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Pakistan Protests; Unrest in Venezuela; China Denies Bible Ban; Oil Spill Comes Ashore; Worries About Pakistan's Nukes; Planes Come Within 35 Feet

Aired November 08, 2007 - 17:00   ET


KHURSHID KASURI, PAKISTANI FOREIGN MINISTER: On the face of it, it looks very ridiculous.
But how do you justify taking action against militants by rounding up on civil society activists or...

VERJEE (on camera): And activists that support you in fighting the militants.

KASURI: I agree with you. In fact, I quite empathize with what you are saying. I'm not even going to disagree.

But what I am saying is look at the situation that Pakistan is in. The government has no desire to keep these people in for long.

VERJEE (voice-over): Despite the concessions, opposition leaders say the protests will go on. One student who called in to CNN says they simply do not trust Musharraf.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't really trust the president or the army chief with his promises.

VERJEE: Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto plans a demonstration in Rawalpindi on Friday and promises more protests unless Musharraf makes good on his promises.

BHUTTO: We want the uniform off by November 15th or before.


VERJEE: Well, for the U.S., Wolf, fighting the war on terror is the number one priority in this region. When we spoke to the Pakistani foreign minister, he told us that the political crisis in his country is really detracting from the war on terror and that's why it was really important, he said, to get elections back on track -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Zain, thank you.

Zain Verjee reporting for us from Pakistan.

Another U.S. ally faces serious unrest right now, as well. In the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, riot police have used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon on anti-government protestors. The target of the demonstrations -- the president, Mikheil Saakashvili. Elected overwhelmingly nearly four years ago, he's turned toward the West and away from Russia. Last year, for example, he was warmly welcomed by the president at the White House. Critics now accusing Saakashvili of strong-arm tactics. He's declared a state of emergency. He did that late yesterday -- emptying the streets. Today he promised to lift it within days and pledged to hold elections in January.

Meantime, a major foe of the United States facing serious troubles of his own. Tens of thousands of people have now taken to the streets in Venezuela, protesting what they say is a power grab by the president, Hugo Chavez.

Let's go to CNN's Brian Todd.

He's watching this story for us.

It's turning violent in Venezuela -- Brian.


That entire nation is very tense after this incident. We are clearly in the middle of a volatile time in a country that has a direct impact on America's economy.


TODD (voice-over): A massive student protest in Venezuela turns violent. Associated Press cameras capture the sounds of gunfire that injured several people in Caracas. This A.P. photo shows a masked gunman in civilian clothes pointing his pistol at students. University officials say the triggermen were so-called Chavistas. A U.S. official says on a short list of suspects, those thugs, believed to act on behalf of President Hugo Chavez, would be at the top of the list.

We put that to a Venezuelan official.

ANGELO RIVERO-SANTOS, VENEZUELAN DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION: Right now, I understand that the investigations are underway. It would be irresponsible for me to say one way or another as to where these shots may have originated from.

TODD: But observers in Caracas tell us this scene may play out again in the coming days, as students rise up at another moving by their president to strengthen his power. Chavez is changing the constitution he wrote to expand his authority and seek unlimited re- election. Chavez is calling for a public vote on it next month. A former Venezuelan defense minister calls it a coup.

RAUL BADUEL, FORMER VENEZUELAN DEFENSE MINISTER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): They're attempting to usurp the constitutional powers of the Venezuelan people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If General Baduel believes this is a coup d'etat, it would be the first time in history that it is a coup d'etat that is voted by the majority of the people.

TODD: But with much of America's attention directed toward the political crisis facing a U.S. ally in Pakistan, what does it mean that a strongman 1,300 miles from U.S. shores -- a sworn U.S. enemy -- is cracking down again?

PETER DESHAZO, FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: The state of democracy in a country that is a key trade partner of the United States in the Western Hemisphere is an important issue. It's important to the United States in energy terms.


TODD: Energy meaning Venezuela is the fourth largest oil supplier to the U.S. right now. And, as in Pakistan, things are getting more complicated for the U.S. in Venezuela. Hugo Chavez is now the mediator in negotiations between the Colombian government and the powerful FARC rebel group for the release of dozens of FARC hostages, including three Americans -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Brian, thank you.

Brian Todd watching this story.

Meanwhile, the military junta in Myanmar, also known as Burma, has suppressed protests. But today there was an exchange of goodwill gestures. The government agreed to let the detained pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, meet with leaders of her party for the first time in years. In turn, the Nobel laureate says she's ready to cooperate with the government in a United Nations-backed dialogue aimed at ending the country's political crisis.

Some news closer to home right now. Imagine traveling through any U.S. airport and having to endure extra layers of time-consuming screening every single time you want to fly. That's the case for literally thousands of Americans -- all because of their names.

