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Triple Suicide Bombing in Iraq; Earthquake in Chile; Back from the Frontlines; Pres. Obama Wants Congress to Vote

Aired March 3, 2010 - 18:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Jack. We'll get back to you. And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, rushing for higher grounds. Days after Chile's catastrophic earthquake, an aftershock triggers fear of a tsunami, sending people fleeing in panic. Extraordinary images from CNN's Karl Penhaul. He's caught up in the middle of it. Stand by.

Calling for an up-or-down vote, President Obama makes a final pitch for health care reform offering Republicans a compromise, but refusing to start over from scratch.

And a child in a control tower at one of the world's busiest airports, talking on the radio to an airline pilot. What were they thinking?

I'm Wolf Blitzer, and we want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Three blasts triggered by three suicide bombers shattered an Iraqi city today. They targeted a government office building, a political headquarters and a hospital.

The bombers in the city of Baqubah killed at least 29 people and left dozens wounded just days before Iraq's crucial national election. And those attacks come a day after a top Muslim scholar in London issued a religious decree saying suicide bombers are destined for hell, not paradise.

And joining us now from Baghdad, CNN's Arwa Damon, and from London, CNN's Paula Newton.

Arwa, first of all, what's the latest in the aftermath of these bombings?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these bombings -- these bombings have really resonated throughout all of Iraq. Tragically, they come as no surprise.

The entire nation was bracing itself for pre-election violence. Iraqi security forces have been out trying to prevent these very types of attacks from taking place, but the reality is that there is no technology that exists that can accurately and repeatedly detect explosives in the type of open air environment that we have in Iraq. Add to that the threat that was issued by the Iraqi -- by the Islamic state of Iraq, the umbrella organization that is headed by al Qaeda that has vowed to derail these elections. So very disturbing especially since we're only a few days from that critical vote on Sunday -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And as you know, Arwa, there's lots of concern here in Washington, potentially depending on what happens on the ground there in Iraq, the U.S. troop withdrawal schedule could be derailed.

What are you hearing about that?

DAMON: Well, Wolf, that most certainly is a reality that authorities on both sides here are having to confront. And here is how these elections play into the U.S. troop role.

These elections will truly determine whether or not Iraq stays on this path of democracy, if that's what we want to call it, becomes a more secular nation or moves towards being more fundamentalist and authoritarian.

There are groups currently who are not a part of the political process that have already said that if the government that emerges is more sectarian than this one, there will be more violence, and that will have a direct impact on whether or not America can drawdown to the 50,000 troops that it wants to see here by the end of August. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, stand by, Arwa.

Paula in London, as you know a Muslim scholar has now issued what's called a fatwa, a religious order saying that suicide bombings are against Islam. Listen to what he said.


SHEIKH TAHIR UL-QADRI, MUSLIM SCHOLAR: The terrorists are the biggest enemies of Islam. Someone should stand up. And the group of scholars should stand up to condemn it absolutely -- to declare that terrorism is terrorism, and no good intention can provide any justification to the act of terrorism.

No pretext. No discussion of foreign policy of certain country.


BLITZER: All right, Paula, is this going to have an impact on the terrorism out there?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, the skeptics will say no, that people in Iraq, people in the Arab world, people in Pakistan and Afghanistan, they're not going to listen what amounts to 600 pages of a fatwa.

But people here in Britain throughout Pakistan, well, this is significant. People have been waiting for this. They want those in the Muslim community to stand up and have an impact in their communities.

And what is different about this fatwa is that it goes to the Koran, the holy book of Islam, and piece by piece says look, there is no justification for violence, suicide bombings or terrorism, no matter what you're trying to do in your own country, in your own situation. Wolf?

BLITZER: This Muslim scholar, Tahir Ul-Qadri, how influential is he?

NEWTON: I mean, he is very influential. He's influential here in Britain. He's Pakistani. He's influential here in Pakistan. No one should be under any illusions, though. They have had fatwas like this before.

This one is different. It was categorical, Wolf. It was strong. And I think in what I hear from a lot of different people here on the ground -- and I mean young men who are quite angry about the situation in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Afghanistan, and specifically the situation in the Middle East and Palestine -- it kind of allows them to not feel as if they have some kind of shame for not standing up for the Muslim world.

There is somebody that they can look up to that says, look, it is OK to protest these kinds of things, work through your communities, your political movement, but do not resort to violence.

