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Fidel Castro Resigns; What's At Stake?; Random Screenings by Amtrak to Keep You Safe

Aired February 19, 2008 - 10:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Can Hillary Clinton break Barack Obama's winning streak? We're asking those questions.
BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, Delta inches closer to a merger with Northwest. Are passengers any closer to cheaper tickets today? It's Tuesday, February 19th and you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Unfolding this hour, Cuba's Fidel Castro, he has pestered (ph) and provoked 10 U.S. presidents and nourished communism on a mere 90 miles from U.S. shores. So today he is stepping down and the world wonders, what now? We're covering all the latest developments. Susan Candiotti has the reaction of Cuban exiles in south Florida. So let's begin now in Cuba with CNN Havana bureau chief Morgan Neill.

What's the reaction there, Morgan?


MORGAN NEILL, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: This morning in Cuba's official state media, the remarkable announcement Cuban leader Fidel Castro is stepping down. In a letter addressed to the country, Fidel Castro says that he's resigning because he is no longer physically capable of doing the job that he has done for so long.

Fidel Castro writes he will not aspire to nor accept the post of president of the council of state nor that of commander in chief when the country's National Assembly meets this coming Sunday. That means the national assembly will have to name a new president. The most likely candidate appears to be Raul Castro, who's led the country for the last year and a half since illness forced Fidel Castro to transfer power to his brother.

Now, what to expect from Raul Castro? Well, in the year and a half we've had to study him, he is a leader, more apt to recognize some of the Cuban -- the problems that Cuba has. For example, he has said, state salaries are simply insufficient to meet people's needs and that certain structures need to law breaking within Cuba.

Nevertheless, he has not been able to fulfill the big changes that a lot of Cubans say that they would like to see. Things like an end to the double currency in the country whereby Cubans are paid in one currency but have to buy many of their goods in another one worth 25 times less, prohibition against free travel, the inability of Cubans to getting access to the Internet like they see others in the world getting. So far we have not seen those kinds of changes. Now, although Fidel Castro is resigning his political position, this won't be an end to his influence. He says he will continue writing these articles as he has up to this point in the last year and a half and that this is not his farewell.

Morgan Neill, CNN, Havana.


HOLMES: We now want to turn to Miami and gage reaction there from the large Cuban exiled community in south Florida. CNN's Susan Candiotti is in the section of Miami known as Little Havana.

What is the reaction? Is there any reaction so far this morning?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, sure, there is plenty of reaction as news has spread. We're outside of Versailles (ph) restaurant in Miami's Little Havana. We've taken you here time and again over the past decades. And this is where people are now having their morning coffee, talking about the announcement today in Cuba. They're having a sweet pastry and they're discussing what is taking place.

And, for the most part, people seem to think that there are serious doubts about whether this means real change. Why? Because if Raul Castro, Fidel's brother, takes power, as expected, they say it's more or less the very same thing, nothing will change. But that hasn't stopped people from gathering here this morning. Both at the coffee shop, as well, out on the street here.

Kind of difficult to get to show you right now but someone has strung up a huge Cuban flag hung between two palm trees. You've got people holding signs out on the street saying, no Castro, no problem. And this is the same thing that we have seen in the past. For example, two summers ago, T.J., when word came out that Fidel Castro was seriously ill and this he was temporarily handing over the reins of power to his brother. We saw hundreds of people gathered here that day.

But again, people here are now taking a step back. They've had 19 months. They've seen this happen before. And they are patient. They want to see what's going to happen next. And the only real change they say will happen when there is change from within Cuba. When Fidel Castro goes, when Raul Castro goes, and until there is a total turnover do they think that there will be any meaningful transition in Cuba.

Back to you, T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Our Susan Candiotti for us there in Little Havana. Yes, the reaction coming in. We expect to probably see a whole lot more. We thank you so much.

And word we're just getting from the Associated Press, from the U.S. State Department actually, that the U.S. embargo on Cuba will remain in place. This is a full-on commercial and economic embargo that's been in place for quite some time.

