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The Situation Room

Selling Arms to Saudi Arabia; Can U.S. Win in Iraq?

Aired July 30, 2007 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now, Selling arms to Saudi Arabia -- $20 billion worth. The Bush administration says that could help keep Iran and Al Qaeda at bay. Critics, though, wondering which side the Saudis are on.

Eight days in Iraq -- long enough for two top U.S. military and security analysts to conclude the United States just might win.

Did they get a close enough look, though?

And a mysterious neurological disorder affects one in every 150 children. As anguished parents look for a cause for autism, a new study may have found a link -- to pesticides.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


The Bush administration is offering to sell Saudi Arabia satellite-guided bombs, ships and missiles. It's part of a region-wide effort to build a buffer against Iran and terror groups. But as top officials set out to pay a sales call, some wonder whether those weapons would eventually wind up in the wrong hands.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr.

She is watching this story for us -- Barbara, update our viewers on what's going on.

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that is the key question.

Will this proposed new arms sale give the Arab nations confidence against Iran or just destabilize the Middle East region further?


STARR (voice-over): When secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates sit down with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, they will push him to support the fragile Iraq government and crack down on Saudi fighters joining the Sunni insurgency. And they will have a proposed $20 billion arms sales package of warships, missiles and precision-guided bombs to sweeten the deal.

Congressional critics say not so fast. REP. JANE HARMAN, (D), CALIFORNIA: Saudi Arabia continues to fund the terror movement in the Middle East. They continue to try to get -- wreak havoc inside with the civil war in Iraq.

STARR: The Saudi deal is just part of a broader U.S. effort over the next decade to sell more than $60 billion of arms across the Middle East, establishing a military hedge against Iran. Even Israel, which is getting its own weapons package, sees Iran as a greater threat than its Arab neighbors.

But analysts already question whether it's the right strategy.

ROBERT HAASS, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: The military experts are going to stand up and say look, this is irrelevant. The Iranian threat is Hamas, Hezbollah militias. It's not the Iranian Air Force. There's a mismatch between what the United States is doing and the Iranian threat to Saudi Arabia.


STARR: But, Wolf, a senior administration official tells CNN that still all of these arms deals are all about Iran, in his words. But, still there's no indication that Tehran has any fear of an attack from its Arab neighbors any time soon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much.

Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon.

As might be expected, Iran is not at all happy with the proposed arms deals.

Our Middle East correspondent, Aneesh Raman, has the reaction from Tehran -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a swift response from Tehran to news of a potential arms deal between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said it was part of a broader U.S. strategy to destabilize the Middle East, to get countries afraid so that they'll buy American weapons. In essence, this is all about money.

But word that the U.S. is also considering arms deals with countries like Bahrain, Oman, the UAE, countries that sit just across the Persian Gulf from Iran, are raising fears of a potential arms race in the region.

For now, analysts have told me Iran fears, though, only one country -- the United States. And with the U.S. bogged down in Iraq, Iran feels that there is no impending attack from America on the Islamic Republic -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. And as Aneesh just mentioned, the United States is seeking to bolster its allies across the region. Five other Gulf Arab states are in discussions with the U.S. on an arms package. They include the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman. Talks are also beginning with Egypt on a military assistance package totaling about $13 billion over the next 10 years, and with Israel. Israel likely to receive a total of $30 billion in U.S. military assistance over the next decade.

Let's bring in Jack Cafferty.

He is in New York with The Cafferty File.

These are big arms deals going out right now at a time -- $30 billion -- a $20 billion deal with the Saudis, very sophisticated equipment at a time when the Bush administration is complaining that the Saudis, perhaps, are up to no good in Iraq.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you've got the Russians selling arms to Iran. And we're going to sell some stuff to Saudi Arabia. It's like setting the table for some kind of doomsday scenario that I hope we don't see down the road.

Here's a very tragic story, Wolf. Eight million Iraqis -- that is about one third of the population of that country -- have no water, sanitation, food or shelter and need emergency aid. Now, this isn't some report from Nancy Pelosi's office or some left-wing ideologue. This was done and compiled nationwide in Iraq by two major relief agencies.

The report says the violence in Iraq is masking a humanitarian crisis that has worsened since the U.S. invasion and addressing thing crisis could make the other crisis worse.

Among other findings in this report, 70 percent of Iraqis like access to adequate water supplies. Ninety percent of the country's hospitals lack basic medical and surgical supplies. Forty-three percent of Iraqis live in absolute poverty. That's defined as less than $1 a day. And more than half of them don't have a job. Child malnutrition rates are at 28 percent, up from 19 percent before the U.S. invasion. And there are two million internally displaced people, many of them with no access to food. Another two million are refugees that have gone to other countries.

