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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

No Cause Yet Found in Death of Anna Nicole Smith; Can Barack Obama Win?; Obama to Announce Candidacy; Controversy Raised by Report on Nigerian Rebels; LAPD Faces Recruiting Woes

Aired February 09, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.
Tonight: a story that certain governments simply don't want you to see. It's about a mysterious rebel army, their bloody exploits, and oil. We need it. They want control of it. And they're taking hostages to get it.

But first tonight: a medical puzzle and a legal free-for-all, the fight over Anna Nicole Smith. How did she die? What happens now to her child? Who gets her millions, if, in fact, she's even got millions?

As CNN's Jeffrey Toobin put it earlier today, Anna Nicole Smith did not live an ordered life. Chaos followed her around. And it follows her still in death.

We will look at that tonight, as well as the results of her autopsy.

Details on that from CNN's John Zarrella.


DR. JOSHUA PERPER, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA, CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER: We do not make a determination of the cause and the manner of death.

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): After a six- hour autopsy, it could still be three to five weeks before tests determine how Anna Nicole Smith died. But, today, we know how she didn't die.

PERPER: The autopsy was able to exclude any kind of physical injury, such as blunt-force trauma, gunshot wound, stab wounds, or asphyxia.

ZARRELLA: The chief medical examiner said, no tablets or pills were found in Smith's stomach.

PERPER: There are no findings which would indicate continued drug abuse.

ZARRELLA: Here is what we have learned from law enforcement sources about that happened Thursday. A private nurse was in the room with Smith. At about 1:39, she noticed Smith not breathing. The nurse called the bodyguard, who came in and began CPR. Nurse then called Howard K. Stern, Smith's companion. She can't reach him right away. Only after he calls back does the nurse call front-desk security, which called 911.

It is not yet clear how much time elapsed before 911 was called, but a source close to the investigation told us -- quote -- "It was a longer-than-usual delay" -- end quote.

Smith's attorney said she had fever for several days. The medical examiner said, Smith could have died as a result of natural causes, or medication, or a combination of the two. Seminole police say:

CHARLIE TIGER, SEMINOLE, FLORIDA, POLICE CHIEF: At this point, no evidence has been revealed to suggest that a crime occurred. We found no illegal drugs, only prescription medicines.

ZARRELLA: Smith tried to commit suicide in the Bahamas after the death of her 20-year-old son, Daniel, in September, "Entertainment Tonight"'s Mark Steines said today on CNN's "AMERICA MORNING."


MARK STEINES, "ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT": We have found out that, after the death of Daniel, at some point, Anna did jump in her pool, attempt suicide at that point, and was found by Howard face down in the pool.

Howard screamed for help. Her bodyguard, Moe (ph), came out, who is a -- who is paramedic, and took her from the pool, administered CPR, and -- and saved her life at that point.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's Anna Nicole Smith.

ZARRELLA: This year, on January 6, a smiling, but subdued Smith attended a boxing match held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino by fight promoter Don King, one of her final public appearances, ironically, at the same hotel where she died.


COOPER: John, how long did this -- this autopsy examination go?

ZARRELLA: The autopsy took right at about six hours, Anderson. And, you know, now, here at the -- the coroner's office here in Broward County, there's been a lot of extra security, both inside and both outside, simply because of the -- the notoriety, the -- the star power of the person involved -- Anderson.

COOPER: So, what now are they looking for? I mean, what other tests are being done that we know about? ZARRELLA: Well, you have to have all the toxicology and the blood work. They have to get inside the organs and check further in the organs. And they have to get all those results back. And that, again, is going to take up to five weeks.

And it will only be after they get those results in that they are really going to be able to pin down a cause of death, because, quite clearly, it is not an obvious cause of death -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, John Zarrella, thanks for the reporting.

In addition to being Joshua Perper's former boss, Dr. Cyril Wecht performed an autopsy on Anna Nicole Smith's son.

He joins us now from Pittsburgh.

COOPER: Dr. Wecht, no pills were found in her stomach. Does that negate the idea of -- of an overdose? Is it still possible that she overdosed?


In the majority of cases in which I have performed autopsies on people who are later to found to have died from drug overdose, pills and capsules, the residual components, were not found in the stomach.

Keep in mind, especially if the stomach is empty, devoid of food, the gastric juices begin to work quickly. The pills and capsules, the granules that they're in, must then be absorbed, get into the bloodstream, in order to act on the central nervous system, which is what leads to death, when the brain is affected. That takes some time, usually a good absorption, 30, 40 minutes on an empty stomach, an hour if there is some food, and maybe up to two hours if there is a -- a good amount of food.

So, by that time, Anderson, you see, the pills have all been broken down. So, as far as I am concerned, based on my experience, the absence of any evidence of pills or capsules in Anna Nicole's stomach does not rule out the possibility of this having been a drug death.

