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THE SITUATION ROOM

Presidents of Russia, Iran Meet; Libya to Get U.N. Security Council Seat

Aired October 16, 2007 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, the president of Russia and Iran face to face and thumbing their noses at the West. Tonight, their message about attempts to stop Iran's nuclear program.
Also this hour, a stunning reward for renouncing international terrorism. Moammar Gadhafi's Libya, once sanctioned by the United Nations, now is getting a seat on the U.N. Security Council.

And the U.S. military invades a new front. That would be public schools. We'll take you inside the first high school sanctioned by the U.S. Marine Corps and the controversy surrounding it.

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Russia's president is warning the rest of the world to back off from Iran. The leaders of the two countries had an historic meeting today, with Russia's Vladimir Putin supporting Iran's right to nuclear power. The powerful new alliance sends a strong message to the West, especially the United States. Our Middle East Correspondent Aneesh Raman is watching this developing story -- Aneesh.

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Vladimir Putin did not mince words today, voicing strong support for Iran.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RAMAN (voice over): They spent the day side by side, two presidents challenging the West by affirming Iran's right to nuclear power.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIA (through translator): When it comes to the nuclear issue, the Iranians are cooperating with Russian nuclear agencies to reach a peaceful objective, and all the countries involved have expressed their idea that peaceful nuclear activities must be allowed.

RAMAN: Russia is, of course, a veto member of the same U.N. Security Council looking to sanction Iran again over its year-long defiance of a U.N. deadline to stop enriching uranium. The chances of that now seem slim. And with a close to $1-billion deal in place for Moscow to build Iran's first nuclear power plant, the Russian president warned the world against attacking the Islamic republic, vowing that no Caspian Sea country would be used to hit another.

A veiled reference, it would seem, to as Azerbaijan, where the U.S. is rumored, according to the Associated Press, to be considering as a staging ground for any possible military action against Iran. It all seemed a Putin-style slap in the face for the Bush White House. But why now?

MARK BRZEZINSKI, FMR. NATL. SECURITY COUNCIL STAFFER: Two themes dominate the mindset of the Kremlin today. First, they're delighted that America is bogged down, as it is, in Iraq and Afghanistan. And second, the Kremlin has an exaggerated notion of Russia's own importance.

RAMAN: By any measure, this was a historic trip, the first one since 1943 of a Kremlin leader. Back then it was Joseph Stalin sitting side by side with U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, three allies, eager to end World War II.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RAMAN: This time a much different message from Vladimir Putin, one of support for Iran and, in turn, one of great concern for the West -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Aneesh Raman reporting for us. Thank you.

The summit in Tehran consists of the five nations bordering the landlocked Caspian Sea. There's Iran, along with Russia, and three other former Soviet republics, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, strategically vital. The Caspian is one of the world's richest oil regions.

The U.S. military's worried about losing a key ally and access to a vital air base used to supply American troops in Iraq. The Pentagon now scrambling to find alternatives. All this comes amid heightened concerns about a major new military conflict as Turkey considers sending troops against Kurdish rebels inside northern Iraq. Let's turn to our Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, growing questions about the crisis with Iraq and Turkey. Is it another case of just not enough U.S. troops to get involved?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STARR (voice over): CNN has learned a military warning order has been issued to air crews across Europe, telling them to be ready to move if Turkey follows through on threats to cut off U.S. access to Turkish airspace, bases, and border crossings, which carry 70 percent of U.S. cargo into Iraq.

For the first time senior U.S. military officers are openly discussing just how serious the crises has become.

LT. GEN. CARTER HAM, U.S. ARMY: If the flow of those materials were to be disrupted, it would have not only a significant effect on the U.S. military operating in Iraq but it would have a significant effect commercially to Iraq as well. STARR: The Bush administration also is struggling to explain why it's not moving against Kurdish rebels, the PKK, who are launching attacks into Turkey from northern Iraq.

HAM: Some of it is intelligence-related, to say where and when are they? Are they posing a specific threat that we need to counter, immediately?

STARR: Turkey reminds the U.S. the PKK is a designated terrorist group operating out of Iraq, a country where the U.S. has more than 160,000 troops fighting terrorists. For now the U.S. is encouraging Iraq to step up the dialogue with Turkey in hopes of keeping the Turks from invading with their 60,000 border troops to chase down the PKK.

