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Will Pope Step Aside?; Unmanned U.S. Aircraft Prey on Iraqi Insurgent Positions; Islamic Militant Group Says They Won't Recognize Israeli/Palestinian Truce; Can Rice Repair Rift with France?; Don Cheadle Visits Sudan

Aired February 8, 2005 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now. The pope may be getting better, but will he step aside? A top cardinal speaking out.
Stand by for hard news on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS.


BLITZER (voice-over): Prey. Iraq's insurgents take a heavy toll. Predator. The U.S. finds a way to strike back. How many are still out there.

A new era? Israeli and Palestinian leaders declare a truce, but Islamic militants declare they're not bound by it.

A new chapter.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: Time to turn away from the disagreements of the past.

BLITZER: Can Rice repair the rift with France?

Human drama.


DON CHEADLE, ACTOR: We must shame them into sending help.


BLITZER: The star of "Hotel Rwanda" gets a look at the latest nightmare.

CHEADLE: Government troops coming in and machine-gunning entire villages, burning them to the ground. And we've heard these stories over and over and over.

BLITZER: I'll speak with actor Don Cheadle.

Teacher in trouble. She's charged with having sex with a 14- year-old boy. Could she really face 100 years in prison?

ANNOUNCER: This is WOLF BLITZER REPORTS for Tuesday, February 8, 2005. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: The United States military is using all the weapons it can in the bloody battle with enemy forces in Iraq, but new estimates provided first to CNN give a shocking and sobering view of the scale of the insurgency. We begin our coverage with our senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just last week, members of Congress complained they couldn't get the Pentagon to give it an estimate of how big the insurgency is, but a senior military official has provided some of those numbers to CNN.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): Air Force Predator spy plane shows a Hellfire missile launched at a window a sniper was using to pin down Marines in Najaf last summer.

Another video shows a dark patch in a road near Baghdad where insurgents are thought to be melting the asphalt to bury a bomb. A missile is launched by Air Force pilots who control the unmanned spy plane, not from Iraq, but half a world away, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

All told, the U.S. believes it has killed between 10,000 and 15,000 insurgents in Iraq last year, including an estimated 3,000 enemy deaths in the siege of Falluja alone.

But even as U.S. commanders claim success, a senior military official tells CNN, there are still as many insurgents left as have been killed. According to an internal estimate, some 12,000 to 15,000 are Sunni Baathist insurgents. As many as 1,000 are fighters loyal to terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. And 500 or fewer are listed as foreign fighters.

But the highly committed insurgents are thought to number only 5,000 to 7,000 with the rest so-called fence sitters who the U.S. hopes will begin to support the new Iraqi government.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I think one of the things that we know from the elections, there will be a lot less fence sitters because they saw their fellow citizens go out and vote.

MCINTYRE: Some Iraqi estimates have put the number of hardcore as high as 40,000, 200,000 if you count part-timers. U.S. commanders dismiss that as vastly overstated. But having underestimated the insurgency early on, the Pentagon is reluctant to make its estimates public even as Congress presses for hard numbers.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I don't know how you defeat an insurgency unless you have some handle on the number of people that you are facing.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MCINTYRE: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld suggested recently that the Iraqi elections may be a tipping point but even he cautioned that it's way too early to tell -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jamie McIntyre, thanks very much. The insurgents are not on the run. They struck again today, including a deadly attack on Iraqis looking for jobs as police officers. Our senior international correspondent Nic Robertson reports from Baghdad.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTL. CORRESPONDENT: The attack came about 10:30 in the morning as young men, would-be police recruits were gathered outside of a military base very close to the center of Baghdad. According to a U.S. military spokesman, a suicide bomber entered that crowd of people, detonated his explosives. The ministry of interior spokesman here say that at least 22 people were killed. Several politicians have condemned the action, saying that these were young Iraqi patriots signing up to do their national duty.

What is happening here is politicians are trying to drive a wedge between the insurgents and anybody in the Iraqi population who might be sympathetic to them, pointing out to Iraqis that they are the targets, not necessarily the U.S. troops inside Iraq, that it is Iraqis who are the targets.

