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Legal Battles Intensify Over Anna Nicole Smith; Amazon Rain Forest in Peril?

Aired February 13, 2007 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: A very special broadcast tonight.
We are in the town called Araguaina. It is right on the outskirts of the Amazon rain forest. And we have come here to see the threats that this rain forest is under -- some 7,700 square miles of rain forest cut down and burned every year. That's roughly the size of the state of New Jersey every single year.

We have got a very up-close look at what is happening to this rain forest today. We will show you that shortly.

But, first, let's go to New York and John Roberts for the day's top stories -- John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, thanks.

A lot happening tonight: conflicting reports on whether one of America's top adversaries in Iraq has fled the country.

Also, the Anna Nicole Smith story -- people lining up to claim paternity of her baby, and a dramatic 911 tape that is coming to light.

We begin, though, tonight with a serious winter storm. Believe it or not, it's the first really big one of the season, making its way east from the Great Plains, affecting millions of people tonight, with millions more about to get hit.

Now, you don't have to be a weatherman, as they say, to know that it's a mess out there. But we do have a weatherman to bring us the details tonight.

CNN's Rob Marciano is covering the storm, along with our Gary Tuchman Gary is in Syracuse. Rob is in Cleveland.

And, Rob, how is it looking where you are tonight?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, almost blizzard conditions here in Cleveland, John. The snow started earlier today, and it's been piling up steadily ever since, snowing sideways at times, with winds gusting to 30 miles an hour, temperatures in the mid-teens. And it feels more like it's well below zero.

Got about eight inches of snow -- of snow on the ground. We're right by the lake, by the way, by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You can see how -- through the streetlights, just how fierce the wind is blowing and how heavily that snow is falling. One to two inches per hour is the rate. We're right in the thick of it now.

We are by the lake, but this is not lake-effect snow. This is a big storm that's affecting, once again, millions of people. Here in Cleveland, throughout the day, snow piling up -- gridlock virtually here in downtown. A couple of blocks, it would take you a half-an- hour to go. The mayor is urging people to stay at home, as people went home earlier today.

As far as the airports are concerned, there were 180 flights that were canceled at the Cleveland Airport today. They got at least 60 planned tomorrow. And get this: across the entire state of Ohio, roughly 600 accidents on the roadways so far, over 60 of those injury- related, and one fatality -- so, dangerous driving, no doubt about that.

In -- down to the south and east, in Pittsburgh, the story is the same, heavy snow there, traffic accidents. And they're having a hard time clearing the roads. And now that snow has changed over to freezing rain.

Speaking of freezing rain and ice, across Virginia, in through Charlottesville -- a 25-car pile-up there along Highway -- Interstate 64, near Charlottesville. Traffic on both -- going both directions in spots has been shut down.

All right, let's show you the radar. Let's show you the expanse of the precipitation. There is a ribbon of mixed precip, ice, freezing rain, and sleet. That's the pink you see there. Generally speaking, it's right along the Ohio River, in through Cincinnati, in through Pittsburgh.

North of that line, it's snowing, where we are. And south of that line, it is mostly rain. To the west, in Indiana and in Illinois, we have had reports of 11, 12 inches of snow in spots. And there are blizzard warnings out tonight for winds gusting over 35 miles an hour, and visibilities reduced to about a quarter-mile. We may very well see some of that action here.

All right. Here's the snowfall forecast for the next 48 hours. It does stretch to the east. By the way, it's already snowing in places like Western Mass., Upstate New York, and trying to snow in through New York City. And we have icing problems in D.C. Boy, we're running a gamut here.

All right, here's the snowfall forecast. The darker blues and purples, that's the heaviest amounts of snow. That does not include what has already fallen. So, in Indiana, in -- and Ohio, we will probably see 10, 12, 20 inches of snow total, and similar numbers expected across Upstate New York.

John, winter storm warnings are posted here in Cleveland. We're right in the middle of it. And we expect heavy snow through at least tomorrow morning. This is the biggest storm of the season so far -- back to you.

ROBERTS: Rob, nothing on the ground here yet, nothing even falling. It looks like it's -- it's evaporating before it gets to the ground. Any idea how much snow New York City, Boston can expect to get?

MARCIANO: Well, you know, this -- this storm has changed gears a little bit over the past 24 hours. It looks like, now, the colder air is going to remain in place.

