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CNN NEWSROOM

Saving Britney Spears; Anna Nicole's Smith's Body Embalmed; Mardi Gras Celebrations

Aired February 17, 2007 - 12:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: An unusual sight on Capitol Hill, the Senate in session on this Saturday, ready for a showdown over the war in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's definitely different, that's -- you know, this doesn't happen every day, you know, 60 people standing outside and cops coming, stuff like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: It is a celebrity shocker. Pop star, Britney Spears, sheds a new look by going bald. And all of this captured on video.

And one step closer to burial. The body of Anna Nicole Smith being embalmed this hour. The chief medical examiner involved, joins us.

The news unfolding, live this Saturday the 17th day of February. I'm Fredricka Whitfield, you're in the NEWSROOM.

Challenging President Bush on Iraq, first the House will the Senate be next. In less than two hours, Senate Democrats hope to repeat the victory of their House colleagues by approving a resolution rebuking the president's plan to send more than 20,000 additional combat troops to Iraq. CNN's Dana Bash is live on the Hill with the very latest.

Dana, what can we expect to hear today?

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning Fredricka. Well, the bottom line is, to boil it all down, the Senate, at the end of the day, is going to end up exactly where it started -- that is deadlocked over the issue of a resolution opposing the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq.

So, the obvious question is why then is the Senate coming in on a Saturday to have this vote when many senators obviously had to change their plans in order to be here? Well, one reason is that the Democratic majority in the Senate is under intense pressure to act, especially because, as you mentioned, the House had a debate all week long with the final vote approving this resolution, opposing the president's plan. But the Senate is still tied in the same procedural and political knots that it has been for about two weeks and that is that Democrats are not allowing Republicans to have the vote that they want on their resolution and that is to make -- make it clear that the Congress supports the funding for troops in Iraq.

So, what we're going to have is probably, unless there is some surprise later today, this vote which is procedural which would not -- will not get the 60 votes needed to pass, that is the same kind of vote we saw about two weeks ago or so. What will be different this time, Fredricka, is that some Republicans who voted with their party last time are going to switch. Some of them say, look, time -- enough time has passed, they have given the leadership on both sides enough time to try to break this deadlock, it hasn't happened, and so you're going to see three Republication senators, at least, John Warner of Virginia, Olympia Snow of Maine, and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania all of whom oppose the president's plan, vote with the Democrats -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Meantime, Dana, there are some senators who are not showing up today, who won't be participating in this vote, why and who are they?

BASH: Well, mostly they are Republicans. Some -- a couple of Republican senators are on their way to Iraq for a previously planned trip there, a fact finding mission. One Republican senator running for president, John McCain, has said he's not going to come back from the campaign trail.

On the Democratic side, though, we are going to see full attendance pretty much, even from the four Democratic senators who had previously planned to be on the campaign trail running for president: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Chris Dodd, and Joe Biden and even two Democratic senators who had planned to be on that trip to Iraq. They're in the going to Iraq so they can stay in the Senate in order to vote on it. It won't be total attendance, though, Fredricka, remember, of course, there is one Democratic senator, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, who is still in the hospital and has been since he had a brain hemorrhage back at the end of last year -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Dana Bash, thanks so much. Of course, CNN will cover that vote live, happening within the next two hours, right there on Capitol Hill.

On the warfront, "Operation Law and Order," a crackdown on foreign fighters and al Qaeda in Iraq nets 21 suspected terrorist. The U.S. Military says they include a man in charge of sniper cells and roadside bombs. Meanwhile at least six Iraqis were killed in Kirkuk by two car bombs targeting a crowded market.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Baghdad to assess the new security plan her visit an unexpected detour on the road to Jerusalem. Our Arwa Damon is there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's plane reportedly circled for about 30 minutes over Baghdad's International Airport do to ongoing military operations on the ground, a small taste of the violence that Iraqis and U.S. troops here face on a daily basis -- before she began her meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, as well as senior Iraqis and U.S. officials, Rice's aim is to make a preliminary assessment of this Baghdad security plan that has been put forward by the Iraqi government and the U.S. administration dubbed "Operation Law and Order."

Rice saying that the initial indications were that the Iraqi government was meeting its benchmarks.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I want to say that we are very impressed with the leadership of the prime minister and his team, thus far. We believe that they're clearly showing this can be a new face for the people of Iraq.

