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Principal Death Linked to Flu; Pakistan's New Nukes Revealed; U.S.-Israel: Glaring Divisions; Potential Rival Now on Obama Team

Aired May 18, 2009 - 17:00   ET



Happening now, a new suspected H1N1 flu death igniting new fears in New York City schools and underscoring the global threat that health officials say is very real. We have new details of the latest case and the rapid spread of the virus around the world.

Also, new nuclear reactors in Pakistan revealed. They'll produce more plutonium and likely make more nuclear weapons for a dangerously unstable ally. And now there's concern U.S. dollars may be paying for it.

A difficult five day mission comes to an end. The final fix of the Hubble space telescope -- why astronauts got more than they bargained for.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Six suspected U.S. deaths from the H1N1 flu virus -- this one striking fear in the hearts of parents and serious concern among New York City health officials. The latest victim is a middle school assistant principal and we're learning new details of his case.

Our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is standing by.

Mary Snow is working the story here for us in New York -- Mary, what is the latest?

It's a very troubling development.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It really is, Wolf. And a lot of questions are being raised, as well.

A fellow staff member tells us that Assistant Principal Mitchell Wiener rarely missed a day of work until last week. And now questions are being raised about his health before he came down with the flu.


SNOW (voice-over): Flowers and candles line the sidewalk outside Intermediate School 238 in memory of 55-year-old Mitchell Wiener -- an assistant principal who became the first death linked to swine flu in New York City.

KATRINA TOLENTINO, I.S. 238 TEACHER: Nobody could have foreseen Mr. Wiener passing away or it getting as bad as it is right now. And just everyone is devastated and just is numb. And we really, really don't want it to set in, because I want to be able to come back and see him and he's not going to be there.

SNOW: But along with grief, questions remain. Weiner was admitted to the hospital last Wednesday in critical condition. A spokesman for Flushing Hospital tells CNN he knows of no preexisting medical condition.

Wiener's family, seen here over the weekend, told reporters gout was the only past health problem he had.

But city health officials maintain there was another health issue.

DR. TOM FRIEDEN, NEW YORK CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: We don't comment on individual cases. We do state that he did have an underlying medical condition.

SNOW: Timing of the school shutdown is being examined. This teacher says Wiener wanted the school to shut down earlier than last week because kids were getting kick. But the mayor has said they're closing schools on a case by case basis. But he and other officials are being questioned about whether they handled the situation effectively.

JOEL KLEIN, NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS CHANCELLOR: I don't think anybody was behind the curve.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (I), NEW YORK: Science has no ways of stopping something like this from spreading. And you can catch it virtually any place with anybody. And so unless you were to go wall yourself off and never have any human contact with anybody else, which is not terribly practical.



SNOW: And health officials say the flu is spreading here in New York. They reiterate, though, that the cases so far have been mild. Today, roughly 11,000 children were told to stay home from school. The city had 11 schools closed today. And just a few minutes ago, they announced it's adding three more to the list for tomorrow.

BLITZER: Yes. This is really worrisome stuff all around.

Mary, thanks very much.

People may be losing interest in this virus, but it is spreading around the world -- and spreading very quickly. Let's bring in our senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen -- Elizabeth, you've been looking closely at the big picture.

What do we see?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. The big picture, Wolf, is that a couple of weeks ago we heard a lot about swine flu and then we didn't hear so much.

So the question is, is swine flu a big threat to our safety or is it a big nothing?

The truth is somewhere in the middle.


COHEN (voice-over): In Mexico City, actors urged people to return to the theater after weeks of being closed because of swine flu.

In New York City, students at St. Frances Preparatory School returned to class after an H1N1 outbreak there sickened at least 1,000 people.

It seems like life is back to normal -- swine flu no longer on the radar the way it used to be.

ANDREW PEKOSZ, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY: The public and media attention has really dropped off over the past week to 10 days or so.

COHEN: And that worries public health experts. H1N1 cases are still on the rise in the United States, with more than 5,000 cases and six deaths -- the latest one Sunday in New York City.

In Japan, there was a surge of swine flu over the weekend, with 117 cases reported.

PEKOSZ: Where the virus appears to make a hold and you get a number of cases occurring, there seems to be a continued increase in the number of cases there.

COHEN: Why, then, has public interest decreased?

Some experts think it has something to do with, well, the drama of it all.


DR. MARGARET CHAN, DIRECTOR GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: I have decided to raise the current level of influenza pandemic alert from Phase 4 to Phase 5.

