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CNN NEWSROOM

B-2 Crash Update; Campaign Trail News; State of the Black Union; Change in Cuba?

Aired February 23, 2008 - 11:00   ET

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


BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. The news is unfolding live on this Saturday, the 23rd day of February. Hello everybody, I'm Betty Nguyen.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hey there, I'm T.J. Holmes.

From Ohio to Texas and even a stop over in Louisiana, we're on the campaign trail and following all the plans and the promises.

NGUYEN: And a billion-dollar accident. The latest on the first ever B-2 bomber crash.

Then, driving Dr. King.

HOLMES: Yeah, 40 years later, revealing something new about the civil rights leader. You want to stick around for that. We'll have a view of history from someone who was right there next to the civil rights leader. That's ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

NGUYEN: Don't mess with Texas, but do not forget Ohio. With the crucial primaries in Texas and Ohio just a week and a half away, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are shuttling back and forth between the two states. Clinton is starting a day with a morning rally in Cincinnati. After a string of primary victories for Obama, she is counting on Ohio and Texas to revive her presidential campaign.

Now to Obama, shown here in Texas last night. He'll be campaigning in Ohio a little bit later today. Well, one detour from the Texas/Ohio shuttle, Hillary Clinton goes to New Orleans a little bit later today to speak at the African-American symposium called the State of the Black Union. Barack Obama will not be attending that event.

CNN's Sean Callebs is in New Orleans, and he joins us live. I know there's a lot of talk surrounding the fact that Obama's not going to be there.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, without question, Betty. Came to us at a great time. If you look behind me, you can see New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is addressing the crowd here. Some 6,000 people expected to attend the State of the Black Union here in New Orleans, talking about a lot of issues that are important to people all across the country, everything from affordable housing, health care, job opportunities. But these are issues, problems, if you will, even more glaring in this city. And they're going to focus, of course, on presidential politics, and a lot is being made of the fact that Hillary Clinton will be here, but Barack Obama turned down the invitation.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CALLEBS (voice-over): In the aftermath of Katrina, many of those in dire need were African-American. This weekend the convention center will host the annual focus on the State of the Black Union, an event led by talk show host Tavis Smiley.

TAVIS SMILEY, TALK SHOW HOST: And we owe it to them, those who survived, those who are still struggling to rebuild their lives, those who didn't make it. We owe it to them. We owe it to them to raise these issues now louder than ever.

CALLEBS: Issues for African-Americans everywhere that in New Orleans are glaring problems -- crime, lack of affordable housing, entire communities that still lack hospitals or emergency care, even a fresh coat of paint means something to a school where 97 percent of the students qualify for a free lunch program. How and whether New Orleans should be rebuilt is still being debated. Is it pathetic that 2 1/2 years after the storm we're still trying to make that argument?

Man, it's sad.

CALLEBS: State Representative Juan Lafonta is head of the legislative black caucus. He's raised eyebrows by supporting Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama. Lafonta says Clinton has been there when the region needed help.

REP. JUAN LAFONTA, (D) LOUISIANA: I don't support people just because they're black, I support people because they're qualified and they're committed to my issues that affect my constituent base.

CALLEBS: Hillary Clinton will be at the State of the Black Union. Barack Obama won't. In a letter to smiley, Obama wrote he'll be campaigning in Texas and Ohio, "Talking directly with voters about causes that are at the heart of my campaign and the State of the Black Union."

SMILEY: I think that it's a missed opportunity on Mr. Obama's part. Now, I'm not interested in demonizing him for his choice but I do disagree with it.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

CALLEBS: And a little bit further in that letter, Obama also said, a little bit further down in that letter, Obama also said that he would send his wife Michelle here to speak to the thousands of people in New Orleans this weekend, saying no one knows more about his record or his passion for leading America than her. However, Tavis Smiley turned down that offer, saying that the people here wanted to hear from the candidates, not the surrogates. Betty, I should also point out we've been listening to speeches here for a couple of hours or so, and everybody, everybody has said it's not about the candidates, it's about the issues. And that's one thing they're really trying to hammer home here this weekend.

