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THE SITUATION ROOM

Tripoli Fighting; Tubercular Man

Aired June 1, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


CAFFERTY: He says things don't seem to be getting any better in there and may not for another 50 years.
How does a nice big town called Iraqville sound on Ranchero Bush, just outside Crawford, Texas -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Thanks, Jack for that.

To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, he's making headlines around the world. Now the tuberculosis patient who may have exposed hundreds of people to his drug-resistant strain of the disease gives his side of the story -- and it's very different from what federal health officials are saying.

Also, a controversial pioneer of assisted suicide now out of prison after more than eight years.

Will the man nicknamed Dr. Death resume efforts to help people take their own lives?

Also, my exclusive interview with the third most powerful man in Cuba, the national assembly president, Ricardo Alarcon. He will update us on Fidel Castro's health. He also has some very harsh words for President Bush.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in the in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Regret, remorse and an emotional apology from the man at the center of that international tuberculosis scare. But Andrew Speaker insists health officials told him he was not -- not a risk to others before boarding a flight to Paris. And he says he has proof to back that up.

And another new development -- questions about whether his Greek wedding really took place. The mayor of the Greek town where Speaker planned to wed his fiance now says the couple did not have the proper paperwork and there was, in fact, no marriage.

CNN's Mary Snow is following all of these new developments for us -- Mary, specifically, what kind of evidence is he saying he has to prove that he was told it wouldn't be a problem if he took those flights?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the 31-year-old newlywed said he has a tape recording that will prove why he believed it was OK for him to travel overseas.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

SNOW (voice-over): In an interview with ABC, Andrew Speaker appeared contrite, even apologized for boarding crowded planes knowing he had a potentially deadly form of tuberculosis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "GOOD MORNING AMERICA," COURTESY ABC NEWS)

ANDREW SPEAKER, HOSPITALIZED WITH TUBERCULOSIS: I never meant to hurt their families or them. And I just hope they can find a way to forgive me for putting them in harm, because I didn't mean to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Speaker disputes accounts by health officials who met with him before his wedding overseas.

DR. ERIC BENNING, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA HEALTH DEPARTMENT: We did tell him in no uncertain terms that he should not travel and we told him the reasons why.

SNOW: In the ABC interview in his Denver hospital room, Speaker insisted he had proof to the contrary -- tape recordings in which health officials told him he was not a risk.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "GOOD MORNING AMERICA," COURTESY ABC NEWS)

SPEAKER: My father said OK, now are you saying you prefer him not to go on a trip because he's a risk to anybody or are you simply saying that to cover yourself? And they said well, we have to tell you that to cover ourselves, but he's not a risk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Another point of contention is when the Centers for Disease Control contacted Speaker in Rome and told him to turn himself over to Italian health authorities. The CDC advised him not to get on a commercial jet and says it was working on options.

DR. JULIE GERBERDING, CDC DIRECTOR: We were really looking for every single viable option that would possibly have allowed the patient to return to the United States and do that in a way that did not pose a risk to other people.

SNOW: Speaker was forceful in disputing that claim.

SPEAKER: That is a complete lie.

SNOW: Speaker says he was told the CDC couldn't provide a way out of Italy and he says he defied the orders to stay in Italy because he feared he would die if he didn't get to Denver for treatment.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SNOW: And now Speaker is now undergoing a battery of tests at the National Jewish Hospital in Denver.

When he was asked why he didn't charter a plane home from Italy to the United States, Speaker told ABC that it would have cost him about $100,000. He says that he realizes now in hindsight that he may have been able to plan a way to raise the money at the time -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Mary.

Mary is watching the story for us.

At the same time, we're learning new details about how Speaker actually slipped back into the United States, despite that alert by federal health officials.

Let's bring in our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve.

She's watching this part of the story. What are you finding -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this case appears to boil down to the failure of one border agent. But it raises broader questions about the feasibility of stopping disease at our borders.

MESERVE (voice-over): The Customs and Border Protection officer at Champlain, New York waved Andrew Speaker and his wife across the border because they didn't look sick, say sources familiar with the investigation, even though an alert on the officer's computer screen told him to stop them.

A top homeland security official says: "top protocols were violated, the system is very clear on what should have taken place. That was not followed in this circumstance."

Senator Charles Schumer blames understaffing and a lack of training.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: You can have the best computer system in the world, but if the people on the job aren't properly trained and don't execute their job properly, that great computer system will go for naught.

