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The Situation Room

Jackson Family To Gather Tomorrow; Cross-Dressing Militants Fool Marines; Defiance At the Top

Aired July 06, 2009 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Now, disturbing new video confirms the worst fears.

And the lineup for Michael Jackson's memorial has now been announced, as a few lucky fans line up to collect their tickets to what will be a star-studded event, with sports legends, celebrities and other famous public figures now slated to take part.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


All right, details of Michael Jackson's funeral -- funeral, not the memorial service, but the funeral -- are just coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

We are being told by sources it will take place immediately before tomorrow's massive public memorial in L.A. .

Let's go straight to CNN's Ted Rowlands.

He's in Los Angeles -- all right, Ted, be specific. Tell our viewers everything we're learning about the funeral.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, as you know, the family has been very tight-lipped about what they were planning in terms of a private memorial service -- a private funeral service. And we are now learning that before the 10:00 a.m. Pacific time public memorial here at Staples Center, there will be an 8:00 a.m. service -- a funeral service for members of the family and very close friends, that we're just learning here. Two hours before the public memorial, there will be a private funeral in Los Angeles for family and friends of Michael Jackson.

BLITZER: And, Ted, they're calling it a family gathering. They're not necessarily saying it's a funeral. It will be two hours before the memorial service at the Staples Center, where you are right now. They will all gather there. Other associates of the family have been calling it a funeral.

But is there a distinction there with a difference or what -- what do we know specifically?

Is there a difference between a family gathering at a plot at Forest Lawn as opposed to a formal funeral? ROWLANDS: Well, absolutely. And when you -- the problem is, the family is still tight-lipped about it and we don't have that confirmed in terms of the resting spot of Michael Jackson -- is Michael Jackson going to be buried at the Forest Lawn cemetery in Los Angeles?

We don't have that confirmed.

What we do have confirmed is that they're -- this family gathering is taking place two hours before the public ceremony here. And that, of course, lends itself to the possibility that he could be interred at that point or possibly later.

But we do know now for sure that the family is gathering in this private -- very private, what we're led to believe -- ceremony of some sort -- gathering two hours before the very public memorial here at Staples Center.

BLITZER: All right. So that family gathering scheduled for 8:00 a.m. Pacific time in Forest Lawn in Los Angeles. At 10:00 a.m. The Pacific time, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, the memorial service at the Staples Center begins.

All right. Stand by, Ted.

We're going to come back to you. We have a lot more coming up on what we can anticipate tomorrow.

But I want to move on to some other news we're following right now -- important news in Afghanistan. The war there growing more deadly and more complicated for U.S. forces. And they are now operating under new rules designed to limit civilian casualties and gain civilian trust. But those very same rules resulted in an almost unbelievable twist that let Taliban militants to simply walk away from a standoff with U.S. Marines. Those Taliban militants were dressed in burkas as women.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Chris Lawrence, is following all these developments for us.

Really, an amazing turn of events and a very, very serious confrontation that's unfolding in Afghanistan right now -- Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hard to believe, Wolf. You know, Insurgents in Afghanistan are taking women and children hostage and then stealing their clothes to evade capture. That's right -- cross dressing insurgents and how they fooled the U.S. military.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): U.S. officials predicted violence would spike in Afghanistan and it has. Four American soldiers died Monday, when their vehicles hit a roadside bomb in Kunduz Province. A suicide bomber attacked the main NATO base in Kandahar and two more U.S. troops were killed by an explosion in the south. The Marines keep pushing into Taliban-controlled towns. U.S. troops were issued a tactical directive that basically says troops will assume more risk to make sure they don't harm civilians. Part of it reads: "Any entry into a Afghan house should always be accomplished by Afghan forces and account for the unique cultural sensitivities toward local women."

That was put to the test Monday, when Marines are battling insurgents in Khan Neshin. The insurgents ran into a compound with women and children inside.

The Marines held their fire and settled into a stand-off. At 6:30 a.m., a group of women and children leave the compound. They say there are no more civilians inside, but Marines continue to hold their fire.

Sure enough, at 7:30, another group of women and children walk south. And after 8:00, a woman comes out screaming, with a bullet wound in her hand. As the Marines rush over to help her, one last group of women come out -- covered head to toe. These women just walked away. And when the Marines went into the compound, it's empty. The cross dressing insurgents had walked right past them.


LAWRENCE: Even the troops describe these women as broad- shouldered, with hairy feet.

So how did it happen?