This report suggests that Iraq's government, along with coalition nations, U.N. agencies and international donors, can and must do a lot more to attack this problem.

However, don't expect any immediate response from members of the Iraqi government. You see, they're on vacation. They left today for a month long summer recess. No doubt they'll have plenty to eat and drink, too, while they're away on holiday.

Here's the question -- what does it say about the state of Iraq if almost a third of the population has no water, sanitation, food or shelter?

E-mail or go to

You don't hear a whole lot about that part of the story -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You know...

CAFFERTY: It's horrible.

BLITZER: ...and you don't hear a lot. But you mentioned it -- four million refugees. Four million people displaced from their homes. Two million have left the country. Two million are roaming around elsewhere. And what's really happened, if you take a close look at this, there has been this ethnic cleansing in a lot of parts.

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes.

BLITZER: The Shiite neighborhoods, the Sunnis left. Sunni neighborhoods, the Shiites have left, because it's simply too dangerous.

CAFFERTY: Yes. And a lot of people left the country of their own volition. Many of the intellectuals, the college professors doctors, scientists, those who had the means to get out left a long time ago. And the brain drain on that country has been enormous as a result. There's nobody left in that country except people living at or below the poverty line -- refugees, fighters, soldiers and terrorists. I don't know what else is left there.

BLITZER: Jack Cafferty, thanks very much.

Still ahead, he's fresh from a trip overseas and striking an optimistic tone about progress for the U.S. mission in Iraq.

I'll speak about it with long time Middle East expert, sometimes critic, Ken Pollack, to find out why he now has a relatively upbeat assessment about what's going on in Iraq.

And computer experts find flaws in some of the most popular e- voting systems. We're going to tell you what these paid hackers found that could potentially change millions of votes. A lot of us getting ready to vote.

Guess what?

They're going to have to do some work on those computers.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: The U.S. military gaining ground in Iraq. Two top analysts on U.S. military security affairs are just back from a visit to Iraq with an upbeat report in today's "New York Times". They now say it's a war the U.S. "just might win."

Ken Pollack is joining us from the Brookings Institution, where he's director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

I read the story, the op-ed piece, that you and Michael O'Hanlon wrote in the "New York Times," Ken, entitled "A War We Might Just Win".

And it does paint a pretty optimistic assessment of the U.S. military strategy unfolding right now.


Of course, Mike and I did not choose the title. We had nothing to do with it. And it's one of the first things we should say, which is Mike and I, and, also, our colleague Tony Cordesman, who all traveled together, we came back optimistic -- but very guardedly optimistic.

The reason for the optimism was we did see greater progress with U.S. military forces and Iraqi military forces in their effort to restore security. I think we were all surprised by just how well things were going on that front.

BLITZER: But let me just make it clear.

You disagree with the title of the op-ed piece?

POLLACK: It's not necessarily the title Mike and I would have chosen for it. But when you write for the "Times," the "Times" gets to choose the title.

BLITZER: So they -- they came up with the headline, "A War We Just Might Win". And you guys are going to have to live with that title, I guess, for the time being.

POLLACK: Yes. That's -- that's one of the deals when you make when you write for the "Times". But, of course, you know, the "Times" is a great newspaper and we actually felt like they treated us well in terms of the text...

BLITZER: But just to be clear, you don't get to approve the title that they pick?

POLLACK: Correct. We don't. We have no say in it whatsoever.

BLITZER: But do you believe this is a war we just might win?

POLLACK: As we say in the piece, I don't know what victory really means. You know, if victory means that we're going to create a country like Switzerland, you know, Iraq is at least 50 or 60 years away from that.

What we talk about in the piece the possibility that progress on the security front and also some progress that we saw in terms of the local level -- political and economic factors -- possibly creating, very far down the road, the potential for sustainable stability. In other words, an Iraq that is not at war with itself and not at war with its neighbors. BLITZER: You believe...

POLLACK: And, you know...

BLITZER: I got a lot of e-mail when people heard that you were coming on the show.

Do you believe that in an eight day visit to Iraq, anyone -- you or Michael O'Hanlon, Tony Cordesman -- anyone can really come up with an assessment on what's unfolding right now, based on only eight days in Iraq?

POLLACK: Well, it's a lot better than not having been there at all, which is the case of many people who spout opinions about Iraq. This is also a repeat visit for me, for Tony, for Mike. We've seen this country before.

And, you know, what the visit typically does is it furnishes context to what you're reading about, what you're hearing about. You know, Mike, Tony and I, we all do this as a full-time job. We're all gathering information constantly. I have any number of Iraqi contacts, contacts in the U.S. military.