And by isolating and closing off, if you will -- isolating support for the insurgents inside Iraq, they hope to minimize their influence. And this is part of a long-term plan and policy by Iraq's interior ministry, by the prime minister's office, by many of the senior politicians here. There was also a politician narrowly escaped with his life today when his convoy came under a gun attack earlier in the day. His two sons were killed in that attack along with one of his bodyguards. He did, however, survive.

Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.


BLITZER: Elsewhere in the region today, there were positive signs. The Israeli and Palestinian leaders reached across the table and vowed an end to violence and the beginning of a new era. CNN's Ben Wedeman reports from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.


BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CAIRO BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Will this be the handshake that ends four-and-a-half years of bloodshed or just another handshake? Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas met Tuesday in Sharm el-Sheikh for what was billed as a summit of hope to end a conflict often described as hopeless.

Perennial pessimism tentatively replaced by a glimmer of optimism. Palestinians pledged an end to attacks on Israel. Israel responding that it will suspend military operations in the West Bank and Gaza. The tone, suddenly very different. MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY PRESIDENT (through translator): We look forward to that day and hoping that it will come as soon as possible in order that negotiations language will replace the language of bullets and cannons.

ARIEL SHARON, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): For the first time for a long, long time now, we see signs of a hope for a better future for our children and our grandchildren. We must cautiously progress. This is a very fragile opportunity and we know that there are extremists who are just waiting to close this window of opportunity.

WEDEMAN: On the Israeli side, hardline settlers in Gaza and the West Bank are vehemently opposed to any Israeli pullback. And although Palestinian militant groups have agreed to hold their fire, Hamas for one says it's not bound by any cease-fire agreement.

And in the Arab world, many, like these Egyptian students protesting Sharon's first official visit to their country, insist the arms struggle against Israel is still the only option.

The host of the summit, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, said he hoped progress between Israel and the Palestinians would spark a revival of talks with Lebanon and Syria.

And the meeting ended with the announcement that Jordan and Egypt are ready to return their ambassadors to Tel Aviv after a four-year absence.

(on camera): But for all the progress apparently achieved here today, the real issues that sparked the Palestinian uprising in the first place, including the final status of Jerusalem and the Palestinian right of return, are no closer to resolution today than they were four-and-a-half years ago. But this handshake at least suggests a new beginning.

Ben Wedeman, CNN, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.


BLITZER: Can Condoleezza Rice repair relations with America's oldest allies? The secretary of state is now visiting France, telling her host today, and I'm quoting: "It's time to turn away from the disagreements of the past." France led the opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. But Rice said the two nations have a history of shared values, shared sacrifice and shared successes.


RICE: When the United States and France work together, there is a great deal that we can achieve. We have talked about Kosovo, about Afghanistan, but of course we have also been partners in Haiti and in Cote d'Ivoire. And of course, together, we will continue our attention on fighting the scourge of AIDS, on poverty alleviation, on countering terrorism, and proliferation of dangerous weapons and of promoting opportunity and change worldwide. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Secretary Rice will visit NATO headquarters in Brussels tomorrow.

Increasingly frail. Is the pope now considering retirement? What a leading Cardinal says that has Catholics around the world wondering.

Plus, sordid sexual allegations against yet another school teacher. She is now possibly facing more than 100 years in prison.

Also this...


CHEADLE: Just sitting in these refugee camps with these people and hearing their stories about being bombed by airplanes and then government troops coming in and machine-gunning entire villages, burning them to the ground. I mean, we heard these stories over and over and over.


BLITZER: From actor to activist, the star of a film about Rwanda's genocide turns his focus to Sudan. I'll speak with Oscar nominee Don Cheadle.


BLITZER: Pope John Paul II remains in a Rome hospital where he is being treated for a respiratory infection. And for the first time in his 26-year papacy John Paul will miss the public Ash Wednesday prayer service that ushers in Lent. As the pope marks his seventh day in the hospital comments by a top Vatican official have brought an old taboo, the issue of papal resignation right into the open. The story from CNN's Rome bureau chief Alessio Vinci.


ALESSIO VINCI, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): The words of Cardinal Angelo Sodano carry weight within and beyond the Vatican. Tuesday as the number two in the Catholic church, he met new U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Hours earlier, the cardinal had been pressed about reports the pope might step down. Vatican officials rarely talk about papal succession, so when they do, no matter what they say, it makes news.