And despite now word that Fidel Castro is stepping down as president of Cuba, still, for now, at least, the U.S. will not lift that embargo that's been in place for quite some time. Again, that word coming to us from Associated Press from the Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, that that U.S. embargo will remain in place at least for now.

Now, of course, a lot of talk about who will be next in line after Fidel Castro. We're going to take a look a little closer at Fidel Castro's brother, who has been holding power since his brother actually has fallen ill. Well, Raul is 76-years-old. Five years younger than the resigning president, his brother.

Well, since taking over in July of '06, Raul has hinted at reforms in Cuba. This may clear the way for what Raul Castro has called structural changes. Many Cubans now expect modest economic and social reforms. Raul Castro is considered a shoo-in for the presidential post when the counsel meets on Sunday.

NGUYEN: Back here in the U.S., if it's Tuesday, it must mean somebody is voting somewhere. And today we have primaries in Wisconsin and Washington. Hawaii is holding Democratic caucuses.

Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been in Wisconsin the last few days. Obama is looking to add to a streak of eight primary and caucus wins in a row. Well, Chelsea Clinton, stumping for her mother in Hawaii, but that may be an up hill battle. Barack Obama was born there and spent most of his childhood in Hawaii.

Now to Washington state. Only the Republicans have delegates on the line. It's actually the second half of the contest there. John McCain won the Washington state caucuses 10 days ago.

HOLMES: And McCain, he's actually looking ahead, past today's contest, to some bigger prizes coming up in a couple of weeks. CNN's Dana Bash is in Columbus, Ohio, this morning.

And, Dana, good morning to you first. And, also, we have at least heard from one presidential candidate this morning. Some reaction from Barack Obama about Fidel Castro and what's happening in Cuba right now. And Senator McCain also commenting (ph).

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We just got a statement from Senator McCain's official Senate office, interest there, commenting and reacting to the news coming out of Cuba. It's pretty standard, fair, frankly, for a Republican of any sort, whether it's a candidate or somebody who's in office, the reaction that he gave to this news.

I'll read part of it to you. He said, first of all, he said that it's overdue. But then he also went on to say, "yet freedom for the Cuban people is not yet at hand, and the Castro brothers clearly intend to maintain their grip on power. That is why we must press the Cuban regime to release all political prisoners unconditionally, to legalize all political parties, labor unions and free media and to schedule internationally monitored elections."

So the long and short of it from Senator McCain is that this is a very long overdue move in Cuba. The fact that Fidel Castro, according to his statement, will actually resign, but clearly not enough, not enough as far as Senator McCain is concerned. And this is the same kind of thing you heard Senator McCain and other Republicans when they were in the Republican race on the stump talking about particularly in advance of the primary in Florida.

You remember back then just before that primary there was a lot of talk about Cuba from these candidates as they were courting the very, very small but powerful Cuban-American vote in the area where Susan Candiotti was just reporting from just a short while ago. Senator McCain actually did quite well among that community in Florida and it is a community that he is going to need very, very badly in Florida come the general election if, in fact, things go as they look like they're going and he will be the Republican nominee.

So this is something that certainly is going to probably splash on the campaign trail today. After all, Fidel Castro is somebody who has been the thorn in the side of about 10 presidents. So this is something that people who are vying for the next job are absolutely going to be commenting on. You just saw Senator McCain commenting, saying it's overdue, but certainly not enough -- T.J.

HOLMES: And, Dana, just real quickly, you kind of mentioned at the top there, this statement came from his Senate office. You kind of said interestingly enough. Should we read anything into that no big deal that would come from -- something like that might come from his official presidential campaign office, if you will.

BASH: Well, I think it's interesting in that this is, you know, an official move and sort of a national security and something that's happen on the world stage and Senator McCain is a presidential candidate but he also still is a sitting United States senator.

So this is an official sort of statement that is coming from his Senate office. I think wanting to sort of remind people that he is still a sitting senator and does want to show people that he still has that job and still can affect policy in an official way through the United States Senate.

HOLMES: That's right, he does have a day job. We forget sometimes. Dana Bash for us in Ohio.

