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Birthers Reemerge; Will Ash Cloud Threat Continue?

Aired April 21, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight: The birthers are back. And, this time, legislators are listening.

Republicans in Arizona are trying to demand that presidential candidates produce a birth certificate in that state. Five other states are working on similar measures. Tonight, you will hear directly from one of the Arizona lawmakers who voted for the bill.

We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also tonight, think the chaos from Iceland's erupting volcano is bad? What if it is only the opening act? We will show you its bigger brother, which could be on the brink of blowing its top. It's our 360 dispatch.

And, later, "Up Close" -- you will not be able to turn away from this mom's story. After complications giving birth, she is now unable to move or speak. She can only blink her eyes. The question and the court fight is over this: Can she think and communicate? And should she be allowed to see her three young children? Right now, she is not.

First up tonight, the birthers are back. Legislators in a number of states are listening, and Arizona Republicans are trying to pass laws in response -- the Arizona House of Representatives this week passing legislation to require a candidate to show a birth certificate in order to get on the presidential ballot.

Five other states are considering the idea. But, before we go any further, let's just walk over to the wall. Let's just get a couple of things out of the way here, so we're all on the same page.

This is an official copy of President Obama's birth certificate from the state of Hawaii, certification of live birth. Now, the state went paperless nine years ago, so the original is now in an electronic form on a server somewhere.

On the back of official copy, right down here, is a stamp from Hawaii's state registrar. Doubters claim the certificate is unsigned and therefore bogus. In fact, a stamp is how they do it in Hawaii.

Now, take a look at this. Let's just move this down. Let's move that down away. They also claim it doesn't have a raised seal, which, as you can see, it does. The photos, by the way, are from the nonpartisan They were taken at Obama headquarters in Chicago. Yet, cruise the Web, and you will find plenty of other documents, like this one, purporting to show Mr. Obama was actually born in Kenya, even though the birth certificate -- take a look at this -- actually gets the name of the country wrong. It says Republic of Kenya. At the time, it wasn't called the Republic of Kenya, as it says it was right there.

But, we mentioned, a lot of people are buying this notion of a foreign president. Check it out. this is pretty stunning. This is a "New York Times"/CBS News poll showing 20 percent surveyed, one in five, said President Obama is Kenyan by birth. Another 23 percent said they just don't know. Only 58 percent said the president of the United States is an American.

Now, granted, that's a majority, but, still, can you recall any other time when a significant number of people actually had any doubt about their president?

Now, here's what "The Arizona Republic" editorial board writes about the proposed birth certificate law in state. This is not a national thing. This is in the state. "Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who lives in the real world, not on conspiracy island, points out that it could be unconstitutional for a state to impose its own requirements on federal office. The proposed legislation is worse than a foolish waste of time," "The Arizona Republic" says, and "suggests Arizona is a place where any crackpot whim can be enshrined in law."

So, "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, we're going to ask whether this bill or anything like it is even constitutional. We will also take a closer look at this 20 percent, the birthers, and what they believe.


COOPER: Joining us now is Arizona Republican State Representative Cecil Ash, who voted for the measure.

Thanks very much for being with us.

Do you believe Barack Obama is an American born in Hawaii?

CECIL ASH (R), ARIZONA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: All the evidence I have seen is that he was born in Hawaii. I have seen a birth certificate on the Internet. Of course, you can't believe everything you see on the Internet. So, I have never personally investigated it or studied it.

COOPER: But, Oklahoma, it sounds like you're -- really saying you believe it, but you don't believe what you read on the Internet. So, you do believe he's an American, though?

ASH: Yes, I do.

COOPER: I mean, as you said, the certificate of live birth is available for anyone to see. It's been released. And, in Hawaii, there are only electronic records at this point, and the health department there has verified it. They have made public statements.

So, why vote for something which perpetuates these false Internet rumors?

ASH: Well, Anderson, I think there's been a lot of controversy over the issue. It's created a division among a lot of people in the United States. And, for better or worse, many people don't believe he is a U.S. citizen. They believe he has loyalties -- divided loyalties, I suppose you could say.

COOPER: Right, but those people are wrong. I mean, he is a U.S. citizen.

ASH: Well, you're telling me that he's wrong. I have never investigated that. If he is, then he has nothing to fear.

COOPER: But -- but, I mean, that -- the information is out there. It has been released. It has been shown. There are some people who don't believe it, but there are also some people who believe that the moon is made out of cheese. And you can say you have never investigated it, but I think you would probably say the moon is not made out of cheese.

ASH: Well, I certainly would.

But the reason I spoke up on this bill is simply because there is a lot of division in the country. And I believe this would put an end to any future controversy about a president's qualifications.

COOPER: You told our producer you voted for this because you get a lot of calls from constituents with questions based on things they have read on the Internet.

I mean, isn't it your job as a leader to actually lead, not to throw up your hands and say, well, who knows what's real or not on the Internet, to actually say, well, actually, you know, Hawaii has released this information, and it's factually correct?

