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The Situation Room

Passenger Ships Goes Down With 1,400 Aboard; FBI Investigates Burning of Six Churches in Alabama

Aired February 03, 2006 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: To our viewers, you're in the SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.
Happening now, it's already early morning at the Red Sea where a passenger ship has gone down with 1,400 people onboard. We're going to go live to Egypt.

It's 6:00 p.m. in Alabama where the FBI is now investigating the burning of six Baptist churches. Is it a hate crime?

And it's 7:00 p.m. in Detroit where Super Bowl preparations are underway. We'll show you the tight security and we'll also show you the best of those Super Bowl ads. You're not going to have to wait till Sunday.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin with a developing story. It's become Egypt's version of the titanic. Right now, crews are desperately searching for survivors. One thousand of them are missing after a passenger ship sank overnight. Now anguished relatives are waiting to see if their loved ones are dead or alive. Let's go to the scene. Our Ben Wedeman is standing by and he has the latest. Ben, what is going on in Safaga where you are?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're hearing from Egyptian officials that at this point they've managed to rescue about 343 of the approximately 1,400 passengers and crew who were aboard that ferry. We're also hearing that at the port of the Hergada (ph) which is about 60 kilometers north of here, some of those survivors are beginning to arrive there. And Egyptian officials say the search and rescue effort will go on around the clock.


WEDEMAN (voice-over): The first unsteady shots showed some had survived, but many, many more remain missing. Egyptian officials are blaming bad weather in the northern Red Sea. High winds and high waves, they believe, may have caused the ferry to go down in the dead of night.

The Salaam Boccaccio 98 was carrying more than 1,400 passengers and crew from the Saudi port of Duba to Safaga on the Egyptian coast. Filled to capacity with people and vehicles. The ferry was first launched more than 35 years ago in Italy and refurbished in 1990 in an Egyptian shipyard.

Many of the passengers, Egyptian laborers returning from jobs in Saudi Arabia. Hundreds of relatives were on hand to greet them. But a joyous homecoming has turned into a grim vigil.


WEDEMAN: Now, Wolf, I had an opportunity to speak to somebody, for instance, who took a ride on that ship from Saudi Arabia to Egypt a month ago. He described a ship that was over packed with heavy freight trucks. The passengers, apparently, crammed into the ship like sardines. He described rescue equipment that was clearly outdated and not in very good shape.

Now the Egyptians authorities have been ordered by the President Hosni Mubarak to hold a thorough and complete investigation into what has happened. And in fact Mubarak is expected to come here this morning to check up on that investigation. Wolf?

BLITZER: We see the people standing behind you, Ben, clearly concerned. I assume, some of them have loved ones onboard that ship. Give us the sense of the mood there where you are in this port town.

WEDEMAN: Wolf, people are very frustrated here because they feel they haven't been given adequate information about what happened. And who are those people who were able to survive the sinking of this ship. That was a man who came out a few hours ago. And was reading from a passenger list. And you could barely hear him speak because so many people said we know who's on the ship. We want to know who survived.

And they complained that they've heard nothing from relatives who were onboard. That the authorities here have not really been forthcoming with the kind of information which they want. They want to know who survived and if their relatives were among the survivors.

BLITZER: Ben Wedeman on the scene for us. We'll get back to you, Ben, as soon as we get more information. For a little more on this disaster at sea, we turn to the Egyptian transportation minister, Mohammed Lutfy Mansour.

Minister, thanks very much for joining us. And I express all of our deepest concern about what's going on. Was there an SOS, a distress signal that went out from the ship?

MOHAMMED LUFTY MANSOUR, EGYPTIAN TRANSPORTATION MINISTER (on phone): As far as my knowledge, there was not, Mr. Blitzer.

BLITZER: Do you know why -- Can you explain the circumstances as you have them of what might have happened?

MANSOUR: Well, as far as we know right now, it's just getting, and I wouldn't want to get into that, but there are a group of investigators here. And they are looking as to the reasons of what may have happened to cause the ship to sink.

BLITZER: Is it, though, the working assumption that it was weather or mechanic problems, as opposed to terrorism?

