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The Situation Room

Victims, Activists Protest Gun Violence; Feds Plan Major Crib Recall; American Pilgrim in Mecca; Northern Ireland in Political Crisis

Aired November 23, 2009 - 17:00   ET


MALVEAUX: Well, the first state dinner is always a big event for the White House. President George W. Bush hosted Mexican President Vicente Fox. That was in September in 2001 of his first term. President Clinton was in office more than 500 days before hosting the Japanese emperor at his first state dinner. And then President Carter -- he didn't wait as long. He hosted his first just 24 days into his term. His guest, the Mexican president. And British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, she was the guest of the Reagans at their first state dinner. That was in February of 1981.


Happening now, even as the Pentagon reviews what went wrong at Fort Hood, one of the victims of the shooting rampage, a 55-year-old grandmother, is laid to rest.

A public dispute over abortion between Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Roman Catholic bishops -- Kennedy says that he was ordered to stop receiving communion. And I'm going to ask his home state bishop to respond.

And he risked his own life in a war zone to bring wheelchairs to children who were caught in Iraq's crossfire -- we'll bring you the story of one of CNN's heroes.

Wolf Blitzer is off.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Investors put an end to a three day losing streak on Wall Street, sending the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 133 points, to a 13 month high. Behind the move, stronger home sales, a weak dollar and a surge in commodities like oil and gold.

As he huddled with his cabinet today, President Obama said that the economy is growing again for the first time in a year. But...


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot sit back and be satisfied given the extraordinarily high unemployment levels that we've seen. We have only taken the first step in curing our economy and making sure that it is moving on the right track. And I will not rest until businesses are investing again and businesses are hiring again and people have work again.


MALVEAUX: I want to bring in our CNN chief business correspondent, Ali Velshi, to talk a little bit about this -- Ali, we know that the home sales were up today.


MALVEAUX: So what does it mean for the economy?

How significant is that?

VELSHI: Well, Suzanne, it is significant. But there are basically three things upon which the -- the American rests in terms of feeling propseri -- prosperous. One are the value of your home. One is the value of your investments. And the third is the value of your income.

And, obviously, income is hit when unemployment is high and jobs are lost.

A group of economists, the National Association of Business Economics, surveyed 48 economists, all of whom say -- or the majority of whom say this recession is over, it probably ended in the last month or so. But they -- and they've actually said the growth next year -- economic growth will be a little better than what they thought. So initially, in October they -- they had thought that the end of the year would see 2.4 percent growth on the screen. You can you see it there. Now, they're predicting 3 percent. That's GDP.

For 2010, they were predicting 3 percent back in October. Now they're predicting that growth in the next year will be 3.2 percent. It's a minor increase, but it's -- it's in the right direction.

Here's the problem. And you just mentioned it by -- by mentioning what the president said -- jobs, when did jobs start growing again?

They had felt that it was going to be in January. Now they've pushed that back to March. And even then, it doesn't look all that robust. So when you look at our economy, Suzanne, you've got the bad and you've got the good. The bad right now, it is very obvious, it is the job situation. We have unemployment at 10.2 percent. Thirteen states have an unemployment rate higher than 10.2 percent. You can guess at some of those, Suzanne, because they typically are manufacturing states or states where there was a construction boom. Unemployment is up in 29 states over the previous month.

So we -- that's the bad part of the equation.

How do you recover in this economy with a weak consumer or people who are losing jobs?

Let's look at the good side of this economy. And you started off talking about the stock market. It is up 19 percent since the beginning of this year. So if you're looking at your 401(k) and you were broadly invested, it's probably up about 19 percent. It's up more than 58 percent since the low, which we hit in March, about March 9th.

And GDP, which is the largest measure of our economy, did grow in the third quarter of this year, July through October.

So, yes, the recession is probably over. The economy is continuing to grow. But we are job dependent, as most countries are. You have to have a job in order to prosper. And we still have a major, major problem when it comes to unemployment, Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: A very mixed bag there, Ali, good news and bad news.


MALVEAUX: Thank you so much.

The Pentagon today revealed that the objectives of its review of the Fort Hood massacre, saying that it's going to try to find out whether weaknesses in its own programs actually contributed to this tragedy. The military -- it's going to look at the ways potential threats are identified, along with the force protection programs and emergency response, things like that. And underscoring the urgency of this review, there was a solemn and poignant farewell today for one of those victims of the massacre.