ASH: Well, as I said, I haven't personally investigated that. But I -- I think that, if -- if...

COOPER: But, I mean, there's plenty of things you believe that you have not personally investigated.

ASH: That's true.

COOPER: Why, this, are you holding onto?

ASH: Well, what we're requiring here is for a -- a presidential candidate to demonstrate he is qualified.

And I don't think having any presidential candidate -- candidate show that he's qualified by demonstrating the requirements of the requirements, that there's any problem with that.

COOPER: You told my producer you thought the president spent a million dollars fighting the release of his birth certificate, and then that raised concerns for you.


ASH: That's what I have heard. As I said, it...

COOPER: Right. But that's not -- you know that's actually not true?

ASH: I -- I don't know that that's not true. As I said, I haven't studied it. You get a lot of information on the Internet. As you know, much of it is inaccurate.

This has not been a focus of my attention for the last two years. But I know it is a matter of -- of controversy for many people. And I looked at this as simply a -- a means to end that controversy.

COOPER: You -- you also said to our producer that the president identified himself as a foreigner on his college application.

ASH: Yes.

COOPER: You know that's not true, right?

ASH: I didn't know that that was not true.

COOPER: That's a story that was put out on April Fool's Day. It's a fake AP news story.

ASH: Like I said, I -- I'm reluctant to read anything I read on the Internet, including the evidence about his birth certificate.

This -- this is not the responsibility of the average citizen.

COOPER: So -- so -- so, the only -- the only way you will believe a birth certificate is if, what, you see it for yourself at the state office in Hawaii? I mean, to not believe anything that is put out by anyone, then how can you believe anything? I mean...

ASH: Well, it's -- it...


ASH: It's not my -- it's not my responsibility...

COOPER: Do you believe...


ASH: ... to check the qualifications.

When someone comes to be on the ballot in Arizona, it's not my responsibility to check those qualifications. It's the responsibility of the secretary of state.

And, so, all we said is, if -- if it's required that you be a natural-born citizen, he should determine that. Now, you -- you argue this in terms of what's happened to Barack Obama. I'm thinking in terms of the next nominees down the road.

COOPER: But this is all about Barack Obama. I mean, this is -- this is completely partisan, no?

ASH: Well -- well, that's why I spoke up on the bill. They were -- the other side, the Democrats, were saying this is racist; it's to embarrass Barack Obama.

And I spoke up to say, this is not a matter of race. It's not a racist issue. I'm merely voting for the -- as you call it, the birthers amendment.

COOPER: So, where was George Bush born?

ASH: I have no idea where George Bush was born.

COOPER: But you -- that wasn't a concern for you when he was in office?

ASH: The issue never came up.

COOPER: What about Bill Clinton? Where was he born?

ASH: I have no idea.

COOPER: So, all of a sudden, you're concerned about where the president of the United States is born, based on calls you're getting from constituents who are misinformed?

ASH: Actually, I did not get any calls from constituents until after this bill was passed.

But I don't think there's any harm in requiring someone to demonstrate that they meet the requirements for the position. Now, nobody can deny -- regardless of what you believe about President Obama, nobody can deny that there's been a controversy. You may deny...

COOPER: Well, yes, but there's controversy about everything. People -- and there -- but there are things called facts, and you know the facts. You are a leader. You know the facts.

Isn't it your job -- when a constituent calls and says, gosh, I'm reading all this stuff on the Internet that President Obama was a -- was foreign exchange student, to say, actually, no, he wasn't?

I mean, isn't it -- that your -- part of your job?

ASH: Look, President Obama is president now. For the future, this kind of controversy should not come up again, because they will have to establish that up front. And that will avoid this kind of controversy in the future.

COOPER: To your critics who will say that you and the other Republicans -- only Republicans voted for this -- are simply pandering to a misinformed electorate, that, rather than setting the record straight yourselves, you're just pandering. You're kind of throwing up your hands and saying, gosh, I don't know, there's a lot of stuff on the Internet, a lot of it seems controversial, we need this bill, rather than saying, actually, this information is false.

ASH: Well, I think our purpose was to avoid this kind of controversy in the future. And I think that's appropriate. That's our job as leaders is to eliminate the possibility of this kind of controversy in the future.

COOPER: State Representative Cecil Ash, I appreciate your time. Thank you, sir.

ASH: Thank you very much. Bye.


COOPER: Well, let us know what you think about that. A live chat is up and running at

We're going to continue the conversation next about what's driving all of this with John Avlon and also Roland Martin.

Also, new developments in the murder of a school principal who was getting results, winning the respect and love of his students. Did he actually know his killer? -- "Crime & Punishment" tonight.


COOPER: No person -- no person, except a naturalized born citizen shall be eligible to the office of president. That's from Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution.

Now, flash forward -- forward to today, only 58 percent of Americans -- 58 percent of Americans in a recent poll said they believe President Obama was born in America.

Arizona's House of Representatives this week passing legislation mandating a presidential candidate produce his or her birth certificate to get on the state ballot.

With us now, political contributor John Avlon, author of "Wingnuts," and political analyst Roland Martin.