TOM CASEY, SPOKESMAN, STATE DEPT.: I think our main concern is that unilateral military action isn't the way to deal with the threat posed by the PKK.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STARR: There are also economic implications from the crises. Oil prices have now hit an all-time high over worries that the fighting will disrupt oil supplies coming out of northern Iraq -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And we're just getting this in to THE SITUATION ROOM, right now, from Capitol Hill, potentially a very significant development involving a bill before Congress that's causing much of the strain between the United States and Turkey.

Tonight, there are new questions about whether Democrats in the House of Representatives are having second thoughts about pushing it through. Let's go right to our congressional correspondent, Dana Bash, on Capitol Hill.

Dana, what are you learning?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, House Democratic leaders may in fact be pulling back from their pledge to hold this controversial vote labeling mass killings, Armenian killings, almost a century ago genocide. It was just last week that the number two Democrat in the House vowed that this vote would take place by mid November. Now he is suggesting that may not happen.

And he's admitting it is because Democrats, several Democrats, are withdrawing their support from this Armenian resolution in the face of intense pressure from the White House. The White House, of course, arguing that this would be severely damaging to U.S. relations with Turkey, which is a strategic ally in the Middle East, especially when it comes to Iraq.

And what may be most damaging here to Democrats is that one of the Democrats that is expected to come out against this Armenian resolution is Congressman John Murtha. He, of course, is one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's closest, most-trusted advisers on issues of national security. He is expected to attend a press conference with Democrats tomorrow, asking the speaker not to go forward with this vote.

If the House speaker decides not to have this vote, it could be a big embarrassment for her, Wolf, because she, of course, went out on such a limb in saying that she will hold this in the face of pressure from the White House, from the Turks, and from lobbyists, especially for Turkey, saying that this is the wrong thing to do at this particular time, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll watch this story, see if the House Democrats, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, if they back away from insisting this vote come up. We'll see what happens, Dana, thanks very much.

Amidst all of this China is now protesting President Bush's meeting with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama. Officials in Beijing are warning of a serious fallout for the relationship between the United States and China. The Bush administration is trying to downplay the meeting and China's anger about it.

DANA PERINO, PRESS SECRETARY, THE WHITE HOUSE: We in no way want to stir the pot and make China feel that we are poking a stick in their eye to a country that we have a lot of relationships with on a variety of issues -- I mean a good relationship with on a variety of issues. And this may be one thing that we can do, but I don't have -- I don't believe that that's going to seriously concern the Chinese.

BLITZER: Let's go right to our White House Correspondent, Ed Henry. He's watching this story for us. They met, but it was behind closed doors. No pictures, no nothing.

What's going on?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that's quite interesting. You're right. Previous meetings with the Dalai Lama at the White House, released a photo of the Dalai Lama with the president. This time they didn't do that. Dana Perino says the reason is the president will be appearing publicly with the Dalai Lama tomorrow on Capitol Hill for a Gold Medal ceremony.

But there's another explanation. Clearly, this White House does not want to further antagonize China because Dana Perino also faced tough questions about whether there's a double standard here. You just heard Dana reporting about the fact that the White House has been pressuring Democrats not to have this vote on this Armenian resolution, because they don't want to upset Turkey, a key ally.

Reporters pressing Perino today, well, why then, do you want to poke China in the eye over the Dalai Lama? She's insisting, as you just heard, they're not trying to antagonize China more. So the point is the president is trying to walk a very fine line here, Wolf.

BLITZER: The president wants to go to China for the Beijing Olympics as well. Ed Henry at the White House for us on that story.

Let's check in with Jack Cafferty. He's in New York. Jack, lots going on tonight.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: Oh, my. Yeah. Sure is. Sneak them in the side door. No pictures, please.

Before you pick up your telephone, think about this. "The Washington Post" reporting today Verizon Communications says that it turned over customers' telephone records to the government, in emergency cases, without court orders, and without those customers' consent 720 times since 2005.

In a letter to congressional investigators the nation's second largest telecom company said it doesn't decide if the requests are legal or necessary because that would slow down efforts to save lives. Verizon says the FBI wanted information, too; asked for a lot of it.

The agency used administrative subpoenas called National Security letters to identify not only a person making a phone call, but all the people that person called, along with the people that those people called.

This all comes as Congress debates whether to grant phone companies immunity when they're sued for disclosing customers' phone records, and other information to the government. The Bush administration, of course, wants blanket immunity for anybody sued for helping the government in its surveillance programs, even if that help was not legal or constitutional. And he wants immunity for everybody, including the phone companies, and anybody else who was involved in any of this stuff.

The committee also got letters from AT&T and from Qwest Communications, but those letters didn't give details on customer data provided to the government.