MANSOUR: Well, the weather that day was not good and the seas were high. And the winds were coming. The information we're getting right now is we're getting right now is the winds can coming from the southern direction and the waves were high. And -- but this is as far as we know. But we will be able -- we have a team of investigators here. And so far, the number of survivors are about 324.

We have a ship coming in with survivors which is -- that's the reason I am in Hergada right now, that will be docking shortly, within this hour, so we will be getting some information, probably from the survivors as to what may have happened to cause the ship to sink.

BLITZER: And so we're still working under the assumption that about 1,000 people are still missing, is that right?

MANSOUR: Yes, that's correct. But the numbers have been increasing since 8:00, since 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. Like I said, the number now, the total number of survivors are 324. We have a ship that is docking in that is bringing in 146 survivors. And we are waiting to meet that ship and possibly talk. Because some of the survivors are members of the crew, and they may be able to advise us as to what may have happened.

BLITZER: Minister, good luck to you. Let's hope the search and rescue operation brings out many, many more survivors. Thanks very much for joining us.

MANSOUR: Thank you very much.

BLITZER: And let's take a closer look at what might have put that Egyptian ship at risk. Our Ali Velshi is looking at that part of the story. Ali, what are you picking up?

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Salaam Boccaccio is a roll-on roll-off ferry. We've got a picture of one that's similar. Now what it means is that a vehicle can roll on to it. On the extreme right of the picture, you can see a ramp. A flat back of that ship. That's the ramp that vehicles roll on to that ramp. And the ramp folds up to become a large external door which as you can see is low to the water line.

Now, two major disaster, one off of Belgium in 1987 and one offer the Baltic Sea in known 94 show that if the doors are not properly sealed or somehow become unsealed, the car deck can take on water quickly. That water sloshes about the boat, moving from side to side. It gathers momentum. Now, that momentum can make the ship unstable and it can capsize the ship.

After the Baltic Sea accident, European officials beefed up the regulations about these types of ships and those that couldn't meet the new regulations were sold out. The Al Salaam Boccaccio was one of those sold. It was sold to an Egyptian company in 1998. That's why it became the Al Salaam Boccaccio '98. The high winds that you were speaking about in the Red Sea could have been a factor in that ship's disaster. These are all going to be things that the investigators look at, Wolf.

BLITZER: What a tragedy indeed. Thank you very much, Ali, for that good report. Let's check in with Jack Cafferty now. He is in New York. He's got the "Cafferty File." Hi, Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. A lighter subject in keeping with the proud tradition of color coded terror alerts, plastic sheeting and duck tape, the Department of Homeland Security has unveiled its latest plan to save western civilization.

Meet Rex. Meet Rex. Rex, who will appear shortly we hope -- there he is -- is a mountain lion mascot for a new campaign aimed at children. Rex's job is to teach eight to 12 year olds how to prepare for a terrorist attack, a natural disaster or other emergency. The Web site has games and puzzles for kids, all featuring Rex.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff says, quote, "Preparedness is not just a government challenge. We all have to learn how to plan for the unexpected." Unquote.

Instead of creating cartoon characters that teach kids how to be afraid, how about the government enforce the immigration laws, close the borders, secure the ports and railroads and find Osama bin Laden? Oh, silly me.

Here is the question. What should the Department of Homeland Security be spending its time and money on? Email us at

BLITZER: I wonder how much the Rex program is costing taxpayers. Maybe you'll get an answer on that, Jack. Thanks very much.

CAFFERTY: You're welcome.

BLITZER: Coming up, a shocking scene at churches in two Alabama counties. They're burned and gutted. Some are only ashes right now.

And security an all-time high in the Motor City. Ahead of Super Bowl XL. A camera's eye look at what's being done to keep everyone safe this Sunday.

And anger flares over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. But is it a question of religious respect for free speech? You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: In Alabama, some churches have been burned to the ground. Now, police are on the hunt for a possible arsonist, or arsonists. Let's get details from CNN's David Mattingly. He is on the scene for us in Centerville. What is the latest, David?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the path of destruction and the targets in this apparent spree are making for one very intense investigation.


MATTINGLY (voice-over): Five Baptist churches in the same county, all set on fire in a three-hour period after midnight. And that is the only link between the fires investigators are willing to discuss.

