about the war. TODD (voice-over): Rieckhoff says his crusade is to educate about resources and equipment he says are not getting to the troops and about the medical care they need. So who is underwriting Operation Truth?

(on camera): How did you get the money to start the ad?

RIECKHOFF: We got our money through individual contributions on the Internet and through my credit card.

TODD: Rieckhoff, who spent time as an investment banker, says he went $20,000 in debt to start the group, which now claims to have raised about $200,000.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Both Rieckhoff and Acosta say they're not bitter about their experience in Iraq. They feel they accomplished some good, but they say they want to continue producing ads after the election to call attention to the war and the people fighting it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd in Washington -- Brian, thanks very much.

We'll take another quick break. When we come back, more on Yasser Arafat's deteriorating health. I'll also speak live with "The Insider"'s Pat O'Brien.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A contentious call between Howard Stern and the head of the FCC, the Boss stomps for John Kerry, and Rudy Giuliani in 2008.

For the inside scoop on that and more, we go to Los Angeles, Pat O'Brien standing by. He' the host of "The Insider."

Pat, listen to this exchange between Howard Stern and Michael Powell, the head of the FCC. Listen to this.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

HOWARD STERN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I've got about 10 zillion questions for you, because you honestly are an enigma to me, the first question being, how did you get your job? It is apparent to most of us in broadcasting that your father got you your job and you kind of sit there and you're the judge. You're the arbiter. You're the one who tells us what we can and can't say on the air.

And yet I really don't even think you're qualified to be the head of the commission. Do you deny that your father got you this job?

MICHAEL POWELL, FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION CHAIRMAN: Oh, I would deny it exceedingly. You can look at my resume if you want, Howard. I'm not -- I'm not ashamed of it, and I think it justifies my existence. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Michael Powell was doing an interview with a San Francisco radio station and Howard Stern called in. That is how that happened.

What do you make of it?

PAT O'BRIEN, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: Well, first of all, it was pretty smart on Howard's part, because he's been complaining about Commissioner Powell from day one, who, by the way, was appointed to the commission by Clinton and elevated by Bush.

But when Howard found out that Powell was on this radio show, and Powell was not going take questions originally from the audience and then relented and decided to. And Howard found out, on his own, called in. From Howard's point of view, it was a great idea, because Howard has never been able to confront this guy. This is the reason Howard is leaving traditional radio and going to satellite radio, so he can get away from the decency laws -- satellite radio not controlled by the FCC just yet.

So, on Howard's part, it was brilliant. And Commissioner Powell, both of them, must have had the day of their life. Commissioner Powell much have thought, what have I done? And Howard must have said, this is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.

BLITZER: Well, it's one thing to be ambushed by Howard Stern.

You spoke to Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, in recent days. I want to run a clip from your show, a little exchange you had with the former mayor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE INSIDER")

O'BRIEN: Will you run for president in 2008?

RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: I have no idea what I'm going to do in 2008. I honestly don't, Pat. I don't think that far ahead. It would be irrelevant to think that far ahead. We have got an election in 2004. That's all I'm concentrating on.

O'BRIEN: You're a smart guy. You have to know that you would be a dream candidate for the Republicans.

GIULIANI: Well, you know, you're some people's dream and you're some people's nightmare.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, what to you think? Given his body language, a lot of people simply assume he's going to be a candidate.

O'BRIEN: Yes. And I think that assumption is correct. By the way, that's on "The Insider" tonight, 7:00 in New York, 7:30 L.A. Check your local listings.

But he's -- I said he's a smart guy. This has been the candidacy that everybody has talked about since 9/11. Rudy Giuliani would be a great candidate for the Republicans in 2008 or the governor of that state. Six days from this election, we're already talking about 2008. And then, of course, the other side of it is that, will he run against Hillary Clinton?

So that's been the political parlor talk, as you know, Wolf. You have been in more of these discussions than I have been. But that's been the talk all along. But he flatly denied it. I have to believe that he has thought about it. He's heard it. He hears the political winds as much as anybody. And, in my thinking, he's right there in the running for 2008.

BLITZER: Well, let's see what happens in 2004 first before we move too far down the road.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Bruce Springsteen, he's out there campaigning now for John Kerry. Do you think he's going to get some votes for him?

O'BRIEN: Well, you know, what these stars do is, they bring crowds. And the Boss will bring a huge crowd wherever he goes.

And when you get the star power of DiCaprio and Ben Affleck and the Boss and Jon Bon Jovi and on the Republican side Arnold Schwarzenegger, what they do is bring more people to the table on that particular day and maybe see some interest on our shows and other shows.

But I think, at the very end, people decide for themselves between the two candidates. I hope that people aren't going into the booth and voting on whether or not they like Bruce Springsteen, or Arnold Schwarzenegger on the Republican side. So we'll see what happens.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens.

O'BRIEN: But they do bring out the crowds and I think they bring up the spirit of the campaign.

BLITZER: A lot of people would love to see the Boss.

Thanks very much, Pat O'Brien. We'll continue this conversation.

After last night's victory against the Saint Louis Cardinals, the Boston Red Sox are just one win away from ending the so-called curse of the Bambino.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER (voice-over): The last time the Red Sox won the World Series, Woodrow Wilson was president. Suffragettes were demanding that women get to vote. And Doughboys were over there, fighting a war in France that wasn't called World War I because no one knew there would be a World War II.

Even more deadly than the war was a worldwide flu epidemic. More than 25 million people died worldwide. By September, more than 100 people had died in Boston alone, but Bostonians had a happy diversion, a baseball pennant race. Even then, Fenway Park was the home of the Red Sox. But there was no Green Monster. The legendary left field wall wasn't painted green until 1947.

There was just one player on the 1918 Red Sox roster who is still widely remembered. Babe Ruth was a left-handed pitcher. But he was a pretty good hitter, too. So, in May of 1918, Ruth made his first start ever as a position player. Two years later, the Red Sox sold the future "Sultan of Swat" to the New York Yankees, triggering, some say, a curse that has continued to this very day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: So, is this the year of the long dry spell ends? Maybe we'll find out tonight. Maybe not.

Here is how you're weighing in on our Web question of the day. Take a look at this: 62 percent of you say yes; 38 percent of you say no. Remember, this is not a scientific poll.

Stay with CNN for continuing coverage of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's health. It's clearly deteriorating. You're looking at live pictures from the West Bank, where doctors have been summoned, as well as his top advisers.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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