Here's the question: Does it bother you that Verizon says it gave customers' telephone records to the government without court orders more than 700 times since 2005? E-mail caffertyfile@cnn.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile.

Ignore the -- ignore the law, ignore the rules, and then when you're caught up in this, Wolf, then you go back to the Congress, say look, I need immunity for these people because they could be in trouble here.

BLITZER: That's what they call retroactive immunity, if you like.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

BLITZER: It's a nice legal philosophy. Jack, thanks very much.

Libya was once officially called a terrorist state by the United States. Now it has a seat on the United Nations Security Council.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been 19 years, and I think everybody feels OK, it should just go away and we should just let, you know, sleeping dogs lie, and let it all go away. But it can't, I mean, they murdered my child.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Find out how Moammar Gadhafi went from public enemy No. 1 to Bush administration friend.

Plus, the first public school in the nation run by Marines. They're teaching discipline to ninth-graders. But critics say they're targeting the poor for military recruitment.

And a killer infection, resistant to antibiotic drugs. It may become a bigger killer than AIDS. Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Combat deaths are dropping in Iraq, but the extended tours of duty in Iraq may be taking a deadly toll on U.S. troops nevertheless. The number of fatalities from so-called accidents, and suicides has risen sharply. Let's get some understanding of what's going on. Our Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre is standing by.

Jamie, what is going on? What are behind these numbers?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, U.S. commanders are raising the question are battle-weary U.S. troops becoming accident prone? How else would you explain the huge spike in non-hostile deaths in Iraq?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE (voice over): U.S. troops in Iraq, after being extended, sometimes more than once, and spending up to 15 months in the battle zone, are exhausted. And the Army is investigating if the prolonged stress could be behind a sharp jump in non-combat deaths in Iraq over the past two months.

LT. GEN. CARTER HAM, U.S. ARMY: We don't yet know what may have caused an increase in the non-battle casualties. And that's why the commanders in Iraq have asked for the Army Safety Center to come help them analyze that.

MCINTYRE: The numbers show something is going on. Especially as soldiers reach the 13th, 14th, and 15th month of their arduous tours. In May, as the surge was building, combat losses peaked at 120, with only 5 percent of deaths due to non-hostile accidents or suicides. Then, as combat losses dropped over the summer the number of non- hostile deaths jumped, so that by August and September just over a third of all U.S. deaths in Iraq were by accident or suicide.

A single catastrophe can skew the numbers, such as the August Blackhawk helicopter crash that killed 14 U.S. soldiers. But commanders suspect the daily stress of constant danger may be a factor. The troops are stressed out.

GEN. JAMES CONWAY, COMMANDANT, U.S. MARINE CORPS: And if you look at what they're doing, it is indeed difficult. You look at mental health assessments and those types of things. It's tough on the soldiers.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: There's a flipside to the numbers as well, Wolf. There may be some evidence in them that the surge is working better than some people think. If you take away the non-combat deaths, and just look at combat deaths, then those deaths have dropped 65 percent since the high back in May, back at the height of the surge.

BLITZER: And did I hear you right, Jamie, that a lot of these so-called non-combat deaths happen near the tail end of their respective tours of duty in Iraq?

MCINTYRE: Well, we're coming to a lot of -- a lot of these brigades which are to rotate out are coming into the 14th, 15th month of their deployment. And it's coinciding with it. But they don't really know what's causing it. That's why they dispatched the Army Center for Safety to try to figure out what this riddle is all about.

BLITZER: Jamie's going to watch this story for us. Thanks, Jamie.

Let's check some other stories now from around the world. Once an outcast because of its support for international terrorism, including the bombing of a U.S. airliner, Moammar Gadhafi's Libya is now vowing to mend its ways. And now Libya is officially out of rehab, earning a reward over at the United Nations. Let's go to our Senior United Nations Correspondent Richard Roth -- Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN SR. U.N. CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it seems hard to believe compared to where we were just a few years ago, but Libya is coming to the U.N. Security Council.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROTH (voice over): Libya's return from the cold is complete. An international pariah until just a few years ago, Libya has won a two- year seat on the elite U.N. Security Council.

GIADELLA ETTALHI, LIBYAN AMB. TO THE UNITED NATIONS: I can say we are back to the international community. That all the problems we have faced in the past are now behind us.

KATHLEEN FLYNN, MOTHER OF FLIGHT 103 VICTIM: This is absolutely an abomination as far as I'm concerned.