Our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, has been looking into this no fly nightmare, as it's being called.

What's going on -- Kelli.

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, it turns out that there are a lot of people who share names with terrorists on the government's no fly list. Now, this is a glitch that you would think would be fixed six years after the September 11th attacks, but it hasn't been.


ARENA (voice-over): Traveling is a nightmare for the Thompson family.

JOHN THOMPSON, COLORADO BUSINESSMAN: Every time I fly, I go through additional security screening. And it takes minimum of -- it's about 20 minutes now. Before, it was about an hour -- even longer in some circumstances.

ARENA: John Thompson shares a name with an IRA terrorist on the government's no fly list. So does his father, John Thompson, and his 16-year-old son, John Thompson. J. THOMPSON: Ten years old was the first time he got yanked out of the line and actually had additional screening done. And it was pretty traumatizing for him.


ARENA: The no fly list has about 40,000 names on it -- including aliases. It's part of a much larger and growing terrorist watch list managed by the FBI's top secret terror screening center. The government says in the last eight month, 16,000 people have applied to get their names cleared off the no fly list. Only about half have been successful. But even then, officials can't guarantee that they won't get hassled at the airport.

KATHLEEN KRANINGER, HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT: We cannot promise that an individual that goes through the redress process will never be secondary screened again.

ARENA: Apparently they can't even guarantee a response at all. Thompson says he's been trying for five years. He filled out all the necessary forms and sent relevant documents, but still hasn't heard a thing.

Lawmakers want more accountability.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS), HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE: If the people lose faith, the watch list will go the way of the color-coded terror alerts and become fodder for late night comedians rather than reassurance that the United States government is protecting its people.


ARENA: And right now, airlines are in charge of matching passenger names against the no fly list. The government says once it takes over that job -- which is expected next year, that misidentification shouldn't be an issue -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Kelli, is there any way to get your name completely off this list?

ARENA: No, not currently. No. That's because that terrorist name will always be on the list, Wolf. So what happens instead is that you're given documents to take with you to the airport which say you aren't Joe Terrorist. But you still can't use a kiosk or the Internet to get a boarding pass. So it's not exactly convenient -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very, very frustrating, I'm sure.

ARENA: It sure is.

BLITZER: Thanks so much, Kelli, for that.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty.

He's got The Cafferty File in New York -- Jack, what do you think of this problem?

Thousands of...


BLITZER: Thousands of normal American citizens, they've got to go through extra screenings, can't get early boarding passes simply because their name coincides with someone else's.

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, if it's a shifty guy like yourself, I can appreciate being extra cautious. The guy said it takes an extra 20 minutes now for him to be pulled out of line and the government is going to take it over from the airlines next year?

You'll have to get to the airport three days before your flight once the government starts doing this in order to have time to clear security.

I did this on The Cafferty File last night -- 750,000 people on the terror watch list in this country. That's greater than the population of South Dakota. It's absurd.

This is absurd. Being overweight could be good for you -- another study. The study shows overweight people have a lower death rate because they're much less likely to die from things like Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, tuberculosis, emphysema, pneumonia and injuries. The bad news is being overweight -- not obese -- means you're more likely to die from diabetes and kidney disease, but not from cancer or heart disease.

Who does this stuff?

I'm glad they do it, because it gives me something to do this hour.

The information could affect a lot of people, considering that two thirds of the U.S. population is considered overweight, including about a third who qualify as obese.

The report, in the "Journal of the American Medical Association," got mixed reactions. Some praise it for showing evidence that the dangers of fat have been overblown, while others dismiss the research as fundamentally flawed, saying that there are plenty of reasons why being overweight is not a good idea. Being overweight can still put you at a higher risk for other diseases. And carrying all those extra pounds around can impair the quality of your life.

So here's the question -- what's your reaction to new research that shows being overweight might help you live longer?

E-mail us at or go to

Another study -- I don't know, Wolf...

BLITZER: You know, Jack...

CAFFERTY: ...overweight, you live longer.

BLITZER: These studies, they can make you crazy after a while. I remember a few years ago, they said take vitamins. I started taking vitamins. Then there was another study that said these vitamins are going to kill you, don't take the vitamins.

CAFFERTY: Right. And then coffee -- remember?

They coffee is bad...


CAFFERTY: And then coffee is good. Alcohol is bad, alcohol is -- I mean it's -- I don't know. Everything in moderation.

BLITZER: I think that's a -- that's what our parents taught us and it's good advice.

CAFFERTY: And they were right.

BLITZER: They were absolutely right.

Jack, thank you.

Warnings of an economic slowdown -- the Dow down, the dollar weak. The national debt hits $9 trillion. That's with a T -- trillion dollars -- and that's for the first time ever. Find out why the White House is now blaming Congress.

