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Michael Vick Sentenced to 23 Months in Prison; Oprah Campaigns For Obama

Aired December 10, 2007 - 15:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: A man with a mission vs. people of faith -- chilling new details in the aftermath of yesterday's shootings as a missionary center and a mega-church in Colorado. We're live in Colorado Springs.
Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips in the CNN Center in Atlanta. And you're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

An icy mess and getting worse -- from Amarillo to Ann Arbor, super-slick highways and bridges are blamed for at least 11 deaths just in Oklahoma. Nearly half-a-million home and businesses there, including the Tulsa Airport, don't even have power.

More blackouts are reported in Missouri, Illinois, and Kansas. Oklahoma and Missouri have both declared states of emergency.

Chad Myers, tough, tough time.


PHILLIPS: We have now talked with either governors or mayors in Oklahoma, Missouri. And I think we're coming up with another conference this hour as well, the mayor of Oklahoma City.

MYERS: Yes, and I lived in Edmond. I lived in Oklahoma City until like 1993. And just it's a fantastic town with some trees there, especially Bethany some of the older neighborhoods that when the ice comes in, man, the trees just come down.

And a lot of times it comes down -- this ice storm happens when some of the leaves are still on the trees. Well, there you go. You can see how -- think about, if it's a branch that's kind of empty, you are not going to get nearly the weight let's say if you put all of that ice onto leaves as well. This is video we just got in about an hour ago from Tulsa. They're cleaning up a real big mess there, over the entire state of Oklahoma, over 300,000 people without power.

Now, the good news is, it's going to warm up slightly tonight, but these people here, every red dot that you see -- here's Oklahoma City, up toward Stillwater, Tulsa back up here -- every red dot, over 500 people in that little community without power, and in many areas over 1,000 people.

So you go from Del City on up toward Edmond, and then even toward Yukon, a lot of power lines are down. Now, as tonight goes on, the temperatures are going to go all way to 40. Then a lot of this ice is going to melt off of these trees. And that tree is going to go back up again and try to knock the power line off from the other direction if it didn't get it the first time.

You see at least now, Oklahoma City, no more precip coming down for you. It's over. The warm air is on its way. And Tulsa, you will be up to 45 by tomorrow morning as well. The ice is going to be farther to the north from the next storm system, Kyra, that is coming out of the Southwest, from Kansas City through Saint Joe, right up into Chicago by tomorrow. There will be more ice on the way, and we will detail that area coming up in a little bit later.

PHILLIPS: OK. Sounds good. Thanks, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

PHILLIPS: Well, all this ice certainly looks like a wintry postcard, but in reality, our I-Reporter Beatrix Taylor says it's downright freezing in Columbus, Kansas, and to top it off, the lights have been out since yesterday. She tells us the trees in these pictures have now split in half because of the icy cold.

Twenty-three months in federal prison for Michael Vick. The suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback was sentenced this morning in Richmond, Virginia, for his role in a dogfighting conspiracy. And it could have been worse, up to five years behind bars. With time out for good behavior, the 23-month sentence could be cut to 18.


BILLY MARTIN, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL VICK: Michael has known from the very beginning that there were severe consequences to the bad judgment he used in engaging in dogfighting. He knows that the sentence Judge Hudson gave him today is a direct result of his conduct.

Unfortunately, Michael knows that he is going now to 18 months to 23 months because of his conduct. Michael does accept that. As you can imagine, Michael was not -- he's very disappointed, he's saddened, but Michael will take advantage of this as a learning experience.


PHILLIPS: In a statement, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank says -- quote -- "Michael Vick's federal sentencing today is another step in his legal journey. This is a difficult day for Michael's family and a for a lot of us, including many of our players and fans, who have been emotionally invested in Michael over the years. We sincerely hope that Michael will use this time to continue to focus his efforts on making positive changes in his life, and we wish him well in that regard."

We now have the name of that gunman and word of a possible link between the two fatal shootings yesterday in Colorado.

CNN's Jim Acosta is at the site of the second shooting, the New Life Church in Colorado Springs. He's been working with detectives to try to get information for us.

Hi, Jim.


Yes, CNN has confirmed the name of the gunman involved in both of these shootings. Officials here at the New Life Church here in Colorado Springs, they have identified the gunman as 24-year-old Matthew Murray. And they believe that he is behind both of these shootings, both, including the one here in Colorado Springs and the other one that happened 12 hours earlier in Arvada.

That has not been confirmed, we should note, by police at this point. They're having a press conference later on this afternoon, but we do have some new video to show you and that is of what the scene looked like inside of this church. Some pool video has been released from what it looks like inside New Life.

