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CNN NEWSROOM

Courts Hear Motion in Anna Nicole Smith Custody Case; More Snow to Hit Northeast; Pentagon Defending Pre-War Intelligence Before Congress

Aired February 9, 2007 - 13:00   ET

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


DON LEMON, CO-HOST: Hello, everyone, I'm Don Lemon live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
BETTY NGUYEN, CO-HOST: And I'm Betty Nguyen in for Kyra Phillips today.

What killed Anna Nicole Smith? We are awaiting autopsy results and covering all the questions like who gets custody of her daughter, who gets her money.

LEMON: Autism on the rise in American kids. U.S. health experts call it an urgent public health concern.

NGUYEN: And nearly 100 inches of snow and counting. Just look at this. Eight feet in some areas.

LEMON: You're live...

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: I'm Rob Marciano on the frozen shores of Lake Ontario, where the wind is howling and the snow is falling once again. A live report is coming up on the CNN NEWSROOM.

LEMON: Well, in life, her critics called her a pop culture side show. A busty, brazen blonde, famous for simply being famous. Punch line of a thousand jokes.

But the sudden death of Anna Nicole Smith was the stuff of dinner table conversations all across America, and here in the NEWSROOM we'll be looking for the answers to some of the three big questions. And here they are.

When will we see the autopsy results and what will they tell us? Who gets custody of Smith's baby daughter? And what this will mean for the long-running fight of the billion-dollar estate of Smith's late husband?

LEMON: Meantime, happening right now, an emergency hearing in Los Angeles today on the motion filed by lawyers for Anna Nicole Smith's ex-boyfriend, Larry Birkhead. Is Birkhead the father of Smith's infant daughter?

Well, much more than parental bragging rights are at stake here. And CNN's Brooke Anderson joins us now live from Los Angeles.

And Brooke, you've been speaking to the attorneys on both sides of this.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I have, indeed, Don, yes this paternity battle has been raging for months. An emergency court hearing was held today in response to that emergency court order filed by Debra Opri, attorney for Larry Birkhead, to expedite DNA testing on Anna Nicole's body. Now, the judge did not grant that motion, nor did he deny. In fact, he scheduled a full hearing for February 20.

In the meantime, this delays any sort of burial or cremation. Anna Nicole's body will remain preserved in Florida in the meantime.

Right now, I want to take a listen to what Debra Opri, attorney for Larry Birkhead, had to say right after the hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBRA OPRI, ATTORNEY FOR LARRY BIRKHEAD: We had an emergency court hearing today because we are concerned, based upon doctor's, our expert's, advice, that there would be a serious issue as to preservation of evidence. It was an ex parte emergency hearing.

The court found that, because an autopsy is being performed, he needn't order additional testing. He did not grant our motion. He did not deny our motion. And the spinning by the respondents is self- evident, but he set us for a full hearing on all of our motions on February 20.

In the meantime, there is a temporary order in place saying that Judge Snyder (ph) of Los Angeles Superior Court wants the remains of Anna Nicole Smith to be preserved, pending the February 20 hearing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: I'm joined now by Ron Rale, attorney for Anna Nicole Smith.

Ron, I know this is a very difficult time for you. You knew Anna Nicole very well, are close friends with Howard K. Stern. But in regards to this paternity battle and what's to happen next with the DNA testing, where does it go from here?

RON RALE, ATTORNEY FOR ANNA NICOLE SMITH: Well, Brooke, let me clarify one thing from your introduction here. The application by Mr. Birkhead today was for an emergency order of this court to have Anna Nicole's DNA extracted from her remains today, or within 48 -- 48 hours. That request was denied.

There was also a request today for emergency custody by Mr. Birkhead. He had a request that Dannielynn be brought back from the Bahamas to him here in California. That was denied.

There is another hearing scheduled. But the emergency relief that they were saying had to happen did not happen. It was denied. So just to be clear.

ANDERSON: The court order already existed for DNA of Anna Nicole Smith and the baby, but this was just to expedite that.

RALE: Right. That's correct. And so that was not expedited.

ANDERSON: OK. Well, Debra Opri mentioned that she wanted Anna Nicole's DNA to connect her to the baby, didn't want any sort of bait and switch situation with the baby. How do you respond to that?

