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The Situation Room

Pilots Overshoot Airport by 150 Miles; Israel & U.S. Launch Major Military Exercise

Aired October 23, 2009 - 17:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks good, but I don't know if can keep all that down. So I'm going to eat the Double Whopper.

LAH: In Japan's economic slowdown, McDonald's has seen record profits -- fast, big portioned food at low prices. Burger King has a smaller market share, but hopes this joint promotion in tech loving Tokyo will generate buzz and business.

(on camera): It's my turn. In case you're wondering, 2,120 calories -- a whole day's calorie intake.



Kyung Lah, you go.

Thank you very much.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, busy talking or busy sleeping -- federal authorities trying to determine how a pair of airplane pilots flew 150 miles past their destination and other investigators want to know why an airliner missed the runway and landed on the strip where planes wait to take off.

What is Iran and its militant allies were to launch a missile attack on Israel?

Israel and its closest ally -- we're talking about the United States -- they've launched a major military exercise to test their defenses.

And a priest is found dead in the rectory of his New Jersey church. Police are treating it as a homicide.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Federal authorities are trying to learn how and why an airliner managed to overshoot the Minneapolis airport by 150 miles.

Were the pilots sidetracked by a heated conversation or were they both sleeping? Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, is here with the latest.

What do we know about this...


BLITZER: ...because the whole country wants to know the answer.

MESERVE: Yes. They want to know what in the world was happening in that cockpit. No answers yet and getting them may be more complicated than originally thought.


MESERVE: (voice-over): The cockpit voice recorder from Northwest Flight 188 was handed over to investigators Friday afternoon. But it is only 30 minutes long. Recordings of what was happening in the cockpit during the period the plane was out of radio contact were likely taped over.

Investigators want to know why the plane did not respond to repeated radio calls as it cruised from the Rockies almost to the Great Lakes.

STEVE WALLACE, FORMER FAA OFFICIAL: For an airliner to literally have no contact with air traffic control, for, I've heard, one hour and 18 minutes, is unthinkable in the domestic United States.

MESERVE: Air traffic controllers made repeated attempts to reach the plane on regular and emergency frequencies.

CRAIG BOEHNE, NATIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ASSOCIATION: Once the airplane passed over the airport at cruise altitude, then the level of concern and anxiety increased significantly.

MESERVE: Controllers feared that the plane had been hijacked. Fighter jets in Wisconsin were put on alert. There were interagency phone calls in Washington. The TSA checked to see if there had been screening issues with passengers.

When, with the help of other pilots, controllers eventually made contact with the plane, they found the pilot's responds vague. They asked him to make extra turns on his back to Minneapolis to verify he was in control of the aircraft.

Crew members explained the gap in communications, saying they had been distracted by an intense discussion on airline policy. Others suspect they were asleep.


MESERVE: Investigators will analyze the flight's data recorder. If it shows the plane's controls being operated during the one hour and 18 minutes of radio silence, it would appear to confirm that the crew was awake, not asleep. But the investigation has just begun -- Wolf, the NTSB is hoping to talk to the pilots either this weekend or early next week.

BLITZER: Did anybody have an example of a similar kind of incident over the years?

MESERVE: Yes. There was another incident where a flight overflow Hawaii and -- and the -- there was a problem (INAUDIBLE).

BLITZER: And did they determine what that problem was in that instance?

MESERVE: I believe in that instance they determined that they were asleep.

BLITZER: They were asleep?

MESERVE: Yes. It's a -- it's an issue that the FAA and the NTSB has been very concerned about.

But how do you regulate what a pilot is doing on their off hours?

That's the question. You can't mandate that they're asleep...


MESERVE: -- before they come on duty.

MESERVE: It's a real problem.

BLITZER: We're going to talk to somebody from the NTSB, a former official, Peter Goelz. He's here. We'll get some answers, hopefully. Stand by for that.

Federal investigators are also looking into another incident, this one is on Monday at the airport in Atlanta. Instead of landing on a main runway, where it's supposed to land, of course, a Delta flight from Brazil landed on a taxiway where planes line up and wait for departure.

How is this possible?

Our Brian Todd took a predawn flight with a pilot to get an inside view of the cockpit and what was going on -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, how could those pilots have mistaken the taxiway for the runway at Atlanta International Airport?

Well, we're going to simulate what those pilots saw, what they went through on approach at another major airport, Dulles International, just nine miles away from here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) six zero 10, we're heading three...

TODD: (voice-over): Conditions are nearly identical to what those Delta pilots saw as they approached the tarmac in Atlanta -- the same time of day, very similar weather. We meet up in Leesburg, Virginia with veteran flight instructor, Raymond De Haan. He's flown into Atlanta and several other major airports and has flown the 767.