And basically what you can see inside the church, bullet holes, officials at the church, employees at the church, trying to clean up the scene. This was a horrifying scene yesterday. It was actually the second of two shootings that happened here in Colorado yesterday at two different religious sites. The first one was in Arvada.

And that was at a missionary training center. That happened just after midnight on Sunday. Meanwhile, we can tell you that a home in this area over in Englewood was searched after both these shootings. No word yet from police as to what they found in that search, but this drama all basically came to a head yesterday afternoon shortly after the late-morning services, when this gunman believed to be Matthew Murray went inside this church, shot as many as five people, two of them dead, identified as two teenagers.

And pastors here at the church say it could have been much worse had it not been for the efforts of a female security guard here.


PASTOR BRADY BOYD, NEW LIFE CHURCH: She's highly trained. She's a volunteer member of our church, who simply her role at the church was to provide security. And she did her job yesterday. She's a real hero.


ACOSTA: Meanwhile, there are some witnesses who are coming forward to talk about what they saw here at the church.

We spoke just earlier this afternoon with Jocelyn Garcia. She is an 18-year-old member of the church. She was held in lockdown inside of the church, but could hear of gunfire, could hear the commotion going on, and she says, despite everything that's happened here, she and other congregation members can't wait to get back to church to pull their church back together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOCELYN GARCIA, NEW LIFE CHURCH MEMBER: I want to get back in there. I want to get back at home with the body of Christ, with the believers that go to that church, and I just want to be back there with everybody.


ACOSTA: Now, the big unanswered question out here is, why? What might have led this gunman to pull off both of these shootings, if that's indeed what happened out here?

But at this point police are not releasing or revealing any kind of motive at this point. They're planning a press conference here in Colorado Springs later on this afternoon. Another one is also apparently being held in Arvada, where that first shooting happened.

And here at the church, there may also be another press conference from what we understand, where we may hear more about that female security guard who essentially turned out to be a hero out here -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: I'll tell you what, Jim. She would be the interview, wouldn't she?

ACOSTA: She sure would be. That's the get at this point.

PHILLIPS: All right. We will keep trying.

Jim Acosta, thanks so much

ACOSTA: You bet.

PHILLIPS: And just today, police released the names of the Colorado Springs shooting victims. The two people killed are sisters, Stephanie Works, 18, and Rachael Works, 16.

Their father, 51-year-old David Works, is among the three people who are wounded. Forty-year-old Judy Purcell and 59-year-old Larry Bourbannais survived those shots.

These are the two people killed in Arvada, Colorado, about 12 hours before the Colorado Springs rampage. Tiffany Johnson, on the left, she was 26 years old from Minnesota. Philip Crouse from Alaska, he was 24. And then two of their colleagues are in the hospital, Charlie Blanch, seen here on the left, and Dan Griebenow. Both are in their 20s.

Churches in Omaha, Nebraska, they're packed, as families and friends say goodbye to the victims of last week's mall shootings. Funerals today for store employees Janet Jorgensen and Dianne Trent and also for shopper John McDonald.

Loved ones say that Jorgensen helped her husband fight cancer. Also today, funerals for store worker Gary Joy and for shopper Gary Scharf. A priest at one of the funerals says that the world is mourning with these families. And a 19-year-old gunman killed eight people before at the Von Maur department store just before taking his own life. This is where it all happened. The company says it's establishing a fund for the families.

Now, depending on where you live, 2007 has been a good year, violent crime wise, or it really hasn't. In Washington, D.C., it's been a terrible year. Murders are up more than 20 percent from 2006.

Gary Nurenberg takes a look at the numbers.


GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police were called to this neighborhood in Woodbridge, Virginia, Sunday morning.

SGT. KIM CHINN, PRINCE WILLIAMS COUNTY POLICE: They found three adults deceased and two more had been shot.

NURENBERG: The police executive research forum says violent crime in 2007 is up in some cities, down in others.

JAMES FOX, CRIMINOLOGIST NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY: This is not an epidemic, but it could grow into one.

NURENBERG: When police said they had confessions in the murder of football player Sean Taylor, it appeared to highlight one trend.

FOX: This is 2002, the number of murders committed by young black males with guns has increased over 70 percent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We lose so many great people here in D.C. It's absolutely horrible.

NURENBERG: Violent crime just hit home at Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington, where the manager, Nizam Ali, stands in front of cook, Timothy Spicer's picture.

NIZAM ALI, MANAGER BEN'S CHILI BOWL: He had aspirations to go further and do a lot with his life.

NURENBERG: Timothy Spicer loves his car. He was murdered last month by carjackers near this subway station.

JAMES GOLD, COOK, BEN'S CHILI BOWL: Whoever killed our boy is like he took part of us.