RALE: You know, I don't think there's ever been any kind of evidence of a bait and switch. It's OK for the judge to order DNA of the mother, the alleged fathers and the child. So that's OK. There's never been an issue of a bait and switch. So now we don't -- we still don't think it's really necessary, because you can determine paternity from just Mr. Birkhead's DNA and the baby's DNA. So I don't know if that answers your question, but it's not really a big issue. Whether they had Anna's DNA or not.

I just didn't like the idea of trying to get her DNA, giving me notice of a court appearance right after she died, to come to court here on what I consider a frivolous appearance which was denied.

ANDERSON: And you say you're very concerned about Howard K. Stern. Opri said that Birkhead is inconsolable, beside himself. How is Howard K. Stern?

RALE: You know, I should have been in Florida already. I talked to Howard finally last night. And it's the worst I've ever heard him. I know his family's going to be with him. And he needs his friends and family, because I'm a little worried. I mean this is really bad.

And Howard loved Anna dearly. I promise you -- I had plenty of conversations with the both of them. And if you saw how close they were, I could tell you Anna has -- Howard was always put Anna before himself. And so this is very, very scary.

ANDERSON: Ron Rale, thank you so much for your time.

RALE: Thank you.

ANDERSON: I appreciate it. Thank you.

As you heard, full hearing is scheduled for February 20. Don, back to you.

LEMON: All right, Brooke Anderson, Ron Rale. Thank you so much. We'll check back, Brooke, if you find something new for us. And we'll have more on today's hearing in a half hour when we talk with a legal expert who's been following Anna Nicole Smith's story for years.

NGUYEN: Well, Smith's autopsy got under way about four hours ago, and it's still going on this hour in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. And for that, we go to CNN's Susan Candiotti with the latest on the ground there -- Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Betty. And we don't know how long it will take for that autopsy to be completed. But I want to give you a look right now at what this overall scene looks like.

If we pan the camera over in this direction, you'll be able to see the number of reporters, photographers, journalists, from everywhere, from coast to coast and some from outside the United States, who are here to cover the story. They have been waiting here since before dawn this morning, waiting for word of this autopsy and when it will be completed.

When it is -- and we were told that will be some time this afternoon, we will be getting some information -- we don't know how much information -- from the Broward County medical examiner himself. He has gone on the record to say, look, if Anna Nicole Smith died of natural cause, my work will not be all that involved. If, however, we find that there are some other matters that may be at play here, then it could take several weeks for us to get a complete explanation for what happened here.

Again, at this point, we don't know how long it's going to take. But what we do know is a little more information about what happened in the hotel room before 911 was called.

We have known up until now the nurse is the one that discovered the unconscious Anna Nicole Smith in the hotel room and that she wasn't feeling well in the days leading up to her death. Now we -- CNN has learned some additional information.

We learned that the nurse was doing some work in the hotel room at the time she noticed, according to a law enforcement source, that Anna Nicole Smith was not breathing. At that point, she did not administer CPR. She did call Smith's bodyguard, who did start CPR.

At that point, she also attempted to call Howard K. Stern. That is Smith's partner. She did not immediately reach Stern. Stern had to call her back. Eventually, the nurse called the front office of the hotel, who in turn notified security, and then 911 was alerted.

As we indicated, we have also known Anna Nicole Smith was not feeling well, suffering from the flu for the past few days. Well, now we learn that she was taking both over the counter medications, as well as prescription medications. And what's new is that these drugs were not in her name; they were in Stern's name. These included some antibiotics, as well as valium.

Now, the fact that they were in Stern's name doesn't necessarily mean anything untoward. In fact, sometimes doctors are permitted by law to write a prescription in someone else's name if the prescription is for a celebrity in order to protect the celebrity's privacy.

After that, we know -- we also have learned that a doctor, before Anna Nicole Smith was discovered unconscious, sometime before this incident, that a doctor all the way from California flew in to treat her at the hotel. We don't know what day that occurred.

So a lot of this information still coming in, bit by bit, piece by piece, as everyone tries to pull together precisely what happened -- Betty. NGUYEN: Absolutely. And we also want to know what that doctor was treating her for. We appreciate that, Susan, and do want to let our viewers know that we're going to be speaking with our legal analyst a little bit later to find some of these answers to questions like if the prescriptions were in Howard K. Stern's name what does that mean?