Well, even the troops say when these insurgents came out dressed as women, they had at least two kids with them, which added to the disguise. And the Americans didn't have any females with them to conduct searches, so they erred on the side of caution and refused to cause a potential cultural incident by having Marines pat down Afghan women -- effort.

BLITZER: It could be very, very deadly caution, as well.

All right. Thanks very much, Chris, for that.

In Iran, the supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khameini, spoke out today against what he called enemies and outsiders. And he's blaming them for the political unrest following the contested peen.

The former presidential candidate, Mir Hossein Moussavi, also spoke publicly today for the first time in a week. He's quoted as vowing to continue leading government opposition.

And now, critical new support for his cause -- some top Iranian clerics are questioning the election and the government's response.

Let's bring in CNN's Brian Todd.

He's been looking into this -- potentially a pretty significant development -- Brian. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They certainly are, Wolf. Real rumblings in Iran that have a lot of us bracing right now. A fresh round of defiance in Iran -- an ominous counterattack by members of the government leadership, adding up to some signs that Iran may be seeing -- may be seeing, in the coming days, a second wave of political confrontation.


TODD (voice-over): Part of Iran's religious establishment from the holy city of Qom now openly questions the election results. Former president, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, an ayatollah who heads the group responsible for appointing or removing Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, says: "I don't think any wakened consciousness would be satisfied with the post-election crackdown."

Some grand ayatollahs make their own statements critical of the regime, as do some senior clerics at a seminary in Qom.

Perspective from an Islamic scholar once jailed under the Shah.

PROF. ABBAS MILANI, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: All of this put together is, I think, creating the historic challenge to the regime and to Khamenei's leadership.

TODD: Contacted by CNN, an Iranian official discounted the influence of the clerics' statements. But he warns leadership is lashing out at what it calls "interlopers from outside."

AYATOLLAH ALI KHAMEINI, SUPREME LEADER OF IRAN (through translator): The Iranian nation warns the heads of countries who try to benefit from an internal issue of our country against the Iranian nation that you should be careful.

TODD: And a key adviser to Khamenei writes in an editorial that opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi could be working for the Americans.

An Islamic scholar critical of the regime says Khameini has to quickly move beyond accusations and reconcile with his strongest critics.

PROF. MOHSEN KADIVAR, DUKE UNIVERSITY: He should repair the trust of the people, in one hand; and, also, he needs the support of grand ayatollahs of Qom seminally (ph), in the other hand. If he cannot provide these two, I think it will be a crisis.


TODD: But it's not clear what the regime is about to do. A source in Iran with firsthand knowledge of the situation says it does not look like there will be imminent action by the government to move against those clerics in Qom. The clerics who have weighed in against the government, even some of those grand ayatollahs, are not the only important members of the clergy there. Experts say there are several grand ayatollahs who have remained completely silent so far. Many are watching for what they do next -- Wolf. They may signal the real shift in the religious leadership against the government, if they say something.

BLITZER: But the former presidential candidate, the opposition leader, Mir Hossein Moussavi, he's -- he's vowing to continue his fight.

TODD: That's right. He is planning on filing papers in the coming days for a new political party aimed at reigning in the power of the current regime. He says he's going to file those new papers before Ahmadinejad is sworn in, later this month or early next.

So he is going to press ahead. He may be pushing that envelope to see just how far he can take this before the government comes back after him.

BLITZER: We're going to stay on top of this story. Obviously, significant developments in Iran.

Brian, thank you.

Let's go to Jack Cafferty right now. He has "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: A semi-related story -- there are some questions about whether Vice President Joe Biden may have done it again.

Over the weekend, Biden said the U.S. would not stand in the way if Israel attacks Iran's nuclear facilities.

Some say that signals a change in the U.S. policy -- drawing a harder line against Iran.

But the White House is quick to point out the statement, in its opinion, simply maintains what they've always said -- that Israel has the right to defend itself.

The vice president also said the U.S. remains willing to negotiate with Iran in spite of the recent violence that erupted in the wake of those contested elections -- the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In May, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, you'll recall, met with President Obama. And he said that Israel would wait it out for the rest of this year to see if Iran is willing to talk.

When asked if this was the right approach, Vice President Biden didn't say whether or not the U.S. agrees with that position, but did say -- quoting now -- "Israel can determine for itself -- it's a sovereign nation -- what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else."

So here's the question: Vice President Biden said Israel is free to set its own course on Iran.

What do this mean?

Go to and you can post a comment on my blog.