For part of this short hop in a small Cessna, I'm at the controls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nose up a little. There you go. Kind of roll out.

TODD: Shortly after takeoff, I asked De Haan about a ground- based instrument in Atlanta that authorities say was off when that plane accidentally landed on the taxiway. It is called a localizer.

RAYMOND DE HAAN, FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR: The localizer is the instrument on the runway that sets this instrument here and guides this instrument. If the localizer is off, how does that affect the flight and the landing?

DE HAAN: It definitely is one of the factors that will -- that, if it doesn't work, it is one of the things that might lead up to landing on the wrong spot, the wrong runway and taxiway. If it works, you know, you line up those three lines and you -- you're definitely in a better shape to actually land on the proper runway.

TODD: At Dulles Airport, De Haan says, the taxiways run parallel and right next to the runways, just like Atlanta.

DE HAAN: I'm just changing it to a (INAUDIBLE) left.

TODD: Is there a taxiway next to it?

DE HAAN: Oh, yes.

TODD: As we approach, there seems to be a clear demarcation. Runways are one color, taxiways another. And De Haan says that's universal.

(on camera): This is the runway with the three (INAUDIBLE) strips. The approach lights are the bright yellow lights here. The taxiway are the blue lights to the right of it.

DE HAAN: Definitely different colored lights.

TODD: (voice-over): But in Atlanta, officials say, the bright approach lights were off.

Shortly after we land and move on to the taxiway, a passenger jet comes in. It makes a perfect touchdown, but you can see just how close it is to where we're sitting on the tarmac. Still...

(on camera): These planes are coming in parallel. You're not really thinking -- you're not alert, necessarily, to a -- a jet landing on the taxiway if you're on the taxiway?

DE HAAN: Not at all. I -- I think, rather, I would probably be thinking that it looks pretty close, but he's not going to land on the taxiway. He's going to be on the runway.

TODD: (voice-over): A disaster averted in Atlanta, De Haan says, because no other planes were on the taxiway.


TODD: Now aside from the lights and the instruments, Raymond De Haan says other factors could have played a role. Fatigue could have played a part, since the pilots had been flying a long time from Latin America on that flight. Also, the fact that the airport was not very busy at the time. You can easily distinguish planes sitting on the taxiway from an empty runway, he says. Overall, he says, it's not an easy mistake to make, but an understandable one.

Still, those pilots have been relieved from active flight for now -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you.

So how ominous are these airliner mishaps?

Are pilots being pushed too hard?

Joining us now is Peter Goelz, the former manager director of the National Transportation Safety Board. He has clients in the aviation industry.

Peter, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: Let's talk about the Minneapolis incident first. These two pilots, they overshoot the airport by 150 miles, suspicion they were asleep -- that's what happened. We don't know the answer to that yet, but give us your perspective.

GOELZ: Well, either explanation is not really acceptable or credible.

BLITZER: It isn't, isn't it?

GOELZ: If -- either explanation doesn't work very well for them. If they were having an argument, how did they ignore all of the -- the attempts to reach them?

And if they were asleep, that's even worse.

So it's a very tough situation for the pilots.

BLITZER: Well, presumably, if they were asleep -- and we don't know if they were asleep -- but if it happened, one guy falls asleep and then the other guy falls asleep.

GOELZ: Right.

BLITZER: And that's what happens.

GOELZ: It's -- it's tough, but it -- you know, it's -- it's very rare, but it has happened on occasion.

BLITZER: You're familiar with the...


BLITZER: ...the Hawaii incident that Jeanne Meserve was talking about?

GOELZ: The one in Hawaii and I believe there was one earlier, you know, a decade or so earlier.

BLITZER: And were they safe?

Did the plane land?

GOELZ: Yes, exactly.

BLITZER: So they woke up?

GOELZ: They woke up. They were the -- they were awakened and they -- they turned around and land -- landed successfully.

BLITZER: Because people don't necessarily realize so much is on automatic pilot in that cockpit, right?

GOELZ: Right. Well, that's one of the real challenges you have now, particularly on long haul flights, in which these planes are so sophisticated, so -- you know, the avionics so accurate that -- that the tasks in the pil -- in the cockpit are -- are almost rote. And then it's a -- it's a boring half of the time.

BLITZER: If the cockpit voice recorder only records 30 minutes, will we know what happened in that cockpit?

GOELZ: Well, they'll look at some other things. They'll look at the flight data recorder.

During that period of time, was there any sign that the plane was being flown?

Were there switches being thrown?

