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Maria Lauterbach Update; Bush in the Middle East

Aired January 12, 2008 - 11:00   ET


T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: But first, we do have to start with this sad and gruesome story, a crime involving two United States Marines. Investigators are trying to recover a pregnant Marine's burned remains today. Meanwhile, at the same time police are trying to track down her suspected killer. They believe he's the man who raped her and is the father of her unborn baby. CNN's Ed Lavandera in Jacksonville, North Carolina for us this morning. It is a sad case of corporal -- lance corporal Maria Lauterbach, and this is a strange case that has taken all kinds of twists and turns. Please give us the update and keep us straight on this one, Ed.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi T.J., well, here the focus remains at the house of Corporal Cesar Laurean, who is the suspect in this case, where investigators here in Jacksonville, North Carolina suspect that he is the person responsible for the death of Maria Lauterbach, and investigators and crime scene technicians are at his home right now. They have returned this morning. They continue to search in that backyard where they believe her burned remains have been buried in a shallow grave.

And from what we've been able to gather there this morning, it is a scene that is surrounded, intense, and it is a meticulous, tedious search through the ground there and we haven't gotten a lot of details as to exactly what they have been able to find there this morning, but the sheriff here in Jacksonville, North Carolina says he is confident that in the coming hours they will be able to say with certainty that that is indeed where Maria Lauterbach was buried.

And of course, all the focus also after that will change to where just is Cesar Laurean, who left the Jacksonville area, investigators believe some time around 4:00 a.m. Friday morning, after having left a note to his wife saying that Lauterbach had killed herself and that he buried the body and that's why he is leaving. Of course, investigators here don't believe any part of that, and they say that's largely based on what they found inside the home.


SHERIFF ED BROWN, ONSLOW CO., NORTH CAROLINA: There is an area that in the house where the cleanup was attempted and there is a place, if I'm to be corrected, Mr. Sutherland, where a cleanup didn't appear to be capable of overcoming and was painted, that still, the luminal presented to that making it more evident that there must have been a major amount there.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP) LAVANDERA: So clearly, what the sheriff there is saying is that he believes that Laurean went to great lengths to cover up what was done inside that home by painting the walls and trying to cover up some of the blood splatter that was on the walls. Of course, at this point the search continues. It's a nationwide manhunt that's been put out to law enforcement agencies around the country to be on the lookout for Corporal Laurean. His picture's been put out there, a picture of his -- the truck that they suspect he was driving. But so far, even almost 24 hours after this information became public yesterday afternoon there have been no sightings and no information coming into the authorities here as to where Corporal Laurean is right now. T.J.?

HOLMES: All right, that search continues. Ed Lavandera on this story for us. Ed thank you so much. Meanwhile, a news conference expected from Jacksonville, North Carolina, at some point today. We're keeping an eye out on it. Not exactly sure of the time of that news conference. Of course, this is a fluid situation, a fluid story that keeps moving, keeps changing. We'll be on top of it and when that press conference happens, we will bring it to you live.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: After talks in Kuwait, President Bush has arrived in Bahrain, the latest stop on his Mideast tour. And while the president is upbeat about conditions in Iraq, he is warning Arab leaders that Iran is a serious threat. CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry is traveling with the president and he joins us live now. Hi there Ed.

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Betty, Mr. Bush is the first U.S. president ever to visit Bahrain here. And as you mentioned, earlier though today in Kuwait he was visiting with U.S. troops along with General David Petraeus, and Mr. Bush was talking up security gains on the ground in Iraq but did also say that he has not made any decision yet on whether those gains will speed up troop cuts in Iraq. Mr. Bush saying he doesn't want to take any achievement in 2007 for granted in 2008. And in a rare admission, the president said when he consulted with General Petraeus last January about troop cuts, the U.S. was quote, "Failing in Iraq." The president, of course, ultimately decided to call and implement that troop surge, U.S. troops, and he now wants to make sure that he doesn't lose any of the gains on the ground by bringing U.S. troops home too quickly.


BUSH: I wanted to assure him that any decision he recommends needs to be based upon success. That's what happened the last time around. When we were failing, I said what's it take -- what do you need to win, not lose?


HENRY: Mr. Bush added that the U.S. is still on track at this point to bring home up to 30,000 U.S. troops by July. That would keep about 130,000 U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq, but he also noted that he's giving General Petraeus the flexibility to change that based on conditions on the ground. That decision about the next round of troop cuts are likely to be made in March. That's when General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will be heading back to Capitol Hill for a progress report. Talking up progress in Iraq, of course, is also a key part of the president's visits now to Arab allies like here in Bahrain. He wants to talk up stability in the region, not just with Iraq, but also pushing back against Iran as well, Betty.