The State Department was out this afternoon, as well, Wolf, kind of trying to put some Band-Aids on the -- on the Biden stuff.

BLITZER: Did you -- do you remember what he told Gloria Borger and me in, I think it was in April, when I asked him if he thought Israel, you know, had the right or should go forward?

CAFFERTY: Yes, he said absolutely not.

BLITZER: Yes. And so there's a clear difference what he said then as opposed to now. And there's going to be a lot of speculation about that, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Perhaps he changed his mind.

BLITZER: Yes. Obviously, he did.

All right, Jack.

Thanks very much.

Millions of people wanted them, but only a lucky few thousand collected them today over at Dodger Stadium. That would be tickets to Michael Jackson's memorial, as the celebrity-filled lineup is now announced.

And the FBI makes an unusual move, as speculation swirls around why Sarah Palin is resigning as governor of Alaska. We have the details of what the agency is saying about those rumors.

And ethnic tension boiling over in China right now, resulting in deadly protests -- among the worst in China since the Tiananmen massacre two decades ago.


BLITZER: Just announced -- the lineup for Michael Jackson's memorial service tomorrow in Los Angeles. Some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment are slated to be there, including Kobe Bryant, Mariah Carey, Magic Johnson, Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Usher and Stevie Wonder, among many others.

Meanwhile, more than 17,000 free tickets to the memorial are being distributed to the winners of an online lottery. But some are already popping up on Web sites like eBay and Craigslist for hundreds -- or even thousands of dollars.

Our Internet reporter, Abbi Tatton, is joining us now with more on what's going on -- there are, I guess, a lot of people who want these tickets.

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Wolf, people are posting them online. But they're not staying up there for long because, in some cases, the Web sites are pulling down these posts. In other cases, members of the online community are taking them offline -- making sure that no one is going to make money off the memorial tomorrow, in terms of these tickets, which were essentially free when they were given out.

eBay -- look at this. Two posts here for -- those are the tickets. There's the wrist band that goes alongside it. You've got to have the wrist band to get in. These have been handed out to more than 8,000 people today, two tickets each.

But as you can see from these posts here, these people are trying to get rid of them; in some cases, for $1 or $10; but in other cases, look at these posts just from the last few minutes on Craigslist -- sometimes for $6,000, $7,000.

But they're not staying up there for long. eBay is saying that they're not allowing the resale of the memorial tickets on their site. They're pulling them down just as quickly as they can find them. A spokesperson for Craigslist saying it's members of the online community that are flagging the tickets and pulling them off themselves.

You can, though, see the huge amount of interest in these tickets, because so many people lost out in just the few minutes that some of these posts were up there on eBay. You can see, sometimes 15, 20 bids right before they're taken down -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Wow! All right. Thanks very much, Abbi, for that.

In the later part of his career, Jackson came to be known as much for his legal problems and allegations of molestation as he was for his music. But those who knew him well insist the singer was falsely accused.

And joining us now from Los Angeles, Thomas Mesereau. He represented Michael Jackson in the child molestation charge. Michael Jackson acquitted of all counts.

Tell us -- tell us about Michael Jackson.

you spent a lot of quality time, Mr. Mesereau, with him.

What did you learn about this man?

THOMAS MESEREAU, FORMER JACKSON ATTORNEY: You know, I didn't know what to expect when I first met him in Florida. And I studied him very carefully. And, of course, for five months, I sat next to him in a very, very intense situation.

And the man that I knew was a very kind, gentle soul -- very considerate, very loving, very sensitive, very decent. He wouldn't hurt a fly.

And we proved that these allegations were completely fictitious and false, that people wanted to profit on trying to bring him down.

And I have to tell you, he was one of the nicest, most kind people I ever met.

BLITZER: A lot of people know he was acquitted in the trial where you represented him, but they -- they wonder why he paid someone off maybe as much as $20 million years earlier, when child molestation accusations were hurled against him.

Why did he do that?

MESEREAU: First of all, he was advised by the people around him to get rid of that case, to pay money. Of course, he was paying his money, not theirs. They wanted him to get rid of it, stop the bad publicity and move on.

Michael himself said that he didn't want to put he and his family through an O.J. type trial. So there are a number of reasons why that was done.

BLITZER: But in your mind, were you ever -- ever in any doubt about these child molestation accusations, given the fact that he did like to hang around with young -- young boys?