"Let's leave that hypothesis up to the pope's conscience," he told reporters, an answer that surprised many observers here because Sodano did not rule out the possibility the pope might resign. But nor did he hint the pope should resign or that the subject was being discussed inside the Vatican.

DELIA GALLAGHER, VATICAN ANALYST: Despite the speculation, the fact is that the cardinal was just referring to something which is already stated in canon law and that is that the resignation of a pope has to be free and willful, i.e., of his own conscience, not made under duress. So, this in the last analysis means it is the pope who must decide. It is something between the pope and God.

VINCI: Canon law, which governs the church, says popes may resign, but cannot be forced to do so. In other words as Sodano said, it is up to the pope's conscience. The number of popes in history who may have resigned is unclear. Scholars believe no more than 10. Celestine V in 1294 the most famous example because Dante placed him in hell for it. And last time a pope resigned was nearly 600 years ago.

Last Sunday from his hospital window, the pope said, through an aide, quote, "even from this hospital bed I continue to lead the Catholic church."

At least on the issue of abdication, John Paul II seems in no hurry to make history.

When in 1994 the pope went through hip replacement surgery he joked with his surgeon, warning him that he had no choice but to cure him because, the pope said at the time, there is no room for a pope emeritus.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, Rome.


BLITZER: A young Tennessee school teacher accused. Details of sex charges that could send her to prison for decades.

Also, he is up for an Oscar for "Hotel Rwanda." Now the actor Don Cheadle talks to us about his trip to the killing fields of Sudan.

Plus this...


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think undergarments are made to be worn under other clothes, not to be exposed in public.


BLITZER: A lawmaker takes aim at a fashion trend telling kids to pull up their pants. We'll have details.


BLITZER: It's a familiar story with a new date line. A school teacher has been charged with having a sexual relationship with a student this time in Tennessee. Why do allegations like this continue to surface? Our Brian Todd has been looking into the story and joins us now live -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the similarities in some of these cases are striking. And according to psychiatrists and other experts, not always coincidental.


(voice-over): Another young, attractive teacher. Another sordid case. 27-year-old Pamela R. Turner, a gym teacher at Centertown Elementary School in Warren County, central Tennessee arrested this week, accused of having a sexual relationship with one of her students, a boy, then 13 years old.

DALE POTTER, WARREN COUNTY DISTRICT ATTY.: We got 15 counts of sexual battery by an authority figure based on the position as a teacher that she had with this student at Centertown Elementary School. There's 13 counts of statutory rape.

TODD: She could face more than 100 years in jail. The Warren County district attorney tells CNN the relationship began this past November and ended in January.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have anything to say?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you have an affair with the boy?

TODD: Seem familiar? We've reported recently on the case of Deborah Lafave, the 24-year-old remedial reading teacher facing trial in two Florida jurisdictions for allegedly having sex with a then 13- year-old boy from her middle school. Her attorney is pursuing the insanity defense.

JOHN FITZGIBBONS, DEBRA LAFAVE'S ATTORNEY: Debbie has some profound emotional issues that are not her fault. I think once anyone reads what the doctors have to say, they'll understand a lot more.

TODD: The attorney wouldn't comment when we called to find out what those issues are. Lafave's husband has spoken of the emotional trauma she suffered when her sister was killed in a car accident. But does that explain this entry in a Florida sheriff's probable cause affidavit when the boy said detectives Lafave was, quote, "turned on by the fact that having sexual relations with him was not allowed."

Psychiatrists and psychologists tell CNN that attraction to danger is a common theme in these cases along with immaturity on the part of the teacher. One psychologist says they become almost emotionally on par with the student.

Here is part of a taped phone conversation between Lafave and her alleged victim released by Florida prosecutors.

DEBRA: Pinky promise?


DEBRA: Say pinky promise.

14-YEAR-OLD BOY: Pinky promise. TODD: In these cases experts say some female teachers see themselves as nurturers blocking out the idea that the affair is wrong or illegal and they often play into cultural stereotypes that women are incapable of victimizing children like a male teacher who preys on a female student.


(on camera): And often what gets lost in all of this, the trauma of the male victim. He is often seen as the lucky boy, but according to experts we spoke to, these boys often turn out to have problems relating to women or trusting them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Brian Todd. Very disturbing. Thank you very much.