You know, Wolf, we're going to find out if this works not today but in the months and years to come.

BLITZER: And it's interesting that only last week a Saudi cleric also issued a similar edict against suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia.

Let's go back to Arwa Damon in Iraq right now, but the suicide bombings are continuing. Here is the question, Arwa. These edicts, these fatwas -- are they likely to have an impact on the terrorists inside Iraq?

DAMON: No, Wolf, they most certainly are not. Let's remember that al Qaeda here has already been largely rejected by the majority of the Sunni groups because of those utterly gruesome and brutal tactics that they use.

And here is another thing to point out as well, though, is that people here -- even though everyone is talking about how much security has improved in Iraq -- Iraqis still lived with that same sense of fear and anxiety.

Even though the number of attacks have gone down, the impact of the attacks that do take place have on the Iraqi people, that has not diminished in the least, and so as we head into these elections, Iraqis still have security as their number one priority for whatever government that comes into power, and that of course, then followed by things like basic services and unemployment.

Very much an echo of the things that we've been hearing in 2005, now being repeated in 2006 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Arwa Damon is back in Baghdad covering the elections this Sunday. Thanks, Arwa.

And Paula Newton, thanks to you as well. We will continue to watch both of these stories.

Days after Chile's catastrophic earthquake, the country is still being rocked by aftershocks, quickly sending people into a panic.

CNN's Karl Penhaul was doing a report on aid arriving in the seaside area, when all of a sudden people started to run for higher ground shouting, "tsunami, tsunami!"

Watch this extraordinary video.


KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In addition to the aid, a government has already (INAUDIBLE) concerned citizens are banding together as well and sending in --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tsunami. Tsunami. Tsunami.


PENHAUL: Still rolling. Still rolling. Still roll -- still rolling. OK. There's been a tsunami alert now. And that was an aftershock earlier on. And the military have been handing out aid. They told us all to run.

We've been separated from our producer. He was in the vehicle, but we hope that he is hearing the same warnings, too. The -- shoot over here. As you can see, the military are beginning to gather their gear together. We have to help older people up here.

You can hear the whistles going on. We will shoot over there and see how they --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (Speaking in Foreign Language)

PENHAUL: Are you shooting?



BLITZER: You can see them clearly running for higher ground. It turns out, though, that the aftershock was only a fraction as powerful as Saturday's quake which triggered a killer tsunami, a killer wave. This time, it turns out, there was no tsunami, but it shows that people remain on edge and rightfully taking absolutely no chances.

Back from the war zone. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The guy has actually just found an IED, an improvised explosive device, down at the intersection there and what they're about to is detonate it.


BLITZER: CNN's Atia Abawi was just on the frontlines in Afghanistan with U.S. Marines. And now she's here in THE SITUATION ROOM, ready to brief us. Stand by.

President Obama offers some compromises but he is digging in his heels on health care reform. He wants a bill and he wants it in the next few weeks.

And some 27,000 American men died last year for prostate cancer, but new guidance suggests screenings may bring more harm than good. We're bringing an expert to try to clear up the confusion.


BLITZER: Let's go back to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File." Jack?

CAFFERTY: Chicago has had a strict handgun ban in effect for 28 years. Yet despite one of the strictest laws in the country pertaining to guns, parts of the windy city continue to resemble a shooting gallery at times.

Now there is an appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court and it seem likes the conservative majority on the high court might be ready to say that the Constitution gives individuals greater or at least equal power than the states when it comes to possessing certain kinds of firearms.

Two years ago the high court struck down a Washington, D.C. gun ban, and the plaintiffs in the Chicago case now want the justices to apply this ruling to cities and states all across the country.

The four plaintiffs in the case represent average Chicagoans who say they should be allowed to protect themselves from gun violence. They include a couple worried that burglars will return the wife is home alone. A retiree afraid that the drug dealers who stole from him once will come back and try to do it again. And a former cop who wants to protect himself like he used to be able to.

They claim the gun ownership ban winds up hurting those who obey the law and makes them more vulnerable. See, the criminals generally ignore the gun laws and carry whatever weapons they want.

Ironically, Chicago imposed the strict gun ban in 1982 to try to fight gang and firearm violence. The city argues handguns are used to kill in the United States more than all other weapons combined, and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley insists that cities and states should be able to decide how best to protect their citizens. So here's the question. Should gun control be up to state and local jurisdictions? Go to, and you can post your thoughts on my blog.

