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Interview With Queen Noor of Jordan; Protecting the Capital; Plots Against Castro: Outlasting His Enemies

Aired May 11, 2007 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, an alleged terror plot Americans in Germany only weeks before the vacation season and a presidential visit.
How serious is the threat?

As violence rages in Iraq, a Mother's Day plea for peace from Jordan's Queen Noor. She'll join us right here in THE SITUATION ROOM this hour in an exclusive.

Also, from an exploding cigar to a poison pen, Cuba actually has a museum showing off the alleged plots against Fidel Castro.

How has he survived?

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


There is new word of an alleged terror plot aimed at Americans in Germany. One senior U.S. official says it's well advanced and may -- repeat, may involve an Al Qaeda affiliate.

This latest development comes just weeks before President Bush joins other world leaders for a summit meeting in Germany.

Let's go straight to CNN's Frederick Pleitgen.

He's joining us in Berlin for our Security Watch.

What are you hearing about this alleged plot -- Frederik.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what we do know and what German officials have been telling us over and over again is that they believe that Al Qaeda is, indeed, operating this country.

Now, I've talked to the American Embassy here in Berlin today and also to officials with the German Interior Ministry here tonight. And they say they are not aware of any specific new plot at this time.

However, only two weeks ago, the American Embassy here in Berlin did issue a warning to Americans in Germany to be more vigilant -- for American tourists to be more vigilant, and it did increase security in all its facilities. And that includes in sometimes, also military facilities here in Germany. And what the American Embassy said is that they are doing this after consistently the Germans have been upping their threat level and also saying that Americans here in Germany might be in danger -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Frederick, you're in Berlin.

What do Germans think of their own security situation right now?

PLEITGEN: Well, right now they are very, very concerned about the security situation. And you mentioned this before. The G8 summit is coming our way very, very shortly, in just about four weeks time, when President Bush will be here and, also, Russian President Vladimir Putin will be here. And the Germans are very, very concerned about security around that G8 summit.

And we've been hearing -- and we've been seeing sweeps here in Germany for the past weeks. We had sweeps here just two days ago against left-wing terror groups. Of course, we're not sure whether those are connected to this plot right now, but we do see that the Germans are very, very concerned about security these days -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Where is that G8 summit going to take place, Frederik?

PLEITGEN: Well, the G8 summit is going to take place in Northern Germany, in a place called Heilligendamm. Now, this is a place where actually not many people live. It's a fairly rural area. But it's somewhere, of course, where security is also a concern, and they have built a fence around this area -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Frederik Pleitgen, our man in Berlin.

Thank you.

We're going to check back with you for more information as it comes into THE SITUATION ROOM.

The security crackdown in Baghdad, meanwhile, has led to more violence in surrounding areas, as insurgents slip out of town. Now one U.S. military commander outside of the capital is asking for more troops in his sector.

Let's go live to our senior Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McIntyre -- Jamie, this all sounds like -- a bit like a catch-22 situation.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, it's like that old carnival game of Whack A Mole! That's what the U.S. military compares it to, where you hit the mole in one place and it pops up someplace else.

And it's got one commander saying that he needs more troops.


MCINTYRE (voice-over): As the U.S. military puts the squeeze on insurgents in Baghdad, they simply pop up in other parts of Iraq where there is less American security.

Diyala Province, just northeast of Baghdad, is a prime example. On Thursday, one U.S. soldier was killed, nine others wounded on patrol, part of a recent spike of violence that has the local U.S. commander calling for another round of reinforcements.

MAJ. GEN. BENJAMIN MIXON, U.S. ARMY: We have put additional forces in there over the last couple of months, an additional Stryker battalion. But I'm going to need additional forces in Diyala Province to get that situation to a more acceptable level.

MCINTYRE: General Mixon's request for backup has gone up the chain to Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, who will have to decide whether fresh troops coming into Iraq this month to complete the U.S. troop buildup should be dispatched to Diyala or if he will need to ship troops from Baghdad or elsewhere in Iraq.

One thing is for sure, there are no additional forces available from the U.S. and despite Pentagon assurances that Iraq's 125 battalions are growing more capable by the day, none of them are up to the job either.

Speaking at Cambridge University in England, Iraq's President Jalal Talabani, conceded U.S. troops will likely be needed well into 2009.

PRES. JALAL TALABANI, IRAQ: We hope that the Congress will review this decision and help the American Army to stay until Iraqi Army will be -- will be ready to replace them.

