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Is the Stimulus Working?; Renewed Protest Against Presidential Election in Iran; Alleged Grave Reselling Scheme; Racism at Swim Club?;

Aired July 09, 2009 - 14:02   ET


ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Lots of people looking for work these days, but who the heck is hiring?

Susan Lisovicz is going to tell you specifics. Grab a pen. Sit tight. She's live in about seven minutes.

Straight to Iran though now.

Thousands of anti-government protesters out in force in the streets of Tehran. So is a pro-government militia that is apparently trying to beat those crowds back. It is the kind of demonstration that we haven't seen in a couple of weeks. It falls on the 10-year anniversary -- this is important -- the 10-year anniversary of a key student uprising, although today's rally isn't really a commemoration of that. It's more of a renewed protest against last month's presidential election.

And of course there is an ongoing media blackout across Iran right now, but we're still getting information and amateur video straight from the heart of the country. And that is coming in through the normal methods over to our Iran Desk.

And let's go over there now and talk to Reza Sayah.

Reza, you are following these protests. It's now nighttime in Tehran.

What's going on?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: By the way, a nightly ritual over the past few weeks has been the chants of "Allahu Akbar," "God is great." Just got off the phone with someone who said in his neighborhood, those chants were louder than usual.

But new pictures coming in over the past few hours of the protests today, the first protests and clashes we've seen in a couple of weeks. Here, you see a picture of a couple of female protesters, the burning of dumpsters, which is what observers have been saying has been happening over the past few hours. Again, we should emphasize we cannot confirm the location of this picture and the date, but it does match what our observers have been telling us throughout the day.

Let's go ahead and roll some video from demonstrations throughout the day as well.

Do we have that video? Yes.

This, you see, came in about two hours ago. This is a group of people, young and old, a cross-section of what appears to be taking to the street chanting (SPEAKING ARABIC) "Honorable Iranians, let's support one another."

We have another video that shows more aggressive chants coming in. And the chants getting more aggressive throughout the day. We heard chants today, "Death to the dictator," "Death to Khamenei," which is the supreme leader.

And let's go over here. We're just getting in some new video, and this is interesting, because what we're hearing in this piece of video is "Death to Khamenei's son."


SAYAH: There have been a lot of reports out over the past few days that Ayatollah Khamenei, the supreme leader, his son is taking over the Basij and the security forces.

VELSHI: The Basij are the paramilitary...

SAYAH: The pro-government paramilitary Basij.

And if you listen closely, they are yelling, "Death to Khamenei's son!"

So, a lot of people had been blaming, because of these reports, this type of crackdown on Khamenei's son.

VELSHI: This sounds very aggressive. Considering we had heard that the government had been cracking down on people and those movements were dissipating and the demonstrations were dissipating, to hear this kind of anger just seems unusual.

SAYAH: Well, when this protest was planned on the Internet, everybody was saying let's keep it silent, but clearly it hasn't been that way. And it's interesting. These are the most hard-core elements of the opposition movement.

That aggressive crackdown has scared away a bunch of people. This we saw today. About 2,000 to 3,000 people came out, and these are the people that weren't afraid. We did see a cross-section of people, but these people weren't afraid. We had a lot of eyewitnesses describe to us beatings that many of these people took.

VELSHI: So, we do know that the Basij or somebody is back out there pushing this crowd back.

SAYAH: Security forces were there. Not many members of the Basij, from what we're hearing form our eyewitnesses. These were paramilitary forces.

And if we can show you a map, we can tell you exactly where this started. This is Revolution Square. And there was a lot of Internet chatter, e-mails.

This is where everyone would gather. That happened about 5:00 p.m. local time. They were met with security forces. They dispersed to surrounding areas, and we heard for the past couple of hours protest and pockets of resistance in these areas. That's near Tehran University, scene of that student protest 10 years ago they're commemorating today.

VELSHI: All right. Stay on that. We'll come back to you if there's any developments about what's going on in Tehran.

We want to take you now to Alsip, Illinois. That is just south of Chicago. This is where those graves were desecrated, bones were taken out of those graves, the plots were resold.