I want to go live to our CNN's Elaine Quijano.

She is at the Pentagon -- obviously, Elaine, underscoring, really, what a tragic situation this was and some of the things that the military needs to do to -- to respond to it.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely Suzanne. In the wake of the Fort Hood massacre, the Pentagon's review of its own procedures is now underway. Today, the former military officials heading up that review met with Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Meantime, at Arlington National Cemetery, family members laid to rest a grandmother who made military service her life's work.


QUIJANO: (voice-over): Just days before Thanksgiving, the family of Lieutenant Colonel Juanita Warman gathered to say good-bye. At Arlington National Cemetery, her husband, daughters and mother endured the cold and rain to take part in a heart-wrenching ritual -- receiving flags beside Warman's grave.

SHERRY STERN, FRIEND OF LIEUTENANT COLONEL WARMAN: And I think it would be truthful to say that she died as she lived -- passionate, caring and serving others.

QUIJANO: Warman was a grandmother who joined the Army Reserve more than 20 years ago. But the September 11th attacks moved her and she shifted to active duty. A family friend says Warman served in Germany, where she volunteered to fly to Iraq and Afghanistan to pick up the wounded. Then, earlier this month, one day before the massacre, Warman arrived at Fort Hood -- a 55-year-old military physician assistant preparing to deploy to Iraq.

LT. COL. MICHAEL GAFFNEY, U.S. ARMY: She knew the risks -- behaviorally, mental health wise, psychologically. And -- and she willingly took that risk to go. And I think that makes her a real hero.

QUIJANO: A native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Warman was a nurse practitioner who specialized in cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and traumatic brain injuries. And those who worked alongside her say she pursued another passion -- helping fellow women in the military.


DR. CHRISTINA WATLINGTON, WARMAN'S COWORKER: She had a lot of enthusiasm working with the military, working with veterans. She was specifically interested in working with women. She was interested in women's issues in the military and just really speaking out on women's issues.


QUIJANO: In the days after the Fort Hood massacre and the outpouring of emotion at the memorial service on post, Warman's mother reflected on her daughter's accomplishments.

EVA WADDLE, WARMAN'S MOTHER: I'm very proud of her. Somehow she brought us all closer together, too.


QUIJANO: Now, Warman came from a military family. Her brother, father, grandfather and great grandfather were all soldiers. As for that Pentagon review, the report is due to the Defense secretary by January 15th -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: OK. Thank you so much, Elaine.

Jack Cafferty is in New York with The Cafferty File -- hi, Jack.

CAFFERTY: What a terrific piece that was.

MALVEAUX: It was excellent.

CAFFERTY: Yes. Very moving.

MALVEAUX: It was really good. Very touching.

CAFFERTY: President Obama's approval rating has now dropped below 50 percent for the first time. With that in mind, "New York Times" columnist Maureen Dowd is suggesting in her Sunday column that President Obama could learn a thing or three from Sarah Palin. Dowd is one of my very favorite writers and writes that: "With the former vice presidential candidate back on the trail promoting her book, she clearly has not boned up on anything and "still has that yoda-like syntax."

But Dowd warns it would be foolish for the Democrats to write off Sarah Palin. Maureen Dowd says although President Obama is highly intelligent and likable, he's not connecting on a gut level with the public. Dowd suggests he might be getting too bogged down in pragmatism and the details of legislative compromise.

Dowd writes, the president, who she calls the cerebral one, might want to take lessons from Palin, the visceral one. Quote here: "Palin can be stupefyingly simplistic, but she seems dynamic. Obama is impressively complex, but he seems static. She nurtures her grassroots, he neglects his. He struggles to transcend identity politics while she wallows in them. As he builds an emotional moat around himself, she exuberantly pushes whatever she has, warts and all."

Meanwhile, it's clear Sarah Palin is saying something that people want to hear. She sold 300,000 copies of her book the first day -- one of the best openings ever for a nonfiction book, easily topping people like Hillary Clinton.

As for President Obama, the latest Gallup daily tracking poll puts his approval rating at 49 percent -- the first time he's dropped below 50 percent since taking office.

So with all that in mind here's the question -- what can President Obama learn from Sarah Palin?

Go to and post a comment on my blog.

