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The Situation Room

Bloody Month in Iraq; U.S. Government Quarantines Man With TB

Aired May 29, 2007 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.
Happening now, a chopper shot down, a rescue force ambushed, one of the bloodiest months of the war for U.S. troops, for Iraqis more bloody bombings, for Britons, a mass kidnapping today.

U.S. officials launching an urgent search for people who may have been exposed to a potentially deadly germ during transatlantic flights. What's prompting this extraordinary health warning?

And Castro likes his stogies, but buying one of these Cuban cigars could land you in prison. There is a new push underway right now to ban -- to end the ban that is on this forbidden fruit.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's the deadliest month this year for American troops in Iraq, and it's not even over yet. For Iraqis another deadly day as car bombs killed dozens in Baghdad. For Britons, shock and concern as five of their citizens are kidnapped in a stunningly brazen raid in the Iraqi capital with the U.S. military reeling from a series of battle field losses.

Let's begin our coverage this hour. CNN's Paula Hancocks is in Baghdad -- Paula.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the U.S. military confirmed Tuesday that the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq rose sharply on Monday, making May the third deadliest month for U.S. troops since the war began.


HANCOCKS (voice-over): A dramatic helicopter crash and a rescue operation gone wrong have resulted in the deaths of eight more U.S. soldiers, this in the volatile Diyala province northeast of Baghdad. Two pilots were killed when their helicopter was shot down Monday with small arms fire, according to the U.S. military.

A quick reaction force was called in to recover the chopper. One of the vehicles was hit by a roadside bomb, killing five. A second vehicle in the force was hit, killing another soldier. Three more were injured -- this month, the deadliest for the American military since November 2004. Those killed were from task force lightning, the force that patrols parts of northern Iraq, including the Diyala province. It is at least the 11th helicopter to come down so far this year in Iraq with 30 deaths. Two more car bombs ripped through Baghdad Tuesday within an hour of each other, killing at least three dozen people and injuring many more.


HANCOCKS: The British foreign office has confirmed that five British citizens were kidnapped just before midday on Tuesday from an Iraqi Finance Ministry building in north central Baghdad. According to an interior ministry source, telling CNN it involved dozens of gunmen dressed in Iraqi police and army uniforms, using at least 19 Iraqi police vehicles. The source also says that the kidnapping took half an hour and no shots were fired -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very disturbing, Paula. Thank you very much. The U.S. military, by the way, just announced another death tied to the war. A Marine killed in what's described as a non-hostile accident. That brings the overall U.S. military death toll since the start of the war more than four years ago to 3,466.

There's also a new Internet video out tonight from an American man accused of treason for his ties to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda -- the California native, Adam Gadahn.

Let's go straight to CNN's Deborah Feyerick. Deb, what does Gadahn have to say in this latest video?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, his voice is clearly that of an American, but the message, one of al Qaeda. In it he says that Americans will have to get out of Iraq. Otherwise, instead of -- if they don't wave the white flag, they're going to be brought out in caskets under the American flag.


FEYERICK (voice-over): It's al Qaeda's latest message delivered by Californian native turned Muslim convert Adam Gadahn.

ADAM GADAHN, AL QAEDA SPOKESMAN: You're losing on all fronts and losing big time.

FEYERICK: Gadahn known as Azzam the American is an alleged mouthpiece for Osama bin Laden and top deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri. This year alone al Qaeda has released some 47 video messages, averaging one every three days. In this one, Gadahn warns Americans, among other things, to get out of Muslim lands. He cites the consequences, even referencing the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech where a student gunman opened fire, killing 32 classmates.

GADAHN: You and your people will Allah willing experience things which will make you forget all about the horrors of September 11th, Afghanistan and Iraq, and Virginia Tech.

FEYERICK: Though Gadahn doesn't go into any specifics about what kind of attack is threatened, a terror expert at Virginia's Intel Center says the tape is really a way for al Qaeda to make unreasonable demands that justify any possible actions by claiming it gave the United States fair warning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bush, the die has been cast and the blood has been spilled and there's no way to undo what you have done.

FEYERICK: Gadahn, who grew up on this goat farm listening to rock music, also makes mention of a recent University of Maryland poll.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Muslims continue to support or defend the goals, efforts and sacrifices of their brothers and sisters, the mujahideen.


FEYERICK: Now according to the FBI Web site, Adam Gadahn is 28 years old, and because of his role in the media committee of al Qaeda, he is considered a high-value target by the FBI. He is wanted for treason -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Debra Feyerick reporting for us. Thank you, Deborah, very much.