COHEN: On April 29, World Health Organization Director General Dr. Margaret Chan declared that all humanity was under threat from H1N1. And when, in the proceeding weeks, all humanity didn't crumble, many lost interest. But experts warn you should still be diligent about washing your hands and still be vigilant about staying home if you're sick.

PEKOSZ: I think we should be as vigilant as ever.


BLITZER: You know, Elizabeth, a lot of people are pointing out that all in all, not that many people around the world have really gotten sick from swine flu.

Are officials concerned, though, that the virus could mutate and get worse?

COHEN: Yes, there is concern. There's actually been thousands and thousands of people who have become sick. But all of them have had -- most of them, rather -- have had mild illness -- the vast majority. So there are concerns it could mutate. The CDC addressed that today. They said there are no signs that the virus has mutated, but they will continue to look at it under a microscope to see if there are any signs that it's changing.

BLITZER: Is there any evidence it's spreading more quickly than regular season flu?

COHEN: You know, Wolf, there actually is. There are some signs that this is more contagious. And the thought is, is that the big reason is that there's not a lot of immunity against this. This particular H1N1 is brand new. So most of us, we've never seen it before. And the -- and the theory is that's why it seems to be spreading so quickly -- more quickly than the regular flu.

BLITZER: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

Let's go back to Jack.

He's here in New York and he's got "The Cafferty File."

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: So most of the cases are mild.


CAFFERTY: And the virus hasn't mutated into anything more dangerous.

BLITZER: Not mutated.

CAFFERTY: What's the big deal?

BLITZER: Well, you live in New York. You know, you're here. You saw the mayor of the...

CAFFERTY: This is a metropolitan people of 20 million people.


CAFFERTY: How many people are sick here?

BLITZER: People are nervous, you know.

CAFFERTY: Pressure is mounting on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi when it comes to the debate over torture -- what did she know and when did she know it?

Top Republicans are jumping all over this, calling on the speaker to come clean about all of this -- either apologize or possibly lose her leadership post.

Newt Gingrich says Pelosi has defamed everyone in the intelligence community by claiming that they misled her. And he says he can't see how Pelosi can serve as speaker if it turns out that she lied about national security to Congress and to the whole country.

House Minority Leader John Boehner says if Pelosi is accusing the CIA of lying or misleading Congress, then she should come forward with the evidence so these officials can be prosecuted. If not, Boehner says she should apologize to the intelligence community.

And CIA Director Leon Panetta weighed in on all of this last week. He challenged Nancy Pelosi, saying it's not the agency's "...policy or practice to mislead Congress. That's against our laws and our values."

Gingrich suggests Panetta's comments put strong, clear pressure on the House to start a formal investigation of Speaker Pelosi, who is third in line to be president of the United States.

Meanwhile, Pelosi responded to Panetta by shifting her criticism away from the CIA and over to the Bush administration. She also continues to insist she was briefed on interrogation techniques only once and that she was told the techniques of waterboarding and other torture were not being used.

Critics say she was fully briefed twice on waterboarding in 2002 and 2003.

So here's the question: Is it time for Nancy Pelosi to step down as speaker of the House?

Go to splash caffertyfile -- splash. Slash, he said -- caffertyfile -- the lights are very bad on this floor -- and post a comment on my blog.

Plus, my eyes aren't very good, either, anymore.

BLITZER: Normally, you're on the fourth floor.

CAFFERTY: That's correct.

BLITZER: This is the fifth floor.

CAFFERTY: And we only move up here when you come to town.

BLITZER: Well, it's a lovely...

CAFFERTY: And it's really annoying when you're here because...

BLITZER: It's a lovely...

CAFFERTY: inconveniences the whole place.

BLITZER: But it's a lovely -- now, think about this and -- is she second in line or third in line?



CAFFERTY: I said third.

BLITZER: I know. You said third, because the president, the vice president and the speaker.

CAFFERTY: One, two, three.

BLITZER: But there's -- the first person is already in line -- beyond the line -- is already president.

CAFFERTY: Is this a trick question?


CAFFERTY: Yes, it is.


BLITZER: Thank you.

CAFFERTY: You're welcome.

BLITZER: Glaring divisions as President Obama meets with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Why are their priorities apparently different?

And what will it -- will it impact the crucial relationship between the U.S. and Israel?

We'll speak about it with CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

Also, one of the country's best known columnists and allegations of plagiarism. Now, "The New York Times" is forced to take some unusual action. We're following new developments.

Plus, a mob robbery -- almost a dozen young men make off with thousands of dollars worth of clothes -- all of it caught on tape. We have it for you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: There are some new signs right now that Pakistan is increasing its nuclear capability and concern U.S. money may be paying for it.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence.