BLITZER: Thanks, Jack. We'll do.

U.S.-led forces have been wrapping up the biggest military offensive since the start of the war in Afghanistan. An effort to try to clear out the Taliban from the stronghold of Marjah. Throughout that operation we received daily reports from CNN's Atia Abawi who is embedded with U.S. Marines.

Atia has just left Afghanistan. She's here in THE SITUATION ROOM now, safe and sound.

Thank God you're OK, Atia. We saw your reports on a daily basis. You did very, very important good work for all of us. Let's talk a little about this offensive. Has it succeeded?

ABAWI: Well, that's a -- that's a question that's being asked all over Afghanistan. When you talk to the Afghan people, they'll tell you right now, they're not sure if it's succeeded yet or if it will succeed at the moment because, when you look at the operation, it's more than just military operation.

Right now, you look at -- you have to look at the fact that they want the Afghan government right there. They want them to succeed, but we also have to remember back in May of 2009, the coalition forces went into Marjah.

They left it into the hands of the Afghan government and the Afghan forces and the people of Marjah didn't like that. They didn't trust the Afghan forces. Therefore, they welcomed the Taliban back.

The main question is, if they're going to do the clear, hold and build -- build being the key issue here. The Afghan people say they want to see the building process, but they're not sure if that's going to happen.

BLITZER: So much of the U.S. and NATO withdrawal eventually will depend on the ability, the reliability of the Afghan forces. Are they up to the job? What was your impression?

ABAWI: I'm going to be really honest with you, Wolf. That team that I was with, the Marines I was with, 16 Alpha Company, the Afghan forces that were correlated that went parallel with the Marines there, I can tell you right they weren't ready for it.

The Marines were taking the lead. They were the ones fighting into Marjah. They were the ones that are -- were battling with the Talibans as the Afghan forces that I was with were actually laying down, relaxing. When people were pushing them to get up, they wouldn't get up. In fact, they were annoyed that people tried to actually get them up to fight.

But that being said, later on, I did go see other units. I did see other Afghan soldiers with those units who are more willing to fight. In fact, I met a captain, an Afghan captain who saved the lives of two Marines by pushing them back and stepping on a pressure plate.

That being said, this operation was built up to show the force of the Afghan army. And right now I can tell you that the Afghan people know this, and I'm sure that most of the Afghan soldiers know it, too, they can't do it on their own. They don't have the capability, they don't even have the equipment to do it.

We went out in this air strike, pitch black night, it was the Afghan forces who didn't even have night vision goggles. They are not ready. They don't have the equipment. And right now it seems to be more about quantity than quality to build up the troop force.

BLITZER: The Marines you were with, do they trust these Afghan forces who occasionally join them?

ABAWI: Not the marines that I was with. They knew that they couldn't rely on the Afghan forces. When they talk to you off camera, when they talk to you without their faces being known, without their names being known, they told me that they don't trust the Afghan soldiers right now.

They said that they can't rely on them. But I did talk to one Marine who said that he sees it as a little brother. It's a little brother that you take to the kickball game, he said. That they need to see you play, they need to see how you do it, and they need to learn from you.

And that's the way he described them. And I thought it was a perfect way of actually describing what needs to be done.

BLITZER: So what's the next step in the U.S. strategy?

ABAWI: Well, right now many are talking about Kandahar. Kandahar is the spiritual home of the Taliban. This is a place that was the capital for the Taliban regime from '96 to 2001.

And I've been to Kandahar plenty of times to tell you that they do have a hold in Kandahar. Kandahar City is not really run by the Afghan government even though President Karzai's brother himself is the head of the provincial council there.

That many people are saying that Marjah was just a starting point and that Kandahar is next. Right now we're waiting to see exactly when Kandahar will happen and how they'll approach it.

BLITZER: You did a great job. When are you going back?

ABAWI: Actually I'll be back in a couple of weeks.

BLITZER: All right. So just be careful when you go back. Can we just get that picture of Atia when she was embedded with the U.S. Marines? Can we get that up on the screen to show the contrast? There you are right there, Atia. Take a look. That's what you looked like at that point. And take a look how glamorous and beautiful you look right now. What a difference a few thousand miles makes, right?


ABAWI: I think it's CNN's makeup people that do a great job.


