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The Situation Room

Senate Democrats Hit Bush Administration With New Subpoenas; Threat to Airline Safety

Aired June 27, 2007 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks very much, Lou.
Happening now, a constitutional showdown -- Senate Democrats hit the Bush administration with a new flurry of subpoenas and Vice President Dick Cheney figures into the fray. We'll tell you what's at stake.

Also tonight, a threat to airline safety you may now know about. Pilots and air controllers who can't understand one another, we're investigating a potentially very dangerous language barrier.

And Bill Cosby's new battle -- the actor and activist warning about the dangers of violence in America and the impact on our kids. In an interview here in THE SITUATION ROOM he doesn't pull any punches.

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

Tonight, a potential constitutional confrontation between congressional Democrats and the White House in the making, happening now. The Senate Judiciary Committee issuing subpoenas, demanding documents about the president's warrantless wiretap program. The vice president's office is among the targets, putting more heat on an already embattled Dick Cheney. The Judiciary Committee chairman, Patrick Leahy says he's fed up with what he calls a pattern of evasion and misdirection by the Bush administration.


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I've never known an administration so willing to operate outside the law, even operate against the law, in violation of the law, as this administration. Certainly not since I've been old enough to vote have we had an administration so willing to ignore the law. Well, I want the American public to know exactly what they did.


BLITZER: Let's turn to our White House correspondent Elaine Quijano. What's the administration, Elaine, saying about all of this?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well you know Wolf the White House isn't saying a whole lot on this right now. Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino was asked about this and says certainly the White House is aware of the committee's actions and will respond, quote, unquote "appropriately". That was essentially the same response from the office of the vice president.

Vice President Cheney spokeswoman Lea Anne McBride saying the same thing. What's interesting, though, to note here in the response from Dana Perino, she also said it was unfortunate that congressional Democrats were continuing to choose the route of confrontation, as she put it. But these lawmakers of course authorize these subpoenas on a bipartisan vote 13-3, so Republicans are also on board with this. But the bottom line here, Wolf, it is unclear at this moment what, if anything, the White House will provide in response to these subpoenas -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll watch it together with you. Elaine, thanks very much.

History being made over in Britain -- there's a new resident at London's number 10 Downing Street. Tony Blair moving out, stepping down as Britain's prime minister, bidding a good nature farewell to parliament.


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Thank you Mr. Speaker, since this is the last time I'll be able to do so, your gentle courtesy and kind forbearance to me over the years.


BLAIR: I have had need of both.

And now to my engagements this morning. I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others, in addition to my duties in the house. I will have no such further meetings today or any other day.



BLITZER: Our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour has more on the historic power shift -- Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, after 10 years, an end of an era. Prime Minister Blair is no longer. He has left, and his successor, Gordon Brown, is now in office. Blair left after a prime minister's question session, the last for him in the Houses of Parliament. He was asked routine questions but he was also praised for his commitment to public service.

But despite his successes, which will be remembered, making new Labor electable for the first time in 18 years, being the only Labour prime minister to win three successful elections, intervention in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, the robust British economy. What will be his legacy is, many fear, is the deeply unpopular war in Iraq and the president of the United States whom he supported.

This will be a challenge for Gordon Brown. Brown, now the prime minister, intends to maintain a strong relationship with the United States but perhaps there will be something of a change in style. Many people believe that this special relationship must be one in which the British are not just subservient but can play a constructive role -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Christiane, thanks very much. And Tony Blair becoming a special envoy now to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He's going to try to get those negotiations back on track.

Meanwhile, there are new concerns tonight about America's oil vulnerability. Iran and Venezuela are expected to look at ways to wield their oil-driven power against the U.S. and the West.

Brian Todd is watching this story for us. What can we expect from these two oil giants, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, at the very least, they'll try to figure out ways to share technology and turn their strategic interests against the United States. The politics of oil has rarely been hotter even on the street. In Iran, the public frustration is so acute, it triggered a rare protest.


TODD (voice-over): Gas stations in Tehran torched. Iranians angry over having to do without and pay more for the gas they do get as the government moves to ration fuel and hike up prices.

PHIL FLYNN, ALARON TRADING CORP.: Here you've got Iran sitting on some of the biggest oil reserves in the entire universe, and yet they're importing gasoline. I mean what's wrong with this picture?