But we are careful in the piece to say, look, here's what we saw. And, obviously, there is a much bigger picture out there.

But, you know, that raises the question of can anyone get a full grip on Iraq, because it is so big, the problems are so complex.

All we're doing is saying here's what we saw and, in particular, what we saw was different from what we expected and different from what we had seen in previous trips to Iraq.

BLITZER: Was this part, though, of a U.S. military tour, if you will, that they took you around, you were escorted from location to location to location and they were the ones that took you to specific places?

Or did you have the freedom to say I want to go here, I want to go there?

Who organized, in other words, the stopovers, the visits that you were having?

POLLACK: It was -- largely this was -- it was largely organized by the military. We felt that was important because right now the big story is the military story. We went specifically because we finally had a change in strategy. And, you know, you're aware of this, Wolf. I've been on your show after all my previous trips to Iraq. Every single one of those trips, I came back more depressed and more frustrated than when I left. This is the first one that I came back actually somewhat more hopeful than when I left.

BLITZER: So would you, if you were asked by any of the Democratic presidential candidates -- almost all of whom strongly are suggesting the U.S. has to get out, get out as quickly as possible -- Bill Richardson saying by the end of this year -- would you be telling them to hold their fire for the time being?

POLLACK: Yes. I would. Look, the problem with getting out is that we don't know what comes after it. And we could create as many problems, if not more problems, than we solve by leaving.

Certainly, we walk away from Iraq, that solves some of our problems. But this is a, as you well know, a very unstable and a very fragile region.

And the question that we put to ourselves was is there anything going on well in the surge?

Is there enough to suggest that maybe we ought to let it run a little bit longer?

But as we say at the end of the piece, we need to keep reassessing.

We have -- we saw progress in Iraq. You're hearing other people talk about progress in Iraq. But it is still very early. It is very nascent. And while the progress that we saw, in our minds, warrants continued support for the surge for some period of time, we need to keep reassessing it because it is very early and there are still there are very big obstacles out there.

BLITZER: A lot of people have suggested in recent weeks that militarily the U.S. is making some progress -- moving forward in the al-Anbar Province, the Diyala Province. Things are happening there militarily that were unrealistic even six months ago.

The bigger question, though, is, militarily, the U.S. can win a lot of battles.

But politically, does the Iraqi government have the will to end the sectarian strife, to end the civil war that's going on, to disarm the militias, to take the kind of difficult steps that are needed that will bring real stability to the country?

POLLACK: We don't know. It's one of the points that we make in the piece, Wolf. We saw very little to suggest that this leadership is ready to start making those compromises.

What we did see were local level leaders who were willing to make compromise and were actually having some success. It's why one of our recommendations, something that I and other people have been pushing for a long time, is that we need to push power away from Baghdad and push resources away from Baghdad. Baghdad is an absolute bottle neck. It is going to take a long time to untangle the mess in Baghdad. And if we make that the be all and end all of Iraq, there is no way that this is going to succeed.

What you need to build on are the local level successes that are going on outside of the capital, outside of the Green Zone. That's where you do see some degree of success. And the question mark is can we push power and resources away from Baghdad and build on that success and create something sustainable, to the point where eventually this leadership or another leadership actually comes up with the right answer?

BLITZER: Ken Pollack from the Saban Center over at the Brookings Institution. Ken, thanks very much for coming on.

POLLACK: Thank you, Wolf, for having me.

BLITZER: Just ahead, the chief justice, John Roberts, rushed to a hospital.

We have new details on what has occurred.

Plus, Tennessee manhunt -- police on the lookout for a man who slammed his car through a checkpoint at a nuclear plant and ran away.

Do they consider him dangerous?

And skeletons in his closet -- could a decades-old sexual harassment lawsuit make the New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg, think twice about a possible presidential run?

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Could a lawsuit from New York Mayor Bloomberg's past come back to haunt him or even possibly derail a presidential run?

Details are coming out about a sexual harassment suit filed against Bloomberg many years ago.

Let's go to our senior correspondent, Allan Chernoff.

He's been working on these details -- Allan.

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, before his political career, Mike Bloomberg founded and built up the hugely successful financial information service, Bloomberg L.P.

Ten years ago, one of his employees sued him for sexual harassment.


CHERNOFF (voice-over): It was an issue during Mike Bloomberg's first run at city hall. Democratic opponent, Mark Green, seized on an allegation that Bloomberg had sexually harassed one of his employees.

MARK GREEN: He admitted that he uses sexually degrading language in the workplace.

CHERNOFF: The "Village Voice" reported on the allegations at the time. But the charge didn't stick with voters. Bloomberg won the race and easily won re-election four years later. Mayor Bloomberg says he has no plans to run for president. But in New York political circles, the possibility is a hot topic. And the issue of the lawsuit is appearing again.