I do agree with the medical examiner. One must wait for the toxicological analyses, the microscopic examination of tissues. And probably virology and bacteriology studies were performed, too.

The slides are going to be on the doctor's desk Monday or Tuesday, at the latest, for him to examine microscopically. The toxicological results will be back much sooner than three to five weeks, some, I'm sure, in the early, mid part of next week, but not in finality.

But I do not criticize his conservative approach. I think it's wise to allow more time, and to, you know, not have everybody constantly on your back in such a frenzied state.

But I do believe that this medical mystery will be resolved. I think that there is going to be an unequivocal finding as to the cause of death. And I do believe that it is going to be something, other than suicide or homicide. It's either going to be natural or accidental.

COOPER: There was no evidence of physical injuries, no blunt- force trauma or asphyxiation, and, the police say, no evidence a crime occurred. Can foul play be ruled out?

WECHT: Well, yes, unless if somebody is alleged to have given her drugs, and if those drugs are found to have been the cause of death.

So, number one, we still have to know the cause. Let us assume -- and this is purely conjectural -- that drugs are demonstrated to be the cause of death. Someone is going to have to establish that these drugs were given to her with criminal intent.

And based on what I have heard, the nurse in the room, and so on and so forth, there is no evidence of that. These allegations, these somewhat subtle, sly innuendoes that Howard Stern may have killed her, and maybe he killed Daniel Smith back in September, you know, I just think this is -- this is terrible. It's enough of a tragedy that this young, vivacious woman is dead, that a baby is left without a mother, that all of this ugly business is going with who is the father, and who owns the real estate, and who is going to inherit all the money, and so on.


WECHT: To throw on top of that...


WECHT: ... suspicion of -- of serial murder is -- is -- is getting into the realm of the bizarre.

COOPER: And we're certainly not doing that tonight.

WECHT: No, no, no. I'm not...


COOPER: No, no. I know. I know. I know. I know.


COOPER: Certainly, it's -- it's out there. It's floating around out there, though. You know, there are people who have -- need stuff to talk about.


COOPER: That's one of the things they're talking about.

But -- but in terms of -- you -- you said it is possible it was a natural death. Isn't it unusual for a 39-year-old woman to die, I mean, that -- that -- in this manner?

WECHT: Absolutely.

I will tell you this. I assume that, since no mention was made of other potentially lethal natural disease, catastrophic events, such as massive pulmonary embolism, blood clot to the lungs, a massive stroke, a heart attack, a classical heart attack, and so on, these were not found.

The only thing, I believe, that remains as a possibility to explain death as a natural disease process is a viral myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle fortuitously along the conducting pathway mechanism, the pathway of special nerves that controls our heartbeat.

If that is not found -- and those slides will be examined within the next couple days, into the week, allowing for the weekend -- if that is not present, then, you can look for the toxicological results to give you the ultimate answer as to this tragic death.

COOPER: All right, Dr. Cyril Wecht, we appreciate your expertise.

WECHT: Thank you.

COOPER: Thank you.

WECHT: Thank you.

COOPER: From how she died now to the daughter that she leaves behind, a 5-month-old little girl named Dannielynn, who now is at the center of a legal mess that will likely go on for years.

Here is CNN's Brooke Anderson.


BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CULTURE AND ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Anna Nicole Smith created a sensation wherever she went. And now, even in death, she still can't rest in peace -- not yet.

DEBRA OPRI, ATTORNEY FOR LARRY BIRKHEAD: Judge Schnider of Los Angeles Superior Court wants the remains of Anna Nicole Smith to be preserved, pending the February 20 hearing.

ANDERSON: Debra Opri, lawyer for Larry Birkhead, one of the men claiming to be the father of Anna Nicole's 5-month-old baby girl, Dannielynn Hope, went to court, seeking an emergency DNA test of Anna Nicole's body to help confirm who the baby's parents are. Her motion was denied.

RON RALE, ATTORNEY FOR ANNA NICOLE SMITH: I'm trying to think of a word I can use in front of the media. But that's a bunch of nonsense.

ANDERSON: Ron Rale, Smith's attorney, called today's closed-door courtroom hearing ludicrous and disrespectful.

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

ANDERSON: The mother's DNA isn't necessarily required to determine who the father is. Opri wanted Smith's DNA for a different reason.

OPRI: It is very important that the DNA connect Anna with the baby being tested. We do not want a bait-and-switch.

ANDERSON: What is at stake here? The custody of Smith's 5- month-old daughter and inheritance that could be worth millions for the surviving parent of Dannielynn.

So, who is the biological father of Dannielynn Hope?


LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": So, you are the father?



What do you make of that?



ANDERSON: Two men, Howard K. Stern and Larry Birkhead, both tell CNN they are the baby's daddy. But just who are these potential fathers?