NGUYEN: All right. CNN's Sean Callebs joining us live. Thank you Sean. And Barack Obama is scheduled for three major campaign appearances in Ohio today. In Columbus, Akron and Cleveland. And some bloggers have been attacking an antidote Obama related in Thursday night's CNN debate, something Obama says he heard from an army captain. Well, the blogs claim the antidote was a distortion or completely untrue. So we asked CNN's senior pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre to look into that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (on camera): CNN got in touch with the army captain in question with help from the Obama campaign. He requested anonymity because he's still on active duty, but the short answer is Barack Obama got the gist of the antidote right, although he missed some important nuance. Let's start with what Obama said in CNN's democratic debate.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You know, I heard from an army captain who was the head of a rifle platoon, supposed to have 39 men in a rifle platoon, ended up being sent to Afghanistan with 24 because 15 of those soldiers had been sent to Iraq.

MCINTYRE: Here's what the captain said. 15 soldiers were not sent as a group to Iraq. We lost 15 through normal reassignment and they were not replaced. Many of those 15 ended up in units going to Iraq, but I can't say that all 15 were. All of this happened five years ago in the spring and summer of 2003, during the lead-up to and invasion of Iraq. The captain was a 1st lieutenant then when his rifle company from Fort Drum, New York was sent to eastern Afghanistan. Ok, back to Barack Obama.

OBAMA: And as a consequence, they didn't have enough ammunition, they didn't have enough humvees.

MCINTYRE: It's true, the captain said, there were no humvees to train with at Fort Drum and not sufficient ammunition for training before they left, so he said they had to go do that after they got to Afghanistan and they only had three days to get up to speed.

OBAMA: They were actually capturing Taliban weapons because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief.

MCINTYRE: Were the soldiers scrounging for weapons? Well, not exactly. The issue wasn't that we didn't have weapons, the issue was we couldn't get parts for the weapons as they broke, the soldier told us. So when the unit's 50-caliber machine gun broke down, he said "from the large stock pile of weapons we captured over the long tour, we took the best functioning Taliban weapons we could use and we mounted that on our .50 cal."

Interesting side light, when then fighter General John Abizaid visited his front-line fire base, the soldier replaced the Russian machine gun with a broken American one just for show. Now, the officer is still in the army and his final comment to us was "it made me pretty angry at the time and I'm still pretty bitter about it." So while it's true this unit didn't have all the troops, training, and equipment this commander wanted, and that may indeed have been a result of the demands of the Iraq war, they were not split up, and technically, they were not scrounging for weapons. Jamie McIntyre, CNN, Washington.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: "The New York Times" is still defending its decision to report on John McCain's links to a lobbyist, but responding to readers' questions online, executive editor Bill Keller concedes he's surprised by the size of the negative reaction. He says many readers complained the story was a cheap shot, suggesting that the Republican presidential front-runner may have had an improper relationship with a Washington lobbyist, Vicki Iseman. McCain flatly denies that. Our Dana Bash will have more on the controversy coming up a little later this hour.

Also, we're going it give you your own chance to see the candidates live and in their own words. "Ballot Bowl" coming your way again this weekend. Tune in today 2:00 Eastern.

NGUYEN: And tonight the democratic debate, it is your chance to see what you missed or just to see it again. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the issues from Austin, Texas. And you can see our special debate replay. That is at 8:00 p.m. eastern.

Now let's get you to some nasty winter weather out there. The northeast is being slammed. Check out New York City. Residents coping with up to nine inches of snow, can you believe it? It turned roads and sidewalks into just slush. More than 1,000 flights were canceled there yesterday. Now, roads are also treacherous in Pennsylvania. Look at this. What started out as a snowstorm turned to sleet and then freezing rain. Looks like that pizza delivery guy really had a spinout. I'm not sure he's going to make it on time. Lots of airline delays there as well.

And in Boston, no luck for passengers cramming a train to get through the snow. That train derailed, forcing them to find another way home. Man it was a mess yesterday!

HOLMES: It was, and a mess certainly at the airport. New York was pretty much impossible.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HOLMES: President Bush putting more pressure on congress to pass a new terrorist surveillance law. It's been a week now since the old one expired and the president accuses democrats of blocking legislation so lawyers can sue phone companies that help the government eavesdrop.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

BUSH: When congress reconvenes on Monday, members of the House have a choice to make. They can empower the trial bar or they can empower the intelligence community. They can help class action trial lawyers sue for billions of dollars or they can help our intelligence officials protect millions of lives. They can put our national security in the hands of plaintiff's lawyers or they can entrust it to the men and women of our government who work day and night to keep us safe.