ED PAULK, ASSISTANT ALABAMA STATE FIRE MARSHALL: The investigation is going to have to progress through its natural stages, and as such, there's a lot of information that cannot be released and made public because it will be necessary for use in any prosecution that is warranted.

MATTINGLY: All of the Bibb County, Alabama fires occurred in a 20-mile radius off two rural roads. Two, possibly three churches are a total loss, two others were not as badly damaged, suggesting they may have been burned last. A sixth fire in a neighboring county is also being investigated for a possible link. That church burned Thursday afternoon.

DAVID HYCHE, ATF: It's very unusual to have this many close together in this time proximity. It's very unusual. So I haven't investigated anything in this number in that short of time.

MATTINGLY: Of the churches burned only one had a predominantly black congregation. But teams of federal investigators are not ruling out the possibility of a hate crime.


MATTINGLY (on camera): Parishioners of these churches absolutely stunned by all of this. Already making plans to rebuild and for Sunday services. Wolf?

BLITZER: David Mattingly reporting for us. What a story! Thank you, David, very much.

Turning now to our CNN "Security Watch" in Detroit, Big Brother is watching. With the Super Bowl just two days away, no-nonsense law enforcement officers are doing everything they can to make sure the event only includes fun and games. Our Brian Todd is on the scene in Detroit. He has more. Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, officials here a talk a lot about layers of security, not only around the stadium, but around the entire Detroit metropolitan area. And to make that work, they have developed a lot of creative ways to monitor a broad range of suspicious behavior.


TODD (voice-over): From divers in the water. To air patrols. Police everywhere. And dog teams on the prowl, Detroit seems like a city in lockdown. But along with cops and canines, cameras are also on virtually on every corner. We had federal agents tail me from a command post with one of their so-called pan, tilt and zoom cams. (on camera): There are hundreds of surveillance cameras in Detroit just for this event and this is typical sequence of what someone will go through being surveilled on a Detroit city street. I walked a couple hundred yards from one surveillance camera shot. Just picked up by a second surveillance camera. And I'm walking down Michigan Avenue. This is a typical sequence. I'm about to turn a corner on Cass Street. A third camera is picking me up.

(voice-over): Cameras are also in the air and people in and around the stadium will be watched not just by stationary cameras.

CHIEF ELLA BULLY-CUMMINGS, DETROIT POLICE: There will be numbers of law enforcement that have the capability to video feed real-time information that is being picked up through cameras.

TODD: Detroit's police chief is talking about under cover plain- clothes agents, federal and local, wearing hidden cameras. They can send images of suspects back to command centers where profiles can be matched. Also the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has its own surveillance teams.

VALERIE GODDARD, ATF SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE: It could catch somebody in some type of crime, whether leaving a package, whether it's being perhaps involved in a shooting.


TODD (on camera): Now, in addition to all of that, a top law enforcement official tells us they have devices that they can can't give detail about that can measure any abnormalities in air quality. If anything goes off. If the air quality has been tampered with, they will get a signal that tells them whether they should respond or not respond.


BLITZER: Brian Todd on the scene for us in Detroit, thank you very much. And to our viewers please stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.

Still to come here in THE SITUATION ROOM, will former vice presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby get a speedy trial in the CIA leak case? We're going to tell you about somewhat unusual timing issues that are going on and other new twists in the case.

And you don't necessarily have to wait until Sunday to see some of the best Super Bowl ads. You're going to see them here yourselves right here on THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Tonight, the only person indicted so far in the CIA leak investigation has a trial date. Former Cheney chief of staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby will have his day in court nearly a year from now. Our chief national correspondent John King reports on the timing and other new information on the highly politically charged case. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The vice president's former chief of staff let his lead attorney do the talking. The January 2007 trial date necessary, he said, because it will take months to resolve contentious debates over classified documents and testimony from journalists.

TED WELLS, LIBBY'S ATTORNEY: The defense will show that Mr. Libby is totally innocent. That he's not done anything wrong.

KING: Lewis "Scooter" Libby is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice and accused of lying to the FBI and a federal grand jury about when he learned that the wife of a prominent Iraq War critic was a CIA operative and about his conversations with reporters about her. The January 8th trial date, two months after the midterm congressional elections was set at a morning hearing that while polite, exposed major disputes over evidence that are likely to take months to resolve.