Larry Birkhead is a Los Angeles-based freelance reporter and photographer. He claims to have had an intimate two-and-a-half-year relationship with Smith, at one point resulting in a miscarriage.


BIRKHEAD: Actually, Anna asked me to -- to marry her several times throughout the relationship.


ANDERSON: Howard K. Stern was Smith's longtime lawyer and friend. He was frequently featured alongside the star during her cable reality show. He says he had an intimate relationship with Smith.

STERN: Because of my relationship as her lawyer, we felt that it was best to keep everything hidden.

ANDERSON: Both men say the other had no intimate relationship with Smith.

Just when you thought the drama couldn't get stranger, another character came crawling out of the Hollywood woodwork. Prince Frederick von Anhalt, husband of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, claimed today that he had a 10-year affair with Smith, suggesting he might be the baby's daddy.

PRINCE FREDERICK VON ANHALT, HUSBAND OF ZSA ZSA GABOR: There are lots of people who could be the father.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you be the father?

VON ANHALT: I don't know. I mean, you know, sometimes I'm a bad boy, yes.


COOPER: A bizarre press conference. We're going to talk about that a little bit later on.

But did today's hearing really clear anything up?

ANDERSON: Anderson, short answer to that, no.

The motion filed by Debra Opri, attorney for Larry Birkhead, of course was denied by the judge today. A full hearing was scheduled for February 20. And what that means, in part, is that a burial or cremation of Anna Nicole's body will be delayed, because the judge ordered that her body remain in Florida and be preserved there until at least February 20.

Now I know we have been talking about this third man, Prince Frederick von Anhalt, tossing his hat into the ring as a potential father. Debra Opri told me tonight that Larry Birkhead is appalled by this claim, and he thinks it's deplorable -- deplorable, rather -- that Prince Frederick would, in his estimation, make light of these very tragic circumstances.

Ron Rale, attorney for Anna Nicole Smith, who was in court today on her behalf, said that, eventually, DNA testing will happen to conclusively determine who the father is of that child. What we just don't know right now, Anderson, is when that's going to happen.

COOPER: Yes. I'm not sure how much of a prince he really is. But that's another topic.



COOPER: Brooke, appreciate the reporting.

Debra Opri, attorney for Larry Birkhead, joins me now. Debra, thanks very much. I know it's been a busy day for you.

You requested this emergency DNA collection from Anna Nicole Smith's body because you said you didn't want a bait-and-switch. What does that mean exactly?

OPRI: The problem we have here is that there is another child that could be placed into the testing. You have Anna Nicole, who is now deceased. We need to preserve her DNA, and you need to check that the child is her child. And then you need to have Larry Birkhead's DNA. When you get all of that together, and you do your testing of it, Larry Birkhead will be the father.

COOPER: Who is this other child who could be switched in?

OPRI: Well, we understand that Howard K. Stern has a niece who is similar in age.

While we are not accusing him of doing this, it is a concern. It is a valid legal issue. We need to make sure -- and the judge has made an order to that effect -- that Anna, Larry, and the child be tested.

COOPER: Anna Nicole's lawyer, Ron Rale, called the emergency filing despicable and ludicrous.

I mean, do you really think they would try to switch babies?

OPRI: It is not what I think, Anderson. It's the law tells me I have to do.

Larry Birkhead lost the mother of his child today and the woman he loved. This child is somewhere in the Bahamas, we think, maybe in Florida, we think. Howard K. Stern, where is he? And we have a body that is sitting in a refrigerator.

All of this is -- it's a human tragedy. A DNA test was never given. We now have to go to yet another jurisdiction for this, if our judge determines that he no longer has jurisdiction over Anna Nicole, because she's deceased.

And that's another issue. And that's why we're going to be briefing the judge on this on February 20. And that was the delay. Ron Rale, incidentally, made serious misrepresentations to the press. He said that my ex parte was denied. It wasn't denied. He held that the DNA tests was taken from the coroner, and that the body be preserved for 10 days, so that he can be fully briefed on this.

He made no rulings either way, other than to order that the body be preserved and not be destroyed until the next hearing.


COOPER: Why hasn't there been a paternity test, because Ron Rale said today that it's -- it's your client's fault that there hasn't been a paternity test so far? OPRI: Anderson, I see it and I say it like it is.

The test hasn't been done because Anna, through Howard, isn't want -- didn't want to do it. And the test should have been done. And it will be done. And, if I have to spend the next 10 years chasing down that DNA test, I will do it.

But Howard K. Stern, when all the smoke clears, Howard K. Stern will not be the biological father. He can put his name on a dozen birth certificates. He can do whatever he wants. I am going to be right there behind him in his shadow, tracing him, tracking him. And I will be in the court, in the Bahamas, to make sure his name is taken off of that birth certificate, so that he loses presumed-father status. I am not going to roll over and play dead.