I love Maureen Dowd. "Sarah Palin is stupefyingly simple and still has her yoda-like syntax."

It doesn't get any better than that -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: And, you know, Jack, it's interesting covering President Obama during the campaign. The criticism really hasn't really changed that much. It's the same kind of criticism he got during the campaign. It's pretty consistent.

CAFFERTY: But during the campaign, when he was packaged and presented to us in 30 second TV commercials and in those well- orchestrated and rehearsed speeches, he was, I think, more electrifying and interesting than he's become in the nine or 10 months he's -- he's been in office. That's just my own opinion.

MALVEAUX: There were a lot of electrifying rallies went to over the -- over the course of a couple of years.

Thanks, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Oh, yes. Sure.

MALVEAUX: A communion battle pitting the son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy against his bishop -- the young Congressman is now being barred from taking communion. The bishop is standing by live to join us with his side of the story.

Also, tainted drywall from China is causing serious problems for American homeowners. Some even say it is making them sick -- and now we know why.

Plus, a controversial run-in between police and an unruly train passenger now caught on tape.


MALVEAUX: The son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy is now locked in a high profile battle with his bishop. Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island says that the head of the Providence Roman Catholic Diocese has barred him from taking communion because of Kennedy's support for abortion rights. Well, Bishop Thomas Tobin -- he is standing by, joining us live in just a moment.

But first, I want to bring in our own Mary Snow.

She's got some details about the story and what this controversy is about -- hey, Mary.


Well, Bishop Tobin says Congressman Kennedy's comments are misleading and he's now speaking out. But this rift between politics and prayer is also exposing a much larger divide among Catholics.


SNOW: (voice-over): An extremely personal religious ritual has now become the focus of an intensely political clash, one that pitches Congressman Patrick Kennedy against Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, over Kennedy's support of abortion rights.

The bishop is speaking out after Kennedy was quoted in "The Providence Journal" saying: "The bishop instructed me not to take communion and said that he has instructed the Diocesan priests not to give me communion."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WJAR) MOST REV. THOMAS TOBIN, BISHOP OF PROVIDENCE: The fact that I had instructed all of our pastors not to give him Holy Communion, which, of course, is patently false. I have no idea where he came up with that little piece of fiction.


SNOW: Bishop Tobin says he did write to Kennedy in February of 2007, saying: "I believe it is inappropriate for you to be receiving Holy Communion and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so."

But he says, he did not order priests to deny Kennedy communion, saying: "I am writing to you personally and confidentially as a pastor addressing a member of his flock."

Requests for comment from Congressman Kennedy went unanswered. But Kennedy has been outspoken about the threat by Catholic bishops to oppose health care reform if it includes federal money to fund abortions. Last month, he told the Cybercast News Service that bishops were fanning the flames of dissent and discord.


REP. PATRICK KENNEDY (D), RHODE ISLAND: Right now, we have 50 million people who are uninsured.

Do you mean to tell me the Catholic Church is going to be denying those people life-saving health care?

I thought they were pro-life.


SNOW: Whether a Catholic politician's views should influence his right to communion, say theologians, is heavily debated inside the church.

REV. THOMAS REESE, S.J. GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: The simple fact is that most bishops don't want to deny communion to politicians. And we know for a fact that Pope John Paul II gave communion to pro-choice Italian politicians.

So the question is, Bishop Tobin more Catholic than the pope on this?

SNOW: CNN's Vatican analyst points out that just a few months ago, Congressman Kennedy's father, Senator Ted Kennedy, who also supported abortion rights, was exalted in the Catholic Church when he died.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: That may seem contradictory to some people, but the plain reality is that the Catholic Church and the Catholic bishops of America are divided, not so much on the abortion issue -- they're uniformly pro-life -- but on the question of how do you police fidelity to the pro-life position inside the church.


SNOW: Now, Bishop Tobin and Congressman Kennedy were supposed to meet earlier this month to discuss their differences. That meeting never happened -- Suzanne.

MALVEAUX: All right.

Thank you, Mary. And for more on this controversy, we're actually joined by Thomas Tobin, the bishop of Providence.

Thank you so much, Bishop, for being here.

You should know that we also...

REV. THOMAS TOBIN, BISHOP OF PROVIDENCE: Suzanne, thank you very much.

MALVEAUX: Sure -- invited Congressman Patrick Kennedy to join us, at least respond to this story through his office. And personally, he -- he declined. He did not.