The flight data recorder records literally hundreds of parameters.

BLITZER: But if it's on autopilot, what...

GOELZ: Well, they might...

BLITZER: ...what would the pilots be doing?

GOELZ: Well, they might -- there are sometimes routine procedures that -- that might indicate that someone was at the controls.

BLITZER: But is it possible we'll never know the truth?

GOELZ: It is possible we will never know the truth, yes.

BLITZER: Unless one or two of these pilots were to (INAUDIBLE)...

GOELZ: Well, listen, it was -- it was my mistake.

BLITZER: We made a mistake.

GOELZ: We were sleeping.

BLITZER: And we feel asleep and...


BLITZER: ...and that was that. And presumably, they're going to be investigated now by the NTSB.

GOELZ: They're -- they'll be interviewed by the NTSB and by the FAA and the -- the flight attendants will be interviewed, as well. So it's going to be -- it will be an investigation. I don't think it's going to be particularly long. Hopefully, they'll -- they'll come up with a solution.

BLITZER: Lie detectors, would that be...

GOELZ: No, I don't think so.

BLITZER: You don't think it would go that far?

GOELZ: No, I don't think they'll do that.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about the taxiway as opposed to the runway...

GOELZ: Right.

BLITZER: ...what Brian Todd was just reporting.

That's pretty scary, because if there had been a plane on that taxiway...

GOELZ: An absolute disaster.

BLITZER: could have been a horrible disaster.

GOELZ: Yes. And I think that's one we've got to really spend some time looking at. And landing on a taxiway is far -- is -- is, again, unusual, but it's more common than -- than you'd think, particularly in daylight hours, where -- where you don't have the guidance from the -- from the bright lights.

So I think they're going to look very seriously at -- at fatigue in this issue. And that's the number one issue in aviation.

BLITZER: Because the -- the pilots' union suggested that pilots should be allowed to have what they called controlled naps.

GOELZ: Correct.

BLITZER: You've -- you've heard about this?

GOELZ: Absolutely.

BLITZER: Explain to our viewers what this means.

GOELZ: Well, this -- you know, there's been new scientific evidence over the past 10 years, 15 years, that shows that a catnap -- a controlled catnap really has a renewing effect on your attention span. In fact, one of the new board members -- he hasn't been confirmed yet -- at the NTSB is an expert in this area and has been an advocate for allowing pilots and others in the transportation to take a controlled nap, a brief one, as long as it's in a safe environment.

BLITZER: Yes. I'm a firm believer in a catnaps, but I'm not so sure about in the cockpit. But that's...

GOELZ: Yes, this...

BLITZER: That's another story.

GOELZ: You don't want both of them taking that nap at the same time.

BLITZER: Peter, thanks for coming in.

GOELZ: Thank you.

BLITZER: Peter Goelz, formerly of the NTSB.

As Pakistan's army carries the fight to the Taliban's turf, the militants are launching a new wave of bloody strikes, with a bicycle bomb, a car bomb and a bus attack all today.

Plus, what if -- what if Israel's enemy launch a massive missile strike?

The United States and Israel -- they're practicing war games right now.

And from a Chinese tea to swine flu shampoo -- the Feds crack down on products which play on H1N1 fears.


BLITZER: Pakistan's military continues doing what the U.S. has been pushing them to do, namely pushing deeper and deeper into al Qaeda and Taliban territory. Insurgents have launched a fresh wave of bloody attacks across the country, including one outside a key Pakistani military base. CNN's Reza Sayah has the latest from Islamabad -- Reza.

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the third time this week, militants strike in Pakistan. Two attacks on Friday, followed by a land mine incident. It all started Friday morning just outside of Islamabad. That's where police officials tell CNN a suicide bomber riding a bicycle went up to a check post outside an air force base. When security personnel tried to search him, he blew himself up, killing at least seven people.

Hours after that suicide attack, police officials say a car bomb exploded right in front of a banquet hall in a neighborhood in Peshawar. The banquet hall leased and operated by the brother of the head of a secular political party in the Northwest Frontier Province. This is a political party that has repeatedly spoken out against the Taliban and supported the recent Taliban offensive in the Swat Valley over the summer.

Later on Friday, police say a bus full of people drove over a land mine in Mohmand Agency. The Mohmand Agency one of seven districts in Pakistan's restive tribal region along the Afghan border.

The government continues to maintain most of these attacks are orchestrated and launched by the Taliban from South Waziristan. On Friday, the military continued its offensive targeting the Taliban and its leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, in that region.

Reza Sayah, CNN, Islamabad.