MESEREAU: When I got to know him and I studied the evidence, I had absolutely no doubt that he was innocent and we proved that at the trial. The prosecution tried to bring in evidence that he had molested other young men. Three of them testified for us that he never touched them, that the allegations were ridiculous. One never showed up. One was thoroughly discredited. And, of course, the accuser in the case was completely discredited.

So we destroyed their -- their evidence. We destroyed their case. He was not a molester. He was never a pedophile. He was a very wonderful person who wanted to heal the world through music, art and decency. And I think he succeeded.

BLITZER: What was his -- his physical condition.

And in those days, obviously, there was a lot of tension in his life, going through a high profile trial like that.

But did you ever get the sense that he was addicted to painkillers or sleeping -- sleeping pills, stuff like that?

MESEREAU: No. I mean he never used any prescription medication in front of me and I never saw anybody give it to him. Understandably, he probably had sleepless nights and probably had a little bit of depression and anxiety going through a trial like that.

But with me, he was always articulate, he was always conscious, he was always cooperative. I did see him deteriorate physically, there's no question about that. He did lose a lot of weight. He had trouble walking. He had back problems.

So this was a very, very strenuous ordeal for him.

BLITZER: And you say did he suffer from insomnia? MESEREAU: Well, I know he had trouble sleeping. But I mean, you know, so do many of us, particularly when we're in anxious situations. But I never saw any abuse of drugs ever.

BLITZER: Did you -- did you get the feeling, though, that, you know, he may have some other ailments -- I'm not talking about mental ailments or anything, but physical ailments?

In other words, when -- when we learned last week or in recent days that he was dead, was this a stunning development to you?

How surprised were you?

MESEREAU: I was horrified. When I first heard it, I thought it was another one of these crazy rumors that often circulated around Michael Jackson. When I realized it was true, I was absolutely horrified. We lost a wonderful person.

BLITZER: Looking -- looking back on his relationship with his kids, did you ever see that relationship firsthand?

MESEREAU: Yes, I did. I saw he with his children at Neverland many times. It was a wonderful relationship. The children were crazy about him. He was crazy about them. He spent a lot of time with them. And it was a very, very wonderful relationship to watch.

BLITZER: You -- I assume you've read his will that has now been out there.

What do you -- what do you think about that will that he left?

MESEREAU: Well, it's -- it's his wishes. I mean, you know, he was a wonderful person. He obviously gave some consideration to what he wanted to do. And I think what he did was what he thought was in the best interests of his children.

BLITZER: So if you were looking right now big picture in terms of his death, do you hold some of his doctors, some of his associates, some of those who hang on -- used to hang onto him -- at least partially responsible for this man's death?

MESEREAU: Well, I don't have any evidence to support that. I mean he did attract some mediocre people who, in my opinion, didn't have his best interests in mind. He did go to a lot of physicians. But I see no evidence that ties them into anything.

And I'm not sure we even know what the cause of death was at this point.

BLITZER: When -- when you ended your relationship -- your legal relationship -- and you -- you won that trial, how did the relationship between you and Michael end?

MESEREAU: Well, we won the trial. He was acquitted 14 times -- 10 felonies and four misdemeanors. And for approximately the next year, my law partner, Susan Yu, and I helped him after he moved to Bahrain. Then we sort of moved on.

BLITZER: Did he pay all of his legal bills?

MESEREAU: Michael was good to us, yes.

BLITZER: All right. I'll leave it on that note.

Mr. Mesereau, I know you liked him a lot. And I'll express our condolences to you on the loss of a friend.

MESEREAU: Thank you very much.

It's a -- it's a -- it's a very, very sad moment.

BLITZER: We're going to have more on the legal aspects of what's going on following Michael Jackson's death. Our own Jeff Toobin, our senior legal analyst, he'll be joining us later with more analysis on some of these new developments today.

Meanwhile, a chilling new Taliban tactic -- training children to be suicide bombers. Now, there's disturbing new video confirming the worst.

Plus, a twist in the death of a Super Bowl quarterback about who bought a gun just before his killing.


BLITZER: Betty Nguyen is following some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Betty, what's going on?


A nephew of Steve McNair's girlfriend says she bought a gun just a few days before she was found dead next to the former NFL quarterback. The man says Nashville police told him about the gun purchased by Sahel Kazemi. Police had no immediate comment and they say 36-year-old McNair was the victim of homicide. But they aren't ready to label Kazemi's death a suicide. We're still following that story.

And a Massachusetts woman accused of withholding leukemia treatment from her now dead autistic son has pleaded not guilty to an attempted murder charge. Kristen LaBrie was ordered held on $15,000 bail at her arraignment today. Her attorney says she was a victim and took care of the boy on her own.