So we want to move forward here.

Are you singling out Representative Kennedy here?

Is this typical?

Do you normally take parishioners who, perhaps, go against some of the Catholic doctrine and quietly, secretly tell them, do not go to Communion?

TOBIN: Sure. First of all, support to clarify, I haven't singled out Congressman Kennedy. He really began this discussion, he began this debate with the attack on the church that you aired just a few seconds ago. So everything I've done from the very beginning of this discussion, this debate has been in response to something that the congressman has -- has said.

I think it's -- it's not unusual for pastors to -- to work with their parishioners about their preparation for Holy Communion, to receive Holy Communion. And nobody has an absolute right (AUDIO GAP).

MALVEAUX: Oh, yes. Oops -- I -- I apologize.


MALVEAUX: Oops, OK. I think -- I'm sorry, bishop. We -- we lost some of your audio. I'm going to -- I'm going to have to ask you to repeat that.

The bottom line here is this was two years ago that you sent this letter to the congressman about not seeking out, receiving Communion?

Is this something that you normally do quietly, secretly with other parishioners?

Are you doing it because he is in a political office, he is a high profile individual?

TOBIN: Right. And yes, there is the difference between someone who is the average Catholic in the pew. They, too, have to be prepared to receive Holy Communion. And someone like the congressman, who is in a very high profile position, who is in a position to effect legislation that enables or facilitates abortion, then, very quickly, we get into the question of scandal and division and confusion in the Catholic community.

So, in a sense, people in public positions are -- are held to a higher standard because of their responsibility...

MALVEAUX: Well, you do...

TOBIN: ...because of their authority.

MALVEAUX: Do you think this is a scandal, the position that he's taken regarding health care and -- and having people be able to have access to abortion?

Do you consider that a scandalous issue?

TOBIN: Absolutely. Not -- not so much his position on health care, because he supports health care reform, as the bishops do. But because of his longstanding support of abortion, that is a scandal. I think it's a source of great confusion for lots of Catholic -- lots of -- lots of Catholics.

How can you claim to be a Catholic but also support abortion, as I've said on other occasions?

That's really false advertising. You can't support abortion and be a dedicated, involved Catholic.

MALVEAUX: Both of you seemed to agree, at least earlier, you were going to keep this thing quiet. The congressman has gone public.

Do you think he's trying to politicize this?

TOBIN: I don't know. I don't know how to read his intentions or his motives. I'm very disappointed. The letter I sent to him almost three years ago -- the subject of debate now -- was intended to be personal, confidential and -- and private. But he revealed the content of that over the weekend. I'm very disappointed by that and I don't know what his reasons are.

MALVEAUX: Bishop, I'm sorry. We have run out of time, so we're going to have to leave it there.

But thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

TOBIN: You're very, very welcome.

Thank you.

MALVEAUX: Terror taken to a new level -- we are getting new details of a mass beheading.

Also, an American in Mecca -- this pilgrim is bringing something that is special to Islam's holiest city.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MALVEAUX: Alina Cho is watching all the stories that are coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Alina, what are you watching?

CHO: Hey, Suzanne.

According to military reports, 21 people have been kidnapped and killed in the Philippines. Local media reports the victims include the wife and sister of a local politician and 12 journalists. Reports say they may have been raped, tortured, even beheaded. According to the military, the deaths were meant to prevent a challenge to the current governor.

An Illinois insurance executive pleaded not guilty today to charges he stalked ESPN reporter Erin Andrews in three states. Michael Barrett is accused of videotaping the reporter nude by shooting through the peep holes of her hotel room doors. He then allegedly tried to sell the videos and posted some online. If convicted, Barrett could face up to five years in jail and a fine of $250,000.

A shocking incident to tell you about on San Francisco's BART subway system. Take a look at this -- shouting and apparently drunk, that man there was forced from a train by an unidentified transit police officer. Then, both men were injured as a plate glass window shattered during the arrest, as you can see there. Both men were treated for injuries. An investigation is now underway.

And for the past 30 years, one constant on the "Morning Edition" program on National Public Radio, NPR, has been the deep voice of newscaster Carl Kasell. The 75-year-old Kasell will retire on December 30th. But not to worry, he will continue on NPR's weekend quiz program, "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me," where the top prize is -- Suzanne, the voice of Carl Kasell in your answering machine.