Also, about the nurse who did not call 911 immediately. Are there any charges that could be filed there?

Of course, we're going to speak with CNN's Jeff Toobin a little bit later on in the show. So stay tuned for that.

LEMON: Well, all that snow was fun at first. But now folks in upstate New York say the shoveling is getting really old. Snow's approaching eight feet deep in some places, and wouldn't you know it, it's still coming down.

CNN's Rob Marciano right in the middle of all of it for us.

Hey, Rob, you almost got run over by a plower yesterday. So what's happening today?

MARCIANO: Well, we decided to stay off the roadways today so we wouldn't get run over by those plows. But what we can do is the actual lake itself, the culprit to all this snow that's been falling across upstate New York.

And what we found was not only a huge body of water but a surreal scene that almost looks like the South Pole here. I'm actually standing about 15 feet off the shoreline. Don't want to go too much more than that, because I don't know how thick this ice is.

But look how amazing this is. As wind whipped waves have been rolled in and with this sub zero temperatures at time, absolutely mounds of ice have built up on the shoreline here, almost looking like dunes. And then you have the wind whipping the snow off the lake and off these dunes at 30, 40 miles an hour. It's almost like being in a sandstorm in wintertime.

Beyond me, about 200 yards, is the lake itself. And in between this almost solid ice are broken pieces of ice that are rolling in from the swells. Beyond that, white caps and waves that are actually breaking 10, 12, 15 feet. Looks more like the angry Atlantic Ocean than it does look like Lake Ontario.

The bottom line is that temperature of that lake somewhere close to 40 degrees. And the above temperature -- air temperature here is, you know, 10, 15, 20 degrees. And that difference in temperature gets the air moving and gets that snow moving inland and dumping it.

Here, officially, we've had just over five feet of snow. But in eastern parts of Oswego County, as you mentioned, almost 8 feet of snow. And this is probably the most intense band we've seen today. We don't expect a lot today. But bigger amounts of snow are probably going to come over the weekend. Lake effect snow warnings have been extended through the weekend, to the beginning of next week, to Monday morning, for the potential of another two feet on top of what they've already seen today. And couple that with the wind, driving is hazardous because of wind- whipped snowfall that's getting back onto the roadways.

So that's latest here -- from here on the shores of Lake Ontario. Don, it is cold; it is windy. And there's more snow on the way this weekend. But you know, upstate New York, they are a hardy folks. They're dealing with it relatively in stride.

LEMON: They should be just fine. It looks like you're in green. I expect you to be some, you know, on the thing going, "Mush, mush, mush." That's what it looks like.

MARCIANO: Yes. We're an expedition out here. It's amazing, isn't it?

LEMON: Rob, we'll check back. Thank you so much, sir.

And we want to tell you that Bonnie Schneider, our meteorologist, is here in the severe weather center, checking weather in other parts of the country. She'll bring that to you a little bit later on in the NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: In the meantime, autism in America. The biggest study yet shows the disorder is affecting more kids than anybody thought. We're going to break down these numbers in the NEWSROOM.

LEMON: Another day, another clash between Israelis and Palestinians. But this time, sacred ground becomes the battlefield. More on the violence straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: What drove America to war in Iraq? Intelligence? Yes, and we now know the intel was faulty. But was it manipulated? The Defense Department is defending itself today against charges it deliberately misled Congress.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Even as the country approaches the fourth anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq, the questions still linger about the faulty intelligence that led up to the U.S. decision to go to war.

Today, a new report from the Pentagon inspector general reviewing an old controversy, the Office of the Undersecretary for Policy, run by a man named Douglas Feith.

He was the undersecretary in the months leading up to the war. And his office came under a good deal of criticism for developing its own intelligence analysis, separate from the CIA, about the activities of Iraq and possible links between Iraq and al Qaeda.

The new inspector general report clears Doug Feith and his office of any wrongdoing, but nonetheless says they were essentially running a separate intelligence operation and that it was inappropriate.

The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee was blistering in his criticism.

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), CHAIRMAN, SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: That intelligence relating to the Iraq/al Qaeda relationship was manipulated by high-ranking officials in the Department of Defense to support the administration's decision to invade Iraq when the intelligence assessments of the professional analysts of the intelligence community did not provide the desired compelling case.

The inspector general's report is a devastating condemnation of inappropriate activities by the DOD policy office that helped take this nation to war.