Tonight President Bush is also offering a new weapon against what he calls genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. He's ordering economic sanctions to pressure Sudan's government to stop the bloodshed and the bloodshed continuing brutally, even as we speak.

Let's go to our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux. What's targeted the president's latest actions? In other words, Suzanne, why now?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this has been three years the president has called this genocide in Darfur. We have learned from the White House today it was six week says ago he wanted to announce these tough sanctions at the Holocaust Museum, but it was the U.N. secretary-general, Ban Ki-Moon who said look hold off now.

Let's let the political pressure, not the economic pressure change the behavior of the Sudanese government, allow those U.S. -- rather the international peacekeepers inside. That has not happened. Today President Bush saying he has run out of patience.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Bush announced new tough sanctions against the Sudanese government for committing what he calls genocide in the country's Darfur region.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I promise this to the people of Darfur. The United States will not avert our eyes from a crisis that challenges the conscience of the world.

MALVEAUX: The sanctions target 31 companies and at least three individuals from doing business with American companies. The aim, to cripple Sudan's booming oil industry which is crucial to the country's economy and is funding the weapons and militia forces committing widespread atrocities in Darfur.

ANDREW NATSIOS, U.S. SPECIAL ENVOY TO SUDAN: The purpose of these sanctions is to send a message to the Sudanese government to start behaving differently when they deal with their own people. That's what this is about.

MALVEAUX: But some Africa analysts believe the sanctions are too weak to convince the Sudanese government to stop the killing.

SUSAN RICE, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: The Sudanese government will feel the pain or potentially stop the killing if one of two things happen, either their oil revenues are locked up and shut down in a meaningful fashion or there is the threat or use of military pressure to compel them to stop the killing. This action does neither.

MALVEAUX: The Sudanese government reacted with anger.

JOHN UKEC LEUTH, SUDANESE AMB. TO U.S.: It's not really a good way to continue. We need a reward, rather than punishment.

MALVEAUX: President Bush also wants a U.N. Security Council resolution that would implement further sanctions, but member nations China and Russia who depend on Sudan's diplomatic ties and oil have been cool to the idea.


MALVEAUX: And, Wolf, what's notable is that the U.S. has already imposed sanctions against the Sudanese government. It has not stopped the killings, so the big question, whether or not the Sudanese government is going to have to reach some sort of dire threshold before it changes its behavior -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A lot of analysts, Suzanne, as you know say the only way this government is going to change, the government at Khartoum, is if China effectively severs its economic relationship with Sudan because so much Sudanese oil is flowing. The Chinese are paying for it and that's propping up the government of President Bashir. What does the White House say about specifically about China's role in keeping effectively this genocide going?

MALVEAUX: It's going to be a really tough sell with China, Wolf. The White House administration quite concerned about that, because as you acknowledge and realize here it's a very strong interdependent relationship. They need that oil from the Sudanese government. We've already heard from the Chinese government today saying look, they don't think this is a good idea. They're offering carrots instead of sticks. It's going to be a really tough sell, Wolf.

BLITZER: And the anger against China growing here on Capitol Hill as well -- Suzanne, thanks. Darfur, by the way, is home to one fifth of the population of Sudan. It's in the western part of the country, about the size of California. This is a huge area. The United Nations estimates that more than 200,000 people have been killed in Darfur amid the fighting between Sudanese government backed militias and rebel groups. And at least two million people, two million people have been displaced.

The largest pro government known as the Janjaweed is accused of murder, rape and burning homes in Darfur villages.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York. It's pretty awful, Jack. We say this every few years. After the Holocaust, it was supposed to be never again. Then there was genocide whether in Cambodia, Rwanda, Burundi, if what's going on elsewhere in Africa right now, in Darfur. But it happens and people pay attention for a little while, but then they move on.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, there's something in the human heart that makes it capable of atrocities beyond most folks' imagination. I suppose if they could ever isolate it maybe they could go about removing it, but it won't happen in our lifetime.

Here's something I bet you didn't know. Every household in America, that includes yours and mine, owes a debt to the federal government of more than half a million dollars. It's called hidden debt. A couple of words you don't like to hear side by side, but apparently our government has been doing some funny math. Imagine that.

According to an analysis by "USA Today," the U.S. government recorded a $1.3 trillion loss last year. That's a lot more than the $248 billion deficit we hear so much about. Why is that, you might ask? Well, the government doesn't do its accounting like the corporations do.