Plus, a national disgrace -- one in four homeless people are military veterans. This is shocking and horrible.

It's the hidden -- is it the hidden cost of the war?

An international mystery -- a tennis star accusing the Russians of poisoning him to knock him out of the Davis Cup.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Another rough day for most U.S. investors. Stock markets clawed their way back from some serious trouble, but still ended lower. The Dow was down more than 33 points. The tech heavy Nasdaq fell more than 53 points. And a gloomy forecast from the Federal Reserve chairman could signal more rough days ahead.

Let's go to CNN's Ali Velshi.

He's joining us from New York -- so how bad, Ali, is out there?


Well, by the numbers today, it was better than some, as you said. The Dow was only off by 33 and the -- and oil was actually down.

But Ben Bernanke went to Capitol Hill today to give Congress his view of the economy. And he told them in no uncertain terms that things were going to get worse.

The U.S. economy, which seemed to be doing OK in the third quarter, is actually slowing down considerably. Now, Bernanke said he hopes the housing market will find a bottom by next spring, but he also points out that over the next year, Wolf, almost two million homeowners will face their first increased mortgage payment -- which means large numbers of foreclosures will continue for at least that long.

Now, on the bright side, Wolf, as far as one can make out from the way a Fed chairman speaks, Bernanke said that as bad as the housing and mortgage slump has been, it hasn't spread to other parts of the economy. Some Congressmen pressed him on the point, going as far to ask him to give odds on a recession -- which he refused to do.

Now, he did admit that $100 oil can slow the economy down, but he didn't seemed nearly as peeved about the sinking U.S.

dollar or about China saying that it might move some of its dollar-based investments into a stronger currency.

The dollar, Wolf, faced another tough day today. You're now going to need $1.46 to buy a euro, $2.10 to get a pound and $1.08 to buy a loony -- Wolf.

BLITZER: A loony?

VELSHI: A Canadian dollar.

BLITZER: You know, you're Canadian so you know -- you understand that.

But speak American, will you?

VELSHI: Yes. Well, Canadian dollars, $1.80.

BLITZER: The Canadian dollar. A lot of our viewers don't know what a loony is. They think a loony is something else -- but we're not going to get into that.

Let's talk a little bit about who is to blame for this. We're going to speak shortly with the counselor to the president, Ed Gillespie. As you know, the administration -- the White House blaming Democrats and Congress for a lot of these problems.

What do you think?

VELSHI: No, it's a little simplistic. This has been going on for a long time. It was a perfect storm of the housing prices coming down at the same time as oil prices going up, and policies and regulations that didn't control how people were speculating with their money. Then there's the whole hedge fund thing, with people investing in things that are not real assets, as we're used to.

It's a combination of things and I don't think there's one person to blame. This is part of a cycle. There are things that Congress and the administration can do to start helping us out of this situation. I don't know if the blame is the right thing to do, though.

BLITZER: All right, Ali, thanks very much.

VELSHI: You bet.

BLITZER: Ali Velshi reporting.

And he is not -- repeat -- not a loony.

Carol Costello is also not a loony.

She's joining us now with a closer look at some other important stories making news -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm not so sure about that, but thank you, Wolf.

I appreciate it.

In the news this afternoon, veterans make up only 11 percent of the civilian adult population, but they represent more than 25 percent of the nation's homeless. That the finding of a new study by the Homelessness Research Institute. The report says on any given night last year, nearly 196,000 veterans slept on the street, in a shelter or in transitional housing. The report says the solution to the problem lies in affordable housing.

The State of California is suing the federal government over auto emissions standards. At issue is whether California can impose the nation's first greenhouse gas emission standards for cars and light trucks. The state is seeking a waiver from federal law so it can implement an anti-pollution law regulating greenhouse gasses. If California succeeds in getting a waiver, more than a dozen other states are poised to follow its lead.

And more TV casualties are being blamed on the writer's strike, including the Fox thriller "24." The network has suspended the series to ensure its uninterrupted run. At least eight other prime time programs have stopped production. The strike now in its fourth day and no new talks between writers and producers are scheduled. The writers want a bigger share of the money from DVD sales and other shows offered on the Internet.

And a story affecting small businesses and chocoholics. You can now get a $25,000 chocolate sundae -- yes -- at the New York City restaurant Serendipity. The sundae has set a Guinness world record for the most expensive dessert. It's a blend of 28 cocoas infused with edible 23 karat gold. The sundae is eaten with a gold spoon decorated with diamonds.

And guess what, Wolf? You can take the spoon home with you.


I'm speechless. I don't know what to say.

Thank you, Carol, for that.

I'm not going to order it for dessert any time soon.