BASH: Yes.

HOLMES: Yes, Dana, thank you so much.

BASH: Thank you.

HOLMES: And, of course, stay with CNN. We will have much more on the candidates as they crisscross the country. Watch the CNN "Ballot Bowl" today at noon Eastern. CNN equals politics.

NGUYEN: And speaking of politics, on the political front, Fidel Castro has stepped down. He is resigning. We have learned that today. And we are also getting reaction from Little Havana, where a little of Cuban exiles live. Let's take a listen to what some people are saying today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Obviously the man is going to step aside and probably give a chance to his brother, continue the -- pass the dictatorship. I mean, that's, I think, what they want. I think it's important that we keep the pressure on and that we fight for democratic and freedom for Cuba and the unification of the human people.


NGUYEN: So word is spreading in regards to Fidel Castro's resignation. And that a little bit of what people are saying in Little Havana, Miami, where a lot of Cuban exiles are living to this day. And, of course, we'll continue to follow this story as we're going to get a lot more reaction throughout the day.

HOLMES: All right. Rob Marciano standing by for us in the weather center.

Cold is one thing. Frigid is something else. Explain the difference to us.


HOLMES: Well, of course, (INAUDIBLE) the big prize in today's primary lineup, but what's really at stake in Wisconsin? A closer look ahead.


NGUYEN: Welcome back, everybody. I'm Betty Nguyen. And you are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

A pledge for Darfur. President Bush opens the checkbook to help end the crisis. We have that story in the NEWSROOM.


HOLMES: Well, the polls are open right now in Wisconsin's presidential primary. What exactly is at stake there? Ben Merens is a talk show host for Wisconsin public radio. He's in Milwaukee this morning for us.

Good morning, sir.

You've got that big smile on your face when we came to you. Now can you tell me, are a lot of folks in Wisconsin smiling like that because they've got all the attention right now? Hey, we matter?

BEN MERENS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: We are happy about that, T.J. Good morning. HOLMES: Good morning.

Now is this really -- is this new territory for folks in Wisconsin. And how are they take it?

MERENS: Well, you know what, in the past presidential elections we've counted and we've known that here in Wisconsin. People expected, because we didn't move our primary up close enough to Super Tuesday or on Super Tuesday that we wouldn't count this time around. And this time around we actually aren't going to be a deciding factor because it's going to happen after Wisconsin.

So people are surprised about that, but they're happy that going to the polls today in frigid, frigid temperatures has us being a player on the national scene. People like that here.

HOLMES: Now I was going to ask you about weather later, actually, but sense you brought it up here, will that really make a difference? Folks in Wisconsin and used to those frigid temperatures?

MERENS: No. No. No, it won't make a difference. People are going to go out. The poll I was at today had lines already. They've giving away a lot of ballots and there were people waiting to get in. And at the school I was at, the kids were selling a lot of cookies.

HOLMES: A lot of -- all right. Well, your radio show, what has been kind of a theme, a pattern maybe emerge, a consensus even among some of your listener as they call in and talk to you about how they're really reacting, on the Democratic side at least, to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and what's shaping up in that race?

MERENS: Last week, we did a series of issue shows. We talked about health care, the economy, immigration and foreign policy. And the guests I had on was pretty middle of the road political scientist, analyst if you will, who said essentially there's not a lot of difference on the issues. And the callers seem to be saying, it's not so much the issues, it's how the candidates, Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, make me feel. And that is really how I'm going to make my choice at the ballot box today.

HOLMES: Well, you say, how they make them feel. So when they respond, how does Hillary Clinton -- we'll take her first, how does Hillary Clinton make the folks in Wisconsin feel?

MERENS: The people who call and say they support Hillary Clinton are saying that they feel secure with her. That the experience, the training she's had, both as a senator, as a first lady, the work she's done prior to that makes them feel that she has thing background to do the job. And for Senator Obama, they talk about that Kennedy-esque charisma. They talk about the fact that he gives them hope. That they believe in the message as he speaks it as opposed to delineate the issues between the two candidates.