NGUYEN: Well let me ask you this. The president delivering a speech tomorrow morning around 6:30 eastern time, and a little bit earlier we were being told that it was the most important speech of this trip. Kind of give us an idea what he's going to be talking about tomorrow.

HENRY: Well, I think the White House would like to see it as the biggest speech of the trip, because he's going to be talking about what he calls the freedom agenda, trying to bring freedom and democracy all around the world, but specifically to this region in the Mideast. But it's obviously been met with that whole concept, a lot of skepticism around the world because of the war in Iraq, for example. It has not necessarily brought as much stability as the president first suggested it would. So obviously, some of the U.S. allies here, some of the Arab nations are still skeptical of that. This is a chance for the president to resell that agenda to these Arab allies, Betty.

NGUYEN: All right, CNN's Ed Henry from Bahrain today. We do want to let our viewers know, that we will be bringing you that speech live tomorrow morning around 6:30 eastern time.

Well, Pakistan's message to the U.S. -- stay out. President Pervez Musharraf says American forces should not enter Pakistan's rugged tribal areas. The region has become home base for al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists. Musharraf says U.S. operations would amount to an invasion. The rebuke comes after a "New York Times" report. The paper says the Bush administration is considering a new covert CIA push to weaken al Qaeda and perhaps find Osama bin Laden.

HOLMES: All right, look at this. The battleground states on today's schedule. There they were. There they are again. The presidential candidates fanning out across the country, making the most out of a key political weekend. Hillary Clinton out in Nevada, which holds its caucuses a week from today. Barack Obama is back in Illinois, not campaigning there not because of primaries coming up, but the man needs a day off. He's been busy lately. He's taking a day off from the campaign trail. John Edwards is campaigning in South Carolina where he was born. You know his story from South Carolina now, born there, son of a mill worker. South Carolina holding its Democratic primary two weeks from today. Fred Thompson on the Republican side also hanging out in South Carolina. He's campaigning for the Republican primary. Takes place one week from today. Rudy Giuliani is in Florida. He's been spending a lot of time in Florida, really betting the whole house on Florida with its primary on January 29th. Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Mitt Romney, they're all in Michigan. The Michigan primary is just three days away.

Mitt Romney, of course, born and raised in Michigan. He's the son of a former Michigan governor. So surely, he has the in, right? Well, that certainly hasn't stopped the other Republicans from campaigning there, and CNN's Mary Snow joins us now live from the Detroit suburb of Southfield, Michigan, with a closer look at the GOP race.

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, T.J. There's certainly so much at stake for Mitt Romney in this state, but he and John McCain really canvassing Michigan today. John McCain just starting a town hall meeting in Warren, Michigan. And you know, the economy is at the forefront of topics here in the state. Michigan's unemployment rate is 7.4 percent. That is higher than the national average, which is about 5 percent. So certainly the candidates are coming up with plans on what they will do for Michigan. Senator John McCain was in South Carolina yesterday. Our John King caught up with him and talked to him about John McCain's statement that really, you can't bring manufacturing jobs back to Michigan that were lost in the auto industry. That's something Mitt Romney has said he will do. Here's what John McCain had to say about it.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would be ashamed to tell the people of Michigan or South Carolina that all these jobs are coming back. I mean, everybody knows they're not. What I'm talking about is not the past, the future. We're going to have to give education and training programs to the community colleges, to train and educate these people, make them eligible for the new economy that we are in.


SNOW: Now, Mitt Romney saying that he feels if he is to say that he wouldn't try to fight to bring jobs back here and he told reporters yesterday his fight is a personal one.


MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is personal, personal for two reasons -- one because of my roots in this great state and two because I recognize that Michigan is a bit of the canary in the mine shaft, that as Michigan goes, so goes the nation. And we'd better fix Michigan and get Michigan on track. And anybody who comes in here, Republican or Democrat, and says they want to help Michigan, say where have you been?


SNOW: That's seen as a swipe at Senator John McCain, because Mitt Romney has been trying to portray him as a Washington insider and trying to tout his own private sector experience. Both of these candidates, by the way, will be at the same location, but at different times. They won't be there at the same time, talking to the Americans for prosperity. This is a group that does not advocate any higher taxes. They'll be addressing that group. Mike Huckabee on his way to South Carolina. He was in Michigan yesterday, really telling crowds that the United States should rally to Michigan's aid much the way it did with the gulf coast after Katrina hit because of the economic problems here. T.J.?

HOLMES: All right, Mary Snow, you talked about Huckabee, you talked about McCain and Romney. Will the guy who was the national front-runner coming into the race, Giuliani, can we say the man just doesn't like cold weather? He is -- what is his deal? Where is he right now?