What are you discovering -- Chris?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a Defense official told me that the Pentagon is concerned about anything that destabilizes the area -- and that includes concern about American dollars going to build more nuclear weapons in Pakistan.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Satellite images show that Pakistan has all but finished a second nuclear reactor and continuing work on a third. Once done, experts who have studied the program for over 20 years say Pakistan will be able to double its plutonium output and make smaller, more sophisticated weapons.

DAVID ALBRIGHT, PRESIDENT, INSTITUTE FOR SCIENCE AND INTERNATIONAL SECURITY: This is a qualitative improvement in a nuclear arsenal, both in -- in terms of destructiveness and deliverability. That, to me, is not modernization. That's actually making things more dangerous.

LAWRENCE: Extremists are fighting Pakistani troops within a couple hundred miles of these reactors.

ALBRIGHT: And you can't find a single country in the world that has the threats that Pakistan has.

LAWRENCE: To fight them, Congress is considering proposals to give Pakistan $3 billion for counter-insurgency. But a Defense official says there is some concern about accounting for that money -- to make sure it's not going to built more nuclear weapons.

During a Senate hearing last week, the head of the Joint Chiefs admitted that Pakistan's arsenal is growing.


SEN. JAMES WEBB (D), VIRGINIA: That it may be actually adding onto weapons systems and warheads.

Do you have any evidence of that?



LAWRENCE: Admiral Mike Mullen offered only one word -- yes. Outside experts who examined the satellite images say this is exactly the wrong time for Pakistan to expand their nuclear complex. ALBRIGHT: You have a lot more people involved, a lot more transported material. And it's just much harder to protect. And so there's a reason, from that point of view, to try to cap the size the complex.


LAWRENCE: You know, this expansion includes new industrial buildings and anti-aircraft installations that are about double the size of this compound. But today, Admiral Mullen said he saw no evidence that any U.S. aid was being used on Pakistan's nuclear weapons, with the exception of money given specifically to help secure them -- Wolf.

BLITZER: That's important, to secure those weapons, amid all the turmoil that potentially could go on.

Chris, thank you.

Betty Nguyen is monitoring other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

What's the latest -- Betty?

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Sheriff's deputies and worried parents rushed to a Louisiana middle school today, where investigators say a student shot himself in the head. A local sheriff says the 15-year-old boy first pointed a gun at a teacher, then shot at the wall above her head. The sheriff says the boy ran to a nearby bathroom and that's where he shot himself. He is in critical condition. Investigators say the teacher had never taught the boy.

Now to something you may have never seen before -- a stunning robbery caught on camera in Washington. Check this out. Watch as about 10 young men walk into a store and just grab handfuls -- armfuls of clothes. When they make a run for the door, well, store employees -- they try to stop them. But the robbers shove right by. The store manager says the robbers got away with about $3,000 in clothing. The manager posted the surveillance video on YouTube, hoping to catch the robbers.

And filmmaker Woody Allen took on a trendy clothing company and got $5 million out of it. Allen today settled a lieutenant against American Apparel, the company known for racy advertisements. He says the company used his image in a billboard ad without his permission. Now, that ad took a frame from the movie "Annie Hall" and showed Allen as an Hassidic Jew. American Apparel says the ad was misunderstood.

And you know times are tough, Wolf, when a mayor has the mow the city's grass.

You see that?

Toledo, Ohio's mayor says he and his directors will start mowing local parks and cemeteries this weekend. The decision comes as Toledo faces a huge budget deficit. The city only hired about half of the seasonal employees it normally employs. And a local union is against the move.

But it just shows you times are tough.

Watch out, Wolf, they may be coming to you next for a little mowing.

BLITZER: Yes. Tough times, indeed, when the mayor and his aides have to go out and cut the grass.

NGUYEN: Yes. Parks, cemeteries.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much.

Don't go away, Betty.

We're coming back to you.

Pouncing on an opportunity with a poem -- Nancy Pelosi's comments about waterboarding have prompted a creative response. See how a former presidential candidate is blasting her in a rhyme.

Plus, a power play -- this man was emerging as a possible Republican presidential candidate in 2012. But what President Obama just did may have sidelined this potential rival.

And how did a tabloid reporter simply walk away from a nursing home with Brooke Shields' mom?

Stay with us.



BLITZER: The first meeting between the new American president and the new Israeli prime minister. And the priorities of Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu could hardly be more different.

Let's talk about that and more with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, the host of "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS," which airs every Sunday here at CNN.