HOLMES: How much is race and gender coming up with your listeners? MERENS: You know, in Wisconsin, it's probably more a question about gender, because the race issue, there's just not as big an African-American community in Wisconsin than some of the other states that have been in play so far. And in the gender discussion, people are not looking so much at whether or not there's a man or a woman here, but they're looking at how these candidates make them feel and whether or not they believe in them. And they really look past the race and they look past the gender and they've seen the people.

HOLMES: And you state there, you mention, I mean it's about 85 percent white, I believe. You said race is not something that's really come up here. But as people are taking a look at these two, you've got a predominantly, I guess, white, blue collar electorate there. People talking about Barack Obama and his momentum and all these wins he's put together. But in a state like Wisconsin, shouldn't she fair fairly well?

MERENS: Well, the analyst who I spoke to yesterday said, don't be surprise if you see Senator Clinton win today. I don't know. I think that people are not -- in Wisconsin, people here don't necessarily pay attention to the polls or what the pundits tell them. They're fairly independent. And it's an open primary.

So those who are going to vote Republican may come and vote for the Democrat who they think is the best candidate, even if November means they'll vote for Senator McCain. The idea for Wisconsinites is that they want to go out and vote their mind, not because they're told who's got the momentum or who's in the lead in the polls, but they've thought about who they want to see lead.

HOLMES: And finally here you mentioned, we've been talking about Democrats the whole time because it's so competitive on that side. But on the Republican side, like you said, you've got an open primary there. Are folks talking about -- we've heard about protest votes.

Folks who would have maybe voted for McCain but they think he's going to be all right anyway. They might throw their support here or there. So it just might confuse things a bit. Have you heard people talk about, well, it's not competitive on that side, so I might try to go mix it up over here and just confuse things even more on the Democratic side?

MERENS: You know, I haven't heard that. And, in fact, we talked about that last night on my show, too. And my guest said, you know, Wisconsinites are purists when it comes to politics and they're going to vote with their heart. Even if they crossover, they're going to vote for who they think is the best candidate. They're not going to play politics with the vote. And I guess exit polls and analysis, when it's all said and done, will show that. I don't have the answer to that. I don't think anybody does.

HOLMES: All right, Ben Merens. Sir, we appreciate you. You all enjoy the attention and the important role you have today. The Wisconsinites. I usually just say -- I'll call everybody badgers, but Wisconsinites is the correct way to do it.

MERENS: Thanks, T.J.

HOLMES: Thanks so much.

NGUYEN: And this just in to CNN. Supreme Court justices have refused to hear an appeal over government domestic surveillance program. It's one of the most controversial aspects of the Bush administration's war on terror. That being a covert, domestic surveillance program that some have said unlawfully infringes on American's right to privacy.

This was the first time the high court was asked to address what the administration called the TSP. It was created in secret by President Bush shortly after 9/11 and the terrorist attack there without congressional or court approval and it was designed to electronically monitor domestic terror activity.

Again, the Supreme Court justices have decided not to rule on that. They did not give a reason as to why. But that will not be up for debate among the Supreme Court justices.

Ahead, passenger screenings, bomb-sniffing dogs. Amtrak rolling out new security measures. What will it mean to you? Find out in the NEWSROOM.


NGUYEN: Let's take a look at the big boards right now and they are up. That is some good news for you on a Tuesday, especially after a long holiday weekend. Dow up 123 points. The Nasdaq up 20 points. This could be in light of the fact that Wal-Mart today beat analyst expectations by two cents with a rise in quarterly profits. But Wal- Mart also offered a cautious outlook for the coming year. But, so far, the markets are reacting and they are in positive territory.

HOLMES: Also making news this morning, close to a deal possibly. Delta and Northwest Airlines each holding board meetings today amid speculation a merger agreement may be near. Our Ali Velshi reports some details already trickling out. The new airline would be called Delta. That's creative. It would be based in Atlanta and run by Delta's CEO. Air France and KLM would own a stake and the airline would stay part of the Sky Team Alliance and would become the world's largest airline in terms of traffic.