Let's go there and listen to what officials are saying in Alsip, Illinois.


SHERIFF THOMAS DART, COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, POLICE: ... an unsuspecting individual a deed for a plot. And after they did that, and the unsuspecting individual left, they would then get a grave digger to go disinter a grave, take the remains from that grave, and dump them in an area in the back part of the cemetery. They would then utilize the new grave, and the person was none the wiser that that had previously been a used grave. There's extensive evidence here as far as the remains of individuals that are spread throughout the back of the cemetery area here.

As I said, the state attorney will talk about the specific people who were charged, their names and the like. But the one individual who was the office manager here was the individual who was at sort of the center of this operation. She was the one that was taking the payments, she was the one that was directing individuals to dig, and this was not done in a very, very delicate way, folks.

When the digging occurred, they would excavate a grave, they would excavate the entire site. And then they would proceed to dump the remains wherever they found a place to do it in the back of the cemetery. This was not replacing graves. It was not moving graves. This was dumping of them. The individual we're talking about also had set up an Emmett Till memorial fund on her own where she took money from that, and apparently pocketed that money as well from individuals who came here to the cemetery.

There are numerous people that have worked with us on this. The state's attorneys have been very helpful. The FBI, I can't emphasize enough to you, the amount of resources they are bringing to bear here is phenomenal. They are bringing people from all around the country to help with the forensic side of this operation.

The one point we've been trying to reiterate to people is there are not going to be quick answers here. We're going to be here for quite some time. We're not necessarily talking weeks, we're talking Mondays. The records are in shambles here. The actual sites are not well marked. They've very difficult to ascertain what is where. So this is going to take some time. And so we've been trying to plead with the public as best you can for patience, because it's going to be needed now.

The outpouring today has been phenomenal. I can't tell you how difficult it's been for all of us. I have been here since 6:00 this morning and there were people lined up. There were people here late last night waiting to get in to check on the remains of their loved ones.

I wish I had better information for a lot of them, but we don't have that yet. It's going to take us some time to get there, but we're going to try our best to get to that point. We don't know what else to tell the people here, but we are just horrifically sorry that they have been subjected to this. And we are trying our best to work on making this right, as well as we can.

At this time, I was going to ask the state's attorney chief to come up here and make a few comments.


ANITA ALVAREZ, COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS, STATE'S ATTORNEY: First, I want to thank Sheriff Dart and his entire police force and crew for working on this investigation. They have done a great job.

And I also want to thank all of the assistant state's attorneys from the special prosecutions unit and my bureau who have been working tirelessly with the sheriff's department on this particular case.

And I would also like to offer my condolences to the families, the families who have loved ones buried here. I offer my condolences for what you have been through and the lack of respect that has been shown to you and your families and your loved ones.

The Cook County State's Attorney's Office this morning has charged four persons in connection with the crime as outlined in your press release.

A short time ago, at 26 (ph) in California, we presented formal charges against four individuals. And the charges, in fact, were dismembering a human body. Each one of those four individuals have been in fact charged with that particular crime.

This is a Class X felony. The sentence range on a Class X felony is six to 30 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Bond was set for the four individuals as follows: Carolyn Towns (ph) has a bond of $250,000. The three other offenders here, Keith Nix (ph), Terrence Nix (ph) and a Maurice Daley (ph) have had bonds set at $200,000. So, $250,000 for Carolyn Towns (ph) and $200,000 for the other three.

According to the information presented in court this morning by way of our proffer, on many occasions, one or more of the defendants involved in this scheme resold burial plots that were already occupied by previous buried corpses. Cemetery groundskeepers then disinterred the corpses from their existing graves.

It is alleged that the disinterred corpses were then either reburied in the same grave as newly interred corpses, or dumped in an open area in the back of this property. It is also alleged that the offenders destroyed cemetery records and altered existing burial plot fees.

The investigation is still continuing. And as Tom just indicated, this is something that is going to continue for quite a while.