STARR: Now in the private sector, Mr. Feith issued a statement today calling the conclusions of the DOD inspector general's report absurd.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: The Senate's Iraq troop debate is on hold for at least 2 1/2 weeks until members come back from a recess.

LEMON: We want to remind you that we're waiting on a news conference on the autopsy of Anna Nicole smith. There it is, right there. You're looking at a live picture from Florida. That is Ft. Lauderdale. The results -- we're expecting them to at least talk about how the autopsy went.

Also, this is getting a lot of -- generating a lot of buzz, of course, on our web site. People sending in their photos and their memories of Anna Nicole smith. We're going to share some of our i- reports with you, coming up, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Well, the city that brought the world the cheesecake -- or cheese steak, I should say, cream cheese, thinking of all this cheese, soft pretzels and scrapple is joining the fight against transfat.

The Philadelphia City Council has voted to ban the artery- clogging fat from most restaurant foods. New York was first to outlaw the synthetic fat linked to heart disease. And Mayor John Street is expected to sign the Philly ban into law.

Don's not so happy about this. LEMON: There's lots of -- no, no. There's lots of cheesecake there, too. I lived there. There's lots of everything you want to eat.

NGUYEN: Cheese everything.

LEMON: Yes. Lots of transfats in Philadelphia.

All right, we knew this was going to happen. Apple's iPhone is still months away from hitting the market, but the competition is already heating up. Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange going to explain all the details on that one. Competition. That's what we do, right?

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. It's for people like you. You were so excited about the iPhone.

LEMON: I am.

LISOVICZ: You know, folks in Redmond, Washington, you know, the Microsoft camp, they were listening. And they said, "We've got to get him." You know, the smart, gadget-driven male. In any case...

LEMON: Thank you, Susan, by the way. Very nice of you.

LISOVICZ: You're welcome. Microsoft launched its response to Apple's iPod, last year. That was the Zune.

Now Microsoft may soon have an answer to the iPhone, a product that triples as a phone, music player and mobile Internet device. Microsoft filed papers with the FCC, suggesting it may add phone service to its line of Zune media players. A prototype of Microsoft's new device is used to talk over the Internet, and therefore, it bypasses the cellular network.

Apple's iPhone will use AT&T's cellular network. And over at Samsung, one of the executives there says one size doesn't fit all, one look doesn't fit all. So Samsung answering the call, too.

The company has unveiled the Ultrasmart 5700. Like the iPhone, it features a full touch screen, but Samson's phone also incorporates a traditional keypad that slides out.

And Don, I am holding out for the phone that also washes your floor and feeds the dog. And when that happens, you can just sign me up.

LEMON: Yes, and does the laundry and pays the bills and everything else.

LISOVICZ: Right, you got it.

LEMON: We should only be so lucky. Now, there's another new product. Microsoft's Vista was released just a few weeks ago. Any idea on how it's doing? LISOVICZ: Well, it's very important. And you know, it's not like customers have been standing in line at midnight to buy the Microsoft operating system, but for those that did buy Vista, many also bought another electronic device, and that was a computer.

Research firm Current Analysis says that the week Vista went on sale PC sales jumped nearly 200 percent from the week before. That may be because Vista requires more memory and a bigger hard drive than XP, its predecessor. So folks just went for the whole thing.

(STOCK REPORT)

LISOVICZ: That's latest on Wall Street. Coming up, I'll tell you about a wild possibility. A record company that may lift restrictions on your use of digital music. I'll have details next hour. Back to you, Betty and Don. More electronics.

LEMON: Hey, Susan -- Susan, I'm digging the power necktie that you're wearing today. It's very cool.

LISOVICZ: Well, you know, I got to mix it up every now and then, when I want to play with the big boys, you know.

LEMON: There you go. And it's Friday, right?

LISOVICZ: Right.

LEMON: All right. We'll talk to you a little bit later on. Thanks, Susan.

LISOVICZ: You got it.

LEMON: Well, the question was already headed to a courtroom. Now the answer is even more critical. Who is Dannielynn's daddy and who will raise her now that her mother's gone? We'll tackle that angle straight ahead right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

We're also awaiting a press conference to talk about the autopsy on Anna Nicole Smith. That should happen for us live, coming from Florida, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

NGUYEN: And I'm Betty Nguyen, filling in for Kyra Phillips today.