Funds promised for Social Security and Medicare, un-funded liabilities, are not factored in when the financials are reported. That way the news never sounds as bad as it really is. That's convenient, isn't it? Now these new figures added in, taxpayers are now responsible for a record $59.1 trillion in liabilities.

That number is up about 2.3 percent from last year, and that could cost each American household more than $516,000 if we were to pay it all off. Here's the question. Why can't the U.S. government get spending under control? E-mail or go to That includes your house, Wolf, 500 grand.

BLITZER: That's a lot of money.

CAFFERTY: Yes, it is.

BLITZER: That's shocking. All right, Jack. Thank you.

Coming up, quarantine, civil liberty suspended -- the CDC taking a drastic step to stop the spread of a deadly disease. We're going to find out how one man's transatlantic flight has now triggered a nationwide health scare. We're going to update you on what's going on.

Plus, dozens of Arabic-speaking military personnel, troops in the U.S. Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, discharged simply because they're gay. Is the military putting sexuality over national security? There are new numbers, new developments happening tonight.

And Cuban embargo -- should the ban go up in smoke? We're going to find out why cigar lovers and farmers are now calling for a brand new policy.

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


BLITZER: If you've flown overseas recently you're going to want to pay attention to this story. Health officials are looking for anyone, anyone, who may have been exposed to a rare and potentially deadly form of tuberculosis. This, after officials have identified an infective -- an infected that is air passenger.

Our medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is joining us. Elizabeth, who is this person and why does he have top health officials so worried?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we don't know much about this man. We know he's a resident of the state of Georgia and that some time ago he became ill and he and his doctors learned that he had tuberculosis. They did not know, however, when they let him go on a series of flights, that he had the particularly dangerous strain of tuberculosis.


COHEN (voice-over): The patient knew he had tuberculosis when he got on Air France flight 385 from Atlanta to Paris on May 12. He flew again on May 24 on Czech Air flight number 0104 from Prague to Montreal. Then he drove by car into the U.S. the same day. The CDC is urging passengers on these flights to get tested for T.B.

DR. JULIE GERBERDING, CDC DIRECTOR: We have no suspicion that this patient was highly infectious. In fact, the medical evidence would suggest that his potential for transmission would be on the low side, but we know it isn't zero.

COHEN: That's why the CDC took the highly unusual step of ordering him to be isolated at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

GERBERDING: So we always want to balance personal liberties with the requirement to protect people's health. But in this situation, because this organism is so potentially serious and could cause such serious harm to people, especially those that have other medical conditions that would reduce their immunity, we felt it was our responsibility to err on the side of abundant caution.

COHEN: CDS Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said her agency had no idea the man had been allowed to get on an airplane. GERBERDING: If we had been aware that travel was imminent, we may have been able to act if requested by the local health officials, but under the circumstances, I think we were surprised that the patient had left the country.


COHEN: The CDC says that they learned while this man was halfway through his trip in Europe that he had this horrible drug resistant kind of tuberculosis that has a very high mortality rate. He was contacted by health officials and told not to fly, but he flew anyways -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well if he had tuberculosis while he was still in the United States, why did he leave to go to Europe to begin with?

COHEN: That's an excellent question and health authorities say that they urged him not to go. That they said you really shouldn't get on a plane, but he was allowed on a plane anyways. The CDC says if they had known that this was the case, they could have intervened. But at that point, it was just in the hand of local health authorities.

BLITZER: Well did he know that he could infect all these other passengers inside that cabin by going to Europe even while he had tuberculosis?

COHEN: I do not -- I don't know and nobody at this point or certainly journalists don't know what was in this man's head and if he knew. You have to think that he did because health authorities urged him do not get on a plane. They said he had very compelling personal business to attend to in Europe.

BLITZER: Well let's hope he didn't spread it because this is relatively easily available to spread -- Elizabeth, thanks very much. Keep the guy in quarantine for now.

Meanwhile, there are new calls for some -- for change coming from some members of Congress concerned about the U.S. military's dismissal of badly needed Arab linguists, Arabic-speaking experts that is discharged for revealing that they're gay.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd. He's watching this story. How many of these American soldiers or airmen, Marines, sailors, who have learned Arabic, have now been dismissed from the U.S. military, Brian, simply because they're gay?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the Pentagon couldn't get us the total numbers immediately, but members of Congress and advocate groups tell us that 58 have now been kicked out for being gay including three very recently. Critics say this is sidelining some people who could be helping during this pivotal moment in Iraq.


TODD (voice-over): Ian Finkenbinder was what they called mission critical in Iraq. Fluent in Arabic, he moved with his Army unit into some of the most dangerous areas, gathering vital intelligence.