TODD: What's wrong is that Iran doesn't have the ability to refine much of its oil and is tightening its belt ahead of possible U.N. sanctions over the nuclear issue. Now analysts warn of what one calls an axis of oil, countries like Iran and Venezuela which sit atop huge reserves and are hostile to the United States, banding together against American oil interests.

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez is on his way to Tehran again to talk about a technical and strategic alliance. Chavez himself is putting the squeeze on two large U.S. oil companies, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil. He may soon force them out of his country for not willingly handing over control of some of their projects to his state- run oil company.

ROGER NORIEGA, FORMER ASST. SEC. OF STATE: He has absolute impunity, really. If American companies want to play in Venezuela, it's going to be by his rules.

TODD: The Chavez government has signed agreements with four other foreign oil companies including U.S.-based Chevron. While Venezuela, Iran and Russia play politics with oil and move to secure more supplies, one analyst worries that U.S. oil companies, under pressure from Congress over their record profits are losing their edge. FLYNN: They're going to have to go to places never gone before to search out and bring on more oil supplies. Sure, it's -- you know but instead, what we want to do is handicap the U.S. oil industry by raising their taxes and putting them at a competitive disadvantage.


TODD: And analysts say if Iran, Venezuela, and others form a more organized axis of oil, they certainly won't have any problem selling it. China and India may soon surpass the United States as the world's biggest oil consumers and they've already been getting much of their supply from Iran and Venezuela -- Wolf.

BLITZER: They're taking in billions and billions of dollars, these two countries, in oil exports, but the way they manage their oil industry, that plays into all of this as well.

TODD: Absolutely and that's one advantage the U.S. can exploit. Analysts say that Iran got to this stage of importing and rationing gas by mismanaging its oil industry for decades. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez completely nationalizing his oil industry now, but analysts say he's already run it into the ground by having political cronies who know nothing about oil run that industry.

BLITZER: Brian, thanks very much. Brian Todd reporting.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's in New York with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: It's got a familiar ring to it, doesn't it, political cronies who know nothing about the job running something into the ground. I've heard that before.

Some of America's closest allies don't think so highly of our foreign policy or our president. Pew Research Corporation or Center discovered in a new poll that there's not a whole lot of good news out there for the U.S. There is worldwide support for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. There is considerable opposition to U.S. and NATO military operations in Afghanistan.

The survey also shows particularly negative views of the U.S. in much of the Muslim world, no surprise there I don't suppose. But it's not just the Muslim world. Consider this -- President Bush is less trusted on foreign policy by our allies in Britain, Germany, and Canada than Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Many countries don't think the U.S. considers their interests when formulating its foreign policy, that the U.S. is hurting their other -- their policies are hurting other countries and that the U.S. contributes to the growing gap between rich and poor nations. It's not all bad, though.

Despite opposition to President Bush and U.S. foreign policy, most of the countries surveyed, including India, Japan, Italy, Israel and many of the nations in Africa, still give the U.S. a favorable rating. Here's the question, then. What does it mean if the people in Britain, Germany and Canada trust President Bush less on foreign policy than Russian President Vladimir Putin? E-mail or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Given what Putin has been saying recently, it's not very encouraging. I can say that.

CAFFERTY: No. It doesn't seem that way.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack. We'll get back with you soon.

Coming up -- Bill Cosby, he's not joking about the violence in one major American city.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our youthful people are picking up guns, knives, and voices against each other, against their parents, against the school system.


BLITZER: He's urging people not to stand by and watch one child quote, "blow the other one's head off." Bill Cosby, here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Also -- playing to a friendly audience -- the soon to be announced presidential candidate Fred Thompson goes down south. He's already, though, talking like a candidate.

And parts of the south are drenched with rains that California so desperately needs right now. We're going to have the latest on the devastating floods in one place and the fires in another.

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


BLITZER: In the presidential race tonight the actor Fred Thompson is playing to his audience. The former senator went to South Carolina today, playing up conservative themes meant to be crowd pleasers. It's his first visit to that important early primary state since becoming a possible presidential contender.

Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is in Columbia, South Carolina -- Candy.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there is every element of an official campaign here surrounding Fred Thompson. The only thing that's lacking is a say-so from the candidate.