It was 1997 when Bloomberg salesperson Sekiko Garrison sued her boss.

In her lawsuit, she claimed Bloomberg had told her, "Kill it," after learning she was pregnant, and asked if she gave her boyfriend good oral sex. Bloomberg denied the allegations.

The suit was settled out of court.

Garrison refused comment to CNN, citing a confidentiality clause in the settlement. Her attorney also would not speak.

The mayor's office had no comment.

Mr. Bloomberg, who is divorced and dates investment executive Diana Taylor, wrote in his autobiography that as a young man working on Wall Street, he kept a girlfriend in every city.

Four years ago, Mayor Bloomberg created a stir when he told a New York radio station that he would like to have pop star Jennifer Lopez.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK: I tell you what, who I really want to have.






CHERNOFF: Bloomberg later said that he meant he would like to have her join him for dinner.

Ms. Lopez, later that year, joined the mayor's Latin Media and Entertainment Commission.


CHERNOFF: Mike Bloomberg is known for being blunt, but it hasn't hurt him in business or politics. He remains hugely popular here in New York City -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Allan Chernoff watching this story for us.

Thanks very much.

Let's check in with Carol Costello.

She's monitoring some other stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Carol, what do you have?


Al Gore III has pleaded guilty to felony and misdemeanor drug possession charges. The son of former Vice President Al Gore entered his plea in a California court today. It stems from his July 4th arrest after being pulled over for a traffic violation. The younger Gore also agreed to enter a 90-day rehab program. If he does everything by the book, his charges could be dismissed.

A hearing in federal bankruptcy court in Miami to determine who gets control over O.J. Simpson's unpublished book "If I Did It" just wrapped up. The book is an alleged hypothetical account of the 1994 murders of Ron Goldman and Simpson's ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson. Last month, Goldman's family won the right to pursue publishing rights to the book. Ninety percent of the profits go to the Goldman family. The other 10 percent goes to the trustees representing Simpson's creditors.

Oakridge, Tennessee police are on the hunt for a man who drove through a nuclear plant checkpoint, crashed into a barrier and then ran away on foot. It happened around 5:00 this morning at the Y12 plant, where bomb grade uranium is stored. A guard says the man appeared impaired in some way. They searched the car, but said they found nothing.

Late, late night TV talk pioneer Tom Snyder died. Snyder died in San Francisco yesterday from complications associated with leukemia. Snyder was known for his trademark chuckle and billowing cigarette smoke during interviews. He conducted a litany of memorable interviews as host of NBC's "Tomorrow," which followed "The Tonight Show" from 1973 to '82. He later went on to CBS.

Tom Snyder was 74.

Back to you -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I was once a guest on that show.

He was really, really a nice guy.

COSTELLO: He was terrific.

BLITZER: And our deepest condolences to his family.

Thanks very much, Carol, for that.

Just ahead, President Bush hosts Prime Minister Gordon Brown on his first U.S. trip as Britain's new leader.

Can Mr. Bush forge the kind of alliance he enjoyed with Brown's predecessor, Tony Blair?

And as anguished parents look for a cause for autism, a new study may have found a link to pesticides.

Stay with us.



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

Happening now, the chief justice of the United States, John Roberts, is in a hospital after a fall at his summer home in Maine. The latest details on the condition of Justice Roberts coming up in just a moment.

In Afghanistan, a Taliban spokesman says a second South Korean hostage was executed today. The announcement came hours after Taliban leaders threatened to kill one of the 22 aide workers they've held captive for 11 days. They're demanding the release of all rebel prisoners.

And a modest rally today on Wall Street after last week's big sell-off. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained just shy of 93 points, to close at 13,358.

The Nasdaq rose 21 points, to 2583.

And the S&P 500 was up 15.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


We have new details about the chief justice, John Roberts, taken to a hospital just a little while ago in Maine.

Jeanne Meserve is following the story for us.

So what are you picking up -- Jeanne?

JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we now know that the chief justice was taken to the Penobscot Bay Medical Center in Rockport, Maine. According to the fire chief in the town of St. George, they got a call at about 2:00 p.m. This afternoon that the chief justice had fallen at his home on Hupper Island, which is part of St. George.

Members of the fire department went out on a private boat to the island. They picked up the chief justice, brought him into the mainland, got him in an ambulance at about 2:30 and then that ambulance took the ride of about 50 miles up to Rockport.

No specifics on his condition at this point in time. We are told by the Supreme Court spokeswoman that he was taken as a precaution, that he was conscious at the time.

But no further details on his injuries. We also have learned, Wolf, that the president has been apprised of the mishap with the chief justice this afternoon -- Wolf.