ROTH: Kathleen Flynn, who lost her son, J.P., in the Lockerbie bombing, watched the vote. In 1988 Pan-Am Flight 103 blew up over Scotland, killing 270 people. A Libyan intelligence officer was convicted. Libya was punished with sanctions by the same Security Council it will now join.

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Libya quickly renounced terrorism and cooperated with Washington on intelligence.

Unlike other elections, where Washington blocked Libya, the U.S. said this time it would not oppose Libya's chances.

ALEJANDRO WOLFF, DEP. U.S. AMB. TO UNITED NATIONS: The United States doesn't reveal how it votes in these elections. You know, we look forward to working with all new members.

FLYNN: It's been 19 years. And I think everybody feels, OK, it should just go away and we should just let, you know, sleeping dogs lie, and let it all go away. But it can't, I mean, they murdered my child.

ROTH: But the U.S. and Libya are moving even closer together. Secretary of State Rice may soon travel to Libya.

PROF. LISA ANDERSON, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: This is precisely what the Libyans wanted, was that dramatic a change. And so if they can be on the Security Council, this is a way for them to say we have come around 180 degrees.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROTH: And another former U.S. adversary, Vietnam, has won a seat on the Security Council for the first time ever -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Richard, thank you.

Marines running a public school.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From now on you go nowhere. They come to see me or you come to see me. You don't even move, breathe, or nothing. You go nowhere. You understand?

STUDENTS: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Chicago high schoolers getting a taste of military life. Is it teaching discipline or targeting the poor?

Plus, it's being called a superbug. It could wind up killing more Americans than the AIDS virus. We're going to talk about a frightening new warning from public health officials. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: It's banned in Europe and now in California, but are children in the rest of the United States being exposed to a potentially dangerous chemical agent? Let's turn to CNN's Brian Todd. He's watching this story for us.

Brian, what's the chemical, and what are the concerns?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The agents are called phthalates, Wolf. It sounds obscure, but it's virtually impossible not to come in contact with them sometime in your life. The question is, are they as dangerous as some people believe?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (voice over): Compounds that make that rubber duck bend to a baby's whim. Can they also prevent them from later having babies?

RACHEL GIBSON, ENVIRONMENT CALIFORNIA: It's like sucking on a toxic lollipop.

TODD: With the stroke of Arnold Schwarzenegger's pen, California has just banned the use of potentially toxic agents in products for children under three years old. Phthalates are chemicals used to soften plastics in some toys that young children can put in their mouths. They're also used to make blood storage containers, shampoo, cosmetics. Consumer advocates say they're everywhere and dangerous.

JANE HOULIHAN, ENVIRONMENT WORKING GROUP: These are chemicals that target the male reproductive system. They're reproductive toxins. They're linked to birth defects in boys. They're linked to reproductive problems in boys.

TODD: Not to mention hormone problems in girls, liver damage, and cancer, according to some activists. California's the first state to ban it, effective 2009. Several others may follow. The European Union has banned some that phthalates compounds after 10 years of studies. More than a dozen other countries have blacklisted them. But whose science should we believe? Chemical producers point out the E.U. only tested toxicity levels in rodents, not humans.

MARIAN STANLEY, AMERICAN CHEMISTRY COUNCIL: We know that they're safe as used. We know the exposure is very low. We know the toxicity is very low.

TODD: The U.S. government's not convinced of the dangers, either. The Centers for Disease Control reports the health effects of phthalates in people are not yet fully known and more research is needed. The Consumer Products Safety Commission, which could ban the substance nationally, did its own study years ago.

JULIE VALLESE, CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMM.: The CPSC bases its findings on actual exposure; the hand to mouth, or the product to person exposure. And that's the science that is used and was used for the agency to make the determination not to ban phthalates in children's products.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: But it's worth noting at least 11 toy manufacturers stopped using phthalates in kids' teethers and rattles eight years ago. So there had to have been some concern in the industry back then, Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd watching this story. Thank you, Brian, very much.

They sang the anti-war anthem during Vietnam, and today they're praying for peace.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reason why there isn't a tremendous amount of protestation that there used to be against the Vietnam war is that there's no draft. The students aren't dying by the thousands. If they were, this war would be over tomorrow.

BLITZER: The legendary rock stars David Crosby and Graham Nash, they're comparing the Bush administration to a dictatorship and a junta. You're going to find out what they're doing to try to protest the war in Iraq.

Plus, the first public school in the United States run by the U.S. Marine Corps. Find out why some students say it's having a positive impact on their lives despite some of the critics.