(APPLAUSE) CROWLEY (voice-over): There he is -- the un-candidate, campaigning -- sorry, speaking at a South Carolina party fund-raiser, hitting all the right conservative notes.

FRED THOMPSON (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: The bottom line is what's best for the strength of the long-term endurance of this country. And this immigration bill is not it.


CROWLEY: His speech was what he hopes to be -- Reaganesque, both optimistic and tough, calling for an America strong enough, patient enough to confront the new age of global terrorism.

THOMPSON: This is not going to be not a war of bonds, this is going to be a war of will, a war of will that we have to win...


THOMPSON: ... over whatever period of time.

CROWLEY: This was Thompson's first trip to South Carolina as a probable presidential candidate who, as it happens, leads state polls, a fete that speaks to both his notoriety and an unsettled Republican field. The party fund-raiser was SRO (ph).

KATON DAWSON, S.C. STATE REPUBLICAN CHAIRMAN: We could have doubled the crowd here. We picked a venue where a lot of our people on the ground were undecided, wanted to come see him. They wanted to hear him. And he has instant celebrity status.

CROWLEY: What they heard was a conservative's conservative speech, a more efficient government, a stronger military, an economy fueled by low taxes. And while many Republicans are beginning to walk away from the president on Iraq, Thompson stood with him, telling the story of the sons of friends who re-upped for a tour of duty in Iraq.

THOMPSON: I read their e-mails -- they sent it to me -- full of hope, optimism, doing something good for their country. And as long as they have hope and optimism, I have hope and optimism and I'm not going to cut if off...


CROWLEY: He keeps saying he is testing the waters, but the speech says he's already in the pool, now he just of needs to say so. It won't be today.

THOMPSON: Maybe I can come back a little bit later in a different capacity and we can talk a little bit more about some of these issues.

CROWLEY: The un-candidate exits to a standing ovation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've got to do it.


CROWLEY: So why not just go ahead and say you're running? For one thing, the non-campaign of Fred Thompson is right now just a collection of supporters. What he needs is a very solid campaign staff behind him to compete with those who have been in the race for months, some of them for years -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Candy. Candy is on the scene for us in South Carolina. Fred Thompson isn't officially a candidate yet, but that isn't stopping the Democratic Party from attacking his record.

Let's go to our Abbi Tatton. She's watching all of this unfold. How are they targeting Thompson online?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, the Democratic National Committee wasting no time dedicating a section of their Web site to Fred Thompson, alongside the declared Republican presidential candidates. In the Fred Thompson section, focus on his past work as a lobbyist, and that the subject of this fund-raising e-mail sent out by the Democratic Party last week, their latest.

It starts remember the Republican culture of corruption. It goes on to target Thompson as the inside outsider, all the while soliciting donations so, in their words, they can send Thompson back to "Law and Order". A spokesman for the former senator dismissed the e-mail as detached from reality politics saying it's the same old stuff that they trotted out in 1994 and 1996 during those Senate campaigns and that look how well it worked there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

In an era of bare knuckled partisanship, some politicians are trying to find some common ground. The mayor of Los Angeles, Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa is one of them. He came to Washington today to try to lobby for immigration reform. I asked him about his recent meeting with California's Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and New York's now Independent mayor, Michael Bloomberg.


MAYOR ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), LOS ANGELES: Well for a long time, Mayor Bloomberg and I have been talking about the need to address the political divide, the vitriol, the partisanship that we see in the beltway. The need for mayors to come together and governors to address the lack of effort to fix real problems or at least the failure to remedy some of the real problems like Social Security, like immigration reform, the question of investing in infrastructure in our cities.

And so we came together. We invited Governor Napolitano and Governor Schwarzenegger as well. And we had a conversation about the need for mayors and governors to lead the way, to address many of these issues, not ideologically but based on ideas and based on what works.

BLITZER: You support Senator Clinton for president, right?

VILLARAIGOSA: Absolutely. I'm supporting Senator Clinton.

BLITZER: Did he give you any indication, the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg that he was going to run as a third-party candidate?

VILLARAIGOSA: No, he didn't. In fact, it was quite the opposite. But, obviously, he's looking at the issue. He has not completely discounted it. But I am supporting Senator Clinton, and I've made that absolutely clear.


BLITZER: Still ahead tonight here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Bill Cosby on children scarred by violence.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It isn't just blacks. It's the poor. It's the lower economic people, the lower middle economic, and these people have to speak up.