Separately a federal appeals court made public more of its reasoning for forcing journalists to testify before the CIA leak grand jury. And inside is more details of the government's case against Libby.

Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, for example, told the grand jury of a quote, "kind of a weird lunch meeting in which Libby told him Valerie Plame Wilson worked at the CIA, and then added this is hush-hush, nobody knows about it."

That was on July 7th, 2003, Libby testified he found out three or four days later from a reporter that Mrs. Wilson worked at the CIA.

As part of his defense, Libby wants access to months of the president's daily brief, the government's most sensitive security document. The goal was to show Libby was overwhelmed with pressing national security challenges and that any inaccurate statements were the result of faulty memory or confusion, not deliberate lies to throw Fitzgerald and his team off track.

Fitzgerald told the court he will give the defense the few references from the president's brief that he has in his possession.

(on camera): If Libby wants more, he could end up with a legal fight with his former bosses, the president and vice president, over a document they had previously sought to shield from Congress and the commission that investigated the 9/11 attacks. John King, CNN, Washington.


BLITZER: Libby's supporters say they've raised $2 million to help him pay his legal bills. They eventually hope to raise $6 million, perhaps even more. Libby's defense fund will launch a Web site in the next few weeks to solicit additional donations. They have some very high-profile sponsors going about trying to raise the money. Let's check in with CNN's Anderson Cooper for a preview of what's coming up on his program later tonight. Anderson?

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Hey, Wolf. Tonight at 10:00 on 360, the latest developments on the Entwistle murders, a mother and her baby girl shot to death in their Massachusetts home. The husband has reappeared in his parents' home in England. Police still say he's a person of interest in the case. Tonight, lingering questions about the couple's computer software business. Is it connected to the murders?

And plus, the Department of Homeland Security is asking for help after the discovery of the longest drug smuggling tunnel ever found between the U.S. and Mexico. Tonight, a 360 special report from drugs to child sex slavery to human trafficking. We're going to look at the battle on the border, Wolf?

BLITZER: Good work. Thanks very much, Anderson. We'll be watching.

Just ahead, going inside the mind of a suicide bomber. A stunning look what motivates them to kill others and die themselves.

And an editorial cartoon sparking serious worldwide protest. The debate over religious respect versus freedom of speech. That's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: They were first published in September by a Danish newspaper, editorial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Some depicting him as terrorists. This week, they were reprinted across Europe, triggering angry protests around the world.

In Basra Iraq, Muslims demonstrated after Friday prayers, burning the Danish flag. In London, hundreds marched on the Danish embassy, one of their banners reading "Europe, Your 9/11 Will Come."

Thousands more turned out in Bangladesh protesting what they see as blasphemy. In Tehran, Iranians demanded the prosecution of those behind the cartoons.

You may have noticed we're pixilating pictures of the cartoons. We'd like to note that any likeness of Mohammed is consider considered sacrilegious in the world. So in telling this story, we're trying to respect that.

Cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Is it a free speech issue or is it blasphemy? Just a short while ago, I spoke with a professor Shibley Telhami of the University of Maryland and the Brookings Institution here in Washington, and from Watertown, Massachusetts with CNN contributor and radio talk show host, Bill Bennett.


BLITZER: Shibley, explain to our viewers who aren't familiar with Islam and the traditions of images of the Prophet Mohammed, why this is so outrageous? SHIBLEY TELHAMI, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Well, first of all, the pictures of the Prophet Mohammed are not made available. They've never been made available. In this case, there's more to it than that. He's really painted as a terrorist. And many in the Muslim world has seen the war on terrorism -- It's been part of their frustration -- as a war on Islam and a direct connectedness. So it's both. And I frankly think that while this is about this issue that touches a chord in Muslim identity across Arab and Muslim countries, it is a reflection of a broader sentiment. It is tapping into a reservoir of resentment that is there, that is the function of the recent deterioration of the perception of the West, linked to the war on terrorism, linked to the Iraq war. And it's being exploited by politicians across the board.

BLITZER: This is what the State Department said today, secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's State Department said today. "These cartoons are indeed offensive to the beliefs of Muslims. We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press, and expression, but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable." Bill Bennett, what do you think?