And there's a killer bug on the horizon. Could it be worse than AIDS? We're going to hear from an expert. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM, happening now, tensions in oil-rich northern Iraq are affecting world oil prices. Prices surging today to a record high; at one point topping $88 a barrel. It's approaching $100 a barrel. Can you believe it?

Some fear Turkish troops could move into Iraq's Kurdish region in the north, possibly disrupting oil supplies. A huge story we're watching.

And pay attention to these pictures. Police want to know if you know where this man is. He's accused of sexually abusing boys around the world. Police say he's a 32-year-old Canadian teacher named Christopher Paul Neal. He could be in Thailand, but who knows?

I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

There's some breaking news we're following tonight about your health. An alarming new report is out about a potentially deadly infection spreading across America at a frightening rate, and it could be killing more Americans each year in the not too distant future than AIDS. For the first time, doctors have tracked the number of illnesses caused by a drug-resistant staph superbug, as it's called. It also goes by the nickname MRSA. A new study in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" showing that more than 90,000 Americans get sick from MRSA every year, and doctors are calling this number astounding.

Joining us on the phone right now is Dr. Elizabeth Bancroft of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, who was involved in putting the study together.

How worried, Dr. Bancroft, should we be?

DR. ELIZABETH BANCROFT, L.A. COUNTY DEPT. OF PUBLIC HEALTH: I think we should be concerned, and I think this study is a wake-up call to public health officials and to medical officials that there's a lot more drug-resistant staph out there than we had realized.

BLITZER: What's the cause of this? Why is this happening now?

BANCROFT: I think there's a combination of causes. Certainly the -- we're seeing an increase of drug-resistant staph in hospitals. That may be due to the fact that people are entering hospitals sicker and if you're sick to start with, you're more likely to get an infection while you're in the hospital.

And there's also a lot more procedures being done on patients. And procedures can introduce the infection into patients.

In terms of the community, what we're really seeing in the past ten years is an increase in the number of infections that people in the community who are otherwise healthy are coming down with infections with this drug-resistant staph. And that's fueling some of the increase in the invasive diseases, the kind that get into the bloodstream.

BLITZER: What should we be doing about this? How do we protect ourselves?

BANCROFT: I think there's two ways to protect yourself. The most important thing is in the hospital, since the majority of cases do still seem to be occurring from the hospitals, that's doctors washing their hands between seeing patients, making sure they don't carry the bug from patient to patient, and using other well-known techniques that hospitals have only just started using systematically to help reduce the rate of infection in hospitals, like keeping people in isolation, for example, or using a full sterile cape -- or drape and gowns when they're putting in catheters or other invasive procedures in patients. So that's for the hospitals.

For the outside and the general public, there's a couple of things you can do. First of all, again, wash your hands. It's the most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of staph and prevent the spread of really almost any infectious disease.

The second thing is to limit the sharing of personal items. So don't share things like wash cloths, razors, towels, and soap that can spread the bug from person to person.

And the third thing is if it looks like you've got a sign of infection, you have something on your skin that's red, that's warm, that's painful, that's maybe raised a little bit, go to your doctor promptly and get treatment for it.

BLITZER: Dr. Elizabeth Bancroft of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, thanks very much. We're going to watch this story and stay on top of it.

Chicago is the latest battleground in the debate over the role of the United States military in America's public schools. The city has just opened a Marine Corps high school, the first of its kind in the nation.

CNN's Susan Roesgen is in Chicago with details of the controversy.

Susan.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli, the marines have invaded the halls of Chicago public schools on the shores of Lake Michigan.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From now on you go no where. They come and see me or you come and see me. You don't even move, breathe or nothing. You go no where. Understand?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

ROESGEN: The marines always say they want the few and the proud, but do they really want ninth graders?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's not on the collar, it's where it's supposed to be.

ROESGEN: This is the first high school in the country sanctioned by the U.S. Marine Corps. Chicago now has five military high schools and students who want to go to one of them have to apply. But they are public schools with public school teachers, paid for by public taxes.

COL. RICK MILLS, MILITARY DIRECTOR: I would say that every dollar that goes into these schools is well spent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because?

MILLS: Because I think we're doing what we should be doing, teaching these young men and women more discipline, more structure, character, loyalty, integrity, all the qualities that we want to see to pass on to the future leadership of this country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the military?

MILLS: No, whatever career path they choose.

ROESGEN: Still, there's something about calling cadets and putting them in military uniforms that makes critics uneasy.

SHEENA GIBBS, "TRUTH IN RECRUITMENT": We're in a war right now. They need fresh recruits and so the best way to get recruits is to go into the high schools and go into the city colleges.