BLITZER: Iran has left the rest of the world hanging as to whether or not it will sign a draft agreement that could ease the dispute over its nuclear program. The plan drafted by the United Nations would have Iran ship its uranium abroad for limited enrichment and then returned for use in medical research and treatment. The U.N. set a deadline of today, but Iran says it's still studying the plan, which would make the uranium less suitable for weapons development.

With all the speculation about a possible -- possible strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, what if -- what if Iran and its militant allies in the region were to launch a massive missile attack on Israel?

Israel and its closest ally -- that's the United States -- have launched a major military exercise. It's huge.

CNN's Paula Hancocks has this report from the scene.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: (voice-over): The Americans have landed. The U.S. military arrives en masse in Israel, ready for joint war games. One thousand U.S. and Israeli personnel involved in a large and complex ballistic missile defense exercise -- testing Arrow and Patriot missile systems, the scenario being Israel is under attack.

No official word on the source of the attack that this war game is designed to address.

BRIG. GEN. DORON GAVISH, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES: The current exercise has been planned for over a year-and-a-half. Hence, it is not a response to any current real world events.

HANCOCKS: When asked if the attacking nation could be considered Iran...

REAR ADM. JOHN RICHARDSON, U.S. NAVY: I think the details of this scenario are not appropriate to describe. But I can say that it's a very challenging scenario.

HANCOCKS: Israel has used missile defense for real in the past, launching Patriot missiles to intercept SCUD missiles from Iraq during the first Gulf War. In that case, Israel needed American assistance. Defense experts say that need remains.

RON BEN-ISHAI, ISRAELI DEFENSE ANALYST: If Iran will join Syria and Hezbollah and Hamas in a -- a massive attack -- a missile attack -- missile and rocket attack on Israel, Israel will need an American help.

HANCOCKS: As well as practicing defending Israel under missile attack, this exercise is a united show of military strength between the U.S. and Israel likely meant to deter any enemy of Israel. This military exercise will be lasting three weeks on land, at sea and in the air. And military officials have been very keen to stress to us that this exercise is defensive and not offensive.

Paula Hancocks, CNN, Central Israel.


BLITZER: President Obama scheduled his first major address to the Jewish community since taking office. He'll speak November 9th here in Washington at the annual Conference of the United Jewish Communities and the Jewish Federations of North America. Top Israeli government officials are also expected to attend.

It's called Mirador, lost deep in the jungles of Guatemala. Mirador is rewriting the history of the Mayans. Our Brooke Baldwin had an exclusive chance to explore its mysteries. Her report is coming up.

And a hip-hop superstar says it's time for those who have to give back to those who don't.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Don Lemon is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Don, what's going on?

LEMON: A couple stories for you, Wolf.

Speaking at MIT today, President Barack Obama said the U.S. must take the lead on clean energy. He says critics of his energy and climate bill are making cynical claims that contradict overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is the nation that has lead the world for two centuries in the pursuit of discovery. This is the nation that will lead the clean energy economy of tomorrow, so long as all of us remember what we have achieved in the past and we use that to inspire us to achieve even more in the future.


LEMON: President Obama speaking at MIT today about climate change.

US authorities have made an official move to have film director Roman Polanski extradited from Switzerland. The formal request for him to be sent back to California was given to Swiss authorities late yesterday. Polanski was arrested last month on charges stemming from a 1977 case for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

hip hop star Ludacris is pushing the need for greater philanthropy. Addressing the National Press Club, the singer said: "You don't need a whole lot of cash to give back to the community."


LUDACRIS: No matter how much power or influence that you have, no matter what level, I feel like everybody can do something. You know, I feel like I'm leading by example right now and I just feel like you can give back in any way. Some type -- some people don't have the money to necessarily give back, but sometimes you can dedicate your time. There's so many different things that you can do.


LEMON: So if you want to send some comments about that story or any of the stories we're covering, guess where you can send it, Wolf?

BLITZER: Twitter.

LEMON: There you go.

BLITZER: You've been on -- how long have you been on Twitter, Don?

LEMON: Oh, my gosh, for -- let's see, personally, for almost two years.


LEMON: For here at work, for about a year. But listen, you know, I -- I was Tweeting about you, Wolf, because you're not following me.

BLITZER: I -- I'm not following you?

LEMON: I'm following you.

BLITZER: How can I not be...

LEMON: I don't think you are.

BLITZER: I am following you.

LEMON: Well, I'm following you now.

BLITZER: You're one...

LEMON: So anyway...

BLITZER: I've got a lot of followers, but you're -- I'm following you.

LEMON: But guess what?