BILL BENNETT, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I don't agree with that, frankly. And the exquisite sensitivity here shown by many in the Muslim world, I wish they had such sensitivity toward cartoons portraying Jews that have been around for a long time. You know, the long-nosed, the hang- nosed Jew, the Sharon as Hitler, the blood libels which have been going on.

You know, this is a thing that has been going on for a very long time. Christians have been taking it on the chin in this country and elsewhere. But a Danish newspaper runs these cartoons, and you've got jihad, for Pete's sakes.

Look, it just turns out that there are people who are acting in the world, cutting people's heads off, putting jetliners into buildings, and saying they're doing so in the name of Allah. This is what people say as they go down in flames. They're saying they're doing this because of the Koran, because of the prophet.

Now, others argue it is a distortion of that. Fine, let that debate commence. But I take it that's one point of the Danish newspaper cartoons is to say this is being done in the name of Islam. Religion is not off limits when it comes to a free press. Religion is, despite the fact that our State Department may wish to deny it, is very much embedded in this current war against radical Islam.

BLITZER: There have been, Shibley, as you well know, because you studied the Arab media, there have been pretty disgusting cartoons about Jews and Christians in the Muslim world as well.

TELHAMI: And we should condemn these, absolutely. And I disagree with Bill on this. Two wrongs don't make a right. Anti- Semitic cartoons are wrong, whether they are in the Arab media or Muslim media or here, and they should be opposed and there should be a campaign against them, just as anti-Muslim cartoons are wrong. I think there's a difference. You know, I am fully and 100 percent behind the freedom of speech. I don't think we should have laws that prohibit offensive speech. I think offensive speech should be legal. But Mr. Bennett is actually very strong in making the differentiation between what is moral responsibility, what is ethical responsibility, what is professional responsibility, and what is legal. It should be legal. But we, in any profession, when you are in a position of power, as an editor of a newspaper, as a journalist, as a professor, as a political figure, you have a responsibility to know what the consequences of your speech are. And you do not go -- I -- if we had had an anti-Semitic cartoon in "The New York Times" or "The Washington Post" -- and of course we won't -- but if we did, you are going to have anger.

You wouldn't have -- what we need to focus on is really not the freedom of speech, but the reaction that is different in the Arab world, which is unacceptable. The anger is understandable. I think people would be angry when they see hate speech. The question that we should focus on, why this kind of reaction, which is different from the way people would behave in the West.

BLITZER: Let me let Bill Bennett respond to that. Go ahead, Bill.

BENNETT: I think it touches a deep cord, and I think it touches to some extent on people who are using Islam to advance some of the worst ideas possible in our time.

And I have to tell you, Wolf, I work for CNN now like you do -- not as much as you do, but I work for CNN. I don't think you should have pixilated those cartoons. I don't know why CNN decided to do it. I guess -- I mean, the reason you gave was because of the sensibilities of Muslims.

But later in the evening, two nights ago, I watched Paula Zahn show the cartoons from "The Washington Post" of the multiple amputee. I mean, whatever you say about Islam, its culpability, what is the culpability of a multiply amputated soldier lying in a hospital bed? That cartoon, which offended many, many military families. But CNN had no difficulty running that cartoon, but had exquisite concern for the sensibilities of Muslims and not -- so it pixilated the cartoons from a Danish paper.

BLITZER: Do you see a difference, Shibley, between those cartoons?

TELHAMI: Well, sure. I mean, one is clearly, you know, we can argue whether the one in "The Washington Post" is offensive or not, but it is certainly not a racist cartoon, and it's not aimed specifically at a people. I think, you know, it's politically -- maybe politically incorrect. I've seen it. One can pass a judgment.

I think here you have a profoundly -- it's like having an anti- Semitic cartoon, and that's what it is. It's the equivalent of having an anti-Semitic cartoon. Now, the reaction, I mean, I got to tell you, the reaction I find unacceptable to it. And I think that reaction isn't just a reaction to the cartoon. I mean, some people didn't even know about this cartoon. This -- the first cartoon took place several months ago.

I think what you have here is you have political leaders, aspiring ones, particularly opposing governments, who are using this because it touches a cause to rally people behind. And then you have got governments that are seeing this momentum, this public opinion going against them, they're watching the elections and they're leading the rallies instead of applying the brakes.