(END OF AUDIO CLIP)

HOLMES: Democrats actually dismiss the president's criticisms and they blame congressional Republicans for any problem for refusing to extend that old law.

NGUYEN: A lot of nice talk today between the U.S. and one of its key allies in the war in Iraq. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Australia playing down any potential friction with the new Australian government's pledge to withdraw its combat troops from Iraq. Gates says he understands the stress caused by the Iraqi deployment for the Aussie military. There are about some 550 Australian combat troops in Iraq, and all are expected to be pulled out in the next few months.

HOLMES: Well it's a billion-dollar crash.

NGUYEN: Wow.

HOLMES: What caused one of the world's most expensive planes to go down? We'll be talking to one of our own air force experts about this unique plane crash, just ahead.

NGUYEN: And later, we are keeping them honest. So did this week's debate reveal any real differences between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the issues?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Two air force pilots eject safely just moments before a B-2 stealth bomber crashed this morning on the island of Guam in the western pacific. Now, this is the first time one of these billion- dollar planes -- billion with a b -- has crashed. It happened shortly after takeoff from Andersen Air Force Base, and officials say no munitions were on board. One of the pilots is hospitalized in good condition. The other was released. So, let's talk a little bit more about the distinctive B-2 stealth bomber. Joining me by phone from Tucson, Arizona, is CNN military analyst, retired air force major general Don Shepperd. General Sheppard, thanks for joining us.

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD, U.S. AIR FORCE RETIRED : My pleasure, Betty.

NGUYEN: All right, this is a very expensive plane, what, billion dollars worth? That just went down over Guam today. When we talk about something like this going down, how big is the fleet of stealth bombers?

SHEPPERD: Well, it's not very big. This airplane -- first of all, the airplane's getting old. It came out in the late 1980s with the first airplanes. It's approaching 30 years old as a fleet out there. We were originally going to buy as an air force 132 of the airplanes. That was approved by congress. Later, because of budget restrictions and the cold war coming to an end, the fleet was downsized, and we now have 21 of the B-2s. So that ends up in the big price tag of about $1.2 billion, is the cost that's being floated around right now. This is 5 percent of your total B-2 fleet that went down in one crash here. So it's a big deal, Betty.

NGUYEN: Wow. It is definitely a big deal. I know we don't know exactly what happened, what caused it to go down, because the information is so limited at this hour, but if the pilots were able to eject, what does that tell you?

SHEPPERD: What it tells me is that more than likely, something happened. If it was on takeoff roll, something happened having to do with power or loss of control of the airplane. Speculating early is often irresponsible, but the fact in they knew something was happening and were able to eject, it tells you that something happened on the takeoff roll. As I look at the film clip you're showing there, one thing is a little surprising to me. Normally, you see a heavily loaded aircraft on takeoff with a lot of really dark, black smoke, and this is not a lot of dark, black smoke. In fact, it's grayish, even whitish smoke. So probably the fire department got there very early to extinguish the flames, and it also does not look like it crashed on a runway. It looks like it crashed off the runway. Luckily, no buildings or other people were involved from what we know now.

NGUYEN: So when this went down, not only did we lose $1 billion, the air force, but also 5 percent of the inventory. How safe and reliable is this bomber?

SHEPPERD: Well, it's been a very reliable airplane. It's been around for 15 years in combat. It flew in Kosovo, it flew in Iraq, it flew in Afghanistan. Basically, the airplane covers the world from about three locations with one aerial refueling. It's out of Springfield, Missouri, (INAUDIBLE) air force base in Springfield, Missouri, is where it's home based. It deploys to Guam to cover the pacific Andersen air force base where this crash took place, and it also deploys to Diego Garcia. And so it can cover the entire world, and there have been no crashes since the development of the airplane, which is unusual for a new airplane, and so --

NGUYEN: Well, I guess considering it costs $1 billion, that's a good thing that this is the first and only one that's been reported so far, General Shepperd, and the good thing that we want to tell the viewers is that once again, both pilots were able to eject. One is in good condition. The other one has been released from the hospital. General Don Shepperd joining us by phone, thank you General Shepperd.

SHEPPERD: My pleasure.

HOLMES: We've got some other stories here making news across the country. A fire destroys the dream of best-selling romance novelist Nora Roberts. She was turning this old hotel into an inn with a literary theme. The fire broke out yesterday in Boonsboro, Maryland, it spread to two nearby buildings, causing an estimated $1.5 million in damage. Nobody was hurt.