BLITZER: Bill Cosby's appeal to put down the guns, the knives, keep kids safe -- our interview, that's coming up here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And a very difficult transition from a man to a woman -- one person's story offering new insights into the lives of transsexuals.

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


BLITZER: Our Carol Costello is monitoring stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. Carol, what do you have?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: A couple of things, Wolf. The juice is back on in New York, but for almost an hour and a half, parts of the Big Apple were at a standstill. A power outage at the West Bronx in Manhattan's Upper East Side stalled subway lines, cut power to more than 130,000 ConEd customers and forced the evacuation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The cause of this is still under investigation.

Little later tonight we will hear from Paris Hilton about her experiences behind bars. The heiress arrived at CNN's Los Angeles bureau for her exclusive first media appearance. It will happen tonight on CNN's "LARRY KING LIVE." Hilton was released from prison early yesterday after severing 23 days. You can see and hear Paris Hilton tonight in an exclusive first interview. That's on "LARRY KING LIVE" at 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. The winds haven't started to blow yet, but firefighters are bracing for high winds that are forecast for the south shore of Lake Tahoe. Firefighters are using the extra time to shore up their defenses against that wildfire, which has already consumed 3,100 acres. It has also destroyed an estimated 175 to 200 homes.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger toured the area today. He praised the 1,900 firefighters trying to take control of that fast moving fire. California's insurance commissioner estimates the total property damage so far at $150 million.

That's a look at what's happening now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks, Carol, very much.

Just ahead -- what is Bill Cosby looking for in a presidential candidate?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we need honest, hard working, regardless of Independent, Republican, or Democrat, to say, I believe in the American people.


BLITZER: You might not believe Bill Cosby's answer when I asked which of the current presidential contenders he supports.

And might air passengers be in danger? There are some airline pilots who don't speak enough English to effectively communicate with air traffic controllers. Our John Vause will explain.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


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

Happening now, the Bush administration says it's deeply troubled by another North Korean missile firing. The Pentagon says Pyongyang tested three missiles Tuesday and it all fell into the Sea of Japan. The U.S. still calls that provocative, urging North Korea right now don't do it again.

Troubled skies for a major airline, today about one out of every 12 flights on Northwest Airlines was canceled. It's the sixth straight day of cancellations. There's a lack of flight crews as the pilot's union attacks management.

And many are mourning the death of a trend setting fashion designer. The company she founded confirmed today that Liz Claiborne died yesterday at the age of 78.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Bill Cosby is a very funny man, but he's taking on an important issue that is anything but a laughing matter. An educator with a PhD, Cosby spoke at Philadelphia's Temple University today about violence and its impact on the smallest victims -- our children.

Bill Cosby is joining us now from Philadelphia. Thanks very much, Bill, for coming in. Tell our viewers what is outraging you right now.

BILL COSBY ON VIOLENCE, IMPACT ON KIDS, TEACHERS: It's not outrage as much as sadness that Dr. King started us in a winning position with nonviolence and that our youthful people are picking up guns, knives, and voices against each other, against their parents, against the school system, and a great deal of it has to do with the fact that we need to start in pre-K through 12th grade talking to the children in school, in school, because it isn't happening in the neighborhood, about nonviolence and how to solve one's sadness issue that has grown into frustration and then outrage.

BLITZER: I assume you mean, when you say "we," I assume you mean educators but also family members, parents have to get involved in doing something about what is clearly an epidemic out there.

COSBY: Yes. But today we address, thankfully, Temple University opened this us, we have student teachers all over this United States, in Florida, A&M is a great university, their school of ed, Cheyney State, and the University of Massachusetts, they've opened their educational doors to work with the teachers so that these student teachers will leave the school prepared to look at Wolf Blitzer acting up in the classroom and not see a kid who is a bad kid, but the teacher will see a child who may have seven to eight different problems existing in the home, in his own heart, in his own physiological condition.

And we want to prepare our teachers for this. They're not armed with that, so many of them also become emotional.

BLITZER: You have been involved in this group called Men United for a Better Philadelphia. I read somewhere that, what, there were 400 homicides in Philadelphia, more than one a day happening right now?