NURENBERG: Spicer's was city's 169th homicide of 2007. The murder rate in Washington was up 22 percent at the beginning of this weekend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got, like 300 recruits out here.

NURENBERG: D.C. police chief, Cathy Lanier, ordered all of the city's police officers to patrol over the weekend and all hands on deck. CHIEF CATHY LANIER, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: All hands, my hands included.

NURENBERG: Lanier says the biggest driver of the rise in violent crime is guns.

LANIER: We're really focusing on targeting those guns now on the street, trying to take as many as we can off the street.

NURENBERG: She says police alone are not the answer.

LANIER: Unemployment, recreation, education. Just getting resources out there. There are families in need of help. And help, a lot of ways. That, when they don't get that help, it leads to this persistent cycle of crime.

NURENBERG: Fox, the Northeastern University criminologist says it is a simple choice.

FOX: Really, choices are easy. Help these programs now or pray for the victims later.

NURENBERG: Gary Nurenberg, CNN, Washington.


PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, the double-O show, Oprah Winfrey lending her star power to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. We are going to find out what our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, has to say about all of that.


PHILLIPS: Three fourteen Eastern time. Here are some of the stories that we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.

A deadly rampage at two religious institutions in Colorado apparently linked. A source tells CNN the same gunman was behind both attacks. He's identified now as Matthew Murray. Murray apparently once work with the missionary group some of the victims belonged to.

Despite apologies to the court and letters of support, a federal judge has sentenced NFL star Michael Vick to 23 months behind bars for his role in a dogfighting ring. The judge says that Vick was a full partner in the operation.

A coating of ice over everything in sight. Ice storm warnings are spanning a huge chunk of the country right now. The buildup is making roads dangerous and causing major blackouts.

In the celebrity world, you don't get more A-list than Oprah Winfrey. And, now, as you might have heard, Oprah is hoping to turn her star power into votes for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

In her blog on's Political Ticker, our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley, calls it the double-O show. She says -- quote -- "Endorsements do not decide elections. I Don't think they matter much at all. But, as I watched Oprah embrace Obama as thousands of people went crazy, I found myself wondering how many votes a hug is worth."

Candy Crowley, you're out there blogging. Impressive.



PHILLIPS: I'm telling you. For you and me that used to work on typewriters, this is a whole...

CROWLEY: Yes. Well, what can I tell you? I'm integrating my platforms.


PHILLIPS: I'm very impressed. Next thing I know, you will be out running for office.

All right, let's talk about your blog and what you just said about the votes. What do you think? Were the crowds wowed by Oprah's appearance more than with Obama?

CROWLEY: Oh, absolutely, no question about it.

And that was the point, really. I mean, she was supposed to bring the crowds in, and she delivered. She delivered in Iowa. She delivered in South Carolina big time. She delivered in New Hampshire. His whole thing was to then reel them in.

And what we found afterwards -- and this is obviously very anecdotal -- is people saying, well, I came to see Oprah, but I really liked what I heard, or I wanted to hear something from him, and I think I'm in.

So, that was the whole point of this, along with some other sort of side effects of having Oprah Winfrey around. And that is that they used these tickets as recruiting tools. To get one in Iowa, you had to do a couple of things to do it. And one of them was if you went into their office and volunteered for four hours, you would get a ticket.

So, there are any number of things that they can use to spin off Oprah Winfrey's endorsement, which, let's face it, we have never seen anyone this big endorse someone before outside the political scene.

I still, you know, wonder whether there's a direct correlation. I don't think you are going to find many people that are going to say, listen, Oprah Winfrey is for Barack Obama; therefore, I am.

But, boy, they got a lot of free media. They're still are getting free media, and they used it as a big recruitment tool. PHILLIPS: All right. So you don't think this endorsement will translate into votes for him necessarily.

So, let's talk about Oprah, and -- has a lot of experience in the public eye, but you noted that her Oprah's beset friend, Gayle, mentioned Oprah had been up late working on the speech. She did seem a little nervous about being in politics, yes?

CROWLEY: Yes, absolutely.

And she said, listen, somebody asked me backstage if I was nervous. And I said to them -- quote -- "Damn right I'm nervous."


CROWLEY: So -- but -- however, by the time she got to her last stop, which was New Hampshire, she said, I really like this. I really like it.

So -- but I have got to tell you something. This is a -- I have never seen her in person. Obviously, we're working when her show is on, but this is a mega-talent here. It was a heck of a speech. It was delivered impeccably. She is just really good at making that connection.