MESERVE: According to a Homeland Security official, the officer involved had " a pretty extensive career and had received a lot of training."

The union that represents CBP officers has complained that public health issues were not receiving adequate attention and training.

Homeland Security says the training is significant.

But a CBP officer is not a doctor and right now public health personnel are present at only 20 of the nation's 326 ports of entry, mostly at airports.

One expert says we shouldn't expect to stop disease at the border.

DR. MARGARET HAMBURG, NUCLEAR THREAT INITIATIVE: There is no amount of money that we can invest to shore up our borders against infectious disease threats. The only way to make ourselves safe is to address disease control measures nationally and globally.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

MESERVE: One lesson homeland security has already learned -- there should be better information sharing throughout North America. Canadian authorities didn't find out about Andrew Speaker until 12 hours after he left their country -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jeanne watching this story for us.

A lot of lessons that are going to be learned, we hope, from this.

We rarely here about tuberculosis here in the United States, even though there are about 1,300 deaths from T.B. each year out of the population we have of about 300 million people.

By contrast, Brazil, with about 200 million people, has 15,000 T.B. deaths a year. Russia, with about 140 million people, has 28,000 T.B. deaths annually. The problem is also very significant in neighboring China. With a population of 1.3 billion, it sees 200,000 deaths from tuberculosis annually. And in India, with a billion people itself, it has about 300,000 T.B. deaths each year.

But it's the African continent that's hardest hit by the disease, with more than half a million T.B. deaths annually out of a population of about 877 million in Africa.

It's being called Lebanon's worst internal violence since the end of its civil war in 1990. The Lebanese Army unleashed its latest and perhaps fiercest barrage so far on a Palestinian refugee camp north of Tripoli today.

Our Beirut bureau chief, Brent Sadler, is there.

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, let me set the scene for you here.

For the most part of the daylight hours here in northern Lebanon, government forces have been using heavy artillery, mortars, tank fire and naval bombardments offshore to try to crush Islamic militants under Fatah al-Islam of holding on to their strongholds inside the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp.

The problem that the military has, that also inside the camp are many thousands of Palestinian civilians caught in the fighting.

That's government shell fire going into the camp as I speak.

Now, the concern is about the civilians trapped inside. The military says they're very wary of those civilians and they're trying to pinpoint the militant targets.

But it does seem that if this drags on at this level of ferociousness, that, in the end, that if the militants stick by their word to fight to the end, that eventually the military may have to go in some sort of armored assault -- Wolf.

All right, Brent.

Brent is watching this situation in Lebanon for us.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's an effective tactic, isn't it, the militants in among the civilian population in those camps?

That brings public opinion down on the side of the militants or on the side of the Palestinians in the refugee camps, when the civilian population is shelled along with the suspected militants.

The Republican Party has a bit of an image problem these days. I suppose that's an understatement of sorts. The war in Iraq, President Bush's lack of popularity, infighting over what to do over illegal immigration and no clear cut favorite emerging for the 2008 presidential election.

Add in a lack of progress on things like health care, Social Security reform, and, Houston, we have problems.

House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio has decided to try to deal with this identity crisis of sorts. "The Washington Post" reports Boehner has rounded up a group of key allies to try to restore the GOP brand.

Boehner thinks the way to win back Republican voters is to communicate better with the public and to tout the party's core principals of small government and low taxes.

The critics counter that branding may boost morale among Republican Party members, but in the long haul, it will do little to change voters' minds. So the question this hour is this -- what do the Republicans have to do to restore their image?

E-mail caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.

An image problem -- Wolf.

We don't have that here.

BLITZER: No.

Thank you.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack.

Up ahead, he spent more than eight years in prison for helping people commit suicide. Now Jack Kevorkian is free.

What does he do now?

Also, the war in Iraq triggering a political tidal wave. We're going to show you how it's radically changing one key presidential primary state.

Plus, we're getting new details on the health of the Cuban president, Fidel Castro. We'll get the latest in my exclusive interview with one of the country's top political interviews.

That interview coming up.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

COMMERCIAL

BLITZER: The Iraq War is changing the political landscape nationwide, but perhaps nowhere more so than the key presidential primary state of New Hampshire.

Our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, is in New Hampshire -- what impact has the war, Candy, based on your reporting, had on New Hampshire politics?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's had a huge impact, Wolf.