COSBY: Yes, sir. And these men, on a given Wednesday, in a van, ride to and around Philadelphia, stop at a corner where males are congregating, and they talk to them in a very gentle manner, and embrace them. And it's -- a great deal of it is fruitful.

But we need more help. We need more people actually believing that they have got to get up; they have got to move. We have got to stop this entropy. We have got to stop this belief for -- and I do think that many people believe that this actually should happen to them.

BLITZER: I want to play a little clip of what Senator Barack Obama said the other day. It's a famous quote. He spoke about quiet riots, that are out there in the communities. I want you to listen to what he said, and we will speak about it after this.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It made me think about our cities and our communities around this country, and how not only do we still have the scars of the riots and the quiet riots that happen every day, but how in too many plants, in too many places all across the country, we haven't even bothered to take the bullet out.


BLITZER: I assume you agree with him, but give us your interpretation of what that means.

COSBY: Well, it means that we -- we know what is going on, but we sort of just look at it and -- I don't know if it's somewhere between Christ is coming, and I can't do anything about this, and, well, that's the punishment people are supposed to have.

But I do know that we need -- it's not to blame the leaders. We need messengers, and we need people who volunteer. We need them to talk more, to knock on doors, to get things going. And I really believe that this will happen as the people begin to believe.

BLITZER: As you take a look at the various presidential candidates out there, who do you like, in terms of dealing with this crisis that you have become so involved with?

COSBY: None of them.


COSBY: Mainly -- well, good -- why? Because they haven't spoken about people who need help.

They haven't talked about -- and you have a gentleman on CNN who -- a Mr. Martin, who came up with the fact that the presidential candidates do not address people in Appalachia, the people who are stuck and still doing the same thing, because there is no view, no vision.

And we need honest, hardworking -- regardless of Independent, Republican, or Democrat -- to -- to say I believe in the American people. The American people have been told what to do. And it isn't working. They have to believe that they are getting politicians who will make good sense, in their favor, not against other people, because it's proven you can't whip black people and win the United States of America.

BLITZER: You're referring to our contributor Roland Martin out of Chicago.

But what I hear you saying is, you don't think that Hillary Clinton, or Barack Obama, or John Edwards, or any of the Democratic or Republican presidential candidates are committed to this cause the way you are?

COSBY: No. That isn't what I'm saying. I'm not running for office.

The most important thing, Wolf, is, as time goes by, how many of these candidates, like Mr. Martin said, will address the invisible white people who are not graduating from college, who are teenage pregnancy at the age of 13, who are broke, who are looking for subsidy, who are looking at schools that are broken down? It isn't just blacks.

It's the poor. It's the lower economic people, the lower middle economic. And these people have to speak up. They have got to get themselves together. They are the most powerful. You have politicians who care about them, as opposed to some of these other things...

BLITZER: All right.

COSBY: I'm sorry.

BLITZER: Well, unfortunately, we have got to leave it right there. COSBY: I didn't mean to take you over.

BLITZER: But you make excellent points, and we salute you for getting involved in this.

Bill Cosby, thanks very much for helping us better understand this issue.

COSBY: Thank you, Wolf.


BLITZER: And up ahead tonight: He's a public official who decided to become a she. Carol Costello has an update on the transformation.

And the long wait is over, but perhaps an even longer wait has just begun. Getting your hands on a new iPhone requires calling up a lot of patience.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Many Americans' views on sexuality and morality are clearly works on progress. All day here on CNN, we have been trying to shed some light on issues that once were considered taboo to talk about.

Our Carol Costello caught up with a man whose decision to become a woman became very, very public. Carol, update our viewers. What's the latest?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Steve Stanton is now Susan.

And, you know, Stanton would be the first to say his is a story hard to understand. But, ever since he chose to go public, others who believed they're trapped in the wrong gender have shown up in "Newsweek" magazine, in documentaries.

And Steve, who, as I said, is now Susan, is still fighting the fight on Capitol Hill.


COSTELLO (voice-over): Steve Stanton was once considered a successful up-and-coming city manager in Largo, Florida, but the city fired him after he announced he was going to become a woman. Politics was his passion.

(on camera): You didn't expect you were going to be fired?


COSTELLO: Then his marriage fell apart. He couldn't continue his life as Steve.

STANTON: What you feel when you're growing up with this condition is you feel that the outside doesn't match the inside, in a very real way.