BLITZER: You did a great job for us. Thanks very much.

ABAWI: Thank you. Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: A major military operation halted because -- guess what -- of a Facebook posting. What's going on?

And millions of victims in 190 countries. You could be one of them. Police unravel the biggest computer crime ever. We have details.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, what else is going on?

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Wolf. Well, Spanish police have arrested three men accused in one of the biggest computer crimes ever.

They allegedly infected more than 13 million -- 13 million PCs around the world with a virus that swiped credit card numbers and other personal and financial data. The virus secretly took zombie like control of computers in homes and many major corporations including banks.

The FBI tells CNN they were called in by Spanish authorities because the hackers were using U.S.-based e-mail accounts, but they have no idea how many computers may have been impacted in this country.

The Israeli military says it called off a planned raid in the West Bank after a soldier gave away details of the operation on his Facebook page. The soldier disclosed the time and location of the operation saying troops will be cleaning up a village.

After other soldiers informed authorities of the leak, the raid was scrubbed. The soldier was court-martialed and sentenced to 10 days in prison.

And hero pilot Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger is hanging up his pilot's cap. The 59-year-old flew his final flight for U.S. Airways this afternoon. And some of the passengers whose lives he saved flew with him. He was asked about the experience.


CAPT CHESLEY "SULLY" SULLENBERGER, PILOT: Well, it's sort of coming full circle, wasn't it? I think many of us are still trying to process this remarkable event from January 15th and put it in perspective and certainly spending time together and having another amazing opportunity to share a very special day helps in that regard.


SYLVESTER: Sullenberger plans to spend more time with his family and working on pilot qualification issues. He made that so-called "Miracle on the Hudson" landing last year after losing engine power in a bird strike.

I really like that guy. I wish him all of the best.

BLITZER: Yes, of course, we all do. We were on the air when that plane went into the Hudson and I was, you know, fearing -- I would have to report horrible, horrible news, and then all of the sudden, we saw the folks walking out on the wings, and I said, thank God.

And we didn't know it was Sully who did it, but we wish him only the best. He saved a lot of lives.

SYLVESTER: Yes. That is one heck of a pilot. No doubt about that.

BLITZER: Yes. Good work, Sully. And enjoy whatever you're going to do next. We appreciate it.

President Obama makes a final stand on health care unveiling his own reform plan and a timetable for getting it done. He tells lawmakers he wants it passed even if it means using a controversial parliamentarian maneuver to get around Republicans

And clearing planes for takeoff. It's definitely not child's play, but apparently it was at one of the nation's busiest airports.

And prostate cancer. It kills tens of thousands of men every year, but guidelines of screening are being revised causing lots of confusion. The man behind those new recommendations standing by to join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: President Obama makes a call to action on health care reform. Today, he unveiled his final version of a reform bill that would extend coverage to 31 million Americans.

He urged Congress to vote on the plan within weeks. And he made his intentions crystal clear. He wants the proposal passed with or without Republican support.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: On end of the spectrum, there are some who suggested scrapping our system of private insurance and replacing it with the government-run health care system. And though many other countries have such a system, in America, it would be neither practical nor realistic.


BLITZER: The president's bill and his support of that simple majority vote is infuriating Republicans.

Joining us now two senators -- Senator Dick Durbin and Senator John Barrasso.

Guys, thanks very much for joining us. Both of you attended that Blair House Summit with the president last week.

Senator Barrasso, like it or not, the president is pushing forward. He says the House is going to pass wit a simple majority, then it's up to the Senate to pass with a simple majority.

Is there any way, realistically, you believe this won't be enacted into law?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: Absolutely, Wolf, because the American people are so opposed to it. Look at the CNN poll, half of Americans say stop and start over, 25 percent of Americans told CNN just stop. And only 1 in 4 Americans said they wanted to have this passed.

Right now there is still bipartisan opposition to this bill in the House. It is far from being passed. And the thing they're going to pass first is the bill that includes the cornhusker kickback, the Louisiana purchase, all of the unseemly deals that were made to get the 60 votes to pass the Senate in the first place.

This is still the bill in spite of the president's new sales job.

BLITZER: All right.

BARRASSO: It still cuts Medicare by $500 billion, raises taxes by $500 billion, and will cause so many --

BLITZER: All right.

BARRASSO: -- people who buy insurance personally for their rates to go up.