BLITZER: We're almost out of time. Shibley, I gave you the first word, so let me give Bill Bennett the last word. Go ahead, Bill.

BENNETT: Maybe this might just promote that debate inside Islam that everybody has been saying should be had, but which seems to me has not yet been had loud enough or strongly enough. It still seems to me that the wrong guys are running Islam, or at least are the loudest voices. If there are people who think this is a distortion, a horrible distortion of the prophet's teaching, for God's sakes, will they please speak up?

BLITZER: Bill Bennett and Shibley Telhami, thanks to both of you for joining us. An important discussion, a discussion that's not going to go away anytime soon. I appreciate it very much.


BLITZER: And they kill at will amid their merciless missions. We want to take you inside the mind of suicide bombers. Mary Snow is standing by in New York with some stunning, stunning images -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, those images and stories are contained in an upcoming documentary that asks the question, what leads someone to become a suicide bomber? The filmmaker on the project gained rare access to his subjects. He says he's frightened by what he discovered.


SNOW (voice-over): What looks like care-free play is actually the confines of a Gaza prison. The French documentarian who filmed this also holds an Israeli passport. He had to get permission from both the Israeli government and the Islamic group Hamas to gain access to alleged extremists being held in prison.

The documentary "Suicide Killers" shows how women can be just as committed as men.

Pierre Rehov, who made the documentary, says this woman is named Kohira (ph), a 29-year-old mother of four. She was charged with leading a suicide bomber to an attack in Jerusalem in 2002 that killed three people and injured dozens of others.

(on camera): When you looked at her in the eye, did you feel, I'm staring at hate? PIERRE REHOV, FILMMAKER: Yes. In her case, yes. It was, among all of the people, she was the only one which was very scary to me.

SNOW: Rehov found these women are willing to die for their cause, some in an apparent effort to prove that they can be equal to men. Others, to hope for the afterlife.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (translated on screen): As you know, God has announced that he would place 72 virgins in paradise and I would be the prettiest of them all.

SNOW: A father who says his two sons died as martyrs explained their view of what happens when men die as suicide bombers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (translated on screen): They know marriage in paradise is better than on earth. Allah has promised them 72 virgins who will be waiting for them.

SNOW: The filmmaker found these beliefs of eternal beauty or rewards drive extremists. After his year-long project, he thinks their goal is to destroy modern life, for fear it may prove their beliefs wrong. And he says he walked away with little hope.

REHOV: I had the feeling that I was like their prisoner in some way, because they were catching me to tell me what they thought and they wanted to convince me. And it's -- it brought me to a very deep hole of despair.


SNOW: And Wolf, Wolf, the documentary has not yet been released.

BLITZER: What a story, Mary. Thank you very much. Mary Snow reporting for us.

Up next, all suited up for a journey into space. Find out how an old space suit will be sending a message to a ham radio near you.

And are you going to be watching the Super Bowl for the game or for the ads? We've got a little advance look at what everyone might be talking about Monday morning in the office. That's coming up in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Pro football's biggest day of the year is also a super day for the advertising industry. Ali Velshi is once again here. He's going to give us a sneak peek at some of those must-see commercials. Ali, what have you got?

VELSHI: Well, must see commercials, and there's something for everyone during the Super Bowl commercial breaks. There's going to be pizza. I've been dwelling on that all day. They'll be sex appeal, animals and more sex appeal.


VELSHI (voice-over): No surprise, sexy is back for the Super Bowl. Now sure how Jessica Simpson sales pizza, but apparently she does. Sex appeal also sells insurance. Nationwide is rolling out this new ad featuring sex symbol Fabio, now and in the future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Beauty has a face, perfection a name. And now, you can experience a shampoo worthy of only one ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Life comes at you fast. Be ready with Nationwide.

VELSHI: Laughs are an old standard like this one, for Practical Solutions, a home-cleaning product.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are many ways to help reduce the spread of bacteria. Some are just a bit more practical than others.

VELSHI: And new advertiser, Careerbuilder, which is in the business of matching employers and workers, is using another favorite, animals.


VELSHI: Well, paying for these ad spots is no monkey business, $2.5 million on average, Wolf, for just 30 seconds which is more than I get paid.

BLITZER: That's a lot of money. Thanks, Ali, very much. Ali Velshi reporting.