QUESTION: When might that be?

TALABANI: I think in one or a half -- within two years.


MCINTYRE: In just a few days, Wolf, the final wave of the 30,000 additional U.S. troops will begin flowing into Iraq. And by mid-June, the U.S. should be at full strength.

But one general told CNN today that the reason they can't send additional forces is that every Army soldier is either there, headed there or coming back -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Explain to our viewers, Jamie, why the challenges for the U.S. military in the Diyala Province, for example, are a lot different than in Baghdad.

MCINTYRE: Well, for one thing, Diyala is a sprawling province with lots of places for insurgents to hide. It's been a base in the past for Al Qaeda. And now a lot of those Sunni insurgents that are being squeezed out of Baghdad are moving into the area, as well.

As soon as General Mixon started his security crackdown, he realized right away he was undermanned.

BLITZER: Jamie will stay on top of this story for us.

The general in charge of U.S. forces in Iraq is deeply worried by signs of ethical lapses among U.S. troops, and he's telling them to fight by the rules.

Let's go to Brian Todd to update our viewers on this story -- Brian.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is about a report just out from the Pentagon which found that mistreatment of civilians in Iraq on the part of U.S. troops is a very serious problem. And General David Petraeus is trying to meet that problem head on.


TODD (voice-over): America's top commander in Iraq tells his troops he understands their combat stress can drive them over the edge. But in an open letter to them, General David Petraeus says: "This fight depends on securing the population, which must understand that we, not our enemies, occupy the moral high ground."

Petraeus says he's concerned about several findings in a recent survey of the troops' mental health and ethics. Among them...

MAJ. GEN. GALE POLLOCK, U.S. ARMY: Less than half of soldiers or Marines would report a team member for unethical behavior.

MCINTYRE: I asked CNN military analyst, retired General James Marks, isn't it natural for a soldier or Marine, under the stress of combat, to not want to rat out his buddy?

BRIG. GEN. JAMES MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: The first instinct is to protect your team and to keep your team together, absolutely. But you must always maintain the moral high ground. You don't let your buddy and you don't let your enemy define what's right to you.

TODD: General Petraeus, also concerned that the study found a small number of troops reported they mistreated non-combatants.

I asked General Marks, could Petraeus be establishing political cover if another incident like the Haditha massacre were to occur?

MARKS: There could be a great degree of cynicism as to why he did it. I have to tell you, I don't care what his intentions are. He is addressing his troops in combat to live the moral high ground or our enemies are going to define it way below us and the population that we are trying to protect and we are trying to endear ourselves with, will walk away from us in a heartbeat and our cause will be lost.


TODD: But General Marks says it all has to start with the commanders of each small unit, that if they allow even one of their men to veer off course, it's a cancer, and that unit may start to engage in dangerous behavior -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, clearly, that report caused concern in the U.S. military.

What else in that report is General Petraeus flagging?

TODD: He is very concerned about torture. That survey found that more than a third of soldiers and Marines felt that torture should be allowed to save the life of a comrade. In this letter, Petraeus said that is wrong, not only is torture illegal, he says, but what someone reveals when they're being tortured he writes: "may be of questionable value."

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York for The Cafferty File -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'll bet you didn't know this -- the divorce rate in the United States is at its lowest level since 1970, and not by just a little either. The Associated Press reports it's declined by one third. Divorces began climbing back in the '60s, skyrocketed in the '70s and early '80s, when almost every state adopted no-fault divorce laws.

But experts are divided on whether or not this is a good thing. Some say that divorces are down because more couples are just living together without getting married. Others point to what they call the divorce divide. They say divorce rates are falling among college educated people, but they remain high among poorer, less well educated couples.

Some of the reasons cited for the decline are these -- the number of unmarried couples living together has increased tenfold since 1960; the marriage rate has dropped almost 30 percent in the last 25 years; and people are waiting, on average, five years longer to get married than they did in 1970.

However, we don't think those are all the reasons.

So here's the question -- why do you think the divorce rate in the United States has fallen to its lowest level in more than 30 years?

E-mail your thoughts to or go to -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I was pretty surprised by that. I had no idea.


BLITZER: I thought that it's always going up and up and up, more than half of marriages ending in divorce. But there's something that's lowering that right now.

CAFFERTY: Yes, a combination of things. I'm looking forward to creative thinking on the part of our audience.

BLITZER: And they are...

CAFFERTY: I'll bet they come up with something.

BLITZER: They are creative.


