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Saving Military Pets; Man Attacked by Fish; Hookah Bars Last Resort for Smokers; Wal-Mart Thief Steals Diamond Ring; Passionate Easter Celebrations in Philippines

Aired April 08, 2007 - 17:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: New trouble for U.S. troops in Iraq. A radical Shiite cleric issues new orders to his followers. Details straight ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're home safe to talk about it now, that's what matters.


WHITFIELD: New details and new dramatic video of a cruise ship sinking in the Aegean Sea. Find out what passengers are saying now.

And the battle over the bunny, why this cute Easter symbol is suddenly stirring up a lot of controversy among some Christians.

Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield, it is April 8th and you are in the NEWSROOM.

This Easter Sunday, tragic word coming out of Baghdad. The U.S. military announced the deaths of ten more American troops, including six who died today in various attacks.

Also today, bombs killed at least 21 civilians, including 17 in the town of Mahmoudiya. And with tomorrow marking the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, the Iraqi government abruptly announced a citywide vehicle ban to take effect at dawn.

At a briefing today in Baghdad, the military's top spokesman said again that the U.S. troop surge is showing signs of progress. That remains a point of contention. So we sought the perspective of CNN's Michael Ware.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What we are seeing already with only two of the five additional U.S. combat brigades already in place or currently in place, is that there has been an impact on particular types of violence, at least in the capital of Baghdad itself.

What we've seen is a decline, not an eradication of, but a decline in sectarian murders. It's much harder now for the death squads to operate. That's for two reasons. One is Americans are maintaining much more of a constant presence in many of the areas where the death squads were working. Secondly, the Americans are now essentially babysitting of the many death squads or their facilitators. The Iraqi police, elements of the ministry of interior and the Iraqi army forces.

WHITFIELD: Now does that depend on where you go within Iraq?

WARE: Absolutely. Because what we are seeing is the result of the focus of U.S. combat power and operations in the capital is what the U.S. commanders expected from the beginning.

We've seen time and time again in previous operations in Baghdad is that the insurgents, the militias, their hierarchy and the violence picks up and moves to places outside of the capital.

For example, just to the north in Diyala province, a faultline of this war where we've seen a massive upswing in violence and saw four more U.S. soldiers being killed there this weekend.

WHITFIELD: A couple of other things taking place on the eve of this four-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. You've got a curfew in some circles. Then you've got radical cleric Muqtada al Sadr who is saying and imploring Iraqi police and forces to work against the U.S. forces. And if anything, to push them out of the country. How is this instigating, or further fueling trouble?

WARE: Well, I mean, this is part of a much broader tapestry. We can't just look at this in a narrow focus nor in a vacuum. This is a piece of grand political theater that we're seeing. And it also fits into a broader dynamic of the rivalry being fought out for the future of Iraq between American influence and Iranian influence.

What we have is this anti-American cleric, Muqtada al Sadr who commands this massive militia who have been laying low for now, calling on his people to come out in protest against the Americans on the anniversary in the Shia holy city of Najaf.

He's made it very clear though, he's been very astute in tailoring his message. He doesn't want his people carrying his pictures and his banners. He says carry the Iraqi flag.

In his message which we've heard rumored from among his militia members was coming, he says refocus your attacks. Not upon each other, my brothers and the police and the militia, but upon the occupier is what he's suggesting.

WHITFIELD: CNN's Michael Ware in Baghdad.

In Texas today, President Bush attended Easter Sunday services at Ft. Hood, which has seen many of its troops deployed to Iraq. With that part of the story, CNN's Ed Henry is at the Crawford Ranch - Ed?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Fred. That's right. Yesterday as we spoke there was a rare snowfall here in Crawford, Texas. For April, it's pretty chilly, but as you know back in Washington that debate over Iraq war funding is heating up.


HENRY (voice-over): Two presidents named Bush posing with a female sergeant at Ft. Hood in Texas.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a rose between two thorns.

HENRY: The current president was joined by his family for Easter Sunday services with troops at the army base.