New Hampshire was changing anyway. In 1980, at the beginning of the Reagan era, it was a solidly conservative, Republican state. The demographics began to change. The education level began to change. It was turning slightly Democratic. But the war put this over the top.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

CROWLEY (voice-over): On the steps of her home in Exeter, New Hampshire, Natalie Healy says she never really thought about running for office. Then Dan was killed in Afghanistan.

NATALIE HEALY, REPUBLICAN ACTIVIST: I knew from the minute I heard that news.

CROWLEY: Chinook helicopters were dispatched. But one crashed after being hit by what the military believes was a rocket-propelled grenade.

HEALY: It wasn't -- you know, everybody says, well, it's a mother's intuition. I don't -- I just -- I don't know what it was, I just knew.

CROWLEY: She game a gold star mother in an instant, a political activist over time. She decided to run for the New Hampshire state Senate.

REP. PAUL HODES (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: It is too infrequently that we take the time to acknowledge the bravest among us as individuals.

CROWLEY: At a Memorial Day service at the Cathedral of the Pines, Paul Hodes reads the names of New Hampshire's war dead in Iraq and Afghanistan.

HODES: Senior Chief Petty Officer, Daniel Healy, Exeter, New Hampshire.

CROWLEY: The war pushed Hodes into running for U.S. Congress. Hodes and Healy -- two players who tell the story of the changing face of New Hampshire politics. She, a Republican who ran for state senate to support the troops and their mission.

HEALY: And don't you think our men would -- would feel a whole lot better knowing that this country was really behind them?

CROWLEY: He, a Democrat who ran for U.S. Congress to end the war.

HODES: I wasn't prepared to give this president, who has no credibility with my constituents or with me, a blank check to keep on doing what he was doing.

CROWLEY: She lost her race in a tsunami style election, which put Democrats solidly in charge of the state house for the first time since the Civil War.

He won his race for the U.S. Congress, also making history.

HODES: There's no question that the war and the unpopularity of it, I think, helped power the sentiment to elect Democrats. And the first time we've had two Democrats elected to the Congress -- our only two Congressional seats -- in more than 50 years.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

CROWLEY: The anti-war, pro-Democratic Party atmosphere in New Hampshire is so strong that the state's all powerful Independents, about 70 percent of them say they will vote Democratic in next year's primary -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Candy.

And Candy is watching all things New Hampshire, at least right now.

And don't forget, we're gearing up for our big debates in New Hampshire. CNN, WMUR and the "New Hampshire Union-Leader" leader are sponsoring back-to-back debates beginning this weekend.

The Democratic candidates square off Sunday. The Republicans go head to head Tuesday. Here's a little sneak preview, by the way. We're putting the finishing touches on our stage, which is atop a hockey rink at the arena at St. Anselm's College. That's just outside of Manchester.

I'll be close to the candidates, walking alongside their podiums. Both debates, by the way, each one, two hours without commercial interruption.

The Democrats Sunday night, 7:00 p.m. Eastern for two hours.

The Republicans Tuesday night.

And don't miss a special edition of lei.

We'll be live from New Hampshire Sunday, as well.

Among my guests, Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards. We'll talk about the campaign, her battle with cancer.

That's all happening, Sunday morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern, a special lei, looking ahead to the debates that start Sunday night.

You know, the State Department is facing a significant security breech over its $592 million embassy compound under construction right now in Baghdad. Architectural plans for the embassy were posted online.

Let's bring in our Abbi Tatton who posted the plans on the Web -- Abbi?

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was the architectural firm tasked with designing this vast, high security compound in Baghdad -- posted on their Web site alongside plans for a church in Texas, a marina. And there it is -- the Baghdad U.S. Embassy compound master plan. Computer generated images of the plans. We're showing just two innocuous ones.

The images included a diagram of the overall compound.

All of this was taken down after the firm was contacted by the State Department.

And a spokesperson for the parent company of that architectural firm told the Associated Press that the plans put online were purely conceptual.

A spokesperson for the State Department says, "We work very hard to ensure the safety and security of our employees overseas. This kind of information out in the public domain detracts from that effort." -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Was that a swimming pool that they showed over there?

TATTON: A swimming pool was one of these computer generated plans that was put online on the Web site. BLITZER: All right.

It looks like it's going to be a nice embassy. It's going to be the largest one the U.S. has ever built.

Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

Coming up, the man nicknamed Dr. Death now out of prison.

But has Jack Kevorkian changed his views on assisted suicide?

Plus, the first day of the hurricane season -- that's today. And we already have a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico. It's barreling toward Florida right now. We're going to tell you when it will hit.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

COMMERCIAL

BLITZER: Carol Costello has got the day off.

Brianna Keilar is monitoring some other stories incoming to THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Brianna, what's going on?

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf.

Well, in news impacting the bottom line, some optimism driven by jobs, strong jobs and factory data that sent stocks into record territory again today.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shot up 40 points, to close at an all time high of 13,668.

The S&P 500 gained almost 500 -- or the S&P 500 gained almost six points, also ending the day at a record 1536.

The Nasdaq Composite Index added nine.

Meanwhile, the man once dubbed Dr. Death is enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of life as a free man again today.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

KEILAR (voice-over): After more than eight years in prison, Jack Kevorkian walked out of maximum security prison in Michigan today.

DR. JACK KEVORKIAN, ASSISTED SUICIDE ADVOCATE: It feels wonderful.

QUESTION: You're looking good.

KEVORKIAN: This is one of the high points in life.

KEILAR: Despite Kevorkian's promise to a parole board that he will not conduct assisted suicide, Geoffrey Fieger, the attorney who represented Kevorkian in several cases, but no longer his lawyer, believes Kevorkian will return to his practice after two years.

GEOFFREY FIEGER, FORMER KEVORKIAN ATTORNEY: He's absolutely committed to his patients. And I know Jack Kevorkian. He is not going to let the -- the opposition forces beat him. He just isn't going to let them do it.

KEILAR: Kevorkian claims he was present at more than 130 deaths since 1990. In many cases, he set up his death machine so a patient could push a button and begin a fatal I.V. drip.

KEVORKIAN: My intent is not to kill, it's to dot my duty as a physician. And they often have disagreeable outcomes when you do your duty.

KEILAR: But in 1998, Kevorkian administered the drugs to Thomas Youk, a Michigan man who was physically unable to do it himself. Kevorkian also videotaped the death. The footage appeared on CBS News' "60 Minutes." It was also shown to the jury that would find him guilty of second degree murder and illegal delivery of a controlled substance. (END VIDEO TAPE)

KEILAR: Unlike Thomas Youk, many who sought out Kevorkian's services were not terminally ill. And some advocates of physician- assisted suicide say Kevorkian hurt rather than helped their cause.

But even so, the 79-year-old Kevorkian says he will work to change assisted suicide laws -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Where is he going to live, Brianna.

KEILAR: Well, at this point, Geoffrey Fieger, his former lawyer, says he's going to live at an undisclosed location with relatives. But he expects that eventually Kevorkian will be living on his own.

Brianna Keilar reporting for us.

And Kevorkian is going to be a guest Monday night on LARRY KING LIVE. That will air at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, my exclusive interview with the powerful president of Cuba's national assembly. He has what he says is proof that President Bush ordered Fidel Castro's assassination. Also, a popular internet match making site slapped with a lawsuit. We're going to show you who says they were being discriminated against.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

COMMERCIAL

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, tropical storm warnings are up along a stretch of Florida's western coast. That's because Tropical Storm Barry has formed in the Gulf of Mexico, right now about 300 miles southwest of Tampa.

Today, by the way, is the first day of the Atlantic hurricane season.

We're watching Barry.

A Mount Sinai Hospital researcher says thousands of first responders to the 9/11 World Trade Center attack could face the risk of lung cancer. He says many involved in rescue and cleanup already suffer from other lung ailments and experts fear cancer could be the next wave.

A group supporting U.S. intervention in Iraq wants to buy Cindy Sheehan's land in Crawford, Texas. Sheehan quit the anti-war movement this week, complaining of smear from both the right and the left. Her sister says it will be a cold day in hell before Sheehan sells the property to a pro-war group.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.

You're in the in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Now to a CNN exclusive. The Cuban president, Fidel Castro, is temporarily out of power and largely out of sight, but still causing an international uproar this week, alleging that President Bush ordered him assassinated.

Does he have any proof?

And what's the real state of Castro's health?

And joining us now from Havana, Cuba, the president of the Cuban National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, who is often described as the third most powerful man in Cuba, after Fidel and Raul Castro.

President Alarcon, thanks very much for spending a few moments with us.