Roland, let me just play devil's advocate -- advocate here. What's wrong with the state of Arizona saying, you know what? A presidential candidate should produce a birth certificate, and -- and we have the right to demand that?

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Because they're stupid.


MARTIN: They're stupid. OK?

These are the same people, Anderson, who always talk about states' rights. So, basically, what they're saying is, to the state of Hawaii, we don't trust you.

And, so, I would turn it on this head. How would state officials in Arizona feel if another state rejected their birth certificates? See, it's not just so simple as, well, just present a birth certificate.

The other thing is, there's no standard birth certificate in the United States. There are different types of birth certificates in different states in different counties. And, so, if I don't have my original out of Harris County in Texas, if I get a duplicate, it may not have the raised seal on it, but it might be a vital statistics, a birth certificate.

But this is a non -- this is a nonsensical issue. They are playing to the nuts on the right.

COOPER: John, do you agree this is all about politics?

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. It has become all about politics.

It's about -- it's feeding off a persistent fear that somehow President Obama is un-American, and this becomes a symbol for that. But it really has -- look, this is something that the Obama campaign put on the Web in June of 2008, the Republican governor of Hawaii, Linda Lingle, has backed.

This should have been done -- done and gone a long time ago, but it managed to become a very persistent conspiracy theory because it is -- as Roland said, it's feeding into a lot of people's worst instincts and fears that have to do with whether or not President Obama is truly American.

That is...

MARTIN: Right.

AVLON: ... absurd stuff, and, yet, we see it getting currency now in state capitols? These folks have got to wake up.

COOPER: And, Roland, I -- I mean, I hate to bring race...

MARTIN: Anderson...

COOPER: ... in -- race into this, but do you think there is a race -- racial component to this, that -- that he is viewed...

MARTIN: Well...

COOPER: ... as somehow other, and -- and that contributes to this?

MARTIN: Well, of course. You have these people who are sitting here, well, saying he was -- he was born in Kenya, and they're questioning his legitimacy. And that's what we're seeing. But I want to pick apart that ridiculous state official you just had. He said -- quote -- "divided loyalty." He basically was saying that President Barack Obama has divided loyalties; he's not really loyal to the United States.

Then he kept talking about, to demonstrate that he's qualified. Well, what does that mean? As you so put it, did any of the 43 previous white guys have to demonstrate that they were qualified to be president? These are the games they're playing. And, so, this simply feeds into this continuing notion that he's not legitimate.

Look, you have got this guy in the Army who is about to be -- who is about to be dishonorably discharged, even court-martialed, because he's refusing to go to war and saying, boy, he's not a legitimate president.

Oh, come on. This is playing to the nuts, the nuts out there who don't want to believe anything about this president.


And just -- you know, I would just add to that, look, I mean, there is a birther bill in Congress that has, you know, a half -- a dozen co-sponsors. You know, we have seen this stuff erupt before. It's got -- it has lost its legitimacy, or it should have.

But it's persisting. It's being pumped up by some folks with an interest in that, whether conspiracy entrepreneurs or people who are playing politics with this.

And, you know, it -- it -- you know, it began with some folks on the left. It actually -- a Hillary delegate in Texas was one of the people who started this up. But we got to remember...


MARTIN: Absolutely.


COOPER: It's amazing, when you look at the poll numbers. I don't know if this poll is accurate. It's a CBS News/"New York Times" poll, but only 58 percent of Americans think that he is -- was born in this United States. Twenty percent think he was born in another country, and 23 percent don't know or didn't answer.


AVLON: Right. And that -- it's...

MARTIN: But, Anderson, look -- look at all the work that we have done to debunk the fact that he's a Muslim, and you still have people running around saying, oh, no, he's actually a Muslim.

So, look, let's just be honest. There are some stupid Americans, OK, who want to believe nonsense. Let's just go ahead and say it. AVLON: Hold on. No. I don't think -- again, the American people are smart. The problem is, you have got a lot of people constantly stirring the pot, pandering to the lowest common denominator.

And, look, everyone's entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. And this -- we got to just keep hammering this home. Folks, the facts are clear. This is set and established. And, you know, just because you have got a bunch of conspiracy entrepreneurs trying to pump up Obama derangement syndrome in people, that's where we have just got to say, look, this is not legitimate. This is wing nut stuff.

And it's appealing to the worst instincts of American people. We're better than this. We're smarter than this.

COOPER: And, look, and it's one thing...

MARTIN: Go ahead, John.


COOPER: It's one thing for -- for people, you know, who have busy lives, who aren't paying attention to news on a daily basis -- look, I get why people don't have an opinion on it or...

MARTIN: Right.

COOPER: ... say, look, I don't know. There's so much information out there floating out there.

It's one thing for -- for people to understandably be confused about it or have -- formed some opinion. But it's another thing for legislators to actually act on it and -- and use taxpayer time and money to -- to focus on this kind of stuff.


MARTIN: Right.