And Miami police -- they are searching for three armed men who opened fire on a party at a private home, wounding a dozen people. Police say three of the wounded are in critical condition. The men were wearing all black and carried automatic weapons. Police believe the gunmen missed their intended target. So we're following that story, as well -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. That's a scary development.


BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Betty, for that.

The FBI makes a rare response to online rumors about the Alaska governor, Sarah Palin -- what the agency had to say. Stand by.

A court's decision in favor of seating Al Franken in the U.S. Senate gives the Democrats a so-called supermajority.

But just how much can the party really count on Al Franken?

And a health care system that covers everyone and is free -- Canadians talk about their coverage and whether their government got it right.



Happening now, President Obama in Moscow. He signs a preliminary deal to reduce stockpiled nuclear weapons and makes a commitment to leave behind suspicions and rivalries of the past.

Congressman Peter King of New York takes direct aim at Michael Jackson and the news media's coverage of his death. In a brief YouTube video, Congressman King calls Jackson "a low life" and a lot more.

And they are certainly the hottest tickets in the nation right now -- wrist bands to attend Michael Jackson's LA memorial -- how fans are getting them.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


But first, the Alaska governor, Sarah Palin -- she's been keeping a relatively low profile since her surprise announcement that she's resigning. She did turn up at the Fourth of July parade in Juneau, the state capital, along with her husband Todd and daughter Bristol. That's Palin's son, Trig, and grandson Tripp in the stroller.

Meanwhile, the FBI is now speaking out about some of the speculation surrounding Governor Palin's bombshell decision. The agency says it has no corruption probe of Palin going on right now.

Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley joins us with more on this story.

Candy, it is unusual for the FBI to say anything about any investigation.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. It shows you a couple of things. First of all, how loud the noise can get on the internet when something gets in there and sort of echoes around. And there have been rumors in Alaska for some time that she was under investigation or there was a preliminary investigation, something the FBI was undertaking. It also shows there was such a vacuum when she came out and gave that press conference and everybody sat around saying, what does this really mean? What is really going on? It was so unexpected; a lot of speculation was there was something coming. There's two sort of dove tailed and became such a huge non-story, if you will, that the FBI stepped out and said, no, it's not true. They don't usually confirm or deny investigations. I will also tell you that her attorney, Sarah Palin's attorney said all of you who are talking about there so-called FBI investigation better watch it. We are looking at potential legal redress for this. Her attorneys pushing back very hard against this, as well.

BLITZER: What are you hearing about all this speculation that's out there? There is a ton of speculation about why she made this announcement last Friday?

CROWLEY: Nothing seems to be coalescing around any one interpretation of what is going on here. I would say given the weekend what we heard a lot over the weekend from Republicans, both in the web chat and on the weekend shows was, whatever it was she's finished politically. This couldn't work. She's quit her job. That was ancillary to people saying they thought, in fact, it really was close to what she is talking about which was that these ethics investigations in the state were costing her a lot in legal fees and there are a number of people that believe the endgame here was she needs to go and make money. She can do that by writing a book. She already has a contract. She can have speaking engagements. If there's anything people are coalescing around, it seems to be that. At this point, what we have to go on, frankly, is exactly what Sarah Palin said in that news conference. There were a number of reasons there, as you know. Among them were the reason she was, she spent a lot of money, I think she said $500,000 trying to fend off a lot of these ethics investigations which have come up with nothing.

BLITZER: There is no doubt she is potentially capable of making a ton of money right now. All right. Thanks very much, Candy. We'll get back to you.

Let's bring in our CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, the Republican strategist, Alex Castellanos.

A brilliant move if she wants to someday become president of the United States or a stupi move if she someday wants to become president of the United States?

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: A desperately irresponsible move. She made a commitment to take that job. If she should run for president, I think her rivals, particularly in the Republican Party will say, look, she was elected to city council. She quit to run for mayor. She was mayor. She quit to run for lieutenant governor. She was chairman of the Oil and Gas Commission. She quit that. She has quit every job she had. I think that doesn't stand up very well when you are trying to run for president to take on the hardest job in the whole wide world. Beyond that, the whole thing looks flakey. If the whole reason is because she's had like every politician or more than most, to be fair, ethics complaints against her? Come on. She can raise money through a legal defense fund and pay a half a million dollars in legal bills. I'm sorry. I have friends with more than that and they weren't even public officials. They were elected politicians. So I don't think - I just don't think that's a good enough reason.