LEMON: Someone says: "Wolf is that and more," saying you're very classy. "Even my daughter likes him and she is a tough one to buy and sell. Yes, Wolf is one of my favorite CNN anchors."

So they're writing about you on my site.

BLITZER: Now yours -- yours is donlemon@CNN, is that right?

LEMON: @donlemon.CNN. And yours is at wolfblitzer@CNN.

Congratulations. I'm glad you finally did it, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm finally doing (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: Tweet away.

BLITZER: It's been about a month. It's a lot of fun.

LEMON: All right, Wolf.

See you later.

BLITZER: Don, thanks very much.

LEMON: Thanks to you.

BLITZER: On the job -- the White House says it expects unemployment to stay where it is for the next year. I'll ask one of the top economic advisers over at the White House if Americans should brace for no new job creation.

What's going on and does he think we need a second economic stimulus package?

Plus, a New Jersey priest found dead in his church rectory fully clothed in his black and clerical robes. We'll give you the latest on that mystery death.

A the first lady talks to breast cancer survivors -- what she thinks health care reform can do about this disease, that kills one woman every 13 minutes.


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

Happening now, more troops for Afghanistan, as President Obama weighs America's next move, there are signs that some of the NATO allies may be willing to send more forces in, while others are definitely against it. We'll have a report from the ground in Afghanistan. That's coming up.

And campaigning for cash -- the president is a virtual ATM for the Democratic Party these days, bringing in some $25 million so far. Some say, though, that being the fundraiser-in-chief could hurt him.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Health care reform is certainly front and center over at the White House. Today, in front of a White House audience that included many breast cancer survivors, the first lady, Michelle Obama, spoke of -- about how the fight against breast cancer is tied to the need for health care reform.


MICHELLE OBAMA, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: We know we're not finished when 40,000 women a year still die from this disease. That's one woman every 13 minutes who's dying from this disease today. And we know we're not finished, especially when we have a health care system in this country that is not working for too many people with breast cancer and too many people surviving breast cancer. It's a system that only adds to the fear and stress that comes with the disease. And I'm not just talking about the disease that they have to pay for the full cost on their own. I am talking about people in this country who have insurance, who have breast cancer.


BLITZER: Officials over at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said today that the h1n1 virus commonly known as swine flu is more widespread than it's ever been. In fact, the flu is as widespread right now as it usually is much later in the winter. High flu season during those years. We're going to be talking to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the Institute on Allergies and Infectious Disease. That's coming up a little bit later here in THE SITUATION ROOM. But first let's take a closer look at the current situation with swine flu in the United States. 46 states have reported widespread flu activity. Only four, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, and South Carolina, have said that they have minimal flu cases. The CDC says that testing the flu victims found that nearly all cases were the swine flu strain and that more than 1,000 deaths are attributed to the h1n1 virus. At least 95 children have died from the illness since April alone.

As the swine flu spreads, so do online scams. The Food and Drug Administration is now warning the pubic to watch out for products making bogus claims to treat or prevent swine flu. Abbi Tatton is walking into THE SITUATION ROOM.

This is a pretty long list of these bogus claims.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: 135 different products that the FDA is looking at right now. We'll show you some of them. They are all over the place. There's an herbal tea that says it's going to be your first choice to fight against h1n1 and then there's a multitude of tablets and pills that you can find online. The FDA even found a shampoo that someone was claiming was going to protect you. Why a shampoo? The ad said because the swine flu virus is airborne. It may settle on your hair and then if you touch your hair, you can contract the illness. That ad has now been taken down. The shampoo may be great, the cup of tea might be delicious but none of these products are going to protect you from getting the h1n1 virus and the FDA is going after all of them, going after these sites saying that these products are not approved. Take them down. It's everything from air purification systems to body washes.

An FDA spokesman today tells me that 80 percent of these sites have now taken these ads down but the ones that don't, Wolf, they say they are going to turn them over to the criminal unit of the FDA.

BLITZER: So what is approved?

TATTON: Well there's two antiviral drugs. That's Tamiflu and Relenza but there's also a warning there from the FDA because the FDA says that they have found fake Tamiflu tablets circulating online, being sold online. They are warning if you're going to buy these products, buy them from licensed pharmacies and also look for the FDA approved label on the real products.

BLITZER: That's excellent advice. This is a life and death decision for all folks out there. Abbi, thank you.

A priest is found dead in the rectory of his New Jersey church. Police are treating it as a homicide. We'll have details.

Also, an exclusive look at a loss city deep in the jungle.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Frightening story from Chatham, New Jersey. That's a city about 25 miles west of New York City. This morning when Reverend Ed Hines didn't show up for mass at St. Patrick's, searchers found him dead in the rectory kitchen, apparently murdered. CNN's national correspondent Susan Candiotti is in Chatham for us right now with more on the mystery.