Sheena Gibbs with the Quaker Truth in Recruitment group calls it part of the poverty draft.

GIBBS: And what that poverty draft means is that they target only people of color and they target only people that are low-income neighborhoods.

ROESGEN: But that's not the way a lot of the students see it. Some like Shamika Oliveras say they have no plans to join the marines when they graduate. Shamika told me she just thinks this is a better public high school.

SHAMIKA OLIVARES, STUDENT: When I was in eighth grade I wanted to go to high school and know most girls and guys and things but once I got here, I mean it gave me a whole approach that I am someone and that I will fight to be someone in life.

ROESGEN: Even if you're not fighting with a gun.

OLIVARES: Exactly.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROSEGEN: While critics complain, the military academies have room for only 700 students and they received more than 7,000 applications.

Wolf.

BLITZER: Susan Roesgen in Chicago.

More than three decades after they protested the Vietnam War, musicians David Crosby and Graham Nash, they're now calling on young Americans to protest the current war, and they're doing it with some sharp criticism of President Bush.

Carol Costello's here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

What are they doing, Crosby and Nash, to get their message out right now?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're actually singing in a church. It's amazing. They're singing in a peace concert at the Washington National Cathedral that's happening right now. Clergy of many faiths will be praying for peace around the world, and Nash and Crosby, they'll act peacefully, but inside they're angry.

Graham Nash, along with David Crosby, at the National Cathedral, veterans of the anti-war movement, they're singing for peace. Again. They worry what the president calls the war on terror, especially Iraq, has taken the power out of protest because of what they call Bush's brainwashing. They say the administration has conned Americans into thinking it's unpatriotic to criticize the war.

GRAHAM NASH, MUSICIAN: It's the administration controlling the populace.

DAVID CROSBY, MUSICIAN: It's old stuff. You can watch all of these same moves out of any other dictatorship or junta or, you know ...

COSTELLO: And you're comparing the Bush administration to that?

CROSBY: They use the same techniques. It's not any different. The same exact techniques. Look over there, those people are different. Why, it must all be their fault.

NASH: Let's have a common enemy so that we can unite against them.

CROSBY: Yes.

NASH: Whoever they are.

CROSBY: Meanwhile, I'll just rake off a few billion here. Nothing to it.

NASH: Take away your civil rights. You won't feel a thing.

COSTELLO: For their fans it has a familiar ring. Both are vehemently anti any war, famous for one of the Vietnam era's most defining anti-war songs.

"Ohio" was born on May 4th, 1970, after four students were killed by national guardsmen in the midst of an anti-war protest at Kent State University. Some believe their deaths brought about the end of the Vietnam War and defined the power of protest in this country, a lesson that Crosby and Nash feel has been lost.

NASH: The reason why there isn't a tremendous amount of protestation that there used to be against the Vietnam War is that there's no draft. The students aren't dying by the thousands. If there were, this war would be over tomorrow.

CROSBY: That's the truth. If they were faced with it immediately in their faces, they would become activists again and fight it with everything they had. We -- you know, it seems kind of strange, you know, but I would love it if they put in the draft. I might have to leave the country, but I think it would certainly, you know, stop the war.

COSTELLO: An odd sentiment coming from two guys who celebrated young men burning their draft cards during Vietnam. But both are frustrated by what they see as a war with no end in sight. So they will sing, they will pray, and hope it matters.

And you can see on the wall behind me that Tibetan monks are also praying at the National Cathedral, praying for peace in Myanmar and other places in the world. People of many faiths are there, Wolf, and Crosby and Nash are singing.

And if you're wondering who they're supporting for president, it is not Hillary Clinton. They say she's too practiced of a politician for them to support. They need someone with the heart, they say, and they point to Barack Obama for that.

BLITZER: Carol Costello, thanks very much. Carol watching the story.

Front-runners in the race for president. We're going to tell you where the candidates stand right now in our brand new CNN poll and whether they're beating or falling below expectations. That, a lot more coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: There's breaking news we're following tonight, a new move to try to finalize the 2008 primary season calendar that's been in a state of chaos.

Iowa's Republican Party has now voted to hold its presidential caucuses, get this, on January 3rd.

Let's go to our chief national correspondent, John King. He's joining us on the phone.

You've been suggesting that this could be in the works for a few days. This is a pretty significant development. Explain to our viewers, John, what's going on.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is a significant development, Wolf, and it begins to bring some clarity. It is not total clarity because there are still some moving parts. But it begins to bring some clarity to the when exactly the key contests will be.