BUSH: I had a chance to reflect on the great sacrifice that our military and their families are making. I prayed for their safety. I prayed for their strength and comfort and I prayed for peace.

HENRY: A far more diplomatic version of the blunt attack in Saturday's radio address, accusing Democrats of jeopardizing the safety of troops by stalling the war funding bill with provisions calling for withdrawal.

BUSH: This emergency war spending bill is not a political statement. It is a source of critical funding that has a direct impact on their daily lives.

HENRY: The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee insisted Democrats will not cut off funding for the war, but will continue to try and find levers to force the president's hand.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), ARMED SERVICES CHMN: We're going to fund the troops. That's not going to be the issue. The question is how can we put pressure on the president to put pressure on the Iraqi leaders to reach a political settlement?

HENRY: But that contradicts the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has now signed on to legislation that would cut off most funding for the war next year.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: I do not believe there should be a single drop of American blood, additional blood shed in Iraq.

HENRY: The maneuvering is drawing fire from Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman, who want General David Petraeus get a chance to succeed.

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I/D), CONNECTICUT: This is particularly wrong to call for a withdrawal now as the new plan under the new general with new troops is beginning to show encouraging signs.

HENRY: The president meanwhile has problems in his own party. Some of his supporters in the funding fight are growing weary about a lack of progress in Iraq.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Congress is not in a position to micromanage the war. But we do not have any good alternative. Right now, you can't see the end of the tunnel let alone a light at the end of the tunnel.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HENRY: Now the president is playing hard ball, charging that if he doesn't get the money soon, the army is going to have to cut off some funding for equipment and training. Democrats insist, however, that there's enough money to go around until at least July. The only thing that's certain is that the clock is ticking on this money. Both sides are digging in - Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right, Ed Henry in Crawford, thank you.

And there's news today from the war in Afghanistan. NATO announced the deaths of seven NATO troops in two separate bombings in Afghanistan's Helmand province. Six of the dead troops were Canadians. Coalition troops have launched a major offensive in the province. Earlier today, I spoke about Operation Achilles with coalition spokeswoman Lietuant Colonel Maria Carl.


LT. COL. MARIA CARL, ISAF SPOKESWOMAN: The objective basically to create security conditions necessary in that northern Helmand area for reconstruction and development projects to ensue.

WHITFIELD: So if part of the objective there, as part of Operation Achilles is to move out the Taliban, do you feel as though really what you are doing is relocating them? That you are not necessarily flushing them out, eliminating them, but they are simply relocating to another area which will later be a troubled spot?

CARL: Actually, I wouldn't characterize it that way. In fact, in the recent operations under Achilles and the maneuver that happened this week, we captured or killed several tier one Taliban. Tier one is the term used for the hardcore, highly motivated Taliban. We captured and killed about several dozen other enemy combatants as well. It's not that they are relocating. This particular area is a very rugged mountainous area. The Taliban that are there have been able to establish a presence, not so much because they're so strong, but more because there has not been much government presence there before.

So as we move in under Operations Achilles, we capture or kill, in some cases, the enemy as we make the area secure.

WHITFIELD: Talking about security and the plan of rebuilding, part of the plan is to hand over security to Afghan security. How soon might we expect that? What's the time table that you and your forces are expecting?

CARL: Well, we continue to make steady progress in the northern Helmand Province. This particular maneuver that happened earlier this week is a good example of where we are looking to turn over control of that city center now to government of Afghanistan. And so we're making --

WHITFIELD: Within days, weeks, and months?

CARL: I probably wouldn't say exactly, but I know that definitely something we're doing just incrementally as we move forward. This is an ongoing operation. This district area was one part of this overall Operation Achilles movement. It's by no means finished yet. Over the next few days we'll be able to reduce the enemy's ability to destabilize the government or destabilize that part of the region.


WHITFIELD: That was NATO spokeswoman lieutenant colonel Maria Carl speaking to us earlier from Afghanistan.

Also today from Afghanistan, possible fallout from last month's abduction of an Italian journalist. Daniele Mastrogiacomo was kidnapped March 5th and released by the Taliban two weeks later in a controversial swap with the Afghan government.

