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With the Troops in Iraq; Saddam Admitted Bluffing; Early Release for Cocaine Possession?

Aired November 13, 2007 - 17:00   ET


CAFFERTY: Paul writes: "The voting thus far has been extremely partisan, and as such, the Democrats have failed to muster the votes to overcome the majority needed to bring these bills to fruition. Additionally, the Democrats are pandering to the middle in an effort to be everything to everyone instead of acting like Democrats and shutting this Republican fiasco down, like the American public want."
Liza in Rutherford, New Jersey: "The Dems are not 0 for 40, they're 1 for 39. They passed a bill, but Bush vetoed it. If Senate Republicans didn't threaten to filibuster everything, a few more of those would have passed, too."

And Tom writes: "This is an easy one, Jack. It's the fear of looking wimpy on national security and terrorism. FDR was addressing this Democratic Congress when he said, 'There's nothing to fear but fear itself.' In the case of these Democrats in power, that seems to be more than enough. No, there'll be no spines for Christmas this year."



Thank you.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, a stunning revelation about weapons of mass destruction and it comes directly from Saddam Hussein beyond the grave. He spent hours and hours every day with his U.S. interrogator and new details of their conversations are now out.

Also, she's in lockdown. Her house is surrounded. But she won't stay silent. The opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, calling on Pakistan's president to quit. My exclusive interview with Benazir Bhutto. That's coming up.

And the drought in Georgia is so bad that state leaders, including the governor, are praying for rain from the steps of the capital.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Fascinating new insight into Saddam Hussein's final days now emerging, including shocking details of his interrogation, in which he admitted he was bluffing about having weapons of mass destruction.

Let's go back to Brian Todd.

He's watching this story for us -- all right, Brian, first of all, what's the source of this new information?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A source you might just recognize, Wolf.

While he was in U.S. custody, Saddam Hussein spent a lot of time with a 36-year-old FBI interrogator named George Pero. What he reportedly told the young agent throws more cold water on the justification for war.


TODD (voice-over): War over weapons of mass destruction -- but the man who allegedly had those weapons told his interrogator it was mostly smoke and mirrors. For his new book, "The Terrorist Watch," author Ron Kessler interviewed FBI Special Agent George Pero, who questioned Saddam Hussein every day -- at least five hours a day -- for seven months. The former dictator's startling revelation...

RONALD KESSLER, AUTHOR, "THE TERRORIST WATCH": Saddam eventually admitted in the interviews that he was bluffing about WMD, he was afraid of Iran, he wanted them to think that he had WMD.

And what better way than if America thought that he had WMDs?

At the same time, Saddam admitted he did plan to resume his WMD program, which he thought he could do within about a year when sanctions would be lifted.

TODD: Pero, a seasoned interrogator, told Kessler he believed Saddam because of his body language. According to Kessler, Saddam told Pero he'd stayed one step ahead of U.S. forces on the night of the invasion.

KESSLER: Saddam also told George that, in fact, he was at the two locations that the U.S. bombed. Saddam said he was there, but he had left by the time the bombs actually fell.

TODD: Pero told Kessler he was a neat freak, who would wash his hands compulsively if he ever shook yours. The former Iraqi president also flirted with an American nurse while in custody, writes Kessler, and had plenty of romantic advice for his young FBI handler.

KESSLER: Saddam said, you know, Arab women are better at a certain age because they'll be loyal to you. And American women are too independent.

TODD: The FBI would not let us interview George Pero or obtain a picture of him because of his sensitive assignments. The agent told Kessler when it was time to part ways, he smoked Cuban cigars with Saddam Hussein. Then... KESSLER: They hugged each other in the traditional Arabic way, which made George rather uncomfortable. But then -- then Saddam definitely was shaken and teared up.


TODD: George Pero told Kessler he found Saddam Hussein likable, with a good sense of humor. But Pero never forgot what an evil man Saddam as and said he felt that Saddam's conviction and execution were fair -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What other personal information, Brian, did Saddam Hussein share with this young FBI agent?

TODD: Well, Kessler writes that Saddam told Pero he didn't trust his younger son Qusay, even though he had groomed Qusay to be his successor. When Pero pressed Saddam on his sons, Kessler writes, Saddam said, "Look, leave me alone. You don't get to pick your kids. You're stuck with what you're given and this is what I had."

BLITZER: Fascinating material.

All right, thanks very much, Brian, for that.

On the ground, U.S. troops grinding it out, looking for insurgents and their deadly weapons. It's even more nerve-wracking, you can only imagine, for those who will soon be heading home.