SNOW: I don't think there's anything wrong with cold weather. You know, Rudy Giuliani has really been focusing so much of his energy and resources on Florida. Its primary is January 29th. His strategy has been an unconventional one. The thinking there is that if they can win Florida, they'll build momentum to Super Tuesday, when 22 states hold their primaries on February 5th. But one of the things, the consequences, Rudy Giuliani's campaign said yesterday that some senior staff members are going to be foregoing pay for the month of January, getting ready for that late primary. Giuliani said that those senior staff members volunteered not to be paid, but it shows you the dynamics of this very -- this changing race. And as you mentioned, he was seen as a front-runner just a few months ago. Everything is up in the air now.

HOLMES: Well, those are some kind senior staffers to volunteer their paychecks. I certainly hope they are padding your paycheck a little bit, Mary Snow, who has been doing duty in a lot of cold- weather primary places. Mary Snow, thank you so much.

SNOW: Sure.

NGUYEN: Well, Snow is her last name, right?

Now on to the Democrats. The next major democratic contest is in Nevada, where caucuses are scheduled to take place a week from today. And CNN's Jim Acosta got the winning assignment, joining us by phone from Las Vegas of all places. Good morning, Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you can expect to see Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton spending a lot of time over the coming days here in Las Vegas in anticipation of next Saturday's Nevada caucus. Hillary Clinton is looking to double down, if you will, on her victory in New Hampshire. She's holding the better cards in this campaign right now after she did in New Hampshire. But first let's talk about Barack Obama. He was in town yesterday to pick up the endorsement. It was a key endorsement from a major union in this town, the culinary workers union, which represents a lot of employees at the casinos in this city. And yesterday addressing those workers in an appeal to many of those Hispanics in this town. He brought up the slogan of the old united farm workers leader here, Caesar Chavez, whose catch phrase used to be Si, se puerte -- or yes, we can. That went over big with that audience here in Las Vegas yesterday. Hillary Clinton the junior senator from New York will be here in Las Vegas later today, she is addressing a sheet metal workers union, also a key union in this town. She was in California yesterday also making an appeal to Hispanic workers. She was asked about a comment that she made just recently about undocumented workers in which she said that there is no such thing as an illegal woman. She was asked about that and she went on to clarify that remark, saying that she doesn't consider any of the undocumented workers illegal immigrants in this country as illegal people and she says that her focus is not in demonizing people who are living in this country illegally, but instead trying to go about finding some bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform in Washington, and she's pledging to do that as president. Despite the fact that she was making an appeal to Hispanics, the big theme in her events right now is the economy. And that is the issue that put her husband in the White House in 1992. Look for her to continue to press that issue as she talks to voters later today. Jim Acosta, CNN, Las Vegas.

NGUYEN: Well, there is Jim Acosta, not joining us by phone, but on tape. Of course, we will have him live on phone a little bit later today. So stay tuned for that. And do remember, the CNN "Ballot Bowl" is back again this weekend. In fact, we'll keep doing it through Super Tuesday. And it's actually your chance to see the candidates unfiltered on the campaign trail. Lots of good information. Tune in today, 2:00 p.m. eastern.

HOLMES: What word, Betty, have you been hearing an awful lot of the past week or so in the campaign trail?

NGUYEN: It's so easy. Let me just guess here, change. I'm the candidate of change. The world needs change. You need change. They really need to change that slogan.

HOLMES: They need to change that message. What does change really mean on the campaign trail?


HOLMES: CNN's Josh Levs keeping it real for us. He has the answer, coming up.

NGUYEN: Plus, take a look at this -- a powerful storm has its way with homes across Kentucky. Man! We are tracking the system next.


HOLMES: Want to bring you an update, information we're just getting in about the search for that missing pregnant Marine in North Carolina, went missing from Camp LeJeune, was eight months pregnant. We're getting the official word now from the Onslow County Medical Examiner that in fact they are confirming that human remains have been found in the backyard where they were searching. This is the backyard of the suspect in her disappearance. That is Cesar Armando Laurean. He is the man who was actually being accused of her rape and possibly the father of her unborn child. Now, again, the search has been going on for her for some time. The sheriff there just got information in the past day or so that in fact a body had been buried and there was evidence at the house that a struggle had taken place, there was blood splatter on the walls. They had reason to believe that in fact this Marine was involved. We do have his picture to show you. The search is going on for him right now. That is Corporal Cesar Laurean, who is a suspect in the disappearance of Maria Lauterbach. But police had been searching the backyard where they found what they call a cavity, where they believe human remains had been found and had been burned even. Now the coroner's office does confirm remains are there and that in fact some of those remains are charred. They may have to now go through and get dental records to make a positive I.D. Also, the word -- or something that many people are concerned about, of course, she is eight months pregnant, 8 1/2 even, by some counts, 8 1/2 months pregnant. So wondering is there any way that she had possibly had the child before she disappeared and before she possibly met her demise, as the sheriff has said that she in fact is dead but waiting for a positive I.D. now. So again, this is a fast-moving, developing story and a bizarre case even. But the search continues for Laurean, but now the medical examiner confirms that there are remains, charred remains found in the backyard of that suspect. We will continue to follow this story and bring you those updates as we get them in here at CNN.