DAMON: The main aim of this operation is to lay down a framework for Iraq's political process to move forward and hopefully jumpstart its political economy. Some Iraqi officials are saying that the violence in the capital has decreased over the last few days saying that this is an initial sign of initial success of this operation, but it may be premature to be making those statements just yet.

The U.S. military is saying that they believe that the insurgents have merely blended back into the local population chosen to lay down their arms whilst they sit back, wait, and assess the security operation before they move forward in their attacks.

A trend that we have seen in the past, is that when U.S. and Iraqi presence is increased, sectarian violence does go down, which is indeed something that we have seen over the last few weeks, but we have also seen a number of massive attacks against market places which have had a devastating death toll.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: Meantime, if you've never heard of Quds force, or hadn't until this week, that's fine with them. Think of Quds as Iran's Green Beret, a special ops force within the Revolutionary Guards. One of its ops is of particular concern to the Bush administration. Here's an inside look from CNN's Michael Ware in Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are Iran's shop troops, the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. And it's from within their ranks, from the best of their best, comes one of the most secretive successful and arguably best special operations units in the world. The Quds force, an outfit so covert there are no known pictures of them. But their presence is being felt in Iraq, placing them at the center of the storm over American accusations.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't say it more plainly, there are weapons in Iraq that are harming U.S. troops because of the Quds force.

WARE: Weapons, according to the pentagon, that Quds are supplying to Shia militias, weapons like the EFP or Explosively Formed Penetrator, shown in this U.S. military slide. The most lethal roadside bomb in the war, punching through the heaviest U.S. Armor with ease. Iran vehemently denies supplying weapons and some experts seriously question the U.S. claims. But what's not questioned is the fact Quds operatives are in Iraq.

MAJ GEN WILLIAM CALDWELL, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: The reason we have picked up some Quds force officers within Iraq is because they are conductively considered the illegal activities here within this country. And Quds force officers obviously work for the government of Iran.

WARE: The Quds, says U.S. military intelligence, are directing a proxy war against American and British soldiers, training, arming, and guiding Shia militia. Something Washington has been uneaible to prove, but precisely what the unit is trained to do.

MAHAN ABEDIN, CTR FOR STUDY OF TERRORISM: Helping these militias with intelligence, they're giving them specialized training in protecting themselves, protecting their assets, conducting surveillance.

WARE: Mahan Abedin, a Farsi-speaking (ph) British security analyst knows the Quds force. And out of more than 100,000 Revolutionary Guard members, he says, as few as 800 make it as Quds force operatives. In Tehran he once asked what it took to make it into the unit, this is what he was told.

ABEDIN: The typical Quds force officer has certain characteristics, one he has a photographic memory, a mathematical brain, whatever that means, I didn't inquire as to what that means, and they're generally highly exceptional people, in that they have -- very, very remarkable talents.

WARE: Their skill is infiltrating global hotspots, from Lebanon, to the Sudan, to Bosnia, and Afghanistan. Linking up with local forces aligned with Tehran's interests and shaping them into intelligence and combat assets. Among their allies are Lebanon's Hezbollah and Afghanistan's Shia warlords. And now while Washington is in a mood to now confront the Quds, there have been a time when they worked alongside them, allowing them to funnel weapons or personnel.

ADEDIN: There have been cases in the past when America have indeed turned a blind eye. I think Bosnia is the best case, Afghanistan to a lesser -- and also in Iraq.

WARE: But with U.S. claims that Quds force bombs in Iraqi hands have killed 170 American and British soldiers and wounded over 600, no one can afford to turn a blind eye anymore.

Michael Ware, CNN, Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And this just in, live pictures right now on Capitol Hill, the Senate debate is underway right now on that resolution rebuking president Bush's plan to send 20,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq. Just yesterday the democratically controlled House voted this favor of that resolution and in about an hour and a half from now the Senate is expected to make its vote, as well. CNN will be carrying that live for you right here.

New developments in the Anna Nicole Smith saga. We'll talk with the Broward County medical examiner right here in the NEWSROOM.

And Britney Spears gets a new body art and a news hair style or head style, shall we say, all in one night. See it in the NEWSROOM.