This is now 80 days away. 79 days away, I believe. The Iowa Republican Party saying it wants to hold its caucuses on January 3rd. We are waiting for word on how the democrats will follow suit. But what this now sets up is very early in the New Year, remember, there was some possibility the first contest would go back to December. It now looks likely Iowa will go first on January 3rd, just into the New Year, and then in the next ten days to two weeks after that, you will see the Nevada caucuses for the democrats. You will see a Michigan primary for the republicans on the 15th of January, that the democrats are ignoring but the republicans are playing in. Then you will go on from there quickly to New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Now, it is key to note New Hampshire has yet to set its date. But this now presumably allows the secretary of state of New Hampshire to go somewhere in the middle of January. Usually, they wait about a week or so after Iowa into New Hampshire and then South Carolina.

So I'm sure I've confused our viewers already. But it gives you some clarity. Iowa first on January 3rd. Then New Hampshire and South Carolina to follow with a few other states mixed in there. And then of course, the big super Tuesday on February 5th.

We need to watch the rest of the pieces fall into place. But you have this game of back and forth, cat and mouse, between Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, with the Iowa republicans setting a date. We now should see the other places all into place within the next couple of weeks.

BLITZER: January 3rd in Iowa, if that holds. A major football game that night as well. We'll talk about that tomorrow.

I want to talk right now about our latest CNN Opinion Research Corporation poll numbers that are coming in. Among registered republicans right now, look at this, John, Giuliani with 27 percent; Fred Thompson, 19 percent, coming in second, but he's down from 27 percent back in September; 17 for McCain; 13 for Romney. A big loser in this poll, Fred Thompson.

KING: That is the buzz of the Republican Party right now. Fred Thompson got in with all the hoopla. Many viewed him as the savior, if you will, the conservative riding in to save the party, which couldn't settle on a candidate. Instead Wolf, he has lost nine points in a month in our polling, and this only reinforces the importance of what we were just talking about.

The Iowa caucus is the first contest. With the national polls so muddled, whoever wins Iowa will get the early momentum in the republican race.

Of course, the race in Iowa among republicans is pretty muddled right now as well. The former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney with a lead in some of the more recent polls, but you have a wide open jumbled republican race.

The slip of Fred Thompson, it's going to put dramatic pressure on him. His fund-raising was OK, not great. The big question now is Fred Thompson needs to perform and the other candidates, Wolf, are actually starting to talk about we're not even going to worry about him, we're going to focus on, as you've seen in recent days, Giuliani and Romney mostly going after each other.

BLITZER: And Hillary Clinton going up to 51 percent among registered democrats to Barack Obama, 21 percent. She's currently in this poll, this is a snapshot, expanding her lead nationally among registered democrats.

John, thanks very much for that.

Caught on tape, a woman rescued from the train tracks just in the knick of time. We're going to show you the dash cam video. You're going to want to see what happens here.

Also, the Donald firing off. This time he's talking about the actress Angelina Jolie.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Take a look at the right side of the screen. A police dash cam shows a woman whose car broke down on a railroad crossing being rescued only moments before an Amtrak train smashes her vehicle. The policeman in South Carolina successfully persuaded her to abandon her car.

Look at this. Several people on the train had some minor injuries. But all of them eventually continued their trip on the same train. That's one lucky woman.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty. He's in New York for the Cafferty file.

Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The question, Wolf, this hour, does it bother you that Verizon, the phone company, says it gave customers' telephone records to the government without court orders more than 700 times since 2005?

Jerry writes from Silver City, New Mexico, "It means Congress should not indemnify Verizon at all for whatever they've done in the name of the Bushwellian oversight and surveillance programs. Bush has marched us farther into the land of George Orwell than any other president in our history."

Mary writes, "I think it's a great idea for these companies to turn over phone records. It could save lives. All it would take is another disaster like 9/11, and we'd have people wondering why our government hasn't done more to protect us."

Orville writes, "When we first heard reports of phone companies supplying this kind of information a year ago or so, Verizon issued a press release here in Maine saying it had not cooperated with federal authorities. Pressed by the ACLU, the Maine Public Utilities Commission asked Verizon officials to testify under oath that that press release was true. Verizon refused. The Maine Public Utilities Commission started legal proceedings to force Verizon to testify. The U.S. Justice Department intervened on behalf of Verizon, saying if Verizon testified as to the veracity of that press release it might, quote, endanger national security, unquote."

David in Atlanta, "I'm a data base programmer. Our government's just data mining our calls versus a known list of suspect numbers, thus producing call cells containing terrorists. I know my calls won't query in their results. So I could care less if they get my records."