We'll turn to Hawaii now. And a tiger tale here. Honolulu Zoo officials trying to figure out how the tiger got out. He was found wandering around in an unsecured area just before opening time at the zoo. And it turns out that a couple of zoo employees actually left a gate open, so the tiger didn't have to work too hard to get out.

Also, a Tennessee man has been arrested not once, not twice, not three times, not a hundred times, not 200, Betty, not 300 --

NGUYEN: Oh, my goodness!

HOLMES: 416 times. Andy Davis has been arrested and he will be out of jail later this year. People in Nashville are wondering why he will be allowed back on the streets. The police chief says this is frustrating. Davis was most recently locked up for threatening an undercover officer with a box cutter, but he has a series over the years, those 416 of, I guess you could call them petty crimes, public intoxication, smaller things, but still.

NGUYEN: Yeah, nothing really major, but still, 416 times you've been to jail. I wonder if you get there and you go, the usual. Just send me back there.

HOLMES: He knows their names.

NGUYEN: They know his name. They know his face.

HOLMES: Welcome back, Andy.

NGUYEN: Oh, man.

HOLMES: Blasting into orbit. Find out how this launch in Japan could impact your future internet surfing.

NGUYEN: And now that Fidel Castro has stepped down, are you any closer to a holiday in Havana?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: Take a look. Lift-off in Japan. The country's H28 rocket today blasting into space. It's carrying an experimental communications satellite, which is designed to enable super high-speed data transmission across Southeast Asia.

HOLMES: Well, what's next for Cuba now that Fidel Castro has announced his resignation? Our Frank Sesno looks at the big what if.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

FRANK SESNO, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What if the United States were to ease a trade embargo that's been in place since Dwight Eisenhower was president and Fidel Castro a young communist revolutionary? There could be Cuban sugar, cigars, and rum on American shelves and a lot more American wheat, rice, chicken and beef on Cuban tables. Cuban transplants could travel more freely to do business or see relatives. Americans could visit Cuba's beaches, cities, and universities. What if there were an exchange of trade and people and ideas? Famous Cuban Americans like Gloria Estefan, Andy Garcia, Jose Canseco, could become goodwill ambassadors.

Maybe Cuba's government would find it harder to demonize the U.S. Maybe the U.S. would find it easier to pitch democracy. After all this conflict, the bay of pigs, the Cuban missile crisis, boat loads of desperate exiles, plots in politics, what if the U.S. decided to engage Cuba the way it's engaged China, Vietnam, even North Korea? Maybe Cuba would find it harder to repress its dissidence and democrats.

Maybe the U.S. and Cuba would start discussing the thousands of claims from Cuban businesses and citizens whose property was seized after the revolution. Maybe politicians and influential Cuban Americans wouldn't have Castro to kick around anymore. Fanciful ideas, but as surely as Castro is passing from the scene, change beckons, and the United States will always be only 90 miles away.

(On camera): Don't hold your breath for any sudden or significant changes, regardless of what the American presidential candidates might say on the campaign trail. There is the little matter of U.S. law. For the embargo to be lifted, Cuba will have to hold elections, release political prisoners, allow public assembly and a free press, and the president of the United States will have to certify to congress that Cuba's actually moving toward democracy. Frank Sesno, CNN, Washington.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

NGUYEN: We're remembering a cherished member of the CNN family today. A memorial service is under way at the national press club in Washington, D.C., for Fran Lewin. She had a remarkable journalistic career. As an "Associated Press" White House correspondent, she covered six presidents from Eisenhower to Carter. She worked with the Carter administration for four years, then she came to work as an editor and producer for CNN back in 1981 when we were just starting out. She never retired and was still working here when she died at the age of 86. Fran, we'll miss you.

HOLMES: Well, we will turn here now to what's been a tough week for John McCain, an up-and-down week, looking at his efforts now to change the subject from a potentially harmful "New York Times" article.

NGUYEN: And what would you like to know about the candidates that they're not telling you? Coming up, find out how you can send in questions and get the facts, just the facts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: It is 11:30 now. Happening around the world, U.S. military investigators are in Guam investigating the crash of a B-2 stealth bomber. The two pilots were on board and were able to eject safely. Also, the northeast recovering from a brutal winter storm. Icy roads caused traffic accidents and the airports, oh, don't even get us started. Flight delays and cancellations all over the place.