Today the Taliban said it has executed a journalist Afghan interpreter. The Afghan government says it can't confirm the claim and neither can Taliban spokesperson who often phones reporters.

Well the calendar says it's Easter, but you couldn't tell by temperatures in many parts of the country. In Cleveland, whiteout conditions blanketed Jacobs Field, home of the big league Indians. The team cancelled today's double-header, which itself was a makeup for Friday and Saturday's games postponed because of the winter weather.

In the nation's midsection, snow fell as far south as Texas. Even President Bush's ranch in Crawford saw a dusting overnight. It's also pretty chilly here in Atlanta. Our Jacqui Jeras is in the Weather Center. And I have a feeling, Jacqui, you are going to hold to your predictions earlier when you said it may be midweek before it starts to feel like spring in some parts.


WHITFIELD: Well this just in, a nurse arrested for starting a fatal fire in a Houston office building is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday. 34-year-old Misty Ann Weaver is charged with three counts of murder and one count of arson.

Three people died in the March 28th blaze. Authorities believe Weaver started the fire because she feared losing her job after failing to finish an important audit.

A packed St. Peter's Square for Easter mass today as Pope Benedict gives his blessing to the city and to the world. What else the pope had to say, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

Then to the Philippines, where an annual and very bloody crucifixion spectacle attracts tourists from all over the world. That's in about five minutes from now.

And then.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: School departments can't promote any religion, whether it be Christianity which encompasses a lot, or Islam or Buddhism, or any other type of religion.


WHITFIELD: The Easter bunny now at the center of very serious business. And an Easter egg hunt banned now by a Rhode Island school district. More on the controversial move in about 45 minutes from now.


WHITFIELD: Happening now in the news, Easter in ancient lands. American troops celebrate Easter far from home in Kuwait. Dozens of soldiers and family members gathered for Easter services this morning at a camp near Kuwait City.

And in Iraq, dozens of U.S. soldiers and airmen celebrated Easter at Tallil air base, located about 200 miles southeast of Baghdad.

Christians around the world are celebrating Easter, the holiest day of the Christian year. At the Vatican, Pope Benedict presided over Easter mass in St. Peter's Basilica. During the papal blessing, Pope Benedict spoke out against what he called the continual slaughter in Iraq.

In Jerusalem, Orthodox Christians marked the holy fire holy ritual at Christianity's holiest site. Within seconds, a flame brought from what many believe is Jesus' tomb illuminated thousands of candles.

And near Washington D.C., a sunrise Easter Service at Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington is hallowed ground to many Americans. It holds the bodies of some 300,000 people, many of whom died in battle.

West of London, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, her husband Prince Philip and other members of the royal family attended Easter services at Windsor Castle. School girls offered the queen flowers as she departed services at St. George's chapel.

And in Newcastle, Indiana, Easter Sunday service was bittersweet for parishioners of St. Anne's Catholic Church. Church members had to huddle in a nearby middle school auditorium for this morning's mass.

Yesterday a fire devastated the 83-year-old church sanctuary. Damage estimates hover around $1.5 million. Fire investigators are treating the blaze as a possible criminal case. Church members are thankful that no one was seriously hurt in the blaze and they are reflecting in the spirit of the holiday.


SISTER SHIRLEY GERTH, ST. ANNE CATHOLIC CHURCH: We are an Easter people and we will sing our hallelujahs and new life will come about as a result of this.


WHITFIELD: Chicago's Cardinal George has been released from the hospital after being treated from a fall. The 70-year-old cardinal fractured his hip yesterday while blessing Easter baskets at a Chicago church. The archdiocese says the cardinal has cancelled all appearances for the next few days, and that includes today's traditional Easter mass at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral.

Nowhere is Easter celebrated with such passion and such fervor than in the Philippines. The faithful there reenact Jesus' chaotic last days on earth, including his crucifixion on a cross using very real nails. More from CNN's Anjali Rau.


