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Michigan Hands Romney Victory; Two Atlanta Police Officers Killed

Aired January 16, 2008 - 15:00   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: A nationwide manhunt goes international. The FBI believes this fugitive Marine and murder suspect is now in his native Mexico.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: But we are still digging in North Carolina. This hour, Nancy Grace and Randi Kaye with interviews and details you won't hear anywhere else.

Hello, everyone. I'm Don Lemon, live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

PHILLIPS: And I'm Kyra Phillips. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

We are learning more right now from the Department of Justice about an Islamic charity charged with terrorist financing and a former U.S. congressman indicted for money laundering. We are trying to hammer out, reading through this 42-count indictment right now.

But this is what we can tell you. The former congressman and apparently a delegate to the United Nations was indicted today as part of a terrorist fund-raising ring that allegedly sent more than $130,000 to al Qaeda and Taliban supporter who has threatened U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan.

The man that we're talking about is former Republican Congressman from Michigan Mark Deli Siljander. He was charged with money laundering, conspiracy and obstructing justice for allegedly lying about lobbying senators on behalf of this -- Islamic charities. And the Department of Justice has been investigating.

We are working the story now, trying to hammer out to details. We will update as we learn more.

LEMON: Absolutely, Kyra.

Let's talk now presidential politics. Leading Republicans are turning their attention to South Carolina, site of Saturday's primary. There's no real front-runner. Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Mike Huckabee have all been winners so far.

On CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING," Romney talked about how he won Michigan's primary yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I think it was a sense of optimism that our campaign brought over the Washington-style pessimism which seem to permeate from Washington over the last several weeks. This is a state that's had some tough times, and they wanted to make sure that they had somebody who is going to be their leader who would fight for them. I will fight for any state in America that's going through a one-state recession.


LEMON: The Democrats are focused on Nevada, site of Saturday's caucuses.

In a debate last night, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama agreed to set aside their increasingly bitter back and forth over race.


SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think what's most important is that Senator Obama and I agree completely that, you know, neither race nor gender should be a part of this campaign.

It is Dr. King's birthday. The three of us are here in large measure because his dreams have been realized.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Race has always been an issue in our politics and in this country. But one of the premises of my campaign and, I think, of the Democratic Party -- and I know that John and Hillary have always been committed to racial equality -- is that we can't solve these challenges unless we can come together as a people.


LEMON: We will have more on the race for the White House, including some surprising exit polls from Michigan, in a just few minutes. We will do that with our senior political analyst, Mr. Bill Schneider.

So far, each new presidential contest has introduced a new dynamic and such will be the case in Nevada three days from now. The Hispanic vote will come into play in a major way, and the Democratic front-runners plan to make the most of it.

CNN's Jessica Yellin reports.


JESSICA YELLIN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): From Barack Obama, a rallying cry made famous by the late labor activist Cesar Chavez.


YELLIN: From Senator Clinton, the human touch at home with Hispanic voters.

Hispanics make up 9 percent of eligible voters nationwide, but 12 percent here in Nevada. And, with a race this tight, they could decide who wins the state.

ADAM SEGAL, DIRECTOR, HISPANIC VOTER PROJECT: If you have to win this state, and if this is the state that the Democratic Party set up as the example of the influence of Hispanic voters in the Democratic Party, you have to be able to demonstrate that you can win Hispanic support.

YELLIN: Obama scored a crucial boost when the state's Culinary Workers Union endorsed him. Most of their members are Latino and will be encouraged to caucus for Obama.

But Senator Clinton countered, announcing the endorsement of Cesar Chavez's brother, organizer Richard Chavez. And the Latino community has a long history of affection for all things Clinton.

Their top concerns are the same kitchen table issues that worry the rest of the nation.

SEGAL: They're really focused on, you know, whether they're going to have a job over the next six months or a year; whether they're going to be able to afford health care; and whether the local education system is adequate for them and their family. Certainly, the war in Iraq and immigration are also enormous issues. But the Democrats are not really using those issues as a wedge issue in the primary battle.

YELLIN: Whoever does win the Hispanic vote here will have bragging rights, as they face primaries in California, New York and Florida -- battleground states in which the Latino vote could be equally decisive.