IAN FINKENBINDER, FORMER ARMY TRANSLATOR: Things like location of weapon caches, locations of insurgent headquarters, who was insurgents, et cetera, et cetera.

TODD: A skill U.S. forces now need more than ever. Finkenbinder could be back in Iraq helping them if he hadn't make one remark.

FINKENBINDER: I was a gay soldier and would like to continue serving in the Army as an openly gay soldier.

TODD: The Army had to kick him out. Under don't ask, don't tell regulations, gays in the U.S. military have to keep their orientation a secret. The Defense Department couldn't tell us how many Arabic speakers had been discharged because of their orientation, but advocate groups say the total is nearly 60 since the don't ask, don't tell policy was introduced in the early '90s.

REP. MARTY MEEHAN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: There is a serious detriment to our national security when we disqualify gay and lesbian Americans who are trained, want to serve and are ready to serve.

TODD: Democrats in Congress also believe there is a dangerous shortage of Arabic-speakers in uniform on the ground in Iraq and in military intelligence and they're calling for a change in policy.

MEEHAN: We cannot kick out highly qualified service members because of their sexual orientation.

TODD: Those who defend don't ask, don't tell say the military might lose other critical personnel if gay specialists were allowed to serve openly.

PETER SPRIGG, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: The military is a traditional, conservative institution, and there are many people there who simply would not serve with an open homosexual if they were asked to do so.


TODD: Still, Ian Finkenbinder says many people in his unit knew he was gay before he made that statement and had no problem with it. On the charge that the removal of gay Arabic speakers has damaged national security, a Pentagon official says they will address that issue if there are congressional hearings. In the meantime, the military is launching a campaign to recruit more service members with those language skills -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And it takes an awful lot of money to train these guys and gals in Arabic and then quickly they're released. Thanks, Brian, very much.

CNN, by the way, is going to have a lot more on this story at the top of the hour on "PAULA ZAHN NOW". An exclusive interview with a former Navy translator fluent in Arabic and was discharged for being gay. That's coming up, 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Still ahead here in THE SITUATION ROOM, fuel fury. Politicians jumping up and down about rising prices, but are they blowing hot air, coming up with some real solutions?

And Miss USA -- first she's booed by the audience, then she slips and falls on the stage. Jeanne Moos will take a special look at the beauty pageant that wasn't so pretty.

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


BLITZER: Many of you are understandably fuming over the ever- rising price of a gallon of gas. It appears there are some things that you and your congressional representatives can do.

Our senior correspondent Allan Chernoff is joining us from New York. Allan, many people complain about the gas prices. Here's the question. That can they do about it?

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it's one thing for drivers to complain about the sky-high prices, but when Congress begins wagging its fingers all about this, energy experts say it's actually counterproductive, doing nothing to ease our pain at the pump.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): Some members of Congress are on the warpath against big oil, claiming companies are profiteering.

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: And those profits are coming at the expense of the pay tax of Americans who are in many cases being gouged at the pump. It's unfair. It's unconscionable.

CHERNOFF: An energy bill in the Senate calls on Washington to punish price gougers. OPEC is also a target. A bill approved in the House would give the government power to sue the oil cartel for trying to control energy prices.

REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), MICHIGAN: For years this conspiracy has unfairly driven up the cost of imported crude oil to satisfy the greed of oil exporters.

CHERNOFF: Oil producers say there is no price gouging and congressional rhetoric will accomplish nothing.

BILL STEVENS, TEXAS ALLIANCE OF ENERGY PRODUCERS: We feel like, again, it's political posturing and posturing to the general masses and gasoline is an easy way, an easy target for politicians to use.

CHERNOFF: So how to bring gas prices down? Energy experts say boosting refinery capacity to produce more gas would help. Washington, though, would have to be supportive of oil companies, domestic or foreign, willing to make the investment. KEVIN BOOK, FRIEDMAN BILLINGS RAMSEY & CO.: The last thing we want to do is if we're trying to add refinery capacity and lower gasoline prices is scare away the one group of nations and of companies that have both the desire and the ability to invest in refineries here in the U.S.

CHERNOFF: American drivers could also ease pressure on gas prices by cutting their demand, driving less. That would mean combining trips, car-pooling, taking mass transit where available and buying more fuel-efficient vehicles, steps that only some drivers are taking.


CHERNOFF: If prices keep going up, of course, we could get to the point where many Americans simply can't afford to drive so much and simply have to cut back. But, Wolf, we are not even close to that point for the vast majority of Americans.