BLITZER: All right. Alex, a brilliant move or a stupid move if she wants to be president?

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I hate on those rare occasions when my friend Paul is right. This is not the best political move anyone has made even in the state of Alaska. If she is making a case her state is better served if she doesn't remain governor, it's not going to be hard for other Republicans to make the case imagine how better our country will be served if you never become president. That could be the first negative ad against Palin if she runs.

Secondly, look at Palin themselves, their team is looking at this. When did they do it, going into the Fourth of July? The Michael Jackson is all over the press. Obviously, they wanted to bury this as if it were a defensive move for them and we still don't know what that problem is. At the end of the day, she may make more money here, books and all that. She compromised her political career. She is the Mike Huckabee.

BLITZER: She is a young woman. She's only 45 years old. She's got a long time ahead of her if she wants to make a political comeback. There is no doubt if she wants to make money; she is going to make a lot of money the next year or two. She has a seven-figure deal for a book. She can lecture circuit, make $50,000, even $100,000 a speech. That's not hard for her to do. She probably has a good lecture agent right now. If she wants to be on television, she can make a lot of money, as well.

BEGALA: As somebody who gives lectures for fees, it's an honorable way to make a living. Don't dress this up as a higher calling. Being an elected official in governor is a hire calling than what I do for a living. That is real public service which she has been doing for her state and citizens. Don't pretend going to cash in, which is what I've done, is a higher calling. It's not.

BLITZER: She is going to make millions of dollars.

CASTELLANOS: She is. We should not underestimate her power, even though somewhat diminished. She is going to selling books and get booked for speeches. Those are the same people who are going to probably would support her in a Republican primary. However, if Huckabee runs, if Palin runs, there is now a big division on the right. That maybe one reason you saw Huckabee attack Palin on this. This is good news for a Mitt Romney in a Republican primary.

BLITZER: Because?

CASTELLANOS: Because the right, Huckabees and Palins may be splitting that vote there and Mitt Romney in the middle central right opens up the field. BEGALA: If Mike Huckabee had Sarah Palin's appeal in the religious community in Iowa, I think mitt might have won in Iowa and it would have been a completely different campaign. He might have been the guy to lose to Barack Obama.

BLITZER: A quick thought on Al Franken. He will be sworn in tomorrow, but he is already up on Capitol Hill today meeting with the majority leader. What kind of senator is he going to be?

BEGALA: My own bias, I gave him money, I supported him, I campaigned for him. I love the guy. He is a friend of mine. He said something very interesting. He said I'm not going there to be the 60th Democratic vote. I'm going there to be the second Minnesota vote.

BLITZER: The junior senator.

BEGALA: To Amy Klobuchar. He is a very independent guy. He's a very smart guy. He is Harvard educated where Alex spent time as a teacher. That's a state that produces very independent types. He is clearly a Democratic a progressive one but I don't think he's going to be anybody.

BLITZER: He wants to be known as the junior senator to Amy Klobuchar.

CASTELLANOS: He's going to do the Bill Bradley Hillary Clinton strategy. Go to the Senate, be as dull as you can possibly, try to be an intellect, try to fix the potholes. His state does not like a lot of excitement. Establish some credibility first. With his limited comedic abilities, being dull should not be too hard.

BLITZER: They don't like a lot of excitement. Didn't the state elect Jesse Ventura for governor, a former wrestler?

CASTELLANOS: They did but Minnesota nice is kind of the current in the state. They like their politicians, look how they conducted this recount. They like to keep things on the low down.

BLITZER: He is a funny guy.

BEGALA: I think Alex has given him good advice except the shot about his comedic talent. It's very good advice to do what Hillary did, Bill Bradley, other celebrities like Barack Obama. Pay your dues, and then move on.

BLITZER: Guys, thanks very much.

Some of the deadliest protests China has seen in decades. More than 150 people killed, more than 800 injured. What is behind the fury?

And children trained to be killers, taught by the Taliban to become suicide bombers. Now there's video. We have it, the video of the horrifying new terror tactics.


BLITZER: In China, at least 156 people are dead and more than 800 wounded after riots broke out in what appears to be the deadliest unrest since the Tianmen square massacre 20 years ago. As we hear from CNN's Emily Chang, ethnic tensions boiled over in the western region and Chinese police cracked down.