A tiny baby loses her mother. Now it is up to the courts to decide who gets Dannielynn. A complicated custody issue heats up after the untimely death of Anna Nicole Smith. We're going to talk with attorney Anne Bremner. You're with the CNN NEWSROOM.

LEMON: We started this hour with the ruling, but hardly the final word, in a paternity battle that survives a mother, Anna Nicole Smith. In an emergency hearing in Los Angeles, Smith's ex-boyfriend, Larry Birkhead, sought a DNA test on Smith's body. Birkhead claims he's the father of Smith's baby daughter Dannielynn. And he's not the only one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR, LARRY KING LIVE: Is there in doubt that you're the father?

HOWARD K. STERN, SAYS HE'S DANNIELLYNN'S FATHER: I think based on the timing of it that there shouldn't be a doubt.

KING: Does she know you're the father?

LARRY BIRKHEAD, SAYS HE'S DANNIELYNN'S FATHER: Yes.

KING: Are you planning to be father and mother to this child? Are you discussing what our baby is going to be like -- did you know it was a girl?

BIRKHEAD: Yes, yes, sir.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Anne Bremner is an accomplished trial lawyer who's been following Anna Nicole Smith's legal battles for years. She also knows Larry Birkhead's attorney, Deborah Opri. She joins us now from Seattle, Washington to talk about this.

What is the latest in this case? We're awaiting autopsy results but there's a lot of legal wrangling going on here.

ANNE BREMNER, ATTORNEY: Exactly. Emergency hearing about whether or not there would be DNA taken during that time of the autopsy, or shortly thereafter, from Anna Nicole Smith. That request, denied.

LEMON: The request is denied. So what does that mean for this process?

BREMNER: Well, the fact of whether or not the child is Anna Nicole Smith's is not really in dispute. What's in dispute is who's the father, and who would have the rights to the child. In life, the most certain things are death, taxes and, I would say, submit, DNA results. We'll know shortly when the results are analyzed. The baby's results have been ordered but not yet taken.

LEMON: The attorney on the other side for this spoke out just a short while ago at a press conference, of after a press conference, talking about all this legal wrangling as well. Let's listen and then we'll come back talk about it on the other side, Anne.

BREMNER: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEBORAH OPRI, BIRKHEAD'S ATTORNEY: We ask that the judge basically advance February 21st and order it forthwith. And the issues thrown out by respondents are that we don't have -- the court doesn't have jurisdiction over a corpse, any longer. And that is an issue the court says he wants fully briefed on both sides before he issues a ruling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Debra, what about the DNA of the baby?

(CROSS TALK)

OPRI: Say again, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you need DNA of Anna Nicole Smith if maternity is not being disputed?

OPRI: We are eager to get the DNA of Anna Nicole Smith, and this has long been a finding of the judge, that it is very important that the DNA connect Anna with the baby being tested. We do not want a bait and switch of a child. And even though people will say that's preposterous, that's ridiculous, it is a legitimate legal concern that the body being -- the baby being tested is Anna Nicole's.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Debra, when will the baby get tested for DNA?

OPRI: We now have to come back on February 20th.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Debra, there was also a --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So what about this bait and switch? Does this -- does this hold any water at all?

BREMNER: Well, there's no evidence that that would have happened. And the fact is, there's been a real legal odyssey following Anna Nicole Smith through her whole life and now continues after her death.

The question is what evidence is there that will occur? I know Debra Opri, she's a friend of mine, she's a great lawyer. But she has to make these kinds of arguments to get the DNA. She has a client that stands to gain substantial potential money in this case now, upon Anna Nicole Smith's death. And, of course, the child that he says he love and wants to raise, wanted to help raise with Anna Nicole Smith.

LEMON: We've got not a lot of time here, but we wanted to get it all in. You spent time with Larry Birkhead's attorney. You say you and Deborah Opri are friends. What did she say about the relationship, about Mr. Birkhead? Did he love Anna Nicole/ Did it seem like they were in love, and they had a solid relationship?

BREMNER: I'm not going to -- in terms of what -- she does not talk, you know, about the specifics of what her client has told her. That's privileged. The fact is, she's a good lawyer. She represented the Jacksons in the Michael Jackson case. She's somebody that has a lot of passion about her cases -- LEMON: OK, now what if the DNA --

BREMNER: She was passionate before Anna Nicole Smith died and she has it now.