BLITZER: Senator Durbin, you're the majority whip, the number two Democrat in the Senate. Do you have votes?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), MAJORITY WHIP: I hope we do because we need to get this done. And let me say about the polls. You know, God bless the CNN poll, but there was one just a week ago that said 58 percent of the people said don't leave Washington without getting this job done.

And among those who opposed are those who are on the left who think it should be single-payer or should have a public option.

So, to say that there's opposition to it, it comes from both sides. I think we struck the right balance and I think the president is right. We need to move forward and start reducing the cost of health insurance across America. We know that it's beyond the reach of businesses and families today.

The Republicans, for all of their rhetoric, are not supporting our efforts --

BLITZER: All right.

DURBIN: -- to give people the right to fight health insurance.

BLITZER: Senator --

DURBIN: Companies that turn you down because of preexisting conditions.

BLITZER: Just quickly, walk us through what's going to happen over the next -- you want this resolved before the Easter recess at the end of the month. You want the House to take action first -- but just walk us through that legislative process.

DURBIN: Well, I can't walk you through it, because frankly, Speaker Pelosi has to come up with her approach on the House side. I don't want to presume how she will approach it.

BLITZER: Do you expect the House to pass the Senate version that passed Christmas Eve?

DURBIN: Well, one option is, of course, to pass this Senate bill that passed with 60 votes on Christmas Eve and then pass reconciliation which will modify that, make some changes in it, I think some positive changes. I'd love to have Republican support. The president asked for it today. I don't know if we'll get any support from them.

BLITZER: In that letter the president released yesterday, Senator Barrasso, he referred to recommendations you made to him at that summit at Blair House last week. He said, you know what, Senator Barrasso, who himself is a physician, he has some good ideas, I'll accept them. He's trying to reach you at least partially, isn't he?

BARRASSO: And that's why I would love for the president to say, let's go with the ideas that everyone agrees with and pass those immediately, so that people that have insurance could never be thrown off of their -- out of their insurance; so that there would be no lifetime limits; so that young people age 21 don't get thrown off of their parents' policies, and can stay until they're 25. Pass those things today and look for the common ground where there's agreement.

BLITZER: But he said he can't do that unless you do everything. It just won't work mathematically, Senator Barrasso.

BARRASSO: Well, I disagree. I think that the best thing we should do is go in a step by step way and a positive direction to, number one, focus on the cost of care. That's what Warren Buffett said on Monday, that the big threat to this is the cost of care. And then get rid of all of the nonsense in the bill, all of these backroom deals that the American people are just rejecting.

BLITZER: Well, you're going to get rid of all of those backroom deals, the Louisiana Purchase --

BARRASSO: They only got rid of one. They only got rid of the cornhusker kickback. The others are still there.

BLITZER: What about the other one -- the one in Florida that Senator McCain complained about, the one in Nebraska? What about that, Senator Durbin, you're going to get rid of all those?

DURBIN: Change is going to be made, but let me tell you something, if that's the worst thing that you can find in this bill, for goodness sakes, we extend health coverage to 31 million Americans. That is a significant, historic accomplishment. And give people the right to battle these insurance companies when they say no because of pre-existing conditions -- and to ignore all of them, to ignore all of that because of one small provision in the bill, I think it is trifle.


BLITZER: Are you saying that the special treatment for Florida, the special treatment for Nebraska, will stay in the legislation when the dust settles?

DURBIN: I don't know what the final version will be. I can tell you that most of these are going to be addressed through reconciliation. I am supporting those changes and reforms, as they're being made, but there's no final product.

BLITZER: What about the fact that the president made -- stated today, Senator Barrasso. I don't think you disagree with him -- the Democrats' plan will bring in 31 million Americans. They'll be able to get insurance. The Republican plan brings in 3 million Americans. That's a huge gap.

BARRASSO: Well, he ignores the fact that part of our plan is to allow people to buy insurance across state lines, and you'd have 12 million more Americans insured today, Wolf, if people, like in California, could shop around when they see those rates going up, to shop in other states. That's what we need.

But the president offers to provide coverage which is different than care. He's going to put 15 million more people on Medicaid, a program where half of the doctors in America won't see those people because the reimbursement rates are so low. It's even lower than the cost of even keeping doors open.

BLITZER: Is that true, Senator Durbin? BARRASSO: The Mayo Clinic won't see Medicaid patients. The Mayo Clinic won't see them. They say we can't afford to stay open with Medicaid rates.