There were a lot of people -- my producer, Sasha Johnson, was re- looking at the speech today, because we're doing a piece on it for "SIT ROOM." And she wrote me and she said: "Oh, my God. I want to read this again. I will vote for Oprah."

It was sort of that kind of thing.

PHILLIPS: Well, let me play off that for a minute, because that's what people are asking now. Would he put her on the ticket? Would she somehow get involved in politics? Could she do it?

CROWLEY: You know, I suppose she could do it. We have certainly had celebrities -- Can you say Arnold Schwarzenegger? -- that have gone on to go into politics. She didn't show the least bit of interest to it.

In fact, somebody in the crowd yelled "Oprah for vice president," and he turned around and said, you realize that would be a demotion?

So, she's sitting pretty good right now. I'm not sure that she looks like someone that is going to come into an Obama administration or a Clinton administration or whatever it happens to be.

PHILLIPS: All right, well, over the next few days, Edwards is also bringing out some actor types, Kevin Bacon, Tim Robbins. Hillary Clinton is bringing Bill to Iowa. We all know he's a rock star.


PHILLIPS: Does this star power really help anyone?

CROWLEY: It brings attention.

You know, people -- again, people say, oh, I really like that Kevin Bacon. I'm going to go out. And while they're out there, they listen to John Edwards. Bill Clinton, I can assure you, talks nonstop about his wife and why she would be a good president.

He's kind of in a special kind of political category. He, within the Democratic Party, is a huge rock star. And he can bring them in, but he's also doing these kind of smaller venues, where he talks about health care. So, he's a multitasking campaigner for her.

PHILLIPS: Candy Crowley, always great to talk to you, get your insight.

CROWLEY: Thanks.

PHILLIPS: And this programming note to tell you about: CNN will have live coverage of the "Des Moines Register" Iowa debates. The Republicans face off Wednesday 2:00 p.m. Eastern, and the Democrats Thursday also at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.

Cookies for a cause -- parents coming together to raise money and help their children fight a deadly disease.



PHILLIPS: They get courtside seats and they're treated like VIPs. And, believe me, they deserve it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're being treated like royalty out here, treated like kings. It's awesome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It showed me that people care and they support us, the troops.


PHILLIPS: Wounded troops get the best seats in the house.


PHILLIPS: Icy, slick, and deadly -- the Oklahoma Highway Patrol says, if you don't have to be out, for goodness' sakes, stay home. And already 11 traffic deaths are blamed on that ice storm. School are closed. And more than 300,000 homes and businesses have no electricity. That includes the Tulsa Airport.

Firefighting is even dicier in this weather. Frozen hydrants, lower water pressure hampered efforts to save the high school in the town of Jones early this morning.

Chad Myers, it just seems like it's getting worse and worse as we get more information, at least, about what has happened.

MYERS: Well, it's one round of storms after another, Kyra.

We had the one move through over the weekend. That was the first batch. And now we're kind of tapering that batch off. And then you will notice an increase in the amount of rainfall or moisture, snowfall in the mountains, back out to the Southwest. This is the next piece of energy that is coming out of the Pacific Ocean. This is almost the -- the southern Pacific, south of San Diego.

Then it gets blown right into Nevada, Salt Lake City, and Durango, and Telluride, where feet of snow, again, will fall. In Purgatory and Telluride, these guys are just -- they're swimming, literally, in snow -- almost eight feet of snow in 10 days.

Well, for today this storm moves away and kind of falls apart, loses some energy. And we're just seeing a little bit of light rains -- freezing rain now. Oklahoma City above 32. Tulsa quickly will go above 32. In fact, Tulsa, you'll be up to 40 by morning. But then tomorrow, the storm that's here will slide into about Joplin, Missouri -- making another ice storm. Now, it looks more like Chicago, Aurora, as well, into this by 8:00 a.m. right around rush hour -- starting probably before rush hour.

And then back into Des Moines, Ottumwa, down in through Nebraska City, Falls City, right through Marysville and then down into Concordia and Wichita. Another inch of ice possible with this next round.

You're thinking how can that even be?

Here's the bull's eye. You know, a lot of warm air coming up and the cold air is already in place. And today for a while in Tulsa, it was thunderstorming and 31.

Think about that, Kyra. Think about a thunderstorm intensity rainfall and then it hits the ground and the ground is 31 -- how badly the roads get at that point in time.

And the airports haven't been doing all that good, either. JFK and La Guardia, just a little cloud cover, not an ice event out there. But still, Boston, Chicago and all those areas, over an hour delays in many, many of those airports to the Northeast -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right.

We'll keep following all the conditions.

Hey, Chad, listen to this next interview coming up, all right?

I know that you will appreciate it.