CNN's Morgan Neill is embedded with U.S. troops in Northern Iraq.


MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the last year, soldiers of the 2nd Battalion 7th Calvary Regiment have gotten to know firsthand the dangers in the City of Mosul, in the north of Iraq.

SGT. DAVID CARTE, U.S. ARMY: The last time, in 2000, we came through here, it was pretty -- pretty exciting.

NEILL: With just a month before they leave Iraq, this mission will be one of their last here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Demon Company is going to be to our east and the 3rd Platoon is going to be screening to our west.

NEILL: They're heading to the outskirts of the city -- to an area they believe may be used by insurgents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to be a long day, boys.

NEILL: With Kiowa helicopters above, the soldiers dismount to begin house-to-house searches.

(on camera): On today's mission, in an area these troops haven't seen in a couple of months, they're looking for any evidence of IEDs, other explosive devices. And, as you can see, they've got a lot of ground to cover.

(voice-over): Almost immediately, an abandoned shed raises suspicions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jackpot. CARTE: They've been using a lot of these (INAUDIBLE) tanks as IEDs lately. There isn't nobody here and it looks like we interrupted whatever they were doing. I mean it could be nothing, but this is suspicious activity.

I mean this isn't a warehouse, you know what I mean?


NEILL: In the distance, soldiers spot a car that appears to be fleeing. They give chase.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey! Hey! You, move!

NEILL: The two passengers are taken out and questioned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ask him why he was leaving.

Why did he (INAUDIBLE)?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They say this is a taxi.

NEILL: They are then checked for explosive residue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These guys are clean. They came up negative. They probably were telling the truth.

The majority of the people tell the truth, you know?

NEILL: The U.S. military says this kind of boots on the ground mission, along with close cooperation from the Iraqi forces, has helped to bring down the levels of violence here. But it's still extremely dangerous work and soldiers are guarding against any letdown in their last weeks, as thoughts inevitably turn to home.

SGT. MIGUEL MEDINA, U.S. ARMY: We know as leaders, we've got to stay focused with them, make sure that they still stay focused on the mission.

NEILL: In the last year, the U.S. military says attacks here in Nineveh Province have dropped from 18 a day to between 10 and 12. That means that when these soldiers say they're leaving Mosul a safer place than they found it, they'll likely have the numbers to back it up.

Morgan Neill, CNN, Mosul, Iraq.


BLITZER: Many U.S. troops returning from Iraq face mental health issues. The Pentagon requires screening for all upon their return home and again six months later. And a new study just out finds a stunning increase in mental health problems in that second screening. Take a look at this. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder up 40 percent. Depression more than double. Overall, mental health concerns, up about 60 percent. And there's a fourfold increase in issues of what's called interpersonal conflict.

Thousands of U.S. prisoners could be going home early. A federal panel is now weighing whether to cut sentences for crack cocaine -- sentences which are often heavier than those given for crimes involving cocaine powder. In the meantime, one anxious mother can only watch and wait.

Let's go to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena.

She's been covering this story for us.

What's going on -- Kelli?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the U.S. Sentencing Commission heard from experts for and against an early release for people already in prison for possessing crack cocaine. But it's not an academic discussion for family members anxiously waiting for some resolution.


ARENA (voice-over): Karen Garrison sat quietly as strangers discussed the fate of her twin boys -- both in jail for possessing crack cocaine.

KAREN GARRISON, MOTHER OF CONVICTED OFFENDER: Well, I try not to be frustrated because then I can't concentrate. I won't be able to hear the things I need to hear to understand what's going on.

ARENA: The U.S. Sentencing Commission is considering whether to make new sentencing guidelines for possessing crack retroactive. Those guidelines will shave about 15 months off many sentences. And supporters say that it's only fair to apply them to people already serving time. That would affect more than 19,000 prisoners.

JUDGE REGGIE WALTON, U.S. (PH) DISTRICT COURT: From the standpoint of sending the message to those in our society who sometimes believe that our society really doesn't care about them, I think it's important that we send a message that we do.

ARENA: But critics say letting criminals out early could cause even more problems in communities already under siege.

GRETCHEN SHAPPERT, U.S. ATTORNEY: We are going to see an influx of the very people who are most likely to re-offend and most likely to upset these fragile neighborhoods.

ARENA: That's a hard argument for this mother to swallow. Her sons are college graduates with no prior criminal records. They were fingered by a convicted drug dealer -- but no drugs were ever found on them. The men refused to plea -- maintaining their innocence for nearly 10 years.