Let's go to our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner. She's got some more on these ads, some of which we're not going to see on Sunday either, right, Jacki?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, first I want to show you what you can do. You can download some of these ads to your iPod. This one is for the Toyota hybrid. I'm not entirely sure why you would want to do that, but there you go. You can watch the ad on your iPod if you've one of those.

You can also see some of the ads that are going to be on the Super Bowl like this one for United Airlines. Take a look at that, how cool is that? Really neat animation. Now, you can see some of the ads like this that are going to air.

And you can see some of the ones that aren't going to make air. put up a controversial ad last year. They apparently had to go through a very difficult process to get another one on the air this year. So you can see some of the rejected versions online at their Web site at

Now what I wanted to show you was in addition to all of those, there are some sites that are ramping up in anticipation of the Super Bowl and their ads. That would be like Emerald Nuts, things like that. They're going to have these really neat Web sites.

And after the Super Bowl, Wolf, at, they're going to put all of the ads that you saw on the course of the game online at their Web site, and they'll be up for the week following Super Bowl Sunday.

BLITZER: All right, Jacki. Thank you very much.

Coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM, what a medical breakthrough might mean to the paralyzed.

And airline security or, of course, for kids on terror attacks. What should the federal government be spending on money on kids and homeland security? Jack has your e-mail.


BLITZER: Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is on the outs with the Bush administration but he's got a fan in Havana, Cuba's president, Fidel Castro. Our Havana bureau chief, Lucia Newman, has the story -- Lucia.

LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN HAVANA BUREAU CHIEF: Wolf, Venezuela's fiery leftist leader, Hugo Chavez, is here in Havana, in friendly territory, just as relations with the White House have taken a new turn for the worse. It began yesterday when U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld compared Chavez to Hitler.


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: You've got Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money. He's a person who was elected legally, just as Adolf Hitler was.


NEWMAN: Whether he had planned to do it earlier or not, Chavez responded by expelling the U.S. Naval attache at the U.S. embassy in Caracas, accusing him of espionage and in trying to conspire against his government. Today, Washington retaliated in kind by expelling a Venezuelan diplomat.


SEAN MCCORMACK, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: We don't like to get into tit for tat games like this with the Venezuelan government, but they initiated this and we were forced to respond.


NEWMAN: Now Chavez is here to attend an international book fair and receive UNESCO humanitarian award at a mega ceremony which is taking place right now in Havana's Plaza of the Revolution. Now earlier, he refused to talk to the media, about his deteriorating relationship with Washington, but I'm sure it's a subject that he's talking about at length with this close friend and ally, Fidel Castro -- Wolf. BLITZER: Lucia Newman reporting for us from Cuba. Thank you, Lucia, very much.

Let's go to New York right now. Jack Cafferty standing by once again -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Hi, Wolf. Your tax money at work. Your Department of Homeland Security has come up with a brand-new campaign. This one features a cartoon character that teaches children how to prepare for a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or other emergency.

I mean, what 8-year-old shouldn't know what to do in the event that anthrax is released, you know what I mean? And this guys' name is Rex. He's a mountain lion and it's his job to teach the kids about terrorism. The question is, what should the Department of Homeland Security be spending its time and money on, besides this kind of stuff?

Mark in Bowie, Maryland writes, "The Department of Homeland Security should be spending its money on severance pay for the idiots who thought up this ridiculous stuff."

Joan in Houston: "Months ago, I wrote Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, asking how come citizens haven't received information from the federal government about preparations and advice in case of a terrorist attack or other security threat. She didn't answer my letter. Perhaps she knows I don't vote for her. I received a very thorough booklet on the Medicare Drug Benefit Plan. I would like to receive a manual for civic preparedness for a terrorist attack.

Dan in Santa Barbara, California: "You already made the best point. Homeland Security is attempting to instill the politics of fear into the country's children. Maybe they'll grow up more willing to give up their rights and freedoms that old guys like us still think are worth preserving."

Ron in Newmarket, New Hampshire: "You're right on. Use whatever it takes to properly control the borders and capture the top terrorists. As to the children, teach them science, math and other subjects so they can work for a company other than Wal-Mart."