Let's talk about Iran, first of all. The president said, you know, by the end of this year -- meaning another, what, seven months or so -- we should know whether all this reaching out to Iran is going to pay off or not pay off in terms of its nuclear program.

What does that say to you?

FAREED ZAKARIA, CNN ANCHOR: I think it says he's bought himself time, because, clearly, these two people are coming at it very differently. They're two people coming at it differently, from the point of view of the national interests' of the two countries.

Israel is much more paranoid about or concerned about an actual military threat from Iran. The United States is more concerned about general rise of Iranian influence. And these are two very different people.

So what Obama has been able to do is he's bought himself seven months. But I think he's actually bought himself more time than that, Wolf, because he said seven months before we find out whether this overture to Iran has paid off.

But then, they might try tightening the screws with the sanctions and going out to -- reaching out to the Russians and the Chinese. So that will another seven or eight months.

So what he, I think, set out a course of is coercive diplomacy -- engagement followed by coercive diplomacy if it fails, all of which precludes the bombing option for at least a year-and-a-half, I would think.

BLITZER: And is that sort of related to the intelligence estimate -- how long it will be before Iran actually has enough plutonium enriched to build a bomb?

ZAKARIA: It may well, because, it's very interesting to see Bob Gates, the secretary of Defense, saying some things about the Iranian program that suggest that they are much further behind than we have thought. I mean Gates -- mostly people don't like to speculate on this. But Gates has said some stuff which really makes one think that, you know what, maybe we have a couple of years.

BLITZER: There was a lot of anticipation, as you know, going into this first meeting in the White House between Netanyahu and the president of the United States, that there would be a clash or a confrontation. And, certainly, in that open little news conference they had in the Oval Office, there was no clash or confrontation.

But what do you think?

Did they avert a problem here?

ZAKARIA: My guess is what you're dealing with is two very seasoned politicians, both of whom understand that they need -- they need this meeting to go well, which means not just pretending it went well, but it actually going well.

So I would be -- I would be sure that Bebe Netanyahu made a real effort to get on with Obama. But Obama did the same, because Barack Obama is a very good politician. He understands that there is something in the American Jewish community about, you know, the zeal with which he -- he wants to defend Israel. And having a good productive relationship with a right-wing Israeli prime minister would be a good sign that he is a committed ally of Israel.

So both of them are smart enough to realize that it was -- it was very important that they get on.

BLITZER: And even though you didn't hear Benjamin Netanyahu formally say I support, when all the negotiations end, a two-state solution -- Israel living alongside Palestine. He still is reluctant. He's still refusing to actually say that. ZAKARIA: Well, he's -- he's not saying it. And I think when he goes back to Israel, my guess is he'll go back to saying what he said. That seemed, to me, the one place where if the Obama administration had been hoping for some kind of a conversion or an attempt to be nice to the Americans, Netanyahu did not come through.

He clearly understood what the Obama administration wanted him to say at that moment and he did not say it. It was -- it was -- to my mind, it was, in a sense, a rejection of the two states.

BLITZER: But is that something you think he's holding in his back pocket as a concession down the road in order to give that up in exchange for something else?

ZAKARIA: Well, you know, people say that Netanyahu isn't so much an ideologue as an out. So that would be the -- the calculation a lot of people would assume he's making.

I don't know. I get the feeling that the -- the right-wing in Israel right now that he represents would be very uncomfortable. Because, remember, he is not master of his own fate. He is -- he actually doesn't have the largest party in this Israeli Knesset.

So he has to be aware that if he were to go out on a limb on some of those issues, all of a sudden he would -- he wouldn't be prime minister anymore.

BLITZER: Yes. This is the same guy who made a deal with Yasser Arafat over Hebron during the -- the Bill Clinton administration, when he was prime minister the first time around.

ZAKARIA: Yes. Yes.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Fareed.

ZAKARIA: A pleasure, Wolf.

BLITZER: Fareed Zakaria and his show, "GPS," airs every Sunday 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern. It's an excellent one hour show. If you haven't seen it, I think you should.

"The New York Times" forced to issue a correction after the columnist, Maureen Dowd, is accused of plagiarism. We have details of the words she wrote that really belonged to someone else.

What happened?

Plus, the final fix for the Hubble space telescope and the mission that challenged shuttle astronauts in some unusual ways.


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

Happening now, a dead lawyer and his chilling videotaped warning -- if anything happens to me, blame Guatemala's president. Stand by. The murder mystery that's sparking a political crisis.

A mother accused of tormenting a 13-year-old girl on MySpace is set to learn her fate. That girl committed suicide and now the woman could go to prison.