YELLIN (on camera): Stepping up their efforts to court the Latino vote, both the Clinton and Obama campaigns have just launched their first Spanish-language television ads.

At the same time, their organizers are going door-to-door, speaking in both English and Spanish, encouraging people to turn out and caucus on Saturday.

Jessica Yellin, CNN, Las Vegas.


LEMON: Well, time is winding down and the race is heating up. The freshest polls, the latest fights, the Political Ticker blog and more, check out

PHILLIPS: The FBI says it strongly suspects, but doesn't know for sure that a Marine sought in the murder of a fellow Marine has fled to Mexico.

On the run since Friday, Marine Corporal Cesar Laurean is accused of murdering Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach, who was eight months pregnant. She and the baby's charred remains were found in Laurean's backyard. Lauterbach had been set to testify about rape allegations she made against Laurean.

CNN's Randi Kaye just talked with a former Marine who is a good friend of Laurean's. Her exclusive interview airs tonight on "ANDERSON COOPER 360," but she joins us now from Pittsburgh to fill us on.

And, Randi, how well does this person know actually know Laurean?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Very well, actually, Kyra. They have known each other for about four years or so.

We are protecting her identity at her request. She does not want her name shown or her name given out. But they did work together. She knew Laurean and Lauterbach, actually. They worked in the personnel department at Camp Lejeune for years together.

She describes him as a quiet guy, a very social guy. She said, he had a lot of great friends; he was a great dad. The two of them both have young daughters. And she said they spent a lot of time talking about which size diapers to buy and whose daughter was crawling first.

She says it is really a surreal experience for her, hard to believe that this good friend of hers is now on these FBI wanted posters around the country.

She left the Marines now in December, just a month ago. So, she was actually there when Lauterbach had made these original rape allegations against Laurean. And she also says that Lauterbach came to her a second time and said that she was considering withdrawing these rape allegations because she felt that the Marines just didn't believe her.

What is interesting to note also is that she says Lauterbach expressed to her that she was afraid of Laurean, she was scared of him. The military had said that the two were on friendly terms even after the rape allegations, but this woman says that is absolutely not true.

She says Lauterbach didn't want anything to do with him. She was moved to another building for work. She tried to stay away from him.

Now, the sheriff and Marine investigators have said that Laurean was not considered a flight risk. He was not even a key suspect at first because of these so-called friendly terms they were on.

Also, another important fact that we got from her, investigators have been telling us that this military protection order that she had filed for against Laurean had expired. Well, it turns out that is true. But what we didn't learn until the Marines came forward yesterday was that there was actually another protection order that was in place. And guess who wrote it? This very woman who we spoke with.

Here is what she had to say about it.


LISA, FRIEND OF CESAR ARMANDO LAUREAN: She came in September when her original military protective order had expired, asking if she could have, A, a copy of the original one, and, B, a second one put into place.

KAYE: She asked you the help her get a second military protective order?

LISA: Yes.

KAYE: And what did you do?

LISA: I did the paperwork and routed it to the appropriate authorities to have it signed and then passed back down.

KAYE: So, she did have a second military protective order in place when she disappeared?

LISA: Yes, she did.

KAYE: That was a current order?

LISA: Yes.

KAYE: You had written it yourself?

LISA: Yes. I personally did it.


KAYE: Of course, now we are left to wonder how anyone could say that they were on friendly terms if there was indeed a current active military protection order against this guy, at the request of Lauterbach.

I also asked this woman if she knew who the father of Lauterbach's child is. And she said she didn't. She said the Marines don't require that you give out that information. She said she didn't even know she was pregnant until about five months into her pregnancy. She kept it very, very quiet -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, we have talked about this note that Laurean left in the house before he took off saying that Lauterbach had taken her own life and that he buried her body in the backyard. Does she have anything to say about it?

KAYE: Yes, she sure did. She doesn't buy it. She would like to believe it, but she finds it really hard to believe.

She said, if she had come home to her house and somebody had taken their own life in her home, she would call police, she says. She would not bury them in her backyard. So, she definitely again is very concerned about this friend of hers, but is not buying that story.