Anna Nicole, I have serious compassion for her. She was troubled soul. But my goal and my objective is to take care of my client and that little, young girl. That's the biggest concern all of us should have tonight, that baby.

COOPER: What kind of an impact do you think Howard K. Stern had on Anna Nicole Smith's life? Do you think he would be a fit father?

OPRI: No, I don't.

Howard K. Stern, seriously, has two people that died on his watch. While nobody should or could make allegations -- that's for law enforcement -- Daniel died of a drug overdose. Anna Nicole, we're still waiting to confirm the cause of her death.

Howard K. Stern knew her lifestyle, participated in her lifestyle. And that baby, from our information and our investigation, was in a stage where she shouldn't have been. She is in an environment that she should not be in. And it's time to have child services or someone examine that child. But, you know, oddly they never let child services in.

COOPER: Debra Opri, appreciate your perspective. Thank you very much.

OPRI: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, since this story broke, it immediately began to take on elements of a circus. And, today, it seems, they sent in a clown, a man who calls himself Prince Frederick von Anhalt, the latest Mr. Zsa Zsa Gabor.

He held a news conference -- you saw part of it in Brooke's piece -- claiming he had an affair with Anna Nicole Smith and might just be the father of her baby. It was one of the stranger news conferences we have seen in recent months.

In case you missed it, here are some of the alleged prince's other words of wisdom.


VON ANHALT: When I'm with a woman, I don't ask, did you have an affair with somebody before me or what do you do after me? I don't ask that. I have fun. That's all, and out of it.


COOPER: Well, you can see why the ladies love him.

He also talked about why he liked Anna Nicole Smith.


VON ANHALT: She was a girl you could love. She was a girl, what men like, a little bit childish. Men like that. You know, I don't know if you guys like it. I like it. I like when a girl is a little childish. I love that.


COOPER: Well, make a note, ladies.

Finally, the alleged prince seemed to be a little childish -- childishly coy himself.


VON ANHALT: I'm married. I'm happily married. I love my wife. I don't go out on the air and my wife can see me on television and say: I have a child. I have a child here. I have a child there. You know, I screw around.

You know, I don't do that.


COOPER: You know, no, he certainly would never do that. That's certainly not why he called a news conference today.

Up next: what Anna Nicole Smith may have been going through before she died.


COOPER (voice-over): Grieving for her son, battling her demons, fighting illness -- what happened to Anna Nicole Smith? We will ask her attorney about what her final days were like.

Our story on the rebels fighting over oil created an international incident -- tonight, the story and the mystery behind it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to be released.

COOPER: Why the hostage-taking? And what turns young men into killers, with the power to shut off a country's oil?

Ahead on 360.




KING: Did you ever think, maybe it isn't worth it? I know it's a lot of money, but maybe I should just leave it alone and say goodbye?

ANNA NICOLE SMITH, ENTERTAINER/MODEL: I'm going to fight until the end. My husband is worth it. I will fight until the end.

KING: He wanted you to have this?

SMITH: He wanted me to have it. And I will fight until the end.


COOPER: Well, the legal battles involving Anna Nicole Smith do not end with her death. There are many, but the most prominent right now and emotional one is the paternity dispute over Smith's baby girl.

Ron Rale is the attorney for Anna Nicole Smith. He joins me now.

Ron, thanks very much for being with us.

Debra Opri says she's worried there might be a bait-and-switch, someone using Howard K. Stern's relative to trick a paternity test.

Are you opposed to providing DNA from Smith and her baby for a paternity test?

RALE: Actually, Anderson, I am not. That was the previous order of the court, to obtain the DNA of Anna Nicole and Dannielynn.

I -- my objection today was, I think it was just unbelievable that we were given emergency notice to appear in court today. I got the notice about an hour after I learned that Anna Nicole had died. So, the emergency that they were saying today was that the DNA to be collected from Anna should be advanced, so that it happened within 24 hours after she died.

There's no evidence that -- they alleged the DNA would be degraded or unavailable. And, sure enough, the court agreed today and -- and denied their ex parte.


COOPER: Why hasn't there been a paternity test already? I mean, it seems like a pretty simple proposition.

RALE: And it really is.

And you have to look at a few different things. But the first thing that comes up in my mind is, why hasn't Mr. Birkhead filed this proceeding in the Bahamas, as he is able to? All of the custody claims, these requests for drug-testing on the baby, they were thrown out by the Los Angeles Superior Court. And he's been told that he has to go to the Bahamas if he ever wants to litigate those issues.

DNA testing is also available in the Bahamas. We may have already had DNA testing if he would have filed there. We have some problems with the order, as it stands right now, or at least as of January 23. To have the DNA collected in the way it was supposed to have been collected, it would have been illegal. And, so, on January 23, I instructed Anna Nicole not to submit, until we figure this out.