He is an Oscar-nominated star from one of this year's most acclaimed movies. Now, he's getting a first hand look at the latest nightmare in Sudan.


DON CHEADLE, ACTOR: The biggest difference however is that Rwanda was 100 days, and this conflict that we're talking about has been going on for 23 months or more.


BLITZER: My conversation with actor Don Cheadle coming up next.

Also, a new record. Details of her amazing journey and how she did it.

And many parents thinks it's a problem. One lawmaker thinks he has the answer to this teen fashion. We'll explain.


BLITZER: Welcome back. He is the Oscar-nominated star of "Hotel Rwanda." Now, he is speaking out on another county in Africa where tens of thousands have been killed in ethnic violence. My interview with actor Don Cheadle, that's coming up.

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

We're getting a look today at some rarely seen video. The U.S. Air Force has released these pictures of attacks of unmanned aircrafts on insurgents in Iraq. The military used the Predators to attack insurgent positions last summer and fall. The Predators were armed with hellfire missiles and were controlled by pilots half a world away at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

While the cease-fire agreement announced today by Israeli and Palestinian leaders is being hailed as a new opportunity for peace, it's getting brushed aside by an Islamic fundamentalist group. Officials with Hamas say they will not abide by the agreement. They say Israel has to first release prisoners before there can be any talk of laying down arms.

Here in the United States President Bush is on the road promoting his budget plan. Under the $2.5 trillion plan, some domestic programs will face deep cuts or elimination. Speaking in Detroit, the president said all the programs he wants to eliminate are failing to meet their goals. Congress is now debating the plan and Democrats are already on the attack, calling it irresponsible.

Three months after orchestrating President Bush's reelection, it's reward time for Karl Rove. He is being promoted to White House deputy chief of staff and that means he will be now involved in shaping policy and not just politics.

Actor Don Cheadle recently returned from Africa, where he got a first-hand look at what Washington calls a genocide taking place in Sudan's Darfur region. The topic is all too familiar to Cheadle. He has an Academy Award nomination for best actor for his role in the movie "Hotel Rwanda" a gripping account of that country's genocide. We'll hear from Don Cheadle in just a few moments. First though more now on his Oscar-nominated performance and the man who inspired it. Once again here is CNN's Brian Todd.


TODD (voice-over): Can you pick out the hero in this group? Try the nondescript middle-aged grandfather on the right. Place him back 10 years as his country descends into madness. April 1994, two presidents are assassinated. A peace accord collapses. Rwanda crumbles with it. Smoldering resentment between ethnic Hutus and their rival Tutsis explodes into a surreal murderous rampage.

Hutu extremists begin butchering Tutsis and moderate Hutus. In three months more than 800,000 people are slaughtered.

Paul Rusesabagena is in the middle of it. The manager of a four- star hotel in the capital Kigali, he is a moderate Hutu, his wife a Tutsi. He begins the enormous task of protecting her and taking in others at the same time.

PAUL RUSESABAGINA, FMR. HOTEL MANAGER: I thought I was doing my right job, my day-to-day life, a manager's life, a manager's job.

TODD: The new film "Hotel Rwanda" chronicles the genocide in Rusesabagina's footsteps. Played by Don Cheadle, this unassuming, somewhat naive businessman is at first bewildered by the chaos outside his hotel's gates, then watches his friends turn into killers.

CHEADLE: You do not honestly believe that you can kill them all.


TODD: As the corpses pile up and the westerners get out, Rusesabagina starts taking in people desperate for any shelter.

CHEADLE: Go inside. Go inside the hotel, all of you.

TODD: With little protection and dwindling supplies, he houses more than 1,200 people and wards off their attackers.

(on camera): Paul Rusesabagina told me he often used some pretty basic psychology to save lives. If you want to control someone, he said, keep him close to you. To keep militia men at bay, he often spoke directly to them as they came to his hotel. He charmed them into being distracted and moving on.

(voice-over): Sometimes, it meant serving them drinks and food. Other times, it called for a frantic bribe.

CHEADLE: I will give you $100,000 francs. What do you think?


CHEADLE: I don't have...

CHEADLE (on camera): Just from him doing the things that he knew how to do moment to moment, it's not some mythic figure. It's just a common, everyday man. And I think that's what people are connecting to.