MALVEAUX: I love that program. That's a great program.


MALVEAUX: Wait, wait don't tell me. I know the answer.

CHO: That's right.

MALVEAUX: All right. Thanks, Alina.

CHO: You bet.

MALVEAUX: Well, a day of outrage in cities across the country. Crime victims and anti-gun activists take to the streets to protest violence on the streets.

Plus, it smells like rotten eggs and it may be damaging your home and your health. It is the news that thousands of homeowners have been waiting for -- what is really in that Chinese drywall?

And the story of one of our CNN Heroes. He risked his own life in a war zone to bring wheelchairs to children in Iraq. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


Happening now, your sleeping child could be in danger. Tomorrow, the Consumer Products Safety Commission is expected to announce a major recall of cribs.

Don't wait. We're going to tell you what you need to know now.

Plus, watch what you share with those online so-called friends -- your boss, a future employer, even your insurance company. Well, they could all be watching. Straight ahead, a reminder that nothing on the Internet is private.

And Oprah Winfrey introduced many of us to Dr. Oz. Well, today we'll ask him for some advice on avoiding the swine flu and his emotional reaction to the end of Oprah's TV program.

Wolf Blitzer is off today.

I'm Suzanne Malveaux.


They're calling it a Day of Outrage. Victims of violence and anti-gun activists -- they're joining together on the streets of cities where crime has taken a bloody toll.

Our CNN's Brooke Baldwin, she tells us what this is all about.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Suzanne, outrage against gun violence. That's the real reason behind this rally and 19 others just it nationwide raising this awareness of what some organizers are calling an epidemic.




BALDWIN: This group of activists isn't just fired up, they are fed up with violence in their community. National Action Networks call this day of outrage as a result of news story after news story highlighting senseless murders plaguing neighborhoods nationwide. A Spellman College student killed on campus in Atlanta, a grandmother hit by a stray bullet from a gun fight in the neighborhood while watching television in her Bronx home in New York City, yet FBI statistics show violent crime is down 1.9 percent from 2007 to 2008.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The show of hands, how many of you know someone in a gang? Every one of you.

BALDWIN: This group of Georgia girls ages 12 to 14 is attending the Atlanta rally. Each has a personal story to share about guns and gangs in their community.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not fair to everybody else when we have to suffer from our family being hurt and killed. That's how more people are dropping out of school because they get jumped every single time they come home and it's very, very scary.

BALDWIN: Scary enough to prompt this 12-year-old to do something, starting the youth group Shake Off The Violence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you do have a message, speak what you feel, and if you feel like shaking off violence is right, let everybody know. Tell your story.

BALDWIN: Well, these young ladies are out promoting positivity and choice, the reverend Al Sharpton is pushing for accountability, and along with that he says the need to erode this false sense of heroism that in some high-crime communities comes with wielding a weapon.

REV. AL SHARPTON, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: We must deglorify that and we must make it shameful in the community because it -- this glorification has been met with other silence, and if we can slowly start to turn around with gatherings like today that you're not to be looked up to, you're to be shunned, it at least takes the popularity out.


BALDWIN: Really the biggest message out here today besides the obvious in raising awareness is community responsibility. Reverend Al Sharpton points to churches, schools, all stepping up to stop the violence, Suzanne.


The Consumer Product Safety Commission, it plans to announce a major crib recall. That is tomorrow, and a spokesman for the federal agency isn't -- he hasn't provided details but says it's going to be really important for parents to pay close attention. And a spokesman says that the CPSC is working on mandatory rules to make all cribs safer. The recall will reportedly target cribs with drop-down sides. There are more than 5 million cribs, bassinets and play yards already recalled since the start of 2007.

Well, it gives off a smell like rotten eggs, and it may be damaging your home as well as your health. There are thousands that have suspected that there is something very wrong with the Chinese drywall that's installed in their homes. A new government study is connecting more of the dots. Our CNN's Sean Callebs has been looking into all of this.

And Sean, obviously a lot of interest in this story. What are you finding?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Suzanne, indeed. A lot of people have been watching this for months and now after months of waiting for these test results to come in, we know the federal government says, yes, there is a connection between this tainted Chinese drywall and a host of problems that homeowners are experiencing all over the country but chiefly in Virginia, Louisiana and in Florida. But the big question, who is going to pay to have all of this removed? And is it posing a health risk?