A Texas woman lived to tell the tale after someone tries to hire a hitman to get her killed. The shocker, who wanted her dead? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: "Across America," now. In a Texas courtroom, the wife confronts the husband who admits he tried to have her killed. John Sheroke pleaded guilty to the murder-for-hire schemed. He was caught on tape pitching the idea to an undercover cop.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SHELLEY FERRILL, MURDER-FOR-HIRE VICTIM: Tell me it wasn't greed, lust, and sheer laziness. The truth is there is nothing worth the suffering of your children. Nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: That was the wife confronting her husband. Sheroke was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Two hours from now, Army Corporal Jimmy Dorser (ph) will be buried with full military honors. Dorser (ph) was killed in Korea more than 56 years ago. His remains found in 2002 and positively identified last year, will finally returned to his family this week.

And check out this rescue in Washington state. A kayaker pulled from the chilly waters of a lake by a couple of canoeist, they tried to warm the kayaker up until an ambulance arrived, apparently he will be OK. Thank goodness for them.

Britney Spears sheered totally bald and into ink. Spears, here getting marked at a tattoo parlor in Sherman Oaks, California. You can hear the fans, well, they were gawking, they were outside the parlor. The latest addition to this year's resume of bizarre behavior. Earlier, "US" magazine's Bradley Jacobs was in the NEWSROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRADLEY JACOBS, "US" MAGAZINE: USMagazine.com is reporting that Britney Spears, yesterday, flew coach from Miami to L.A. then drove from the airport to her home where she stayed for about 20 minutes, then she got back into her car went to a Tarzana Hair Salon and asked them to shave her head. Now, the hairstylist refused, so she literally went and picked up the clippers herself and shaved her head clean off bald.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Hmm. The question is why. None of us know. Well, it has already been quite the year of exhibitionism for the former Mousketeer. Remember that part? Well later this hour, we'll take a closer look at what some say appears to be an out of control spiral for Spears.

Well, more than a week after Anna Nicole Smith died, her body is now being embalmed. The procedure got underway just a short time ago in Broward County, Florida. We'll hear from the chief medial examiner, Joshua Perper this hour.

Also today, a lot of legal confusion over Smith's will. The document, released yesterday, raises more questions than answers now. Our legal experts will tackle all of those questions. At the 2:00 p.m. Eastern hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Christina Aguilera needs to step in and just, you know, (SINGING) I need to help you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Britney Spear's new style, a cry for help, could it be? Once again the pop star is in the news and not for her singing. We'll have all the details in the NEWSROOM.

And crawfish pie and a bowl of gumbo, oh yummy, sounds good. They're partying down on the bayou. We're taking you to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, and you're in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Who doesn't like a great party? Well, it is party time in Rio and in other Brazilian cities. Tens of thousands of revelers are taking part in Carnival celebrations which kicked off yesterday. The annual run-up to Fat Tuesday is overshadowed by, however, rising crime including battles among drug gangs. At least 15 people have been killed in shootouts over the past week and beefed up security forces are on hand to keep a lid on the violence. Rio's mayor says the Carnival is a good time to face crime and say no more.

Well, it's also party time in New Orleans and across other parts of Louisiana. But the big bash leading to Mardi Gras also has a cloud over it, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Many areas have not been cleaned, may former residents have yet to return, and some who have returned are so fed up, they're leaving again.

CNN's Susan Roesgen is in New Orleans with the very latest.

And how have the crowds has been looking so far.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Fredricka, the crowd is big so far. These are not people who are leaving, these are people who love New Orleans, these are people for whom Mardi Gras is part of their culture. This is where the locals come out. Look at this, they come out park their chairs here, they have their ladders here so they can shout for beads. This is Saint Charles Avenue where all the parades are coming down.

In the distance, we can't see it yet, but can hear the marching bands are coming. Everybody here is waiting for this because, really Mardi Gras is the party that New Orleans gives itself. It wouldn't matter whether a single tourist came or not, we would still have Mardi Gras in New Orleans and Katrina or no Katrina the parades roll on.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STACY MERRITT, FLOAT RIDER: OK.

ROESGEN (voice-over): Stacy Merritt is a rider on a float in one of the many New Orleans floats leading up to the Mardi Gras. Each rider buys boxes of things to throw to the crowd and spends hours getting ready. And if you don't live here, the effort may seem strange in a city where so much serious work still needs to be done.