TODD: Consciously avoiding scenes of graphic violence, the filmmakers weave a personal thriller, with a central character who overcomes his own doubts and mistakes and the betrayal of friends and nations.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Thank you very much. Thank you.




TODD: Today, Paul Rusesabagina seems almost unfathomably cheerful and normal, living in Belgium with his family, running a trucking company in Zambia, receiving honors and ovations, staying on message.

RUSESABAGINA: What people say should be put in facts, not only into words. If it is never again, they have to make it never again.

TODD: Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: Earlier today, Don Cheadle spoke with me from Los Angeles about his recent trip to Sudan and Chad. He was invited by California Congressman Ed Royce, the former chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, who joined us here in our Washington studio.


BLITZER: Don Cheadle, thanks very much for joining us.

Congressman Royce, thanks to you as well. Excellent work.

Don Cheadle, let me begin with you. "Hotel Rwanda" by far one of the most powerful movies I have ever seen. What motivated you directly to make this trip to the Darfur Province of Sudan?

CHEADLE: Well, having done the film -- and, first of all, thank you for that.

But having done the film and really becoming familiar with these issues that I hadn't known about prior to doing the film, I just thought that it was a perfect platform to allow me to speak about other issues on Africa, especially Sudan, that has so many similarities to what happened in Rwanda.

BLITZER: The world was silent, Don Cheadle, as you know, didn't do anything during the massacres in Rwanda in the mid-1990s. Do you see a similar situation unfolding right now as far as the massacres unfolding in Sudan?

CHEADLE: Absolutely.

There are many parallels that exist, the sort of separation of the people and being pitted against one another, sort of divide and conquer, the tacit or, in this case, I think, direct approval of the government as far as even arming the militias to wipe out the Africans that live there. So there's a lot of scary similarities.

The biggest one, the biggest difference, however, is that Rwanda was 100 days. And this conflict that we're talking about has been going on for 23 months or more. And we're still in this position of trying to quibble about is this a genocide and not putting into place the convention on genocide, which the U.N. has drafted and accepted. So, they're kind of remiss in their responsibilities right now.

BLITZER: Don, what was the most chilling moment that you endured on your visit to Africa?

CHEADLE: Well, I think it's sort of still just coming to me. I mean, I don't -- it was sort of awash. It was very fast. But just sitting in these refugee camps with these people and hearing their stories about being bombed by airplanes and then government troops coming in and machine-gunning entire villages, burning them to the ground -- we heard these stories over and over and over. And just trying to imagine that, it was just one huge horror show, really.

BLITZER: Congressman Royce, you took -- brought back some pictures from this trip. You're the chairman of the House Subcommittee on African Affairs.

This diagram that some young child drew showing these planes flying over their village, talk a little bit about what this is all about. REP. ED ROYCE (R), CALIFORNIA: This particular picture shows an Antonov Russian bomber bombing a village and also shows the janjaweed on horseback. One the young boys that I talked to here was missing a hand. And I asked him what happened to his arm. He said a janjaweed horseman had taken it off with a saber.

BLITZER: They just went and sliced it and chopped it off?

ROYCE: That's correct.

BLITZER: Because why -- what was the excuse? Why did they do that?

ROYCE: As explained to me by the African tribal people there that had been run off of their land, the Arab horseman, the janjaweed, are backed by the government. And they are pushing out the people that historically have farmed these lands. At the same time as they push them off the land and commit rape and commit genocide, they take their belongings. They take their crops. They take their cattle.

And this is what's unfolding in Western Sudan. We had an opportunity to go into Darfur. And we saw a town there, a town that formerly had 40,000 residents. And now there are 200. And the African Union monitors -- the soldiers there from the African Union who are trying to monitor the situation told us about some of the attacks that were occurring and including the poisoning of wells. That's one of the things happening here.

That's why we believe that this is, indeed, genocide. And we think that the examples, the firsthand accounts that Don Cheadle and Paul Rusesabagina and our delegation are bringing back are clear evidence of that genocide.


BLITZER: We'll have more of my interview with the actor Don Cheadle and Congressman Ed Royce, how the movie "Hotel Rwanda" changed Cheadle's life, plus, what the United Nations is now saying about the situation in Sudan now.