LEMON: What if the DNA does prove that Larry Birkhead is the father? Does he automatically get legal custody or does the DNA by someone else supersede all of this?

BREMNER: The fact is, at this point, the birth certificate has Howard K. Stern's name. He may have rights right now. The DNA will prove who the father is and who has the right to the child, and the custody will go to the father. But this case has been in courts for 12 years on other issues. This could go on for years on the paternity issues. And this poor little soon-to-be potentially rich girl is caught in the middle. And that's a real tragedy, too.

LEMON: The baby's in custody of Bahamian authority there.

BREMNER: Right.

LEMON: So who gets custody now?

BREMNER: It would be most -- well, it's an open question. Howard K. Stern, being on the birth certificate, having had the commitment ceremony, and I would bet you is noted in the will, as one that would be designated to take care of the child, upon the potential of Anna Nicole Smith's death. So he's the most likely. But there's a mother, there's siblings of Anna Nicole Smith, et cetera. It could be a real fight.

LEMON: It appears with all of the endorsements that she had, that she does have some money, she's probably leaving to this child. There's also the Howard Marshall lawsuit.

BREMNER: Right.

LEMON: What happens now? Who's suing on behalf of whom? And who ends up getting the money if it does -- if someone does side in favor of Anna Nicole Smith? Even if -- does the case even have a chance now? Will it go on without Anna Nicole?

BREMNER: The lawyers on both sides say so. And the estate has the right to the case. And the fact is, all principals in that case are dead. The case will live on and the ultimate beneficiary will likely be Anna Nicole Smith's child.

LEMON: OK, she and Howard K. Stern were supposedly married in the Bahamas. Is that legally recognized here in the U.S.?

BREMNER: They call it a commitment ceremony. That's short of marriage. Either you're married, or you're not. It's almost you're pregnant, or you're not. And they're not married. So that commitment -- they did publicly -- had the pictures out there. There's been kind of a tabloid train wreck aspect to this case. That was done right after her son had passed. LEMON: Yeah, Anne Bremner, thank you. There's a lot of questions coming in and I hope we cleared it up for some of our viewers.

BREMNER: Absolutely.

LEMON: Even for me. Even folks covering this are still a little bit confused about a lot of these issues. Thank you for that.

BREMNER: My pleasure.

LEMON: We'll be reading some of your emails --

Thank you.

We'll be reading some or your e-mails, some of the viewer e- mails about Anna Nicole Smith coming up. Surprising what people had to say. She actually touched a lot of people in a way that most people would not really understand.

We're also awaiting a news conference. You're looking at a live picture there from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to talk about the autopsy on Anna Nicole Smith coming up shortly. As soon as that happen, we'll carry it for you live right here in the CNN NEWSROOM -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Well, Don, there is other news today -- an ominous clash in a sensitive part of Jerusalem. Israeli police battled thousands of Muslim worshipers at a site that's been a trigger for violence in the past. Let's take you live now to CNN's Atika Shubert with the latest on the ground there.

What happened today, Atika?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN INT'L. CORRESPONDENT: Apparently it all started when younger worshipers at the mosque began hurling rocks and stones. Israeli police responded with tear gas and stun grenades. It became particularly tense when some of those protesters sought refuge inside the mosque.

Fortunately, an Israeli-Arab lawmaker, who was on the scene negotiated a way out for them safely. But the violence did spread to some other areas of the Old City, there and continued for a little while longer.

Now, however, it has become calm. Cold weather and rainy weather seems to put a damper on it. There were 15 people injured. Those were protesters. And another 17 Israeli police were also injured. Very unfortunate incident that many on both sides say could have been prevented.

NGUYEN: And Atika, this isn't the first time this particular site has been the center of clashes between Israelis and Palestinian. Give us some history here, so we can put it all into perspective.

SHUBERT: No, it's not. In 1996, for example, a tunnel was opened up in the area. And that sparked massive riots, killing a number of people. And then in 2000, a controversial visit by then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, to the area, also sparked what's known here as the second Intifada, a massive, widespread violence in the Palestinian Territories' violence that continues to this day.

And there is some concern that this recent incident could trigger more violence. We're monitoring the situation, seeing whether it spreads to other areas of the West Bank and Gaza.