In places like New York City, we will see two, three, four, maybe as much as five inches of rain of snow. There will be some sleet and mixed -- and freezing rain mixed in at times. Suburbs north of town could see five to 10 inches of snow. So, this looks a little bit worse today than it did at -- did at this time last night -- John.

ROBERTS: Well, it's always pretty to wake up to see snow in Central Park.

Rob Marciano, in Cleveland, thanks.

A few hundred miles east, in Syracuse, New York, they also know snow, snowstorm snow, and, in the towns nearby, the lake-effect variety. In shorts, whether it comes in inches or in feet, they will handle it. They're used to it.

As CNN's Gary Tuchman reports, they have come to expect nothing less.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You have heard the numbers, 80 inches, 90, 100, 141, all actual confirmed snow accumulations in Upstate New York.

But big numbers have not yet hit what is typically the snowiest big city in the entire United States, Syracuse, New York. However, that's about to change. And the commissioner of public works says, the city is ready.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is larger than usual, but, you know, we will get prepared and we will be ready to fight it when it gets here.

TUCHMAN: "Through these doors pass the best snow fighters in the USA" -- that's the guarantee in writing outside the public works building. And, as those snow fighters get the salt ready, they are rather nonchalant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just another day in Syracuse, you know what I mean?

TUCHMAN: Of all American cities with more than 100,000 people, Syracuse averages more annual snowfall than anywhere else, 120 inches. But, surprisingly, huge one-day snowfalls are not that common. But one is now arriving. As much as 29 inches is expected from now through Wednesday night.

Fewer than four weeks away from Syracuse University's spring break, there is excitement in the cold air among students. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Last year, we didn't get much of anything. So, I'm ready. Bring it on, basically.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm ready see it. Everyone talks about the feet and feet of snow. I want to see it.

TUCHMAN: The university hasn't closed due to snow in 14 years. But, if all the snow comes that's expected, that string could be in jeopardy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hopefully, classes might be canceled. That would be pretty sweet.

TUCHMAN: In addition to the snow, windchills are expected to go down to 17 below zero. Spring break seems a long way away.


ROBERTS: Gary Tuchman is live with us now from Syracuse.

And, Gary, I'm looking at the scene behind you there, and I'm reminded of that scene out of "Caddyshack," where Bill Murray says, it looks like it's going to be a while before the heavy stuff comes down.


ROBERTS: When is it expected?


TUCHMAN: That's a good way to look at it, John.


TUCHMAN: And to paraphrase what that student told us, Mother Nature is bringing it on.

The snow started coming down about three hours ago. It's coming down about an inch an hour. So, we have about three inches. There was some previous snow here, so that's why the snow looks relatively heavy here.

But it's supposed to continue for about 24 hours, until about 7:00 Eastern time tomorrow. So, they are looking for the possibility of 19 to 29 inches.

This is the entrance to the quad at Syracuse University. Normally, at this time, it's very crowded. People gone into their rooms, seeking warmth, because, right now, the windchill is at two below zero.

And this is not a lake-effect snowstorm. This is a nor'easter. So, this is heavier stuff that is coming in. But the fact is, what is very interesting about Syracuse is that, since January 8, they have had measurable snow every day here. That's 36 straight days. But, most days, it has been one or two inches. The heaviest snow they have had is 10 inches.

So, this snow, of up to 29 inches, will be a very unusual snow for Syracuse, despite the fact that it is the largest American city that gets the most amount of snow; 100,000 population-plus, no other city gets as much snow as Syracuse.

One piece of trivia for you, John: For small American cities, the city that gets the most snow is Truckee, California -- back to you.

ROBERTS: Yes, way up in the mountains there.

Now, I can tell, Gary, you didn't go to Syracuse University, because you didn't learn to go inside when it starts snowing.


ROBERTS: Gary, thanks very much.


ROBERTS: What arrived as snow in Syracuse and freezing rain throughout much of the south spawned a tornado in New Orleans. It ripped through a city neighborhood, destroyed a motel in Jefferson Parish, then skipped across the river, killing a woman in Pontchartrain Park. She died in a FEMA trailer, where she had been living since Hurricane Katrina.