MERRITT: That is the dining room.

ROESGEN: Stacy is still waiting to move back home. She's living in an apartment while she tries to get a contractor to start doing some work. It's a common frustration in New Orleans, even a year and a half after the hurricane. But for many people, stepping away from the unfinished part of their lives is what Stacy calls therapy.

MERRITT: But when you're here and you see construction and you see trailers and you see school zones, but they're not on because the school is not open anymore, that's kind of depresses you and you want to get out of that.

ROESGEN: On the eve of this year's Mardi Gras, entire neighborhoods I neighborhoods are still struggling. Bureaucratic snafus have tied up money to rebuild, and a new wave of crime frightens many people who've come back. But the publisher of the local magazine on Mardi Gras, Arthur Hardy, says the carnival spirit is alive and well.

ARTHUR HARDY, MAGAZINE PUBLISHER: It is amazing Mardi Gras has recovered much more quickly than the general recovery of the area and I think it's because private industry, citizens run Mardi Gras, there's no government involved really, and you know, and people can do whatever they want to do without having to wait for any kind of outside help or interference.

ROESGEN: And so for the next few days until Fat Tuesday, thousands of New Orleanians will drag around bags of beads instead of lumber and sheetrock, but the end result is magic. A glittering fantasy for people who choose to celebrate life and not surrender.

(END VIDEOTAPE) And you can see that the parade is just now starting to come way down in the distance, you can hear the band starting, some of the first trucks coming down to sort of clear the crowd, clear people like us out of the street. But I want to give you one other reason, Fredricka, why Mardi Gras is so important to New Orleans. It's a huge boost to the local economy. All of the float riders who buy their own beads, who buy their own costumes, that pay for the floats, all the tourists who come and stay in hotel rooms and buy restaurant meals, it can be as much as a one billion dollar boost to the local economy and certainly this year more than any, we need that money, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Yeah, and all of those hotels and restaurants and other businesses who, you know, have really been enjoying great successes in past years are really banking on this kind of event and others sprinkled throughout the year, aren't' they -- despite what Katrina has done?

ROESGEN: So, there's still time, Fredricka, come down, Fat Tuesday is three days away.

WHITFIELD: I'm making plans, sounds like a good idea. Thanks so much, Susan.

And this just in, out of the Middle East, Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, is now in Jerusalem in Israel, she has arrived after making a surprise visit to Baghdad earlier, you're looking at pictures earlier at her surprise visit to Baghdad. The plan is while she's in Israel to meet with Israel leaders, as well as Palestinian leaders to help revive the peace process, she will continue to tour throughout the Middle East and even Europe through early next week.

New developments now in the Anna Nicole Smith saga. We'll talk with the Broward County medical examiner, here in the NEWSROOM.

And big news from Britney Spears this morning, the pop queen shaves her head and we have the inside scoop, stick around for the details.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Household mold, it can wreak havoc on your health you're your wallet. CNN's Gerri Willis points out some warning signs in this week's "Modern Living."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GERRI WILLIS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Joining me now is Andrew Perel, an environmental lawyer and an expert on mold.

Andrew, how do you know if you got a problem that's like what we saw before, that's going to grow to that? The problem s that probably started as a small problem and then grew out of control. How do you find it? How do you detect it?

ANDREW PEREL, ENVIRONMENTAL LAWYER: Well Gerri, there are a number of different things that you can do. First and foremost, you should rely upon your senses; your sense of smell is going to be indicative of a mold problem. When you step into a room such as this and you smell mold, mildew, a funky kind of moisture, a heavy smell, you should -- you should look around. Now sight is very important, too.

WILLIS: What am I looking for and where do I look?

PEREL: Well, you want to look where water is going to be accumulating. Mold needs three things to survive, it needs moisture, watered, food and it needs the right temperature.

WILLIS: One cheap and easy way to get rid of mold is to simply scrub your walls with a mixture of chlorine bleach and water. You need about, well, a cup of bleach for every gallon of water.

I'm Gerri Willis, and that's this week's "Modern Living."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Ongoing right now, live on Capitol Hill, the Senate debate all about the resolution that rebukes President Bush's plan to send 20,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq. The democratically-controlled House yesterday voted in favor of the resolution. When this vote takes place in the Senate, in about an hour from now, CNN will carry that live.