M.C. writes, "I think Verizon should be sued by their customers. It's total invasion of privacy. I consider my cell phone number just as private as my social security number. Verizon's getting out of hand and doing whatever they want, just like our current president. Thankfully, we have options in this country, such as changing service providers and impeaching presidents."

And Craig writes, "This sounds exactly like the stuff I heard in grade school in the 1950s, except that back then we were talking about what the Soviet Union did to its citizens behind their backs."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile. We post more of them online, along with video clips of the Cafferty File. Wolf.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jack, for that. Let's check in with Rick Sanchez to see what's coming up at the top of the hour.

Rick.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, you know, we were just told a little while ago we're going to have Larry Craig, Larry Craig's first sit-down interview. It'll be happening probably within the next ten minutes or so. And as soon as we get that, we're going to be turning it around for you and letting you see that.

Also, we've been focusing here, because a lot of Americans are concerned about all the money that's being spent in Afghanistan and in Iraq, where is it going. Are some of these military contractors getting an awful lot of that money? Some of it's spent well. Some of it's spent not so well. Now we learn Blackwater is being told by the Iraqi government to get out. We'll talk about that. We'll talk about the situation with contractors as well.

All of it right here for you, Wolf. We'll look forward to it.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Rick. We'll be watching.

First it was Condoleezza Rice, then Rosie O'Donnell. Now Donald's going after Angelina Jolie. Listen to this.

DONALD TRUMP: She had just made love with him coming over to the Academy Awards, and now she's like this great beauty who is representing world peace and the United Nations. It's called give me a break.

BLITZER: Donald Trump comes out swinging. We're going to find out if anybody's swinging back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Donald Trump has a message regarding Angelina Jolie. It's one of an adult nature that you may not want your children to hear.

Our Jeanne Moos is following this most unusual story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The crowd waited for the Donald.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald! Donald!

MOOS: Maybe you'd hold a "Donald for President" sign too if they gave you 50 bucks for lining up on Fifth Avenue.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: $50 each. We both got $50.

MOOS: But when Trump arrived, he got the title of his new book wrong. Kick became kiss.

TRUMP: Think big and kiss ass.

Kissing ass is OK too but it depends on whose ass.

MOOS: It also depends on whose butt you kick.

Why are you kicking Angelina Jolie's butt?

TRUMP: I wouldn't do that.

MOOS: Yes, you would. On page 273 and on "LARRY KING LIVE."

TRUMP: Everyone thinks she's like this great beauty. I'm not saying she's an unattractive woman, but she's not a great beauty by any stretch of the imagination.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's magnificent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anybody who has eyes would know that Angelina Jolie is drop dead gorgeous.

TRUMP: And now she's like a representative of the United Nations and world peace and hunger and all of this crap.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He actually said that? That crap?

TRUMP: I remember at the Academy Awards a few years ago she was frenching her brother; she was giving her brother lip kisses like I never saw before in my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's obviously insecure.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's doing great. What is he doing as far as humanity is concerned?

TRUMP: And she had just said she'd made love to Billy Bob Thornton in the back of the limousine on the way over.

BILLY BOB THORNTON, ACTOR: My favorite one in the car was today. Just before we got here.

TRUMP: I wouldn't want to shake her hand, by the way. You get back into -- I wouldn't want to have shaken her hand.

MOOS: But these people might. The U.N. agency Angelina Jolie serves as a goodwill ambassador said in a statement, "The opinion that really counts is that of the world's refugees, millions of whom have benefited directly from the work of Angelina Jolie. They love her."

Donald Trump's dis list is growing. There was Rosie O'Donnell.

TRUMP: Well, Rosie's a loser.

MOOS: And Dan Rather.

TRUMP: Dan Rather's a loser.

MOOS: And he said secretary of state Condoleezza Rice should be fired.

TRUMP: We don't need people walking off planes waving, sitting with a dictator waving, getting back on the plane waving, and nothing happens.

MOOS: Makes you afraid to wave.

Aren't you worried about sort of alienating women?

TRUMP: No, I love women. Women love me.

MOOS: Got anything to say to Donald about Angelina?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Donald, take a look in the mirror. My goodness, take a look in the mirror.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He really is a hunk.

MOOS: Maybe his next title should be "Think Big and Kick Yourself," for having opened your mouth.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And remember, starting November 5th, THE SITUATION ROOM will be on from 4 p.m. eastern to 7 p.m. eastern.

Up next, Rick Sanchez, "OUT IN THE OPEN."

Rick.

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