Having prosecuted many, many violent cases throughout my career in the state attorney's office, I must say that this crime, it's a whole new dimension that shows us what lengths people would go through for financial gain and the disrespect for all of the people buried in this cemetery. Anyone who has entrusted this cemetery with having their loved ones really were entitled to the respect and the dignity that they obviously have not gotten.

One other thing that I want to mention, and Tom mentioned it, there was -- we have information that there was a fund that was set up in 2005, a fund in order to get moneys for the building of an Emmett Till memorial museum. We are asking the public right now for help. If there are any people out there who in fact contributed to that fund, in order to have that museum built, which was never done, if there are people out there that have contributed, can you please call the sheriff's hotline number and please pass that information on.

As I indicated, this investigation is ongoing. And again, I want to offer all my condolences to all of the families who have their loved ones buried here.

DART: Now we have a representative from the FBI.

Tom, do you want to come up here now?

TOM TROUTMAN (ph), ASSIST. SPECIAL AGENT, CHICAGO DIVISION, FBI: Hi. I'm Tom Troutman (ph), assistant special agent in charge with the Chicago division.

The FBI also expresses its condolences to all the families and loved ones of the victims here. And we are working jointly with the Cook County State's Police and Cook County state's attorney to explore the possibility of the existence of federal violations, as well as lending the expertise of our evidence response team to the scene to manage the scene, collect the evidence, properly store it, and analyze it to the extent we can.

And we will be here as long as it is prudent.

Thank you.

DART: Thanks so much, Tom. As I said, I can't emphasize enough how helpful that is, because when you are talking about the resources, they are bringing people from around the world to help us with this. This will be fantastic.

We have also been joined by Reverend Jackson, who wants to say a few words as well.

REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: Our telephones have been ringing off the hooks all of the night. People calling from all across the nation whose relatives have been buried here.

While the high-profile names include Emmett Till and Dinah Washington, everybody here is special, and every family has special needs and special hurt and special grief. The idea of graveyard robbers, in my judgment, there should be no bail for them. There should be really a special place in hell for these graveyard thieves who have done so much to hurt these families.

We do not yet know just how deep the scheme goes. I asked the sheriff, does it mean that in some instances, were they trying to peddle caskets? I mean, the funeral industry must speak to this.

I talked to a number of funeral directors today who said that they did not buy any second-hand caskets, for example. Just how far did this scheme go? We do not know. Is it just this cemetery?

So, we are going to be working close to the families, ministers, churches, funeral directors and the sheriffs and the FBI and the state's attorneys to see what we can do to bring comfort to the families (INAUDIBLE) of the thieves who in fact engaged in this heinous criminal act.

DART: Thank you so much.


DART: John, the one thing we found out almost from the beginning is if you get your hair cut, a barber is more highly regulated than the people who operate cemeteries. There is virtually no regulations whatsoever.

We have suggested a couple of things internally that need to be done right away, because a lot of the people I've talked to here this morning have mentioned to me about other cemeteries that they have relatives in and there are concerns that they have there as well. And I can't emphasize enough to you, John, one of the biggest problems we have had is, because of the fact there is no regulation, most all of the documents and everything are housed here.

And so, when we are dealing with someone who is covering up a crime and either altering documents, we don't have another source to go to. We can't go down to the state and say, listen, can you give us your plat of survey to show who is where and all of this?

There's nothing. And so we thought that at a bare minimum, cemeteries should be required to send to the state -- a state office, whatever it is -- what they have, space they have, who's where and why, because -- John, I don't even know what to tell you about the heartbreaking stories that I've been hearing from people, crying hysterically that they're going through the burial for the second time today. The second time they're burying their loved one, and they're looking for answers. And we're sitting there telling them, this is going to be very difficult, because all the answers were housed here, and one of the people involved in this criminal act was one of the people that had all the records.

And so it's not the way we should be operating. These folks here, nobody deserves anything like this ever to occur to them. And we are trying to bring closure, but it's going to take a long time to do that.

QUESTION: Tom, can you explain -- what do you think the number is right now? Do you think it's bigger than it was last night?