Whether it's tornado in New Orleans or snow falling on Cleveland, there are connections between climate up here and what goes on thousands of miles away in the Amazon rain forest, which is why Anderson Cooper, Animal Planet's Jeff Corwin, and a team of CNN producers and photographers are down there tonight.

Let's go down to the rain forest and check in with Anderson.

How are things where you are, Anderson, both now, and what's the forecast for the future?

COOPER: Well, John, I have got to tell you, it's surreal listening to Gary Tuchman and Rob Marciano talk about snow, because it is obviously very warm, very humid down here.

We are on the outskirts of the Amazon rain forest. Tomorrow, we are going to be venturing deep inside, reaching up to a remote tribe.

Today, we got a bird's-eye view of the Amazon and some of the threats that this rain forest is -- is facing, threats which, frankly, will affect us all in the years ahead.

Over the next several months, we are going to be doing I think what no broadcast has really done before, hopscotching literally around the globe, taking a look at the ways that our planet is in peril, talking about greenhouse gases, overpopulation. Here, we are looking at deforestation, of course, global warming, as well. A lot of different things, we are going to examining in the next couple months.

But, this week, it is deforestation. We came down here with wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin. We're going to talk to him a little bit later on during this hour.

And we're also, just in a few minutes, going to show you a bird's-eye view of the Amazon and show you, very viscerally, some of the threats that the Amazon is facing.

As I said earlier in the program, 7,700 square miles of rain forest, virgin rain forest, cut and burned every single year. That's roughly the size of the state of New Jersey every single year. And it's been going on like that for the past 40 years or so.

First, let's take a look at what is at stake.


COOPER (voice-over): The Amazon is staggering. And so are the numbers.

It's the world's largest rain forest, covering parts of at least half--dozen South American countries, including nearly 70 percent of Brazil. The rain forest is in the Amazon River Basin, which blankets some 2.7 million square miles. Compared to the U.S., that's roughly the size of the lower 48 states.

The rain forest produces about 20 percent of the Earth's oxygen and plays a big role in controlling the climate of the entire region. With all that oxygen comes lots of life. The Amazon is home to more species of plants and animals than any other ecosystem on the plane, 30 percent of the world's total, more than two million insect species, at least 1,500 bird species, more than 3,000 freshwater fish, 1,000 species of frogs, and more than 300 species of mammals.

And new ones are found all the time, like this titi monkey just a few years ago. The Amazon River is the rain forest's lifeline, with more than 15,000 tributaries. And, for a little more perspective, the Amazon's daily flow into the Atlantic is enough to supply New York City fresh water for at least nine years.


COOPER: As I said, we got an awesome bird's-eye view riding in a helicopter with Jeff Corwin earlier today. We are going to show you that right after this break, and also these other stories.


ROBERTS (voice-over): And Anna Nicole's final moments.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is not breathing, and she is not responsive. She is actually Anna Nicole Smith.


ROBERTS: The dramatic 911 call -- ahead on 360.

Hostages in a war over oil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to be released.

ROBERTS: We reported their captivity. Now they're free -- only on 360.



ROBERTS: The death of Anna Nicole Smith is still capturing the nation's attention.

CNN's Randi Kaye looks at the picture that is beginning to emerge in the days since the former "Playboy" model died, beginning with the just-released 911 tapes the day she died.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What began with an emergency call last Thursday...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's not breathing and she's not responsive. She's actually Anna Nicole Smith. If you guys can please...



911 OPERATOR: All right.



KAYE: ... has given way to a frenzy of finger-pointing and promises of paternity, magnified by a media blitz catering to those who must know all things Anna.

DR. JOSHUA PERPER, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA, CHIEF MEDICAL EXAMINER: The autopsy was able to exclude any kind of physical injury , such as blunt-force trauma, gunshot wound, stab wounds, or asphyxia, as a cause of death.

KAYE: One day after her death, few clues into what killed Anna Nicole Smith. But the fight for custody of her baby girl, Dannielynn, heated up -- no surprise. The surviving parent stands to inherit millions.

Former beau Larry Birkhead filed an emergency order, requesting DNA from Smith's body. A judge ordered the former Playmate preserved until a February 20 hearing.

DEBRA OPRI, ATTORNEY FOR LARRY BIRKHEAD: It is very important that the DNA connect Anna with the baby being tested. We do not want a bait and switch.