We're talking about giving up NBA courtside seats to people who are making the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To just be treated like royalty and to be right there -- we had the best seats. It was just great.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is like being in heaven for me right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To be open -- you know, welcomed with open arms and everyone just there smiling and, you know, congratulating us and shaking our hands, you know, it's -- it was wonderful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They showed me that people care and they support us troops.


PHILLIPS: Well, it's the Seats for Soldiers program. It's a thank you to the wounded men and women of the U.S. military. And the Dallas Mavericks are just one of the teams taking part.

Joining us now, owner Mark Cuban and retired Corporal J.R. Martinez.

Guys, thank you so much, both, for being with me.


CPL. J.R. MARTINEZ, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Oh, thank you.

PHILLIPS: J.R. we're going to get to your story in a moment.

But, Mark, how did you give -- get folks to give up tickets?

I mean these are right on the court.

CUBAN: One of the beautiful things about Dallas and Maz fans in particular is that we appreciate and we have ongoing programs just to show respect for our military. And when we went to them initially, not only did -- were they happy to give up their seats, but they were excited to participate. So it probably sounds like it would be difficult, but it wasn't at all.

PHILLIPS: Well, when you meet people like J.R. Martinez and you hear about what he went through, I tell you what, it -- you have inspired me, J.R.

I want you to tell us -- tell our viewers, back in 2003 you were driving along in your Humvee.

Tell us what happened.

MARTINEZ: I was escorting a convoy through the City of Karbala in April 2003 when my front left tire ran over a land mine and I was trapped inside the vehicle. By the time I was pulled out of the vehicle, I had been burned over 40 percent of my body with severe inhalation damage. And I pretty much went through the whole evacuation process that a lot of men and women go through where you go to a medical hospital in Iraq, from there to Germany and then end up back in the States.

And I ended up at Brook Army Medical Center. And I stayed there for two-and-one-half years and underwent 32 surgeries. So I definitely understand that path and that road and the importance of the Dallas Mavericks organization putting on an event like this, because it helps out in so many ways.

PHILLIPS: Thirty-two surgeries.

MARTINEZ: Absolutely. I mean they -- they were trying to make me all Hollywood, so, you know...


MARTINEZ: ...I have no problem with that at all. I just go -- roll with the punches.

PHILLIPS: Well, you have Hollywood smiling eyes, that's for sure.

MARTINEZ: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: And, Mark, when you listen to guys like J.R. and you get a sense for his spirit and his positive attitude, you probably want to do even more than give him, you know, courtside seats.

How does this inspire you?

How does this sort of take your mind off, a lot of times, you know, the superficiality that surrounds sports, when the guys start slugging at it...

CUBAN: Well, you know...

PHILLIPS: you know what I'm saying.

CUBAN: Oh, I know exactly what you're saying.

PHILLIPS: It really puts things in perspective, you know, with all the money and the fame.

CUBAN: It's just a game.


CUBAN: Yes. We know it's just a game. And we know that we're blessed to be able to put on, you know, to participate in the NBA because of people like Corporal Martinez. I mean we have Seats for Soldiers. We have other programs that we do. We have the Fallen Patriot Fund that people can visit at

I don't ever want anybody around me to ever forget that we are here because of people like Corporal Martinez put their lives on the line. They're the hero. And hopefully we'll always remember and appreciate that.

PHILLIPS: Mark, have any of the players said anything to you or have you heard any stories...

CUBAN: Oh, yes.

PHILLIPS: ...of how guys -- tell me what they have said about these guys like J.R. and these men and women that have been wounded and come to the games.

CUBAN: Well, you know, we started the Seats for Soldiers programs four years -- or almost four years ago now. And one of the things the Dallas Mavericks do as a team that was started after one of these nights was we all put our hand over our hearts during the national anthem. And it's not a big deal, but we have people from different countries -- Germany, you know, Ghana, you name it. And so it's just our way to show our appreciation. And the guys wanted to do this as a result of the Seats for Soldiers.

And if you go to the game -- when you go to the games, the guys from both team come out and sign autographs and hang out and talk to the guys. We have to kick people off the court. The guys won't leave, that's how appreciative they are. And it really is special. And watching the fans give all the -- all the troops a standing ovation -- there's no better feeling in the world.

And, of course, J.R. we're now watching the cheerleaders work their way across the courts. I'm sure that's a nice added bonus to be able to -- (LAUGHTER).

MARTINEZ: Hey, I'm sure the guys give two thumbs up for that, as well.

PHILLIPS: What about the players?

You know, have the players said anything to you?

Have you been able to been any new relationships, you know, the fans in the stands?

Tell me, you know, what it's been like emotionally while you're there -- how it makes you feel.