Up ahead, very serious news we're watching, including airplanes filled with passengers coming within feet -- feet of colliding at high speeds.




BLITZER: A truly frightening look at just what happened -- not once, but twice -- and why it has some in the government furious. Miles O'Brien standing by.

Plus, an eerily familiar scene -- O.J. Simpson surrounded by crowds headed into the courtroom. The latest testimony and just what happened on that night in Las Vegas. That's all coming up.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: The housing market, the dollar, the credit crunch and now plunging stock markets -- we heard the gloomy forecast from the Federal Reserve chairman earlier in the day.

Is there any light at the end of the tunnel, though?

Joining us now is Ed Gillespie.

He's counselor to President Bush.

Thanks very much, Ed, for coming in.

ED GILLESPIE, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Wolf, for having me on.

BLITZER: Here's what Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker, said today: "Our commitment to real fiscal responsibility and no new deficit spending contrasts sharply with the trillions of dollars in record deficits -- deficit spending accumulated by the Bush administration."

Referring to the national debt, when the president took office, it was at $5.8 trillion. It's now, for the first time ever, gone beyond $9 trillion and so much of that is owed to the Chinese, the Saudis, the United Arab Emirates. And our children and grandchildren are going to be saddled with that debt decades to come.

How could the president let that happen?

GILLESPIE: Well, Wolf, as you know, on September 11, 2001, the country was struck in the worst attack on our homeland -- a terrorist attack. And it led to, you know, billions of dollars in destruction to the economy...

BLITZER: But, you know, he...


BLITZER: ...all that on domestic spending. He didn't veto anything for the first six years when the Republicans were in control of Congress. And there was this huge bloated domestic spending that had nothing to do with the war, nothing to do with 9/11.

GILLESPIE: Well, non-defense, non-homeland security discretionary spending, Wolf, not -- so not Social Security and Medicare -- was actually kept to about 1 percent a year. And the Republican Congress did respond to veto threats by the president and recalibrated their bills and brought them down. That's not what we're seeing in the Democratic-controlled Congress. In fact, the Democratic-controlled Congress proposes to spend $205 billion more over the next five years in their budgets. And they propose to do that by raising taxes.

BLITZER: But why did it take the president so long to start vetoing these pork barrel spending bills?


BLITZER: Why -- why didn't he do it when Republicans were in control of Congress?

GILLESPIE: Wolf, let me -- let me try again.

When the Republicans were in control of the Congress, if the president threatened to veto a bill, Republicans in Congress would change the bill...

BLITZER: But no that didn't...

GILLESPIE: that they didn't send him a...

BLITZER: That didn't always happen...

GILLESPIE: ...bill that they would veto.

BLITZER: That didn't happen. You know they...

GILLESPIE: It did happen, Wolf.

BLITZER: You know, they still sent him...

GILLESPIE: I'll get you some examples...

BLITZER: ...a lot of those...


BLITZER: They sent him a lot of bloating funding bills, which he signed into law.

GILLESPIE: But what I'm telling us -- and this did happen. And I promised you now I'd give you some examples. I don't have them with me right now, but when Republicans controlled Congress, and the president said if you send that bill to me, I will veto it, they would change it to accommodate those concerns.

That's not the case with the Democratic-controlled Congress. And, in fact, as we saw with the children's health insurance bill, they sent him a bill that they knew he would veto for this vital program, which he supports increasing funding for, but they increased it by much, much more and to cover adults and to cover children who already have insurance. And they sent him a bill knowing he would veto it.

They not only did that once, Wolf, they did it twice. And so they passed two bills now knowing full well they would be vetoed...

BLITZER: All right...

GILLESPIE: ...rather than work with this administration to help meet the needs of people in health care -- of children who need health care in the this country. And I hope they'll do that and work with us to get something done here shortly.

BLITZER: I want to -- we'll have this discussion down the road and we'll talk about some of the numbers.


BLITZER: But let me get your quick reaction to what's happening in Pakistan right now, because we spoke to Benazir Bhutto the other day. She's calling President Pervez Musharraf a dictator. One of the -- everybody else, including the chief justice, is calling him a dictator. The White House is refusing to say he's a dictator.

Is he a dictator right now, given the fact that he suspended the constitution and stopped the move toward elections?

GILLESPIE: Well, as you heard yesterday, the president spoke with Musharraf and did urge him to move forward with elections. And as I understand it, Wolf, Musharraf today announced that they will have elections on February 15th. And the president also encouraged him to not serve, saying that you shouldn't serve as president and as general and commander of the military at the same time. Take off your uniform.

And so the president has encouraged President Musharraf to get back on a democratic track in Pakistan. And the announcement today was a good thing that provides some clarification...

BLITZER: He's made those promises in the...