And Trudy, in West Columbia, South Carolina: "Aside from plastic and duct tape, they need to be spending their time and money planning photo ops for the next disaster. Stick with what you do best. That and maybe adding mauve and fuchsia to the warning colors" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mauve and fuchsia. All right, Jack. Thanks very much. Have a great weekend. I'll see you here Monday.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Coming up at the top of the hour, Paula Zahn. She's standing by to tell us what's coming up. Hi, Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, Wolf. And that will be about in eight minutes or so, if you're watching your digital clock like I am tonight.

We've got a dramatic new development in a murder investigation that's gathering momentum on both sides of the Atlantic tonight. Who killed an American woman and her baby girl? And why did her husband simply vanish only to turn up in England?

We'll also meet an extraordinary little girl. Her body actually feels no pain at all. Why do doctors think that's a really serious problem? It's a fascinating medical mystery. And you'll understand when you see the piece -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Paula. We'll be watching "PAULA ZAHN NOW," right at the top of the hour.

Still ahead, it looks like a man floating away in space. What was going on over earth just a few minutes ago?

Also, future hope for people who are paralyzed. We'll tell you why it all comes down to brain power. Stay with us.


BLITZER: CNN is starting a new series this week called "Welcome to the Future." Today, we look at a breakthrough in brain power and what it might mean to the paralyzed. Here's CNN's Miles O'Brien.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was one of the people that whenever anybody did something nice for me, I would send them a thank-you card, just silly things, just writing what's going on in our lives. And I can't do that anymore.

My family thought I was nuts, but I used to love going out and shovelling snow. It was just invigorating. And I do miss that. I love to blog, because I'm able to write my feelings down. Most times, I have to use my left hand to move my right hand on the mouse.

One of my concerns for the future is that I'm not going to be able to write in my blog, because I won't have the functioning at all for my hands.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Rosemarie was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig's disease, about two years ago. Rapidly, she's losing the ability to move or even speak. But there's nothing wrong with her mind.

What if she had the ability to write her blog, to control her computer, simply by thinking about it? This man believes the future is now. Dr. Leigh Hochberg of Massachusetts General Hospital is one of the nation's top neurologists. His focus, a mind-boggling clinical study called BrainGate.

DR. LEIGH HOCHBERG, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: The goal of the BrainGate neural interface system is to determine whether someone with paralysis is able to use their own thought or their own intention to move, to, at first, to control a computer cursor on a screen.

O'BRIEN: It all begins with this tiny chip. Attached to the part of the brain that controls movement, it detects electrical activity and sends those signals to an external device, a processor, which then interprets those brain waves and feeds them into a computer, literally turning thought into action.


O'BRIEN: Twenty-six-year-old Matthew Neagle (ph) was the first patient to participate in BrainGate clinical trial. Paralyzed from the neck down, watch what he accomplished purely through the power of his mind.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next one, turn on my television.

O'BRIEN: He was able to use his computer cursor to change channels on a television, read simulated e-mail, even open and close a prosthetic hand, just by thinking about it.

HOCHBERG: I'm really hopeful that these technologies will be able to help people with paralysis in the future control their environment more directly, and I hope one day to be able to move again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a diagnosis, some people live 10 years, some of them live 20 years, which I plan on being one of those people.


BLITZER: An American astronaut and a Russian flight engineer are letting go of an old space suit. They're on a spacewalk outside of the International Space Station right now. Take a look at this, just a short time ago, they shoved the space suit, named Suitsat into space. It's staffed with a radio transmitter and batteries. Over the next few days, Suitsat will send recorded messages in six languages back to earth. Our Internet reporter Jacki Schechner is joining us now. She has more -- Jacki.

SCHECHNER: Wolf, you can check the spacesuit online via NASA's Web site. You can see, this is the International Space Station. It's following this trajectory right now, and the spacesuit is on the exact same path, so that's how you can tell where it is.

Now, if you go to NASA's site, you can also watch video of the crew, and I will say it's very cool to be able to track space via cyberspace, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very cool indeed. Thank you very much, Jacki.

I'll be back on Sunday, for "Late Edition," the last word in Sunday talk. Among my guests, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, also Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai. Sunday, 11:00 a.m. Eastern.

Until then, thanks very much for joining us. Let's head up to New York and Paula Zahn to take over our coverage -- Paula.