KAYE: That same day, so-called Prince Frederick von Anhalt, actress Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband, says he could be the father, too, apparently exposing a 10-year affair with Smith.

Get in line, Howard K. Stern. You may be Smith's lawyer and longtime companion, but you have got company.

PRINCE FREDERICK VON ANHALT, HUSBAND OF ZSA ZSA GABOR: There are lots of people who could be the father.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you be the father?

VON ANHALT: I don't know. I mean, you know, sometimes I'm a bad boy, yes.

KAYE: And the list keeps growing, even from the grave.

Saturday, "The New York Daily News" reported Anna Nicole's half- sister suggested Dannielynn may have been fathered by frozen sperm from Smith's billionaire late husband, J. Howard Marshall.

Even a bodyguard who once worked for Smith told the TV show "Extra" it's possible he's the dad, bringing the grand total of daddy wannabes to five.

From paternity to pictures, this one released Monday from inside Smith's Bahamas home, a diet of sorts, methadone, TrimSpa and Slim- Fast.


ALEX GOEN, CEO, TRIMSPA: I look at it as setup. It was kind of interesting, how all the bottles are pointed right to the camera.


KAYE: And this one published in "The Tribune of Nassau" showing Smith embracing the Bahamian minister of immigration in bed.

Critics are quick to point out Minister Shane Gibson is the one who approved Smith's residency last year, and are asking for his resignation.

SHANE GIBSON, BAHAMIAN MINISTER OF IMMIGRATION: They were innocent. They were all, like I said, taken by Howard Stern.

KAYE (on camera): Also, Bahamas' chief magistrate, Roger Gomez, now telling CNN they have intensified their investigation into the death of Smith's son, Daniel, who died last September of an alleged overdose.

Gomez says the focus is now on Smith's lawyer and friend, Howard K. Stern, who was in the room when Daniel died.

Our calls to Stern's lawyer were not returned.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


ROBERTS: Well, just ahead: why Anna Nicole's mother and her partner may end up facing off in court.

Plus: an extraordinary look at the Brazilian rain forest -- Anderson's helicopter tour ahead on 360.


ROBERTS: A new battle over a life that played out like an epic tragedy -- where will Anna Nicole Smith be buried?

Next on 360.


ROBERTS: From where she should be buried, to who was the father of her baby, to who will inherit all of that money, the legal battles surrounding Anna Nicole Smith's death continue.

CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and Court TV's Lisa Bloom join us now.

Jeff, one -- one of the latest fights is -- is over who gets custody of the body. Howard K. Stern wants custody of it. Virgie Arthur, who is Anna Nicole Smith's mother, wants it as well.

In terms of the law, who has got the better claim on that?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: You know, all the Anna Nicole Smith issues are sort of versions of each other, which is basically, who controls what's left of Anna Nicole's legal and physical being?

Her mother is the next of kin, really, the next of kin adult. Larry Birkhead, the boyfriend, has an order from a court in California saying, the DNA -- he has a claim to the DNA. So, he has some claim, too. And Howard K. Stern is her partner and perhaps her husband. So, I mean, those are -- those are the relevant parties.

ROBERTS: So -- so, it's not as clear-cut as the closest living relative?

TOOBIN: Nothing is clear-cut.

LISA BLOOM, COURT TV ANCHOR: And her will might provide. she left a will.

TOOBIN: That's right.

BLOOM: Her will might provide for what happens to her remains.

TOOBIN: That's right. It does turn out she has a will, which is a new development, yes.


There's another person who has come forward to claim possible paternity, a fellow named...

TOOBIN: Present company excluded.



ROBERTS: Although you might want to get in the game, Jeff.

TOOBIN: No, no, no. I have...


ROBERTS: Alexander Denk, who is her former bodyguard -- this -- this brings to five, I think, the number of people who claim paternity, which -- which also highlights the idea that there are at least five people in this world not practicing safe sex.

TOOBIN: That's right.

ROBERTS: You spoke with him, Lisa.

BLOOM: I did. I think we can rule him out. I asked him point blank: Did you have...

ROBERTS: But he -- he said to "Extra," yes...


BLOOM: I know. But this is the question I asked him: Did you have sex with her 14 months ago? Let's cut to the chase. The baby is five months old. It takes nine months to make a baby. Fourteen months ago is a relevant time period.

He said, no. He said, no, he didn't.