PHILLIPS: So could she shed any light on Laurean's survival skills about what he might know that could keep him on the run?

KAYE: She says that he definitely has what she referred to as the MacGyver skills. He is certainly able to rig a lot of thins .

He's a good Marine, a strong Marine, and a very fast runner. He knows how to use a weapon. He fires an M-16 very well. He is also a very good typist, she says, not that that is going to help him on the road. But that was one of the skills he had to learn to work in the personnel department.

But one thing that she says the Marines teach you is to adapt and overcome. And that is, she believes, what he's certainly trying to do while he is on the run is to overcome what has happened here.

PHILLIPS: Randi Kaye, as usual, great job.

You can catch her full exclusive interview with Lisa tonight on "A.C. 360," starting at 10:00 Eastern.

And later this hour, more on the manhunt for Cesar Laurean with Nancy Grace of Headline News. She's going to join us live around 3:30 Eastern time.

LEMON: Right now, we want to get to the newsroom, Fredricka Whitfield working the details of a developing story.

Very disturbing, it sounds, Fred.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Don, this time, trouble in Boston area.

We understand that a shooting took place, and it means now that two schools in the Roslindale neighborhood of Boston have been put on lockdown. You are looking at the most recent videotape that we have gotten from our affiliate there, too. You see the stretchers there, because there have been victims in this shooting.

However, their conditions are unknown at this point, but we understand that there was some sort of shooting. We don't know the circumstances of the shooting that took place, whether there was an exchange between people, whether this was a drive-by, all of those questions still unanswered.

But, in the end, three people have been hit by gunfire. Three have been taken to the hospitals. Again, if you know the Boston area, and this is the Roslindale neighborhood, this exact crime scene taking place near at the Beach Street location.

So, of course, when we get any more information on this, and again, schools are on lockdown in that Roslindale area, which means folks can't come in, nor can they exit, but, of course, some of the schools might still be in session or this might be a time where a lot of the kids are on their way home. Well, not right now, everything on lockdown. When we get more information about this shooting, we will able to bring it to you.

LEMON: And, Fred, all this information, pictures coming from our affiliate WHDH?

WHITFIELD: Right, as well as CVB.

LEMON: OK. Great. Thank you very much for that.

PHILLIPS: And police in DeKalb County, Georgia, just outside Atlanta, in mourning as they mount an intense manhunt for some cop killers.

There are two off-duty police officers who were shot overnight as they worked security at an apartment complex. Officer Ricky Bryant Jr. was 26 and officer Eric Barker was 33. Both leave behind wives and children.

Several schools have been on lockdown. And police, canine units, helicopters, they are all combing the area. Witnesses reported at least seeing two males running from the scene. DeKalb's police chief advised the suspects to turn themselves in, vowing they will be found by sundown.

LEMON: A tongue-lashing for O.J. Simpson today in a Las Vegas courtroom. Simpson went to jail last week accused of violating his bail agreement by trying to contact a co-defendant.

Well, today, a judge doubled Simpson's bail to $250,000 and let him know exactly what she thinks of what he did.


JACKIE GLASS, CLARK COUNTY DISTRICT COURT JUDGE: And I don't know if it is just arrogance. I don't know if it is ignorance.

But you have been locked up at the Clark County Detention Center since Friday because of either arrogance or ignorance or both. Let me make sure that you understand that, if you violate those rules and anything like this happens in the future, it won't matter what Mr. Grasso, and Mr. Galanter come in here and tell me. You will be back locked up in the Clark County Detention Center.


LEMON: There you go.

Simpson and co-defendants Clarence Stewart and Charles Ehrlich are charged with the armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers. Trial is set for April 17 -- April 7.

PHILLIPS: Mitt Romney returns to Michigan and leaves the town a winner. How did he do it? We are going to dig into the CNN exit polls and find out who voted for him and why.


PHILLIPS: Well, it is 3:16 Eastern time right now. Here are some of the stories that we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.

In suburban Atlanta, an intense manhunt under way after two off- duty police officers were shot and killed overnight. Police are looking for two suspects at least. Neighboring schools are on lockdown. The police chief says both officers are -- quote -- "Well, they don't have a chance" -- "They didn't have a chance," rather, in this ambush attack.

