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Pope Wades Into Divorce Debate; Economist Slays The Vampires; Outrage Over The Portrayal Of Islam

Aired April 23, 2014 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In World News, Russian forces already far too close for comfort in Ukraine, are now once again caught coloring way outside the lines. Over the North Sea, near the United Kingdom, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Our chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto joins us with more on this. Jim, what happened here?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So two Russian bombers, two (INAUDIBLE) when you look at picture, it's cold air -- Cold War-era plane. It's a turboprop, actually. First started fly in the 50s. Anyway, flew north over Scotland, got close. The British scrambled jets and then in succession, the Dutch and the Danish as well to escort them out of European airspace.

At the same time, there's also a Russian ship that approached British waters, and a British navy destroyer escorted that out of the way. What the British are saying - you'll talk to many who say this has happened before, no question. But in light of what's going on in Ukraine, they're much more attuned to Russian military activity.

TAPPER: Sure. The context is disconcerting. When you say it's happened before, how often does it happen?

SCIUTTO: The truth is it happens all the time. Happens about a half dozen times a year. The British said last year, I think eight or nine times. The Dutch had it happen six times or so. And oftentimes, they'll even break into European airspace. For instance, today, they got a half mile into Dutch airspace. It happened in the U.S. as well. Off the coast of Alaska, you'll have Russian fighters and bombers come in, kind of buzz the airspace, and then as -- it's protocol the American jets scramble, they go up and kind of politely escort them on their way.

So, and why do they do it? Partly it's to test the air defenses and to see how sharp in effect the Europeans and Americans are. It's also a little bit of a reminder. It's a game of cat and mouse. It's like we're here, you know we're here. And of course, Americans say we know you're there. But the key now is do they see a step up in this kind of activity? So far, this is routine. But they'll be watching to see when it becomes no longer routine.

TAPPER: We know they're there.

(LAUGHTER) TAPPER: We don't need a reminder. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

So does the term cease-fire translate to something else in Russian or Ukrainian? Because this cease-fire, this truce between two countries, that deal that the U.S. helped seal just last Thursday, it's already shattered. Just as American troops arrive in Ukraine's neighbor Poland to rattle sabres at Russia with a brand-new round of military exercises, Ukraine is relaunching its so-called anti-terrorist operation against pro-Russia separatists in four cities in the eastern part of the country. That earned a sharp rebuke from Russia's foreign minister, who helpfully said it in English.


SERGEI LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: If we are attacked, we would certainly respond. If our interests, legitimate interests, the interests of Russians, have been attacked directly like they were in south (INAUDIBLE) for example, I don't see any other way but to respond in full accordance with international law. Russian citizens being attacked is an attack against the Russian Federation.


TAPPER: Sergei Lavrov did not define precisely what he meant by "Russia's interests" any further than he did in the interview. By the way, when Russian-owned RT news aired that interview, it slapped the words "All you need is Lavrov" on the bottom of the screen.

The truce is debt (ph). But there were so many signs it was doomed from the moment it was signed on Thursday. Under the deal, pro- Russian separatists were supposed to vacate all the Ukrainian government buildings they'd seized in recent weeks. Obviously, that did not happen. They're still occupying buildings in all four cities targeted in that renewed military operation.

On Saturday, two tortured, beaten bodies were pulled from a river in Ukraine. One of them a loyalist Ukrainian politician, reportedly seen in this video. Witnesses say masked men kidnapped him after he got into a confrontation at a local city hall.

On Sunday, still during this cease-fire, a gunfight broke out at a checkpoint run by a pro-Russian militia outside a city in eastern Ukraine; three people werekilled. Ukraine and Russia blamed each other over it. On Monday, with the truce hanging by one thread, two threads, armed men forced an eastern Ukrainian police chief out of his headquarters. He's reportedly being held now.