GILLESPIE: ...for the Pakistani people.

BLITZER: He's made those promises in the past.

But you believe him this time?

GILLESPIE: Well, he said it will be on February 15th. So it's in a short time frame and we will know and, obviously, the Pakistani people deserve to have free elections and a democracy, as has been promised them. And what President Musharraf said he would do today was an encouraging announcement by his government.

BLITZER: So he is not a dictator, is that what you're saying?

GILLESPIE: He is elected and he is going to hold elections. And that is what needs to happen in Pakistan. And that is the -- the proper outcome for the people of Pakistan, is that they be free to have free elections. And that's what President Bush and our government encourages President Musharraf to do.

BLITZER: And so much is at stake right now, given what's happening in that strategically important country with a nuclear arsenal.

Let's hope it works out.

Ed Gillespie, you've got a tough job, counselor to the president.

Thanks very much for coming in.

GILLESPIE: Thanks for having me, Wolf.

Appreciate it.

BLITZER: Near misses on the nation's runways.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is time to do something before we have to investigate an accident that is catastrophic.


BLITZER: Pilot fatigue and potentially deadly errors in the sky.

Plus, O.J. Simpson today back in court.

Will he end up doing hard time in prison or walk away free?

And a tennis star suspects that Russians poisoned him -- positioned him.

Stay with us.


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

Happening now, a military helicopter crashes in Italy near the Aviano Air Force Base. Five people on board the Blackhawk died. Six others injured. No one on the ground was hurt.

China denies reports it will ban bibles at next year's summer Olympic Games in Beijing. The controversy was stirred by the Catholic News Agency and European media. China's foreign ministry now insists religious texts for personal use will be welcomed.

And oil comes ashore at beaches north of San Francisco. It leaked from a cargo ship that crashed into the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge yesterday morning. Crews are working to clean up 58,000 gallons of spill. We are watching this story.

I'm Wolf Blitzer and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Could the unrest in Pakistan ultimately give way to a fundamentalist takeover? There are now fresh concerns about that country's nuclear arsenal falling into the hands of Muslim extremists, even as Iran makes some progress, supposedly with its nuclear program.

Let's go to our Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She's watching all of this, all very worrisome. How worried is Washington, Barbara, right now?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, the Bush administration is struggling for options in dealing with both a nuclear Pakistan and a nuclear Iran.


STARR: With unrest on Pakistan streets, the Bush administration issuing satellites and human intelligence to keep a closer eye on Pakistan's nuclear weapons, according to U.S. military and intelligence officials.

LT. GEN. CARTER HAM. U.S. ARMY: Any time there is a nation that has nuclear weapons, experienced a situation such as Pakistan is at present, that is a primary concern.

STARR: The official U.S. position? Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is secure. But CNN has been told by a U.S. intelligence official that Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf in recent days stepped up security at nuclear sites because of information he had about a possible threat. The official offered few details and wouldn't say if the U.S. thought the threat was genuine and if the extra security was ordered before or after Musharraf declared an emergency. It's just one of the nuclear headaches facing President Bush.

PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH, UNITED STATES: The idea of Iran having a nuclear weapon is dangerous. Therefore, now is the time for us to work together to diplomatically solve this problem. STARR: Wednesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Iran's estimated 3,000 centrifuges are functioning, crucial for the enrichment of uranium for nuclear energy or nuclear weapons, raising concerns that Israeli nerves are mounting over a nuclear Iran. One of President Bush's republican critics says talk of diplomacy isn't enough.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: Now is the time for the United States to actively pursue an offer of direct, unconditional, and comprehensive talks with Iran.


STARR: Wolf, the U.S. military is making it very clear it wants diplomacy to work. There is no stomach here in the Pentagon for bombing Iran, but the question on the table may be now how long will Israel let the situation go on before it feels it must take action, Wolf?

BLITZER: Barbara, thank you. Really a worrisome development.

U.S. aviation has a most wanted list. And whether it's fulfilled has the potential of making the difference between life and death.

Our chief technology correspondent Miles O'Brien is joining us now from New York to talk a little about an important hearing on air safety. What's the biggest problem, Miles? And you know a great deal about this, but we are learning now about what is arguably the biggest problem out there.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CHIEF TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the worst thing about the biggest problem is it's been the biggest problem for years. Wolf, today the National Transportation Safety Board released its most wanted list as it does every year. Right at the top of the list was something that had been there for a long time. And they released some animations to underscore the point.


O'BRIEN: San Francisco airport, May 26th. A Republic Airlines regional jet is cleared for take-off on a runway that intersects another runway where a Sky West commuter turbo prop was landing. This animation is based on radar and black box information from the two planes. Listen to what the controller does as he realizes there could be a horrible collision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sky West 5741 hold, hold, hold!