And that's why -- I know, John, I know we want to be nice about it, but I'm sorry. If we keep putting out fact after fact after fact, and people don't believe the facts, they're stupid, John.


MARTIN: That's what we call them in the real world.

AVLON: Well...

MARTIN: Maybe it's not nice or P.C. to call them that on television, but this is ridiculous.

AVLON: It is.

MARTIN: Think about it. This is a state -- a house of representatives in a state saying, forget another state. Forget a Republican governor. Forget the -- the head of the health department. Forget all of them. They're all wrong. We want to see it ourselves.

This is crazy.

AVLON: Hey, look, the state legislators in question aren't just stupid. They're cynical.

And -- and this big problem, ultimately, it goes from an old quote by Jonathan Swift. You can't reason people out of something they weren't reasoned into. This is fright-wing politics. This is about fear-based appeals designed to design the -- you know, divide the American people and try to delegitimize a duly elected president of the United States. That's why we should all be offended by it.

COOPER: I think a lot of people are going to be offended, Roland, by -- by you calling people stupid. But...

MARTIN: Well, go -- well, go right -- go right ahead. But, if they believe he's a Muslim and they believe he's not an American, I'm sorry, Anderson, they're stupid.

COOPER: Roland, I will leave it there. I'm going to argue with you.


COOPER: Roland Martin, appreciate it, John Avlon as well. Thanks very much, guys.

Still, in case -- in case you want to see the actual Arizona bill that we have been talking about, we have got it online at

Up next: Take a look at this eruption, what could be worse, much worse, than the Icelandic volcano that shut down air travel for days, another Icelandic volcano, presidency now, if history is any indication, of -- getting ready to blow. We will take a look at what the evidence is.

Later, the case of Abbie Dorn, who went into the hospital to deliver triplets -- she ended up with severe brain damage, and now the kids' father doesn't want them to see their mom.

Her case, along with Jeffrey Toobin and Sanjay Gupta on the legal and medical angles -- when we continue.


COOPER: Nearly six days after a volcanic ash cloud stranded airline passengers around the world, some good news to report -- good news -- more countries opening their airspace, more flights are taking off and landing, and more people are finally reaching their destinations.

The worry, though, is for how long the ash is coming from this -- this volcano in Iceland that may remain active for weeks, even months, to come.

Now, the eruptions are spectacular, but they may also be a sign that another volcano on the island could also soon awaken. It's happened before.

Gary Tuchman is in Iceland, has this 360 dispatch.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On a brilliantly clear Icelandic day, it's easy to see the eruptions from the volcano that has caused so much chaos. But not far away, a glacier on top of one of Iceland's most powerful volcanoes over the centuries, a volcano that could cause far more chaos. It's called Katla.

Our guide told us we could actually drive on top of 2,000 feet of ice to reach the peak of Katla.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now we're on the glacier. And we can see by the contour line that we're just getting up to 1,000 meters, or 3,300 feet.

TUCHMAN: We had arrived. We felt like we were on another planet.

(on camera): We are now on the very top of Katla. If this volcano were to erupt, this is where it would emanate from. This is the beginning of the crater, this valley, the crater six miles wide.

Katla Islamist volcano that people in Iceland fear the most. There have been very strong eruptions over the centuries. The last time it erupted was 1918, long time ago, the end of World War I. On the average, over the centuries, it erupts twice a century. So, that's why people think it's due.

And it's so powerful that, in a worst-case scenario, according to the experts, the amount of water that could flood Iceland if it erupted would be six times the amount of water in the Amazon River per second. That gives you an idea of why people are so scared of it and why it's so carefully observed.

You can see the volcano that's erupting right now right across from us. Here it is. It's sunny out. But you can see the big gray cloud. That's the ash, and the ash is heading in our direction because the wind is blowing this way, so we can't stay here that long.

On the ground here, snow, and you can see the black stuff here. This is the ash from this current volcano that is erupting. Now, the president of Iceland this week frightened a lot of people who lived here by saying that this volcano that's erupting is a small rehearsal for what might happen here in Katla.

And the reason he said that is because, over the centuries, these two volcanoes have erupted at the same time frequently. Scientists are not sure if there's a reason that one erupts and the other does, or if it's just coincidence. But, either way, people get very nervous about it.

This is Katla. And this, indeed, is the volcano that people here in Iceland are scared about.

(voice-over): Before we left Katla, we were completely quiet, so we could hear this. That boom is the sound of the eruption of the active volcano, a chilling sound on top of this desolate glacier.


COOPER: So, Gary, there's part of me that thinks that, OK, this other volcano is just hype, that -- that, look, is -- I mean, is there actual evidence that this thing is near blowing, or how do they study these kinds of things? What are the experts saying?

TUCHMAN: There -- there are some scientists, Anderson, who say that the magma from one volcano could create eruptions with the other volcano.

There are others who say it's just a coincidence that they both erupted near each other in previous centuries. Either way, they're keeping a very close eye on Katla.