NGUYEN: Well, it is the calm between the storms. Yes, plural. A good day for cleanup in the northwest and south. Experts are confirming three tornadoes sliced across Alabama late this week. Look at this. One had 150-mile-an-hour winds, strong enough to crumple five buildings. Crews predict storm damage in Kentucky could add up to a half million dollars. Experts say a rare phenomenon called a rain-wrapped tornado, may be to blame. This is when rain so heavy is coming down that it hides the tornado from the radar system.

And in Washington state, a once in a blue moon storm. A tornado hit Vancouver, Washington, ripping apart several homes and businesses. The twister wrecked a boating club on the edge of Vancouver Lake. 50 of those expensive rowing race boats just torn up.


HOLMES: Well, if you're ever in danger, who do you want by your side? Maybe --

NGUYEN: A superhero or something? Forget that!

HOLMES: 7-year-old. This guy.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you know he was choking?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he was going like --


NGUYEN: Yeah, that's kind of how it sounds. This little guy -- not that one there, but the one that you just saw, could be America's youngest hero. We have that story next.


HOLMES: Well, headlines now from across America this Saturday morning. A couple of strange, interesting and sad stories to tell you about. And here a mother and her four children dead north of Cincinnati. At first glance, a house fire, but the woman and her husband had been stabbed. The man survived. Police say they are not looking for outside suspects. Sure a lot more to come on that story.

This one here, police say a Wisconsin man left his toddler in his cold van while he had a hot time inside a strip club. The child now has frost bite. The man says he's an alcoholic but not a bad father. We need to put that to a CNN/Opinion Research" poll, see what people think about that.

Also, here's another one, another sad one here. A 10-year-old Oakland boy may face permanent paralysis. He was hit by a stray bullet during his piano lesson of all things. Gunfire erupted during an attempted robbery at a gas station. The bullet traveled across the street into a music school.

Also here, Texas. A mom drops her 8 and 10-year-old kids off at the fire department and takes off. She says they were misbehaving.

NGUYEN: She dropped them off at the fire department?

HOLMES: Well, I'm sure I put my mom through some things, she wanted to drop me off somewhere at some point. The family has now been reunited. The mother will not face charges. The state's baby Moses law allows parents to leave kids at firehouses. However, a lot of states have these -- it's intended to cover newborns.

NGUYEN: Newborns.

HOLMES: If you can't care for your child, to keep a mother from doing something drastic, you just drop it off. It's not meant for 8 and 10-year-olds.

NGUYEN: Yeah, here's my 10-year-old. You take care of him. No, it doesn't work that way.

Hey, so what happens in Mr. Miller's first-grade class usually stays there, but Ben and Drake have quite a story to share. From Granite City, Illinois, Cordell Whitlock with affiliate KDSK.


CORDELL WHITLOCK, KDSK (voice-over): 7-year-old Ben Matino was sitting next to his friend Drake Wilson in Mr. Miller's math class at Elementary when he noticed Drake was choking. How did you know he was choking?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because he was going like --

WHITLOCK: That's when Ben drew on his seven years of life experience and sprung into action.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heimlich maneuver.

WHITLOCK: Heimlich maneuver may be tough for a first grader to say, but in Ben's case, actions speak louder than words, as he wrapped his arms around Drake and thrust upward. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would have expected someone to scream, "Mr. Miller, Mr. Miller, Drake's choking"! And he didn't, he just went right to action.

WHITLOCK: Drake swallowed this miniature ninja figure and like all successful Heimlichs, the ending was predictable.

What happened after you did the Heimlich maneuver?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drake puked and he puked up the toy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much, baby.

WHITLOCK: Drake's mother couldn't believe the call she got from the principal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When she told me that it was another classmate, I was just -- I couldn't believe it. I was like, another classmate? She said yeah. So like I said, I was very lucky that Ben actually seen his father and remembered what to do.

WHITLOCK: Ben reminds us we can learn from our youth in this case about the importance of learning the Heimlich.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because if somebody was choking, you can save them.