And secondly, could you address this idea that, in some cases, they were stacking bodies?

DART: The number appears to be in the area of about 300 right now. And the stacking of bodies presents some particular issues and problems for us here, because with the specific graves that were dug up and re-interred, there is some ability to find some evidence there.

For graves that were stacked on top of each other, some of the ways in which that was done that has been explained to us is, literally, they were pounded -- they pounded the other one down and put someone on top.

That makes it hard. Once again, the FBI has been very helpful with some of the tools that they have. There is something called thermal imaging which is something that we are going to be utilizing to attempt to help us so we can determine whether or not graves that are out here now that we believe may be appropriate may have another casket, another remains underneath there.


DART: There's a combination of reasons. One, I believe, is because the parent company -- it's an out-of-state company -- did start examining what was going on here. So I think there's some behavior that will change there. But then there's elements, too, where some of the activity, there isn't a great deal of rhyme or reason in here, so that it was convenient, it was easier to do it certain ways.


DART: We have been -- the cemetery owners came to us in the first place, so they have been cooperating with us. And they were the ones that brought this to our attention. But that very question has been posed to me numerous times now.

Is there not an obligation to at least come out and look at your own property and look at your operation here to make sure certain things aren't done? Because a lot of the areas we are talking about, there is no mystery here. You know what's going on.

And so, you know, moral obligation, I would suggest that if you own a cemetery, you should, in fact, be pretty hands on to what's going on out there. But legally speaking, they were the ones that brought us here. They are the ones -- they have been cooperating. It's just -- it's very difficult, though, as I say, when you have records that are scattered and not what they should be under anyone's analysis.

VELSHI: All right. That's Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart with a remarkable, remarkable story about what is happening in Alsip, Illinois, at the Burr Oak Cemetery, where a number of famous people are buried. Dinah Washington is one of them, Emmett Till.

Here is what's happened. Three hundred bodies, maybe more, were either disinterred or had other bodies buried on top of them. Basically, the plots were resold for money. Four people are under arrest. The FBI is involved.

This is a remarkable story that is unfolding, and we are continuing to follow it.

Stay with us. You're watching CNN.


VELSHI: We've heard story after story of communities trying to tough it out after a major employer, like an automaker, for instance, pulls out of their town.

CNN's Alina Cho takes us to one fortunate town that is now thriving because of an automaker.

And that's today's "Money & Main Street."


ALINA CHO, CNN, CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the heart of the South, the face of tiny West Point, Georgia, is literally changing. The old Pizza Hut is a Korean barbecue. The old KFC, Young's Garden. Jobs once scarce are finally returning.

MALCOLM MALONE, M&M CAR WEST: It's just like Christmas time. It's like Christmas.

CHO: Christmas in the middle of a recession? In West Point, yes.

MAYOR DREW FERGUSON, WEST POINT, GEORGIA: We jokingly call it Kiaville.

CHO: Kia, the Korean car company, is about to open a sprawling manufacturing plant thanks to $400 billion in tax breaks. Even in the midst of a recession, the company will hire 2,500 new workers. Add suppliers and new businesses, and the mayor says West Point, population 3,500, stands to gain 20,000 jobs over the next five years. Divine intervention.

FERGUSON: The economic activity here is incredible. The trickle-down effect in the local economy has been staggering.

CHO: Remarkable for a city that was slowly becoming a ghost town. Textile mills that once defined West Point shut down in the 1990s, leaving many out of work, including 52-year-old Margaret McMannis (ph), laid off last year, now working again at one of Kia's suppliers.

(on camera): Did you ever think you would be making car parts?


CHO: Not in a million years?


CHO (voice-over): New construction is everywhere. At Roger's Bar-B-Que, business is booming.

DEBBIE WILLIAMS, COO-OWNER, ROGER'S BAR-B-QUE: Well, they say if we can get them in here one time, we can get them back. And they're coming back, they're coming back. They're enjoying it.