Well, it's going to cost O.J. Simpson twice the amount of money to stay out of jail. A Las Vegas judge doubled Simpson's bail to $250,000 after deciding the former NFL star did violate the terms of his previous bail arrangement. Simpson awaits an April 7 trial on a litany of charges stemming from a confrontation with sports memorabilia dealers back in September.

Princess Diana's former continues testify for a third day in the inquest into the 1997 death. Today, Paul Burrell said that Diana didn't want to marry Dodi Fayed, whose father believes Diana and his son were murdered because of a royal disapproval to their relationship.

LEMON: Mitt Romney had a lot in his favor as he battled to win yesterday's Michigan Republican primary.

our senior political analyst, Mr. Bill Schneider, has been digging -- there he is -- has been digging through the exit polls. And he's come up with some very interesting results for us. Bill joins me now from New York.

Bill, let's talk about who voted for Romney. Obviously, some Republicans, but who did vote for Romney?


WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the big issue in Michigan, of course, was the economy. They have the highest unemployment rate in the country.

A majority of Michigan voters said that was their top issue. And those who did voted for Romney very a very good margin, 42 to 29 percent, over John McCain. Mitt Romney is a former business executive. He was known as a turnaround artist for companies in trouble. He helped rescue the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. And Michigan voters clearly thought they were in trouble and they wanted Romney to turn their economy around, too.

LEMON: OK. And so Mike Huckabee I think he came in third; am I correct? What does that mean for Huckabee in South Carolina? Is he in trouble with evangelical voters? He was the one that is supposed to be the one for evangelical voters.

SCHNEIDER: He did carry evangelical voters in Iowa, but in Michigan, the evangelical vote was very closely split. And Romney edged out Huckabee among evangelicals.

Now, what does this mean for South Carolina, where there are a lot of evangelicals. These are Northern evangelicals. South Carolina is Southern evangelicals. They may be very different. We don't know. But I think it does signify that evangelical voters are not locked up. They are not with any one candidate, like Mike Huckabee. This is a signal that they are divided, as are many conservative voters.

This probably won't be sorted out until at least we see what happens Saturday in South Carolina, where the conservative and evangelical vote, the base of the party, really comes out in force. We will see if they embrace any one candidate or if they remain divided.


So, we talked about the Republicans.

Let's talk about the Dems now. I'm sure we polled some Democrats, right?

SCHNEIDER: We did, even though there was no Democratic campaign and only Hillary Clinton's name was on the ballot, along with some minor candidates.

She won, but here is something curious. Among the African- American voters, the Democrats who voted in the Democratic primary yesterday, 73 percent said they would have voted for Barack Obama and in fact almost that many, 68 percent, voted uncommitted. They did not vote for Hillary Clinton.

Well, one reason for that is a very influential and respected representative, Congressman John Conyers, very respected in the African-American community. He endorsed Obama. And he made a radio ad with his wife, a Detroit city councilwoman, urging Obama supporters to vote uncommitted. And apparently a lot of them did.

This could signify some problems for Hillary Clinton however as we come to South Carolina, because there, too, the base is very prominent. For the Democratic Party, that means African-American voters. We will see what happens next week in South Carolina, where there is a Democratic campaign. So, that will be a fairer test.

LEMON: South Carolina, very heavily African-American voters there.

OK. Thank you very much for that, senior political analyst Mr. Bill Schneider. Have a good evening, sir.

SCHNEIDER: Thank you.

LEMON: A softer Hillary, a tougher Obama. What kind of America do the candidates stand for? Well, next Monday -- that's January 21 -- the Democrats may face their toughest questions yet, when they debate before the Congressional Black Caucus. That is Monday night, January 21, 8:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN. PHILLIPS: They have not found him, but they have found his truck -- on the trail of the Marine murder suspect, how a motel clerk was swept up in the investigation.



LEMON: Close encounters of the unidentified kind in the sky over Texas, and why more people believe that we are not alone.