COSTELLO: But the new Susan Stanton has been reborn, walking tall on Capitol Hill as a lobbyist, fighting discrimination against transgendered people.

STANTON: Well, we met -- you know, Senator Ted Kennedy's staff, and both the senators from Florida. So, we met with their staff, and a few other people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This 2007 Visionary Award to you, Susan Ashley Stanton.

COSTELLO: She's also receiving awards from political groups for being so visible.

STANTON: Every day transsexuals are fired. You just don't hear about it. What made my case, in particular, significant was that it happened on camera. It happened in a very visible way with somebody that had a really outstanding track record.

COSTELLO: Stanton did try to get another job as city manager in Sarasota. She came in third, and says the experience proves she still has a future in politics.

(On camera): But what was the biggest payout from all that you went through? STANTON: Yes, the biggest payout is being -- being who you are, being authentic, coming out from under a very heavy shell that I have lived under throughout my life.


COSTELLO: And the next big thing for Susan, she will be the grand marshal of the St. Petersburg, Florida, gay pride parade, and she is moving out of her home in Largo. Her wife and son are moving apart from her.

And I will tell you more about that on the "PAULA ZAHN NOW" show. That comes your way at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.

BLITZER: These are very difficult operations, changing gender in either direction, obviously. Do we have any idea how often, how many of these operations take place?

COSTELLO: Well, it's going to be a long process, because you have to dress and act as a woman for a certain period of time. And you also have to see a psychologist for a time, just to make sure you really want to go through with this.

But I won't get into all the specifics of the operations, but that will take another few years. And, then, just to live your life as a woman, something clearly Steve/Susan is not used to yet, that takes a lot of time, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's a difficult...

COSTELLO: Still getting used to walking in high heels and going to the store and buying women's clothing openly.

It's a tough road. And, you know, Susan just wants to feel normal and look normal, but even she admits that's going to take a long time.

BLITZER: Carol, thanks very much -- Carol Costello reporting on the story.

By the way, our new poll offers some striking evidence that Americans' views of sexuality and morality are changing. For the first time, a majority of Americans say they believe that gays and lesbians cannot change their sexual orientation, even if they want to. Fifty-six percent say that now, compared to 45 percent in 2001, and 36 percent back in 1998.

And our CNN/Opinion Research poll shows 42 percent of Americans say homosexuality is due to upbringing and environment; 39 percent now say it's something a person is born with. That's a big increase from several decades ago.

Investigators are putting a renewed focus on a threat to airline safety that many passengers may not even be aware of. That would be a language barrier.

CNN's John Vause is in Beijing -- John.

JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, air traffic controllers in the U.S. say passengers are being put at risk every day because pilots from non-English-speaking countries, like China, lack basic English skills.


VAUSE (voice-over): When Air China Flight 981 from Beijing touched down at New York's JFK Airport this past April, there was clearly a major communication problem between pilot and tower.


TOWER: Make the right turn here at Juliet. Join Alpha. Hold short of Mike Alpha, Air China 981.

PILOT: Air China 981 join right -- errr -- Julia join Alpha -- errr -- hold (INAUDIBLE) November.

TOWER: OK. I will say it again.


VAUSE: Three times, the tower gave instructions, but that wasn't the end of the confusion.


TOWER: Air China 981, have they cleared you into the ramp?

PILOT: Roger -- errr -- (INAUDIBLE)

TOWER: Have you been cleared into the ramp?

PILOT: OK, going into the ramp.

TOWER: No, that was a question. Have the ramp people cleared you into the gate?

PILOT: Roger to the gate Air China 981.

TOWER: I will try it again. It's a question. Hold your position. This is a question, an interrogative. Have you been cleared into your gate?

PILOT: OK. We hold here.


BARRETT BYRNES, JFK CONTROL TOWER OPERATOR: Is it something that happens every day? The little things happen every day, but the major problems are there to cause yet another aviation disaster.

VAUSE: Air China admits there was an incident with Flight 981, but blames the control tower. Even so, the airline says the pilot was sent to special English classes like this one. By March next year, all pilots flying internationally will be required to pass a verbal English test.

Huo Youlin, a pilot for more than 20 years, just passed that exam.

(on camera): Have you ever had trouble talking to the tower?

HUO YOULIN, PILOT: Yes. We flew out to America, Europe. Just pilots usually use -- speak English.