ANJALI RAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is perhaps as much a tourist spectacle now as a ritual of faith. Filipinos in the north of the country mark Good Friday with a reenactment of Christ's final hours, lashing themselves with bamboo whips and paddles studded with broken glass. The flagellation goes on for hours and is meant to atone for sins.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I've asked god to give me strength to fulfill this vow so I can pray not only for myself, but also for my family and for the whole world.

RAU: The annual ritual began here in the village of Kutud (ph) in 1962. But it's grown over the years from a small village production into a media and tourist attraction. These days, thousands travel to the village every year. Some local travel agents now even offer overnight packages for curious visitors.

JACK MORTELMANS, BELGIAN MEDICAL DOCTOR: Many are coming from Belgium, first time viewing this. It's very spectacular and a form of Christianity in the extreme way of suffering.

JEAN PIERRE MELET, FRENCH TOURIST: I believe in god, but I don't believe in this kind of expression of god. It's more than god wants of them.

RAU: The main event is the crucifixion. The volunteers are nailed by their hands and feet to large wooden crosses and hoisted up. This is meant to signify the death of Christ. The country's Catholic hierarchy disapproves of the annual ritual calling it a misrepresentation of the faith. Anjali Rau, CNN, Hong Kong.


WHITFIELD: And don't miss this fascinating series "After Jesus: The Earliest Christians." A look at the challenges, struggles and revolutions that became Christianity. That's tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. And then it's a CNN special report, "What Would Jesus really Do?" Minister debate how Jesus might solve problems facing the world today. That's 9:00 Eastern right here on CNN. A brazen robbery at a Florida Wal-Mart store. It's all caught on tape as well when this guy steals one of the most expensive items in the store. All details straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

And then:


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's ridiculous. Call it what you will, it's an Easter bunny.


WHITFIELD: An Easter bunny outrage story as the Easter bunny gets banned from a Rhode Island school district. You don't want to miss that one.

And take a look right here, Veronica de la Cruz and Rob Marciano getting ready for the 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. editions of the NEWSROOM. You don't want to miss that. We'll be checking with them to see what's ahead.


WHITFIELD: Miami Vice all caught on tape. Police in south Florida are searching for a brazen thief who stole a diamond ring from a local Wal-Mart and it's not the first time he's hit up Wal-Mart for some bling. More from reporter Vanessa Medina of affiliate WSVN in Miami.


VANESSA MEDINA, WSVN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's a thief with a goal. His crime caught on tape. Look at the top left on your screen. He's wearing a blue shirt and scoping out his prize. Here's how it started Wednesday afternoon.

CARLOS FOJO, HIALHEAH GARDENS POLICE: Drove up in a black Altima with tinted windows, parked approximately right where we're at.

MEDINA: Walking inside, all of his moves captured from every angle, spending most his time circling around his target, the diamond ring, the most expensive and on the top of his list.

FOJO: As she pulls out the jewelry casing and pulls out the ring, he reaches over and snatches it from her hand.

MEDINA: He calmly walks out, employees running behind him. He jumps inside his Nissan Altima.

FOJO: You see the video when he drives off, he almost hit two pedestrians on his way out. He drove straight through here against traffic. Traffic's coming this way and he drove on the inside lane through here, against traffic, so he doesn't really care.

MEDINA: Leaving with the loot, but leaving a very clear image behind.

FOJO: We need the public's assistance, as much as I could get. It's up to the public to help us out to locate him.

MEDINA: Wal-Mart wants him caught, as well. So far he's targeted four of their stores. They say "We are providing information and cooperating fully with authorities to assist in apprehending the criminal."


WHITFIELD: Well it is a somber day for animal lovers in Jacksonville, Florida, after dozens of animals died in a fire at the local humane society. Authorities say the blaze broke out early yesterday and destroyed the shelter's main building where cats and exotic animals were housed. A few firefighters were also injured trying to rescue the trapped animals. The cause of the fire still under investigation.

In this day and age, it's not egg-actly a surprise. A Rhode Island school bans the word "Easter" from its spring celebrations. Details on that straight ahead. Plus -- dramatic new video from that ferry singing in the Aegean Sea. Listen to the stories its passengers have to tell. You don't want to miss that in about seven minutes from now. And then, when troops are deployed abroad, what happens to their pets? Some answers, later in the NEWSROOM.