GARRISON: And they're just waiting, hopefully that it will be made retroactive, because if it's not made retroactive, there will be a lot of hearts broken and a lot of disappointment.


ARENA: Even if the sentencing guidelines are made retroactive, a sentence reduction is not guaranteed. Prisoners will have to go before a judge for consideration -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kelli, thank you.

Kelli Arena watching this story.

Let's go back to Jack.

He's in New York with The Cafferty File -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: I don't suppose this is breaking news, but it's interesting. The American dream, Wolf, may depend on the color of your skin.

A new study shows many blacks are, in fact, worse off than their parents were. Research by The Pew Charitable Trusts found that in every income group, blacks are less likely than whites to climb the ladder of economic success. Also, the majority of blacks who were born to middle income parents are slipping out of the middle class and, in many cases, sliding backward into poverty.

Although overall, family incomes have risen for both blacks and whites in the last 30 years, researchers were surprised to find so much downward mobility among African-Americans. They called the findings disturbing because they suggest that middle income blacks are having a difficult time passing their hard-earned gains onto their children.

Experts aren't sure why this is happening, but they speculate that some factors could be the increase in the number of single parent black households, educational gaps between blacks and whites and racial isolation that's still common for many middle income blacks.

So here's the question -- a new study says many blacks are worse off than their parents were.


E-mail your thoughts to or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's pretty disturbing, Jack.


BLITZER: That conclusion. I mean we always thought the kids would do better than the parents. That was the basic nature of our country. CAFFERTY: Well, you know, we've talked about this before.

I'm not sure that this applies only to blacks. I'm not sure that if you look at -- right across the spectrum of American society -- that the standard of living, in many ways, isn't declining for all of us at some level.

BLITZER: I'm interested to hear what our viewers think, as well, Jack.

Thank you.

Al Qaeda, nuclear weapons and democracy on the line right now in the Pakistan. My exclusive interview with the former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto. She's now calling for President Musharraf to simply step down -- and she wants the U.S. to help push him out. We're going to go and speak with Benazir Bhutto. That's coming up.

Plus, Yahoo! now settling with two journalists who were jailed and allegedly tortured after the company gave their names to the Chinese government.

And praying for rain -- Georgia's governor asked God for divine intervention to end weeks of drought.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: To Pakistan now, where a military crackdown is hardly keeping a lid on tensions. Here are the latest developments happening right now. She's under house arrest, but that's not silencing the opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto. She's calling on President Pervez Musharraf to step down.

Islamic hardliners are also calling for the president's ouster and some are shouting "Death to Musharraf!" as they clash with police in the frontier city of Peshawar.

The U.S. is now sending its number two diplomat to urge an end to the crackdown. The deputy secretary of state, John Negroponte, will arrive in Pakistan later this week.

And just a short while ago, I asked Benazir Bhutto whether President Musharraf would still have to step down, even if he were to take off his military uniform, end the crackdown and allow free and fair elections.

BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PAKISTANI PRIME MINISTER: Yes, because I don't believe this country can have fair, free and impartial elections while General Musharraf is there. Every action of his is geared toward protecting the ruling coalition that has presided over the rise of the Taliban and the regrouping of Al Qaeda. He simply is not willing to have free elections because they would lose any elections which were conducted under an independent election commission without these political mirrors (ph) that they have put into place.

BLITZER: What -- if he were to step down -- and, obviously, there are no indications he's planning to do anything of that kind. In fact, all the indications are just the opposite.

But if he were to step down, what would you want him to do?

What would -- in other words, would you say he should be himself incarcerated, arrested?

Would you want him to go into exile?

What would you want from this man?

BHUTTO: Well, I just want him to leave the office. I don't think that much purpose is served by forcing people into exile or arresting them and persecuting them. I've always believed that democracy is the best revenge. And I think that people need democracy and they need to move on.

But the real issue, which is eliminating extremism and saving Pakistan by addressing the social and economic needs of the people, as well as cracking down on the political madrassas that are churning out these people who commit bomb blasts and suicide bombs.

BLITZER: On that specific point, Prime Minister, what do you say to those who argue that, yes, Musharraf may not be perfect, but he could be a whole lot better than an Islamic fundamentalist -- Islamic Al Qaeda-oriented or Taliban-oriented people taking over Pakistan?

BHUTTO: Wolf, I can tell you that if General Musharraf stays, Al Qaeda or Taliban people taking over the country will become a reality. It's under his watch that the Taliban have reorganized themselves and taken over the tribal areas of Pakistan. They are now expanding into the settled areas of the frontier province. They have their eye on our capital city of Islamabad. Al Qaeda has regrouped, too.