MARTINEZ: You know, it's a tremendous feeling, you know, going through a routine -- once you're wounded and you're at a hospital, your routine is the same. You wake up every morning, you go to therapy or you have a surgery. I mean it's the same routine and it gets old. And it's something to be able to have a break and to go four hours away from San Antonio and enjoy a great dinner; for the season ticket holders to give up their tickets for us that, you know, they spend their money to buy; for American Airlines to fly us up there; and for the fans, for the cheerleaders, for the players -- I mean for them to accept us and show us that much love -- the energy that we feel, it just pumps us up and it just says, wow! You know, we -- it's a tremendous feeling to be able to know that, you know, what you've been through and everything you've sacrificed for this country and for that flag, it has that much more meaning to so many people. Because, in our eyes, we look at the Maverick players, the cheerleaders and all those people as kings, in our eyes. And we look up to them. But it's funny how when we're there, the roles switch.

PHILLIPS: Of course.

MARTINEZ: And as Mark stated, they look up to us, in a lot of ways. And that makes us feel so much better and it makes us want to put on the uniform again and go back and do it again.

And that's the great thing about the Dallas Mavericks is that it's a great example of how it's not about political views, it's not about what you -- if you're for or against the war, for or against the president. It's about supporting the men and women that wear the uniform, because they're brave in so many ways.

PHILLIPS: J.R. you are the brave one. You are an absolute stud.

MARTINEZ: I'm one of many, one of many.

PHILLIPS: That is true.

Mark, a message to J.R.?

As you see him, as you listen to him, what do you want to say to him?

CUBAN: Thank you. Thank you for all you do, because every single day we all recognize that we wouldn't be here if it weren't for you and, like you said, everybody who puts on the uniform.

Thank you, J.R.

PHILLIPS: Final thoughts, J.R.?

MARTINEZ: Well, thank you, Mark Cuban. Thank you, Dallas Mavericks organization. Thank you, the City of Dallas and the whole nation for supporting our men and women. And I hope the biggest thing that we take from this is that other people are watching this in other cities, different sports or different venues can say, you know what?

There's more that we can do as a community, as a nation, as a -- as beautiful grateful Americans, we can do so much more.

And I've been involved with an organization called the Coalition To Salute America's Heroes three-and-a-half years. And it just goes to show, like Mark said, there's so many great things that people do out there. And you can go to our Web site,, and learn more about what we do.

But it's never enough. We've got to support these men and women because, at the end of the day, they sacrifice so much.

And, so, Mark, thank you to you and your staff and to everyone else. CUBAN: Thank you.

MARTINEZ: Thank you very much.


CUBAN: And thank you, to Neal Hawks out there, too. Neal deserves a lot of the credit.

MARTINEZ: Oh, Neal, thank you. That's right. Absolutely. There's so many people behind-the-scenes, Kyra, that allow this -- to put this together.

And, Kyra, I'd like to say to you, thank you for covering this, because if it wasn't for you guys covering this, I mean we wouldn't have been able to have the awareness and get the message out there that people would love to follow every single day.

So thank you guys, as well.

PHILLIPS: Well, when it was pitched to me and our team, it was a no-brainer. And we were thrilled to have you and Mark.

And we're hoping the next step, J.R. maybe you could do a little "Dancing With The Stars" with Mark Cuban.

What do you think?

MARTINEZ: Hey, Mark, let's go. Let's do it.


CUBAN: There you go, J.R.

PHILLIPS: There you go.

CUBAN: I'll show you my foxtrot.


MARTINEZ: Hey, Mark, you know, I've seen you lose a lot of weight, so, you know, I can probably, you know, take a few tips from you, you know that's...

CUBAN: I'll tell you, boy, that's the hard part.

PHILLIPS: OK. That's going to be part two. It's going to be J.R. and one of the Mavericks' cheerleaders doing the foxtrot.

What do you think?

MARTINEZ: Oh, I'm ready to go.

CUBAN: The foxtrot, yes, there you go.

MARTINEZ: Um-hmmm. PHILLIPS: Bill...

MARTINEZ: I like that pitch, Kyra. I like that very much.

PHILLIPS: I'm all over it.

Mark, will you help me make that happen?

CUBAN: Absolutely. Foxtrots for the Soldiers. There you go.


PHILLIPS: Done. Number two.

All right, Mark Cuban, J.R. Martinez, love to you both.

MARTINEZ: Thank you.

CUBAN: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Well, weeding out an alleged smuggler -- Customs busts a teen carrying the wrong kind of holiday greenery.