EMILY CHANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Protestors commandeered the streets in northwestern China screaming, chanting, swelling, these pictures from China's state run media. An eyewitness says strongs of ethnic Uighurs, men, women and children left their market stands in the city's bazaar district to move in. Chinese riot police responded swiftly pushing the crowd back. A witness, an American studying, says that's when the crowds turned violent throwing rocks, vegetables, setting vehicles on fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were slapping car windows, driving by. Smashing bus windows which had been evacuated. You know, once things got really heavy and there was tear gas. I heard several spouts of gun fire, explosions.

CHANG: Police reportedly fired shots over the crowd. The riots quickly hit Chinese blogs. Video and photos like these are online. They cannot be independently verified by CNN. In the end, state media reports at least 140 people killed, more than 800 injured. The Chinese government says the latest protests were masterminded by activists outside the country, saying the violence is preempted. State-run media reports an ex-employ from a toy factory started a rumor that a group of Uighur men raped two Chinese women. It led to a massive brawl between Uighur and factory workers and ended with two Uighurs killed and may have resulted in this bloody outbreak of frustration.

Emily Chang, CNN, Beijing.


BLITZER: And as Emily just reported, tensions between Uighurs and the Han Chinese have long simmered in the Xinjiang province. Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim community, make up nearly half the population in the province. The province in the far western part of China borders eight central Asia nations including Russia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some say the bulk of China's natural resources including a large reserve of oil and gas. The Taliban boasted to CNN they have a month's supply of suicide bombers. Nic Robertson learned very young boys may be among them. We want to caution you, viewers may find some of the images in his reporting very disturbing -- Nic?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as the Pakistani army offense against the Taliban expands, one of the things concerning the army is the increase use of suicide bombers. What they are discovering they say is that the Taliban are exploiting children, turning them into deadly killers.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): In this disturbing video released by Pakistan's army, young children are being taught to be terrorists. The brutal killings they commit in front of a camera are barbaric. What worries the army most are those being trained to be suicide bombers, increasingly, the Taliban's preferred form of attack. The Taliban seem have so many suicide bombers now. They can use them on relatively low-level targets. A few days ago here they attacked a government bus full of workers. What really worries officials is the suicide bomber was riding a motor bike. They are worried the younger the attackers get, the easier it is for them to get into the cities undetected.

MAJOR GENERAL AKHTAR ABBAS, ARMY SPOKESMAN: Somebody is approaching on foot and there is a possibility that he would bypass him. There is a possibility there would be a population center. Everybody cannot be checked physically, so he can create havoc there also.

ROBERTSON: In a recent interview with CNN, this afghan Taliban spokesman boasted three months supply of suicide bombers, a threat the army here admits may be based on facts. What they are discovering is the Pakistani Taliban. Accounts like this one inside one inside Pakistan producing the young bombers, often selling them on to other Taliban commanders.

ABBAS: We have been intercepting messages that the others have been demanding for swat and other agencies. They've been asking for the suicide bombers. They want to use them.

ROBERTSON: According to Pakistan's military, children as young as 11 are being brainwashed into attacks. Both the army here and U.S. defense intelligence experts blame Massoud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban.

ABBAS: He has been admitting he has a training center for young boys preparing them for suicide bombing. He is on record saying all this, accepting all these crimes.

ROBERTSON: Massoud who never shows his face to the camera is the country's most wanted man. The army is gambling they get him and his network, they dry up the supply of suicide bombers.


ROBERTSON: The army says some of these children are orphaned, some are being kidnapped. Some come from religious schools, but the concern is that another Taliban commander might just pick up and carry on when Massoud leads off.

BLITZER: Nic Robertson, what a story. Thanks for that excellent reporting.

Ducking a touchy subject. The question President Obama didn't answer today about Russia. The question being, who is really in charge there? And free health care coverage, it sounds enticing, but there may be a greater cost. Ask our neighbors to the north. We did. We'll tell you what we found out here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Right back to Jack for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack?

CAFFERTY: The question this hour: Vice President Joe Biden out over the weekend saying now that Israel's free to set its own course when it comes to Iran. What do you suppose he meant by that?

Paul writes from North Carolina: "Vice President Biden's statement literally meant what he said. I am with him on this one. Israel is a sovereign nation and not a Banana Republic of America. It has every right to self-determination."

Scott in California says: "Funny, they let Biden out again. Biden is like a four year old, you never know what he is going to say. Gibbs will be out soon explaining what Biden really means to say, not what he actually said. Who are we to try and guess what Biden meant? I don't think he even knows."