CHO: Malcolm Malone's car wash business is up 70 percent, and down the street at Irish Bread Pub, Ruthann Williams invested her life savings in the business. It's paying off.

RUTHANN WILLIAMS, IRISH BREAD PUB: I came here because of Kia. I wanted to come down to this area because of Kia. We have jumped in with both feet and we have not looked back one time.

CHO: So how is this tiny rural community adapting to the new Asian infusion?

(on camera): Does West Point feel like more like a melting pot now?

CHRISTY MAGBEE, WEST POINT RESIDENT: Yes, you've got the culture coming in. You don't have to travel to Atlanta anymore.

CHO (voice-over): From mill town to manufacturing Mecca, a bright spot in an otherwise gray economy.

Alina Cho, CNN, West Point, Georgia.


VELSHI: And if you need some advice on how to cope through this tough economy, watch more of our series, "Money & Main Street," tonight at 8:00 Eastern, only on CNN.

All right. Get this -- it's a private swimming club, but it's gone very public in a very controversial and allegedly racist way. No black kids in the pool. What's going on here?


VELSHI: Listen to this one. It's a private swimming club with a rippling outrage. The Valley Swim Club in suburban Philadelphia accused of turning away dozens of African-American and Hispanic kids possibly because of the color of their skin.

A statement from the club president is only fueling the fire. Now parents are complaining, a U.S. senator is investigating, and he has sent the club a blunt letter.

It's a complicated story. Lots going on, lots of moving parts.

Our Susan Candiotti is live in Philadelphia with the latest.

Susan, I understand that our team tried to talk with the swimming club president, that didn't work out so well.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): That's right because they were trying to get down to the bottom of comments that he allegedly made to a news media outlet in which he said that the children with turned away using the terms reportedly, quote, "because of their complexion and atmosphere."

Now, another board member has come forward to say that those comments were misconstrued, that it was a matter of space, not race. That, however, seems to be in direct conflict with the director of the day care center. I interviewed her extensively. Her name is Althea Wright -- Althea Wright.

And she explained to me she got her money back and a phone call from the board of directors of the swimming club. And he said to her that he was embarrassed about what had happened and that he went and held an emergency board meeting and that he was, in essence, overruled. And so, he was going to have to turn the money back to her. She says, therefore, why would he have said he's embarrassed if it was not a matter of race? So, as you can hear, Ali, this is going to be going on...

VELSHI: Right.

CANDIOTTI: ... for some time.

VELSHI: So, there's a couple of points of contention here. One is that he made the comments about how it was affecting the complexion or the atmosphere of the club. The club members are mostly white. These kids were children of color.

And then there are comments, I think, from this woman you spoke to, and we've seen media comments from some of the kids who had gone to this club to swim that they heard remarks that seemed to suggest that some of the members were bothered by the race of the children.

CANDIOTTI: In fact, I also talked with a little boy, Ali, who was at the club. And frankly, as tears were streaming down this 12- year-old's face, he told me that he was there at the pool sitting on a bench, and he says that he heard what he described as white adults sitting around the pool asking, why are these black kids here, in his words. Why are these black kids coming here? They might steal from us.

This is what the little boy told me. And this was directly addressed. He went to his mother. His mother went to the board director, and he said he was embarrassed by this, according to her, and that he would, quote, "handle it." Again, this gentleman has given us a "no comment." So, we're still trying to see exactly what happened.

VELSHI: OK. We do have comment, however, from a member of the swimming club who claims that he was the one who complained about the kids in the first place. What's his story?

CANDIOTTI: That's right. Well, he says that in his view, the board's director -- the board director's comments were, quote, "taken out of context," as I said earlier. This is the same man who said this was a matter of having not enough space at the swim club to have this day care center in. And it was not a matter of race, that they didn't have enough room.

However, the woman from the day care center said it's a huge place. According to her, they have a lot of outside groups coming in. So, she questions the validity of his explanation.

VELSHI: OK, well, this deserves a full investigation from us at least about what went on so we know whether, in fact, these children were turned away because of the color of their skin or just because it was a club that has paying members that didn't need a whole bunch of kids around. One way or the other, we'll get to the bottom of it.