DURBIN: Millions of Americans receive medical care through Medicaid. Many of those will be covered by this bill are walking into the hospitals with no insurance and no payment whatsoever. My hospital administrators in Springfield, Illinois, say, we would welcome Medicaid reimbursement from people who are paying nothing.

And let me just also say about buying across state lines, we support it. Here's the difference: we believe there should be basic requirements in health insurance so you don't end up buying a policy that's worthless that you need it. So, say, you can buy a policy from some far away state that isn't there when you need it is no comfort to the family involved and it's an added burden to society and the government.

BLITZER: On that note, we'll leave it. But we'll continue this discussion. In a few weeks, the president says he wants it done. So, I hope both of you will come back several times, lots more, to discuss. Senator Durbin and Senator Barrasso, thanks very much.

DURBIN: Thank you.

BARRASSO: Thank you, Wolf. Great to be with you.

BLITZER: It certainly isn't the voice pilots are used to hearing from the control tower. Listen to this.


JFK TOWER (CHILD): Jet Blue 171, cleared for take-off.

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: Cleared for take off, Jet Blue 171.


BLITZER: Wow. That's a child -- a child calling the shots at one of America's busiest airports and it happened more than once. Wait until you hear the rest of the tapes.

And a confusing message about prostate cancer. New guidelines say maybe you shouldn't even get the screening test. So, what is going on? Lots of confusion out there. We're going to speak with the expert right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Kids in the control tower -- that's one thing, but to let them radio-instruct the pilots, what is going on?

Listen to this.


JFK TOWER (CHILD): Jet Blue 171, cleared for take-off.

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: Cleared for takeoff, Jet Blue 171.

JFK TOWER: Let me see, AeroMexico 403 Kennedy, position hold?

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: Position hold, AeroMexico 403.

JFK TOWER: This is what you get guys when your kids are out of school.

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: I could bring my kid to work.

JFK TOWER (CHILD): Jet Blue 171 contact departure.

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: Over to departure, Jet Blue 171, awesome job.

JFK TOWER (CHILD): Zero-three, cleared for take-off.

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: Four-zero-three, cleared for take-off. Thank you very much, you have a great day.

JFK TOWER: Jet Blue 195, Kennedy Tower, 31-left position hold.


BLITZER: Let's go to our national correspondent, Susan Candiotti. She's been looking into this story for us.

It's generating a lot of interest out there. What happened here, Susan?

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: First thing this morning we've been hearing about this, Wolf. Tonight, CNN has learned this happened not once but twice, the same veteran air traffic controller, according to the FAA, brought his son to the tower one evening and another child the very next day. And that youngster was allowed to radio two more planes.


CANDIOTTI (voice-over): A child directing planes at New York's JFK Airport? Is this an over the top version of "take your child to work" day?

PETER GOELZ, AVIATION CONSULTANT: This is just unbelievable. How dumb can you be?

CANDIOTTI: Former NTSB official Peter Goelz says, with runway safety such a critical issue, what happened is senseless.

GOELZ: You want your controllers paying attention to all aspects of their job. And this is just stupidity. You know, it's one thing to have your children into the tower to get a look at it. It is a completely different story when you're putting them on the microphone with hundreds of passengers on these planes. CANDIOTTI: The incident comes on the heels of other eyebrow- raising events involving controllers and pilots in the last year. Two pilots had their licenses revoked after overshooting the Minneapolis airport by 150 miles. Both said they were using their laptop computers. The pilots are appealing.

In Teterboro, New Jersey, moments before the collision over the Hudson River, a controller was making a personal call and a supervisor had left the building. They were both put on leave.

In 1994 in Russia, 75 people were killed when a pilot allowed his teenaged son to take over the controls and he accidentally turned off the autopilot.

Now, passengers are left to wonder about this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's very unsafe and I just can't believe something like that was allowed to happen. How it occurred?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I was flying and I heard a child's voice on the radio, I have to question any commands they might have given me.

CANDIOTTI: The FAA suspended both the JFK controller and the supervisor, and called the tower distractions, quote, "totally unacceptable," and added, "This lapse in judgment not only violated FAA's own policies, but common sense standards for professional conduct. The behavior does not reflect the true caliber of our workforce."

The air traffic controllers association chimed in, quote, "We do not condone this behavior in any way. It is not indicative of the highest professional standards that controllers set for themselves and exceed each and every day."