Meantime, other news that is happening right now.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arriving in Israel this after a surprise visit to Baghdad earlier today. She's touring the Middle East as well as Europe and her trip to the Middle East and Europe early next week.

In Pakistan, 15 people including a judge are dead in a suicide bomb attack in the southwestern city of Quetta. The bomber detonated inside a courtroom. So far no claim of responsibility.

In Pennsylvania, an early morning house fire killed seven people near Waynesburg. The victims including a 26-year-old woman and six children ranging in age from two-to-10.

On the entertainment front, Britney Spears creates quite the buzz with this new look. She shaved her head completely. She's also sporting a couple of new tattoos on her wrist. Why did she do it? Your guess is as good as ours.

So what was she thinking? And what is going on in the pop star's life? Britney Spears, I'm talking about, she pulls another shocker by shaving off her locks and sporting a couple new tattoos, as I mentioned. A bald headed play for publicity or is this something much more serious, a cry for help, perhaps? Our Sibila Vargas takes a look at Spears' recent dive into outrageous fame.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SIBILA VARGAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Even though Britney Spears says she's trying to get her act together, the newspapers are full of reports of more partying, more late nights and more explosive tabloid headlines, as Brit gets off to yet another bad year.

KATRINA SZISH, "US WEEKLY" MAGAZINE: I think people were every hopeful that 2007 would bring, you know, a more composed Britney, a - sort of a more responsible mom. But it doesn't look like she's going in that way. You know, she hosted New Year's Eve at Pure Nightclub, and, you know, there were reports that she collapsed. So she sort of started out on that note and it's really just continued. She's out almost every night. A lot of partying for somebody with two small children.

VARGAS: Two of New York's biggest newspaper are describing in excruciating detail Brit's drinking, dancing and make out sessions at several clubs: "Britney's Wild Night" in "The New York Post"; "Thong Tweaking (ph)" in "The Daily News". Behaviors so regular "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" can tell you that it's become a joke.

ADRIANNE FROST, AUTHOR, "I HATE OTHER PEOPLE'S KIDS": Look, I'm a clubber; I club in New York City all the time. And I sit in my VIP section with my peeps. And Britney comes in, and she's like, 'Hey, ya'll, how you doing?' And her friends are there to pull up her pants and make sure that they cover up her whale tail.

And my friends are there to make sure I don't muffin top. So it's all good.

VARGAS: Newspaper reports and explosive unconfirmed reports in tabloid magazines about her sex life while married to Kevin Federline - allegations coupled with pictures like this, showing Brit's now- infamous pantyless partying while out with fellow wild child Paris Hilton - that could really damager her image when it comes to the custody battle over her two kids with K-Fed.

SZISH: He actually is coming out look a lot better - sort of more clean cut. And Britney right now is not looking like the most responsible mom.

HOWARD BRAGMAN, FIFTEEN MINUTES PUBLIC RELATIONS: I would say try something novel: stay home and watch your kids. Sometimes the solution to bad press is not more press, but no press.

VARGAS: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT takes you back to one year ago, February 2006, when the bad press started. This picture of Britney behind the wheel of her black SUV with five-month-old Sean Preston on her lap - no car seat, no seatbelt, lots of outrage following.

KELLY RIPA, "LIVE WITH REGIS AND KELLY": The smallest fender bender..

REGIS PHILBIN, "LIVE WITH REGIS AND KELLY": Yes.

RIPA: And that child's neck snaps, and that's it.

JOY BEHAR, "THE VIEW": You don't take off in a car.

(CROSSTALK)

SZISH: Whether she was driving with her infant on her lap or dropping him out of his high chair, there were a lot of things that happened that really made her look like a questionable - how - how good of a mom was she really?

VARGAS: From the driving disaster in February to this in May: Brit almost dropped Sean Preston outside of her New York hotel. Two incidents, a lot of bad press.

But things only got worse once a very pregnant and not-so-put- together Britney sat down with Matt Lauer for "Dateline."

BRITNEY SPEARS, ENTERTAINER: You have babies at home, and you have - you have a life. And if you don't, you have to realize that we're people, and that we need - we just need privacy, and we need our respect. And - and those are things that you have to have as a human.