LEMON: We have a developing story we're keeping an eye on right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

A former Republican Congressman from Michigan is named in a federal indictment involving fundraising for terrorism. Mark Siljander and five other men are accused of steering more than a quarter million dollars to an Afghan warlord who's an ally of the Taliban. Among other things, Siljander is accused of lying about lobbying on behalf of the Islamic American Relief Agency. The charity is accused of secretly sending money to terrorists.

PHILLIPS: The suspect a Mexican native, his truck abandoned a mile from the airport -- it's been the chatter for days that accused murderer Cesar Laurean might have fled the country. Now the FBI is on record. It strongly suspects that Laurean is in Mexico. What name he is using unclear, as we heard on last night on "HEADLINE NEWS'S" "NANCY GRACE SHOW."


SHERRIE JOYNER, WORKS AT MOTEL WHERE TRUCK WAS FOUND: The FBI did come to the front desk and gave me all the aliases of Mr. Cesar and we looked it up. And I couldn't see where he had stayed here.

NANCY GRACE, HOST: So he had several aliases?

JOYNER: Yes, ma'am.


Do you remember on any of his aliases?

JOYNER: No, ma'am, I'm sorry. I don't.


How many did he have that they told you about?

JOYNER: I saw at least three or four.


PHILLIPS: Nancy Grace joins us now from New York. Nancy, I mean you hit it right there -- aliases, he's on the run, yet the Marines say hey, he wasn't a flight risk. We, you know, didn't think this would happen. Somebody dropped the ball.

What happened?

GRACE: Well, I find that both agencies -- the Onslow County Sheriff's Department and the Marines -- are both pointing the fingers at each other. The bottom line, from my estimation, it looks like right now that the Marine Corps dropped the ball on their investigation.

I mean do the math. She was pregnant -- possibly by the rape, as it is probably going to be confirmed, by the rape -- back around April. And for all these months the alleged rapist has walked free. There was a temporary protective order in place. It lapsed.

Why did it lapse?

All this time they kept asking her to confirm that a rape had occurred. She never wavered from saying she had been raped.

In a press conference, Kyra, they say, well, one of the two sex encounters -- one was more consensual than the other. Translation -- one was not consensual.

Why were they twiddling their thumbs while an alleged rapist was walking free?

Now the victim is dead.

As far as the latest developments, it's my understanding that manifests -- passenger manifests are being checked to determine whether or not this man, Cesar Gudino, Cesar Sanchez, Cesar Ramirez -- he's got many aliases -- has left the country. He is a Mexican national. Last we heard that two letters had been sent -- postmarked by him from Houston -- one to his wife. That's only about 350 miles from the Mexican border.

PHILLIPS: Now, all right, and let me ask you a question, because we were talking about those two incidents of rape, Nancy. And something that happened in that news conference that caught one my producer's eye -- and then I went back and read the transcript.

According to the staff judge advocate that was a part of this news conference -- a U.S. Marine -- he said that Lauterbach actually told them that she didn't think the pregnancy was a result of either one of those alleged rapes.

Take a listen.


COL. R. GARY SOKOLOSKI, STAFF JUDGE ADVOCATE: She told the prosecutor that she no longer believed that the pregnancy was a result of the two incidents she reported as sexual assaults the 26th of March and around the 11th of April.


PHILLIPS: So what do you make of that, Nancy?

It sounds like they're maybe trying to soften this up a little bit, to maybe look like well, see, you know, she backed off so we didn't really see this as a potential threat.

GRACE: Yes. I understand that that is exactly what they -- the Marine Corps -- are trying to do. And, look, don't get me wrong. I love the Marines. My father is a World War veteran with the Navy. So I'm all for our military forces.

But in this investigation the ball was dropped and now trying to besmirch the victim's reputation by putting it out there that she may have had another lover -- who cares?

All I care about was was there a rape and why was he walking free?

I mean, Kyra, take a look at it. If you ever shoplift and if you get mugged, if there is an armed robbery, an aggravated assault, do you have to go get DNA, fibers, hair?

Are you asked repeatedly over and over did a crime really occur?

That only happens in rape cases. This woman was working very close to where the alleged rapist was working, as well.

What was she supposed to do?