It's been almost a year now, since President Fidel Castro became ill.

Do you expect we're going to be seeing him any time soon?

RICARDO ALARCON, PRESIDENT, CUBAN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY: Well, President Fidel Castro is recovering. He's -- he has to relinquish provisionally certain obligations to the first vice president, but everything went down here very smoothly, as it was supposed to be, according to our law and our constitution. Everything is fine, except a lot of rain at this moment.

BLITZER: A lot of rain right now.

But what exactly is wrong, because I'm still confused?

I'm still confused about his illness, his ailment.

What's wrong with President Castro?

ALARCON: Well, he described the problem as very delicate surgery that he has to have -- several, not just one surgery. But it was a very risky situation. Now it's not anymore. The worst moments are behind him at this moment.

BLITZER: So you expect that he'll make a full recovery?

ALARCON: I think that, in a way, he practically -- practically we can say that he has fully recovered. But he has to continue a very strict regime of exercising, rehabilitation. And then he's reading a lot and writing, also.

BLITZER: Last Tuesday, he was quoted as saying something extremely provocative involving the U.S. president. He said this. He was quoted as saying: "I'm not the first, nor will I be the last that Bush has ordered to be killed."

Is there any evidence that you have that President Bush has ordered the assassination of President Fidel Castro?

ALARCON: We have a long history of assassination attempts against him. There's a full record with investigations (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

BLITZER: Yes, but that's...

ALARCON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

BLITZER: ... that's way back in the '60s.

ALARCON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) but now.

BLITZER: But what about now?

ALARCON: Saying (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

BLITZER: I mean he's making an allegation against President Bush.

ALARCON: Well, ask Mr. Posada, who is right now in Miami, enjoying freedom and security and living there. After having been -- his last exploit, remember, was in the year 2000, already with Mr. Bush in the White House, in Panama, when he organized a big thing of the Panamanian University. A lot of C-4 explosives were found with him.

He was condemned by a Panamanian tribunal because of endangering Panamanian security and -- but now he's free. He has not been the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

BLITZER: So is that...

ALARCON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)... BLITZER: ... is that the evidence that you have (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

Is that the proof that you say you have, that President Bush, this current U.S. president, not earlier presidents, tried to assassinate president Castro?

ALARCON: Well, President Bush is very good in the business of killing people. If you just watch CNN everyday and you will see how many Iraqis, how many innocent peoples are losing their lives now. Then we cannot -- I refer to the most notorious case.

If you have a president that pardons and protects a terrorist that has been famously involved in attempts against my president's life, how should I do that this man may be plotting the same things at this moment, enjoying American protection?

President Bush's protection.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on and get your reaction to what the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said today.

She was in Madrid, Spain, meeting with the Spanish foreign minister and she leveled this charge against your government.

ALARCON: Yes.

BLITZER: Listen to what Condoleezza Rice said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: There must be a democratic transition in Cuba. That is owed to the Cuban people. People who are struggling for a democratic future need to know that they are supported by those of us who are lucky enough to be free.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right, President Alarcone, what do you say to Secretary Rice, who just said that earlier today?

ALARCON: I wish that someday there will be a democratic transition in the United States, that there will be a regime change in your country, a change from war to peace, a change from arrogance in this kind of interfering in everybody's affairs.

And looking back a little bit at home and solving -- facing these real problems that Americans have.

We eliminated T.B. for example, a generation ago and you -- we are entering now, here, again, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) today.

Let's answer those problems that the Americans have. I don't want to interfere in the U.S. affairs.

BLITZER: All right... ALARCON: But I do believe that someday you will enjoy having a different kind of government in your country. A transition will take place there.

BLITZER: All right, well, there are elections -- free elections in the United States.

I want to read to you what Human Rights Watch, an international human rights organization -- which is not adverse to criticizing allegations of U.S. human rights abuses -- what it said in its most recent report about Cuba.

It say this. It said: "Cuba remains the one country in Latin America that represses nearly all forms of political dissent. President Fidel Castro, during his 47 years in power, has shown no willingness to consider even minor reforms. Cubans are systematically denied basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, privacy, movement and due process of law."

That's from Human Rights Watch.

What do you say in response to a charge like that?

ALARCON: Well, these people have a different view than ours from -- about the political process, of a democracy and so on.

But have you read the last report by Amnesty International?