So these forces are now launching attacks in nearby Afghanistan and Pakistan. Dictatorship in Pakistan is a threat to two countries -- not one -- both to Kabul and to Islamabad.

BLITZER: The president of the United States is sending the deputy secretary of state, John Negroponte, to Pakistan later this week to meet with the Pakistani leadership.

What do you want the U.S. to do right now?

BHUTTO: Well, I would like the U.S. to facilitate an exit strategy for General Musharraf. I don't believe it's in the United States of America's interests to have Pakistan implode. And as a Pakistani hand (ph), as someone who has studied in the United States and believes in friendship with the United States, I give my fair, honest advice that the longer that General Musharraf stays, the more dangerous Pakistan will grow. And that's not because he's a bad man or an unreasonable man. But that's because he's too closely aligned with the team he put together. And that team has presided over the rise of Al Qaeda. He's simply unable to break the umbilical cord with this team. Everything he does is at the behest of the ruling party. And that ruling party is, I am afraid, got elements within it who are sympathizers of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

BLITZER: If he doesn't end the state of national emergency, President Musharraf, and allow free and fair elections, take off his military uniform, should the U.S. suspend military aid to Pakistan?

BHUTTO: You know, Wolf, that's a difficult question to answer. It's very tempting to say that aid should be suspended to Pakistan. But then I worry whether it would be restarted again. So I would rather see it calibrated, you know, that Paki -- that Islamabad is told and General Musharraf is told that this military aid is going to be suspended, but automatically restored once the country has fair elections.

But General Musharraf needs to be put under international pressure if he's to lift emergency, retire as chief of army staff, hold an honest election, ungag the media and free the political prisoners.

BLITZER: If you're faced with this choice, what would you do -- exile or imprisonment?

BHUTTO: If I was faced with the choice of General Musharraf facing now?

BLITZER: No. If you're -- if you were faced with the choice of Benazir Bhutto being told you could either leave Pakistan, go into exile, once again -- or the other choice is you'll remain under either house arrest or you'll be sent to a formal prison, what do you do?

BHUTTO: I would prefer to choose prison over exile and I would prefer to do that because I feel that the people of Pakistan want me with them at this time and I would like to be here.

BLITZER: Well, let's hope that doesn't happen.

Benazir Bhutto, good luck to you.

Good luck to all the people of Pakistan.

Thanks very much for joining us.

We'll be in close touch.

BHUTTO: Thank you, Wolf.

Thank you very much.

BLITZER: And up ahead, Congressional Democrats 0 for 40 when it comes to the war in Iraq. We're going to have more on this story.

Why can't they parlay their majority into influence?

Plus, an important health alert -- a record number of cases of a very frightening disease.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Carol Costello is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what's going on?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, an interesting update for you.

The State Department is trying to avoid sending unwilling diplomats to Iraq. So it's extending voluntary signup until Friday. This comes amid speculation some Foreign Service officers could be forced to go to Iraq in the biggest call-up since Vietnam. Twenty-five volunteers have already been approved and 12 of the 23 remaining open posts are tentatively filled.

One week after Yahoo! apologized to the families of two Chinese journalists, the Internet company has now settled a lawsuit filed by the men. The journalists say they were jailed and tortured after Yahoo! turned over their e-mails to Chinese authorities. Yahoo! Says it was complying with Chinese law. An attorney tells CNN Yahoo! is promising the journalists' families it will do everything possible to get them out of prison.

There's a new U.S. record, but it's not something to cheer about. Federal health officials say there were more than a million cases of chlamydia in the United States last year. That is the most ever reported for a sexually transmitted disease.

Doctors are also concerned because gonorrhea and syphilis rates are increasing, as well. Some of the gonorrhea cases are caused by a super bug resistant to antibiotics.

And a Chicago doctor says four transplant recipients are devastated. All four shared the same organ donor who infected them with the AIDS virus and Hepatitis C. The transplants took place in January. The donor's initial AIDS and hepatitis tests were negative, and that may be because the donor possibly became infected a few weeks before death. It is the first transmission of HIV via transplants since high risk donor guidelines were adopted in 1994.

Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Oh, that's pretty sad.

Thanks very much, Carol, for that.

Democrats -- they control Congress, but -- get this -- they're 0 for 40 when it comes to the war in Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Democrats give up too easily and it's heartbreaking because they were put in office to stop the war. And they're just showing their true colors, which is timidity.