Denny in Washington writes: "It means Israel is an independent state and can set its own policies as such. It would be far better for the U.S. to not be involved, at least initially if Israel did strike Iran. Perhaps Iran's problems will be resolved internally so it would be best to wait and see."

Jimmy in Ternecula, California: "What exactly is Biden's job for the Obama administration? Did Biden pass the dementia test before taking his oath of office for VP? Biden can't be sent out on any assignment without sticking his foot in his mouth."

Pat in Kentucky writes: "Maybe it means the Obama administration is not going to be so blindly loyal to Israel. And maybe Israel will figure out that the U.S. has other interests in the region besides Israel. I think Obama is very serious about working with Iran if it's possible at all. So Israel may have to take a back seat for awhile."

Susan in Twin Falls, Idaho writes: "In view of the fact that Joe said it, it could mean a lot of things."

If you didn't see your, mail here, you can go to my blog, Look for yours there among hundreds of others. They must just collectively hold their breath at the White House when the vice president goes overseas and talks.

BLITZER: In the next hour, we will have more on this Joe Biden story as well; specifically what he meant as far as Israel is concerned. Thank you.

A celebrity-filled memorial service for Michael Jackson. Now a word -- there's word that a Jackson quote, family gathering, at a nearby cemetery immediately before the service will be taking place. We have new details of tomorrow's events. They're coming out right now. Stand by.

Plus, it's the model cited by opponents of President Obama's health reform plan but what exactly is health care in Canada really like? We have a reality check.


BLITZER: The federal government's role in health care is under the microscope right now as President Obama pushes for health care reform by October. Dana Bash has been looking into Canada's system which covers everyone and is free but there are drawbacks. Let's go to Dana.

DANA BASH, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, when the Senate's top Republican speaks out against the government-run health insurance plan, he says it could lead to government control of the health care system, and he warns the U.S. could end up like Canada, with treatments delayed or denied. So we came here just north of the border to Ontario to see for ourselves and separate rhetoric from reality.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Going to feed the fish?

BASH (voice-over): For Shona Holmes, simple pleasures, playing with her dog, walking in the garden, are a gift. Four years ago, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, told if it wasn't removed, she could go blind or die.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No doubt at all.

SHONA HOLMES, ONTARIO RESIDENT: I realized right after the surgery how bad my vision was.

BASH: She is Canadian but for her surgery, she went to the U.S., because it would have taken four to six months just to see specialists in Canada's government-run health care system. The only option here.

HOLMES: All my life, I lived in this country with public health insurance, and I always thought that I would be OK, that everything would be fine.

BASH: So this is basically all of the surgery. Her bills at the Mayo Clinic where she was treated totaled $100,000. She borrowed from family and friends.

HOLMES: It's having dinner with my friends, I know how much money I owe them.

BASH: Republicans in Washington are seething on her story and other accounts from Canada to warn against government involvement in health care. Dr. David Zelt is chief of staff at Ontario's Kingston general hospital. GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell singled out Kingston as exhibit a of staggering delays in Canadian care. We played his speech. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Knee replacements. At Kingston General, the average wait is about 340 days.

BASH: His response, McConnell is exaggerating.

DR. DAVID ZELT, KINGSTON GEN. HOSP. CHIEF OF STAFF: Average time to get a knee replacement here is 91 days.

BASH: But he does admit in Canada's system where the government covers everyone, there are limits and shortages. Some patients do have to wait.

ZELT: I'm not going to say we don't have issues, but again, if you take the other side of the coin, these patients have access.

BASH: Despite Shona Holmes' horror story, Canadian officials insist most patients with life-threatening problems are treated quickly. Doug Wright can attest to that. He has cancer, a tumor on his leg. He's got the money to get care in the U.S. but says there's no reason.

DOUG WRIGHT, TORONTO RESIDENT: I've not had to wait. I've seen some of the best specialists in the country.

BASH: Though taxes are high here, he and others remind us Canadian health care, available to all, is free.


BASH: Now, to be clear, no Democratic health care plan now on the table calls for the kind of government-run system they have here in Canada. But consider this statistic. All Canadians have health coverage. That's 33 million people, compared to 47 million, that's just the number of uninsured in the U.S. -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Dana Bash in Canada for us. Thank you.

To our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Happening now, new information about Michael Jackson's memorial service tomorrow and the big name performances.

Plus, a U.S. Congressman lashing out at Michael Jackson and the U.S. media's coverage of his death.

Also this hour, the touchy question President Obama ducked. Who's really the boss in Russia? The best political team on television is standing by.