It was issued this week. They also criticize us but also said very strong things regarding the United States and many other countries around the world.

How to single out Cuba, when in Cuba, according to Amnesty International, there are a few dozen individuals that were sentenced by a tribunal, according to our laws, for working with the U.S. government to undermine our country.

But in the U.S. according to Amnesty International, in the last year, more than 70 people had been killed in your prisons. But nobody singled out the U.S. for -- to be criticized and -- the only place in Cuba where very gross violations of human rights are taking place is at the Guantanamo Bay area, the only part of Cuba that is not under our effective jurisdiction.

BLITZER: But this -- the Amnesty International report, the Human Rights Watch, the International Committee for the Red Cross, you acknowledge they've been very critical of your government for allegations of human rights abuses, the lack of a democracy and freedoms within Cuba?

ALARCON: Because they are not objective, Wolf.

They -- they are part of a campaign against my country. Here, we don't say that we are perfect.

But please, who are criticizing us? Who are attacking us?

Are they really entitled to give lessons to us?

Please.

BLITZER: Let me raise the issue of what you call The Cuban Five, these five Cuban spies who have been convicted. They're being held here in the United States. And I know you want the U.S. to let them go.

They were convicted of espionage at U.S. military bases in Florida.

Here's the question, a simple question.

If you found five American spies who were similarly doing these activities that you yourself acknowledge occurred in Cuba at military bases, would you simply let them go back to the United States?

ALARCON: First of all, never any attempt has been made from Cuba to attack the United States. We didn't invade the Bay of Pigs in America. We didn't organize or protect anti-American terrorists in Cuba.

The U.S. has never claimed that.

These five individuals, by the way, were not accused of being spies. Three of them were accused of conspiracy to commit espionage, which is different. The difference is that the government didn't have the burden to demonstrate, to prove that they really spied.

The Pentagon officially, in a statement that was read at that court, the court that tried them, said that no -- that that case didn't involve at all the U.S. national security.

And in order to have a spying case, you need to have an attempt against the U.S. national security, according to our law.

The indictment, the sentence, the statements by the prosecutor in court, were very specific, very clear. They were arrested and they were condemned because they had penetrated anti-Cuban terrorist groups, such as Mr. Posada, who operates freely from America.

BLITZER: But let me just be precise...

ALARCON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: Were they working for the Cuban government?

ALARCON: Of course. Of course. We have never denied that. They collected information to help us to protect against those terrorists attempts. And, by the way, we shared that information with your FBI. And we are still waiting for some action against the terrorists that are at large in your country. At the time, when, according to President Bush, those who protect, those who watch a terrorist are as terrorists (UNINTELLIGIBLE) themselves.

BLITZER: This is...

ALARCON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

BLITZER: This is clearly, President Alarcon, a critical moment in the relationship, in the history between the United States and Cuba. I wonder if you want to use this moment to deliver a message to the Cuban exiles who live in Florida right now, because everyone, especially this community, is watching what's happening right now very, very closely.

What's your message to the Cuban exiles in Florida?

ALARCON: I think that a message came recently from Florida. The last Florida International University opinion poll that they took among Cuban-Americans showed that the majority of Cubans living in the U.S. would like to have a rapprochement with their country, with our regime, better relations, the end of the embargo, the end of the travel ban. And we share those views with them.

I think that the day will come -- we are getting closer to that day -- when the current restrictions, the current problems that create obstacles in the communication between the Cubans living there and the Cubans in Cuba, will be over. And we will continue struggling for that day to come sooner.

BLITZER: Our time is up, President Alarcon. But it was kind of you to spend a few moments with us from Havana.

Ricardo Alarcon is the president of the Cuban National Assembly.

Thanks very much.

ALARCON: Thank you to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And up ahead, how easily could tuberculosis spread in the workplace?

Miles O'Brien is working this story for us.

Also, this story -- eHarmony, the online dating service, says it can help you find a soul mate. But some people say, not so fast. We'll explain.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

COMMERCIAL

BLITZER: Let's get some more now on our top story -- that tuberculosis scare that was sparked by an Atlanta lawyer with a rare, drug-resistant form of the disease. He may have spent months at work without knowing he even had T.B. And that raises the broader issue about germs in the office.

We were shocked to find out what's floating around in our newsroom in New York.

Let's go to Miles O'Brien.

He's watching this story -- Miles, what exactly did we find?