And a huge rally on Wall Street. Today, the Dow shot up 236 points -- 235 points, that is, on housing news. It's the biggest one day gain in over a month.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


President Obama may have neutralized a future presidential challenger by naming a key Republican to be the United States ambassador to China.

Let's bring back Brian Todd to explain what is going on -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, now Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is being thought of as a potential GOP candidate in 2016, because for the next few years, he may be about as far away from any campaign trail as a politician can get.


TODD (voice-over): President Obama's tapping of Utah Governor Jon Huntsman not only gets him an ambassador to China, but could also sideline a potential rival.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What John brings to this post isn't just a steadfast commitment to advancing the interests of the American people, it's a lifetime of knowledge and experience that will help advance this important partnership.

TODD: A former U.S. trade official fluent in Chinese and a former ambassador to Singapore, Huntsman is also viewed as one of the rising stars in the Republican Party.


GOV. JON HUNTSMAN (R-UT), AMBASSADOR TO CHINA NOMINEE: When the president of the United States asks you to step up and serve in a capacity like this, that, to me, is the end of the conversation and the beginning of the obligation.


TODD: A moderate, Huntsman has rankled some in his own party by calling for more action on global warming and endorsing same sex civil unions, although he does not back gay marriage. Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz previously served as Huntsman's chief of staff.

REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: Those two issues in Utah have kind of separated John Huntsman, I think from the rest of the Republican Party.

TODD: The governor had been taking some early steps toward a possible presidential run and had called for the Republican Party to include a wider range of viewpoints, attracting the attention of President Obama's former campaign manager. Huntsman was, quote, the one person in that party who might be a potential candidate, David Pluff told U.S. News and World Report just last month. While Huntsman is now likely out of the mix for 2012, analysts say the president has given the governor a stronger resume if he decides to take the plunge in 2016.

CHAFFETZ: He probably empowered him that much more by giving him that much more of a stature on the national and international stage.


TODD: And along with his credentials as a moderate, Huntsman is also known a governor who has emphasized bipartisanship always trying to reach out to Democrats -- Wolf?

BLITZER: He was also involved, I want to remind our viewers, Brian, with John McCain's campaign.

TODD: He was the national co-chair of McCain's run last year. And Huntsman said of his announcement, never did he expect to be called into action by the person who beat us. So he was pretty enmeshed in John McCain's campaign, we'll see how he gets along with the campaign as an ambassador.

BLITZER: He said if the president of the United States calls and asks for action, he of course had to do it. All right. Thanks very much.

Let's talk about this and more with Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Donna Brazile, Republican strategist and CNN political contributor Ed Rollins and our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, all of whom are here.

Donna let me start with you. Were you surprised by this reaching out to this Republican governor?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I'm not surprised that the president is reaching out because he said he would reach out. I was a little surprised myself on Saturday when the announce came because I didn't know that the governor had so much experience in foreign policy and as well as national experience. So I think he's a great choice for the country, China's a very important trading partner. We also need China's help with North Korea and many other issues so I think this is a very important post and I think the governor is the right person for the job.

BLITZER: He speaks Chinese too, as Brian pointed out.

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He speaks Chinese. He also did his missionary obviously in Taiwan, he's a Mormon obviously and did his missionary, he was the ambassador to Singapore, he has extensive knowledge of the region. I think he's a great choice.

BLITZER: He's only 49 years old so he's got a lot of time.

ROLLINS: And the family is close friends of Romney. So if Romney wants to run in 2012, maybe we'll wait beyond that.

BLITZER: Give Romney another shot at it which Romney seems to be making all the moves right now as if he's potentially going to lay the groundwork for that.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely and 2016 is perfectly fine for someone who's 49 at this point and it obviously doesn't put him in the position of running against someone who gave him a job, he's clearly not going to run in 2012. I think it works out all around, even if he does --

BLITZER: We know that there was another former U.S. ambassador to China in recent years who later on became president of the United States, that would be -- the first President Bush was ambassador to China and it didn't hurt his presidential career at all.

So let's talk a little bit about Nancy Pelosi, Donna. Mike Huckabee had a little poem and I'm going to read to it you and to everyone else talking about Nancy Pelosi and some of her problems. I believe in the integrity of the men and women who sacrificed to keep us safe, not the woman who has been caught flat footed lying to our face. I say it here and I say it rather clear, it's time for Nancy Pelosi to resign and get out of here. Mike Huckabee, the former Republican presidential candidate. What do you think about her problems right now? Are the Republicans overreacting or are they doing it just right, Donna.