Now, consumers, don't expect to see a break as far as your fares go. In fact, fares could actually go up in some areas where there had been competition between the two carriers.

NGUYEN: Now to news about your security. Amtrak is unveiling new measures today to keep you safe.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports from Washington's Union Station.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Amtrak says this new security regime should not slow down travelers to any significant degree. They say there will be more bomb-sniffing dogs, more guards with automatic weapons on the platforms and on the trains. In addition, they will be doing random searches of carry-on bags.

Security checkpoints will be set up unannounced in front of boarding gates. People will be chosen at random. Their bags will be swabbed for explosives. If those swabs come back positive, then they will be hand searched.

It is nothing like the security gauntlet that one runs at the airports when one travels. And there are likely to be critics who will say this is too little and this is too late.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: Well, listen to this, a soldier with a live, unexploded grenade launched in his leg. Medevac to the rescue.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, there were some question as to whether we should pick the guy up or not. Well, what are we going to do? We going to leave him out there? No, we're going to go get him because that's our job.


HOLMES: That is their job and it's all in a day's work for these guys. A rare look ahead in the NEWSROOM.


HOLMES: Hello there, everybody. About 10:30 here Eastern Time on a, what is this, a Tuesday morning. I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: Yes, good morning. I'm Betty Nguyen in for Heidi and Tony today. They have the day off.

HOLMES: Well, President Bush is in Africa reacting to the news that Fidel Castro is stepping down. Here now our White House correspondent Ed Henry. He's with the president in Rwanda.


ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The timing of Fidel Castro's announcement clearly catching the White House by surprise. President Bush was here in Rwanda to remember the genocide of 1994, and use that as an occasion to say that the international community should now come together to stop what he also calls genocide right now in Darfur.

He pledged $100 million to beef up the U.N. peacekeeping forces there. But, clearly the announcement out of Cuba eclipsing that somewhat, but Mr. Bush must be elated because he repeatedly called for the demise of Fidel Castro. But he cautioned today that some around the world will call for stability, and say that there should be an easy transition between brothers, from Fidel Castro to Raul Castro. Mr. Bush rejected that saying, in fact, the focus should be on the Cuban people and there now needs to be a clear transition to democracy.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Eventually this transition OUGHT to lead to free and fair elections, and I mean free, and I mean fair. Not these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to hoist off as being true democracy.

HENRY: When the President talks about an eventual transition to democracy, White House officials say he means that these are just the initial hours in the wake of Castro's announcement. The White House not clear on exactly what the political situation is there on the ground in Havana, so they want to be somewhat cautious.

But, the bottom line is that Mr. Bush plans to spend his final year in office pushing as hard as possible to get that transition to democracy as quickly as possible.

Ed Henry, CNN, with the President in Rwanda.


NGUYEN: Well, voters in three states are making presidential choices today. There are primaries in Wisconsin and Washington state, plus Democratic caucuses in Hawaii. Barack Obama is looking to stay undefeated since super Tuesday. Take Washington state, only the Republicans have delegates at stake. The mostly by mail primary follows caucuses there 10 days ago won by John McCain and Barack Obama.

HOLMES: Well, all talk and no solutions. Hillary Clinton's campaign is attacking Barack Obama with a where's the beef argument.

Here now, CNN's Candy Crowley, part of the best political team on television.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: She has won fewer pledged delegates, fewer states, and lags in the total popular vote of primaries so far. Politics 101, changing those stats means being more aggressive.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a difference between speeches and solutions, between talk and action.

CROWLEY: It's the where's the beef campaign, the 2008 version. Clinton advisers believe she can win on points if she can slow his momentum and puncture his high-flying campaign.

CLINTON: Workers' incomes are down, our economy is losing jobs, the housing crisis is spreading. I have solutions to these economic challenges. The question today is, does Senator Obama? CROWLEY: They pass out 13-page pamphlets on her economic plans, and she paints him as all rally and rhetoric.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If you've got a political candidate that people actually believe in, then there's something suspicious about that.