Our own senior international correspondent, Arwa Damon, standing by in eastern Ukraine. Arwa, what's been the reaction to those rather bellicose words from Russia's foreign minister?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's all rather ominous and sinister here. You do see a slightly beefing up of security, especially around Donetsk Square where we are right now. We saw increased checkpoints of the security forces and police leading into the city itself. But the situation here is very much at a stalemate. As you've been saying, that so-called deal that was signed in Geneva, well, it really fell apart before it even began. We keep hearing from both sides who continue to be very hardened in their position, everyone is blaming everybody else for what's happening.

So, the situation is very much at a stalemate. That whole story of the Ukrainians relaunching this anti-terrorism operation, well, you have to remember that when they first tried to launch this, the Ukrainian military was absolutely humiliated, so no one is quaking to fears they might be able to actually come in and take those buildings from those pro-Russian protesters. But people here are very worried about their future and understandably so, Jake.

TAPPER: Arwa, what more have you learned about this Ukrainian politician whose body was pulled from the river?

DAMON: Yes, Volodymyr Rybak. Now, apparently his body was tortured, mutilated and also was weighed down with sandbags. We saw some very touching, moving, sad video of his wife, who had to wait two days -- imagine that -- two days to be allowed access into the city, into the morgue before she was able to positively I.D. her husband.

And this is again a case where both sides are blaming one another. The Ukrainian government is saying that it was the pro-Russian separatists who kidnapped and murdered him. The second body that was found in the river alongside his, that has not been identified. The self-proclaimed mayor of Slaviansk, where the bodies were found, he's saying it was ultranationalist Ukrainians who are to blame for this.

And so this tragedy, this family's tragedy, is also being caught up in the conflict with both sides blaming each other and tensions just continuing to rise.

TAPPER: Arwa Damon in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

Wolf Blitzer is now here with a preview of THE SITUATION ROOM. Wolf, we've been talking about this preliminary report the Malaysian officials have provided to this international aviation body, which we're also told includes a safety recommendation that commercial aircraft should be tracked in real-time. You're looking into how that would work.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": It's hard to believe in this day and age, when everything can be tracked in real-time, huge jumbo jets, Boeing 777 with 239 people on board, can't be tracked in real-time. They have the technology, it's available. They could be streaming all that data in those black boxes, the flight data recorder, the cockpit voice recorder. Real-time, they could be streaming it wouldn't need any search for those black boxes. They have that, it's ready to go. It's expensive. So far they haven't done it. So we're going to go a little bit in depth and try to find out why.

TAPPER: Great. Coming up on THE SITUATION ROOM in 20 minutes. We appreciate it.

When we come back, a surprise call from the pope. What he reportedly said to one woman who had complained about the rules of the Catholic Church.

And if you're looking for that next great book to add to your reading list, how about this? A 700-page book on economic theory. It's selling so fast, Amazon cannot keep up with the demand. What's the hook?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. In other World News, honey, phone's for you. It's the pope. For thousand of years, the Church has considered it adultery. But on Monday, Pope Francis reportedly told a woman married to a divorced man that she had done nothing wrong and can now receive communion.

Jackie Lisbona, who's from the pope's home country of Argentina, wrote Pope Francis to say she was upset that she was not allowed to receive the sacrament because of her husband's past. That's when the people's pope reportedly picked up the phone and called Lisbona's house to personally absolve her.

CNN Vatican correspondent Delia Gallagher joins us now live from Rome. Delia, on the surface, this looks like a seismic shift in the Catholic Church doctrine. How big a deal is it?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, I would say it's definitely significant. It's not yet a change in Church doctrine, but it is a topic which is hotly debated at the moment at the Vatican, and because Pope Francis wants it to be addressed. He said last year, on the question, it's time for mercy for divorced and remarried Catholics with regard to receiving communion. So we know generally the direction that the pope wants the conversation to go.

But he has set his cardinals and his bishops to work to find out how they could go about doing that, because, as you say, it's been against church law for centuries. So that's really the question that the Vatican has yet to figure out how to allow, if they are indeed going to allow, this to happen, and yet the pope seems to have at least given the perception that in some cases he's giving the OK for it.