SZISH: Well, Britney's publicist right before her interview with "Dateline" said, 'You know what? Why don't you spit out your gum? Why don't you wear this?' And Britney said, 'No, I'm going to be myself.' You know, and so she did.

VARGAS: With two kids to care for, an image to revive and a music career to resuscitate, maybe being herself isn't the best idea. SHOWBIZ TONIGHT's asking if Britney needs an intervention.

FROST: I think Christian Aguilera needs to step in and just, you know - I want to help you.

JC CHASEZ, SINGER: JC!

SPEARS: Britney!

FROST: I think "The Mickey Mouse Club" needs to come together like - like Band Aid did -- maybe Bono could be there - and just have a concert for Britney, to save Britney.

VARGAS: SHOWBIZ TONIGHT found out the hard way that Britney's ex and former Mickey Mouseketeer Justin Timberlake isn't really interested in talking about Brit's image.

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, SINGER: Oh, I'm not commenting on any of that. So, thank you.

SZISH: Britney ultimately is going to do whatever she wants. You know, she grew up in the limelight; she really never had that adolescence. So now she's really having that delayed adolescence. You know and it's - it's sort of unfortunate that she does have two small children.

SPEARS: Huh?

SZISH: I do think a life coach or somebody to intervene to tell her what to do. But I do think she has that already, I just don't think that she's really following that advice.

SPEARS: What's that supposed to mean?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: And new developments this morning in the battle over Anna Nicole Smith. Within the past hour, morticians began embalming her body, a first step toward burial. But it doesn't resolve the court fight over who gets the body, the baby and her assets.

On the phone with us now is Dr. Joshua Perper, chief medical examiner for the Broward County Florida area. And Mr. Perper, how long does this embalming take, if it's been underway already?

DR. JOSHUA PERPER, CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER (on phone): The embalming started at 9:30 in the morning and was done by 12:00 noon, so it's about almost three hours.

WHITFIELD: All right. So it is about done now. And give us an idea of exactly why it happened today, as opposed to any other day. I know that there was a court order to preserve her body at least through early next week when a hearing is scheduled, but give us an idea of how you made the choice of today to do this.

PERPER: Well, I did not make the choice basically. The judge instructed the funeral home yesterday to perform the embalming. The owners agreed after some trepidation, but the embalmer themselves refused to sign the confidentiality agreement.

So we have to ask them basically not to come to our office. So the person who is the guardian for the child in the Bahamas and is involved in this agreement had to find another funeral home and this was the Aycock Funeral Home in Jupiter, Florida. They signed the agreement, they signed also an authorized statement when they came to our office and as I said, they just completed the embalming and they did an excellent job and I believe that the body will be able to be shown with no problem.

WHITFIELD: OK, so this new team of embalmers were able to carry out the embalming while also honoring a confidentiality agreement. But this after the first team of embalmers did not want to sign off on the confidentiality agreement.

So since there are still so many unresolved pieces in the whole case surrounding Anna Nicole Smith -- earlier you had mentioned immediately following her death after initial examinations, no pills were found in her body, et cetera. But now that the embalming has taken place, does this mean you can no longer extract anymore DNA from her body or conduct any further investigations into a final description of her death?

PERPER: I think that we did a very thorough job, we took absolutely all of the samples which we need, even more than that. We took more than enough DNA samples. Even the party which wanted to have a swab of the mouth, the DNA expert agreed that we did a very good job in taking sufficient samples and having a good chain of custody and insuring the safety and the integrity of the samples. So we do not expect any kind of additional needs for any parts of tissue or body organs.

WHITFIELD: Are you ready to say what you believe may have been her cause of death?

PERPER: No, because we're continuing to receive results of the very extensive array of tests that we conducted. I'm sure at the end of the road, at three, at most five weeks after our autopsy, we'll be able to come up with the final satisfactory result as to the cause and manner of death.

WHITFIELD: All right, Broward County chief medical examiner Joshua Perper, thanks so much for your time.