Also, this:


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's Asian Awareness Month. There's Hispanic Awareness Month. What do we get? Orange alert.


BLITZER: Arab stand-up, ethnic humor with a twist. We'll tell you what's going on in the Arab-American community.


BLITZER: More now of my interview with Oscar-nominated actor Don Cheadle and Congressman Ed Royce, the former chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa. They recently returned from Sudan's Darfur region, where ethnic violence has killed an estimated 70,000 people.


BLITZER: The pictures, Don Cheadle, of these young kids -- and we'll show our viewers some of these pictures you brought, heart- wrenching to see their faces. It reminds me of those young kids that we saw in the film "Hotel Rwanda," in which you're nominated for best actor.

Talk a little bit about those experiences, those conversations you had with the children.

CHEADLE: Well, the children, in large part, are children. And many of them don't really know, I guess, in a way that they can articulate to us, any way, exactly what had happened or where they had come through or what had occurred or why. They just knew that they were displaced. They had to travel, many of these families, for 14 days, losing members along the way, to arrive where they were.

They seemed happy to be there, where there were some resources with these NGOs. They had some water, some food, some shelter, a level of protection that they felt was real. But everyone wanted to go home. Everyone wanted to be with their families and return to their villages, obviously.

BLITZER: Congressman Royce, we have a picture of you standing between Don Cheadle the actor and Paul Rusesabagina, the hotel manager in Rwanda, upon whom this whole film is based, how he saved these people during the slaughter in Rwanda.

When you brought him there to Sudan with you, this must have been so emotional for him.

ROYCE: Well, it was emotional for him.

And I was in Kigali, Rwanda, with President Clinton when President Clinton said one of the great -- one of his greatest errors, he felt, was not doing more to stop that genocide. Paul Rusesabagina is the one person who actually saved 1,268 people in that hotel.

And because Paul understands how much one individual can do and because Don has that same understanding, they have attempted here to get the word out to the world, so that we don't face a situation like we did in Rwanda, where there wasn't the type of attention to this. Right now, there's the probability of over 300,000 people having lost their lives there, according to the NGOs we have talked to.

Now, we can't -- we only know of 70,000, because those are the numbers that the U.N. is able to get us, because they're able to get into those camps. But the U.N. is not allowed into most of Darfur. So, this genocide is very widespread.

BLITZER: Don Cheadle, how has this film, "Hotel Rwanda," changed your life?

CHEADLE: Well, I don't think I would be sitting here talking with you about this issue and I don't think I would have had the same inroads that I had.

And I just have to say that Congressman Royce has been great about this. He saw the film. He was moved. We stayed in contact. This was a completely bipartisan, just strictly humanitarian fact- finding trip. And I don't know that I would have had the same sort of, like I said, inroads to these people and to this delegation were it not for the film. So, I'm very happy to have been a part of something that has given me the ability to speak about something that is very real.

BLITZER: Congressman Royce, I covered that trip that President Clinton made to Rwanda in, I think it was, 1998. I was on that trip as well. At the time, everybody kept saying never again, never again. We keep hearing that phrase since the Holocaust, never again.

But guess what? It's happening right now. Why?

ROYCE: Well, the irony here also is that, if you look at the U.N. report that came out last week on whether or not genocide has occurred, they came to the conclusion genocide has not occurred, but they indicated that there was widespread, deliberate attacks on civilians, deliberate mass rapes, deliberate attempts to drive people off their land.

If this isn't genocide, if the killing of over 300,000 people in Darfur is not genocide, then I don't know what is. And yet, here, the United Nations doesn't want to take that step.


BLITZER: Go ahead, Don.

CHEADLE: I'm sorry.

I just wanted to say that in the first article in the convention to prevent and punish the crime of genocide, the very first article says that the contracting parties, they confirm that genocide committed, whether under peacetime or wartime, is a crime under international law, which they undertake to prevent and punish. It's not necessary to determine whether or not this is genocide to act. It's the prevention of genocide as even explained in the title of the article which is the first important element.

And we clearly see, whatever the numbers are, that this is -- there is genocidal intent. And so prevention is the first thing to do. Then accountability comes later. Then we talk about a court system and bringing certain people to justice and looking at evidence. But that is a secondary measure to protection. That first thing has to be implemented immediately.