JOAN GLICKMAN: I can't get rid of the smell.

CALLEBS: The federal government is confirming what Joan Glickman of Pompano Beach, Florida suspected all along, tainted drywall from China is giving off a harmful gas that's turning her air conditioning wiring black, causing it to fail. It's destroying electrical wiring and corroding metal throughout her home and she believes making her sick.

GLICKMAN: They can't tell me what's happening to me now, and more importantly they can't tell me what's going to happen to me in 20 years, you know. Am I going to end up with like asbestos person with lung cancer?

CALLEBS: In its report the Consumer Products Safety Commission says more testing is need to determine whether the gas might cause health problems. Florida Senator Bill Nelson whose state has seen more complaints than all others combined agrees with Joan Glickman. Nelson says, "We didn't learn a whole lot new today. I'm still disappointed the government is taking too long to establish whether there's a link between drywall, corrosion and health problems." Hydrogen sulfide is a noxious gas that smells like rotten eggs and corrodes metals through effected homes. Environmental health and engineers did a study for the CPSC and said warm, humid conditions magnify the problem.

JACK MCCARTHY, ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH & ENGINEERING: We found a direct relationship between temperature and humidity levels that are in the homes, and the amount of hydrogen sulfide being given off by the wall board.

CALLEBS: There have been thousands of complaints about Chinese drywall and on the heels of this new report, the government is expecting more answers, and homeowners like Joan Glickman will have to wait, wondering whether their dream home is actually a ticking time bomb.

GLICKMAN: It's a huge letdown because it still didn't tell me how to fix it, who is going to fix it, how we go about fixing it, where the money comes from. This has left us in such a mess.


CALLEBS: Yeah, what a mess indeed. The feds say if there is a hint of good news they believe they have a handle on all the inventories of this tainted Chinese drywall throughout the country so no more is working its way back into the marketplace and secondly, Suzanne, they say the border patrol has successfully stopped any new Chinese drywall from coming into the U.S. in all of 2009.

MALVEAUX: So Sean, who is going to pay for all of this if those people need the drywall replaced? Do they pay for it themselves?

CALLEBS: Right now that's a huge issue, and it's tough. There is a massive class action lawsuit going on. Insurance companies will not touch it. They say, look, if tainted Chinese drywall was put in, that's a defective product. It's out of our hands so it's a tough issue. The white house and feds are trying to hammer out a way to take care of all of these people burned by this product.

MALVEAUX: All right. Sean, thank you so much.

I want to take a look at the story by the numbers. There are 7 million sheets of Chinese drywall imported this decade, and not all of them were problematic, and that problematic variety. There are 2,000 complaints that have been received by the consumer products safety commission, and those complaints come from 32 states, the District of Columbia as well as Puerto Rico. Now the CPSC has reached out to the governors of all 50 states and U.S. territories to look into this problem and obtain more information on this Chinese drywall.

Well, he is an American convert. He's taking part in Islam's holy pilgrimage to Mecca. What he's bringing with him and what he'll be taking away.

Plus, swine flu, mammograms, cervical cancer screenings. Lots of conflicting information. Well, we've got Dr. Oz who is standing by to help us sort through it all.


MALVEAUX: More than 2 million Muslims are expected to travel to Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage which begins this week in Islam's holy city of Mecca. CNN's Isha Sesay caught up with one of the faithful whose background is different than most.


ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He's an American pilgrim in Mecca for the Hajj. Taking part in prayers here in front of the grand mosque 31-year-old Hamza Castillo is a world away from his life in Houston, Texas, and yet he says he feels completely at ease amongst the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims filling the streets of this holy city.

HAMZA CASTILLO, AMERICAN PILGRIM: Just coming here would have felt, it was like literally being home. This is what we believe is god's house.

SESAY: Being an American Muslim convert in the birthplace of Islam has aroused curiosity in some.

CASTILLO: People ask me like where are you from? They notice an accent when I speak Arabic, and they ask me where I'm from and I say I'm from America and given the way things have been going between the United States and the Muslim world I've really wanted to put forward that and say, you know, I'm an American. I'm here in Mecca. I'm a believer just like you.

SESAY: He converted to Islam ten years ago while studying international relations at university. The decision caught most of his family off guard.