BLITZER: We're going to take a closer look at why Democrats have come up empty when it comes to Iraq.

Plus, lite cigarettes -- are they actually more deadly than regular ones?

And, if so, how long have the tobacco companies known about it?

And praying for rain -- literally. Georgia's governor appealing to the heavens for drought relief.

Stick around.



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

Happening now, so-called lite cigarettes may not have been so light on the lungs after all. A Senate committee is looking at allegations that tobacco maker Philip Morris knew back in the 1970s that lite cigarette smokers took larger puffs, inhaling, actually, more tar.

Britain is reeling from its fourth bird flu outbreak this year. Health officials confirm the potentially lethal virus has been found at a poultry farm in Eastern England. Thousands of turkeys, ducks and geese are being culled.

And a deadly explosion just outside the Philippines' parliament. The blast killing a lawmaker, who was the apparent target, and at least one other man. The slain lawmaker had supported a U.S.-Filipino offensive against Islamic militants.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Congressional Democrats now say the true cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are much, are as much as $1.6 trillion, trillion with a "T." That figure contained in a new report by the Joint Economic Committee which democrats' control. The figure factors in what they call hidden costs, including care for wounded veterans and the economic impact of rising oil prices. Republicans simply dismiss this report as partisan. So far the Bush administration has requested $800 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, most of that money going for the war in Iraq. The Pentagon estimates operations in Iraq cost about $10 billion every month. They may control Congress but President Bush is still running the war in Iraq, despite 40 attempts by democrats to try to change the course.

Let's go back to Carol Costello. She is watching this story for us. Carol, democrats have, I guess it's fair to say, have had a pretty dismal record in trying change the course of this war through legislation.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, I wish I could give you an easy answer as to why, but it's just not that simple. Unfortunately for democrats, voters who put them into office only see black and white.


COSTELLO: Zero for 40. If ever there was an example of political paralysis, this is it. Forty times democrats have forced a vote to curtail the Iraq war and 40 times they've lost. Even though they control both the senate and the house. It's the big story on Politico.

JIM VANDEHEI, POLITICO: It's a reflection of the partisanship in Washington. The fact to keep going at something that is your top priority and to lose this many times is demoralizing to a lot of democrats.

COSTELLO: And it's demoralizing for many Americans who oppose the war.

RICHARD BELZER, ACTOR: The democrats give up too easily and it's heartbreaking because they were put in office to stop the war and they're just showing their true colors, which is timidity and behold in the special interests.

COSTELLO: Yes that is actor Richard Belzer. Hey, it's New York. Other anti-war Americans we have found on the street echoed his comments.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Congress has no guts to do what they have to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Politicians do what it takes to get elected.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there's a failure of nerve.

COSTELLO: But it's not quite that simple. Some congressional observers say democrats have been too tough, refusing to compromise with even moderate republicans. Listen to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's latest comments on Iraq.

SEN. HARRY REID (D), MAJORITY LEADER: We simply cannot buy victory in Iraq. This year has been the bloodiest year in history of the war. COSTELLO: Tough talk and not likely to win over Republicans or the president. Keep in mind, Democrats outnumber Republicans 51-49 in the Senate, but only because two independents vote on their side. And they haven't come close to getting enough Republican votes to override a veto by the president.

STU ROTHENBERG, ROTHENBERG POLITICAL REPORT: I think they failed because they really don't control the legislative process the way Americans think that they do. Yes, they can get any piece of legislation through the House, but, no, they can't through the Senate and, of course, they need the president's signature.

COSTELLO: Some observers say perhaps it's time for Democrats to soften the rhetoric to compromise with, yes, even the president. But as Senator Reid's office told me today, Democrats remain committed to changing the course in Iraq.


COSTELLO: And I want to point out the Democrats did get one bill that included a troop withdrawal plan through both houses of Congress, but the president vetoed it. And the Democrats couldn't get enough votes to override the veto, so it failed. House Speaker Pelosi's office did contact me and said despite Republicans' obstructionist tactics, Democrats will continue to push to change the course of the war. Wolf?

BLITZER: Carol, thank you. Carol Costello reporting.

The Democratic presidential candidates right now they're gearing up for their debate. It's only two days away. I'll be out in Las Vegas to moderate the debate Thursday night.

Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is already out in Las Vegas. She's watching this story unfold. Let's talk a little bit about the dynamic, what you expect to see. I know, Candy, you have been speaking to a lot of the aides, to all the Democratic candidates, but this effort, as we saw at the last Democratic debate, for example, for Obama and Edwards to launch their direct attacks on Hillary Clinton, the front-runner, do we expect to see more of that?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think so. Now, I will tell you that both the Obama and the Edwards' camp call this drawing lines of distinction. They really feel that what they're doing is attacking on substance and saying, listen, here's what she thinks, here's what I think. But absolutely, I think you will see John Edwards at the same decibel level he was at the last debate. I think you'll see Barack Obama perhaps even a little bit stronger. As for Hillary Clinton, obviously she's already said that was not her best debate. In fact, it was probably her worst debate. So they have to sort of find this line between responding to the criticism while staying above it. So, I think that's their most difficult task is they can't let it seem as though these guys are getting away with these attacks. On other hand, they need her to stay above the fray. So she may have the most difficult balancing act. BLITZER: That's what she told you in that exclusive interview you had with her that was not necessarily her best night. How big of a night on Thursday night will it be for Senator Clinton?

CROWLEY: Well, I think every debate is probably a pretty big night for all of them. Obviously, they want not to come out saying, well, that was a bad debate for us. But even after that debate where she was widely panned for her performance, she's still ten points ahead in New Hampshire. She's still ahead in Iowa. So she has to have a good debate. I don't know that she has to have, you know, an ace debate. So obviously, they're aware of the mistakes that she made last time and they're moving to correct it. But on the other hand, it should be kept in some sort of perspective because she still remains the front-runner despite a bad debate the other week.

BLITZER: I guess the major lesson you have to learn from the last debate is answer the question, be direct, don't try to, you know, come up with some sort of evasive answer, just answer the question.

CROWLEY: Absolutely. And because, here's why. It isn't so much her answers per se that the Edwards campaign and the Obama campaign have seized on. It's the whole issue of candor. For John Edwards it's, look, she's just the same old Washington. They dance around these issues. For Barack Obama it's listen, this is business as usual. What they're sort of zoning in on here is listen, she's not being candid with you and she's trying to have both sides of the issue. So, you're right. She has to sort of seem to be directly answering these questions. Otherwise we'll see more of the same on the campaign trail.

BLITZER: See you tomorrow in Vegas. Thanks very much, Candy Crowley reporting for us.

Programming note, once again, we'll be in Las Vegas to moderate Thursday night's debate. The debate starts at 8:00 p.m. eastern, 5:00 pacific, Thursday.

Despite measures in a state about to run dry, the governor is now praying literally praying for rain. Will his appeals to God help end the drought?

Plus, the presidential campaign fear factor. Does Tom Tancredo's new ad simply go way too far? I'll ask him.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The drought in the state of Georgia is now so severe, state leaders, including the governor are hoping for help from above. They're literally praying for rain.

Let's go to CNN's Rusty Dornin. She's joining us now from the scene. Any signs that praying is helping?

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the funny thing was, Wolf, overhead above the vigil there were some gray clouds and forecasters saying there is a 60 percent chance of rain tomorrow but the governor and others are putting their faith in a higher power.


DORNIN: It is scenes like these that require a little divine intervention, according to Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. So he and about 200 Georgians gathered for that reason only.

GOV. SONNY PERDUE (R), GEORGIA: To very reverently and respectfully pray up a storm.

DORNIN: And pray they did.

PASTOR MAURICE WATSON, BEULAHLAND BIBLE CHURCH: Ask the lord for rain. And that's what we're here to do, to simply say, lord, let it rain. Let it rain on our fields.

DORNIN: This is not the first time a Georgia governor has asked his constituents to pray for rain, but it is the first time it has been done on the steps of the state capital. Is it appropriate to have this kind of prayer vigil on the steps of the state capitol?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Our nation was founded on godly principals. So definitely.

DORNIN: While there wasn't exactly fire and brimstone, there were some admissions of guilt.

PERDUE: Father, we acknowledge our wastefulness. We acknowledge that we've not done those things that we should and, God, we call upon you today to meet that need.

EDWARD MURRAY, RESIDENT: I think it's one of our worst droughts we've seen in 100 years. I just came out to support and see what was going on and support Governor Purdue.

DORNIN: Hoping it works.

MURRAY: I believe it will.

DORNIN: Across town, news of the prayer vigil was surprising to some.

DANIEL GONZALES, RESIDENT: It's a little weird considering it is like you're supposed to have a separation of church and state. It's interesting to hear that the governor did that.

DORNIN: But here eyes were occasionally drawn to the heavens and, yes, it just so happens ...