How was she supposed to continue on under those circumstances?

To me, she soldiered on as best as she could. And in the end, it wasn't good enough.

PHILLIPS: And I'm with you 100 percent, Nancy. You know where I stand. I have a lot of respect for the military and know a lot of Marines I'm extremely honored to know.

But what I see from this -- and you tell me your thoughts -- is that there is still this culture within the military that is very judgmental when it comes to women. And it's very possible, like you said -- OK, did she have one lover, two lovers -- whatever the case, she saw this guy as a threat. And he was sort of able to kind of roam around and run free not far from her when this was all ongoing, when she was about to testify.

GRACE: And, also, Kyra, she had her car keyed and she allegedly was punched in the face by an unknown person around the time it was time for her to testify. And the coincidence that she goes missing just before she is set to testify against the suspect -- all of that is really unimportant and irrelevant. That part is over.

Her blood has been found in his home. A cover-up occurred in his home to the extent where he put fresh paint over her blood on the walls. And from a blunt force trauma blow, Kyra, you even have cast off, which is when the weapon is pulled back. There's blood up on the ceiling. This was a violent death of a pregnant woman.

And then to burn her and bury her in the backyard?

Yes, he's headed for Mexico, because there they don't extradite if the death penalty is being sought.

PHILLIPS: Nancy Grace, we'll be watching your show tonight.

Always a pleasure to have you with us.

Appreciate it.

GRACE: Thank you, friend.

LEMON: "A special kind of evil" -- that's how police in Indianapolis describe a quadruple murder that is demanding every detective on their force. Police say they found the bullet-riddled bodies of two mothers and their two small children early Tuesday morning. They have identified the children as 23-month-old Jordan Hunt and 4-month old Charlii Yarrell. Both were found in the arms of their dead mothers, Gina Hunt and Andrea Yarrell, both 24 years old. Police say they're looking for two male suspects seen running from that house.

A man charged with killing a Georgia hiker is being tied to another case. Authorities investigating 61-year-old Gary Michael Hilton say they've established a "positive link to a suspected double murder in North Carolina. Now, officials won't say what the link is. Eighty-four-year-old Irene Bryant was found dead on a North Carolina hiking trail and her 80-year-old husband is missing. Hilton is already charged with the murder of 24-year-old Meredith Emerson. She disappeared while hiking in North Georgia. Hilton also is a suspect in several other murder investigations. He's held without bond in a Georgia jail.

Another hearing today stemming from the deadly Christmas Day tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo. Today's hearing involved a civil suit linked to the attack. The city attorney wants the right to examine the car and the cell phone of two brothers who were wounded. Yesterday authorities released a tape of a frantic 911 call by one of those brothers, who wanted to know why it was taking so long for paramedics to arrive.


DHALIWAL: It's a matter of life and death, how long is it before they get permission to go there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. I understand that, but at the same time, we have to make sure the paramedics don't get chewed out, because if the paramedics get hurt, then nobody is going to help you.

DHALIWAL: (INAUDIBLE). UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. I understand that, all right?

DHALIWAL: (INAUDIBLE) ambulance in here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. The ambulance is staging. I need you to understand that if the ambulance people, the paramedics...

DHALIWAL: What do you want me to understand?

My brother is going to die out here!



LEMON: Well, the judge says he won't rule on the city attorney's motion until at least Friday.

And something new for you from our friends at and also TruTV. We've teamed up to bring you all the crime and punishment that you can handle. Check out -- check it all out at

PHILLIPS: Freezing rain, even snow in the Deep South tonight -- Reynolds Wolf what are our chances here in Atlanta?


LEMON: Look at this. Reynolds, that's beautiful.

Do you see that?

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I see it, man. It's beautiful.

LEMON: Take a look. This is a view never seen before of the sun's closest neighbor. That's what that is -- the image of Planet Mercury was captured by the space probe Messenger when it was about 17,000 miles away.

That's a good lens, huh?

It's now within 124 miles of the surface, which, as you can see, is quite rugged and full of craters just like our moon. Messenger is NASA's first excursion to Mercury since the 1970s. Scientists are hoping to learn more about that planet's origin, its magnetic field and atmosphere, and what it could mean for our own planet.