CROWLEY: She says his economic plans are copies of hers, but new fodder. A YouTube clip show that a portion of his pros is somebody else's ripped off from a 2006 speech given by now Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who also faced an opponent accusing him of being all words.

GOV. DEVAL PATRICK (D) MASS.: I hear it a lot from her staff is that all I have to offer is words, just words. We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal. Just words. Just words. We have nothing to fear, but fear itself. Just words.

OBAMA: Don't tell me words don't matter. I have a dream, just words. We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, just words. We have nothing to fear, but fear itself, just words.

CROWLEY: Governor Patrick says he doesn't care, that the two have talked in the past about using the rhetoric, that he and Obama are buds. But in an hour-long call with reporters, the Clinton campaign argued that Obama's use of Patrick's words without attribution, quote, "Calls into question the premise of his candidacy."

OBAMA: That would be carrying it too far. Duval and I do trade ideas all the time. He's occasionally used lines of mine, and I, at a J-J dinner in Wisconsin have used some words of his. And, you know, I would add that I know that Senator Clinton on occasion has used words of mine as well. And I don't think that, you know -- that's really the kind of stuff that the workers here are concerned about.

CROWLEY: But the Clinton campaign insists it has nicked a core rationale for the campaign of Barack Obama that he has a unique ability to unite a nation. Whatever else, it is not the sort of thing camp Obama wants to be discussing on primary eve.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Chicago.


HOLMES: To the Democratic battle for votes in Wisconsin and Hawaii, track all the results as they come in minute by minute, all night if you want to at, plus announcements from the best political team on television. That and more at

NGUYEN: All right. Target practice in space? Yes. The U.S. is planning to shoot down a bus-size spy satellite. But is there more to this than meets the eye?

Well, here's CNN's Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Military sources tell CNN the U.S. Navy is planning to take its first and possibly only shot at knocking the unresponsive satellite into the Pacific Ocean one day after the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis is safely on the ground.

But unlike China's destruction of an aging weather satellite last year, the Pentagon argues its shootdown attempt is all about protecting the earth from a potentially killer gas cloud if the satellite's full fuel tank survives re-entry, and not about flexing the anti-satellite or ASAT muscles.

GEN. JAMES CARTWRIGHT, JOINT CHIEF'S VICE CHAIRMAN: We remember that, we did that 20 years ago. There's really no need to go back to that data point.

MCINTYRE: The joint chief's vice chairman is referring to 1985, when an F-15 climbed to 80,000 feet and fired a modified air-to-air missile destroying a U.S. satellite in space. Despite the success, the program was canceled. And, while the upcoming attempt is not a test, it's an honest to goodness attempt to counter a potential threat, it's also not a demonstration of America's ASAT abilities.

QUESTION: This is not to prove that the U.S. can also do this, was that part of your consideration?

JAMES JEFFREY, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: This is all about trying to reduce the danger to human beings. That was a decision that was taken.

MCINTYRE: For one thing, the Navy's standard missile can only hit extremely low-flying space objects like an incoming warhead. The failing U.S. spy satellite is very low, at the edge of the atmosphere, roughly 150 miles above the earth, just about to fall out of orbit.

The Chinese satellite, by comparison, was in a much higher orbit. Some 525 miles up, hundreds of miles beyond the range of sea launch missiles.

But if the U.S. can modify it's anti-missiles once to shoot down satellites, can it do it again? Yes, but it would have to reconfigure the whole system, so it's not much use as a missile shield. The Pentagon insists this is a, quote, "one-shot deal."

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: Heavyweights knocked out. That's the headline that sums up Pakistan's parliamentarian elections which dealt a major blow to President Pervez Musharraf. The results not yet final, but its early numbers released by the election commission showed a big win for the opposition parties of two former prime ministers. The ruling party today conceded defeat. Opposition supporters took to the streets in celebration as you see there. President Musharraf is promising however, to work with the new government. Musharraf is a key U.S. ally in the war on terror, but that alliance has angered many Pakistanis.

A teenager tasered. Was a deputy ordered not to do it?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It left two puncture wounds just above his heart in his chest.