What do we know, Susan?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's such a tragic story, Wolf. Why would anyone want to murder a priest let alone in his rectory in the evening? This happened sometime between the hours of midnight and 8:00 in the morning when someone found his body and at this hour, we want to show you what was happening just a short time ago. As detectives have been going door to door looking in front yards, backyards, around bushes, in an apparent attempt to find the weapon used to murder father Edwin Hines, 61 years old. The prosecutor, the chief prosecutor who is investigating this case told CNN exclusively that there were multiple wounds on the front of his body and some on his back, that there were signs of an apparent struggle or a fight in the kitchen and that there were a few things out of place. Whether anything was missing, he won't say, but he did say this.


PAUL MANNING, VICAR OF EDUCATION, PATERSON, NJ: He was in fact in the company of some individuals at certain points in time during the evening. Based upon witness interviews and some information that we have outside of those witness interviews, we believe that at least as of 11:00 last night, at this preliminary stage of the investigation, he was still alive and the homicide took place sometimes after 11:00 and obviously before 8:03 when we received the 911 call.


CANDIOTTI: Now we talked with another priest earlier in the evening who said that Father Hines, the murder victim here, did have a meeting set up at about 7:00 last night but he would not disclose what that meeting was all about. At the same time, there was another meeting going on in the church that the priest was not scheduled to attend that had to do with community safety, involving the parents and the parents of the children that go to St. Patrick's school here. It was clearly that this man who was well loved.

BLITZER: What a sad story. Susan Candiotti reporting for us. All right. we'll stay on top of this. Sad indeed. Thank you very much.

Meanwhile, a positive surprise on the housing front today. Sales of existing homes beat expectations for September jumping more than 9 percent. The National Association of Realtors says resales are also up nearly 24 percent since January lows. But stock markets dropped and the Dow fell 109 points, more than 1 percent as investors sold some winners in the recent rally. All of this coming amid a cautionary course from some administration officials.

Joining us now is Jared Bernstein. He's the economic policy adviser to the vice president, Joe Biden.

Mr. Bernstein, thank you very much for coming in.


BLITZER: A very depressing report assessment given by the chair of the president's council of economic advisors, Christina Romer, yesterday to congress. I'll play a little clip and then we'll discuss.



CHRISTINA ROMER, CHAIR, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: With predicted growth right around 2.5 percent for most of the next year and a half, movements in the unemployment rate either up or down are unlikely to be small. As a result, unemployment is likely to remain at its severely elevated level.


BLITZER: Now, she's saying that if there's 2.5 percent growth next year and to some economists that's still a big if, there are still going to be 9.5 percent of unemployment throughout all of next year?

BERNSTEIN: Well, what Christy Romer was citing there, there was unemployment estimates from our mid-session review. That's our economic -- it's about the same as private sector forecasters. I think what you didn't hear in that segment of her testimony, though, was some actually more, I think, upbeat assessments having to do with jobs created through the recovery act. Thus far, the recovery act has created or saved about a million jobs. That happens to be about Dr. Romer's estimate but it's also important to know that that's also the estimate of private sector forecasters who have looked at the impact recovery act.

BLITZER: Did I hear her correctly when she said unemployment through the end of next year, 2010, would remain, basically what it is right now, 9.6 percent?

BERNSTEIN: Well, our expectation is that the unemployment rate will probably tick up some more because of the severity of the job market coming out of the --

BLITZER: So 10 percent in the short term but then might go down to 9.5 percent. But that's still a huge amount of unemployment for next year.

BERNSTEIN: That is still a huge amount of unemployment. Unacceptably high. And that's exactly what motivates us to squeeze every job out of every dollar in the recovery act. I wanted to point out, a million jobs saved so far and 3.5 million we expect to save or create over the life of the recovery act. That means there's more than twice as much job creation to come from the recovery act which is less than half spent at this point.

BLITZER: Yeah, but she also suggested that most of the good of this stimulus package, the recovery act as you call it, has already been done. I'll play this little clip for you and then we'll discuss this. Because this was very disturbing, what I heard.


ROMER: Most analysts predict that the fiscal stimulus will have its greatest impact on growth in the second and third quarters of 2009 and by mid 2010, fiscal stimulus will likely be contributing little to further growth.


BLITZER: All right. Let me just paraphrase what she said, that most of the important work of the stimulus package in the second and third quarter of this year, which has already passed and by mid-next year it will be contributing, in her word, little to further growth?