BLITZER: Allan Chernoff reporting for us -- Allan, thank you.

Just ahead, Castro smokes them, but you could go to prison for buying one in this country. Now a new move to end the band on Cuban cigars.

And the former House Speaker Newt Gingrich turning against fellow Republicans. Wait until you hear what he's saying now about President Bush, Karl Rove, the White House. You're going to be surprised.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, Russia test launches a missile capable of carrying several independent warheads. A Russian official bragging it can penetrate any missile defense system. All of this after the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, had promised to respond to a U.S. plan for a missile defense system in Europe. Echoes of the Cold War emerging.

And a lawyer for Vice President Dick Cheney telling the Secret Service not to keep copies of who visited Cheney at his official residence. That according to a letter out just now. The letter, dated September of last year, is from Cheney's lawyer that says logs for the vice president's residence are subject to the Presidential Records Act that would prevent the public from seeing them.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Newt Gingrich is known for verbally lashing out at Democrats. But now the staunch Republican turning his attention to members of his own party. He thinks the Bush administration has become the Republican version of what he's calling, and I'm quoting now, "the Jimmy Carter presidency." And that's not the only verbal bomb Gingrich is dropping on the White House. Let's go to our Tom Foreman, he's here in THE SITUATION ROOM. He's making waves with a magazine interview.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's unbelievable. You have two choices right now in Washington. You can go see that new pirate movie with Johnny Depp or you can swing by Newt Gingrich's office. Either way, you're going to find a loose cannon that's getting a lot of attention.


NEWT GINGRICH (R), FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Whoever is writing this stuff, between the Congress and the White House, is just totally out of -- they're living in a fantasy land.

FOREMAN (voice-over): That's Newt Gingrich slamming the Senate immigration bill. The former House speaker is on the sidelines right now in the race for the White House, but his voice is clearly heard.

GINGRICH: No Republican will win in 2008 on keeping Washington as it is. President Bush is not the future. He's not a solution.

FOREMAN: And now the mastermind behind the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress is taking on the White House again. In an interview in the new issue of The New Yorker, Gingrich says the Republican Party hasn't been in such desperate shape since Watergate. He blames the White House, saying the Bush administration has become a Republican version of the Jimmy Carter presidency, when nothing seemed to go right.

Carter took his own shot at President Bush earlier this month.


JIMMY CARTER, 39TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think as far as the adverse impact on the nation around the world, this administration has been the worst in history.

FOREMAN: The former president clarified his remarks, saying he was making a comparison with the Nixon presidency. Gingrich may have his own designs on the White House. He says he'll decide whether to jump into the Republican race later this year. But now he's sharing the sidelines with Fred Thompson, the former senator from Tennessee who could declare his candidacy in the next month or two.

So keeping in the headlines doesn't hurt Gingrich.

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: If Newt Gingrich intends to launch an 11th hour bid for the Republican presidential nomination, he is going to have to distinguish himself from the other candidates. One way to do so is to distance himself from the Bush administration.


FOREMAN: Gingrich also went after Karl Rove in his comments to The New Yorker. He called the then senior adviser to the president's 2004 reelection strategy "maniacally dumb." And he says the strategy, which was led by Rove left the president with no real political capital to deal with.

So he's either going to have to run for the White House or run away from it. And some people suggest he may be doing both. That in fact this is a way of distancing himself. We'll just have to find out if he decides to get in the race.

BLITZER: He's not mincing any words.

FOREMAN: He never seems to ever.

BLITZER: Strong article in The New Yorker magazine. Thanks very much, Tom, for that.

And two of the top Democratic presidential candidates are shifting their focus to issues that hit voters close to home, at least on this day. Listen to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the campaign trail today.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The very first promise I made on this campaign was that as president I will sign a universal health care plan into law by the end of my first term in office.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It's time for a new beginning, for an end to government of the few, by the few and for the few. Time to reject the idea of an on-your-own society and to replace it with shared responsibility for shared prosperity.


BLITZER: Let's go to our congressional correspondent Dana Bash, she is joining us from New Hampshire where Senator Clinton has been campaigning.

Dana, why the shift from these candidates on this day to domestic issues?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, it's one of the things that voters are yearning to hear about from candidates. Just being here in New Hampshire, certainly the Iraq War tops the list in terms of things that really give voters anxiety, but when it comes to issues close to home, the economy is right there behind it.

Because it's interesting when you think about the economy as a campaign issue, it's usually about joblessness, about the unemployment rate being high. Right now it's pretty low. People for the most part have jobs.