WHITFIELD: Some harrowing tales of survival from that ill-fated cruise ship. Hundreds of passengers got safely off the ship before it sank off Greece Thursday and moved onboard where Americans and many are now talking about their ordeal. Their story from CNN's Veronica de la Cruz.


VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The last moments of the Sea Diamond as it capsizes close to the Greek island of Santorini early on Friday morning. Arriving home in New York, some of the cruise liner's passengers talk about their sudden end to their vacation and their lucky escape.

MARYANN SALERNO, PASSENGER: I was lost from all my friends, 38 of them. I was by myself on the ship the whole time.

DE LA CRUZ: Some had praise for the way the emergency was handled.

MARY HENDERSON, PASSENGER: The crew was wonderful. They were absolutely wonderful. DE LA CRUZ: Others spoke of confusion.

DAVID WEAVER, PASSENGER: They were trying to get the life boats down, which was a chore, and then they had to get the mechanics there to get them rolling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They were not prepared. No, the staff was not prepared for an emergency like this.

DE LA CRUZ: Some passengers could even smile about the experience.

BARBARA NEIL, PASSENGER: Then when we saw all the crew with life vests on, we knew something was really not good.

DE LA CRUZ: Passengers lost everything they had taken on vacation when the ship went down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is my luggage!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We all brought jewelry and everything, and it's all down there. We don't care at this point.

DE LA CRUZ: Several did bring home video of their dramatic escape. All came home with the same thought.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are home safe to talk about it now. That's what matters.

DE LA CRUZ: Back in Greece, the captain and five other senior crew members of the Sea Diamond have been charged with negligence. His ship lies at the bottom of Santorini's volcanic lagoon.


WHITFIELD: And reports out of Greece say the captain blamed currents in an interview with prosecutors. A remote sea probe is to resume Tuesday for two missing passengers, a French father and his 16- year-old daughter.

From the Aegean Sea to the Amazon River, where the world record holder for distance swimming may have broken his own personal best. 52-year-old Martin Strel of Slovenia stroked nearly 3,300 miles down the world's second longest river. He began February 1st in Peru and finished yesterday in the city of Belem. Despite exhaustion, personal health issues and even piranhas, Strel never doubted himself.


MARTIN STREL, SWIMMER: Well, if I say something, I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it, no matter how long it takes. And I decided to do it. And then I'm going to do it until the end. So I'm the person that never stops, never quits.


WHITFIELD: And if you would like to see more of Martin Strel's incredible swimming feat, click on his Web site,

Well a couple of stories now from the horn of Africa. This weekend, war-torn Somalia welcomes the highest-ranging U.S. official in 14 years. Assistant secretary of state Jendayi Frazer, second from the right here, met with officials from the nation's transitional government. Amid a shaky cease-fire and a violent clan war, Frazer says the country must focus on national reconciliation to cease being a haven for extremists.

Meanwhile, the "New York Times" is reporting today that the U.S. allowed secret illegal arm shipments from North Korea to Ethiopia. According to government sources, the sale was allowed since Ethiopia was battling Islamic jihadists in Somalia. The U.S. called for U.N. weapon sanctions against North Korea in October.

And right now, former U.N. ambassador and present day New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is in North Korea. Richardson began his four-day trip today in the capital of Pyongyang. He is there to recover the remains of American servicemen killed in the Korean war. Richardson's visit comes with the blessing of the Bush administration. Richardson, who is also a Democratic presidential candidate, says he has no intention of discussing North Korea's nuclear program. The six-party talks targeting a nuclear-free Korean peninsula are set to resume this week.

Now to Britain, where the 15 sailors and marines held by Iran are accepting bids for their stories. Service personnel are to not usually allowed to enter into financial agreements with media organizations, but apparently there is huge interest in their ordeal. So military officials are allowing it. All totaled, the group could earn nearly a half million dollars.

Meanwhile, more details about the interrogation tactics used by Iran.