BRAZILE: Clearly the Republicans and even some of our friends in the media, I think it's an overkill, Wolf, look, the Speaker has been very clear about what she knew, she has explained it to the American people, I'm sure her constituents understand exactly what she learned back in September of 2002 and what she did not gather from the briefing that she had with the CIA. This is a distraction is a smoke screen and we were piling on the information at a time when the American people clearly want our leaders, Republicans and Democrats alike to focus on the economy and that's what Speaker Pelosi is trying to do.

BLITZER: You were the campaign chairman, Mike Huckabee, so you know a little bit about the former governor of Arkansas.

ROLLINS: He's bright and he's talented and doesn't need me to speak for him. I think this is a self inflicted wound. I think the Speaker needs to move on, she's got a big task ahead of her, she's safe as Speaker, she comes from a district where she gets 75 percent of the vote every time or more. I think the quicker this thing dies the better it is.

BLITZER: Do you think she has to worry about some Democratic coup against her? CROWLEY: I seriously doubt it. I agree it's been self- inflicted. She's trying to get out of it. But let's remember that Nancy Pelosi is a pretty safe target for Republicans, she's sort of the new Ted Kennedy only on the House side where they love -- they no longer sort of go after Ted Kennedy, they now go after Nancy Pelosi, it's a lot easier than going up against the president. And so she's a good target and it has been self-inflicted because there's been so many different explanations.

ROLLINS: San Francisco liberal is always a good target.

BRAZILE: It's a good target, but it didn't work in 2006, it didn't work in 2008 and it won't work in 2012. I think the Republicans are really just trying to find an issue where there's no issue right now. It's a distraction, it's time to move on.

ROLLINS: Bottom line is she's not the issue, but she's a distraction to the White House and a distraction to other Democrats to move a very, heavy agenda. I would get her profile low.

BLITZER: At some point, given all the investigations that are underway, especially the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation right now, that the chairwoman of that committee, Dianne Feinstein, is leading, they're going to know whether or not the CIA did as she suggests, Nancy Pelosi, mislead the United States Congress, the Intelligence Committee leadership back in 2002 and 2003 about water boarding and some of these other enhanced interrogation techniques, either she's going on the proven right or the CIA will be proven right.

BRAZILE: Senator Bob Graham, the former senator from Florida who we all know takes copious notes has no recollection. He writes everything down, including what he eats for breakfast so I have to trust people like Senator Graham and Senator Rockefeller and others when Speaker Pelosi said that she was not told of these specific interrogation techniques.

CROWLEY: I'll bet you anything that we're going to come out of this not knowing. I don't think it's going to be as clear as who lied and who didn't.

BLITZER: There were no videotapes or tape recordings of these briefings.

ROLLINS: She was also aligning votes against Gephardt with the anti-war vote so she was pretty distracted at that point in time.

BLITZER: We'll leave it on that note. Guys, thanks very much.

Tomorrow President Obama is expected to release new rules on fuel efficiency for cars and trucks. Is now the best time to be pushing these new standards? Submit your video comments to i- report/situationroom. Watch the program tomorrow to see if your video gets on the air.

A civil war that's raged for a quarter century, could it now finally be over? Details of a government proclaimed victory and what's next.

Plus, Hubble trouble for space shuttle astronauts. Their mission is accomplished but only after some truly extraordinary efforts.


BLITZER: A brutal civil war that's gone on for more than a quarter century, over. Cornered and out numbered, the separatist group Tamil Tigers gave up its long battle against the Sri Lankan government. The Tigers' notorious leader may now be among the dead. CNN's Sara Sidner has the developments.


SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amid the smolders devastation in Sri Lanka's north, the military made a stunning statement. Among 250 dead rebel bodies, that of Tamil rebel mastermind chief.

UDAYA NANAYAKKARA, SRI LANKA MILITARY SPOKESMAN: We believe that he's killed and we wanted to confirm that after proper identification.

SIDNER: The military also announced the deaths of many of his top commanders and his son. Sri Lanka's president declared a military victory after more than a quarter century of civil war. In the streets of the capital Colombo, citizens celebrations erupted in the streets, a stark contrast to the view in the war torn north. There a virtual sea of weary souls traumatized by conflicts, fear and hunger packed into overcrowded camps. The scenes of suffering are creating a crescendo of concern from humanitarian ourselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I lost everything I have and they're now coming down to camps where they don't have freedom of movement where the government argues on base of state security that they'll be put there until resettlement can occurred. It's very important that those people are screened. The large number of people who are noncombatants are given freedom of movement and are able to go back to their village of origin after what has been an unimaginable hell for millions of people.