BLITZER: All right.

Don Cheadle, we're all out of time completely. But I have to tell you that I'm very happy that you have been nominated for best actor for the film "Hotel Rwanda." But like millions of other people, I was very disappointed that "Hotel Rwanda" was not nominated for best picture of the year by the Academy Awards. I'm sure you must be very disappointed, frustrated by that as well.

CHEADLE: Well, I appreciate your take on that. And I'm -- awards, I'm not -- they are what they are. And the work is done.

I'm just most happy about the fact that I'm sitting here getting this audience with you, that the congressman and I are able to put this issue forth. And I think, without the attention that the film did get, we might not be sitting here. So, this can be another award in many ways, a much better reward.

BLITZER: If you save some lives, it will be the best award possible.

Don Cheadle, congratulations to you once again. Thanks for all your good work. I really appreciate it.

Congressman Royce, appreciate your excellent work as well.

ROYCE: Thank you, Wolf.

CHEADLE: Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks to both of you.


BLITZER: And the news from Sudan tops our stories making headlines around the world.


BLITZER (voice-over): A United Nations report is blasting Sudan's government for failing to keep its promises and protect human rights in the troubled Darfur region. The report accuses Sudan of failing to meet two U.N. demands, disarm militias and arrests groups attacking villagers.

American beef could soon be back on the menu in Japan. A Japanese government panel has accepted Washington's assurances that a specific grade of beef will be free of mad cow disease. The decision has to be approved by the government before imports can resume. Japan banned U.S. beef just over a year ago.

Britain's Ellen MacArthur has sailed home to a hero's welcome after breaking the record for sailing solo around the world. MacArthur made the trip in just over 71 days, beating the previous record by more than 32 hours.

And in Rio de Janeiro, it's nonstop partying today, as Carnival reaches its climax. Hundreds of thousands of people are taking part in the celebration before the start of Lent.

And that's our look around the world.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: Some say it's about time. Others say it's hitting below the belt. Details of efforts to outlaw -- yes, outlaw -- baggy pants.

Plus, a different kind of ethnic joke, Arab stand-up. Who is doing it and why?

Also, this programming note. Tomorrow, this hour, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator Lindsey Graham, they will join us on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS.


BLITZER: If you're planning to visit the state of Virginia any time soon, you may want to pull up your britches. The state legislature is considering a bill that would make it a crime to wear droopy pants.

CNN's Jeanne Moos reports on a political controversy that centers on this question: How low can you go?


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Is it hitting below the belt? What belt? Wearing exposed underwear like this could one day expose you to a $50 fine in Virginia.

ALGIE HOWELL JR. (D), VIRGINIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Undergarments were made to be worn under other clothing.

MOOS: A freshman state lawmaker, Algie Howell Jr., is going after droopy, low-slung pants, because he kept hearing from customers in his barber shop that something should be done about young people exposing their underwear.

KENT WILLIS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, VIRGINIA ACLU: This falls in the silly bill category.

MOOS: The ACLU calls it unconstitutional. Others says it is racial profiling of young black men.

LIONELL SPRUILL JR. (D), VIRGINIA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: You should be ashamed of yourself, those who are lawyers, who voted for this bill.

MOOS: But vote, they did. Droopy pants exposing underwear have long gotten under people's skin. One annoyed Internet user even turned a famous song into a parody by changing the words to "pull your pants up."


MOOS (on camera): Let's see your waistline.

(voice-over): Droopy-pants-wearing guys in New York were staying warm, instead of exposing skin, but they had sympathy for their counterparts in Virginia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's crazy. Like, are they going to have a ruler and measure how low it is?

MOOS: The bill isn't that specific. It outlaws wearing below- waist undergarments in a lewd and indecent manner. Some guys called it a double standard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Females do it, too.

MOOS: Theoretically, thongs would be covered. Uncovered thongs would be covered, that is. But there are worse things to expose than underwear.

PHILIP BLOCH, STYLIST: And there's always the old plumber theory, but just say no to crack.

MOOS: Tell that to Homer Simpson. Why stop at this? Maybe they could ban this while they're at it. You may think your undies are cute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got fish on them.

MOOS: But fish could get you hooked.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Leave it to Jeanne Moos.