NGUYEN: Ok. So it's a good thing Ben's dad knew the Heimlich maneuver. He once used it to save a co-worker. So I guess like father, like son.

HOLMES: They teach the Heimlich and maybe they should teach the other kid not to swallow ninjas.

NGUYEN: Swallow toys.

HOLMES: How about that.

NGUYEN: That might be a little helpful.

HOLMES: All right folks, if you've been following the presidential campaign at all, chances are you've heard the word change and you've heard it over and over and over again.

NGUYEN: But just what does that mean? I mean, what kind of change are they talking about? Josh Levs keeps them honest, next.


NGUYEN: It is 11:32 eastern. Here's what's happening right now across the world. North Carolina authorities say they have found bone fragments outside the home of a suspect in the disappearance of a pregnant Marine. Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach is presumed dead. Investigators are still, though, searching for the suspect, Marine Corporal Armando Laurean.

President Bush has arrived in Bahrain, the latest stop on his Mideast tour. He says he's optimistic about conditions in Iraq, but he is warning that Iran poses a serious threat.

And Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has a warning for U.S. troops. That warning is keep out. Musharraf says that if U.S. troops go into Pakistan searching for terrorists, Pakistan will consider them invaders.

You've heard it, I don't know, a couple thousand times by now.


NGUYEN: Change.

HOLMES: In the past two days, even.

NGUYEN: Exactly. That's the buzz word of this primary season, at least so far. We'll see if that changes. And now it seems like all the candidates are jumping on this change train.

HOLMES: There is a change bandwagon, apparently. They're promoting themselves as the candidate of change, agent of change, anything just to get the word change in there.

NGUYEN: Change in there.

HOLMES: But is this change something new or is this really no change at all?

NGUYEN: At all, yeah. Josh Levs has been looking at it. You're not changing anything, but you are bringing us the latest on whether this is, you know, a plan that's actually truthful.

JOSH LEVS: Yeah. And why is everybody, all these candidates acting like its some new concept?

NGUYEN: Right.

LEVS: It's like, oh, if we go with change. Obviously, Americans want change, but it's amazing to me how this thing has caught on, given when you actually take a look at every presidential race pretty much that we've ever had. What I'm going to show you now is that change is a turn-off.


BARACK OBAMA: Our time for change has come.

HILLARY CLINTON: Experience and change.

JOHN MCCAIN: I've brought about change.

LEVS (voice-over): It's the buzz word of the race, at least for now, thanks to Obama and Huckabee's wins in Iowa. OBAMA: It must be catching on.

LEVS: Yes, but it's far from new. It's probably the least original buzz word in campaign history.

BILL CLINTON: We're ready for change and it's going to be the right kind of change.

LEVS: The dominant theme of the 1992 race with the slogan "don't stop thinking about tomorrow."

HILLARY CLINTON: There is a new day in America. Change has come for all of us!

LEVS: Some have tried to turn that on Ted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Change, change, change. Raise the taxes $150 billion and that's all you'll have left in your pocket is change.

LEVS: Change is a natural theme, particularly for any candidate seeking to replace a president from the opposite party.

BUSH: I'm glad I came!

LEVS: President Bush ran on it under his "reformer with results" banner in 2000. Reagan vowed change with the slogan "are you better off than you were four years ago?" Jimmy Carter in 1976 had the slogan "a leader for a change." And Walter Mondale in his losing 1994 bid used "America needs a change." The call for change has a unique spin in each race. This time it comes amid the possibility of the presidential succession going Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton, which to some seems like not enough change. Clinton's response --

HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I think it is a problem that Bush was elected in 2000, and I --


LEVS: Now there is no way for us to know how long this will remain the dominant theme. When I look back, I do find that sometimes the themes change early on, especially amid the primary season, because candidates find out more and more guys about what's really going on in the voters' nationally in their minds.

NGUYEN: Right. You know as we look at these slogans, you know these agents of change, these candidates of change -- when we look at history, did that work, saying I am the person that's going to bring about change?

LEVS: Right. Mantras help, but in the end, in the long run, just saying that, no. What you find especially when you get into a general election season is that people do start to look for more specifics. They want to know the candidates' backgrounds, their histories. They want to know specific platform issues, they start to think about their pocketbooks, that kind of thing. What happens early on, though, is a lot of talk of change early on can energize an electorate, can get people interested in a race when they weren't before. They hear that, they start to think, what do I want to have changed? So one big political question right now to determine how long this will last is at what point do we make that shift? At what point are Americans going to start to focus more on specific issues when it comes to these candidates, backgrounds and specific issues? What that will do ultimately, it will take a lot less power out of what we keep hearing way too often, change, change.