SIDNER: Meanwhile here in the capital, the stage is set for the president to announce a big victory to Parliament. The government has lined the streets with flags. There are people in the street this is evening, dancing and celebrating because they believe Sri Lanka is finally whole.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Happy, very, very happy. Sri Lanka very happy.

SIDNER: But politically, the main question being asked by nations around the world is how will the government treat the minority Tamil population in the midst of euphoria over its historic victory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's obviously a crying need for an increased political settlement. The tens of thousands of innocent Tamil civilians want to be thrown to citizens of equal rights and equal values.

SIDNER: Some Sri Lankas are angry over the international community's criticism of the military operation. Today the British high commission, the target of protests by majority. Still analysts say the post war plan must include a political solution or another guerrilla force may emerge from the ashes of this long running war.

Sara Sidner, CNN, Colomno.


BLITZER: A little background right now the Tamil Tigers is considered a terrorist organization, by the United States, and the European Union. The Tamil Tigers officially formed back in 1976. Their fight escalated into a bloody civil war that's lasted 25 years. The group is known for pioneering the use of women as suicide bombers and for inventing the suicide belt. They have assassinated several high level figures including former Indian prime minister Gandhi.

Amazing pictures 350 miles high. You're looking at the last time human hands will touch the Hubble telescope. That's NASA's hope for astronauts that this mission is about much more than simply repairing an aging satellite. John Zarrella is following the story for us -- John?

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, they are done. The last space walk ended about three hours ago and this was one of the most ambitious space repair missions every attempted.


ZARRELLA (voice-over): Astronaut John Grunsfeld pulled off some aluminum foil like insulation from the Hubble telescope and stuck it in his space trash bag, replacing it with a new hardening thermal shell. It was the last dance in an aerial ballet that has played out over five days and five space walks some 350 miles above the edges. Grunsfeld replaced a sensor and peeled off crumbling insulation. Some of it 19 years old and so deteriorated it simply fell apart and floated off.

JOHN GRUNSFELD, MISSION SPECIALIST: We're seeing a lot of pieces.

ZARRELLA: During the five grueling space walks, the two two-man teams replaced cameras, changed out gyroscopes and installed a new computer, many of which were not he designed to be replaced. On a couple of occasions stuck bolts put the astronauts behind schedule. But attend of this last repair day, they completed all the work. Grunsfeld took pictures and had some final thoughts.

GRUNSFELD: It's not just a satellite, it's about humanity's quest for knowledge.

ZARRELLA: For Grunsfeld on his third mission to the telescope, Hubble is like an old friend.

GRUNSFELD: It's impossible not to give it some human characteristics and feel sadness when we see it floating away.

ZARRELLA: That will happen Tuesday morning when Atlantis releases Hubble from the cargo bay.


ZARRELLA: Atlantis will be just over the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Africa when Hubble is released just before 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time tomorrow morning and that's it, the last time human eyes will ever see the Hubble space telescope -- Wolf?

BLITZER: In person, that is. All right. Thanks very much, John Zarrella, a dangerous mission and we're glad it was successful.

A virtual strip search at the airport, those body scanners are supposed to improve security, but they don't leave much to the imagination, just ahead, the new push to guard your modesty.

And a veteran columnist at the center of plagiarist accusations, what the "New York Times" has now corrected.

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


BLITZER: "New York Times" forced to issue a correction after a columnist is accused of plagiarizing a popular blogger. Let's go to Abbi Tatton. She's following the controversy online.

Abbi, what are you learning?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: This is the paragraph that so many people have been reading in the last 24 hours. First of all, as it appeared first in the Maureen Dowd column yesterday, more and more the time line is raising the question of why if the torture was to prevent terrorist attacks, it seemed to happen mainly during the period when we were looking for what was essentially political information to justify the invasion of Iraq. This is a post from popular liberal blogger on a memo as it appeared three days before that column. Strikingly similar even down to the commas save for a couple words changed in the Maureen Dowd column. This was spotted by another blogger on the talking points memo site yesterday and charges of plagiarism we -- reverberating around the web.

BLITZER: There has now been a correction, I take it. What is being said?

TATTON: Maureen Dowd sent a post to the Huffington Post who said she never read the memo but says clearly my friend must have read Josh Marshall without mentioning that to me, end quote. The column is corrected online with attribution in "The New York Times" version. The "Times" saying Dowd had them do that immediately as she discovered the error. Josh Marshall hasn't weighed in but thousands of people on twitter have very strong opinions about what happened.