BLITZER: So, just to be precise, Jeanne, we know he fell, but we don't know if he fell -- he tripped over something or if or if he had some sort of fainting event. We do know there is a period of a seizure back in the '90s.

But what are they telling us specifically?

MESERVE: Well, friends of the chief justice told CNN Supreme Court producer Bill Mears a couple of years ago that back in 1993 the chief justice had suffered an unexplained seizure. They chalked it up to stress he was experiencing at the time about his nomination to the Appeals Court. Apparently he took an easy for a while. Those symptoms subsided.

And in fact, health issues never came up during his confirmation hearings when he was nominated to the Supreme Court. Whether this has any connection to those events, we simply do not know.

BLITZER: And they haven't told us if he tripped or what. The only thing we know is he fell.

MESERVE: That's correct.

BLITZER: OK. Jeanne, thanks very much. We will stay on top of this story. Whatever occurred, we hope the chief justice is just fine.

President Bush lost his closest ally when Britain's Tony Blair stepped down last month. But the president welcomed the new prime minister, Gordon Brown, to Camp David today, saying that they found common ground. And Brown suggested Britain will stay the course at least for the time being.


GORDON BROWN, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It is in Britain's national interest that with all our energies we work together to address all of the great challenges that we face also together: nuclear proliferation; climate change; global poverty and prosperity; the Middle East peace process, which we have discussed; and most immediately, international terrorism. Terrorism is not a cause, it is a crime.


BLITZER: Mr. Brown gave no assurances on just how long Britain would keep its troops in Iraq, saying that would be based on the advice of his military command.

And joining us now, our man in London, Robin Oakley. He is standing outside No. 10 Downing Street in the British capital. How important, Robin, is it that the new prime minister, Gordon Brown, not be seen as George Bush's poodle, which so many in Britain apparently thought was the case with Tony Blair?

ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN EUROPEAN POLITICAL EDITOR: Absolutely vital to his own prospects, Wolf. When Lord Malloch-Brown, one of the new ministers in Gordon Brown's cabinet, said that British and American foreign policy no longer needed to be joined at the hip, 71 percent agreed on that in an opinion poll.

Basically what the Brits are saying now is they don't want a British prime minister who is in a double bed with the president of the United States. It is strictly single beds from now on.

BLITZER: They would prefer twin beds, as they say in this part of the Atlantic. What about the body language? Some people were watching that news conference at Camp David today, thought -- it wasn't obviously as warm, as robust as it was during the days of Tony Blair and George Bush.

OAKLEY: Tony Blair and George Bush have this sort of missionary zeal. They were holy warriors together. Gordon Brown is a practical problem solver. Indeed, George Bush called him that. He wants to have that little bit of extra distance, Wolf, between the two of them. So it was noticeable he was referring to Mr. President, whereas the president was talking about Gordon.

BLITZER: Is Gordon Brown going to go out on a limb, do special favors for the president of the United States during his final, what, year-and-a-half or so left in office along the lines that Tony Blair used to do those favors?

OAKLEY: No special favors. It is not like the old Thatcher- Reagan days when she used to come over and get a sort of emotional and ideological charge from her meetings with the president. With Gordon Brown, it is going to be strictly a matter of facing up to common problems and dealing with them together.

But of course, no prime minister or president is ever going to be forgiven for prejudicing the most traditional alliance that the pair of them have -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And having said that, when all is said and done, despite some of the tensions, this U.S.-U.K. relationship has been so strong over these many, many years, will remain strong, even though there will be some disagreements and some nuances along the way.

OAKLEY: Absolutely. It has to be that strong. And the two new aircraft carriers Gordon Brown is just ordering will have U.S. strike aircraft on them. The Trident missile system he's renewing will make Britain dependent on the U.S. for nuclear technology for decades to come, Wolf. They are inseparable at the end.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. Robin Oakley, standing outside No. 10 Downing Street in London.

And let's go straight to our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton. Abbi, what's the British press saying about the president's meeting with the new prime minister? ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, it was the U.K. press that kept the Blair poodle image alive. And now they are watching closely as Brown heads across to meet with President Bush. The image here, this cartoon in The Daily Telegraph here is Gordon Brown kicking that poodle out of the Oval Office.

And indeed, the shadow of Blair is all over the place in cartoons and articles in the U.K. today. In The Glasgow Herald, their headline: "Not quite joined at the hip... just good friends." And in The Guardian, referring to Mr. Brown's juggling act that he has right now, maintaining that alliance while showing at the same time that it is not as tight as under Tony Blair.