O'BRIEN: The Sky West crew hit the brakes hard and stopped in the middle of the intersecting runway. The Republic flight crew lifted off the ground early and missed by as little as 30 feet. Six weeks later in Ft. Lauderdale, a United Airlines airbus A320 was cleared to taxi up to a runway, not on to it. As he was taxiing, a Delta 757 was landing on the same runway. Watch what happens as the controller realizes the United plane on the ground is not going to stop in time. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop, stop, stop.

O'BRIEN: The chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board showing frustration today with the FAA's pace dealing with these issues.

MARK ROSENKER, NTSB CHAIRMAN: This must be resolved. We've had this recommendation for a number of years, too many number of years. The FAA recently had a call to action which dealt with runway safety issues and they made some improvements and they did it quickly.


O'BRIEN: Now Mark Rosenker would like the FAA to focus on a system that provides instantaneous information to flight crews in the cockpit so they know what's around them, what aircraft are nearby. The FAA has been focusing on systems which provide that notification to the air traffic controllers, Wolf, and that could lead to a 10 to 12 second lag time getting the information into the cockpits. And that of course, can mean the difference between life and death. Wolf.

BLITZER: Shocking. All right. Thanks very much, Miles O'Brien reporting. Dramatic pictures.

Chaos in Las Vegas. A witness describes the scene when O.J. Simpson allegedly burst into his hotel room.

BRUCE FROMONG, MEMORABILIA DEALER: O.J. was screaming, "This is all mine. This is all my (expletive). This all belongs to me.

BLITZER: You are going to find out what else that witness says he saw that night in September in Vegas.

And he's a multimillion dollar candidate everyone is talking about. Ron Paul, he'll be joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about his incredible fund-raising success.

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


BLITZER: For some of us, it's deja vu all over again. O.J. Simpson back in court, hearing testimony against him in a felony case. This time instead of murder, the charges are armed robbery and kidnapping. And instead of L.A., the courtroom is Vegas. That's where CNN's Dan Simon is joining us now. So what happened today, Dan?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi Wolf. The first witness, Bruce Fromong, he is still on the stand. He is one of two men who says he was robbed by O.J. Simpson. This, of course, is the preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to send this case to trial.


SIMON: A familiar noisy scene outside the courthouse as O.J. Simpson arrives, surrounded by lawyers, the media and the curious. Inside, the hearing that will decide whether there is enough evidence for him to stand trial on a long list of charges, including kidnapping, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.

FROMONG: There were probably between 600 to 700 items.

SIMON: First on the stand, Bruce Fromong, one of two memorabilia dealers who say O.J. Simpson robbed him.

FROMONG: There was a lot of yelling and screaming going on.

SIMON: Fromong describe goes a chaotic scene when Simpson and a group of men burst into his Las Vegas hotel room September 13th.

FROMONG: The second man came in with a drawn semiautomatic, which was pointed at me. The first thing that I really remember from that was a statement made by Mr. Simpson saying, "Don't let anybody out of this room. Nobody leaves."

SIMON: Fromong said he thought he would be meeting an anonymous buyer who was interested in the memorabilia. Instead, he was confronted by an angry O.J. Simpson.

FROMONG: O.J. was screaming this was all my business. He kept using the word (expletive) this all belongs to me. You guys stole this from me.

SIMON: Fromong's testimony is critical because the most serious charges hinge on whether weapons were used. He says that two men were armed when they went into that hotel room.

FROMONG: He made the statement, I believe it was, "I'll shoot your ass." And he made the statement, if we were in L.A., we'd do things a lot differently.

SIMON: Simpson says no guns were involved in the confrontation and that he was merely taking back items that belonged to him.


SIMON: Eight people in all expected to testify during this preliminary hearing, including three of O.J. Simpson's alleged accomplices. They pled guilty to lesser charges in exchange for their testimony. Wolf, O.J. Simpson is facing some serious jail time if in fact he is convicted of these crimes. The most serious charge being kidnapping, carries a life sentence. Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: All right, Dan. Thanks very much.

Elsewhere, a top-ranked tennis star is leveling some enormously serious charges usually confined to the world of espionage and spies. The rumor that Russian rivals actually poisoned him to defeat him in a major match. Carol Costello is here in THE SITUATION ROOM with a really bizarre story. What are you finding out, Carol?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a bizarre story. The German tennis player Tommy Haas flew into New York City today to get blood and hair tests at a hospital. Haas hopes the test determines how he got so terribly ill right before a tennis match with a Russian competitor.