So, I -- I have a hard time believing that he might be the father. He also says he doesn't have any interest in doing a DNA test and filing a paternity case.


BLOOM: You might wonder, then, what his interest is. Apparently, he wants to go on television and say good things about Anna Nicole, because he really cared about her.

ROBERTS: So, Howard K. Stern also doesn't want to do a DNA test. He's -- he claims that Anna Nicole Smith didn't want him to. But...

TOOBIN: But, see, that's -- that's so suspicious. I mean, come on.

ROBERTS: You know, the skeptic -- the skeptic -- the skeptic in me -- the skeptic in me would be suspicious of that.


TOOBIN: Right. And -- and that's -- I mean, you know, Larry Birkhead, the boyfriend, has been screaming for months, even before Anna Nicole Smith -- he wants a DNA test.

It's sort of like when cops offer a lie-detector test to people. You know, the test may not be that valuable, but whether people want to take it or not is -- is often a pretty good indicator of whether they're telling the truth. And, you know, the fact that Howard K. Stern doesn't want -- I mean, there's really no reason not to do a DNA test. It's not...


ROBERTS: Well, yes, there is.


TOOBIN: If you're not -- if you're not the parent.

BLOOM: The reason is because he's not the daddy.


BLOOM: ... he wants to keep the baby.



TOOBIN: I mean, if you want an accurate result, there's not an -- there's not a...

BLOOM: Right.

TOOBIN: ... a reason to take -- because it's not like it's invasive. It's not even a blood test. I mean, it's a swab from the cheek. So, you could do it to the -- you -- you could test the baby without it bothering...


ROBERTS: Again, he claims it was Anna Nicole's last wishes that he not take it. BLOOM: Well, I think it was, because Anna Nicole and Howard Stern went down to the Bahamas together and were hiding from the court orders requiring the DNA test.

ROBERTS: Do you -- do you think that -- you think that...

BLOOM: I think she wanted him to be the father, even though, biologically, he wasn't.

ROBERTS: She put his name on the birth certificate.

BLOOM: Exactly.

ROBERTS: Do you think that she was trying the hide the child from Larry Birkhead?

BLOOM: I think she was trying to escape the reach of American law by going to the Bahamas, which is more favorable to a man and a woman not married, like Howard and Anna, with a baby.

TOOBIN: Do you really think Anna Nicole Smith knew Bahamian law on -- on child...


BLOOM: No. But I think she got advice. And I think Howard Stern, who is a lawyer, you know, either he got lucky by going to the Bahamas, where the law was favorable...

ROBERTS: She seemed to know immigration law...

BLOOM: ... or he looked it up.

ROBERTS: ... or at least the people who were practicing it in the Bahamas, quite well.



TOOBIN: I guess so.

And why was a woman with a 5-month-old baby not living with the baby? Do we know this?

BLOOM: Which woman are you talking about? Anna Nicole?

TOOBIN: Anna Nicole Smith. Why wasn't she...

BLOOM: Well...


BLOOM: ... she was living with the baby. I think she went to Florida to look at a yacht for a short period of time.


ROBERTS: Well, here's -- here's -- here's the question, though...


BLOOM: ... she died.

ROBERTS: ... though, Lisa.

Why are so many men coming forward to claim paternity? Are they just trying to wear this as a badge of honor?



ROBERTS: Or are they after the money?

BLOOM: They think this is a $400 million baby.

TOOBIN: Yes. This is...

BLOOM: ... because she was entitled...

TOOBIN: This is -- this is a financial...


BLOOM: ... to this huge judgment at one point. It was reversed to zero, then went up to $80 million, reversed to zero again. She won in the Supreme Court.

ROBERTS: Mm-hmm.

BLOOM: So, she gets to keep fighting.

TOOBIN: And even if...

BLOOM: That's why.

TOOBIN: ... all the money ultimate goes to Dannielynn, the little baby, someone will have to be appointed a guardian for her...


TOOBIN: ... who will have control of that money for years, and will be presumably paid some fee for being a guardian.

So, even -- so, just being named the guardian and the -- you know, and the father would be the best candidate for -- for guardian -- you know, that's a huge -- that's a huge amount of money.

BLOOM: Yes, they're not just signing up for diaper duty.

ROBERTS: Well... BLOOM: I think there's a pot of gold...