VAUSE (voice-over): Of the 8,000 Chinese pilots who fly internationally, less than 800 have taken the English test. Just over 600 have passed.


VAUSE: Air China says many older pilots will struggle to meet the new English requirements, and the airline expects at least 5 percent will fail that exam. But, in the meantime, those pilots continue to fly -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John Vause reporting for us from Beijing.

What a story.

Thank you, John.

Up ahead: President Bush, President Putin and questions about trustworthiness. Jack Cafferty standing by with your e-mail.

And how far would you go, how long would you wait to get the newest, hottest gadget? Don't get away without getting a taste of the iPhone frenzy. Jeanne Moos with her report -- all that coming up.


BLITZER: Flooding is causing some huge problems in parts of Oklahoma, central Texas, and more rain now expected.

CNN's Reynolds Wolf is on the scene for us.

So, Reynolds, how bad is the situation out there?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It is very bad. It's a tremendous, tremendous mess, Wolf.

If you have ever wondered what 18 to 20 inches of rainfall can do in just about a four- to five-hour span, this is a perfect example right behind me. Now, about 24 (AUDIO GAP) or even less than that, this was just a clear, empty meadow.

But, right now, you see pontoon boats. You have got Jet Skis. You have got pallets, Dumpsters, all kinds of trash, all kinds of rubbage, glass, all sorts of things. What's even interesting, many of these boats that you see behind me came from 300 yards away. This washer -- this washer came from a store that was nearly a mile upstream. Keep that in mind.

I'm talking about stream, not the river. We're not even close to the Colorado River. In fact, that's nearly about a half-a-mile away. What we're seeing here is just one small tributary, one small creek that leads to the river.

Follow me along here. That water continued to move between many buildings, including these two. And you will notice the damage that we have right here, a lot of the foundation just worn away by the floodwaters that were sweeping through, exposing many wires, ripping away a great deal of soil.

Not only that -- Austin, our photographer -- Austin, please be careful. I don't want you having to get a tetanus shot. We have got a lot of debris on the ground here, Wolf. The ground is still very saturated, which has people very worried, because we have got rain in the forecast tonight.

And, with even more flood damage on this side of the building, more pontoon boats, we have got more Dumpsters, all kinds of damage. Well, it's got many people in central Texas worried, because they're still looking at the potential of another six to eight inches of rainfall.

So, many people, without question, in central Texas are very nervous and very wary, but hoping for good things and keeping their fingers crossed.

That's the latest we have for you, Wolf, in Marble -- Marble Falls. Easy for me to say -- back to you.

BLITZER: Thanks, Reynolds. Good luck to all the folks out there. Huge problem.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York.

Jack, 18, 20 inches of rain in a short period of span, that's incredible.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: That's -- yes, that's scary stuff.

The Pew Research Center, Wolf, did a poll. And they found that people in Britain, Germany, and Canada trust President Bush less when it comes to foreign policy than Russian President Vladimir Putin. So, we asked: What do you suppose that means?

Eva in Highland Lakes, New Jersey: "It's my perception generally Vladimir Putin is seen as a liar and someone who can't be trusted. It seriously worries me that our German and British allies distrust President Bush more than they distrust a former agent for the KGB."

Brian in Meadow Vista, California: "Jack, when Putin is trusted more than Bush, it tells us that Bush is running on empty. His tank was full after the 2004 elections. But, soon, he will have to pull over to the side of the road and admit that his ride is over."

Charles in Malibu, California: "It means nothing. You just picked the most negative question you could find from the poll to try to denigrate President Bush."

Dave in Nevada: "Putin and Bush both have terms that expire next year and are constitutionally unable to run again. Those other countries better wait and see which, if either, proves willing to actually leave their positions when their terms run out."

Terry in Canada writes: "It means the respondents in those countries are either extremely uniformed or downright stupid."

Christine in Maryland writes: "It means that the Bush administration is taking our country in the wrong direction. We don't live in a vacuum. We cannot alienate the whole world."

Rand in Oswego, Illinois: "Jack, the people in Britain, Germany, and Canada have done what I did. They looked into President Bush's eyes, and they saw his soul, and it scared the hell out of them."

And Joe in Florida writes: "Makes you wonder what's wrong with Putin."

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" -- Dr. Blitzer.

BLITZER: All right, Jack, thanks very much.