HOLMES: A father outraged, in the NEWSROOM.


HOLMES: A teenage basketball player tasered. And allegations that a deputy that did it did it despite orders that you shouldn't tase him, bro.

More on this story now from Lindo So of our affiliate WMAR.


LINDO SO, WMAR REPORTER (voice-over): The story is making headlines. A Queen Anne's County sheriff's deputy is accused of using unnecessary force and going against order when he tasered a Kent Island High School basketball player.

JULIUS BENNETT, BRANDON BENNETT'S FATHER: It left two puncture wounds just above his heart to his chest, and he said to me that he was in quite a bit of pain because he could feel electric shocks going throughout his whole body.

SO: Brandon Bennett's father says he has written proof from Sergeant Matthew Kempel, who allegedly ordered the deputy not to fire. The statement reads, "I told Deputy Anthony Lenzi not to tase Brandon."

BENNETT: That Brandon did absolutely nothing wrong, and there was no reason to use that type of force on my son.

SO (on camera): The altercation began outside the school when Brandon got into an argument with another student after last week's basketball game.

BENNETT: He was slapped in the face by this young man. A bunch of the students saw this. They immediately grabbed Brandon and grabbed the other gentleman so that they would not fight.

SO (voice-over): According to the sheriff's office, several deputies were at the game to provide security forced to teens to the ground to subdue them. That's when Deputy Linzi approached and allegedly tasered him. BENNETT: I will not be satisfied until I know that Deputy Linzi will never be in a position to do this to anyone else's child ever again.

I did not want this matter to be swept under the rug.

SO: The deputy has been reassigned to internal duties until the investigation is complete.


HOLMES: Julius Bennett says the deputy was ordered, not once, but twice by a superior officer to holster his weapon, but he fired anyway.


HOLMES: Well, there's a bit of a silver lining in this story. A crash hits close to home, but not quite home. A truck that is out of control and inches away from catastrophe.


NGUYEN: The wounded soldier's best friend in Iraq, and sometimes the enemy's best friend. CNN's Michael Holmes on a mission with Medevac.


MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Every morning in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, at a place called Boomer dustoff, these men are briefed on what is known, weather, troop movements and the like. But, it's what they don't know that defines their special role. If you're wounded in Iraq, these are the guys you want to see in a hurry, Medevac.

SPEC. RYAN MOYA, U.S. ARMY MEDEVAC; At one time we had a guy out here with an IED blast, lost both legs at the ankle. He was in a pretty bad way when he got on. But when he got off he was actually doing a lot better after giving him some O2, bagging him a little bit.

M. HOLMES: Its routine and downtime punctuated with pure adrenaline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your heart just races, your blood pressure goes up really quick.

M. HOLMES: Pilots, copilots, crew chiefs and medics waiting for the call, often a gruesome one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We see the worst of the worse. If you think about it, every time there is something that's catastrophic and bad that happens, Medevac is there.

M. HOLMES: This one fairly standard, if there's such a thing in this business, Three U.S. soldiers wounded in an IED blast. Within minutes, two Medevac Blackhawks are in the air. When we arrive at the scene, calm prevails. The crew chief stands guard. The medic runs to assist.

The soldiers are lucky, shrapnel wounds and burns, but they're walking. They're flown to the closest combat hospital where the medic hands them over to doctors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing, sir? We've got three guys from IED blasts.

M. HOLMES: Other cases, of course, are more critical and some just plain bizarre. Like the soldier with a live unexploded grenade embedded in his leg.

MAJ. CASEY CARVER, U.S. ARMY MEDEVAC: There was some question as to whether we should pick the guy up or not. Well, what are we going to do? Are we going to leave him out there? No, we're going to go get him, because that's our job.

M. HOLMES: Not all the patients are American. That night the unit picks up perhaps the luckiest insurgent in Iraq. Spotted planting an IED with another man, a helicopter fired, the other man killed. Incredibly, the patient survived with shrapnel wounds after dozen of rounds were fired at him. He's taken to a military hospital.