What they say is, their wages are low, they can't make ends meet and they can't really even to have -- afford health care, at least their bosses can't afford health care. So that is they are feeling this squeeze. Hillary Clinton came here specifically to address that. She used all the right buzzwords. She said that the current government policies are not fair. She said that they're an attack on the middle class. She talked about corporate robber barons.

And she also made clear that she has a couple ideas in order to give the voters what she calls fairness. It is the kind of thing that voters say they do want to hear about, they got it from her today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Senator Clinton, Dana, says she's for universal health care. She hasn't yet given details of any new plan, but Senator Obama has. What is he saying?

BASH: That's right. He was in Iowa today. He unveiled his health care plan. It is -- he calls it universal. Essentially what it would do is offer health care to all Americans. He would pay for it. It would cost between $55 billion and $65 billion. He would pay for it, essentially by raising taxes, Wolf.

What the campaign says is that they would repeal President Bush's tax cuts on the most wealthy. That is certainly something that would play OK in the Democratic primary, maybe not so much if it came to a general election -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Dana Bash, already in New Hampshire. I'll be heading up there with a lot of other folks over the weekend, Dana. Thanks very much.

And the reason is we're gearing up for our big debates in New Hampshire. CNN, WMUR and The New Hampshire Union Leader are sponsoring back-to-back debates next week. The Democratic candidates square off Sunday, 7:00 p.m. Eastern June 3rd. The Republicans go head-to-head Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. Eastern June 5th.

Both of those debates, two hours without commercial interruption. You're going to want to see them Sunday and Tuesday, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Other news we're following, she became a symbol of the anti-war protest, a mother who lost her son in Iraq, then pitched a tent outside the president's ranch in Texas. Now she's exhausted, she's disillusioned and she's calling it quits. Let's go to CNN's Carol Costello. She's watching this story.

Carol, what is Cindy Sheehan saying?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Well, Wolf, I talked to Cindy Sheehan's sister today. She was on her way to a spa with Cindy Sheehan. She told me Cindy had lost everything, her health, her family and all of her savings because of her fight to end the Iraq War.



SHEEHAN: When do we want it?


COSTELLO (voice-over): Cindy Sheehan is walking way from the country's peace movement. In a Web diary, entitled rather bitterly, "Good Riddance Attention Whore," Sheehan says: "Casey did, indeed, die for nothing. I failed my boy and that hurts the most."

Sheehan's 24-year-old son Casey, an Army specialist, died fighting in Baghdad. His death fuelled her exhausting efforts to end the Iraq War. In 2005, Sheehan created Camp Casey outside of President Bush's Crawford home, demanding he meet with her to discuss her son's death. Casey picture, her grief, on public display.

And this is where Sheehan says her life took an ugly turn. Because of her efforts, her husband left her. Her other children grew apart from her and she became the target of ugly criticism.

The worst accusation, she used her son's death to promote her political agenda and became, as one conservative columnist put it, a howling at the moon, bile-spewing Bush hater, rather than an anti-war mom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cindy, go home!

COSTELLO: And as Sheehan's anti-war efforts grew, her sister says the name calling started to eat away at her.

DEDE MILLER, CINDY SHEEHAN'S SISTER: I mean, she's a human. She lost her son. And for people to use -- I mean, they can't attack the message, so they attack the messenger.

COSTELLO: Sheehan himself remained on the attack. She reportedly called Bush "that lying bastard," that maniac who killed her son, even accepting an invitation from the president's arch enemy, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you're around the world, trashing the president, calling him a terrorist, calling him worse than Osama bin Laden.


COSTELLO: Still, Sheehan stayed in the game, writing a book called "Peace Mom." But she tired of it for good when Congress voted to fund the Iraq War, writing in her Web diary: "Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. Good-bye, America. You are not the country that I love. And I finally realize no matter how much I sacrifice, I can't make you be that country unless you want it."


COSTELLO: Sheehan spent $52,000 in insurance money she received for her son's death to buy that patch of land in Crawford, Texas. And it is for sale if you're interested -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Carol, thank you. Carol Costello reporting.

Up ahead, should the U.S. government be chasing down cigar smokers? Why fans of Cuba's banned stogies are fuming.

And a new Internet scam designed to take your money. The hook, a cute dog. You're going to want to see what's going on and you're going to want to protect your cash. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: The U.S. trade embargo against Cuba is coming under some new fire tonight, one part of it, specifically, by cigar lovers. Let's go to CNN's Mary Snow. She's in New York.