PERPER: You are very welcome. WHITFIELD: A piece of history shot down at a hotel in Memphis. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is remembered by civil rights leader Andrew Young straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

And we'll take you live to New Orleans once again, where the party is in full swing. We'll talk with the man known as the voice of Mardi Gras. Stay tuned, you're in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: A lot of folks feel like New Orleans will never be the same, but how about the city's Mardi Gras celebrations? Is it making a comeback after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina? Arthur Hardy is known as the voice of Mardi Gras, and he's here to tell us about this year's festival, important to tourists and of course to locals. So Mr. Hardy, this is the second Mardi Gras post-Katrina, how do you make comparisons? How is it looking?

ARTHUR HARDY, VOICE OF MARDI GRAS: Well, Fredricka, actually it's much, much better than the '06 version, which was our first one right after the storm. Not quite back to '05 standards, but pretty darn close. We have got 9,000 more hotel rooms than we did last year, predicting about a 95 percent occupancy. Many more parades, bigger parades, more floats, more bands, more visitors. So we think this is our bounce back Mardi Gras year.

WHITFIELD: So you say more visitors, does that mean that out there celebrating are mostly visitors, or is it still outnumbered by residents?

HARDY: Oh, it's always outnumbered by residents. But we think we're going to have a really good weekend. This may be the first Mardi Gras season on record where there has been and looks like will be no rain for the 12-day period. So that's terrific. It's in the '60s today, a little breezy, very sunny, so that brings people out, visitors and locals.

WHITFIELD: Well that is great, but at the same time there are a lot of residents who are still are expressing fatigue and frustration over slow recoveries in some parts, so are many residents kind of torn between celebrating Mardi Gras and being upset over the slow recovery?

HARDY: Fredricka, I don't think so, we're all upset over the slow recovery, but that has nothing to do with Mardi Gras. In fact, maybe that is why we need to celebrate so much, to get our mind off of the slow recovery. If the city had come back as quickly as Mardi Gras, we'd all be a lot of happier right now.

WHITFIELD: Well is it your feeling that Mardi Gras, the success or its failure kind of sets the tone for the rest of the year? Especially when it comes down to tourism and the booking of conventions, et cetera.

HARDY: It absolutely does and that's why last year it was so important, Fredricka, last year that we had Mardi Gras, that we showed the world that we're back. And this year being a more normal one, it can only Jazz Fest, French Quarter Fest and most of all, the convention business for the rest of this year.

WHITFIELD: So you said 9,000 more hotel rooms available this go around for Mardi Gras, so how does the rest of the year look in terms of economically the promise that might come with the kind of tourism and the events that you just mentioned?

HARDY: It keeps getting better and better. Now what we need to do is pull off these final four days of the parade season without any incidents. Mardi Gras normally is a very safe and remarkably wholesome family-oriented event. We need to make sure it stays that way through Fat Tuesday, and if it does, it has to help business for the rest of the year. There's no way it can't.

WHITFIELD: And so I've got to ask you about crime, because that has been a real underlying problem in that city, in terms of development of any kind. So how is crime possibly impacting this celebration?

HARDY: It doesn't appear to have had any impact this year so far. The crimes that are happening -- and there's never a good crime, obviously, really has very little to do with the areas of town where Mardi Gras is held, the parades or anything, normally crime goes down at Mardi Gras.

The arrests that you see are not victims, people misbehaving, being publicly intoxicated and things like that. So we're not happy about the crime situation here, but so far it looks like it has no impact on Mardi Gras.

WHITFIELD: Arthur Hardy, the voice of Mardi Gras, happy Mardi Gras and thanks so much for your time.

HARDY: Happy Mardi Gras to you, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Next time you'll have to wear more beads though. All right, take care.

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., hear about his last moments from one of his oldest friends straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights legend whose message and mission changed a nation. In a riveting and emotional documentary, CNN's Soledad O'Brien talks to an aide of Dr. King, a civil rights leader in his own right, who witnessed King's remarkable life and tragic death.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: So I'm happy tonight, I'm not worried about anything! I'm not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): He delivers a speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop." Do you remember the preparation for that and that night?

ANDREW YOUNG, KING FRIEND & CONFIDANT: There was no preparation. I've been to the mountaintop speech is something that he'd made before, but he always made that at a time when things were dangerous.

S. O'BRIEN: Is there anything now that strikes you about that speech in hindsight?

YOUNG: Nothing, except he basically spelled out -- he almost planned his funeral. Because he'd done it before and we'd gone onto the next place, I wasn't really taking it seriously; it was just a great speech. But I never thought I was listening to his last speech. KING: We've got some difficulties ahead.