PHILLIPS: Well, it's not just the icy weather, but something far more chilling that shut down Northern Illinois University. The college closed today after police found threats scrawled on a bathroom wall. Those threats included racial slurs and references to the Virginia Tech massacre. The campus is on a security alert for the rest of the semester now and students are on guard.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm glad that they're actually, you know, taking steps to make sure everyone is safe.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's disturbing, you know, to even like think, you know, like someone would even write something like that. You know, and so I'm -- I was like kind of shocked, you know, up front about it. But, you know, I just make sure that I take the proper precautions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's -- it is a little scary, especially with recent events. Walking around this morning, though, we see a lot of police presence. And I like that the university has shown a lot of care and made sure that everyone is secure.


PHILLIPS: School official say that some final exams scheduled for today will be given on Friday instead.

Close but no cigar for a 17-year-old Texas boy who's accused of trying to smuggle 30 pounds of pot in from Mexico. Customs officers say, well, they found the marijuana hidden inside holiday candles. Drug sniffing dogs tipped them off. And if the bust didn't earn him coal in his stocking, maybe his excuse will. He told the officers the candles were a gift from his grandma to his mom. Shame on him.

Police in Britain are asking for tips in the so-called "Canoe Man" case. They're trying to piece together John Darwin's whereabouts over the past five years. They've released this photo that Darwin allegedly used to get a passport under the name John Jones. Darwin appeared in court today to face two charges of deception but didn't enter a plea. He was declared dead in 2003 -- a year after his empty boat washed up on the beach. He turned up at a police station 10 days ago, claiming amnesia. The cops say he faked his death to avoid mounting debt. His wife, Ann, was arrested yesterday and is being held on suspicion of fraud.

It's an environmental nightmare -- pristine beaches blackened with oil, littered with dead birds and marine animals. Almost three million gallons of oil gushed into the Yellow Sea after a barge smashed into an oil tanker Friday. Already, about 30 miles of South Korea's coastline is contaminated. Almost 9,000 troops, police and volunteers are struggling to mop it all up. But the experts say it may take months now -- maybe even a year -- to clean up the country's worst oil spill ever.

It's time for a little harmony in U.S./North Korean relations. The New York Philharmonic is getting ready to announce its performance in North Korea's capital in late February. The one time performance will follow the Philharmonic's tour of China. North Korea and the U.S. agreed to step up cultural exchanges as part of an agreement to dismantle North Korea's nuclear program.

Cookies for a cause -- parents coming together to raise money and help their children fight a deadly disease.


PHILLIPS: Well, they don't call them miracle drugs for nothing. Sometimes superhuman efforts are required to get life saving medicines to market. And sometimes those super humans are the families and friends of the patients. That's especially true in the case of a rare form of childhood cancer.

Here's CNN's Mary Snow.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Liam Witt is Engine One, Ladder 24's smallest firefighter. But the toddler is up against the health equivalent of a four-alarm fire -- and it came with little warning.

DR. NAI-KONG CHEUNG, MEMORIAL SLOAN-KETTERING CANCER CENTER: Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer that affects children and infants. It is -- it can be silent and it can be quite devastating.

SNOW: Liam was diagnosed nine months ago with advanced neuroblastoma, a cancer of the nervous system. The 3-year-old has had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation to rid his body of the cancer. He now receives antibody treatments called 3F8 at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to prevent it from coming back. GRETCHEN WITT, LIAM'S MOM: All right, I know you don't like these, but let's do it really fast.

SNOW: Defeating neuroblastoma is difficult. Only 30 percent of children with high risk cases survive. The threat of relapse is high and the funding for new treatments is low.

Dr. Nikon Cheung is head of the neuroblastoma program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering.

CHEUNG: Neuroblastoma is an awful disease. It's approximately 600 to 700 new cases a year in the U.S. And with that small number, there's very little interest from the pharmaceutical companies to make new drugs.

SNOW: That's why the unique antibody treatment Liam receives is entirely funded by philanthropy. But this holiday season, hope for Liam and other kids with neuroblastoma comes in three unlikely flavors -- chocolate chip, citrus shortbread, and Snickerdoodle.

WITT: We are in the process of baking 96,000 cookies.

SNOW: Liam's mom, Gretchen Witt, is running a massive bake sale. Her goal -- raise $250,000 toward a new and more advanced version of 3F8 -- the treatment Liam currently receives. It's all part of a larger effort by a group of neuroblastoma parents. They're determined to raise the $2 million needed to get the new 3F8 treatment into the early stages of production and testing. It's a fight Witt says has changed everything.

WITT: There is not a time when one of my children doesn't hold my hand or say my name or ask for a kiss that I don't appreciate it and recognize it in the moment.

Ready, set...


SNOW: This holiday season, Gretchen Witt is baking not just for fun or to feed others, but for life itself -- a life her son is fighting for with every growing moment.