COOPER: If Howard -- sorry.


COOPER: If Howard Stern is the dad, why not just, you know, give a blood sample, and that would be that, whether -- you don't need a court order. You don't need him to move there. It seems pretty simple to an outsider.

RALE: Right. And it is simple.

But you have to look at what is going on. You have somebody coming to California, and going on television, and filing a proceeding, which has, for the most part, been dismissed, saying, Anna Nicole, come here and give your DNA.

Just because she's a celebrity doesn't mean that she has to lose all of her rights. And, so, we have always wanted this to be court- supervised. There's been many allegations, and we can't afford to have anything that is not done under the purview of the court.

So, we wanted it to be court-supervised. I'm responsible for -- for instructing her not to submit on the 23rd, when she was perfectly happy to have submitted. But we wanted it to be court-supervised.


RALE: So, you know, I have been saying all along that just because she's a celebrity doesn't mean she has to give up the right to have a court-supervised proceeding.


COOPER: Did Anna Nicole Smith have a will?

RALE: You know, I don't want to address that right now. But you will be hearing about it, these issues, I suspect, soon. But I really don't want to talk about that right now.

COOPER: All right.

Her daughter, Dannielynn, is in the Bahamas now, we understand. Who will she stay with, pending the resolution of this paternity case?

RALE: All I know is that I got off the phone with Howard Stern just a few minutes before I was in your studio today. And I believe he told me that his mother and sister were on their way or were in the Bahamas, and were going to care for Dannielynn right now. And Howard is obviously...

COOPER: Where is he?

RALE: I'm sorry.

COOPER: Where is he?

RALE: Howard is in Florida.

So, he hopes to be in the Bahamas soon, so that he can be with Dannielynn.

COOPER: Mark Steines -- as you know, there's a lot of stuff floating around there. I'm trying to get confirmation on things.

Mark Steines of "Entertainment Tonight" told "AMERICAN MORNING" that Smith tried to commit suicide after Daniel's death.

Can you confirm that?

RALE: I can't confirm that.


COOPER: Because you have no knowledge or it's something you don't want to talk about?

RALE: I have no knowledge of that. I mean, I know that she was depressed. I talked to her a lot. I talked to Howard a lot. I had no -- I -- I don't have any knowledge that she tried to commit suicide.

COOPER: Do you have any questions surrounding the timing of the call to paramedics? Smith's private nurse reportedly called her bodyguard after finding Smith unresponsive, then called Howard K. Stern, who apparently took a while to respond to her call. And, then, only when she heard back from Stern did the nurse contact hotel employees.

Does that concern you?

RALE: Well, I mean, Anderson, this is the first time I'm hearing of it.

I -- really, the only official -- and I always try to go by, you know, firsthand source -- and the only official information I received was from a -- a fire department official who was first on the scene in her room -- or, actually, he relieved the hotel rescue workers -- or -- or paramedics. And he just told me what happened from that point in time, until transporting her to the hospital. But I don't have any firsthand information from before that time or, actually, what happened after he dropped her off at the hospital, other than that he could not revive her at the time he brought her to the hospital.

COOPER: Do you represent Anna Nicole Smith's estate, or do you represent -- do you also represent Howard K. Stern?

RALE: I represent Anna Nicole Smith. And, so, I represent her in the paternity case that's pending in Los Angeles.

And it's an interesting question, because, now that she is deceased, she's really no longer a party to the case. And, so, what is going to happen with the case, and what -- what my capacity is, is kind of going to be something that we determine over the next couple of days.

COOPER: All right, Ron Rale, I know it has been a very long couple of days for you. And appreciate you -- you staying around and talking to us. Thanks.

RALE: Thanks for having me.

COOPER: All right.

RALE: Thanks for having me, Anderson.

More of the life and the death of Anna Nicole Smith later on 360.

First, tonight's other headlines, though: He's expected to officially jump into the race tomorrow. Up next, we will take a look at whether Barack Obama has what it takes to win the White House.

Plus: It was one of the most shocking and frightening stories that we have looked at recently. Tonight, there's a new twist. We will take you back inside one of the most dangerous and desperate regions of the world, ahead on 360, as they battle for oil.


COOPER: Senator Barack Obama is already considered a front runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, and he's not an official candidate. That of course, all could change tomorrow morning, when he's expected to make his announcement in his home state of Illinois.

CNN's senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, tonight looks at what lies ahead for the man and the candidate.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He streaked into the political atmosphere like a meteor: fiery, dazzling.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We worship an awesome God in the blue states. And we don't like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the red states. We coach Little League in the blue states. And yes, we've got some gay friends in the red states.