Whatever the relationship is going to become, from the Times online, this cartoon today pointing out that it is the term-limited President Bush that's not going to be around forever in this relationship -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you for that. Abbi is watching the British press for us.

Troubling evidence that your next vote for president of the United States could be switched. Brian Todd has a really stunning story of some major hacking in California that potentially could change millions of votes.

Also the mystery behind the rising number of autism cases. Mary Snow standing by. She has a report on what could be a link, could be a link, to the cause of the troubling neurological disorder. All that coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Let's go to Carol Costello, there is another story that is unfolding right now -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. About Avandia, a drug many people with diabetes take -- type 2 diabetes, that is. Government advisers have just said that that diabetes drug Avandia should remain on the market despite evidence that it increases your risk of a heart attack. Some studies have suggested that taking Avandia increases your risk of a heart attack by 43 percent.

The drug's maker, GlaxoSmithKline, has disputed that study, saying it is flawed. Everybody held a panel discussion today. The FDA and the drug maker. And it was decided that the Avandia should remain on the market for now. Of course, this could change but it will remain on the market and you should continue taking it, I guess, until further notice. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Carol, for that.

California's Department of Public Health is raising new questions about autism. A new study suggests that there may, repeat, may be a possible link between the disorder and pesticides. CNN's Mary Snow is watching this story for us. What are you picking up, Mary?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, researchers in California are hoping to get more clues and eventually provide anguished parents with an answer to this complex medical puzzle.


SNOW (voice-over): Health officials say it could provide hope in unraveling the mystery behind the rising cases of autism. The California Department of Public Health found pregnant women who live closest to fields where certain pesticides were used had a greater risk of having a child with a neurological disorder.

DR. MARK HORTON, DIR., CALIF. DEPT. OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Their likelihood of having a child with autism seemed to be six times what it would have been expected in the general population.

SNOW: Health officials caution, though, they can't make a definite link between pesticides and autism because the study was too small. But they say, with an estimated one in 150 children diagnosed with autism, the possibility of a link is worth exploring.

HORTON: We are at a very early stage, but once again we have a substantive hypothesis on which to base further research.

SNOW: The pesticides in question are organochlorine pesticides. They are used to control mites, particularly in cotton crops. Officials say their use has been dwindling in recent years. Some autism experts are taking note, even though the research is preliminary.

DR. MARTHA HERBERT, MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL: Every time we get a little bit more information, we are groping less in the dark and we are getting a little bit more light at the end of the tunnel.

SNOW: And some experts say the final answer may reveal that there is a combination of factors leading to autism. Many experts point to genetics and the environment as the possible culprits. And they say with so many parents desperate for answers, there is no stone worth leaving unturned.


SNOW: Now other factors that have been looked at as possible culprits include vaccinations and exposures to chemicals and viruses. Some doctors say though that they don't expect one smoking gun, so to speak, to be the cause of autism -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, in the California study, how close did these women -- the pregnant women, live to the pesticides?

SNOW: Well, the women involved in this study who turned out to have children with autism, say researchers, lived about 547 yards from these fields. And that's the equivalent of about five football fields. The further away they lived, the less of a link there was. BLITZER: All right. Mary, what a story. Thanks very much. Let's hope they find a cure for this and learn a lot more about it. There are three distinctive behaviors associated with autism: difficulties with social interaction; verbal and nonverbal communication problems; and obsessive interest.

The impact can range from mild to debilitating. According to the autism society, autism is the fastest growing developmental disability. It is growing by 10 to 17 percent annually. And the latest CDC study found that one in 150 8-year-olds in the United States is autistic. Males are four times more likely to have autism than females, although females often have a more severe form of the disorder.

Now to a bizarre and troubling story unfolding in Ocean City, Maryland. A woman is being held without bail, charged with murder after the bodies of four pre-term babies were found on her property. CNN's Kathleen Koch is at Ocean City watching the story.

What are police saying, Kathleen?

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this disturbing story really has shocked this family beach resort. Police say that it was at 4:25 Thursday morning last week that paramedics were called to this home behind me on Sunset Drive. And the woman inside, 37-year- old Christy Freeman, mother of four, the owner of a local taxi company, was bleeding.

Paramedics took her to the hospital, she was bleeding and cramping. And doctors found inside of her a placenta, an umbilical cord. She denied she was pregnant until police questioned her. Then she finally said, yes, I was pregnant, but I delivered a deformed baby. I flushed it down the toilet.

Police were suspicious, Wolf. So they came here to her home, they searched it, they found one baby, a relatively newborn baby, underneath her sink wrapped in a towel. They searched her bedroom, they found a trunk with two other babies' bodies, just bones inside in plastic bags.