(WEATHER REPORT)

NGUYEN: And John McCain has flatly denied suggestions that he had an improper relationship with a Washington lobbyist, and now he says it is time to move on. CNN's Dana Bash reports on the Republican presidential candidate's efforts to put that story behind him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESONDENT (voice-over): At a town hall in Indianapolis it was all about changing the subject. John McCain tried to do that with tough talk on Cuba, so tough, he even suggested he wants Fidel Castro to die.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As you know, Fidel Castro announced that he would not remain as president, whatever that means, but -- and I hope that he has the opportunity to meet Karl Marx very soon.

BASH: But on "The New York Times" story suggesting he had an inappropriate relationship with a lobbyist, which enveloped his campaign a day earlier, McCain refused to answer more questions.

MCCAIN: I had a press conference yesterday morning, I answered every question. I do not intend to discuss it further.

BASH: That even as President Bush's spokesman attacked "The New York Times," accusing the paper of intentionally trying to torpedo GOP presidential candidates. "The New York Times" does try to drop a bombshell on the Republican nominee, says White House spokesman Scott Stanzel. "That is something that the Republican nominee has faced in the past and will probably face in this campaign."

MCCAIN: My campaign is not doing that anymore.

BASH: But even as McCain tries to move on, "Newsweek" magazine suggests there's a hole in his story, that in an affidavit McCain gave five years ago, he admitted the head of Paxson Communications contacted him to try to influence the Federal Communications Commission on his behalf. That, even though McCain's campaign had insisted the senator himself was not lobbied on Paxson's issue, a request to purchase a TV station. The McCain campaign calls it splitting hairs, saying they never denied his staff was contacted by Paxson, and they stand by McCain's explanation Thursday that he did write the FCC but never tried to influence its ruling.

MCCAIN: In the letter, I said I am not telling you how to make a decision, I'm just telling you that you should move forward and make a decision on this issue.

BASH: All this has turned a spotlight on the lobbyists and insiders who pay key roles in his campaign. Of McCain's five top advisers, two -- Rick Davis and Charlie Black -- are senior partners in Washington lobbying firms. Steve Schmidt and Mark McKinnon do not lobby but work for firms that do.

MCCAIN: I'm proud to have them as part of my team.

BASH: The man running against Washington's special interests says there's nothing wrong with having advisers who lobby.

MCCAIN: It's not whether the individuals, many of whom are very honorable, it's whether a system or people have violated the trust of the people as the representatives.

BASH (on camera): One senior adviser, Charlie Black, still actively lobbies congress while he works for the McCain campaign. Black tells CNN he helps McCain strictly on a volunteer basis and insists he never lobbies McCain, whom he's known for 30 years, on any issue for a client. Dana Bash, CNN, Indianapolis.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: And millions of folks tuned in Thursday night for the CNN debate between Clinton and Obama. And after it was over, people, of course, started scrutinizing, analyzing every word, every gesture, everything that every candidate did, and who did it better.

NGUYEN: Exactly, but aren't debates supposed to be more about the issues, not the gestures, not the outfits, not the little, you know. Josh, can you just sort this out for us? Because we want to get to the facts and you are Mr. Reality.

JOSH LEVS: It is tempting, right? Every time they were pretending to write things or actually writing things, I really wanted to know what they were writing, because it's become so much about personality. But the truth is, originally, debates were and generally are, about having different policies on different issues. If you were watching, you might start to wonder how many differences there actually are.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I agree absolutely.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Senator Clinton and I, I think both agree on many of these issues.

CLINTON: Well, I would agree with a lot that Senator Obama just said.

OBAM: This is an area where Senator Clinton and I almost entirely agree.

CLINTON: I agree with that.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP) LEVS: To be fair, I do want to say there are some significant differences, such as on health insurance. Analysts say that Clinton's plan would be closer to universal because it includes a mandate. And on diplomacy, she would not guarantee a meeting with Cuba's new leader until the Cuban government demonstrates some changes, Obama would. But the thing is, those kinds of differences have been covered pretty extensively for a while. People have not decided yet what do you want to know? If you ask their campaigns, you just get spin. Ask us, you get reality. Here's what we're doing today. Write us your questions today, weekends@cnn.com. Let us know what you would like to know and we're giving preference to voters in the states with upcoming contests, and I'm going to emphasize to all of you now, it has to be a question. We will not be reading your opinions on the air. Also include your name and where you live. We're going to answer some tomorrow and then we're getting so many, we're also going to answer again next weekend leading up to March 4th.