CROWLEY: Emil Jones, Barack Obama's friend and mentor, says the night before that convention speech, Jones was mistaken for an Alabama delegate because someone misread his Obama campaign button.

EMIL JONES, PRESIDENT, ILLINOIS STATE SENATE: After he gave that great speech, the delegates at that convention were all over those persons from Illinois, trying to get an Obama button.

CROWLEY: Name recognition is part of the troika of musts in presidential politics, along with the ability to raise money and a story to tell.

OBAMA: It's a pretty good picture of me, right?

CROWLEY: He has one. Born in Hawaii, son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya, Obama writes in his autobiography of struggling with his identity as a teenager. "Pot had helped," he wrote, "and booze, maybe a little blow when you could afford it."

He wrote that 11 years ago. It may hurt or not.

ELLEN WARREN, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Do I know of any skeletons now that are going to be problems? I don't think so, because he's immunized himself. He's immunized himself by writing a book about all the naughty things when he was young and naughty.

CROWLEY: He got it together. Columbia, Harvard Law, professor, community organizer, Illinois state senator, U.S. senator.

OBAMA: The time for waiting in Iraq is over.

CROWLEY: He opposes the war in Iraq and favors the Bush-backed immigration bill. He's against same sex marriage but supports civil unions. He favors universal health care.

REV. ALVIN LOVE, FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH, CHICAGO: I've known Barack for 20 years, and I'm not sure that I know whether he's a liberal or a conservative. I really think sometimes it depends on the issue.

CROWLEY: Republicans describe Obama as a pragmatic, left of center politician who works both sides of the aisle to get things done sun up, past sun down.

KIRK DILLARD (R), ILLINOIS STATE SENATOR: Senator Obama had the social skills that helped him as a legislator. In Springfield, he played basketball. He played poker with a number of legislators from downstate Illinois after hours. And he would have an occasional drink. He would smoke a cigarette, bum a cigarette from legislators.

CROWLEY: He spent eight years in state politics, the last two in national politics. It is, in the end, the biggest question on the Barack Obama band wagon. Is that enough to be leader of the western world?

OBAMA: I'm ready. Let's go.

CROWLEY: Candy Crowley, CNN, Springfield, Illinois.


COOPER: Well, we'll watching tomorrow morning. A lot more ahead tonight, though, including celebrities in rehab, whether it's a kind of get out of jail free card when it comes to scandals.

Also, sea of oil, river of blood. The story some governments don't want you to see.


COOPER (voice-over): Our story on the rebels fighting for oil created an international incident. Tonight, the story and the mystery behind it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to be released.

COOPER: Why the hostage taking? What turns young men into killers with the power to shut off a nation's oil?

And a city under attack.

TARIK HAWKINS, SHOOTING VICTIM: I was terrified that once they drove off, they were going to come back and kill us.

COOPER: Gang warfare in L.A., and the cops are outnumbered: 9,000 officers, 39,000 gang-bangers. Why are they having such a hard time to find people to protect and serve? Ahead on 360.


COOPER: A mystical dance in a deadly place. What's unfolding now in a mysterious and blood-soaked part of Africa may affect oil prices at the pump around the world, frankly.

We first told you about the Niger Delta earlier this week in Nigeria. There, armed rebels are waging war over vast supplies of oil, oil we all use. And they've taken hostages.

Our report generated a lot of responses, including one by the Nigerian government, which called our coverage offensive and subversive. We're concerned with the facts, however, not opinions.

Tonight, CNN Africa correspondent Jeff Koinange brings us up to date.


JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A treasure lies beneath these brackish waters: billions of barrels of oil. But, where there are vast riches in Africa, there is also something else, bloodshed.

The blood these days comes in a high speed guerrilla war skimming across the waters. After an e-mail invitation we believe came from the militant's mysterious rebel leader, a man named Jomo, we came to the delta and were suddenly face to face with hooded men.

The fighters told us they were with his group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. The acronym is MEND. But they did not seem happy to see us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many times do you come here with your cameras and didn't do anything? We don't want you guys to come here again.

KOINANGE: The militants eventually relaxed and led us to one of their hideouts in the swamps and showed us their strange spirit dance. It was there we encountered 24 Filipino captives held hostage for nearly a month.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're all OK but only we want to be free. We want to be released.

KOINANGE: The kidnappings, the murders and the bombings here are not so surprising. MEND fighters compare themselves to Robin Hood. It's dedicating to stealing from the oil rich and powerful and giving the money back to the poor who live in the vast delta, whose lives are actually damaged by the oil operations.

But in the village we visited before meeting with the rebels, it appears nothing has been given back to them. Once upon a time, Ekwa (ph) was a thriving fishing community deep in the Niger Delta.

On this day this fishermen has only managed to reel in a single fish which, he says, took him four days to catch. He blames rich multinational oil companies that, he says, have polluted the river, destroying his livelihood without providing any compensation.