TAPPER: Well, the church was supposed to hash this out in October, I believe. I know he's infallible, but did the pope jump the gun?

GALLAGHER: Well, that's right in October they will be having a meeting, worldwide meeting, of the bishops on this question and other questions of the family, and that's why it's kind of interesting that the pope decided to make this phone call and say to the woman that she could receive communion because the issue technically hasn't yet been addressed by the Vatican. So you can say, yes, he's jumped the gun. On the other hand, he's the pope. Of course, he's allowed to do whatever he wants. We've seen him make phone calls before. And I think it will be taken as an indication of where he wants the conversation to go. TAPPER: The Vatican confirming that the call was made, but they won't discuss the content. As you alluded to, this is not the first time the pope's reached out and touched someone over the phone. What's another example?

GALLAGHER: Well, you know, the Vatican, as you say, doesn't comment on the actual conversations of these private phone calls, but I mean he did it five days after he was elected. He called his newspaper kiosk in Buenos Aries to cancel his subscription. He continually calls people who write to him here at the Vatican. He called an Italian teenager last year who was worried about finding a job. He called an Argentinian woman who had been raped. So he does receive thousands of letters and obviously responds to those ones that really touch him.

TAPPER: Delia Gallagher in Rome, thank you so much. Now to our "Money Lead." I could give you a thousand guesses and you still probably would not be able to tell me the bestselling book on Amazon right now. It doesn't have anything to do with zombies or with vampires or with vampires killing zombies or vampire zombies, but this best-selling nonfiction book does spill out a scenario that the author calls, quote, "potentially terrifying." According to some reviews it might change the way you think about the real world.


TAPPER (voice-over): One might think the secret to selling books these days would be mimic Harry Potter's sorcery or capitalize on "Twilight's" teen allure. But astoundingly the number one seller on Amazon is this, nearly 700 pages of economic theory by a Frenchman. Amazon cannot keep "Capital" in the 21st Century in stock. That's right, the most intense story line right now is not about zombies, it's the dramatic rising reality of income inequality, people want to know how the story will end.

THOMAS PIKETTY, ECONOMIST: This shows that, you know, these issues about income and wealth are too important to be left to economists. I think these are issues for everyone.

TAPPER: French economist, Thomas Picketty, lays the issues out plainly.

PIKETTY: If everybody has some share in the national wealth, that's fine. It's perfectly fine. If it gets concentrated in terms of ownership, then it is less fine.

TAPPER: It's perhaps not surprising that in this era of "Occupy Wall Street" --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my home.

TAPPER: Rapacious Wall Street wolves and a presidential push on income and inequality such a book bashing Reagan era rising tides lift all ships theories come in to vote.

PIKETTY: Markets can do a lot of things, but there are things they cannot do alone.

TAPPER: Not surprisingly, Picketty calls for much larger taxes on the wealthy, up to 80 percent starting at $500,000 a year and up to 60 percent at $200,000. But what would that do, critics ask, to economic growth, productivity, entrepreneurship or innovation?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's what it looks like.

TAPPER: One critic in the "Financial Post" says, Piketty's preaching anti-capitalist nonsense and suggests it was obsessions with equality that led to the tyrannies of the guillotine and the gulag. The debate over Piketty's book is intensifying.

PIKETTY: It's getting a lot of attention. I was not expecting that much.

TAPPER: Redistributing wealth in at least one small way, into the pockets of a previously obscure French economist.


TAPPER: The book's publisher, Harvard University Press, says it's already sold 41,000 copies and it's on pace to sell more copies in one year than any book in the company's 101-year history.