NGUYEN: You say we're getting so many, how many?

LEVS: We've already -- I just was able to check a little bit ago and we've already gotten dozens that have just be forwarded as far as two steps in, which means that we could be easily more than 100 so far this morning. I've been taking a look at these. You know, we don't have fancy graphics for you yet, but there are really interesting topics that people are bringing up. I'll give you an example here, Ed Horowitz from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, good morning, Ed. He asks about funding for stem cell research and embryonic stem cell research and the NIH. That kind of thing doesn't come up in debates, it's almost never asked in interviews, Ed you'd be happy to know I guess based on your email, they both say they want to increase funding for stem cells and for NIH, but this is what we're going for. There are people out there who will make decisions based on things that were not in that debate or in interviews. That's what we want to provide for you now, the answers that can help you all in the key states that could ultimately decide this race in a few weeks, which way to go.

NGUYEN: All right, just the facts, nothing else.

LEVS: Just the facts, no spin.

NGUYEN: Send them in. Thank you, Josh. In case you missed it or you want to see it again, be sure to tune into our special replay of the democratic debate from Austin, Texas. That comes your way at 8:00 p.m. eastern tonight.

HOLMES: And just ahead, our legal experts -- there they are! They're going to be weighing in on the other side of this break about the latest developments in the case of an ex-cop whose wife, whose third wife died under suspicious circumstances, his fourth wife is missing. Guys, we have some stuff to talk about. See you on the other side of the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: An ex-cop is facing even more scrutiny. His third wife's death is now being ruled a homicide. Drew Peterson was a police officer in Bolingbrook, Illinois. Well, his third wife, Kathleen Savio, turned up dead in 2004. At the time, investigators ruled her death accidental, but after a new autopsy, they now say she was killed. Peterson is already a suspect in the disappearance of his fourth wife Stacy. She disappeared last year. He has not been charged in either case and says he's shocked by the Savio findings. Well, the Peterson case just one of the legal issues being debated by our legal guys. Avery Friedman, civil rights attorney and law professor and Richard Herman a New York criminal defense attorney and law professor. Help me understand this Avery. He's a suspect in his fourth wife's disappearance, the third one now ruled a homicide. Is he going to be a suspect in that third wife's death soon?

AVERY FRIEDMAN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Well, there's no question about it. No one is saying that, T.J., but you know what? Ironically, the third wife, Kathleen, that case is actually looking better than the missing Stacy Peterson --

HOLMES: What do you mean by that, looking better?

FRIEDMAN: Well, because you now have a determination by a forensic pathologist that she has -- there's compelling evidence, to use the language of the pathologist, that there is a homicide here. So that's going to trigger further investigation. The most important thing in my mind is that the alibi that Drew had, T.J., was that -- I was with my girlfriend. This was four years ago, Stacy. Stacy's gone.

HOLMES: Oh, my goodness. Richard, how do you defend this guy now? You get him in court and you just tell the jurors that he is the most unlucky guy in love you've ever seen?

RICHARD HERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Hey T.J., let me tell you something, first of all, he's not going to be in court because he's not going to be indicted because there is no evidence at all that he had anything to do with the Savio homicide. It's now ruled a homicide. It was previously ruled death by accident. A coroner's jury of six members ruled it was death by accident. Now four years later the crime scene is destroyed. There is nothing to link this guy into her. He had the children that weekend. He came home Sunday night, she didn't answer the door. He took them home with him again, brought them back Monday, tried to get in. They broke into the house and there she was in the tub.

HOLMES: So you're telling me no matter how bad it looks, no matter how bad this stinks, it's all about the evidence, and you're saying he is not going to get charged in his third wife's murder?

HERMAN: T.J., you can take it to the bank. He is not going to be charged, no way.

HOLMES: Oh, wow. You disagree, Avery? He makes a good point.

FRIEDMAN: Sooner or later they're going to get a break in this case. Either Kathleen, wife number three, or Stacy, wife number four, sooner or later they're going to get this guy. HOLMES: Now what has happened -- in both of you alls opinions, either one of you jump in here -- what has happened in the minds of the police officers now that they have this new bit of information? They already had him a suspect in the fourth wife's disappearance. Well, now they're being told his third wife was killed. How has that triggered something a little different in the investigation into both wives now? What are police thinking now that they have this new bit of info?