BLITZER: I'm sure they do. Thanks very much for that. Let's come back to Jack Cafferty right now. That's obviously very embarrassing.

CAFFERTY: Well, it is. She's about as good as it gets when it comes to newspaper columnists. She has won the Pulitzer Prize and I make it a point to read her twice a week just because it's entertaining. She's terrific. None of this stuff is plagiarized. None of it.

BLITZER: You make all this up yourself.

CAFFERTY: That's right. I make it up myself. No, I don't. What are you saying?

The question: Is it time for Nancy Pelosi to step down as Speaker of the House? Yes, now the letters from the viewers.

Jim writes: "I've been a registered Democrat my whole life and have yet to hold any elected office. Still, I am far more qualified to be Speaker than Ms. Pelosi. She's an embarrassment (along the line of what Bush was for the Republicans). It's long past time for her to step down, boogie down, move on down the road, slither away, beam out or spend more time with her family."

David writes: "Speaker Pelosi should absolutely not step down. The slathering Republicans think they can distract Americans with their hypocritical hand wringing and they are dead wrong. The people aren't stupid, and it insults their intelligence for the likes of Gingrich and Boehner to cluck their mock shock at us like so many hens."

Jeff in Connecticut: "We Republicans love Nancy, Harry and Joe Biden right where they are! They are doing a fine job of shooting the Democratic Party in the foot. The polls are moving just in time for the 2010 campaigns."

Ray in Indiana writes: "It was time for Pelosi to step down years ago when she took impeachment off the table."

Marty writes: "Surely you jest in your question should Nancy Pelosi step down. How naive to fall into the Republicans' attack on her, when all they are trying to do is divert attention from the real waterboarding culprits: Bush and Cheney."

Finally, Brian writes: "Yes, any politician who calls illegal aliens patriotic and our intelligence services liars without proof seems to have lost any sense of reality. She is calling for a truth commission but Pelosi needs to be subjected to a common sense commission. It's admirable that she was the first woman Speaker but now we really need somebody who has a clue."

If you didn't see your e-mail, you can go to my blog at We got a lot of e-mail today on all the questions. I guess people got nothing to do on a Monday or else they were interesting.

BLITZER: They were intriguing. Excellent questions, Jack. Thank you.

Sentencing in a case that made headlines around the world. A grown woman's cruel prank and the suicide of a young girl that followed. We have details of the crime and now the punishment.

Plus, what tabloid reporters did to Brooke Shields' mother. The actress calls it reprehensible and disgusting. Now what is she going to do about it?


BLITZER: Betty Nguyen has a development that's happening right now involving more job layoffs.

What's going on, Betty?

NGUYEN: A sign of the times, American Express announcing today it will cut 4,000 jobs, that is 6 percent of its total work force, in an effort to save some $800 million. This is on top of the 7,000 that American Express announced in layoffs last year, October to be exact. But again, American Express announcing it will cut 4,000 more jobs to save some $800 million -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Sign of the times. Thank you, Betty.

You have heard stories of the great lengths tabloids go to try to land a story, but the actress Brooke Shields says the National Enquirer crossed the line. A.J. Hammer, the host of HLN's "Show Biz Tonight" picks up the story -- A.J.?

A.J. HAMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Brooke Shields is upset with a tabloid over an incident involving the actress' elderly mother.


HAMMER (voice-over): She calls it reprehensible and disgusting. "People" magazine reporting actress Brooke Shields is accusing a reporter and photographer from the National Enquirer of taking her mother who suffers from dementia out of a nursing home in Old Tappan, New Jersey last week. Shields told "People" magazine that the pair signed her mother Terry out of a senior living facility. The actress says they falsely claimed they were friends of her 75-year-old mom and later drove her around quote, looking for a tabloid story. The National Enquirer is not denying the incident but is claiming that the reporter has known Terry Shields for over ten years. A statement on the Enquirer's website titled the boring truth says Terry asked the reporter to take her out to lunch and run some errands, the reporter got permission from the facility to do so. At no point did the facility which had given its permission for the outing contend that there had been any wrongdoing. Old Tappan police are not available for comment to CNN but told people that they interviewed the reporter and are investigating who allowed Terry Shields to leave the facility. An attorney for Shields says the actress has not filed charges but is exploring her options.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, ANCHOR, "IN SESSION": At its surface there may be some very fertile ground here for a civil case. You can't just invade someone's privacy and get away with it. There are avenues people can take to get back at you.


HAMMER: The attorney for Shields also tells CNN that she's moved her mother 'out of that facility -- Wolf?

BLITZER: A.J., thank you.

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