BERNSTEIN: And I think those remarks have been taken out of context in the following way. Dr. Romer was talking about GDP growth. Let's talk about jobs because as we get right down to it, what matters most to working American families who are struggling with a tough recession is jobs. There's a paper written by Christy Romer and myself early on in this administration wherein we estimated that this recovery package, $787 billion, about 45 percent or so obligated thus far so lots more to come, would create or save 3.5 million jobs. It has created or saved about one million so far. That means 2.5 million to come. That's the job story. What Christy was talking about was the GDP impact of the recovery act and as the recovery takes hold in the private sector, what you want is that private GDP to come in and take the place of public spending so we can ramp that down and help bring down ...

BLITZER: So if the economic stimulus package is going to contribute little to economic growth next year, is it time for the president to ask congress to approve another economic stimulus package?

BERNSTEIN: No. Precisely in the sense that I was discussing a second ago, Wolf. We have more than half of this act still to get to work in the American economy and some of the spending that we're talking about is kind of the reinvestment part of the act. That is, loan guarantees to firms not unlike what the president was talking today up at M.I.T., loan guarantees in the green manufacturing sector, helping some of our factories access credit, helping small business access the credit they need to make investments, seed investments whether it's high speed rail, whether it's the smart grid.

BLITZER: Excuse me for interrupting. Is he going to ask for a separate legislative package to fund all of this? BERNSTEIN: No. That's a great question. What I'm talking about are spending initiatives that are still coming out of the $787 billion recovery act, stimulus number one. And so the point there is let's focus on squeezing every job out of every dollar. In this stimulus package, that's the focus of the president, the vice president, our recovery team. That's where we're going to see 2.5 million jobs saved or created yet to come.

BLITZER: And that's the phrase, save or created. We'll discuss that on another occasion. But really quickly, Neil Barofsky who's in charge of the T.A.R.P. bailout money, he was here in THE SITUATION ROOM this week and I asked him what the white house and congress have done to make sure that the economic disaster of a year ago couldn't happen again. Listen to his response.


NEIL BAROFSKY, SPECIAL INSPECTOR GENERAL: Government has sponsored and supported several mergers that made them larger and that guarantee, that implicit guarantee of moral hazard, the idea that the government is not going to let these banks fails which was implicit a year ago and now it's explicit. We've said it. So if anything, not only have there not been any meaningful regulatory reform to make it less likely, in a lot of ways the government have made such problems more likely.


BLITZER: All right. He says the financial system is worst off today than it was a year ago because you haven't done anything about it.

BERNSTEIN: Well, let me respectfully disagree. First of all, the financial system by any measure is better off. Now, he's talking about perspective threats in the future. But if you're looking to the extent of which credit rates have fallen, if you're looking at rates of borrowing, if you're looking at the stock market, of course the financial sector is doing better. But I think there's a kernel of something important that we could agree on and that is the important need for financial reg reform, particularly in the space that the inspector general was talking about. This has to do with the ability of the government to resolve systemic risk in a way that we did not have back over a year ago when Lehman failed and it's precisely what you need, such that when large interconnected institutions facing solvency, we have to have the mechanisms to take them without bringing down the system and that's at the heart of financial reg reform.

Can I make one other quick point?

BLITZER: Very quick because we're out of time.

BERNSTEIN: OK, very quick. Jobs saved, you asked about that, 250,000 jobs in education that recipients are telling us, they are reporting to us, this is not model based. They're telling us they created 250,000 jobs thus far in classrooms across this nation. I think that's an important advantage. BLITZER: And I'm sure 250,000 people who have those jobs are grateful for those jobs right now. Jared Bernstein from the White House, thank you very much.

It's open enrollment time and that means millions of Americans are talking health care around the table but big changes are coming at many companies. Why experts say you should expect to pay more this year.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The co-pay, wherever you go you have a co- pay.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Higher co-pay, they limit some of the procedures you can get. More and more doctors are not accessible based on the private policy you have, or who your policyholder is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Prices went up every year and coverage was reduced. But fortunately, we have not been sick, so we're lucky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a little bit more expensive than it was in past years but I have family to think about and health insurance is a must.

BLITZER: What these people are talking about, what a lot of us are talking about is called open season, or open enrollment, the time when those covered by employer health insurance have to make some tough decisions on next year's coverage. This year those decisions are tougher than ever. CNN's Kate Bolduan has been looking into this.

People are getting nervous about all this, Kate.