Let's check in with Paula to see what's coming up right at the top of the hour -- Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: The network has devoted a lot of time to the topic of homosexuality. And, tonight, we look at the broader topic, a fascinating one at that, of human sexuality.

We are going to meet a very child, biologically a boy, but mentally a girl. You will see how his parents have decided to allow him to live.

Also, can people go from gay to straight?

And how did a one-time mining town become what some people call the transgender capital of the world?

That and a whole lot more coming at you at the top of the hour -- Wolf, we hope you will join us then.

BLITZER: All right, sounds very good. Thanks very much, Paula.

Just ahead: a camp chair, a stash of snacks, maybe a sleeping bag, low-tech supplies for people waiting in line for the latest high- tech gadget. It takes a "Moost Unusual" person to do this. When we come back, Jeanne Moos introduces us to some of these would-be iPhoners. Stick around. You are going to want to see this.


BLITZER: Here's a look at some of the "Hot Shots" coming in from our friends at the Associated Press.

In London, a protester is held down by police outside the gates of the prime minister's residence at Number 10 Downing Street.

In Turkey, army commandos climb a wall at a training center.

In Texas, men go fishing in the middle of a flooded highway.

And, in Pittsburgh -- check it out -- a polar bear eats a fish as he swims over an underwater tunnel at the zoo -- some of this hour's "Hot Shots," pictures often worth 1,000 words.

It's the most eagerly awaited cell phone in history. That would be Apple's iPhone. It goes on sale Friday.

And what's "Moost Unusual," some people have been lining up for days.

CNN's Jeanne Moos talked with some of them.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you want the most high-tech gadget, what you need mom to bring is a low-tech chair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will need, like, a folding chair, one I brought to camp.

MOOS: It's a campout on New York's Fifth Avenue, killing time on old cell phones as they wait for the iPhone, wait for days.

(on camera): Some people say only a loser would sit and wait in line. What do you say to them?

GREG PACKER, WWW.FIRSTINLINEIPHONE.COM: I say to them, go to hell or come sit here with the rest of us.

MOOS (voice-over): Greg Packer is number one in the line. He's been here since Monday morning, using the restroom at the 24-hour Apple store, living off donations ranging from cheese balls, to deodorant, to:

PACKER: Two hot dogs and a Pepsi.

MOOS (on camera): You can read all about it in Greg's firstinlineiphone blog.

Why do you want an iPhone so much?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, I don't. My boyfriend does. So, I'm sitting out here.

MOOS (voice-over): He could have paid someone. Would-be line- sitters are offering their services for hundreds of dollars, as the iPhone clock counts down to Friday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These people can afford to sit here all week? No job? No nothing?



MOOS: They spend half their time giving interviews. As for the reviews, they're glowing, "indeed worth lusting over," says "USA Today," and, from "The New York Times," "does things no phone has ever done," which is what Conan O'Brien joked about in a mock commercial.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A bottle opener, an electric razor, a blow drier, a mousetrap.



MOOS: IPhone blasphemers call it the Jesus phone, hyped as if it's second coming, inspiring more mock commercials.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Hallelujah.


MOOS: And what were those waiting in line saying hallelujah over? They seemed most touched by the iPhone's touch-screen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you want to turn the page, you just flick it. Flick it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can flick left or right to scroll to the next image. I can zoom in by pinching out, and move the image around by dragging.


MOOS (on camera): These things cost 500, 600 bucks. Who's paying for your iPhone?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who do you think? My parents, obviously. But -- but...

MOOS: Do they know it yet? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not yet.

MOOS (voice-over): But, if you can't afford an iPhone, there's always this.

(on camera): Cut-and-fold iPhone.

(voice-over): The cutout is circulating on the Web, just fold it over your old cell phone.

(on camera): Fourth in line, but first to have an iPhone.

(voice-over): Just after dawn broke:

REBECCA BOORSMA, IPHONE LINE SITTER: There was a guy that came up and said that anybody who buys an iPhone is going to hell.

MOOS: Is that any way to talk about the Jesus phone?

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Thank you, Jeanne.

And thanks to our viewers. Remember, we're here in THE SITUATION ROOM weekday afternoons from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, back for another hour at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

That's it for today.

Let's go to Paula in New York -- Paula.

ZAHN: Wolf, thanks so much.