CASTILLO: When people are in college they do crazy things, so I think they thought it was a phase and I think they thought, you know, he'll grow out of it.

SESAY: But instead his attachment to Islam grew, and he adopted the name Hamza in 2002. Just newly married, he says it was a spur of the moment decision to perform the Hajj pilgrimage this year. His days have been filled with prayer and meditation.

CASTILLO: It's really humbling. You really see that we're all, you know, we're all the same, as cliches as it might sound. Everybody is here. Everybody -- there is really no distinction. We all have to take off our shoes when we go to the mosque. We all put our foreheads on the floor when we pray. The distinctions go out window.

SESAY: The Hajj is a requirement for all able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, and for Hamza and like many others the pilgrimage holds the potential for personal transformation.

CASTILLO: I'm praying for two things. I'm praying, one, for change, change in myself. This is I think what it's about, and the other thing is to just realign myself with Muslims.

SESAY: Hamza believes the rest of the world can draw lessons from the millions of Hajj pilgrims gathered here in Mecca.

CASTILLO: For non-Muslims, that this is a great message of humanity, of togetherness, of understanding, certainly of patience, certainly of tolerance.

SESAY: Lessons which he believes would undoubtedly make the world a better place for us all.

Isha Sesay, CNN, Mecca, Saudi Arabia.


MALVEAUX: The fragile peace in Northern Ireland may be in danger of unraveling. Our CNN senior international correspondent Nic Robertson has details of now violence that is rocking the province.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is the massive car bomb that came close to destroying Northern Ireland's policing board headquarters. As forensic teams continued to search the area for bomb fragments, the mangled vehicle showed the force of the partial detonation of 180 kilograms of explosives on board. The damage could have been much greater. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the bomb here had gone off, it would have destroyed the link. It could have killed people because there are people who live in this area, and it could have just been another Omar bomb.

ROBERTSON: The Omar bomb in 1988 killed 28 people and was planted by a dissident terror group which calls itself the Real IRA, the same group of suspected of being behind the attack on the policing board. The Good Friday peace agreement of the same year was supposed to put an end to violence, but some Irish Republicans refused to follow their leaders and lay down their weapons. In the past few years, those dissident Republicans have been getting stronger.

PROFESSOR PAUL BEW, QUEENS UNIVERSITY BELFAST: They have the capacity, a kind of knock-on effect on a fragile political settlement by their impact on other actors and players within the political structures working under the Good Friday agreement.

ROBERTSON: While nobody expects a return to the sort of violence that racked Northern Ireland for decades, the province is in political crisis. The two rival parties that share power, the Democratic Unionists and the Republican Sinn Fein. They are unwilling to compromise how Northern Ireland takes control of its policing departments. The unionists are backing out.

BEW: They know what the delay signs are until after the next election. Sinn Fein says we can't put up with the delay. We have an understanding that this particular plank of the Good Friday agreement be implemented.

ROBERTSON: And it's this vacuum the dissidents are exploiting. This weekend not only the bomb attack but the attempted shooting of a police officer. It was foiled, five men arrested. The commission that monitors dissidents says their threat is the highest in years. They pose a major challenge to law enforcement and other agencies. The attack on the policing board here is calling into question security measures in this area, but across Northern Ireland some politicians are calling for a return of the army to help the police on the streets.

Nic Robertson, Belfast, Northern Ireland.


MALVEAUX: Well, a social networking nightmare, how one woman found out the hard way that friends aren't the only ones that are following her on Facebook?


MALVEAUX: A warning about what you post online. Amanda Pfeiffer of CBS, she's got that story.

AMANDA PFEIFFER: So where was this? Natalie Blanchard depends on her community of Facebook friends a lot these days. In February 2008 she says after ten years working at IBM her life started town raffle. I suffered anxiety depression. I couldn't work anymore. In fact, she says her doctor, as well as the company's insurance psychiatrist, ordered her to go on disability insurance. That's what she's been living on until she was cut off last month. She says she phoned her insurance representative to find out why.

NATALIE BLANCHARD: She told me she took a picture of my Facebook and some incidents and she said that I'm not sick.

PFEIFFER: She says the representative referred to these pictures of a Chippendale event at a local bar as well as comments she made about climbing a local mountain. Her lawyer is Tom Lavin. He's preparing a suit against IBM as well as the insurance company.