BLITZER: Jack, thanks for that.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: Up ahead, an American who married a king now very concerned about the violence raging around the Middle East. My exclusive interview with Jordan's Queen Noor. That's coming up.

America's coasts ablaze -- both of them. Thousands forced to flee in Southern California. Others ordered out in Northern Florida as the flames move in.

And two years ago today, a stray aircraft sent Washington into panic. Now we're in the air with a Coast Guard chopper crew whose job it is to scramble and head off intruders.

Stay with us.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: Turning to wildfires raging on both ends of the United States right now. The one on California's Catalina Island has charred 4,000 acres and 3,800 people have fled.

CNN's Dan Simon is joining us from Catalina.

What's the status of these flames right now -- Dan?


Perhaps you can see some of the smoke behind me. The fire about a half mile away from some of these homes. But crews have really done an excellent job keeping these flames back.

At this point, as you said, this fire is about 10 percent contained. It scorched about 4,000 acres. You know, this fire started yesterday afternoon about 12:30 in the afternoon. This island has about 3,600 residents who live here full-time. Many were under a mandatory evacuation order -- as you hear the helicopter above me. This helicopter is going to go make another water drop. We've been seeing that, really, all day long.

But, Wolf, you know people live here, you know, for that small town feeling and the clean air. But that sense of calm was really shattered yesterday when those flames broke out.

At one point, the fire got within a few hundred yards of, actually, the fire department here. And, as you can imagine, it takes an incredible amount of effort to get resources over here.

Of course, they do have that one fire department. But, really, most of the manpower is coming from the mainland, off the coast there in Southern California, which is about 20 miles away.

The U.S. Marine Corps has donated hovercraft and the fire engines and the various equipment are being loaded onto those boats, if you will, those hovercraft. They've been coming here -- about 100 firefighters are working to get this blaze under control. And, of course, you have several helicopters, along with some fixed wing aircraft -- Wolf.

BLITZER: What's the weather factor out there right now, Dan?

SIMON: Wolf, it's really a gorgeous day, a sunny day. But last night, the winds really calmed down. You know, when this fire really started kicking up, the fire was fanned by winds of up to 20 or 30 miles per hour. At this point, the winds are pretty calm and there is a certain amount of humidity here. I'm not sure of the exact percentage. But there is some humidity and it's pretty cool. So fire crews are definitely getting help from Mother Nature today -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dan.

And we'll stay on top of this with you.

Good luck to all the folks out there.

Twenty-five hundred miles eastward, Northern Florida under a thick blanket of smoke from a gigantic brush fire burning its way down from Georgia.

Our meteorologist, Jacqui Jeras, is in Lake City, Florida where weather conditions are playing a huge role in the progress of this fire.

What's the latest -- Jacqui.

JACQUI JERAS, ATS METEOROLOGIST: Wolf, firefighters describe conditions here as the worst they've ever seen. This fire has been extremely aggressive. And it's doubled in size in the last 24 hours.

Winds were calm and humidity was high this morning. But now the sunshine is out, the temperatures are rising, the wind is increasing and the humidity is dropping. And that's making conditions even worse.

Six hundred families have been evacuated from their homes in Baker and also into Columbia Counties. More evacuations are possible.

Now this fire is spreading towards the south. It's not reached I-10 yet, but they're concerned that could happen even yet today. If it reaches I-10, they'll have to shut the interstate down and then Lake City, behind me, will be to be evacuated.

One of the other big problems is visibility. You can see all of the haze and the smoke behind me, making it difficult to breathe. Residents have been ordered to stay indoors because of poor air quality. Also, the poor visibility is preventing any helicopters or air tankers to be able to take off -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jacqui Jeras on the scene for us.

And viewers are sending images of the Florida wildfire to CNN's I-Report.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is joining us.

What are we seeing now -- Abbi.

ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're seeing smoke. We're seeing pictures coming in from I-Report from a couple of hundred miles away from Jacqui Jeras' location there. And the smoke is really thick.

Look at these pictures here sent to I-Report by Jonathan Aller. This is downtown St. Petersburg, the view from where he's working today. Visibility next to nothing, he says. He sent us a before picture. This is what it normally looks like -- a normal, clear, sunny day. And, again, that's what it's like right now.

Nearby, in Clearwater, Florida this is the view from outside John Catalano's workplace. This is what he's saying. He's saying it's been bad for a few days, but today is the very worst. He says if you go outside, it's very much like you're standing in front of a barbecue grill. It's very windy. He says it's like a bad fog.