The good news is, this current active volcano weaker again today. Experts told us this morning that the volcano is 80 percent weaker than last week. So, that's very good news, considering the last time this volcano erupted, the one that is active right now, back in 1821, it lasted for 15 months and it was very strong.

By the way, Anderson, I want to tell you, it's a little noisy out here in Reykjavik. The reason it's noisy is, they have the (AUDIO GAP) public holiday tomorrow. It's called the first day of summer holiday. They celebrate summer, Anderson, two months early here in Iceland.

But I can tell you, it doesn't feel like summer to me. It's about 28 degrees Fahrenheit right now.

COOPER: Reykjavik is kind of a big drinking town, as I recall, isn't it?

TUCHMAN: Oh, it's a party town, Anderson, but we're going to sleep after this is over.



TUCHMAN: ... been a hardworking day.

COOPER: No doubt about it, I'm sure.

Gary, appreciate it. Thanks for all the reporting all this week.

What about the ash from that -- from that volcano? Will it continue to pose a threat to air traffic? That's what we want to know.

Joining me now is severe weather expert Chad Myers.

Chad, what's the -- what's the forecast in this area for the next couple days?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, for Northern Europe, all of Ireland in the clear, but for parts, especially in different -- from different eruptions, parts of Scandinavia may be in jeopardy if this goes up higher again.

Right now, the eruption is only going to 15,000 feet. That's not where the planes fly. The planes are flying at 30,000 feet. Now, yes, planes have to land through 15,000 feet at some point in time, but, if they can fly right over it, that's OK.

We won't have to worry about the jet stream. Let's go to the graphics, and I'm going to show you exactly where the winds are going to go for the next about seven days. They are going to go up into -- this is 30,000 feet. This is the jet stream, the volcano right on the -- kind of the upper center of your screen.

There's the surface blowing it back toward Greenland, and then the jet stream back towards Denmark, and then, on Saturday, still back toward Greenland. It's a -- kind of a pattern where it depends on how high the ash goes whether it goes to the east or whether it goes to the west.

And where it's going now, it will actually go from east to west, almost toward Canada, but never actually getting there.

COOPER: What -- what...

MYERS: So, Europe in the clear.

COOPER: What's the potential of this thing kicking back up, though, in, you know, the days ahead?

MYERS: Oh, absolutely. I don't -- I don't -- the volcanologist said, I don't give numbers on it, but, if I would say, I would give it a 90 percent chance of a larger eruption than what it's doing right now.

COOPER: You have been talking to Vulcans?

MYERS: I have, yes fly and be free, burial at sea.


MYERS: No. I would say that there's a very -- better than 50/50 chance that this erupts again, for sure, larger than it's erupting now, maybe not bigger than the original eruption, but certainly another eruption still to come. This isn't over.

COOPER: And, in terms of airways, are they going to returning to normal? I mean, there has got to be a big backlog of traffic. MYERS: Huge backlog, Anderson, tens of thousands of people that are just waiting on flights.

And, you know, this Flightradar24 showing this -- and I know this doesn't look like a lot, because we show this all the time over the U.S. It's 3:00 in the morning there, and there are a lot of planes in the sky because people are trying to get other people to where they want to be.

It is just thousands -- tens of thousands of people are waiting on flights that they lost five days ago, and there may not be an opening until, some say, May 5, for them to get on a plane.

COOPER: Yikes. Chad Myers, appreciate it. Thanks. On top of it, Chad.

MYERS: Sure.

COOPER: Thank you very much.

Still ahead: Childbirth left her paralyzed. This story is just unbelievable. This is a mom who got paralyzed in childbirth, unable to speak, and her parents are now fighting for her right to see the triplets that she almost died giving birth to. Her husband, who is now her ex-husband, won't let the kids see her. We will take you "Up Close" in this complicated case.

Also, "Crime & Punishment" tonight: a beloved principal murdered. Police are hoping some new clues will lead them to his killer or killers.


COOPER: Still ahead, who killed a popular middle school principle? Was it one of his students? We have new twists in the murder mystery in tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report. But first, Joe Johns has an update on some important stories, "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Joe.

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the Coast Guard is searching for 11 workers still missing after a massive explosion on an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana. One hundred twenty-six people were on the rig in the Gulf of Mexico when the blast happened last night. Seventeen were injured, three critically. The cause of the explosion is under investigation.

The House Ethics Committee launched a formal investigation today into sexual harassment allegations involving former New York Congressman Eric Massa. The Democrat stepped down last month after allegations became public that he had inappropriate physical contact with male staffers.

GM paid off the last of its government loans today. The payment of $5.8 million to the U.S. and Canadian governments was ahead of schedule. And a high-tech face lift for Benjamin Franklin. The Treasury Department unveiled a new $100 bill today with new watermarks and an embedded security thread to try to stop counterfeits. This is the first remake of the C-note in 14 years. Once that's on, it's all about the Benjamins.

COOPER: So wait. So it's going to have that blue stripe down it? That's interesting.

JOHNS: Yes. I thought that was kind of tacky.

COOPER: Yes. Well, you know, I guess to stop the counterfeiters, they've got to do what they've got to do. And the big feather, that's new, too, right?