TOM LAVIN, BLANCHARD'S ATTORNEY: Because there are no precedents, it's a free-for-all right now. And probably there are no rules or boundaries.

PFEIFFER: Lavin says the insurance company says its decision is based on a psychiatric re-evaluation. Natalie hasn't met with the psychiatrist. IBM's insurance company made the following statement, "We would not terminate a valid claim solely based on information published on websites such as Facebook." Still insurance companies make no credit that Facebook has become an investigative tool.


PFEIFFER: So far the insurance company, according to Natalie's lawyer, has not handed over its re-evaluation report.

BLANCHARD: I don't understand why I give all my life to IBM to get what I get now.

PFEIFFER: IBM has not commented on this case.

Amanda Pfeiffer, CBC News, Montreal.


MALVEAUX: Time now to check back in with Jack Cafferty. Hey Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Provocative inquiry this hour Suzanne. What can President Obama learn from Sarah Palin?

Audrey in British Columbia, "He could learn that by being ignorant, vapid, divisive and stupid that the media will follow you around and make out that you are bigger and better than you really are. Sarah Palin is a media phenom and nothing else. Just the fact that you have this question on your program should state the obvious to you.

Ken in North Carolina, "I'd hate to say this but Sarah Palin excites her base. Candidate Obama did the same thing in a much better way, but now as president he has left that position and become a Mr. Suit. I think the lesson he should learn is to get back on his campaign clothes, go up on capitol hill and take charge. Lead the Democratic senators out of their stupidity."

Chad in Anchorage writes, "How to be a quitter in the middle of a term."

Dana writes, "He could learn, if it's not too late, to stop taking all the press, positive and negative, so personally and seriously. Whether you like Palin or not, you cannot deny that she has risen above the most horrifying and degrading insults towards herself, her husband and her children. She's brushed the tire tracks off her back and surged ahead. That woman has a backbone and that alone must be foreboding for a president who continues to bow."

Lisa writes, "How to make bumper sticker catch phrases sound like policy to 26 percent of the nation."

Will in Vermont says, "This has to be by far one of the dumbest questions you've ever asked. Why would we need to learn anything from her? And don't you have anything more interesting to be asking about?" Apparently not.

Gary writes, "Quit apologizing for America. Wasilla doesn't want to become part of the European Union. Neither do the rest of us."

And Thomas in Texas writes, "Not to wear shorts on the cover of news magazines if you plan to be taken seriously as a politician."

And there are hundreds more of these little things hanging around on my blog site, Sarah Palin is the gift that keeps on giving to "the Cafferty File."

MALVEAUX: A lot of comments there, Jack. OK. Thank you.

Well, he went to Iraq with one mission but discovered another one that is now his life's work. Meet one of our CNN top heroes.


MALVEAUX: We are just four days away from our all-star tribute to this year's CNN heroes. Among them, Brad Blauser.


BRAD BLAUSER: Iraq is a country that's been through some tremendous struggles. Being out in the city on your own is taking your life in your own hands. I've been told if I went out on my own, I would last about three hours.

Unfortunately it's a situation where a lot of people, adults and children, are caught in the crossfire. I had no idea I would end up in the middle of a war zone giving out pediatric wheelchairs to children who had no way of getting them. When we go out on missions, I know sometimes my life is on the line. But I'm willing to take that risk because the lives of these children mean so much. There's hundreds of thousands of children in Iraq who need these. When I do this, it's going to change the life of a child. I've become the source and the supply of children's wheelchairs, but even more so, I'm the source and supply of hope.

Ready to unload? One right here. A lot of times, the children haven't slept the night before because they know they're going to get a child's wheelchair for the first time. They've seen them. They've wished for one and now they're going to get one.

Give her a little bit of tilt. You can take her out to the market. You can take her anywhere with you. Does she lay back in it good?

I've never really come to a point of just wanting to walk away. How can I leave? I've become their voice.

Back in 2006, we did our very first wheelchair distribution in the Sinjhar province. Right as the wheelchair distribution began, we saw somebody coming over the hill and he was coming in our direction. Some soldiers looked and saw that he had a child. He was carrying an older boy. As the soldiers ran up to help take the child from his arms, he pulled back and he said, no, I've carried my boy all his life, I can carry him the last 100 meters so I can give him his wheelchair.