Then the next day on Friday, they searched a recreational vehicle outside her home and they found the body of yet another infant. Now the Baltimore Medical Examiner's Office has found that that very first infant was about 26 weeks old. So right now Freeman is being held, charged with first-degree, second-degree murder, manslaughter. And the question is, did she do anything to cause that 26-week-old baby to be stillborn, Wolf?

BLITZER: Kathleen Koch with a horrendous, horrendous story out in Ocean City. Thank you very much.

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

LOU DOBBS, HOST, "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT": Wolf, thank you. We will be reporting tonight on the Bush administration's failure to maintain the defenses against dangerous imports from communist China and other nations. But imports of dangerous goods and contaminated food are in fact soaring. We will have a report for you.

Also, the White House says we can trust communist China to ensure the safety of the food they are exporting to this country. Don't you feel better? Critics say Beijing's proposals are nothing more than empty promises. We'll have that report and more.

State and local lawmakers are demanding enforcement of existing immigration laws because the federal government has utterly failed to tackle the illegal immigration crisis. A novel approach is being taken in localities and states. We will have that report for you.

And three of the country's best radio talk show hosts join me. We will be talking presidential election politics and the Bush-Brown summit meeting. It was very exciting. Please join us for that and a great deal more, all of the day's news at the top of the hour.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Very exciting. I'm not exactly sure it was all that exciting, maybe you know something I don't know.

DOBBS: Well, I was a little facetious, Wolf, as they say in the trade.

BLITZER: All right. I just want to make sure I'm hearing you right. Lou, thanks very much. See you here in Washington...

DOBBS: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: ... tomorrow as well.

Up ahead, the cleavage controversy. New fall-out from all that coverage of Hillary Clinton's neck line.

And could hackers steal your vote? As primary season looms, computer experts test e-voting systems and come up with some startling findings. Stay with us, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Presidential politics is venturing into new territory all because of Senator Clinton's attire. Who would have thought we would be talking about a presidential candidate's cleavage. CNN's Carol Costello is joining us once again.

Why is everyone talking about this so much, Carol?

COSTELLO: You know, Wolf, it is the article that keeps on giving. Who knew showing a little cleavage was a woman's way to say, hey, I'm comfortable with my sexuality and my intelligence. And I'm going to show it off on the Senate floor. It is either incredibly demeaning or, as The Washington Post asserts, sassy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COSTELLO (voice-over): The Washington Post calls it an exceptional kind of flourish. Cleavage Clinton-style on the floor of the Senate caught on C-SPAN. You might be thinking, let's not go there. But plenty have.

It started with Robin Givhan's article headlined "Hillary Clinton's Tentative Dip Into New Neckline Territory." Soon just about everyone was going there, from David Letterman...

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, THE LATE SHOW: She looks so hot everyone thought she was Senator Vitter's date.

COSTELLO: ... to YouTubers.


COSTELLO: Get it, Hillary's bust? To Clinton's own campaign which sent an e-mail about cleavage to supporters, urging them to take a stand against The Post's "coarseness and pettiness" by giving money in whatever amount, large or small. The Post is not apologizing.

AMY ARGETSINGER, THE WASHINGTON POST: She was taking note of the fact that Hillary Clinton has always made strategic choices, very symbolic choices about what to wear and what occasions that this is the first time Hillary Clinton was showing cleavage.

COSTELLO: Think back to Clinton's prim headband look, to her up- to-the-chin inaugural gown to celebrate her husband's presidency, to all of those pantsuits Clinton wore campaigning. And then, cleavage.

Some blog sites are eating up The Post posture, writing: "Clinton's V-neck proves everything that Hillary Clinton does is calculated and managed to derail criticism that she's acting like a man on the campaign trail." Others are just puzzled.

ANN FRIEDMAN, EDITOR, FEMINISTING.COM: I was staring at that C- SPAN screen shot like a 13-year-old boy, like where is the cleavage? Like, I don't see it.

COSTELLO: Friedman, who writes for a feminist blog, says Givhan's article is just another example of sexualizing powerful women. She boils down Clinton's V-neck to a smart fashion choice in steamy July weather.


COSTELLO: Now keep in mind, Givhan writes for the "Style" section of The Post. And she has written about men, fashion, and politics too, criticizing Dick Cheney at one point for wearing a fur- trimmed parka while visiting Auschwitz.

BLITZER: A lot of people though suggesting that this is different, that this is really sexist, the whole notion, the basis of the article.

COSTELLO: You are right. A lot of people are saying that. But Givhan says Clinton's cleavage is news because it is out of the ordinary and says something about the way that people want to be perceived.

BLITZER: All right. Carol, thanks very much. And as this primary season draws -- continues on, can Americans count on their electronic ballots being counted correctly? There are new concerns about computer security in California and perhaps elsewhere as well. Brian Todd is watching the story.