Like always, Wolf, viewers can send in their pictures to

BLITZER: And they are amazing, those pictures that we get here.

Thank you, Abbi, for that.

The constant threat of wildfires apparently isn't -- isn't much of a deterrent out West. People are migrating by the thousands into what we call the hot zones like these, where homes are popping up in equal number. Since 2,000, the population in high fire areas out West has actually grown 15 percent. That's a faster rate than the region as a whole.

Allstate plans to quit writing new homeowner policies in California in July. The insurance giant says it had to weigh the risks in the catastrophe prone state.

And next year, houses in areas of California with highest fire risks will need extra precautions and protections, including more heat-resistant windows and roof vents designed to keep embers from drifting inside.

Coming up, from an exploding cigar to a poisoned pen, Fidel Castro has survived many assassination attempts.

Just how close did the assassination teams get?

We'll take you to Havana, Cuba.

And the concert that led to chaos. Jeanne Moos looks at the guy who got popped at the Boston pops.

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


BLITZER: Mary Snow is joining us once again with a closer look at some other stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM -- Mary.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there's an auto recall to tell you about today. DaimlerChrysler is recalling its 2005 Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans to fix faulty air bags. The company says the bags may not deploy because of corrosion on the sensors. Now, according to the automaker, the recall involves more than 400,000 vehicles sold or registered in states that use large amounts of road salt.

And speaking of recalls, the Agricultural Department says more than 117,000 pounds of beef are being recalled because of links to an E. Coli outbreak. The recall affects beef shipped to eight states -- Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. Health officials say beef sold at Lunds and Byerly's stores appears to have sickened seven people. Three of them had to be hospitalized before their recovery.

And checking the bottom line, filmmakers say R ratings crop up not only for sex, violence or foul language but also for smoking. Smoking has appeared in films for decades. The Motion Picture Association of America says it will begin considering how smoking is depicted when deciding the ratings.

Some activists have called for across-the-board R ratings when smoking is part of the action. MPAA Chairman Dan Glickman says instead the Association will consider context and whether the smoking is pervasive or glamorized.

And on Wall Street, Wall Street ended the week on a high bouncing back from yesterday's dip. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ending today with a 111 point gain, to close at 13,326.

The Nasdaq Composite Index added almost 28 points.

The S&P 500 ended up 14 points -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Mary, thanks for that.

Mary Snow reporting.

Coming up, why Jordan's Queen Noor wants to make Mother's Day a day for peace. My exclusive interview with her. That's coming up live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

They've killed more troops than any other weapon in the hands of insurgents -- improvised explosive devices. We're going to tell you what the Pentagon is now trying to do about them.

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


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

Happening now, no bond for six men accused of a alleged plot to massacre U.S. troops at Fort Dix in New Jersey. A federal court there made the decision at a bail hearing today. The defendants have made no statements nor entered their pleas.

An Iranian news agency reports Iran will step up bilateral contacts with North Korea. Iran's foreign minister is quoted as saying they want to expand political, economic and cultural ties. Both countries have defied Western demands that they curtail nuclear activity.

And the House Judiciary Committee now has a federal court order to hear testimony from former government Attorney Monica Goodling. The panel's leadership says Goodling can shed light on the firings of those eight U.S. attorneys. She's being offered immunity in return.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


They killed more American troops than any other weapon in insurgent hands. Now the Pentagon is stepping up its efforts to try to counter these improvised explosive devices.

Let's go live to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr -- the experts, Barbara, are they coming up with some answers to deal with these deadly bombs?

BARBARA STARR, PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in an exclusive interview with CNN, the man in charge of the IED program, indeed, says there are some new ideas.


STARR (voice-over): Iraqi insurgents now plant six times as many improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, as they did four years ago when the first G.I. Was killed by an explosion.

It's a startling statistic. But General Montgomery Meigs, the retired four star who heads the Pentagon program to defeat IEDs, says there is some good news.

GEN. MONTGOMERY MEIGS (RET.), U.S. ARMY: Soldiers find upwards of half month after month after month, and a large proportion of them go off that are not effective. STARR: More than 1,500 troops have been killed and nearly 15,000 wounded by IEDs in Iraq. The focus has been on armor protection and the high tech gear to keep the bombs from detonating. Thirty thousand jammers are in the field.

But Meigs is shifting gears, forming a new IED operations intelligence center, where analysts piece together vital clues about the network of terrorists.