JFK TOWER (CHILD): Contact departure. Adios amigos.

UNIDENTIFIED PILOT: Adios, amigos goes. Over to departure. Jet Blue 195.


CANDIOTTI: And the controller and supervisors are on paid administrative leave. There is no telling how long the investigation will take and what disciplinary action, if any, will be taken -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Susan. I don't know what they were thinking.

Another big announcement about cancer testing that creates more questions maybe than it answers. Should men get what has been considered a routine, very popular test for prostate cancer? You're going to hear about it right from the source. Stand by.

And it's the mother of presidential parodies -- all of your favorites from "Saturday Night Live" and more in one room.

Stay with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Here in the United States, about 27,000 men died last year from prostate cancer, but now, the American Cancer Society says that the screening -- the routine screening test for prostate cancer may be of limited value, if any value at all, and that men should consider the risks of treatment before even deciding to get that screening test known as a PSA test.

Joining us right now is Dr. Otis Brawley. He's the chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society.

And you've come out, I take it, with some new guidelines for this PSA test?

DR. OTIS BRAWLEY, AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY: Yes, sir. The guidelines are that men and their doctor within the patient-doctor relationship ought to have a conversation. There are uncertainties about these tests men to know about. They are proven risks and proven harms men need to know about. And there are possible benefits that a man needs to make a decision as to whether he should be screened or not be screened.

BLITZER: Because so many people have heard about the American Cancer Society's guidelines and they are totally confused, when they got -- they're over 40 or over 50, let's say, they go for the annual physical checkup, should they get that blood level test to determine their PSA?

BRAWLEY: Since 1997, the American Cancer Society has said not that men should be screened, but men should be offered the test within the physician-patient relationship. They should be informed of the risks and the benefits. And they should be encouraged to make a choice.

We have issued a new guideline taking into account research that was published last year, and that new guideline really is very much like our old guideline. It's just worded differently so people realize that there are some tremendous uncertainties to screening. It may save lives. It may actually harm lives.

BLITZER: So, is the PSA of any value?

BRAWLEY: We don't know. Some people think it is. There's one clinical trial in Europe that suggests that it decreases the risk of death by 20 percent. But you have to treat 48 men in order to save one life.

BLITZER: Isn't early detection of cancer as in prostate cancer critical?

BRAWLEY: Early detection is incredibly important in certain cancers. Colon cancer, we know screening decreases risk of death by 35 percent. Numerous studies show that. One study in prostate cancer says that screening saves lives. One study in prostate cancer in American studies says that screening does not save lives.

BLITZER: It, sort of, reminds me of the new guidelines of mammograms for women that -- women over 40 shouldn't routinely get a mammogram.

BRAWLEY: Yes, important questions. Nine studies in breast cancer demonstrate that breast cancer is a screenable disease where screening saves lives. Two of those nine studies focus on women in their 40s. The task force that suggested that perhaps women shouldn't get screened in their 40s admitted that screening likely decreases risk of death by 15 percent.

In prostate cancer, I got one study with a very weak p-value, by means statistically the evidence is weak. One that suggests that screening saves lives and one very good American study that suggests it does not.

BLITZER: Dr. Brawley, thanks very much for coming in.

BRAWLEY: Thank you.

BLITZER: We're going to count on you to come up with some new tests maybe that are better to avoid -- to sure people don't get prostate cancer.

BRAWLEY: That's what we need, is a better test.

BLITZER: OK. Thanks very much.

Jack Cafferty is asking: Should gun control be up to the state and local jurisdictions? Your e-mail -- coming up.

And an all-star lineup of presidential impersonators offering advice in the Obamas' bedroom.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that second term years was a real victory lapper, wasn't it, Dubbers? Now, listen, Borat.





BLITZER: Let's go right back to Jack for the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, "CAFFERTY FILE": Question this hour is whether gun control should be left up to state and local jurisdictions. Supreme Court agreeing to hear arguments in Chicago's very strict gun ban which goes back 28 years.

Taggart writes: "Should cities be allowed to ban typewriters or require priests to be licensed? Obviously not. Then they just as obviously should not be allowed to infringe on other constitutional rights. And if that argument doesn't do it for you, then consider that the American cities that have the most gun control also have some of the highest crime rates. Clearly, it doesn't work."