NGUYEN: Don't tell me you're going to bring about change, show me how you're going to change.

LEVS: Right. Pretty soon, based on what I've seen in the past, pretty soon this constant talk of change just won't be enough for voters.

NGUYEN: Ok Josh, thank you.

HOLMES: Josh thank you so much.

Monday, "LARRY KING LIVE," Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney he's sitting down with Larry King. What's his strategy now that he has lost in Iowa and lost in New Hampshire and really needs Michigan, his home state? Monday night, 9:00 eastern, hear from Mitt Romney. Also remember the "CNN Ballot Bowl" back again this weekend. We're going to keep doing this through Super Tuesday. Your chance to see the candidates unfiltered on the campaign trail. So tune in today 2:00 p.m. eastern.

NGUYEN: And you don't want to miss this next story. A guy is getting his apartment fumigated, so he needs a place to stay just for a little while.

HOLMES: Can't you just go to a friend's house, something like that?

NGUYEN: Well, it's kind of hard in New York City.

HOLMES: Ok, so why not just live in a department store?

NGUYEN: Why not?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One thing about living in this store is you get lots of house guests.


HOLMES: This is not a joke, but there's a funny man telling the story here. This is Mark Malkoff. He's coming up next.


HOLMES: And just to keep you updated here now. You're looking at the picture of the backyard of a suspect in the disappearance of a pregnant Marine. She was 8 1/2 months pregnant. That is Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach, presumed dead by officials there in Onslow County and this is a search that's happening in the backyard of the suspect, a fellow Marine Cesar Laurean who is right now wanted. A nationwide manhunt going on for him right now. But the remains have been found of someone, at least. No positive I.D. yet, but according to the medical examiner there, remains have been found, charred remains of this 8 1/2-month pregnant Marine. Now the search goes on for him and also a search for answers about why exactly this took place. She, the Marine, just to recap here for you, had accused the suspect here of rape and it's believed that he is possibly the father of her unborn child. Again, she was 8 1/2 months pregnant. No word on this body that was found, the charred remains, if in fact there was a fetus there, if a child was with or had possibly been born before she was killed. Again, she's presumed dead now. But that search continues. We will keep an eye on that story, fast-moving bizarre story. Developments keep coming into us, we will continue to bring those to you.

NGUYEN: We're going to shift gears now because we want to know what would you do if your place was getting fumigated for bugs and you need a place to crash for a week. Well, New York comedian Mark Malkoff got real creative and took his plight to the one place he knew he would have a lot of empty beds, his favorite furniture store.


MARK MALKOFF: Here's my current dilemma -- my apartment is being fumigated in less than 24 hours. I need a place to crash. Unfortunately, all of my friends have tiny studio apartments, and hotels are too expensive. Hi. I was wondering how much a room costs. Is that for a month? I had no idea where I was going to go. Then it dawned on me. There was a place I could live for a week. It had fully furnished bedrooms, 24-hour security, complimentary food service, hundreds of square feet of living space, and it wouldn't cost me anything. That place was Ikea. My apartment is 80 percent Ikea anyway. It would be like living at home.


NGUYEN: It is just like home, except he's got to move once again. Mark is on the phone with us right now. Mark, it's your final day. What are you going to miss?

MARK MALKOFF, FILMMAKER/COMEDIAN: I'm going to miss everything except for the fluorescent lighting that's on 21 hours a day. The fact that I don't get any sunlight, and everything else though has been amazing. I've just been trying to live a normal life. I had my personal trainer come in a couple days ago and we worked out around the store.

NGUYEN: How do you live a normal life when people are shopping in this store?

MALKOFF: Yeah. It's kind of strange. I wake up from naps and I'll have like 20 people just kind of staring into my window like I'm an animal in a zoo. It's a lot of fun. I had a house-warming party a couple nights ago and people brought me some nice gifts. NGUYEN: Were they from Ikea?

MALKOFF: Actually, outside gifts. People were concerned about that I'm only eating Swedish food, so some lady brought me --

NGUYEN: I was going to ask you about that because you're eating there, too, and I've been to Ikea. What, do they have hot dogs, what, 50 cents there? Swedish meatballs, maybe some cinnamon rolls? I mean, what else are you eating?

MALKOFF: Well, I've been a vegetarian since I was a little kid, so they actually made me the first ever Ikea tofu meatball. Yeah, you're jealous?

NGUYEN: What was that made out of? Did you even ask? Were you afraid to ask?

MALKOFF: I kind of made the request. They've been treating me very well. The weirdest thing is honestly when the store closes it's just me and the security guard Jarvis. We've been playing a lot of laser tag at night, we've been roller blading. It's just, what do you do when you have a store to yourself? It's pretty phenomenal.