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you well know, newsrooms are often filled with sick people. It's not what you're thinking. We're talking about germs and how quickly they can spread in a place like this.

It turns out there is plenty to watch out for when you're on the job.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

O'BRIEN: We asked infectious disease expert Dr. Yoko Furuya for a quick checkup on our digs here in New York. When you're in a place like this, how can you avoid germs?

Well, it's all in your hands, so to speak.

DR. YOKO FURUYA, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: The areas where there is the most hand contact tends to be where the germs concentrate. So a computer keyboard, a phone, a mouse -- those are the areas that you might want to try to de-germ, if possible, when you're touching them. You know, products like this...

O'BRIEN: Oh, we have some (UNINTELLIGIBLE) right here.

FURUYA: ... Purell hand sanitizer.

O'BRIEN (voice-over): And there is good reason for the caution. Not long ago, we asked a germ expert, Dr. Charles Gerba, to test our newsroom. He took samples from the phones, our keyboards, our desks and even our conference table.

The verdict?

Millions of bacteria per square inch. And many of them are germs.

DR. CHARLES GERBA: Well, this is pushing a two or three in terms of the germiest places I've ever seen.

O'BRIEN: Our experts say if you are sick, for wellness sake, stay home.

FURUYA: Because whatever productivity people gain from showing up when they're sick, it's probably outweighed by the lost productivity when they make other people sick.

O'BRIEN: But what about flying? What do you do if you're stuck for hours with a bunch of strangers spreading who knows what?

FURUYA: There is a limit to what people can do, obviously. Something like tuberculosis, which is spread by inhaling the droplets that people cough up, I think, is much more difficult to prevent transmission.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

O'BRIEN: It kind of makes your stomach turn, doesn't it, Wolf?

It was a real eye-opener. And after seeing all that, hearing all that from the good doctor, I decided, Wolf, I put my hand out and then I decided not to shake her hand. She kind of smiled and said, "That's fine with me" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, that's one of the biggest problems out there, people shaking hands.

O'BRIEN: It is.

BLITZER: And...

O'BRIEN: It is.

BLITZER: And, you know, Donald Trump doesn't like to shake hands with people, precisely because of the germs.

O'BRIEN: He prefers people to bow.

BLITZER: (LAUGHTER).

That's healthier.

O'BRIEN: Maybe we should all be doing that.

BLITZER: That's healthier.

Thanks very much.

Miles O'Brien reporting for us.

Lou Dobbs getting ready for his show. That's beginning right at the top of the hour -- Lou, what are you working on?

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you.

I think Miles has got that figured out on Donald Trump, don't you?

BLITZER: Yes.

DOBBS: Tonight, we are reporting on the president's increasingly desperate efforts to sell his grand compromise on illegal immigration reform. Is the president now playing the race card to save his plan?

What is he doing?

We'll have complete coverage tonight.

Also, Senator Clinton trying to bolster her campaign, trying to appease Silicon Valley executives on the issue of those H1B visas for foreigner workers.

Is the senator selling out on the issue?

We'll have a special report for you.

And the FDA issuing a warning about possibly contaminated toothpaste from -- you guessed it -- communist China.

Incredibly, that warning comes two weeks after other countries in this hemisphere told their people about the risk of that Chinese made tooth paste. We'll tell you what your government is doing for you here.

And among our guests tonight, three of the very best political analysts in the country.

We hope you will join us at 6:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN, at the top of the hour -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Lou, thanks very much.

DOBBS: Thanks.

BLITZER: Lou Dobbs reporting.

Up ahead, 29 dimensions of compatibility. But there's apparently one missing for a California woman. Why she's suing online matchmaker eHarmony.com.

And later, what's in a name?

If it's Clinton, quite a lot.

Our own John King, he's up in Manchester, New Hampshire, ahead of this weekend's presidential debates. We're going to be taking a closer look at what's being called the Clinton mystique.

That's during our 7:00 p.m. Eastern hour.

Stay with us.

You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

COMMERCIAL

BLITZER: The company behind one of the internet's most popular matchmaking Web sites is now facing a lawsuit alleging it discriminates against gays and lesbians.

CNN's Sibila Vargas is joining us now from Los Angeles with details.

Give us the background to this case -- Sibila.

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. And one California woman is making her anger known.