CARVER: It's a zero defect mission. We fly 499 missions successfully, but we drop the 500th because we failed to do something we were supposed to do, it's unacceptable.

M. HOLMES: Major Casey Carver is the commanding officer of this unit and says the job is the best he'll ever have.

CARVER: When you know that somebody is bleeding out and every minute, every second counts, and we're flying this helicopter as fast as it can go to get there, and if somebody lives, I mean, there's a great deal of self reward in that.

M. HOLMES: His men agree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't shoot people. We don't hurt people. We don't blow people up. Everything is about going to help somebody else.

CARVER: Every patient that has ever gotten on one of my helicopters breathing with a pulse has gotten off breathing and with a pulse. And, there are some that have got on our helicopters that weren't breathing and didn't have a pulse, but they had a pulse and were breathing by the time they got off.

M. HOLMES: The aim here is to be in the air within seven minutes of that first call coming in. That obviously, means everyone on duty has to be around the choppers 24/7. Well, for when it's quiet, to alleviate boredom, they decided to set up their own coffee shop and pizza restaurant.

Currently taking orders two days a week, it's a hit on base as the men try to raise money for a post-Iraq unit party. WARRANT OFFICER LARRY LEUCI, U.S. ARMY MEDEVAC: If we had time, we would probably -- do it more than two days a week. We just don't have to time to do it, not with the actual war going on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Probably some of the best pizza I've ever had. But I haven't had pizza in a long time, so maybe it just seems like it.

M. HOLMES: Back on their real job, not all missions are grizzly here. Boxes of blood rushed to a combat hospital miles away. Five soldiers are undergoing surgery and supplies are low. The camaraderie is plain, and say, members of the unit, necessary.

Ask Sergeant Albert Forshey, badly wounded in the arm when his chopper landed a mine. Back at work within months.

SGT. ALBERT FORSHEY, U.S. ARMY MEDEVAC: Out here, these are the people that you live with for a year, year and a half, whatever -- and they become like the brothers and sisters.

M. HOLMES: Another call, another rush of adrenaline. An 11-year- old Iraqi boy shot in the head. We never learned how. He needs urgent transport to the Army's neurological specialist. The gruesome nature of what these crews see can take its toll. Medics and crew chiefs can't avoid it. Some pilots do.

WARRANT OFFICER GARY DOAK, U.S. ARMY MEDEVAC: Sitting in the front, I rarely look in the back. Personally, I don't like people sticking needles in me, let alone watching all that.

M. HOLMES: The Iraqi boy is in bad shape, but he is alive.

WARRANT OFFICER JASON STARR, U.S. ARMY MEDEVAC: We get to be that guy that the stories are told of that, you know, there I was and x happened to me, and these guys came in when I needed them the most, and got me out of there quickly. So that's -- that's why I love the job.

M. HOLMES: Michael Holmes, CNN, Tikrit, Iraq.


HOLMES: Stick around for this story about something that could have been a lot worse. A truck misses a house by inches. The video, in the NEWSROOM.


NGUYEN: All right. Talk about a close call. I got to check this out. It's a crash caught on a school surveillance camera near Sacramento, California. Man. Did you see that? The truck nearly took out that house. Missed by just a couple of inches. And police think the truck was hit by this.

Well, you saw it right there. Brand new and now newly redesigned BMW. The driver of the pickup and her four kids, after all that, are OK. But, of course, this accident is under investigation.

HOLMES: Well, you are with CNN and you are informed. Hello, to you all, I'm T.J. Holmes.

NGUYEN: Hi, there, I'm Betty Nguyen. Tony and Heidi are off today.

HOLMES: Developments coming into the CNN NEWSROOM on this Tuesday, February 19th. This is what we have on the run down. Fidel Castro gets off the world stage after a half century. What they're saying about his resignation in Washington, as well as Miami.

NGUYEN: Dueling for delegates in Wisconsin today. Hillary Clinton hopes to derail Barack Obama.

HOLMES: And, the military takes aim at a falling satellite. Pentagon signals it's a go for tomorrow night. Shot in the dark, in the NEWSROOM.