DEAN HARRIS, BRITISH ROYAL MARINE: I wouldn't say I was being forced to say things that they wanted to hear. It's more of a case of just asking the question that they wanted to know the answer to. And if you didn't, they just try and sort of trick you then into thinking that your friends have said it and you would be better off saying it, as well. That's the only real bit of trickery they tried to use.


WHITFIELD: And now how about this for a reverse role? We are used to chomping on fish, not vice versa.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jumped right out of the water, hit me in the chest and knocked me over and bit my leg.


WHITFIELD: You need to see this story to believe it. When fish attack, in the rundown in about three minutes from now.


WHITFIELD: Twenty minutes before the hour. Here's what's happening right now in the news. For the fourth time in the past five years, President Bush takes in Easter Sunday service at Ft. Hood, Texas chapel. The base has sent thousands of soldiers to fight the war in Iraq.

Well, it was another deathly day there. The U.S. military reports six soldiers were killed in Iraq today. Three in a roadside bombing, three by weapons fire, one south of Baghdad and two in neighboring Iraqi provinces. The U.S. death toll in Iraq now stands at 3,280.

You are not going to believe the story of a fisherman in Florida and what he's telling everybody all about. Instead of the hunter becoming the hunted, when a giant mackerel jumped out of the water and attacked him, more now from reporter David Waters of CNN affiliate Central Florida News 13.


DAVID WATERS, NEWS 13 CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One moment, Josh Landin and his buddies were fishing. The next Landin was being attacked by a fish they call a massive beast. Josh and his friends say it came out of nowhere.

JOSH LANDIN, FISH ATTACK VICTIM: Jumped right out of the water, hit me in the chest and knocked me over and bit my leg.

JEREMY LANDIN, VICTIM'S BROTHER: I just didn't think it was real at first. It was such a surprise.

WATERS: The fish was this king mackerel, as heavy as the average eighth grader. This is 57 pounds, about 4'11" inches. The men were fishing near Sebastian inlet at Brevard County south end. They all leaned over the side as one of them reeled in a small fish.

ROB PLATNER, VICTIM'S FRIEND: We were staring at that little fish. Like somebody waved a magic wand, it was suddenly a five-foot- long, 60-pound fish.

WATERS: This mackerel wanted a meal. But instead of getting a small fish, it jumped into the boat and tore into Josh's hand and leg in two places.

JOSH LANDIN: And at that point, the boat was just filled with blood.

WATERS: Landin's friends raced him to shore.

JOSH LANDIN: I was starting to lose consciousness.

WATERS: Landin was rushed to Holmes Regional Medical Center and received more than 100 stitches. The fish didn't fare as well. The friends are keeping him at a dock in their neighborhood in Melbourne Beach and letting the crabs eat him. In Melbourne Beach, David Waters, Central Florida New 13.


WHITFIELD: Holy mackerel is right. Much more of the NEWSROOM coming up with Veronica de la Cruz and Rob Marciano. Good to see you. DE LA CRUZ: It is so nice to see you, Fred. Well, you know all about this story, a man who lost 22 years of his life, precious years of his life after being in jail for so long. DNA evidence proved that police have the wrong man. We're going to be showing you how Anthony Capozzi is celebrating his first Easter as a free man with his family.

And then Fred at 10:00, we'll talk to the sole survivor of a murder spree across the western U.S. John Delling has been arrested for shooting two former classmates, injuring another. Jake Thompson was shot in the face and in the shoulder. He is the sole survivor of this murder spree. We're going to be talking to him coming up at 10:00. Rob Marciano and I, you want to join us in the NEWSROOM. This is a guy who was shot in the eye. The bullet was lodged in his head.

WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh.

DE LA CRUZ: So we're going to check in and see how he's recovering.

WHITFIELD: Wow, what a story of renewal on this Easter Sunday. Thanks, Veronica.

DE LA CRUZ: Of course.