KATE BOLDUAN: And it's an important thing to know about, Wolf. It's one thing to listen to the debate over the future of health care on Capitol Hill, it's another thing to talk about it at your dinner table and that's exactly what people across the country are doing right now. It's open enrollment season for health benefits at work, and this go around, the key phrase is it may be brace yourself, big changes could be on the horizon at many companies and benefits experts say employee could expect to pick up more of the tab. Well what does that mean? Well we talked to several experts today and they say that could mean you could see higher deductibles, higher employee contributions, higher out of pocket costs for one. What else you could see, possible surcharges for spousal coverage, that's if your spouse already has access to coverage through their own work. And another thing, keep an eye out for incentives to stay healthy and that, health care consultant Barry Schilmeister, is becoming more and more of a trend.


BARRY SCHILMEISTER, MERCER HEALTH CARE CONSULTANT: Over 50 percent of the cost of care is driven by people's behaviors, things that they can change and modify, and improve their health. And by improving their health, controlling costs. So more employers are looking for ways to insent people to do the right thing, whether it's to stop smoking, whether it's to lose weight, more and more employers are trying to insent people to do the kinds of things that will save money over time.


BOLDUAN: Now something else to look out for. A shift from a co- pay to a co-insurance model which means employees pay a percentage of the true medical cost. In English, you ask? Yes, of course. With a co-pay, no matter the true cost of the doctor's visit, you pay a flat fee, typically $10 or $20. With co-insurance, you could pay 10 or 20 percent of the total medical expense, Wolf, so it could be a bit higher depending.

BLITZER: We're all studying this and we're going to watch it together with you, Kate. Thanks very much.

We're taking you deep into the jungle of Guatemala in a CNN exclusive challenge of protecting this area, so rich in history from drug traffickers and other threats, that's next.


BLITZER: Guatemalan archaeologists are making an fascinating discovery. Let's go to CNN's Brooke Baldwin. She traveled to Mirador and came back with an amazing story.

Brooke, tell our viewers what's going on.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I think I'm officially an archaeology geek. Our CNN crew were the first TV camera in the world to shoot the face of what may be the world's largest pyramid by volume. This pyramid is covered by the canopy of the jungle. It is currently facing several threats.


BALDWIN: From the air, it looks like just jungle. But these forests in Guatemala hide an ancient secret, the city of Mirador, often referred to as the cradle of Mayan civilization, the size of a modern day metropolis. This is no mountain. It's a pyramid and according to the Mirador base and project, it may be the largest pyramid by volume in the world. CNN is traveling with the project's director and lead archaeologist Richard Hansen and the founder of the Global Heritage Fund Jeff Morgan.

RICHARD HANSEN, DIR., MIRADOR BASIN PROJECT: The pyramid is a structure the world should know because it represents an investment of labor unprecedented in the world history. Every single stone in that building, from the bottom to the top, was carried by human labor.

BALDWIN: And the work to save this pyramid is delicate, done by hand. Guatemalan archaeologists painstakingly help uncover pieces of history built by their ancestors and the view from the top is spectacular.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is some of the Maya world.

BALDWIN: Here on the top, we're 72 meters or 224 feet from the forest floor and when we talk about sheer size of this area that is el Mirador, just one single Mayan city, archaeologist Dr. Richard Hansen says its size is larger than all of downtown Los Angeles and he says there are still thousands of pyramids yet to be uncovered.

Then Dr. Hansen shows us something few people have ever seen, a relic that is the Mayan story of creation. Oh, my gosh. CNN cameras are the first to capture this fresh discovery which Hansen says will rewrite Mayan history.

This is the creation story of the Mayan people.

HANSEN: This is the creation story and it goes back to at least 300, 200 B.C.

BALDWIN: For decades, historians believe the pyramid was tainted by the Catholic views of Spanish conquistadors. Finding this freeze changes everything because it predates the Spanish arrival by more than a millennium. The challenge now is preserving this area, a jungle, constantly under threat by narco traffickers, loggers and cattle ranchers. Hansen's guards are on constant standby to keep looters out.

HANSEN: We have had guards in cities throughout the basin, where we haven't had the resources for that, we have lost 100 percent.

BALDWIN: Hansen has made Mirador his life's work and hopes to share these Mayan secrets with Guatemala and the world.

HANSEN: The science for the sake of science is sterile (inaudible) blessing the lives of people. And by conserving this, we're blessing the lives of an entire nation.


BALDWIN: Gorgeous, isn't it? The Global Heritage Fund is a nonprofit organization also working to preserve Mirador. They have several sites like this around the world, Laos, Cambodia, Turkey -- the goal, to conserve the history of these sites and develop a sustainable tourist industry, Wolf, so that the people closest to the site, including the native Guatemalans in this case, are the ones who will benefit the most.

BLITZER: Amazing stuff, Brooke. Thanks for bringing it to us.