CHAD MYERS, CNN SEVERE WEATHER EXPERT: Atlanta is still down to the south, but this is the first chance for rain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I brought my raincoat. DORNIN: You brought your raincoat? You know, it's supposed to rain tomorrow. Do you think you guys will have anything to do with that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, we're not, God is.


DORNIN: On a more earthly plain, the governor is asking all Georgians to conserve water. He's involved in legal battles and urging President Bush to help out the state. And right now, Wolf, the city of Atlanta is looking at just about nine-month supply of water.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Rusty, for that.

Some high water users in the Atlanta area will be getting warning letters and they're facing higher water rates. This home, is no doubt on the list. It used 440,000 gallons of water in October alone, enough to fill 1,000 hot tubs. Under new punitive rates for water hogs, as they're called, that bill probably comes to around $2,100.

Too much lipstick and skimpy head scarves enough to keep the vice squad busy in Iran. Those are among the items on a new list of behaviors deemed simply improper in the Islamic Republic. Let's go to our Middle East correspondent, Aneesh Ramen. Aneesh?

ANEESH RAMEN, CNN MIDDLE EAST CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there has been in Iran a cultural crackdown since early this year and it's now gone one step further. Police there have issued a list of illegal vices; among them, excessive makeup, un-Islamic dress and "decadent movies." Now, on the ground, very few Iranians expect the government to enforce all of this. They've had crackdowns there before. So what is it all about? The government says it's about drugs, getting drug dealers off the streets, getting drug addicts into rehab. But critics say it's all about political intimidation. Iran will go to the polls early next year for parliamentary elections. Right now parliament is controlled by hardliners, clearly keen to appease their base through a crackdown like this. The big issue is, will it work or will it backfire? Will it further inspire anger against Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? For that we'll have to wait for the polls early next year. Wolf.

BLITZER: Aneesh, thank you; Aneesh Ramen reporting.

Meanwhile, there was a shattering explosion in the middle of a pro basketball game. Watch this. A fire cracker exploded near a team bench as a security guard falls to the ground. He spotted the device, tried to toss it away but it was simply too late. It blew off three of his fingers. It happened in Jerusalem during a televised game in Israel's top basketball league featuring a number of American Players. Some of those American players were badly shaken by the latest incident of sports violence but those players are OK.

Up ahead, a new study says many blacks are actually worse off than their parents were. Jack Cafferty wants to know why. Jack standing by with the Cafferty File and your e-mail. Plus, Hillary Clinton and the so-called planted question; the latest on the growing controversy dogging her campaign.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Almost every week, communities on opposite sides of the U.S./Canadian border come to each other's aid but this week there was a breakdown at the border, a serious hold up for emergency services.

Let's go to our homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve. Jeanne, what happened?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, when the Anchorage Inn in Rouses Point, New York went up in flames late Sunday night, local firefighters called for help. Some of their closest neighbors, who happened in to be in Canada, rushed to assist with lights and sirens but were stopped at the border. An engine and volunteer firefighters from Lacolle, Quebec were delayed for almost eight minutes while U.S. Customs and Border Protection resolved questions about the admissibility of one of the firemen. A CBP spokesman says it tries to process emergency vehicles expeditiously but its primary mission is to secure the border. U.S. and Canadian communities along this stretch have had mutual aid packs since the 1950s and one U.S. fire official says he never remembers anything like this. He calls it embarrassing since the Canadians had been asked to help. He says a quicker response by the Canadians might not have saved the Anchorage Inn but fire officials from the U.S. and Canada are sitting down tomorrow with CBP to try to prevent another such incident when the speed of emergency response really could make the difference between life and death. Wolf?

BLITZER: Having grown up in Buffalo along the U.S./Canadian border, I know the cooperation has been long and historic and this looks like an aberration. Let's hope that was the case. Jeanne, thanks very much.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He didn't grow up on the U.S./Canadian border, but I did.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, some would suggest I haven't grown up period. Think about this, Wolf, 3,000 people a day coming across the Mexican border illegally. A building catches fire on the Canadian border and they stop the fire engine at the border. I mean, you can't make this kind of stuff up.

BLITZER: It makes no sense whatsoever.

CAFFERTY: None. All right. There's a new study out that says many blacks are actually worse off than their parents were and we asked why you think that might be.

Marsha in Greenwood, Indiana writes, "I'm a teacher and I know exactly what happened. Grandparents and parents were told to get an education to get ahead. Today's children think a good education is acting white. So, there's a divide; educated blacks doing well and many who take the hip-hop street way and wonder why they have little or no money. Bill Cosby is telling them the truth but they think of him as a racist and make fun of those who study and, instead, glorify those who control a ball."