NGUYEN: Hopefully it won't. You'll be monitoring it. Atika Shubert, we thank you for that report.

Coming up, Autism in America. The biggest study yet shows the disorder is affecting more kids than anybody thought. We're going to break down the numbers for you in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Of course, our big story today, the death of Anna Nicole Smith. We're waiting for a press conference to happen in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to talk about the autopsy of Anna Nicole Smith. We'll bring it to you live right here in the CNN NEWSROOM. The news keeps coming and we'll keep bringing it to you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Just some new information in. Regarding the press conference expected to be held shortly about the Anna Nicole autopsy. We're hearing the chief medical officer from the medical examiner's office in Broward County, Florida, will hold the news conference today at 3:00 p.m. Information about the Anna Nicole autopsy. We'll carry it live for you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: A new study shows it is worse than first thought. The latest most comprehensive study on autism finds about one in every 150 American children is affected. Our medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here with much more on this and I think a lot of people hearing those numbers might be a little shocked.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. The numbers are pretty shocking. We'll talk about maybe why they're not quite as shocking as they sound.

We've been hearing for many years now that autism rates are on the rise. This is the latest from the Center For Disease Control, this report, just out. Let's look at those numbers. Betty, mentioned what the current number is, that autism in 2002 affects -- is diagnosed in one out of every 150 children. If you look back to the early 1990s, it was 1 out of every 166 children were diagnosed with autism.

Obviously that number is up. Here's why it's not quite as shocking as it sound. This does not mean there are more children out there who have autism. The reason for that is doctors are better at diagnosing it now.

So, for example, in the early '90s, when a child had let's say, mild autism, a doctor might have diagnosed that child with mental retardation, for example, when they really had autism. Now doctors are better at giving more accurate diagnoses. Autism is not always so easy to diagnose. It is not one disease, it is a spectrum of diseases.

Now, here's how the CDC put it, in terms of whether or not this is a real phenomenon or just a matter of reporting. The way the CDC says it is, "It is unclear how much of this increase is due to changes in how we identify and classify autism in people and how much is due to a true increase in the number of people who have autism."

So, that spells it out right there. Now, it's still a huge concern. It is still obviously not good that so many children have autism. So, what doctors are focused on now, is getting them and the families the services they need.

NGUYEN: Elizabeth, we hear a lot about the autism vaccines and how they may be causing this rise in autism. Any truth to that?

COHEN: You know, what? There has been study after study after study. This is probably one of the most studied questions in medicine these days. And each study comes out saying, no there is not a link. Now, more proof in that direction is that many people who said there was a link between autism and vaccines, they fingered a preservative in vaccines called thimerosal. Well, thimerosal was taken out of vaccines years ago, and still we're seeing these rising autism rates.

So, this is something that when you talk to doctors who really know about this area, they say it is not the vaccine. It may be other things. For example, there was a study showing when men father babies later in life, those babies are more likely to have autism. May be something there.

NGUYEN: Then, again, just so we're real clear on this, you said the numbers may be higher simply because doctors know what it is now, they know how to find it, what to look for, correct?

COHEN: Right. Exactly, that may be the reason behind this. For example, now there are services you can get if your child is diagnosed with autism. In the early '90s that wasn't quite as true. So doctors are better now. First of all, they're smarter about autism.

Second of all, they know if they get it right and they diagnosis autism, there are services that that child can get that they wouldn't get if they were diagnosed with something else. That makes doctors especially eager to be sure about whether or not a child has autism.

NGUYEN: Absolutely. All right, CNN's Elizabeth Cohen, we appreciate breaking that down for us. Helping us understand the numbers here.

COHEN: Right.

NGUYEN: Thank you.

LEMON: Elizabeth is not going anywhere. She is going to stick around because we're awaiting this press conference from Florida to talk about the autopsy of Anna Nicole Smith. And, of course, as we have reported, some prescription drugs were found in her hotel room, not necessarily illegal. They were legal prescription drugs. So we want to talk about that and find out exactly what they were and maybe Elizabeth Cohen can shed some light on that. At 3:00 p.m. Eastern, a press conference from Florida about the autopsy of Anna Nicole Smith.