Coming up on THE LEAD, the 7-minute video that's causing controversy at 9/11 Memorial in New York. Why some interfaith leaders don't want you to see it in its current form. Our "Buried Lead" coming up next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. The "Buried Lead" now. To some, it's a holy war, so how can you talk about it without offending the faithful? "The New York Times" reporting that less than a month before the National 9/11 Memorial Museum opens its doors across the street from the site of the attack, a short film in the exhibit, less than 7 minutes long titled "The Rise of Al Qaeda" is causing deep concern among members of an interfaith advisory group who are among the few to have seen it. Why?

Well, they say that at times the film seems to paint Muslims and terrorists as one and the same. Joining me now to discuss it is Reverend Ruth Yoder Wenger, the director of training for New York Disaster Interfaith Services and Peter Gudaitis, the group's chief response offices. Thanks so much for joining us.

So this is from the opening lines of the film, which is narrated by NBC's Brian Williams. Quote, "The program tracks al Qaeda's embrace of violence in the decision of its leadership to commit mass murder at dawn of 21st Century," unquote. Reverend, they argue that it's very specific about al Qaeda not Muslims in general. You've seen the film. What do you think?

REVEREND RUTH YODER WENGER, NEW YORK DISASTER INTERFAITH SERVICES: I think the facts are presented in a context that is not nuanced enough for the audience that will be expecting to see this movie, this video. When we tell a story we shape the meaning that those facts have and we're concerned that the way this story is told equates Muslims in general with al Qaeda and that people coming away from viewing the video will make that same association in their minds.

We believe that a nuanced story would give a more context of history of Muslims in general who have been present fabric of the United States since early days, colonial days who play a vital role across our nation in the number of communities and the number of areas. And we believe the un-nuanced storytelling here misses that and makes an inadequate association for our Muslim colleagues and neighbors around this whole country.

TAPPER: Peter, obviously the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks were Muslim terrorists, they were extremists. How do you respond to people who say, why are you trying to whitewash that fact from this museum? Obviously, not all Muslims are terrorists, but these terrorists were Muslims?

PETER B. GUDAITIS, NEW YORK DISASTER INTERFAITH SERVICES: Yes, I don't really think that that's what the group is doing. I think it's important to mention that the group we're talking about are the religious leaders whose led congregations in Lower Manhattan during 9/11 and during the recovery, and our organization, in particular, which has worked on 9/11 recovery full time since 2001, the use of terminology here is relevant to how people portray the Muslim community in general.

TAPPER: What terminology, specifically? You mean Jihadis --

GUDAITIS: I think Islamic terrorist is something -- and I realize there's nuance here -- that we are not comfortable with. We'd prefer people talk about al Qaeda extremism or Islamic extremism, but simply using Muslim and Islam every time you mention al Qaeda or terrorists just draws a constant association between the two faith communities. And you need to look no further than the comments on "The New York Times'" web site about the article and the venom and vitriol that folks have with no nuance for a relationship between the two.

TAPPER: Peter, you write in the letter to the museum some of the translations are in broken English with a heavy Middle Eastern accent. What's your concern there?

GUDAITIS: I think our concern is when any one faith community or people is vilified in history, we try to make them different. And instead of simply allowing Brian Williams to translate the different Middle Eastern stories that are in the video himself, they used this kind of voice-over of broken English and a heavy Middle Eastern accent. It just felt to us unnecessary and a bit sensationalist.

TAPPER: Reverend, in March, the only imam who was in the interfaith advisory group resigned over this saying, quote, unsophisticated visitors who not understand the difference may come away with a prejudice view of Islam leading to antagonism and even confrontation toward Muslim believer near the site. Reverend, how can the museum make this right, quickly if you would? WENGER: By reshaping the story to draw attention to the positive impact of Muslims, both in response to September 11, vital work that was done across faith lines there, and also just putting it into a broader context. Every story is told within a context and we'd like to see that nuanced.

TAPPER: To be continued. We'll have much more to talk about I believe on this issue. Reverend Wenger and Peter Gudaitis, thank you so much for coming in and taking our questions. We appreciate it. That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. I now turn you over to Wolf Blitzer. He is in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- Mr. Blitzer.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Jake, thanks very much.