NGUYEN: That's crazy. Any, I don't know, secrets about Ikea that you've been able to discover there, any eerie occurrences late at night? I mean, because that's a big store. It could be kind of, you know, scary, looking at all of that darkness.

MALKOFF: Um, it's just hard really at night because it's pitch black and then the lights come on at 4:15 a.m., and I'll be sleeping and customers will be shopping around me and I'll just kind of wake up, and then I'll just kind of -- I'll be in my pajamas just walking through customers and I needed a clean shower the other -- a clean towel rather the other day and I didn't have one, so I just went down to the towel department and just got a towel with a price tag off the rack. If I need anything, it's pretty much in here, so I can really survive well.

NGUYEN: Did you find anything there that you want to take home with you? Because I know, gosh, your place is already 80 percent Ikea as it is.

MALKOFF: Yeah there was a couch I had my eye on. We'll see tonight at midnight when they kick me out if they'll notice. I don't think they will.

NGUYEN: You took a couple things? Mark.


NGUYEN: That is not a good sign. These people welcomed you into their store. You'd better put that right back right now --

MALKOFF: Hey, I got them some publicity, right?

NGUYEN: All right, Mark Malkoff. A filmmaker, a comedian, and now a man who has lived in Ikea for a week. Thanks so much for spending a little time with us.

MALKOFF: It was really nice talking to you. Thank you.

NGUYEN: Yeah, go home and get some real food.


HOLMES: And I wonder if Mark had a date over, ever, if he had company.

NGUYEN: No, just the security guard Jarvis that was with him the whole time.

HOLMES: What do you do after a date, you want to come back to my place?

NGUYEN: To Ikea?


NGUYEN: Anything you want, pick it out. You're good.

HOLMES: We've got another scene here to show you. A crazy scene that you might reminisce from some of your college days, but it might look like a college frat party at first look.

NGUYEN: At first, except this chug a lug was a middle school class and the students were drinking milk. The story gets even better. That's next, don't miss it.


HOLMES: All right. A science experiment. Is that what you would call that right there?

NGUYEN: I don't know what that is.

HOLMES: Kids chugging a gallon of milk. Why would they do this and why would the teacher be standing by cheering them on?

NGUYEN: Well here is what's funny, too. This is an advanced placement science class. These are the smart kids at a middle school in Huffman, Texas. And you know, all this has parents and school officials shaking their heads. Laura Whitley of affiliate KTRK has much more.


LAURA WHITLEY, KTRK (voice-over): This video posted on Youtube may look like a college fraternity prank. It played out in an eighth grade classroom. Huffman Middle School students raced to see who could chug a gallon of milk in under an hour. Five students participated. Dozens egged them on. Some even videotaped, all as the teacher watched. And as the video shows, seemed to encourage. Over the more than 15 minutes, a few of the kids got sick. Some to the point of vomiting. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Said mom, come look at this, come look what they did in this class.

WHITLEY: Shirley Banhagle saw the video of what happened in the AP science class. She was horrified.

SHIRLEY BANHAGLE, PARENT: My son, thank God that he wasn't involved in this particular class, but that he's involved in a school that is allowing something so terrible to happen to these kids.

WHITLEY: Huffman's superintendent Doug Killian had similar reaction when he watched the videos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Disturbed by it. It doesn't represent Huffman High standards.

WHITLEY: Killian and the school's principal questioned the science teacher. They learned she called a potentially dangerous stunt a science lab to help kids learn the property of homo stasis.

DOUG KILLIAN, HUFFMAN, TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL: No, it's not acceptable and it doesn't represent Huffman ISD either. That's why we've conducted a full investigation. We continue on that right now.

WHITLEY: Banhagle hopes the lessons learned from the incident resonate with everyone and Huffman ISD.

BANHAGLE: The district should pay closer attention as to what kind of curriculums are going on in those classes.


NGUYEN: Yeah, I would say when the kids are vomiting, that's a sign that maybe we should stop this. No.

HOLMES: NEWSROOM continues at the top of the hour. Fredricka Whitfield --


HOLMES: Who is always dashing, but you look spectacular today.

NGUYEN: Very snazzy.

WHITFIELD: Happy New Year. How are you guys doing?

NGUYEN: Good, how are you doing?

WHITFIELD: I'm feeling much better. I may sound a little funky but I'm ok.

NGUYEN: Glad to hear it.

WHITFIELD: All right, well EFPs, I know you guys have been talking about them quite a bit this morning, explosively formed penetrators. After many months of them being on the decline in Iraq, now suddenly this month they're on the rise. Why? And is there a direct link to Iran?