PHILLIPS: All right, listen to this. A runner with artificial legs beating some top sprinters.


PHILLIPS: Will he be allowed to compete at the Olympics?

Wait until you hear about this controversy.


PHILLIPS: Well, he's called "the blade runner". But a South African sprinter who wants to compete in the Beijing Olympics is being sidelined.

CNN's Robyn Curnow has more.


ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Oscar Pistorius is fast and he has the athletics world in a spin.

Is this 21-year-old with his blade-like prosthetics an engineering marvel or a naturally gifted athlete and what propels this double amputee to compete with and to beat able-bodied sprinters?

OSCAR PISTORIUS, SOUTH AFRICAN SPRINTER: This is actually the foot that they make, this piece. and it's got about 80 layers of carbon fiber in it that they compress. So it's passive material. It hasn't got hydraulics or bionics or anything else in it.

CURNOW: All the fuss is about these legs.

Do they give him a competitive advantage or not?

The International Association of Athletics Federation says they do and they've banned him from competing in the Olympics. But what really drives Oscar Pistorius is not these futuristic limbs, but his overwhelming belief that he's an elite splinter -- even though he doesn't have legs.

PISTORIUS: Even if you do have one or two disabilities, you've got millions of other abilities. And those abilities make you far more able than, you know, in my case like it would be disabled.

CURNOW: Oscar had his legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday because of a birth defect.

(on camera): How old were you when you got your first pair of -- of legs?

PISTORIUS: Thirteen months. But they didn't have feet. And the first ones I had that had feet, I think I was 17 or 18 months old. People ask me like, you know, what's it like having an artificial leg. And I'll be like, well, what's it like having a real leg?

CURNOW (voice-over): Like Oscar, 11-year-old Muhammad has never walked on his own two feet. Born without legs, he's testing his own new pair of blades on the same track that Oscar trains on. He's still trying to find his balance, but each step is inspired by his hero -- Oscar Pistorius.

MUHAMMAD SAIB, INSPIRED AMPUTEE: He's kind and he's caring and he's pretty nice. And I really think I -- I want to be just like him when I grow up. I want to run and live life to its fullest. Life has no limits. CURNOW: Oscar's dream is to run in the Olympics and he's preparing an appeal of the ruling. But in the meantime, it seems, he's blazing a path of hope for others.

Robyn Curnow, CNN, Pretoria, South Africa.


LEMON: Close encounters of the unidentified kind in the sky over Texas and why more people believe that we are not alone.


PHILLIPS: Well, here's a quick look at some of the big hits on

It was there one moment, gone the next. (INAUDIBLE) was something with flashing lights -- what some people in Stephenville, Texas say they saw in the Southern sky. The constable says he only hopes it's military and it's ours.

Teens accused of prostituting fellow teens. Fort Worth police say the teenagers are part of a gang that for two years has been forcing runaway teenaged girls into prostitution.

And an Australian teenager has been charged with producing child pornography. He was among those involved in a drunken fest over the weekend that saw 500 teenagers go on a rampage through the neighborhood. Authorities say the evidence came to light during the cleanup.

Check out those stories and more,

LEMON: Back to one of the most popular stories now.

The stars at night aren't always big and bright deep in the heart of Texas. Dozens of people report seeing bright lights -- a UFO southwest of Fort Worth.

Gary Reeves of CNN affiliate WFAA reports from Stephenville, Texas.


LEROY GAITAN, ERATH COUNTY CONSTABLE: Do you remember seeing it?


GAITAN: Where was it at?

GARY REEVES, WFAA AFFILIATE (voice-over): Whether it was the county constable or the trucking company owner...

STEVE ALLEN, BUSINESSMAN: And it seemed to be hovering over Stephenville.

REEVES: Or the former air force technician...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an unidentified flying object.

REEVES: The only thing weird about these folks is what they say they saw in the skies over Erath County.

ALLEN: I'd say it was a half mile wide and about a mile long -- just humongous, whatever it was.

REEVES: Businessman Steve Allen is also a pilot. He described flashing lights, exactly the same as Constable Leroy Gaitan says he saw 20 miles to the south.