ROBERTS: Well, we don't know, at this point, who the guardian is going to be, but, apparently, we have an idea of who the executor of the estate is going to be. And that's Howard K. Stern.

He said, in terms of his relationship with Anna Nicole Smith -- quote -- "I work for Anna exclusively, and I have for quite some time. I'm proud of that fact."


ROBERTS: A lawyer with one client who has an extreme conflict of interest in this case.

BLOOM: Who he is sleeping with, yes.

ROBERTS: ... who was sleeping with her, who is also the executor of her will?

BLOOM: Yes, shameful behavior.

ROBERTS: Does that strike you as being a little odd?

BLOOM: Shameful, unethical in every state. And I wonder if someone is going to bring an action to say, he shouldn't be executor of her will. He had a conflict of interest in doing that.


TOOBIN: Who has standing to bring that lawsuit?

BLOOM: Well...

TOOBIN: That's the problem.

BLOOM: You know, maybe the father of the baby, in the name of the baby. I mean, there's so much litigation that's...


BLOOM: ... she's done before.

ROBERTS: Because the baby is the heir, correct?

BLOOM: The baby is clearly her legal heir.

TOOBIN: Well -- I mean, well, we don't -- I mean, we assume it is, if that is what is in the will. I mean, if there's a will, the will will say who is the heir.


BLOOM: The will -- the will says Daniel. ROBERTS: Although, apparently, what was in the will was that the money went to Daniel, right, the son.

BLOOM: Right.

But -- but...

TOOBIN: Right.

BLOOM: ... the law will assume, in the Bahamas, as in the U.S., that if a child is born after the will, unless specifically disinherited, that child is intended to take. So, the money would go to the baby.

ROBERTS: Back to the paternity issue for just a second -- Larry Birkhead had a speeding ticket last year. And it was while Anna Nicole Smith was pregnant, about four months pregnant.

And, on that speeding ticket, which is on -- and there's a -- there's a graphic of it -- you can see highlighted there in yellow is the explanation to the police officer that: I got a phone call -- he apparently said, according to his attorney -- from my girlfriend. The police officer wrote down wife -- she is pregnant and she's sick, which is why I'm speeding, to get to see her.

So, is that an indication that maybe he does have more to do with this case than some people would like us to believe?

TOOBIN: Well, I mean, it is a possible indication. But this is a one -- the one subject in this whole controversy where there's a clear answer.

BLOOM: Right.

TOOBIN: I mean, we will do the DNA test...

BLOOM: Right.

TOOBIN: ... and we will find out who the father is.

I mean, you don't need to look at a parking ticket, which is a pretty tangential way to prove paternity, what someone says to a cop when they're stopped for speeding, when you could just do a DNA test, and end the whole thing.

ROBERTS: Lisa, do you think there's going to be a DNA test?

BLOOM: I think there is. Larry Birkhead has now gone to the Bahamas, where he should have gone weeks ago, to get this thing resolved. The baby is in the Bahamas, beyond the reach of American law.

You have got to go to the Bahamas, where the courts have discretion to order a DNA test. This is the kind of evidence he can bring to the court and say: Look, I'm coming to you in good faith. I was always claimed to be the father by her and by me before there was any money potentially attached to this. Do the DNA test, so I can establish paternity.

ROBERTS: All right. Well, this story is going to go on. And we hope that you folks will continue to join us...

BLOOM: Absolutely.


ROBERTS: ... to help us unravel it.


ROBERTS: Appreciate it.



ROBERTS: We will have more on Anna Nicole Smith coming up in our next hour.

Right now, though, Erica Hill from Headline News joins us with a 360 news and business bulletin.

Hey, Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Don, a former Houston man arrested in Kenya last month was ordered held without bond today on he was working with al Qaeda to help overthrow Somalia's government and form an Islamic state there; 28-year-old Daniel Maldonado was returned to the United States last night. He is charged with receiving training from a foreign terrorist group and participating in a bombing conspiracy.

The CIA's former third-ranking official and a California defense contractor have been indicted on corruption charges in the same bribery probe that sent former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham to prison. Kyle "Dusty" Foggo is accused of awarding contracts to Brent Wilkes and his company, in exchange for lavish gifts. The two men are longtime friends.