Now, it all started when she went on the popular Web site to find love. She says what she found was rejection based on her sexual orientation.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM EHARMONY AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it a yes?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VARGAS (voice-over): If you surf the Net or watch TV, you've probably run into those feel good videos for the popular dating Web site, eHarmony.com. They feature couples who have found love, sometimes marriage, by using the pay feature of the site that matches people responding to a 436-question application.

But if you're gay, don't bother applying.

Linda Carlson, a lesbian suing eHarmony, tried to join last February. Her attorney is Todd Schneider.

TODD SCHNEIDER, PLAINTIFF'S ATTORNEY: One of the boxes they ask you to fill in says, "I am a colon" and your choices from the pull down list are "man seeking woman" or "woman seeking man." If you fail to put anything in that box and hit submit, you get an error message.

VARGAS: That hetero-only policy led a competitor that features same-sex couples to poke fun at eHarmony by showing a gay man trying to appear straight to get on eHarmony.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM EHARMONY AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nope, still gay.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VARGAS: While most dating sites let you pick someone to contact, eHarmony itself picks your matches -- your heterosexual matches, with a goal of marriage.

Those 436 or so questions?

They're based on years of data and research on heterosexuals devised, in part, by eHarmony's founder, Dr. Neil Clark Warren.

eHarmony says it's worthless to gays seeking matches.

GREG WALDORF, CEO, EHARMONY.COM, INC.: The service that we offer today is one we can deliver with confidence. I could not offer a service today to the plaintiff with any sense that it's going to work, because we've done no research to help her to get what she wants.

VARGAS: But while eHarmony says it isn't for gays, they say they welcome all faiths.

WALDORF: If you just go to our home page, you can literally see photos of thousands of people from all different faiths, all different religions.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

VARGAS: And why didn't the plaintiff, Linda Carlson, choose one of the many matchmaking sites for gays?

Well, her attorney says its because eHarmony is better at making matches. It's estimated that 13 million people have signed up for membership on the popular matchmaking site -- Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Sibila, thank you.

By the way, this isn't the first time people have claimed to be excluded from eHarmony's services. Back in April, a group representing shorter adults called for a boycott of the company, saying it refused to match short men with tall women.

A spokesman for the company calls that claim as frivolous as the allegation of discrimination against gays.

And a California man is also trying to sue eHarmony. He says his ad was rejected because he's married, but separated, and that state law bars discrimination based on marital status. EHarmony says it doesn't accept people who say they're separated because it has no way to investigate whether they're really getting divorced.

Up next, we're watching this -- what do Republicans have to do to restore their image?

That's Jack's question.

He'll be back with your e-mail, right after this.

COMMERCIAL

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

CAFFERTY: The question this hour is what do Republicans have to do to restore their image?

John Boehner thinks it could use a little spiffing up. Laurine writes from Urbandale, Iowa, right outside Des Moines: "Honest Republicans have to separate from the special interest owned Republicans. Going back to so-called Republican standards of small government and low taxes won't work."

Daryl in Oregon writes: "They need to change more than their image, Jack. Most people are finally learning that the Republican philosophy of get yours and to hell with everybody else just isn't working for the vast majority of Americans."

Hamilton in Florida: "Let the Democrats run the country for four to eight years. The pendulum keeps on swinging."

Kevin in San Diego: "They need to quit courting the crazy Christian right, for starters, and quit justifying the ignoring of the constitution by saying "9/11 -- terror, 9/11 -- terror," playing on people's fears gets old and it only works for so long.

Debra in Florida: "They could start impeachment proceedings against their war president, the decider."

Mike in Florida: "They can start by giving the average American a tax break, enforce the current immigration laws, stop big insurance and big oil from gouging the consumer and get big business out of their back pocket."

Leonard in Kentucky: "You ever hear the saying fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me? The Republicans have fooled us once -- big spending, support for the war, and to put a cherry on top, no real forthcoming presidential candidate. It'll be at least six to eight years before any new image will even have an effect. It doesn't take a Democrat to see that."

And Robert in Rhode Island: "They should take a clue from the Chinese, or a cue. The Chinese knew what to do when the head of their FDA caused the deaths of 10 people because of corruption, incompetence and collusion with private business interests to the detriment of their citizens."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, go to caffertyfile@cnn.com. We post more of them online, along with video clips of The Cafferty File -- Wolf.

BLITZER: See you back here in an hour in THE SITUATION ROOM, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us.

Let's go to Lou in New York -- Lou.

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