In other news, director Spike Lee hands out a new assignment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SPIKE LEE, FILM DIRECTOR: Seven days a week, there should not be a day that goes by where you're not filming.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NGUYEN: A real-life project begins for young Katrina survivors. We're going to tell you about that, ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Take a look. When is it ever going to stop? The snow is approaching 8 feet deep in parts of upstate New York, and it is still coming down. A disaster emergency has been declared for Oswego County, where snowplows are having to clear the way for fire trucks responding to emergencies.

LEMON: After a while, you just have to surrender. New York is not the only place feeling the chill of winter. CNN's Bonnie Schneider tracking other storms -- other storms? From our Weather Center.

(WEATHER REPORT)

NGUYEN: No warmth here, flooding is all they have. Receding floods, though. That's leaving misery and death in Jakarta, Indonesia. As many as 420,000 people could be homeless. At least 50 people reportedly died in this. Health officials fear diseases from the filthy conditions will kill even more. They plan to spray the entire city with disinfectant.

LEMON: So many details, so many unanswered questions about the death of Anna Nicole Smith. Maybe some of those will be cleared up at a press conference to happen at 3:00 p.m. Eastern in Florida to talk about her autopsy.

She was blonde, she was busty, and breathy. It's no secret Anna Nicole Smith wanted to be just like Marilyn Monroe. Now her story has the same sad ending, parallels and contradictions ahead right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: Well, hope does spring from Springfield, Illinois, for a probable presidential candidate. Why Springfield? Stick around. We're going to tell you.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: They moved from survivors to story-tellers. The children of New Orleans will be recording their daily lives in a new project headed up by an A-list director. CNN's Soledad O'Brien was there when the kids got their new assignment. SPIKE LEE, FILM DIRECTOR: Seven days a week, there should not be a day that goes by where you're not filming. Can everybody make that promise?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Promise.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Promise.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The idea is very simple.

LEE: You're each given a camera. And we want you to record your life what you're doing, what's in and around you.

O'BRIEN: Famed director Spike Lee and I traveled to New Orleans.

LEE: Amanda.

O'BRIEN: Handing out cameras to 11 Katrina survivors. We asked them to tape their experiences growing up in the city. They'll record through the second anniversary of the storm this August. Our photographer, David Albriton, gave them the 101 before they started taping.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Push that and lightly open the door and the tape pulls out.

O'BRIEN: But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

LEE: That is the story, though.

O'BRIEN: First there was a discussion about life in New Orleans now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I commute every day --

LEE: Every day?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hour and 20 minutes, yes, sir.

LEE: Who you living with now, again?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A close friend of mine. And it's really hard. At times it feel like I'm 16 and I'm on my own.

O'BRIEN: The students already know what they want to show the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I want to do is making an inspiration to kind of inspire other young people by showing them, you know, even though that big tragedy happened, you still can strive through, even though there's a big, big struggle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to show the nation that it's not anything that it used to be. Probably never will be.

O'BRIEN (on camera): Do you feel a little bit forgotten?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like we're the lost city. And really to me New Orleans feels like an island to the United States. We're pretty much like Hawaii now. It's like they don't really care.

O'BRIEN: As the talk winds down, Spike Lee heads out and the students start to learn their craft.

LEE: We're expecting to get some great footage so you are doing this for the world. Remember, this is not just for yourself. So you've got to come correct. You don't want to go out half-half rootie-put, right?

(LAUGHTER)

Right?

O'BRIEN: So, Dave is going to teach you how to use your cameras.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, everybody turn your camera on, point it toward me. And hit record. You'll see a little red dot. That means you're recording. Everybody see a red dot?

GROUP: Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, just say hello, and give your name on the camera. Everybody do it.

(CROSS TALK)

O'BRIEN: You can call it whatever you want.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gumbo.

O'BRIEN: I like that. Well, Gumbo expects to see some good work.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course.

O'BRIEN: Michelle will you and out my welcome gift to everybody?

O'BRIEN (voice over): Soledad O'Brien, CNN, New Orleans.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: It's a fascinating project and you can find out a lot more about the Children of the Storm project and or visit with Spike Lee, online, at CNN.com/pipeline. And if you have questions for the kids, you can e-mail Soledad. Just go to CNN.com/AM. Be sure to watch "American Morning" every week day beginning at 6 a.m. Eastern.

The next hour of the NEWSROOM starts right now.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.voxant.com

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