And we'll have a different kind of comedy night. That's coming up, Arab stand-up. We'll meet the comedians and we'll find out why they're doing what they're doing. You'll want to stick around and see this.


BLITZER: It's a comedy night with a twist. The humor is comprised almost entirely of ethnic jokes at the expense of the comics themselves, who all happen to be Arab-American.

CNN's Hala Gorani shows us what it's all about.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's great to see so many Arabs together in one place voluntarily, isn't it?


HALA GORANI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ridiculing stereotypes for a laugh.

NASRY MALAK, COMEDIAN: And I love being Egyptian, because I think the best thing about being Egyptian is that I have this ambiguous face, so that a racist doesn't know which racial slur to call me.

GORANI: Owning the racial slur before it's used against them.

MALAK: Why you. You -- you -- I hate you.


GORANI: Middle Eastern American comics are hitting the stand-up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Mathun (ph). I am a Palestinian Muslim virgin with cerebral palsy from New Jersey.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was either -- there were really two ethnic groups when I was growing up. You were either Italian or you were my father.

GORANI: Thirty-five-year-old Dino Bedalla (ph) is half Palestinian, half Italian. He's one of the organizers of this stand- up night in New York City dubbed Middle Eastern Bazaar. And the goal is not just to get a laugh.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to dispel stereotypes that Arabs are terrorists. We don't want people to lump us all together. And we want to be able to define who we are.

GORANI (on camera): And that's a main theme that I have heard from many of the comedians. It's you know what? Through my humor, I want you to see that I'm just like you. It's a main theme.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right. I think that that was really imperative after 9/11, because of the kind of racism that the Arab and Muslim community faced in the United States. We really needed to show that we're just like you and that, you know, the human side of being Arab.

GORANI (voice-over): The feeling of exclusion that all ethnic minorities can feel...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm Palestinian Baptist.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, it's not funny. It's not funny.


GORANI: Used to break down barriers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do not like the cold, OK? My sandy butt does not like to be around this kind of weather.

Well, I mean, if you look at what Richard Pryor did for black people and black comedy in general. He like brought it to the forefront to where point was like, it was cool to be black. As comics, that's what we do. We make it cool to be Iran. We make it cool to be Arab. We make it cool to be Middle Eastern.

GORANI: We showed some of the acts to the veteran stage director and head of the American Comedy Institute, Stephen Rosenfield. He says cultural and ethnic themes have always been part of comedy and even provide a unique opportunity for Arab-Americans.


STEPHEN ROSENFIELD, DIRECTOR, AMERICAN COMEDY INSTITUTE: It's part of a great American tradition in comedy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's Asian Awareness Month. There's Hispanic Awareness Month. What do we get? Orange alert.


ROSENFIELD: Anything you are, you have a huge license to make fun of. And, in a way, it kind of gives you a certain specialness when you're doing stand-up, because the non-Middle Eastern people can't -- they can't talk like that, but you can talk that way about your own group.


JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS, ACTRESS: I am not qualified...


GORANI: A process that has already taken Jewish-American humor to the mainstream, hits like "Seinfeld." Similarly, the likes of Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock have given African-Americans universal appeal, a process Arab-Americans know is at its very beginning for them; 33-year-old Nasry Malak has been doing stand-up for about six years.

MALAK: Everybody walks up to me and go, oh, good job. I'm like, no, thank you for coming, because that's what really matters. That's what really matters. That's what it comes down to. It comes down to support from your own community.

GORANI: But stand-up comics also hope to extend their appeal beyond the Middle Eastern community.

ROSENFIELD: You start in your ghetto of comedy. You start performing only for your ethnic group. Then you start getting booked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember asking my father. Honestly, I'm like, dad, you say you're from Palestine. Where is Palestine? It's not on the map. He has this weird look. He goes, it is in here.


ROSENFIELD: The ones who really are good start getting booked on any night of the week. And then they break through.

GORANI: Breaking through and becoming a force for tolerance. As the saying goes, laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

Hala Gorani, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And good luck to all those young comics.

This reminder. We're on weekdays 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Tomorrow at this time, I'll speak tomorrow with Texas singer, author and now candidate for governor of that state, Kinky Friedman. Also, Senators Hillary Clinton and Lindsey Graham, they will join us tomorrow as well, 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now.


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