HERMAN: It's rough, T.J. You know the family spokesman said the common denominator for both wives is Drew Peterson, and that's accurate and you can't fight with that, but this Stacy Peterson -- you know, her mother disappeared under similar circumstances and showed up several years later --

FRIEDMAN: What has that got to do with anything?

HERMAN: It's got to do with everything. There's nothing linking this guy into any crime and that's the point.

HOLMES: Let's touch base on one more case, the one out of Wisconsin here. Interesting that a man was convicted of murdering his wife by poisoning her with antifreeze based in large part on a piece of evidence his dead wife actually left behind. Left a note to a neighbor, saying hey, if anything happens to me, I end up dead, you need to check out my husband. Now, that doesn't sound like something that should be admissible or would hold up in court, but unique situation really in Wisconsin, guys.

FRIEDMAN: Well, I think we have a situation here where what the Wisconsin court did was relied on a Wisconsin supreme court, which relied on a U.S. supreme court that said it's an exception to the hearsay rule. It may be admitted not to prove the crime, but to prove motive. Now, that's a fairly significant distinction. If the jury didn't get it, there may be reversible error. I think the trial court was right, that's how they got the conviction.

HOLMES: Now Richard, this has appeal written all over it in your opinion?

HERMAN: Oh T.J., not only is it appealed, it's reversed, going to be a new trial. The confrontation clause guarantees you the right to confront any witnesses against you. You can't confront a letter written to some neighbor. It's ridiculous. They blew it. It's going to be retried.

HOLMES: You are -- you've got some strong opinions this morning. We're going to bring you back. You said you can take it all to the bank, Drew Peterson will not be charged and this thing will be overturned in Wisconsin.

HERMAN: Not going to be overturned, reaffirmed.

HOLMES: Oh my goodness. Gentlemen, Avery Friedman, Richard Herman, good to see you, we appreciate you. Can't wait to have you back. Take care.

NGUYEN: Yeah, they both sound pretty confident. We'll see who's right.

In the meantime though, we have news of an earthquake. Right after this break we'll tell you where and what's happening.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NGUYEN: All right. Just in, we understand there are two earthquakes, not just one. We're going to go to Reynolds Wolf, who is in the severe weather center and he's tracking all of this. Lay it out for us. Where did this happen?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN M ETEOROLOGIST: Well, the one we're going to really focus on is going to be one in the extreme southern Atlantic. In fact, as we go to our graphics, let's go to that right now, I'm just going to manually take you from the U.S. -- you see the U.S. here obviously on the screen here, easily recognizable -- way down to the southern Atlantic, and you see that red dot right there in the middle of the screen. We're going to zoom in on that location. That is just to the east of the South Sandwich Islands near new Georgia. You'll notice there's an island chain right here which includes one, two, three, four, five, six, seven eight -- about eight islands or so, just your classic hotspot. You have a (INAUDIBLE) plate. This is the site of the quake that we have. There's actually a small possibility that this quake, which happens to be actually a 6.9, a fairly strong quake, small possibility of a local regional tsunami that could affect coasts. Usually located no more than a few hundred kilometers from this epicenter. In the region, people really need to be advised that there is the potential for some tsunami activity. However, the widespread destructives of a very large tsunami does not exist at all, but there is always that slight risk, you could have, to me, all these things are obviously very dangerous and this would not be of the magnitude of what we have seen in the Indian Ocean just a few years back but still something we need to watch very carefully. Not unusual to have that kind of activity where you see those hotspots. This chain not too unlike the Hawaiian Islands in terms of structure, where you see one mass after another after another formed over millions and millions of years. That is the latest one we have. There is also one that we have that has been popping up in parts of Alaska. We're going to take you back over in that part of the world. This one a little bit smaller, and this one actually inland. We're going to zoom in on that location. This one you see right here is a 2.9, and that formed just a short while ago. 2.9 for people in that part of Alaska. Something that is fairly common, a very active area in terms of earthquakes and in terms of volcanic activity as well. But that is the latest, 2.9 and 6.9. Very active conditions in terms of our planet, it's an ever changing place and we're watching it unfold right before our eyes.

NGUYEN: You covered some distance there, Reynolds.

WOLF: Yeah, it's been one of those weird mornings. We've covered of course the U.S., both coasts, everywhere in between and now we're covering different sides of the planet.