What do they want to see done, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they want to scrap the law that prohibits Americans from buying Cuban cigars.


SNOW (voice-over): They're considered forbidden fruit, and they carry a powerful aura. A former photographer writes in the current issue of Cigar Aficionado about smoking Cuban cigars in the Oval Office with President Kennedy. The New York Times once reported that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger smoked Cuban cigars 20 feet outside his Sacramento office to comply with state law.

For Cuban-born Enrique Martinez, there is no mystery about the appeal.

ENRIQUE MARTINEZ, CUBAN-AMERICAN: The best cigar in the world comes from Cuba.

SNOW: But buying a Cuban cigar can carry a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 for individuals and $1 million for corporations. Cigar Aficionado magazine is calling to end the ban, and it's slamming the U.S. government for wasting resources in tracking down violators, saying in an editorial: "With the Castro era ending soon, the United States is in a position to influence the course of events in Cuba. Stop wasting our time and money chasing cigar smokers."

JOHN KAVULICH, U.S. CUBA TRADE & ECONOMIC COUNCIL: The Bush administration looks at it with a much wider spectrum. And that is, it's not only the money that Cuba is getting from having a Cuban cigar in the United States, it's the publicity. SNOW: But critics of the U.S. embargo on Cuba question why cigars should be banned when U.S. companies have sold roughly $1.6 billion worth of food and agricultural products to Cuba since those exports were allowed beginning in 2001.

KAVULICH: Cuba now ranks anywhere from 30th to 45th amongst worldwide agricultural export markets for U.S. companies. So they -- it's a remarkable change in the relationship.

SNOW: But 69-year-old Cuban exile Juan Perez says he's a former political prisoner and he's not impressed. He says he doesn't want to see any Cuban cigars or any other Cuban goods in the U.S. until Fidel Castro ends his regime.

JUAN J. PEREZ, CUBAN EXILE: When Castro has the free election for that country, and then we sell whatever he want to do, and then we buy whatever we can buy from Cuba. For now, nothing, zero.


SNOW: And while some are resistant to lifting the trade embargo, five members of Congress are right now in Cuba working to ease it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary Snow reporting on this story for us.

This is another story we're watching tonight, and it's the latest twist on those Nigerian e-mail scams showing up in all of our inboxes. Criminals using adorable little puppies to try to get money from pet- loving Americans. Let's bring in Abbi Tatton.

Abbi, how are these scammers duping people online?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, they're relying on people letting their guard down when they see these adorable puppies they are told are in need of help and then handing over their money. The Better Business Bureau and the American Kennel Club today warned that these fraudulent ads are on the rise across the Internet, offering puppies, often expensive breeds like bulldogs, for free.

The people that contact the owners or breeders or the people posing as them then receive e-mails saying, well, actually, the puppy is in West Africa, desperately unhappy with the climate. They're then hit up for fees, hundreds of dollars for shipping, inoculations. And you guessed it, in the end there is no puppy.

The groups warn that these scams are on the rise. The Better Business Bureau has information at their Web site on what you can do to protect yourself, do your research, don't hand over money without checking references first -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Abbi, thanks very much. Be very, very careful with those scams online.

Up ahead, a reality TV show that's life or death, and the winner gets a shocking prize. And it wasn't pretty. What's worse if you're a beauty pageant contestant, falling or getting booed? Jeanne Moos with that story. All that coming up.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, story in USA Today. The liabilities of the federal government total $59 trillion, and every household in America would have to pay $516,000 in order to square the books. So the question is, why can't the government get spending under control?

Kenny in San Francisco: "For the same reason that we can't get calories under control, Jack, or energy use, or shopping, or online gambling, or anything else. We're relentlessly bombarded with the message that the more we consume, spend, and ignore what's good for us, the better we can feel about ourselves. It's the answer to all our frustrations and failings."

Bill in Vancouver: "In the '60s, then-President Johnson said the U.S. could afford guns and butter. He was wrong then, President Bush is wrong now. This sinkhole called military spending will bring the U.S. down the same way it did the Soviet Union. It's time to control spending by changing our priorities."

Brian in Atlanta: "Once again, Cafferty, you've got the story completely wrong. The U.S. government provides so many benefits to our society that we should be paying over $500,000 per household more for all of these benefits." What are you smoking?

Jaycie, Los Angeles: "Guess what, Jack? The neocons have been trying to get rid of all social programs in this country for a while now, unsuccessfully. So they have decided that bankrupting the country is their last chance to do so. If the country's broke, really broke, no Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public education, on and on and on, remember when the Republican Party used to be the party of physical responsibility? So last century."