What's the latest, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just as Congress is pushing for electronic votes to be verified on paper, an investigation shows new vulnerabilities in the e-voting system in a state that can ill-afford them.


TODD (voice-over): In the state with the most registered voters, three of the most popular electronic voting systems, hacked. Computer experts hired by California's state government had no trouble penetrating Diebold, Sequoia, and Hart InterCivic machines, and say they could have potentially changed millions of votes.

MATT BISHOP, UNIV. OF CALIFORNIA-DAVIS: That enabled us to cause them to do things they shouldn't have done. Caused them to do things that would violate the integrity of the election.

TODD: State officials tell CNN some investigators on these so- called red teams took only a few seconds to penetrate voting machines and left no trail. That they not only hacked into operating systems but also infiltrated physically by prying open seals or taking screws off to bypass locks.

Their report comes just six months before California's presidential primaries. But some observers say, don't panic. These tests were done with no real world protections in place.

STEPHEN WEIR, REGISTRAR, CONTRA COSTA CO., CA.: They did the typical red team attack. Go after and see if you can hack it, there was no counter blue team that says, you have got to get past the security procedures.

TODD: Experts say between software safeguards, polling station workers and other protections, e-voting systems will be much more secure on election days throughout the country than the study shows, and a lot safer than the old way.

PAUL HERRNSON, UNIV. OF MARYLAND: Anyone can steal a box of paper ballots, a blank or completed, and switch them for another one. And that's much easier to do than to hack into a computerized voting system.


TODD: Still, California's secretary of state is under pressure to make a quick decision here. By this Friday she has to decide which equipment to use in the state's presidential primary next February. And officials in her office tell us they don't know which way she is going to go -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What are you getting, Brian, from these three companies whose computers -- machines were breached in this investigation?

TODD: Well, some frustration and anger there. Sequoia and Hart InterCivic both told us these were "malicious tests in a sterile environment." Those two companies and Diebold say the tests don't reflect the precautions they take. And all three of these companies stress their systems are secure and accurate.

BLITZER: Brian, thank you. Thirty-two states plus the District of Columbia now use electronic voting machines. Nineteen of those states have a paper trail wherever e-ballots are used. The rest of the country uses some type of paper-based voting system. Congressional Democrats are ready with a bill which would require every state to have voting systems with a backup paper ballot by next year's elections.

Up next, Jack Cafferty wants to know what it says about the state of Iraq if almost a third of the population is without water, sanitation, food and shelter. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Tonight, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, coming to America, Britain's new prime minister hits the U.S. Will he break with President Bush on the war? Tonight in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Let's check back with Jack Cafferty in New York -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: Wolf, devastating report by a couple of international relief agencies. The question is, what does it say about the state of Iraq if almost one-third of the population there is without water, sanitation, food, and shelter?

Melvin writes from Colorado: "Very simple, my man, George Bush is in charge, they are not in his group of money people, so he doesn't care."

Mark in Georgia: "Dear Jack, why don't we just stop funding weapons to Saudi Arabia and the Middle East and use some of the money to cure some of these devastating problems in Iraq that you just mentioned.

Larissa in Tabor, Iowa: It says Iraqis would rather shed their own blood than create a stable government and society where their children cannot only have water, but walk to school safely. Our military's efforts are noble. Unfortunately, our politicians are too naive or too arrogant to see that the locals don't want to create their own peace. And until they do, why do we continue to shed American blood?

Jerry writes: "It shows George Bush and his hacks who started this war are heartless beasts to whom human suffering is merely adjunctive to his political goals, and not really worth considering beyond some pathetic lip service. Fie on Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid for refusing to consider impeaching this fraud."

Frank in Arkansas writes: "A third of Iraq in unlivable conditions, what does it mean? For me it implies they are in better shape than New Orleans."

Sally in Virginia: "Iraq may be lacking many things. They may be living in poverty and horror, but they still have oil. That's all Cheney and Bush care about, all they ever cared about. It matters not who suffers, who dies, as long as big business is protected. For Bush and Halliburton Cheney, it's mission accomplished."

And Danny writes this: "Jack, let's run an experiment, let's shut off the water in Washington until further notice, provide only one hour of electricity a day, and have 50,000 citizens shoot at the politicians' and reporters' cars every time they go out. Then we'll see how they feel about the war. And I want to be one of the ones doing the shooting."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can see more of these at where we post more of them online, along with video clips of the "Cafferty File" -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Jack. Thanks very much. See you back here in an hour. We're in THE SITUATION ROOM, weekday afternoons from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Eastern, back at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now -- Lou.

DOBBS: Thank you, Wolf.