SUNDAY KANYOFA, FISHERMAN: None of my children is going to school. No scholarship. No nothing. We are suffering here. You see. We are suffering here.

KOINANGE: In villages further along the river, stories of neglect and abandonment and of people living in abysmal conditions. This dirty pond is where villagers like Monday Como (ph) collect their drinking water. Makeshift homes are made from sticks and thatch. There's no sanitation, no running water and very little food to eat.

And in a region where fishing has always been the community's mainstay, even the fish seem to have gone away.

The situation is identical in village after village in this depressed area twice the size of Maryland. Scenes of abject poverty very similar to what you'd find in a refugee camp. What we found was a region where time seems to have been standing still and where people live the most meager of existences, leaving them bitter and angry from being denied the benefits of the black gold that makes Nigeria Africa's largest oil producer.

This has helped turn people like Ike West into angry young men. He says he's ready to sabotage pipelines like this one to disrupt two million barrels of oil the country produces daily.

IKE WEST, VILLAGER: I'm ready to blow off this station. I have decided to die because of my oil. I am ready to face anything that comes up.

KOINANGE: The nearby gas flares are vivid evidence of Nigeria's thriving oil production. Last year oil exports reaped more than $30 billion. That amounts to 90 percent of Nigeria's foreign exchange earnings. And yet, locals here see little if any of that.

That enormous difference between the wealthy and the poor is why MEND says it exists.

Back at the camps, the fighters had finally agreed to take us to their leader. Because of his superstitions, the leader, a man calling himself Major General Tamuno God's Will, would only talk to us in the middle of the river.

(on camera) And how far are you willing to go, sir? How far is MEND willing to go to accomplish their goals?

MAJ. GEN. TAMUNO GOD'S WILL, MEND: MEND has come to stay and there is no force in the universe that will stop MEND in achieving these demands.

KOINANGE (voice-over): We never did meet the mysterious e-mailer who invited us to the Delta, the mysterious Jomo. But instead of the ragtag band of rebels with an ax to grind, what we saw was a terrifying group of disciplined angry young men, bold, powerful, on to the tee and eager to fight. All this for a share of the billions of barrels of oil beneath these murky waters.


COOPER: Jeff, you're reporting on the Niger Delta has kind of turned into an international incident. First the Philippines and those hostages, they'll been held for a month. What do you know about efforts to free them?

KOINANGE: Anderson, the Philippine government strongly hinting today that it would approve the payment of ransoms to win the freedom of these hostages. The government also said that the agents are being handled by Nigeria and that there was no reason not to trust the Nigerian government.

COOPER: Let's talk about Nigeria. The government has been extremely critical of this report. In fact, today the Nigerian minister of information issued a statement, saying in the report, and I quote, "sends the wrong signals to the international community about the state of affairs in the country, create unnecessary panic, foster the feeling of insecurity, advance an out-dated thesis of neglect of the Niger Delta and portray Nigeria as a country in perpetual crises. It also glorifies criminality and undermines global efforts of eliminating terrorism."

Segments also complained that our report did not include interviews with any government officials. How do you respond, Jeff?

KOINANGE: I'll tell you what, Anderson, straight up. While we were there, we did put in an interview request with Nigerian president Olesugun Obasanjo.

But a spokesman from the president's office told us that he was busy on the campaign trail and would not be available. We also twice -- make that twice -- put in a request to interview the Nigerian navy. And not only that, go on patrol with Nigerian forces in the Niger Delta, spend a day with them.

But they told us that kind of request would take anywhere from two to three weeks. So we did very much try to get a comment from Nigerian officials.

COOPER: What about the so-called rebels, this group, MEND. What did that mysterious leader, Jomo, have to say?

KOINANGE: Well, Anderson, you better remember, we never did meet anyone who identified himself as Jomo, you know, the man who via e- mail gave us permission to go down to the delta.

Well, he's also complaining now. He says that the fighters you saw in our piece were not MEND fighters and that MEND did not kidnap those 24 Filipino sailors. This is really getting confusing. We'll tell you that the militants you saw in the piece, they did, in very clear terms say that they are MEND militants and securing oil rights and taking them back to the villages is their goal. There is no reason to believe that those men were not who they said they were.

COOPER: Fascinating developments. Jeff Koinange, thanks. Great reporting.

Up next, another danger zone: Iraq. Disturbing new video of what insurgents claim is their deadly attack on a U.S. helicopter.

And here in Los Angeles, gangs are thriving, but to fight back, you need police officers on the streets. And recruiting them is getting tougher. The LAPD blues, when 360 continues.


COOPER: Skid Row, it's one of the most destitute areas of Los Angeles. It's also the site of a shocking program called homeless dumping. The latest incident happened just yesterday. Police say a hospital van dropped off a homeless paraplegic man, left him crawling in the street with nothing more than a soiled gown and a broken colostomy bag.