Jennie in Florida: "Hey, Jack, wake up. The government is us. Why should the government get spending under control, we refuse to control our gasoline usage. Do you drive an SUV, Jack?" No, Jennie, I've never owned one.

Adie in Newark, New Jersey: "Quite amusing to see the government that rallied so aggressively against corporate accounting scandals earlier in the decade is itself guilty of following accounting practices that seem to be lax even by Enron's standards."

And Pete in Arkansas: "The CEO can't count to more than 10 without removing his shoes." Cold.

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to We post more of them online along with video clips of the "Cafferty File." Check that out. Who is that? I know her.


BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much, Jack. If you thought that accounting was weird, I've been covering Washington for a long time. Utterly weird accounting in the government, but that's another story. We'll work on it.

Let's check in with Kiran Chetry, she's filling in for Paula tonight, to see what's going on. They make you work on "AMERICAN MORNING" and now "PAULA ZAHN NOW." Kiran, you're working way too hard.

KIRAN CHETRY, GUEST HOST, "PAULA ZAHN NOW": No, it's great. I'm -- the most thrilling part of it was I got to meet Jack Cafferty in the makeup room today and say hello. That's how he knows me.

CHETRY: Well, Wolf, we've got a lot coming up at the top of the hour. We're going to be talking exclusively with a former Navy translator. He is fluent in Arabic. Should he have been discharged simply because he's gay? We're going to talk about that

Also a story that the blogosphere thinks the news networks are afraid to touch. Are authorities covering up the facts of a brutal double killing in Tennessee? We're going to talk about that as well. Hope you'll join me at the top of the hour -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We not only will join you at the top of the hour, Kiran, we will join you tomorrow morning with John Roberts on "AMERICAN MORNING" as well.

CHETRY: All right. Deal.

BLITZER: I recommend our viewers do the same thing.

Up ahead, she fell and got booed. Miss USA's rough ride over at the Miss Universe Pageant. Jeanne Moos standing by with a closer look.


BLITZER: A beauty queen walks into a contest and is booed. But were her critics booing her or her country? Our Jeanne Moos has this "Moost Unusual" story.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Miss USA went all the way down. By now you've seen what happened at the Miss Universe Pageant in Mexico City replayed over and over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we go. One, two, three, oh!


MOOS: Rachel Smith not only recovered, she managed to cock an eyebrow. But the fall wasn't her downfall.

DONALD TRUMP, CO-OWNER, MISS UNIVERSE PAGEANT: What was more embarrassing, as I understand from her, was the fact the crowd was booing her like crazy. They were really booing her. It was terrible. I've never seen anything like it.



MOOS: They chanted "Mexico" while a judge posed the question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you could go back and relive one moment in your life, what moment would you pick?

MOOS: Probably not this one.

RACHEL SMITH, MISS USA 2007: When I traveled to South Africa to volunteer at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

MOOS (on camera): Now I would hate to be "Miss Taken," so I must confess we don't know for sure why the crowd booed Miss USA.

(voice-over): But pageant co-owner Donald Trump has a theory that he explained to Larry King.

TRUMP: And she took it very personally. And I told her, I said, they're not booing you, they're booing the policies of our government.

MOOS: Immigration policy, Iraq War policy, who knows? Some say they booed Miss USA because she went to the finals even though she fell and Miss Mexico didn't. Ah, for the good ol' days when beauty pageants were black and white, not gray. These days scandals range for the need for rehab...

TARA CONNER, MISS USA 2006: I want to apologize to my family.

MOOS: To racy photos surfacing.

KATIE REES, MISS NEVADA 2006: These images were from an isolated incident during my teenage years.

MOOS: What was refreshingly old-fashioned about the Mexico City Miss Universe Pageant was that it prompted a protest against beauty pageants. The banner is slang for "jerk."

Did we forget to mention who won?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Miss Universe 2007 is Japan.

MOOS: As for Miss USA getting jeered, she seemed to win over some of the audience when she spoke a little Spanish.

SMITH: Buenas noches, Mexico.

MOOS: At least she didn't do what all of those beauty pageant winners do, she didn't boo-hoo-hoo over being booed.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: And you can see the full interview, by the way, with Donald Trump, later tonight on "LARRY KING LIVE," 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for joining us. Remember, we're in THE SITUATION ROOM weekday afternoons 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern. Another hour each night, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Thanks very much for joining us. Let's go to New York. "AMERICAN MORNING's" Kiran Chetry filling in for Paula tonight -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Thanks so much, Wolf.