Susan Candiotti's on the case in Philadelphia. Susan, thanks very much, and we'll keep up to speed with this with you.

OK, on to the other big story we're following, in Chicago. What a story. So much for resting in peace. Cemetery workers accused of turning a graveyard into their own personal cash cow. Unbelievable allegations and charges in Illinois today.


VELSHI: All right, when you rip off the living, it's bad enough. When you're ripping off the dead, you're digging up some serious outrage. That's what's going on now at the cemetery you're looking at outside of Chicago, south of Chicago, Alsip, Illinois.

Up to 300 graves desecrated at an historic African-American cemetery. The bodies dumped, the bones, the remains dumped in the back of the cemetery. The plots were resold. The cash has gone into people's pockets. Four people now charged with felonies. The Cook County sheriff cannot believe what's been going on. Things got worse with every step through the cemetery.


SHERIFF TOM DART, COOK COUNTY, ILLINOIS: It's so upsetting, unsettling that somebody would be doing these type of things. But we have walked around here for the last week, and each step you take, you're finding more remains, more bones at different locations. And we don't even have our arms completely around the magnitude of this yet.


VELSHI: And the sheriff was saying they think it's about 300. In some cases, the bodies were disinterred, removed from the grave. That grave was resold to somebody else who had no idea there were remains in there. In other cases, he says, the remains were just stamped down and another body buried on top of it. Simeon Wright is in Alsip, Illinois, where a news conference is just wrapped up. Simeon is the cousin, the relative of Emmett Till.

In fact, Simeon, you were with Emmett Till on the -- just before he was kidnapped back in 1955. Tell us about your cousin.

SIMEON WRIGHT, COUSIN OF EMMETT TILL: Yes, Ali. I was with Emmett in 1955. You know, he's a cousin from Chicago that came to Mississippi to visit us. And he whistled at a lady there, and for that, he was murdered. He was kidnapped out of my home and taken and dumped in the river. And, of course, you know the remains of Emmett is out here in the Burr Oak Cemetery, where all of this latest news has been happening. It's amazing to me.

VELSHI: So, it's a historic cemetery. In fact, there were people who had donated money for an Emmett Till memorial. And according to the sheriff, that money was raided as well. First of all, Emmett Till's grave, what do you know about the condition of Emmett Till's grave? Has it been raided?

WRIGHT: No. I went over there to make sure. I checked it out. And his grave and the whole section that he's in has not been tampered with. .

VELSHI: But what do you think? I mean, first of all, you heard about this on the radio I guess first.

WRIGHT: I heard about it from a news reporter yesterday afternoon. He called my home after the news broke on the Internet and asked me about it. And at the time, I told him, I said, if this is true, this is reprehensible. It's something that's unheard of in America. Now, I'm beginning to wonder, is this just the tip of the iceberg?

VELSHI: Well, and the sheriff did say that there have been people who have been calling, not only people who have relatives buried in this cemetery but in other cemeteries, because they didn't really think this was possible. It wasn't the kind of thing anybody thought could have happened.

For many of us who don't know anything about this Burr Oak cemetery, it's very significant in the Chicago area and particularly in the African-American community.

WRIGHT: Yes, it is. You know, Emmett is buried here. Ezra Charles, the professional boxer, he's buried here. And it's one of the first cemeteries in this area that would allow blacks to be buried in it. So, it's very significant.

VELSHI: Diana Washington is buried there. Lots of people buried there. But it is unclear now. The sheriff has said to people, and I supposed they've asked for people like you to put out the word, if you know of anybody who has somebody who is buried in that cemetery to call authorities and find out what's going on.

It does make you think, though, about all the other circumstances, places this can be taking place. The state attorney and the sheriff both said this is an entirely unregulated industry. He said barbers are more highly regulated than people who run cemeteries.

WRIGHT: That is amazing in itself. I mean, we -- most family members that are buried -- family here, we just thought it was regulated by the state, and there were certain things you couldn't do. Apparently, that's not true.