MEIGS: Look, we do the same thing a city police organization would do if it was trying to break down a drug network in a gang.

When you drive around the street, you can't see it. You have to have very exquisitely precise intelligence to operate against these people.

STARR: The lesson of Iraq's IEDs?

Meigs warns the threat and the political coercion caused may be unstoppable. The technology can be bought almost anywhere.

MEIGS: It's a worldwide Wal-Mart for the types of gear these people need. And they're pretty good at exploiting that.


STARR: Wolf, the Pentagon, General Meigs' office, is still spending about $4 billion a year trying to buy new high-tech equipment to deal with the IED problem, but he says now the feeling is it is intelligence that will really make a difference -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Barbara Starr reporting for us.

Barbara, thanks.

She was an Arab-American graduate of Princeton University who married a king. The former Lisa Halaby became Queen Noor of Jordan. Since the death of King Hussein, she's continued her activities as a humanitarian activist.

Her commentary on focused on her call to rediscover Mother's Day as a day of peace, even as unrelenting violence rages next door in Iraq and elsewhere.

Joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM, Queen Noor of Jordan.

Your Majesty, thanks very much for coming in.

QUEEN NOOR, JORDAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: How worried are you that the violence in Iraq is going to spill over into Jordan, for example? Because, as you know, there are -- what, almost a million Iraqi refugees have fled to Jordan over the past four years?

QUEEN NOOR: There are almost -- there are about two million Iraqi refugees outside Iraq in neighboring countries. Jordan has almost a million. Syria is assumed to have about a million.

Others in Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt. They are provided -- they're a tragic case themes, the fastest-growing humanitarian crisis in the world, the state of Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people. And they're also...

BLITZER: And in addition to the two million who have fled...

QUEEN NOOR: The two million inside Iraq.

BLITZER: ... there's other millions within Iraq.

QUEEN NOOR: About two million...

BLITZER: Who have been displaced.

QUEEN NOOR: ... who are internally displaced.


QUEEN NOOR: And so they're very vulnerable within the country. And the two million outside are seeking shelter.

Jordan has a tradition of providing shelter to refugees over the ages. And we are doing the best we can, but we're spending almost $1 billion a year now on the refugees. Hundreds of millions are being spent by Syria and other countries that are trying to take them in. It's an enormous strain on infrastructure, but also on our economy.

BLITZER: A lot of these Iraqis, though, who have come to Jordan are relatively well to do. They've brought their money with them.

QUEEN NOOR: Initially.

BLITZER: And many of them are professionals.

QUEEN NOOR: You can't deny that there has been a contribution to our economy in some respects, also driving up property and other prices, which is a great strain on others in the country. But there are also an enormous increasing number who don't have those resources now, and who need all the help they can get.

BLITZER: Let's talk about your proposal -- let's reclaim Mother's Day for peace. "I firmly believe," you write on, "that peace will only come to the region when mothers find their voice and say of the violence, 'Enough is Enough.'"

Tell us how mothers in the Middle East can do that given the history, the culture, the religious, all the problems that are under way right now.

QUEEN NOOR: Well, there are already many, many mothers, women, and young women in the Middle East who are working together across conflict lines and within their own communities to try to promote reconciliation, to highlight the common values, the shared aspirations that men, women and children share across conflict lines in our region.

BLITZER: But do women...

QUEEN NOOR: But women have a special capacity, I think...

BLITZER: Do they have the clout, though?

QUEEN NOOR: ... because they're -- well, they should, because the Prophet Mohammed -- peace be upon him -- once was asked by one of his followers, "Who is it that I should look up to the most? Who is it that I should give the greatest attention to?" And the prophet replied, "Your mother."

"And then whom?" "Your mother." "And then whom?" "Your mother." "And then whom?" "Your father."

The prophet and his followers in early Islam placed enormous value on the role of women. Economically, socially and politically, they were given rights to contribute in a society that people were still struggling for in the West. That's been obscured by politics in recent times. But those are the facts of our faith.

BLITZER: Because when we take a look at the role of women in much of the Middle East, it looks like they're downtrodden, they're dominated clearly by men, and they don't have the wherewithal to -- they certainly don't have equal right, shall we say.

QUEEN NOOR: Well, they have enormous wherewithal. That is constrained in many communities. Not in Jordan.

Jordan is not the only country where women have equal rights under the constitution, and have since the 1950s. And equal right to work and to contribute, and are present at all levels of government and have been for decades. We are...

BLITZER: But Jordan may be unique in that sense.