WHITFIELD: All right, well laws banning smoking in restaurants and bars are increasingly common around the country these days. In response, a new type of bar is popping up, one that focuses on smoking. Hookah bars actually originated in the Middle East. And CNN's Kathleen Koch has more on the trendy spots and how lawmakers are fitting them into their anti-smoking push.



KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): He is one of the most memorable characters in Walt Disney's "Alice in Wonderland," the caterpillar, languidly puffing away atop his mushroom. Now growing numbers of Americans are following his lead, smoking hookah pipes. With bans now blocking smoking in restaurants and bars in 16 states, hookah bars are becoming a last refuge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, I think it's a -- it's a nice alternative to smoking cigarettes. And again, it's just like the lounge atmosphere. So it's comfortable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a really relaxing atmosphere. There's a nice aesthetic of the smoke rising slowly up.

KOCH: In a bowl near the top lit by a red-hot charcoal, hookah pipes hold tobacco in an assortment of flavors, from apple to coconut. The smoke passes through water and is sucked through as many as six long tubes. Many cities, including Washington, D.C., carve out smoking ban exemptions for establishments like hookah and cigar bars.

JIM GRAHAM, WASHINGTON CITY COUNCIL: If you prohibited tobacco in hookah bars, it would be like prohibiting tobacco in tobacco shops. There would be nothing left.

KOCH: Come Monday, Maryland is expected to pass a statewide smoking ban.

KRIS GOLSHAN, OWNER, ZEEBA LOUNGE: Personally, I think it's uncalled for. I don't think it's something that, you know, needed to take place.

KOCH: The owners of Zeeba Lounge, a hookah bar in Baltimore, aren't sure whether it will snuff out their business.

ERIC KNOBLOCH, ZEEBA LOUNGE: It's our hope and our intent to be able to get an exception from that smoking ban based on the impact that that would have on our business and on our culture here at Zeeba Lounge.

KOCH: Customers hope the hookah bar survives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they definitely should be allowed an exception since their business is based on being able to smoke.

KOCH (on camera): There's little hard research on the health effects of smoking hookah pipes...

(voice over): ... but the American Cancer Society says tobacco smoke is dangerous, whether it's in a hookah or a cigarette.

Kathleen Koch, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: When mom or dad go off to war, it's always hard on the kids. Well now producers of the children's television standby "Sesame Street" are helping parents explain military duty to the kids. Tomorrow PBS is reairing a program first shown in December. It's called "When Parents Are Deployed." The president of Sesame Workshop says he's pleased with the public reaction.


GARY KNELL, SESAME WORKSHOP: There's been a huge response to this show. I would say there is nothing I have worked on at Sesame Street that's been more appreciated than this program by our military service and people connected with them.

And the response has been overwhelming. We distributed 400,000 DVD kits through military one source program and through our own Web site and now this program which is really for the broader population was such a hit, that the PBS stations decided to bring it back and show it once again this week.


WHITFIELD: And for more information on the free DVD kits Mr. Knell just mentioned, you can log on to Well another hardship for deploying troops. What to do with the beloved family pet? Some soldiers with no family face some pretty tough choices. But several volunteer groups are trying to give them yet another option. Gary Nurenberg has the story.


AEYNE ANNE DIZICKSA, U.S. ARMY RESERVE: I'll always be so grateful for everything all you did I have my family back. I have my family back.

GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT 9voice over): Army reservist Aeyne Anne Dizicksa was deployed abroad in 2005 with little time to find homes for her pets like Sweet Magnolia.

DIZICKSA: Eight days, all I kept thinking is my cats, my cats, and my dogs.

NURENBERG: For American troops with no one to care for pets left behind; it is a problem that began getting attention during the first Iraq War Desert Storm in 1991. STEVE ALBIN, NETPETS.ORG: During that period of time, a minimum of 25,000 pets of the military was put to sleep.

NURENBERG: With no options years ago, Dizicksa had to put three of her beloved cats to sleep.

DIZICKSA: I had that done. It ripped me apart.

ALBIN: In order to serve and protect our country, we wind up -- they wind up having to put their pet to sleep.

NURENBERG: Because that didn't seem right to Steve Albin, he founded the military pets foster project.