And after so many American military vets make it home from Iraq, why is it that so many are homeless and jobless? We're going to be talking to the Veterans affairs secretary, Dr. James Peek, about why they're actually holding a jobs fair and health fair in Washington today to try to address so many needs.

HOLMES: We saw a couple -- Gary Nurenberg was out there for us.

WHITFIELD: That's right.

NGUYEN: And the veterans are so grateful. So many of them are homeless, you know, so this is a great opportunity to get different things checked out.

WHITFIELD: They are grateful, but at the same time, the question is being asked, you know, what's with the delay? Why is it just now happening? And it's not just Iraq vets who are going to be taking advantage of the health and job fair, but also still some Vietnam Veterans who are left homeless.

NGUYEN: So many years after. Ok, thank you Fred.

HOLMES: Thank you so much.

NGUYEN: There is just something about seeing a picture of world leaders dancing around with a sword in their hands.

HOLMES: Ok, we can explain, folks. We will explain this next.


HOLMES: All right, when you think President Bush, who knows what comes to mind, but probably --

NGUYEN: He's a really good dancer.

HOLMES: See, that's what you think when you think President Bush?

NGUYEN: No, because the video, he's dancing a little bit. Kind of sort of.

HOLMES: Check it out, folks.

NGUYEN: Yeah, more not really.

HOLMES: Dancing --

NGUYEN: Well, he's trying. He's trying.

HOLMES: Counting in his head, getting the steps right, things like that. He was in Bahrain is where this is happening. The president was treated to a traditional Bahrainian dance when he arrived in the gulf kingdom today. Two leaders raised swords over their heads like the dancers were doing. They don't really groove enough to quality for "Dancing with the Stars," but you know, they get some practice and "Dancing with the Stars."

NGUYEN: Maybe next season.

HOLMES: I would love to see a president or a former president on "Dancing with the Stars."

NGUYEN: You know that is not going to happen.

HOLMES: But wouldn't you like to see it?

NGUYEN: It would be funny.

HOLMES: Which one?

NGUYEN: President Bush, definitely.

Hey, you'd better duck. Comic, campaign watchers and the candidates themselves are all firing off political potshots. Some of them are most unusual. CNN's Jeanne Moos can't believe what she is hearing.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ready, aim -- time for our favorite potshots. Fred Thompson let his rival Mike Huckabee have it at the latest Republican debate, calling Huckabee's policies liberal.

FRED THOMPSON: That's the model of the Democratic Party.

MOOS: But when Mike Huckabee smiles, prepare for a potshot.

MIKE HUCKABEE: I think Fred needs some Metamucil.

MOOS: Product for relieving constipation and restoring regularity?

Are you getting all the fiber you need?

MOOS: That's not just a potshot, that's a potty shot. And did you hear the potshots Howard Stern lobbed at Imus on "Letterman"?

HOWARD STERN: The big news is Imus came back. This guy, they resurrected him like a mummy. I knew he was a racist back then. I was screaming for 20 years the guy is a racist. Screaming the "n" word in the halls. This guy looks like a crocodile in real life.

MOOS: Sort of makes what the ex-wife of a certain president said seem not quite so bad. In a new book the former wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy is quoted as saying, "Nicolas is a womanizer, Nicolas is stingy, a man who loves no one, not even his children." Even with his writers on strike, Jon Stewart managed to fire off a potshot at MSNBC's Chris Matthews.

JON STEWART: That guy's insane.

MOOS: Just because Matthews compared the Clinton campaign strategy to a certain movie.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, you remember in the great movie "Lawrence of Arabia," where the Turks aimed all their guns at the sea. And the Arabs, the Arab revolt came in from the desert. They crossed the sea. We'll see this latter-day Lawrence Barack Obama cross the Nefu and come in behind the Clintons.

MOOS: Then there was Roseanne Barr's potshot fired, then taken back on her blog. She launched a tirade against Barack Obama and Oprah, calling him an empty suit, selling hope in lieu of truths and her a closeted republican. Roseanne later reconsidered -- "I'd better keep my big, fat, stupid mouth shut." She apologized, saying "I am just so worried about another Republican getting in and I go over the top sometimes." When it comes to potshots, with or without Metamucil, you can count on them occurring with regularity. So here is to Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee, two guys with presidential fiber. Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


HOLMES: Ah, Jeanne Moos.

NGUYEN: CNN NEWSROOM continues with Fredricka Whitfield.

WHITFIELD: That wasn't very polite, but it was kind of funny. Since Jeanne always makes us laugh.

NGUYEN: Yes, always delivers.

WHTIFIELD: All right, good to see you guys, have a great day.