QUEEN NOOR: Not unique. There are other countries, but yes, you're absolutely right.

BLITZER: But Saudi Arabia. If you take a look...

QUEEN NOOR: There are other countries.

BLITZER: And certainly some of the trends we see in unfolding in Iraq right now, in Afghanistan, elsewhere in the region, certainly in Iran, you see the opposite.

QUEEN NOOR: Those are very dangerous trends. They're very contradictory in terms of the teachings of our faith and the role, the rightful role of women in it.

They are -- that's politics. And it's so often the case that women are the early victims in negotiations over political issues in a region like ours, and often in others. But there are women not only in Jordan, but in other regions of the world, Middle East and elsewhere, who are actually leading the process for reconciliation for peace.

There are women in Ireland who, in fact, George Mitchell credited with having persisted even when male negotiators left the room. Women in Rwanda...

BLITZER: What should we be doing, those of us on the outside looking into the Middle East, Mother's Day approaching this Sunday, what should Americans specifically be trying to do to ease this situation?

QUEEN NOOR: Well, we celebrated Mother's Day the first day of spring in Jordan. You celebrate it on Sunday.

It was originally in the United States called Mother's Day for Peace. And that was the idea of a woman, Julia Howe in 1870, I think it was, who, seeing the devastation of the Civil War and then of the Franco-Prussian War in Europe, decided it was time to unify women in the struggle for peace.

And so American Mother's Day is, in fact, Mother's day for Peace. That's its origin.

And I think American mothers, as well as mothers throughout the world, have the ability to contribute, to support one another, to insist that policymakers focus on investing in the kinds of programs and projects whether in Iraq or elsewhere in the Middle East, that will empower women and local communities to become self-reliant economically, but also to contribute their voices and decision-making. And that so often comes, especially where women are concerned, through the ability to participate economically.

So the King Hussein Foundation, which I run since my husband's death, focuses particularly on women developing the skills and the opportunities, the micro-finance capability, and the networks that cross cultures and cross conflict lines where their voices can be amplified and where a woman's natural instincts towards peace and security for her children, for the next generation, can play the role that they deserve in peacemaking and conflict recovery and prevention of its recurrence.

BLITZER: I was privileged to have interviewed King Hussein on several occasions. A true visionary. If only there were more leaders like him in the world, the world would be much, much better off.

QUEEN NOOR: Well, mothers can help to develop those generations of leaders. If the mothers themselves are invested in these conflict- ridden communities and able then to pass on to their children a measure of hope, a measure of a sense of possibility, and the basic talents and skills that will enable them to contribute.

BLITZER: And Your Majesty, happy Mother's Day.

QUEEN NOOR: Thank you very, very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: Queen Noor joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. And up ahead, a mystery airplane breaches secure airspace around Washington and streaks toward the White House. Can anything be done to stop it? That's a hypothetical right there. But our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, she's been exploring the what ifs.

That's coming up.

Also, the plots to kill Fidel Castro. Coming up, Morgan Neill will tell us about some of the wackier efforts and how they went.

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


BLITZER: Two years ago today, people over at the White House were ordered to run for their lives. The Senate and the House were evacuated as a stray aircraft threw Washington into a panic. These days, the U.S. Coast Guard is stepping in to try to help secure the skies.

Our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, has an exclusive look at what's going on. And she's joining us live to tell us what it's all about -- Jeanne.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, behind me, the U.S. Capitol. Around me, some of the most restricted airspace in the world.

U.S. Coast Guard helicopters are ready to launch and intercept and identify any aircraft which might intrude on this security envelope. And since September, they've had to do it 32 times.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scramble. Scramble. Scramble. Target, 215, .06 miles, altitude 4,000, airspace, 100 knots.

MESERVE (voice over): A Coast Guard helicopter crew sprints to its chopper. In three minutes they are in the air. An aircraft has intruded on restricted airspace, and they must find it -- fast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1:00 high. Get him into it.


MESERVE: The chopper relays the plane's tail number to the military and swoops down for a closer look. In a maneuver so complicated, both pilots must work the controls.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thirty knots closure.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty knots closure.

MESERVE: There is only one thing the pilot can compare it to.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Riding a roller-coaster.

MESERVE: Eventually, only 200 to 300 feet separate the chopper and the Cessna.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There he is. Boy, he's tight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I count three inside the cockpit. Two forward, one after.

MESERVE: This is not the real thing, but a high-risk training mission over Atlantic City, New Jersey, with volunteer volunteers from the Coast Guard auxiliary flying the plane.