Kevin in California: "The problem with local jurisdictions superseding state or federal jurisdictions is that skirting the law is as simple as walking across a street in many cases. If it's a constitutional-based issue, then it should be under federal jurisdiction and be applied uniformly."

Tim in Los Angeles disagrees: "Gun control should be a local issue. The idea that gun control is a one-size-fits-all notion is ludicrous. People in rural Alaska carry guns for completely different reasons than people in Los Angeles or New York." He said a mouthful there. "Local lawmakers should be free to assess society and make regulations that make sense for their community."

Chris writes: "Simply put, banning guns just makes all gun owners criminals. Those that wish to smack me for this comment can reflect on the city of Chicago. They have one of the strictest bans in the country yet a ridiculous rate of gun crime. I wonder if it's because the citizens are easy pickings. Look, taking guns from citizens is just taking fear away from the criminals."

Leo in Illinois writes: "The city of Chicago had 28 years to try their idea. Did it work? Now, let's try concealed weapons carry for 28 years and we'll compare the results."

John in Oklahoma writes: "Gun bans never work. How many people have been shot or killed by a person with a handgun in Chicago since 1982?"

And Tony in Indiana says: "If guns kill people, do pencils misspell words?" I have no idea what that means.

If you want to read more on the subject, you can go to my blog at

BLITZER: Jack, stick around. I want to you listen to Jeanne Moos' piece that's coming up next. You're going to laugh -- all us are going to laugh. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Jeanne Moos is coming up right after this.


BLITZER: President Obama is visited by several former presidents who are pushing for financial reform. It's a fictitious scenario brought to life by some of the biggest stars of NBC's "Saturday Night Live."

CNN's Jeanne Moos reports on this most unusual presidential parody.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If a get-together featuring five real presidents was a big deal --

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is an extraordinary gathering.

MOOS: Yes. Well, then, so is this:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, listen, Borat.


MOOS: The most famous presidential impersonators of all time gathered in one room to offer advice to the Obamas --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, Michelle has some legs on her.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you get in here?

WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: The security code is still 1234 from when I was prez. Only took me five times to remember it.

MOOS: "Saturday Night Live" stars like Will Ferrell.

CHEVY CHASE, ACTOR (as Gerald Ford): Betty, did you change the locks again?

MOOS: And Chevy Chase doing Gerald Ford.

DANA CARVEY, ACTOR (as George Bush, Sr.): Yes. Well, if they listened to me, it would have raised taxes.

MOOS: And Dana Carvey doing George Bush, Sr.

CARVEY: Yes, that second term years was a real victory lapper, wasn't it, dabbers?

MOOS: Top off with Jim Carrey as Ronald Reagan.

JIM CARREY, ACTOR (as Ronald Reagan): To help Mr. "Reach Across the Aisles" here grow hair.

MOOS: It was a reunion of the presidents of comedy says Director Jake Samansky.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely. It was incredible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they are just as excited as everyone else. I mean, they are all friends and know each other, but they haven't done anything like this before. So, everyone is kind of just looking around and saying, you know, I can't believe this is happening.

MOOS: The comedians donated their time to make this funny or die video to push for financial reform in the creation of --

CARREY: The consumer protection agency.

MOOS: The video shot in a day from noon to midnight was directed by Ron Howard.

FERRELL: I'm going to put the Iraq War on the credit card. I never dreamed I'd be paying 28 percent in interest rates.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: I want to thank the president-elect for joining the ex-presidents.

MOOS (on camera): Occasionally, the real presidents were unintentionally almost as funny as their impersonators.

(voice-over): For instance, when George Bush, Sr. almost shook hands with his hankie or when Bill Clinton got lovey-dovey about the Oval Office rug.


MOOS: Of course, only the impersonators could bring back departed presidents.

CARREY: I am dead. But I'm going to be a guest on "Dancing with the Stars" this season.

MOOS: Both the real presidents and the impersonators took a group photo -- should you decide to do what the video says and as call your senator, make sure you use the phone. Not the glass.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Barackadile Obama (ph).

MOOS: -- New York.



BLITZER: Happening now: the president's end game for health care reform. After a yearlong debate, what's different right now?

Also, some hospitals are making tough choices about the way babies are born and that could save all of us a pile of money.

And panic in Chile, aftershock triggers a tsunami scare and a race for higher ground.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics, and extraordinary reports from around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.