COSTELLO: The Davis Cup semifinals, a month-long international tournament that pits country against country. This match took place in Russia, pitting Germany's Tommy Haas, that's him in the far court, against Russia's Igor Andre. Haas lost badly. And the why is turning into a mini political pot boiler. The International Tennis Tournament is trying to figure out whether Haas was poisoned by the Russians. Its German counterpart is involved in the investigation.

GEORG WALDENFELS, GERMAN TENNIS FEDERATION: I think there are rumors and we do not speculate. The German Tennis Federation will act if there is proof.

COSTELLO: Haas came down with a violent stomach ailment the weekend before his semi-final match, telling "The Times" of London six weeks after the tournament ended his "stomach is still doing some strange things." He also claim that German teammate, Alexander Waske, said a Russian approached him and said, "It was a shame Tommy was poisoned." The Russian supposedly added, "I know Moscow. There are people who can make these kinds of things happen."

It's an eerie reminder of other Russian scandals, like former KGB agent, Alexander Litvinenko, who accused Vladimir Putin of ordering his death by poison. Or Ukrainian president Victor Yuschenko who's face was disfigured by dioxin allegedly at the hands of the Russians. Next to these, Haas allegations pale, but they are no joke.

JON WERTHEIM, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: You know I think that's interesting that the International Tennis Federation is looking into this. They don't have to be doing that. You know clearly, they think there is enough credible evidence to at least launch an investigation.

COSTELLO: Of the poisoning allegation, a Russian tennis official told Reuters, "We don't take them seriously. This is just the usual stuff coming from a guy who lost."


COSTELLO: Oh, but the ugly accusations will still be swirling when the Russian team travels to the United States on November 30th for the Davis Cup finals. There, Andres and his teammates will take on Andy Roddick and James Blake and the rest of Team USA.

BLITZER: What a story that is. That's a bizarre story indeed. All right. We'll stay on top of it, Carol. Thank you.

Tommy Haas is 29. He was born in Hamburg, Germany. But according to his official website, he now lives in Sarasota, Florida. The 6'2" right-hander is ranked number 13th in the world. His swash buckling one-handed backhand is considered one of the sport's best. Haas enjoys golf, water skiing and driving fast cars. We hope he's just fine.

Up ahead, seemingly endless weeks of rocket fire, furious fighting and dangerous back door-to-door searches. We're going to revisit Iraq war's most intense battle and consider some of the lessons learned. Tom Foreman standing by for that.

And anti-war sentiments standing at an all-time high. We have the results of our latest Iraq war poll and what the numbers might mean.

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


BLITZER: This weekend's Veterans Day marks an anniversary in Iraq. Three years ago, the most intense sustained battle of the war began. Let's bring in the host of CNN's "THIS WEEK IN WAR," Tom Foreman. He's here in THE SITUATION ROOM to talk about this milestone. And I remember this battle in Fallujah. And it was quite, quite intense.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was unbelievable. And this really is more than just an anniversary. The battle of Fallujah arguably taught us critical lessons about Iraq and those may finally be helping the American military turn the tide in that troubled country.


FOREMAN: Fallujah was not just an insurgent strong hold. They called it their capital and vowed to defend it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Car bomb factories all over the city. The insurgents ran deep at the checkpoints. No coalition presence in the city whatsoever. Radio stations broadcasting insurgent propaganda. You know the people just in a state of fear.

FOREMAN: Then on a November night 2004, Operation Phantom Fury was launched. 10,000 coalition troops slammed into the town. The battle lasted five weeks and involved thousands of extremely dangerous house-to-house searches for insurgents. In the end, it was a victory for the coalition, but as insurgents crept back into Fallujah, it also underscored the need for solutions beyond military might, lessons that even now military leaders say are paying off.


FOREMAN: How? Well, the military has grown much more involved in brokering peace deals between rival tribes and encouraging more local cooperation in driving out al Qaeda and insurgents so they cannot get a toe hold like they had in Fallujah. The result, dramatic drops in recent months in the overall death toll for troops and Iraqi civilians. Even after a bad year for fatalities, for people who support this war, it's offering some of the first real hope for peace, Wolf. It's all in some ways a legacy of the lessons of Fallujah. BLITZER: I was there right at the tail end in March-April 2005. Most of the fighting was clearly over. But that whole town was basically so much of it was simply leveled. It was a brutal, brutal fight.

FOREMAN: It was unbelievable. Some people thought it would last a few days. It ended up lasting five weeks. Really there's never been anything like it in this country since Vietnam.

BLITZER: Tom Foreman's going to have a lot more coming up later tonight on this story, the second hour of "ANDERSON COOPER 360," at 11:00 p.m. eastern. Tom will and CNN will re-air "The Anvil of God," Tom's one-hour documentary on this extraordinary battle as seen through the eyes of the 18 Marines Bravo Company.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

BLITZER: All right. We've got a big story we are getting in right now. I want to just check in. Carol Costello has been monitoring this development and it involves a former close associate of the mayor. What's going on, Carol?