SNOW: Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


PHILLIPS: If you'd like to help, you can click onto to place your cookie orders or to find other ways to impact your world.

New Jersey is getting tough against the flu. The Garden State is poised to become the first state to require preschoolers to get flu shots. A state health advisory board approved the requirement today, but it's not a done deal yet. A final decision from the state's health commissioner is expected in about a week. Some parents oppose the rule. They're worried about possible dangers from the new vaccines.

They call it Nutty Buddy and if that name doesn't say it all, we'll explain even more about the number one story that you're clicking on today at

You're watching CNN NEWSROOM.


PHILLIPS: All right, let's see what's clicking on with all of you CNN.comers.

Some of our top videos this hour -- it's tough to tell if it's hard news or a breaking news story, but lots of interest in the Nutty Buddy -- an invention that, well, protects a gentleman's best buddies. We'll leave it at that.

And you guys are jumping on the first wild footage of an endangered rodent called a jerboa. It's got -- well, ears like a rabbit and powerful legs like a kangaroo. You can figure it out.

Twin sisters separated as babies who didn't even know that they were -- well, that their mirror image existed. Reunited at 35 years old, the identical strangers have now written a book and talked about their experiences with CNN's Fredricka Whitfield.

All these stories and much more at

Wedding bells along with the closing bells are next.

When you're the top guy at Google, where do you tie the knot?

A wedding made in nerd heaven, coming up next.


PHILLIPS: Time now to check in with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

He's standing by in THE SITUATION ROOM to tell us what's coming up at the top of the hour -- hey, Wolf.


Thanks very much.

Lots of news coming up, including a new batch of CNN national polls that may give the presumptive frontrunners some heartburn. Bill Schneider is standing by to debut the new numbers.

Also, did much of the latest intelligence on Iran's nuclear program actually come from Iranian defectors?

Brian Todd is all over this story. And Al Gore takes possession of the Nobel Peace Prize, but he also makes some news that could cause political ripples in the Democrats' race for the White House. You're going to want to hear precisely what the former vice president says in a CNN exclusive interview.

All that and a lot more, Kyra, coming up right there in THE SITUATION ROOM.

PHILLIPS: It sounds good, Wolf.

The closing bell is about to ring on Wall Street.

Stephanie Elam is standing by with a final look at the trading day -- Stef?


For all those women out there who were hoping to snag Larry Page of Google fame, yes, your time has passed. He's married now. But he got married on a tiny Caribbean island with 600 guests flying in on private planes. Page, who's 34, married Lucy Southworth, a 27-year-old entrepreneur, on Richard Branson's private getaway, Necker Island. This is according to the "New York Post". Page -- and Southworth is a biomedical information -- informatics doctoral student. Yes, obviously that wasn't my major.

PHILLIPS: Yes. I was going to say, could you just -- could you say that three times and then please explain to me what that means.

ELAM: And then let me show you what she does.


ELAM: Exactly.


ELAM: Well, she's a student at Stanford. And the closest I got to there -- I was born at Stanford University. That's about it. That's like -- it was like right up the street from where I grew up.

PHILLIPS: We applied. They never got our applications.

ELAM: Yes, exactly.

PHILLIPS: Exactly.

ELAM: Well, they've been dating for over a year. Page's planners reportedly working six months in advance, also had to book all the hotels on the neighboring island of Virgin Gorda because that's where everyone had to say. U-2's front man Bono was said to be the most prominent guest, but the list also includes fellow Forbes 400 billionaires, Silicon Valley visionaries and friends from Stanford.

I still didn't get my invite, so I'm sure they just got lost. I mean...

PHILLIPS: Did she sign a prenup?

ELAM: Yes, no, a good question, right?


ELAM: Then again, with her degree, it sounds like she might be able to some of her own money.

PHILLIPS: There you go. No, she's definitely not an underachiever, that's for sure.

ELAM: Not at all.

PHILLIPS: They sound like an absolute power couple.

ELAM: Yes, they're going to -- they sit there and they speak to each other in "e equals mc squared." That's how they express their love.


ELAM: And now I'm going to get a whole bunch of comments -- notes about that one. But, hey, you said it was nerd love, so

PHILLIPS: There you go. Hey, nerd love to the max.

ELAM: Yes, exactly -- very rich nerd love, OK?

PHILLIPS: There you go.


ELAM: Kyra, have a wonderful evening.

PHILLIPS: You, too.

Cheers to nerd love.

ELAM: Yes. I'm all for it.

PHILLIPS: Right on.

"THE SITUATION ROOM" and Wolf Blitzer up next -- Wolf.