VELSHI: What a time. Simeon, I am glad to hear that Emmett Till is still resting in a safe place and that some people, at least, didn't get their graves disinterred and robbed.

But thanks for being with us. Simeon Wright joining us from Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois. We'll continue to follow this story. What a fascinating and disturbing story.

Since all the drug talk about Michael Jackson started, people have been asking, why didn't his family step in? Apparently, some of his siblings tried. CNN has been told of an attempted intervention two years ago prompted by a visit from Michael's sister, Janet. Let's bring in our SIU correspondent, Drew Griffin, who's been following this story. Drew, what do we know?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE UNIT CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ali. Apparently, the family has been worried for a long time. But just to set the stage, back in 2007, now, Michael had just returned from living in Bahrain and Ireland. He comes back to Las Vegas because he really wants to get in on those permanent shows like Celine Dion had.

So, he was there, studying, trying to get back into show business after the molestation trial, which he was acquitted of. Janet hadn't seen him in a long time. She visits him in early 2007, according to our sources, and walks into this house that is nearly barren of furniture, creepy looking, and is frightened by Michael Jackson's look. He is disheveled, he's extremely thin.

She comes back later in February for the NBA all-star weekend with two of her brothers and tries to go and have an intervention at Michael's home. Michael will not let them in. Security guards, actually, keep two brothers and Janet from coming into the house. All the while, Katherine Jackson is trying to phone him... VELSHI: This is his mother.

GRIFFIN: His mother, right. He won't take the calls. They knew back then they were having troubles with Michael Jackson, there is some kind of a medical drug issue that they were trying to prevent. He just shut them out. We have heard that from a lot of people that if you complained or consoled or tried to get Michael Jackson to stop taking drugs, he would just shut you out.

VELSHI: And yet, what we do know, like his financial issues, he always had somebody advising him. The advice might not have been good, but there was always somebody around. Was that the same case in his medical world? Did he always have somebody around him?

GRIFFIN: It seems like he did. We don't have the facts yet on exactly who these people were at the same times, but he changed them a lot, which is consistent with the fact that if somebody was trying to stop him from doing that, he would go to somebody else who might have said, "Yes, Michael, I won't say no to you."

It was the same in business, in Vegas at the same time. He had both, according to our sources, he had both guys trying to help him, trying to financially help him and other guys who were just trying to rip him off.

VELSHI: They want to get in there and get some money out of him. And apparently, as we've learned from his final doctor, his staff doctor, it was a lucrative business one way or the other being involved with Michael Jackson.

GRIFFIN: One doctor, one patient, the doctor makes $150,000 a month. That would be considered a pretty good gig.

VELSHI: Just like one could be tempted to tell Michael Jackson what he wants to hear.

GRIFFIN: We should say, now, in 2007, "People" magazine reported about an alleged intervention. The Jackson family at that time released a statement, a statement that basically said that at no time - "we categorically deny ever planning, participating or having knowledge of any kind of intervention whatsoever." That's the statement from 2007. It was signed by five members of the Jackson family, not Janet.

VELSHI: Very interesting. All right, Drew, you're staying on this. Thanks very much.

We'll take a quick break and be back with more.


VELSHI: Nearly a month since the presidential election in Iran. We have not seen as much activity in the last week as we have seen in prior weeks. But something has changed. A very, very important day in Iran right now. I'm here at the Iran Desk at CNN. Reza Sayah is staffing this for us. What's going on right now? REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We had some protests earlier in the day. The first we have seen in a couple of weeks. Now, they are starting to end, and the videos are starting to come in to the Iran Desk. We will show you some new video coming in.

This will give you perspective in some of the neighborhoods how many people turned up. That's a good amount of people that you see over there. We move on to this. This is a video taken right in front of the ministry of oil. What's interesting, in this video is that you are hearing chants of "death to Mojtaba," Mojtaba is Ayatollah Khamenei -- the Supreme Leader's son. It's very interesting. We haven't heard this before...