JOHNS: Right. It looks like a mistake.

COOPER: It does look like a mistake. I wondered if we just had, like, bad video or something.

All right, Joe. Thanks very much.

Time now for the "Beat 360" winners, our daily challenge to viewers to come up with a caption better than the one we can come up around here to put -- for a photo we put on the blog every day.

So tonight's picture -- there he is -- former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, star of TV and stage, he arrives for a court hearing today in Chicago.

The staff winner tonight is Kirk. His caption: "All that humble pie, not too kind to the wasteland -- waistline." It would be funny if I didn't mess it up. Apologizes to Kirk.

Our viewer winner is Brad from Massachusetts. His caption: "'I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!' Check. 'The Celebrity Apprentice.' Check. 'The Biggest Loser,' here I come."

Ouch. Brad, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way.

Still ahead tonight, Bristol Palin facing the man who allegedly broke into her mom's e-mail account and talks about scary calls she got after her cell-phone number was leaked.

And she almost died giving birth to her triplets. This story, man, I'm interested to see what you all think about it. Her ex- husband will not let her see her triplets. He says he's protecting the kids. Her parents disagree and are fighting for visitation. So who's right? Well, we'll take you up close and let you decide. It's an emotional case.


COOPER: Does a mom who can't move, speak or possibly think for herself have the right to see her own children? That is the question at the center of a bizarre legal battle. Yesterday, a judge ruled that the parents of the severely- disabled woman have the legal right to fight on her behalf so she can see her 3-year-old triplets. The 34-year-old woman was left was left unable to move or speak after a series of mishaps during the birth of triplets in 2006. She now lives with her parents.

The triplets live with their father. He says it would be too traumatic for them to see their mom. Joe Johns has an up-close look at this tragic case.


JOHNS (voice-over): This is Abbie Dorn. She's unable to walk or talk or take care of herself. A nurse gives her physical therapy. She lives at her parents home in South Carolina.

Abbie has been like this for almost four years. Before then, she was living in Los Angeles, a chiropractor, newly married, excited about starting a family.

But Abbie and her husband had trouble conceiving. They tried in vitro fertilization, and soon, they found out they were having triplets. Four years ago, she gave birth to two boys and a girl. A few hours later, something went terribly wrong. Abbie started internal hemorrhaging. That caused her heart to stop. And when the ordeal was over, Abbie was brain damaged.

Her parents say she did not lose control of everything, that she communicates by blinking her eyes. They say she blinks to tell them what she thinks. And what she's telling them, they say, is that she wants to see her children.

SUSAN COHEN, ABBIE'S MOTHER: She gives me a long blink when I ask if she wants to see her children. She also looks very longingly at pictures of her children. We have made a large board for her, and she looks at her children all the time.

JOHNS (on camera): Because she hasn't seen them for two years -- they were 1-year-old when Abbie's parents brought her home to South Carolina to care for her. By then, Abbie's husband said he wanted to move on, and they were headed for divorce, living on opposite coasts. Her husband had the kids, and now lawyers representing the two of them are waging an ugly battle over visitation.

VICKI GREENE, LAWYER FOR TRIPLETS' FATHER: He has been told by the neurologist and the neurosurgeon that she's not capable of any cognitive thought process or interaction with the children, and until we get an updated neurological report, he really can't assess what is best.

But it is not his goal to keep the children away from her. He believes it's his right to make the decision and, when it's age appropriate where they can understand the horrible tragedy, he'll be the first one on a plane to take them to see their mother.

LISA HELFEND MEYER, LAWYER FOR ABBIE'S PARENTS: Introduce Abbie to the children by way of photographs, stories, little antidotes about their life together, and then from there, go on to contact, via Skype or other kind of media. And then from there, have the children go with their father, if he wants to accompany them, to South Carolina, where they can see their mother for essentially the first time.

JOHNS (voice-over): Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: All right. Let's dig deeper into legal and medical issues surrounding this case with CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

So Sanjay, Abbie's parents are -- claim that she communicates by blinking in response to questions. Does that give any indication as to what her state -- what, you know, the state her brain is actually in?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, if in fact, she was able to respond, hear some sort of command and make some sort of movement, in this case, blinking of the eye, to give some sort of communication, it would.

But you know, a lot of times, it's hard to sort of parse out that someone is, in fact, responding to a particular thing or whether or not they're just blinking their eyes. I mean, people who are in persistent vegetative state can have sleep-wake cycles. They can have eye movements. They can have all sorts of things.

COOPER: I want to bring in Jeff in a moment. But Sanjay, I mean, there have now been studies -- I did a thing for "60 Minutes" on this -- in which they put people who were thought to be in comas or persistent vegetative states inside MRI machines and ask them to respond to things and see areas of their brain light up according to what's being asked, which indicates there's a level of cognition, even in sometimes if we don't know that there is.

So in this case, I mean, why shouldn't this woman's kids be able to come. Maybe it would have some response to her and some deep level that she may not be able to physically show?