YOUNG: But the next day, he was more silly, and goofy and playful than I'd ever seen him. And he grabbed a pillow off the bed and threw the pillow at me. And he and Ralph, they just kept throwing pillows and I was throwing pillows back. And I mean, they were just -- they were playing like 10-year-olds. And they finally pushed me down between the two beds and put all the pillows up on me and sat on me. And this was my punishment for not calling in all day. He came out after this pillow fight thing, and he didn't have a coat.

S. O'BRIEN: Where were you in the Lorraine Motel?

YOUNG: We were waiting for him to go to dinner. So I was telling him he needed to go back to get his coat. And then a shot rang out, which I thought was a firecracker. And when I looked up there and didn't see him, I thought he was clowning again, until I ran upstairs and saw, you know, him laying in a pool of blood.

S. O'BRIEN: At that moment, what did you think?

YOUNG: Well, I thought two things -- I thought that there was nobody who was more deserving to go on to claim their reward. And then I was mad because I was left with all this mess. I really didn't know how we would survive. Actually, his spirit has never left us.

S. O'BRIEN: Is it something you think about a lot or something you don't think about at all?

YOUNG: Something I think about all the time.

S. O'BRIEN: Really? In what way?

YOUNG: Well, everything I do I have to put in the context of what we were committed to.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: See much more of this very compelling documentary, this weekend "MLK Papers: Words that Changed a Nation." That's Saturday and Sunday night at 8:00 Eastern. For more on the life and works of Dr. King, visit CNN.com or the kingcenter.org.

Clean-up, it's still going on in parts of central Florida after a series of deadly tornadoes. An update from Lady Lake straight ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Genarlow Wilson had consensual sex with another teen. Now he sits in a Georgia prison, serving a 10-year sentence for rape. But many, even his juries, say the punishment does not fit the crime. Now one lawmaker's opinion may have killed his chances of ever having the conviction thrown out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Do you feel bad that the fact that you characterize this as a rape when you were talking yesterday in the Senate?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

SANCHEZ: You don't have a problem with that. Because it wasn't a rape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a rape in my mind.

SANCHEZ: But the jury didn't make it a rape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They couldn't make it a rape because of being consensual.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: Rick Sanchez puts the tough questions to a state senator who wants Wilson to stay put and stay in prison. That's tonight at 10 Eastern, 7 Pacific.

It has been two weeks since a series of tornadoes ravaged parts of central Florida, chewed up homes and property and killed 21 people. Lots of folks are rebuilding from scratch, more now from Preston Rudie at affiliate WTSP in Lady Lake, Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PRESTON RUDIE, WTSP CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The clean-up at the Sunshine Mobile Home Park is slow going. But it is progressing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not a whole lot you can say. It is -- storms come and storms go.

RUDIE: This retirement community was one of the hardest hit area of Lake County. Many of the homes here were destroyed.

PAUL DINOFRIO, LADY LAKE RESIDENT: There are approximately 45 of the 50 mobile homes that are wiped out that have to be release placed. And then the ones like mine that perhaps I might be able to, to repair it, there are approximately 65 or 70 of those.

RUDIE: Already the town of Lady Lake has spent more than $1 million on the recovery within some 90,000 cubic yards of debris hauled away.

MAYOR MAX PULLEN, LADY LAKE: Well, we're separating into basically three categories. Burnables, which we are burning on our public works facility, the aluminum which we are recycling and then just other metals. And we've got to determine -- we don't think that's going to be able to recycle. That's probably going to have to go to a landfall.

RUDIE: Talk with residents and most will tell you they're pleased with the response by local state and federal officials. In Sunshine, two families have even moved into FEMA trailers with more on the way. But the vast majority of people displaced by the tornadoes are staying with friends and family while the recovery continues.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're right, I can't believe that all this has taken place yet.

RUDIE: Some believe it could take years for all the homes in Lady Lake to either be repaired or rebuilt. But already there are signs, life here is starting to return to normal.

GARY BOZIEVICH, LADY LAKE RESIDENT: Even the people who lost everything when I talked to them, some of my friends in here. They said well, I'll get back up on my feet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: "IN THE MONEY" is straight ahead. But first, these headlines.

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