VELSHI: Well, I have, but I wasn't familiar with his name

SAYAH: In the past few days, there have been a lot of reports that Mojtaba has taken over the pro-government Basij militia. The ones who've been cracking down...

VELSHI: You have showed us pictures of them on motorcycles with sticks. They've been pushing the crowds back, trying to disperse them.

SAYAH: Exactly. Many people are blaming his son for the brutal crackdown. There, you see protesters yelling, "death to Mojtaba," something we haven't...

VELSHI: Now, we thought the Basij, the paramilitary, the pro- government people had been effective in shutting down the protests. Now, we have protests all over in Tehran.

SAYAH: Not all over. But I will tell you where. What we saw there was video from the area from (INAUDIBLE) where the ministry of oil is. To give you some perspective, this all started at 5:00 p.m. local time around Revolution Square. That's where you see out here.

The protesters were using today as an opportunity to come out and protest. Today is the 10-year anniversary of the student protest in 1999 that led to a government crackdown. They showed up here around 5:00 p.m. local time. They were met with security forces and disbursed and went into neighboring areas, and this gives you an idea how far out they went...

VELSHI: All right. It's nighttime there. You're going to stay on top of this. Thank you and the Iran Desk for staying on top of this. Let us know anything else that develops. Reza Sayah.

Look, he was an outspoken critic of kidnappers and criminal drug cartels in Mexico. He actually was an American citizen who led marches against those gangs. We are going to tell you what happened to him.


VELSHI: All right, you don't need to know much about Sanchez to know that he marches to his own drummer. He's there to tell us what's going on next. You've got to watch this show because it's not like you just watch this one that I've been doing and you get all the news. Rick comes on and it's always something else.

What do you got?

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: I love that. You know, it's interesting. I was telling one of the suits here a little while ago, Lamet (ph), or Matthews, or one of these guys, that I love the way you yesterday said, "And now, our national conversation." I said, yeah, boy, that Ali, man. Like he's got it down.

VELSHI: It's a whole different feel. I love it. It is a conversation. What are you guys talking about? What's the conversation going to be about?

SANCHEZ: Well, the same thing I was having a conversation with my wife about yesterday. And I think the same thing that a lot of the people listening were having conversations with their wives or husbands about yesterday. That's a Steve McNair situation down in Nashville.

Ali, this is a crazy story. With all the things that have gone on, the fact that just two days earlier, they had a D.U.I. Now we found out that she had gone and bought the gun she used on him just after she was released from jail. And there's two things that viewers who watch our show today are going to see -- this new video that just got out. This is the actual D.U.I. And we're going to be able to take you through that video.

And then we also have the 911 tape of the guy who goes into their apartment, discovers this gruesome scene -- these two bodies -- and calls police. And how he describes it. He was like -- he was shocked. It's kind of a strange surreal scene. We are going to let you hear it for yourself. It's about a minute and a half.

And of course, we're going to be all over Iran. Iran's an -- you know why Iran's an important story and why Americans need to take note of this? I'm serious. Being from a communist country myself, because these people know their life is on the line if they protest.


SANCHEZ: If you protest, you're going to get picked up, you're going to be thrown in jail. You could even be tortured.

VELSHI: That's what makes today's protest different even than two weeks ago.

SANCHEZ: Exactly.

VELSHI: After you've seen those crackdowns, you know something serious could happen to you.

Rick, thank you very much.

SANCHEZ: All right, man.

VELSHI: We will be tuning in for the national conversation.

Rick Sanchez coming right up. We're taking a quick break. We'll be right back in a minute. Stay with us.


VELSHI: All right. Record-breaking heat will likely result in record-breaking power consumption and power bills in Texas. The state set a record yesterday afternoon for electricity use. And today is expected to bring more of the same. The thermometer hit 106 degrees in Austin yesterday, topping the old record of 102. And that was more than 150 years ago. The heat index is expected to top 110 degrees in some spots in Texas today.


VELSHI: All right. We are done with this part of things. But the best part of things is about to kick off.

Your national conversation with my good friend Rick Sanchez starts right now.