COSTELLO: Of Rudy Giuliani, right, Wolf. This is coming from ABC News. Bernard Kerik, the former New York City Police Commissioner, has been indicted by a federal grand jury for tax evasion and corruption allegations, as you said, very close to Rudy Giuliani; served under him as police commissioner in New York City. And of course, Rudy Giuliani also suggested him to hold federal office at one point until these allegations came to light. But he has now been indicted by a federal grand jury. We'll keep following it from there. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We were all bracing for this but now it's apparently happened. Carol, thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty is in New York as well. Jack you remember the days -- you were there when Bernie Kerik was the police commissioner and Rudy Giuliani was the mayor and how his career, Bernie Kerik, has quickly, over these past few years, simply crumbled.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He was a good cop. My assumption would be that the mayor made him police commissioner based on the fact he was a good cop. What the mayor probably didn't know at the time was he had other issues. I'd sort of be inclined to give Rudy a pass on this. He said I made a mistake, which he did, and unless something comes out at Kerik's trial that would implicate the mayor in some of the skullduggery that Kerik's accused of, he made a mistake. He probably appointed 5,000 people during the time he was mayor and they are not all eagle scouts. We'll talk more about it, I suppose, in this roundtable.

The question this hour is what is your reaction to research that shows being overweight might help you live longer?

Jack writes from Texas, "Anyone who believes any study that comes out now a days is a fool. They don't do studies. They have ten people drink a cup of coffee, then tell you that people get sick only on Sunday. It's all BS, and if you wait six months, there will be another study out that reverses the information."

Jason in Minnesota, "My best friend is a cardiologist for Abbott Northwestern and is easily one of the top doctors in this country. I spoke to him about this study and he laughed. He said the study is speaking to the elderly who, when they lose too much weight in the later stages of life, have a harder time staying warm and fighting illness."

Jack in Florida, "As a resident of god's waiting room, Florida, I see many fat older people. They may live a long time, but with fake hips, knees and walkers or even motorized wheelchairs due to carrying too much weight all their lives. Me, I just returned with my not fat 81-year-old body from six months camper vanning through Europe, walking a few miles every day. It's better to live well than long."

Paul writes, "Thanks for sharing the great news. If it's true, at my weight I'll live to be 350 years old."

Russ from South Carolina, "Sounds to me like a case of bad science, entirely too many variables to identify a link between the trend of rising obesity levels and longer life."

Chris in Ontario, "It means I'll be ordering two pieces tonight instead of one."

Linda in Bisbee, "When's dinner?"

Jim in Los Angeles, "What kills people are speed, overindulgences, guns, knives, blunt instruments, stupidity and destructive behavior. Long lives go to those with a sense of humor, lots of love, pace, optimism and a stiff drink every night." I think that's supposed to be peace. Not pace. Wolf.

BLITZER: Jack, stand by. You're not going anywhere. We've got the roundtable coming up in the next hour.

The dollar is down, oil is up. But whose fault is it? Lou Dobbs is standing by. We'll talk a little bit about the White House's claim it's Congress's fault. That's coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Let's check in with Lou Dobbs getting ready for his show that begins an hour from now, 7 p.m. eastern. Lou, I want to talk to you a little about the White House. They suggest that the economic problems, a lot of them at least, have fallen to the hands of the democrats, Nancy Pelosi. It's Congress's fault for not giving the president the appropriations bills that he wants to sign into law.

LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: And that's our explanation for why the economy is having some problems?

BLITZER: In part it's Nancy Pelosi. DOBBS: Well, wait a minute. Is this the same White House that just a few weeks ago said everything was great in the economy? Why would you want to blame somebody for something that's going well? I mean I don't quite understand. Of course the White House may have noticed the dollar is now at an all-time low against the euro, that the Chinese government is threatening to move those dollar exchange reserves out of the dollar. They may have noticed that the national debt rose to over $9 trillion, trade debt after 31 consecutive years, a trade deficit. You know that faith based free trade nonsense that this president and frankly this Congress and the democrats as well as the republicans leading to a $6 trillion trade debt that's rising faster than our national debt and the fact that four - we're going to watch foreclosures skyrocket further, as many as two million more over the next year in this country, with a million already foreclosed. Yes, this president and this Congress need to come to their senses and quit blaming each other and assert leadership because I'm convinced that the dollar is declining because there is no international faith in the leadership of this president. There is no faith in the leadership of this Congress and these presidential candidates, Wolf, aren't showing the world or most Americans very much from either party.

BLITZER: And you better believe Lou is going to have a lot more coming up in an hour from now on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT." All right, Lou. Stand by for that.