GAITAN: They were dancing around and they were flickering. But they weren't just doing this. They were like -- just moving. You know...

REEVES (on camera): Like a light show?

GAITAN: Like for -- yes, similar to a light show.

REEVES (voice-over): And then they both say it took off.

GAITAN: And just -- all of a sudden it just shot off and it went directly south, southeast -- or northeast -- correction -- and at a high rate of speed. It was so fast that I couldn't keep up with my binoculars to it.

REESE: The reports have lots of people in Stephenville laughing, at places like Cowboy Travel, where Alison Rinehart and Jarred Martinez wish him well ) were booking an exotic vacation.

ALISON RINEHART, STEPHENVILLE RESIDENT: I think it's crazy. I think -- I mean, I think it could be true. And I think that there really might be some. But I have not personally seen them.

REEVES: But what gives it all credibility is the fact that folks who saw it seem so trustworthy. Allen has received 30 calls from other witnesses.

ALLEN: Hello?

REEVES: The military denies it has anything to do with this. The constable says he hopes its military and he hopes it's ours.

GAITAN: We would like an explanation. We're not all a bunch of idiots. You know, there's so many people that saw it.


LEMON: There are roughly 200 UFO sightings each month, according to the Mutual UFO Network. That's what that is. The group's Texas chapter is sending four or five investigators to Stephenville to check out this latest reported sighting.

PHILLIPS: Do-do-do-do. LEMON: There's no UFO here. He is identified and he's the best...

PHILLIPS: Yes, he is.

LEMON: ...the best on TV.

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

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Thank you very much, guys.

Coming up at the top of the hour right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM," my one-on-one interviews with two -- two presidential candidates. I'll speak live with Mitt Romney on this, the day after he grabs the gold medal in Michigan; also, Fred Thompson. I'll ask him what he would do to fix America's money problems.

A former United States Congressman is now indicted as part of a terrorist fundraising ring. The charges involving tens of thousands of dollars, a charity and al Qaeda ties.

And a dramatic example of the violence in Kenya that's unfolding right now and the lengths the police in Nairobi are going to. Our own Zain Verjee got caught up in the standoff. We'll update you on what happened.

All that and a lot more coming up right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM" -- back to you.

PHILLIPS: How about that Zain Verjee, Wolf, huh?

BLITZER: I know.

PHILLIPS: That's our girl. She's right there in her hometown.

BLITZER: She was doing some amazing, amazing reporting. And, you know, if you have see the video -- you've seen it. I know you have.

PHILLIPS: Oh, yes. We had a chance to talk to her.

BLITZER: But to those of our viewers who haven't seen it yet, she actually gets hit by this tear canister -- this -- and it's pretty scary, because thank God it didn't hit her in her face or in her head or someplace, but it's really, really a worrisome development.

PHILLIPS: Well, she's always doing great work and this just takes it to a whole another level. You know, she was right there in the middle of it.


PHILLIPS: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right.

LEMON: And you can hear just how loud that thud is when it hits her. Man. She's very lucky.

PHILLIPS: Well, a new design is underway.

Why is Mizrahi on the move?

LEMON: We'll find out.


PHILLIPS: The closing bell is about to ring on Wall Street.

LEMON: Susan Lisovicz is standing by with a final look at the trading day, plus -- oh my goodness.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I can't hear. I can't hear...

PHILLIPS: Uh-oh, Susan can't hear.

LEMON: Susan can't hear.

LISOVICZ: Yes, hi.


LEMON: Susan, hi.

Can you hear me now?

LISOVICZ: Somebody was talking in my ear about something else.

LEMON: Can you hear us now?


PHILLIPS: Thank goodness you weren't cursing.

LISOVICZ: I thought -- no, there's -- I had to tell you this story. He -- this person is one of the reasons why cheap is chic, why Target is called Target. His name, of course, Isaac Mizrahi, who designs everything from apparel to accessories to pet wear at Target.

Now he is leaving the company to go help out Liz Claiborne. He'll be the creative -- he'll be the head of the creative design team there. So you'll see that on the runway next year. We wish him well.