ALBIN: It has actually become my life because we successfully fostered well over 9,400 pets for the military so far.

NURENBERG: A similar project, Operation Noble Foster put Dizicksa in touch with Susie Hagrelius who fostered Sweet Magnolia while Dizicksa was abroad.

SUSAN HAGRELIUS, PET FOSTER MOM: I know I would never make it. This would be -- I would be the worst one in the world. It's something that I can do to help out military people and help out our country.

NURENBERG: The problem is, it was hard to give Sweet Magnolia back when Dizicksa came home.

DIZICKSA: Tears are streaming down our face and crying, I missed you. I was still like I don't care how much you are crying; I'm taking my kitty back. I'm getting my dog back. Mine.

NURENBERG: But seriously --

DIZICKSA: I'll never be more grateful for anything in my life. ALBIN: Till we say good-bye.

NURENBERG: Good-bye, Julie.

Gary Nurenberg, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: And so more information for you pet owners out there, still worried and confused about the pet food recall? We decided to put a list of everything you need to know at where you can learn more about the recall, what to look out for and how to treat your pet, We are also listing recalled products on the ticker running across the bottom of your screen just in case.

With the international auto show underway in New York, we thought we'd take a look at some stories from the automotive world. A leading safety group says seat and head restraints in more than 60 percent of newer vehicles don't offer the best protection in rear-end crashes. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says rear-end collisions happened most frequently and neck injuries are most commonly reported in collisions.

And already-struggling Ford Motor Company could be the industry's biggest hit because of weakness in the housing and credit markets. The head of Ford's North American operations says that's because Ford pick-ups are the staple vehicle of the construction industry.

And what's in a name when it comes to a bunny? Well straight ahead in the NEWSROOM, one public school's battle over what to call the furry guy who brings us all this that candy.


WHITFIELD: Listen up you chocolate lovers. This segment is for you. Check out the giant chocolate creation in this store window in Brussels, Belgium. And they know chocolate. The giant egg is covered with gold leaf. Its creator says you need passion and motivation, as well as the best chocolate to make something like this. Something tells me you need big money, too.

In Horno, Germany, the sweet treat of choice, chocolate bunnies. They too are made of Belgian chocolate. Not surprisingly, Easter and Christmas are the busiest time of year for the German candy maker.

And a tisket, a tasket, in Paris it's all about the Easter basket. Check out these delicious French creations. How could anyone resist?

Well some called it a hare-brained idea. But others support a ban on the Easter bunny at a public school fair in Rhode Island. While the Easter bunny was nowhere in sight this weekend, Peter Rabbit was allowed to hop in. Jarrod Holbrook with our Providence affiliate WPRI has the story.


JARROD HOLBROOK, WPRI CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Easter bunny won't be hopping over to Tiverton Middle School. The parent teacher council and other nonprofit organizations planned on hosting a fundraiser here, an Easter egg hunt with the Easter bunny. But many in Tiverton got their eggs in a bunch when the school superintendent, William Rearick put the brakes on the bunny.

WILLIAM REARICK, SUPERINTENDENT, TIVERTON SCHOOL: School departments can't promote any religion, whether it be Christianity, which encompasses a lot, or Islam or Buddhism or any other type of religion.

HOLBROOK: The fundraiser can continue, providing it's called an egg hunt leaving the "E" word out and the Easter bunny has to be called Peter Rabbit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's ridiculous. Just call it what you will, it's an Easter bunny.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I find offensive the word Peter Rabbit myself.

HOLBROOK: Why is that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You never heard of the word Peter?

HOLBROOK: While arriving at the middle school and the high school, opinions were voiced before we even got inside.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The kids are talking about it and posting it all over the wall.

UNIDNETIFIED FEMALE: In today's day and age, the word peter means a sexual part of the body.

REARICK: That's someone's opinion.

HOLBROOK: Perhaps Rearick's easy button can help find a new name for the random rabbit.


WHITFIELD: Again, that was Jarrod Holbrook with our affiliate WPRI.

And much more news hopping your way in the NEWSROOM.