Adam in San Luis Obispo, California, "Black youth are failing because their role models are gangsters and thugs. Only when men like Barack Obama and Colin Powell are admired by African American kids will we see true upward mobility."

John in Oklahoma City, "Jack, I've worked in and owned restaurants my whole adult life. I witnessed the arrival of crack and the end of the working black Americans. From my level, the smoking and selling of crack have ruined the community. Restaurants used to be basically half black, half white. Now, half white, half Spanish. I don't even get applications from blacks any more."

Zennie in Oakland, California, "Even though I'm black, I'm going to resist the temptation to fall head long into the question. First, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found that economic mobility for all Americans has declined sharply since 1980. Thus, it's logical that blacks would be part of that statistical hole. We have a huge problem which stems from America's lack of desire to support manufacturing industry and allowing it and now service industry firms to move off shore, not subsidizing American firms to pay a living wage and compete internationally."

And finally, Keith writes, "Let's export a few million more middle class jobs to China, Canada, Mexico and the Philippines and then let's replace them with minimum wage service jobs like flipping burgers and cleaning motel rooms." Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Jack, stand by. We have more of the Cafferty file, plus our roundtable coming up in the next hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

But coming up next, Lou Dobbs. He's in Seattle tonight with details of a study on tech workers in the U.S. Is there really a shortage?

And republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo, he'll join us to talk about his controversial new commercial that some call a scare ad.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the Hot Shots coming in from our friends over at the Associated Press, pictures likely to be in your hometown newspapers tomorrow.

In Spain, residents watch a fire that has broken out near their homes. Firefighters are battling five other area blazes.

In Cyprus, a girl kisses the skull of a former archbishop and a saint in a Greek orthodox church.

In Pakistan, a journalist tries to interview supporters of Benazir Bhutto after they were arrested in Lahore.

And in Washington, stadium seats are installed at the new Nationals ballpark. Check it out. It's a beautiful stadium. The park is scheduled to be ready for baseball's opening day next April.

Some of this hour's Hot Shots; pictures often worth 1,000 words.

You may remember the shock last week when Australian officials announced they found the so-called date rape drug, GHB, in a popular children's toy. But even more shocking, we've discovered that Chinese factory that makes them is actually still operating. CNN's John Voss is there. John?

JOHN VOSS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the factory where the toxic Aqua Dots were made appears to be still in business and management there is refusing to answer any questions about how GHB ended up in a kid's toy.


VOSS: This factory in southern China is now the focal point of three separate official investigations. Chinese, Australian and U.S. authorities all want to know how popular a popular toy known as Aqua Dots and Bendeez, which are made here, ended up containing the potentially fatal date rape drug, GHB.

Can we come in? Why not?

When we tried to find out, security turned us away and while the Chinese government has suspended the company's export license, work was clearly still going on.

We just don't know what toys are still being made at this factory. Despite our repeated phone calls over the last two days, the management of this company is refusing to answer our questions.

Reaction from the Chinese government, though, has been unusually swift, confirming the presence of GHB and asking for U.S. help to identify the toxin in future.

We will severely punish illegal behavior says this government official.

SUE DERAGON, STR CONSUMER TESTING: In this lab we perform a series of use and abuse tests.

VOSS: Sue Deragon with STR, one of America's biggest independent labs, says GHB would not be detected by standard, industry tests on toys.

DERAGON: This is an example of why it's important to have a good prevention program in place, rather than just a test program. VOSS: This has been the year of the Chinese recall and Deragon says business here is booming. Especially toys, manufacturers and distributors are scrambling to make sure this year's Christmas gifts weren't making kids sick.

DERAGON: It's really opened people's eyes to the importance of making sure that their product complies with the regulatory requirements and is safe.


VOSS: Chinese factories exported a staggering 22 billion toys last year alone and with many manufacturers facing increasing pressure to cut costs, the next recall may be a question of when, not if. Wolf?

BLITZER: John Voss, thanks very much.

And to our viewers, happening now, Democrats accused of fuzzy math. Are they revealing the true and staggering cost of the war in Iraq or are they using numbers to score political points?

Also this hour, a presidential candidate accused of playing the fear card. I'll ask Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo if he is trying to scare voters in a stunning new ad.

And John Edwards just won't bite. Will he support Hillary Clinton if, if she is the democratic presidential nominee? Jack Cafferty and our other panelists, they're standing by to take on Edwards' surprising statement.