Homeless dumping is just one of the many challenges facing the LAPD right now, and a recruitment problem is making their tough job even more difficult.

CNN's Randi Kaye investigates.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We first met Tarik Hawkins in this quiet middle class neighborhood just blocks from one of the most dangerous areas of L.A., where a year and a half ago he nearly lost his life.

HAWKINS: I was terrified once they drove off they were going to many could back and kill us.

KAYE: Seven thirty in the evening, Tarik, a college student, and two friends were getting into his car when another car drove by and opened fire. Tarik was hit four times in the legs. It would be months before he'd walk again.

HAWKINS: There's no police presence anywhere. A lot of young people and gang-bangers and people are doing negative things, feeling comfortable doing something like that at 7 p.m. at night where it's not even dark -- really dark yet.

KAYE (on camera): Because they know they're not going to get caught.

HAWKINS: Because they know they're not going to get caught.

KAYE: The person who shot Tarik Hawkins was never caught. Random shootings like his and growing gang violence are part of daily life here, simply because there's little police can do to stop it.

In Los Angeles, the police department says it has 9,400 officers, only about 500 on patrol at any given time. That, police say, is no match for the 39,000 gang members who call Los Angeles home.

(voice-over) So it's no wonder the LAPD says gang violence jumped 15 percent in L.A. last year, and more than half the city's 477 homicides were gang related.

COMMANDER KEN GARNER, LAPD: We don't have enough cops. You know, we don't have enough police officers. We never have.

The benefits are incredible.

KAYE: Commander Ken Garner has the money to hire about 700 recruits. So, where are they?

GARNER: The best candidates have options, have lots of options.

KAYE: Like the military. Garner says the war in Iraq is one reason LAPD's pool of recruits is running dry.

GARNER: We can't offer you a trip to Hawaii or to Paris, or live in Germany, those kind of things. And that's what the military offers for a young man or women, is a chance to really travel.

KAYE: The LAPD's image problem, especially among minorities, doesn't help. Videotaped police beatings like this one. And in July 2005, questions about the shooting death of a 19-month-old girl during a SWAT standoff are a turnoff to many.

GARNER: Part of my job is changing that one at a time.

KAYE: But that isn't easy. last year the LAPD had 603 recruits, but the majority of them dropped out, leaving the department with just 130 new officers. That's about what it's been gaining each year. But Garner said the force needs 15,000 to make a dent in gang crime.

GARNER: Basically, we're caught in a place where we're reactive. With more officers, we can be proactive.

KAYE: So the LAPD is getting aggressive. Billboard campaigns. New TV adds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I decided I can make a difference in our community by becoming a member of the LAPD, and you can, too.

KAYE: The ad campaign seems to be working. Garner says recruiting classes are more crowded than they've been in seven years.

Tarik Hawkins had once wanted to be a police officer, but after he was shot, he joined an outreach program focused on keeping at-risk kids from joining gangs.

(on camera) Do you feel like you can't wait for the police to get enough recruits and enough officers on the street and you need to sort of take some steps yourself?

HAWKINS: No, we can't wait at all. If we wait, we're going to lose a lot more of our youth and a lot more of the community to the violence that is going on. This is the aftermath.

KAYE (voice-over): Tarik has the scars to prove it. The LAPD needs all the help it can get.

Randi Kaye, CNN, Los Angeles.


COOPER: Tough job. Gary Tuchman joins us now with a "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Gary.


A militant group says it has proof it shot down an American helicopter in Iraq. The Islamic State in Iraq posted a video on the Internet, showing what it says the shooting down of the CH-46 Sea Knight that crashed in Anbar province on Wednesday.

The two and a half minute video shows the twin rotor helicopter in the sky that appears to be struck by a projectile, then bursts into smoke and flames and crashes.

The authenticity of the video cannot be confirmed by CNN.

Stocks ended the week on a low note. The Dow dropped fell 56 points, closing at 12,580. The NASDAQ lost 28, and the S&P 500 dropped 10 points.

And the chief executive of the Cartoon Network resigned today. Jim Samples said he felt, quote, "compelled" to step down after the network's guerilla marketing scheme led to a bomb square that shut down parts of Boston last week.

Turner Broadcasting System and the marketing company, Interference Incorporated, have agreed to pay $2 million to cover the emergency response. TBS is the parent company at the Cartoon Network and us at CNN -- Anderson.

COOPER: Gary, thanks very much. The mystery deepens. What the autopsy revealed about the death of Anna Nicole Smith and what investigators are still trying to figure out.

Also tonight, sorting out the legal mess -- and what a mess it is -- over who gets custody of Anna Nicole's daughter and who gets her late husband's money. All that ahead, next on 360.