JON BUCK, U.S. COAST GUARD AUXILIARY: Well, we know what he's going to do. If you were just up in the air flying and somebody came that close to you, it would probably wet your pants. It would really scare you.

MESERVE: In a real incident, the motions would be the same. The pressures would be even greater.

LT. ZACHARY MATTHEWS, U.S. COAST GUARD: Any time that you launch on a scramble, you don't know what you're going to encounter. You treat it as the real thing.


MESERVE: The Coast Guard role is to identify these aircraft and communicate either by radio or with an electronic billboard on the side of the helicopter that can tell a pilot where to go and what to do. If the aircraft does not respond, it would be up to NORAD to make the decision on whether to shoot it down and then do it -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Are they able to get to the aircraft in time, Jeanne?

MESERVE: Well, there's a debate about that. Some officials say that they are tracking aircraft long before they enter the restricted space, and so they do have time to get these helicopters up in the air and to the intruding aircraft. There are others, however, who are arguing that this restricted space should be enlarged so that the helicopter pilots would have more time to do their job -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Good report, Jeanne. Thank you.

There are a number of places where aircraft are either barred or restricted. These include continuous bans on flights over power plants, dams, refineries and military facilities.

Other flight restrictions apply to scheduled events such as Major League Baseball, college and professional football, and motor speedways. Temporary restrictions are established over forest fires to avoid interference with firefighting aircraft and to protect other planes from hazards such as smoke. And temporary restrictions are usually placed around traveling dignitaries, including the president and the vice president.

He's outwitted and outlasted enemies dating back to his days as a young revolutionary half a century ago. He's elderly and ailing now, but no one is counting out Fidel Castro yet.

CNN's Morgan Neill is in Havana -- Morgan.

MORGAN NEILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Fidel Castro has been out of sight for more than nine months now, recovering, we're told, from intestinal surgery. When he first handed over power, some analysts gave him just months or weeks to live. But as we learned in the course of this story, this is a man with a real knack for survival.


NEILL (voice over): For nearly 50 years, all sorts of people have been trying to kill Fidel Castro. In Havana's Interior Ministry Museum, Cuba documents what it says is evidence of the plots.

From a straightforward plan to pitch grenades at the Cuban leader in a baseball stadium, to an exploding cigar, to a botched attempt to jab him with a poisoned pen, Castro's enemies have been persistent. Former Cuban spy chief Fabian Escalante (ph) gives Cuban security much of the credit for the president's survival, but he says that doesn't explain everything. "Fidel has a rare sixth sense," he says, "that's allowed him to sense ambushes and danger."

Peter Kornbluh of the National Security Archive at George Washington University says CIA attempts to assassinate Castro started soon after his 1959 revolution.

PETER KORNBLUH, NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE: There was an office in the CIA called Technical Services Division, TSD. And this office, just like in a James Bond movie, worked on all these cockamamie devices, some of which were very sinister and some of which were simply crazy.

NEILL: For example, he says, the office tried to mount a bomb inside a seashell to explode when the scuba diving Castro drew near. The problem, they couldn't figure out how to draw the president to their bomb.

In a separate CIA plot, according to Kornbluh, that the Cubans themselves say nearly succeeded, two poison pills were given to a restaurant worker in Havana who stored them in a freezer. But, says Escalante (ph), when the workers started to prepare the milkshake, he went to get the plastic bag with the poison in it and the bag broke, spilling out the poison. That, he says, was in 1963.

A U.S. Senate committee later identified at least eight different CIA plots against Castro in the early 1960s. (END VIDEOTAPE)

NEILL: But Wolf, this isn't just Cold War history. In fact, Cuba's outraged that one of Fidel Castro's arch enemies, Cuban exile Luis Posada, has just seen charges against him thrown out in Texas. He's now back on the streets.

BLITZER: Morgan Neill reporting for us in Havana.

Morgan, thanks.

Up ahead, it's not exactly symphony etiquette as usually. Jeanne Moos puts her special spin on a brawl -- yes, a brawl -- at Boston's concert hall.

But first, why do you think the divorce rate in the United States has fallen to its lowest level in more than 30 years? Jack Cafferty with your e-mail when we come back.


BLITZER: Vice President Dick Cheney is firing a new verbal warning shot at Iran from aboard an aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. The vice president says the U.S. is prepared to use its naval power to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons or expanding its influence.


RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We'll stand with our friends and oppose an extremism and strategic threats. We'll disrupt attacks on our own forces. We'll continue bringing relief to those who suffer and delivering justice to the enemies of freedom. And we'll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region.


BLITZER: Let's go to Jack Cafferty in New York.

Tough talk from the vice president on an aircraft carrier.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: That's what we need. Swell.

The question is: Why do you think the divorce rate in the United States has fallen to its lowest level in more than 30 years?

We've got this from Juan in Colonial Heights, Virginia. "I personally feel the figures are misleading. My wife and I have been emotionally divorced since September 2005. We've not been intimate. We sleep in separate rooms. But in an effort to maintain our standard of living and continue to raise our children, we have stayed together."

"The only difference between us and a traditionally divorced couple is we haven't filed the papers yet." Nick in Oregon writes, "You don't have to get a divorce anymore. I have is a friend whose wife works, takes care of their children here in Oregon while he's living in Mexico with his girlfriend. They're all friends. There might be a lot of people like that."

I don't think so, Nick.

Chris in Tulsa writes, "Love is fleeting, but stuff lasts forever. I want to keep my stuff."

Peter in British Columbia, "Jack, one of the biggest reasons for the rate drop is I'm not getting married anymore."

Susan in Anderson, Alaska, "Jack, the divorce rate is lower because the murder rate is higher. Just watch the detective shows on TV."

Tom in Virginia, "Remember all those kids whose parents were divorcing in the '70s and '80s? Their generation is getting married today and they understand somewhat breaks marriages apart. Today's kids of divorce are either not getting married at all, or they're taking the time and energy not to repeat the mistakes of their parents."

Roswell in Kent, Ohio, "We've been bombarded with the message it takes two incomes for families to make it these days. Ergo, neither the husband nor the wife feels he or she can be financially secure when divorced. Or the jerk you know and are married to is better than the jerk you don't know."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to, where we post more of them, along with video clips.

There was a columnist for "The Atlanta Constitution" some years back that came out with a book that had a very funny line in it. And I can't remember his name, but I remember the line. He said, "I have the solution to this marriage thing. I just find a woman I don't like and buy her a house."


BLITZER: See you in a little bit, Jack.


BLITZER: Thank you.

Up ahead, fistfight at the symphony. Jeanne Moos shows us what started it all. You'll want to see this.

We'll be right back.


BLITZER: It was a most unusual night at the symphony. Here is Jeanne Moos with a story of the guy who got popped at the Boston Pops.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The Boston Pops didn't need a conductor. It needed a referee.

By now, you probably have seen this over and over. But now you get to hear what happened from the guy buried in the middle of the brawl.

MATTHEW ELLINGER, BRAWL PARTICIPANT: I just got coldcocked popped.

MOOS (on camera): I was the "Shh!" heard around the world. Only before the "Shh!" there was this...

(voice over): Graphic artist Matthew Ellinger was attending the Boston Pops for the first time with his girlfriend, the woman in the white dress. Ellinger says the guy in the row in front of them in the blue shirt wouldn't stop talking.

ELLINGER: So after the first piece, they keep talking through the second piece. And halfway through I tap the guy on the shoulder with my program and give him the "Shush."

MOOS: But Ellinger says that didn't work, so he again told the man to be quiet.

ELLINGER: He turns around and tells me, "If you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) me again, I'm going to throw you over the balcony."

MOOS: That's when Ellinger went to get an usher, then came back and told the man someone would be coming, at which point Ellinger says the guy stood up...

ELLINGER: Cold cocks me with the right hand and at the same time grabs my hair with his left and just pulls me down.

MOOS: The man in the blue shirt got escorted out. Ellinger had a bloody lip, and he eventually got escorted out, too. The guy with his shirt half off is already getting fashion advice on the Web. Always wear an undershirt because, "There's nothing worse than seeing grainy footage of your un-manscaped chest on CNN."

But hey, things could have been worse.

This was the Taiwanese parliament Tuesday, where lawmakers from rival parties brawled over an electoral reform bill. Apparently, this was the week for undignified fights in dignified places.

At least Ellinger can count on his girlfriend to come to his defense, and he is pressing charges against the other guy, who has not publicly told his side of the story. The music stopped for a few minutes when the fight broke out. And when it was all over, Ellinger was still clutching the program he had used to tap the guy. Talk about a souvenir.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: What a night at the concert.

We'll be back in one hour, 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

"LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" starts right now. Kitty Pilgrim sitting in.


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