GUPTA: When it comes to the particular study you were talking about, this woman, I believe, in England, a traumatic brain injury, you know, again, specific areas of the brain affected in a traumatic brain injury. And it can render someone into a coma, render someone seemingly unable to communicate.

But that's a very different situation, Anderson, than I think when someone simply didn't get enough oxygen to their brain for such a long period of time that it caused cells in the brain to die. The brain can't respond, because those areas of the brain, the area of the brain where you swing a racket, for example, when told that you're playing tennis, those parts of the brain don't exist. They've simply died away as a result of that lack of oxygen.

COOPER: Jeff, legally, I mean, what are the big issues here? JEFF TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I think there's a factual issue in many more respects more important or at least determines the legal issue. And that is what you're talking about with Sanjay: whether she has any cognitive function at all.

And any judge, I think, is going to want that question asked -- answered first. And it won't be enough simply to have her parents say, "We know we can communicate with her." They are going to need an independent evaluation of whether she is, like Terri Schiavo, completely in a persistent vegetative state or, like some people with ALS, Tony -- the writer, who's been writing recently about his experience with ALS, that she would certainly have more right to access if she had cognition. If she didn't...

COOPER: So if she had some level of cognition, she would have a greater legal right to access to her kids?

TOOBIN: She would have a greater legal right, and they would have certain rights to have a relationship with their mother. But if she really is incapable of any kind of communicative activity, then I think the ex-husband would be more within his rights in saying there is just no reason to have this sort of...

COOPER: What about the legal rights of the children? I mean, in divorce cases, the kids' courts give an attorney to the kids. Don't the kids have some right to -- to a relationship with the mother?

TOOBIN: They do. And I wouldn't be surprised if this case proceeds along, that a lawyer is assigned to represent the kids. But at the moment, the guardian, the father, speaks for them, and they're too little, really, to have -- have an opinion in this. But this case, at least at the moment, is really much more about the mother's request, or at least purported request, to see her kids.

COOPER: You know, it's interesting, Sanjay. The father is obviously concerned about bringing the kids to see her, because he's afraid the kids might get traumatized and feel somewhat responsible for her condition.

On the flip side of that is, I mean, I had a dad who died in the hospital when I was 10 years old and wasn't able to go see him in a hospital and will, you know, never forget that. And I don't understand -- I mean, it's interesting the way the dad sees it, versus, you know, the way the parents see it.

GUPTA: Yes. And it's a tough question. And Anderson, and you were older, obviously, at the time, 10 years old. These children, I think, are 2 1/2, 3 years old.

To say that it's harmful really assumes a lot of things. I mean, it assumes, first of all, that they identify that this woman is even their mother, No. 1.

No. 2, it identifies that they may have some sort of guilt. I mean, the father is sort of saying, "Look, they're going to feel badly, because they may think somehow that they are to blame for the condition she's in. This happened during childbirth, as you know.

And finally, that they would even remember it, you know, at 2 1/2, 3 years old, the way that you form memories, the way that you store memories, the way that you can recall memories later in life. It's very different, the changes around the age of 5 or 6. But so I think it's a hard case to make.


GUPTA: It's somehow harmful to the children.

TOOBIN: But this also -- don't kid yourself. There's also a money subtext to this case. Because there is a multimillion-dollar damage award that the mother received, and the ex-husband is looking for a piece of that money. So that is, as usual, something that taints the whole process.

COOPER: Good to keep in mind. Jeff Toobin, thanks very much. Sanjay Gupta, as well, thanks.

GUPTA: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, if you're interested, there are a lot of resources for parents with disabilities. And you'll find some good information on our Web site at

Tomorrow on the program, Dennis Quaid joins us. His most important role. That is father. He's on a mission to prevent medical mistakes like the one that nearly took the lives of his newborn twins. Can he win the war against health-care harm? Our interview with Dennis Quaid is tomorrow.

And a reminder: you can join the live chat right now at A lot of folks talking online about the story about Abbie and also the story about the birthers in Arizona.

Next on the program, who killed a popular middle school principal, shot to death in his home? Did he know his killer? Late developments in the investigation ahead.

And later, a star quarterback accused of sexual assault. Police won't charge him, so why is the NFL punishing him?


COOPER: He was a popular principal, beloved by his students, committed to turning his school around. Tonight, he's the victim of a murder. So who killed this inspirational leader and why? Police are hoping new clues hold some answers. With tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report, here's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For the first time in years, Principal Brian Betts wasn't there to greet his students outside Shaw Middle School in Washington D.C. JOAISHA EVANS, SHAW EIGHTH GRADER: He was down right there every day. Every time I saw him, I always walked up to him, and give him a hug.

KAYE: Last Thursday, when Betts didn't show up for work, a concerned co-worker drove to his house after school. A door was unlocked and a light on upstairs. The co-worker called police. Investigators found Betts dead. They say he'd been shot at least once.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a random event. There were no signs of forced entry to the home.

KAYE: Betts's family can't make sense of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's unfathomable to the family that they think this was somebody that he knew. It couldn't have been somebody that he knew very well.