NGUYEN: We are global here at CNN.

WOLF: It's all in a days work. You bet.

NGUYEN: Thank you Reynolds.

WOLF: Any time.

HOLMES: All right, and Fredricka Whitfield, international lady of mystery herself.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, how are you guys doing?

HOLMES: Good morning.

WHITFIELD: That's funny. I don't know if I can follow up on that one.

HOLMES: Of course, you can't. But coming up at noon, what have you got going on?

WHITFIELD: We've got a lot. Dr. Martin Luther King has touched so many lives -- understatement of the century. All right, well, imagine what it's like driving in the front seat with Dr. King down many of those tumultuous roads. Well, this guy right here doesn't have to imagine. Tom Houck he was actually there. In fact, he was actually in the car with Dr. King. So you're wondering who in the heck is Tom Houck and what car could she possibly be talking about. Well, you've got to stick around for the noon hour to find out.

NGUYEN: Driving Dr. King, huh?

WHITFIELD: Yeah, I like it.

HOLMES: That's a heck of a tease there.

WHITFIELD: Ok good.

HOLMES: We will stick around for it. Fredricka, good to see you, thank you.

WHITFIELD: You said I was a woman of mystery.

HOLMES: You deliver. You deliver.

Here we go folks, the writers are back, but "Saturday Night Live" is still missing a key ingredient for political satire.

NGUYEN: Needed, one Barack Obama. Needs to be funny.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Live from New York, it's Mike Huckabee!

NGUYEN: Yeah, that's right. Republican presidential candidate is scheduled to be a guest on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" tonight. Question is, how many delegates are up for grabs there at "SNL"? I don't know.

HOLMES: Well, his funding is kind of tight. He's got a long- shot presidential bid here, so Huckabee will be getting some free media on the late-night comedy show, the first "SNL" since the writers strike ended.

NGUYEN: Huckabee jokes that if he can't make it for tonight's show, they might get Brad Pitt to portray him. Yeah, right.

HOLMES: What are you saying, he's not a good looking man?

NGUYEN: I'm not seeing the resemblance there.

HOLMES: You don't think he's a good looking man?

NGUYEN: No, he's fine, but he's not Brad Pitt. He would admit that himself.

HOLMES: Well, it won't be Brad Pitt, but "Saturday Night Live" has been looking for someone to portray Barack Obama.

NGUYEN: This is true. While the real Obama appeared on "SNL" some months ago, they have been looking for an impersonator to appear in comedy sketches. As CNN's Jeanne Moos reports, it has not been easy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Will the fake Obama please stand up?

Calling all Obamas. Your dream gig is up for grabs. "Saturday Night Live" needs to find an Obama fast.

Who is that under there?

MOOS: The real Obama is the only one to ever appear in the show. And now with the writers strike over, they need an impersonator who can go the distance. It's tough for Keenan Thompson, the only black male actor already on the "SNL" staff, to play lanky Obama, since Thompson's been big enough to star in "Fat Albert."

Contact music dot com reported that Thompson was trying to lose 60 pounds so he could play Obama. There are a few imposters out there. For instance, the star of "Barackula," a musical about a young Barack Obama's run-in with vampires. You can find look-alikes looking for work online. Ron Butler got a gig simulating a break dancing contest with Hillary. Impersonators say it's not easy being Barack. He's not clumsy, he doesn't mispronounce things.

We're ready for sex change in the White House?

Well, I don't know about that --

The face of the next president -- excuse me, sir -- will be a feminine face.

Well, thank you --

An actual female with all the fully functioning organs of a female.

WYATT CENAC, COMEDIAN: It's a shame that he's not a stupid man, because it would make doing an impression of him a lot easier.

Obama!

MOOS (on camera): So even when comedians make fun of Obama, it's usually for things that tend to make him look good.

(Voice-over): For instance, showing everyone swooning over him. Impersonators have to make due with a few measly gestures.

CENAC: He gesticulates a lot with his hands.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Live from New York, it's Saturday night.

MOOS: We won't find out until Saturday night who will play Obama. It should be someone who can convincingly say yes we can, from day one. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: They need somebody. They might need somebody for a while if he wins.

NGUYEN: Are you thinking about it?

HOLMES: I could pull it off. I need to grow some hair. I think he's a little taller than I am.

NGUYEN: Ears.

HOLMES: Except for the ears.

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