KAYE: A few things were missing, investigators say, including his SUV. His dark blue Xterra was discovered later miles away. Police say two people were seen getting out of it, but witnesses didn't ask any questions.

(voice-over) Police are asking lots of questions, such as is the same person who was driving Betts' car the same person who killed him? Had he let someone inside? Why was his door unlocked? Did he know his killer or killers?

(on camera) Investigators say Betts was last seen alive around 11:30 Wednesday night, before the body was discovered.

(voice-over) Betts, at 42, was a rising star in the D.C. school system, an Outstanding Teacher Award recipient. He was hand-picked by Chancellor Rochelle Rhee to save a troubled urban school.

His students adored him so, 100 of them were allowed to remain in his middle school for ninth grade. A white principal with mostly black and Hispanic students, race didn't weaken the bond.

They mourned him at a weekend vigil. Today, on their first day back since his death, raw emotion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I couldn't believe it. When I saw -- when I saw the news, that's when I started crying.

KAYE: Twelve-year-old Anthony Smith showed us his arm, where he'd written, "Rest in Peace, Mr. Betts."

ANTHONY SMITH, SHAW SEVENTH GRADER: Everybody liked him. I wouldn't think that anybody from the school that he know would try to hurt him. He was a nice person.

KAYE: At school, a memorial board quickly filled up with cards and letters as students searched for words to express their grief. Counselors helped them cope. On a message posted on the school's Web site, Chancellor Rhee called Betts' death "unspeakably tragic."

While colleagues and family members grieve, police hunt for clues at his house and in his car. If they're right, and Brian Betts did let his killer inside, police want to know why.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: A sad story.

Coming up next, Bristol Palin taking the stand, talks about the scary call she got after her mom's e-mail was hacked. Details on that ahead.

And something to make you smile before you go to bed at night. The visual of this guy, it's has gone all over the Web. Note to self: if you're going to the Coachella Festival, don't wear flip-flops, and don't get wasted and let somebody videotape you. The embarrassing video ahead.


COOPER: Got a great "Shot" for you tonight. But first some reported news. Joe Johns joins us again with a quick update, a "360 Bulletin" -- Joe.

JOHNS: Anderson, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be suspended for the first six games this fall, the NFL citing conduct detrimental to the league, namely a drunken night in Georgia last month, ending in rape allegations.

At the Vatican, Pope Benedict makes a rare direct comment about the widening priest sex abuse scandal. The pontiff spoke about his meeting with victims of abuse in Malta. He said he shared in their suffering and pledged the Catholic Church would take action to deal with the crisis.

In a Tennessee courtroom, Sarah Palin's daughter, Bristol, testifies against a former college student accused of hacking into her mother's e-mail account two years ago. Bristol told the jury she got hundreds of text messages and scary unanimous phone calls, some from boys saying they were at her front door and waiting to be let in. David Kernell is the defendant in the case. He is pleading not guilty.

COOPER: All right, Joe. Tonight's "Shot," and the reason why flip-flops are so perfect to wear to an outdoor music festival -- not. This video is -- it's all over the Web right now today. It was taken at the Coachella Music Festival in California.

And I don't know what this guy is on. I'm not saying he is. I'm not saying he's not. I don't know. But watch him just try to get into his flip-flops. Let's move that banner if we can. JOHNS: Oh, no. Look likes the earth is moving under his feet. Isn't that a song?

COOPER: Yes, exactly.

OK. And he then decides to just sit down, because it's easier when you just sit down and try it. But actually reaching for it, actually getting it, yes, not so easy.

JOHNS: Oh, man.

COOPER: Then somebody helps him. A good Samaritan comes along and helps him. He doesn't acknowledge the Samaritan. Then he sort of gets it on. So then he just decides to reflect on the whole experience. So he's just kind of reflecting, collecting his thoughts, getting ready to get up because that, we know, is going to be a big move.

JOHNS: And what's in the backpack?

COOPER: And watch what happens. This is my favorite part. Boom, they go off, and he's like, "Hey, ladies. Forget the flip- flops. Hey, how's it going, ladies?"

JOHNS: And he's trying to be cool.

COOPER: He's trying to be all cool. Yes. It's so sad. And what's worse is it goes on and on. They're like -- they're like, later. They take off, and then it's just him, and then he decides to carry them. It's really pathetic, yes. Bad stuff.

So again, note to self: if you go to a music concert, don't get wasted, don't wear flip-flops, and don't let somebody videotape you.

JOHNS: That's the big one.

COOPER: Yes. Thanks, Joe.

At the top of the hour, serious stuff. You're going to meet an Arizona lawmaker who says he believes President Obama was born in this country, although he doesn't believe a lot of the stuff he's hearing on the Internet, including that's where the birth certificate is. Anyway, we're "Keeping Them Honest" ahead. You'll see for yourselves.


COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, the birthers are back, and this time, legislators are listening. Republicans in Arizona trying to demand that presidential candidates produce a birth certificate in that state.