After three straight sessions of losses, U.S. stocks rallying today -- a sharp rebound in oil prices helped to fuel the jump. U.S. crude futures rose more than $1 a barrel. And talk that aluminum- maker Alcoa may be a takeover target also helped to give the markets a boost.

The U.S. trade deficit, meantime, set a record in 2006 for a fifth straight year -- the Commerce Department reporting, the trade gap last year rose more than $763 billion. That's a 6.5 percent increase. The trade imbalance with China soared to an all-time high, as well, to more than $232 billion.

That's it for now -- John, back over to you.

ROBERTS: Erica, thanks. Has America's nemesis fled Iraq? We are going to get the latest on the whereabouts of Muqtada al-Sadr when we come back.

But first, let's go back to the edge of the rain forest, where Anderson Cooper is this week.

Hey, Anderson.

COOPER: Hey, John.

Yes, when we come back from break, we're going to talk to wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin about what is going on here in the Amazon, the threat that this rain forest is facing, what it means for all of us. Stay tuned.


COOPER: And welcome back. We are in northern Brazil, literally on the edge of the Amazon rainforest, and we are going to be here all week, part of a yearlong project called "Planet in Peril" that we have just begun working on with wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin, who joins me now.

Jeff, why the Amazon? What is so important about what's happening here?

JEFF CORWIN, WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST: This is just such an incredible place. Basically, what you're looking at around us, even in the darkness, is the navel of biodiversity. It's the center of life on our planet.

Rain forests take up about 5 percent of our planet's surface, and in that 5 percent is easily a quarter percent of the wildlife. But even at night, you know, normally when you think of an ecosystem, you think of a living community of wildlife, you think of shutting down. But in a rain forest, it comes alive. We've got this cacophony of frogs and crickets and...

COOPER: And frankly, it's creeping me out, but you kind of like it I know.

CORWIN: That could be. I love this. You're sitting there talking. I almost got us a nice caiman to show.

COOPER: Literally, some people started to yell, and Jeff was, like, wrestling with an alligator, and it got away.

But what is happening in the Amazon that -- that is so important? I mean, clearly, it's under a threat. We took a helicopter ride today over the Amazon. We saw logging; we saw slash and burn; 7,700 square miles of forest is being destroyed every year. That's an incredible amount. It's about the size of New Jersey.

CORWIN: And, you know, just in Brazil alone, in the last 40 years, 20 percent of this incredible habitat is gone.

COOPER: Twenty percent?

CORWIN: Twenty percent is gone. Which means that with -- by the end of this century, if we don't straighten up, if we don't figure it out, we're going to lose this habitat.

And people can easily look at the rain forest and say it's aesthetically pleasing, but what's the value? In this life is the value. Forty percent of our medicines are harvested from plants like this. These plants, which harness all sorts of -- their own sort of insecticides to keep insects at bay, we use as medicines.

So it's an incredibly vital ecosystem. There are incredible human communities that call this place home that are equally under threat.

COOPER: It also stores carbon. It has a role in global warming.

CORWIN: Absolutely. The deforestation of rain forests around the world today is contributing to about 20 percent of the greenhouse emissions. And essentially, this is an ecosystem designed to almost recycle, to scrub out the carbon that we emit and all life forms emit. So you're losing the source for the scrubbing, and you're also contributing to the greenhouse effect.

COOPER: And what sort of species of animals live here? I mean, just about every kind?

CORWIN: It's incredible. Every time scientists come into an ecosystem like this, they make discoveries. What we're looking at is an ecosystem of layers. Right now, we're in the under story, and around us are these emergents, look. And they create this canopy, and each level is a layer of life.

So you can have creatures like howler monkeys or meerkats and snakes that will spend their entire lives up there in the canopy and never touch the ground. A sloth, certainly one of the creatures that we desperately want to show us while we're exploring Brazil.

COOPER: In the helicopter ride that we took, that we're going to show people in the next hour on 360, we saw some of the threats. What are the main ones that this forest is facing?

CORWIN: Basically, this is an ecosystem in peril. This place is totally under attack, whether it's through homesteading, people being pushed out of urban areas, trying to colonize with the hope of a better life, but in the end they often have financial ruin and potential disease. They also can bring disease to this ecosystem.

They're also being threatened by deforestation for the timber industry, for cattle ranching and also for agriculture.

COOPER: Big soy farms are increasingly a big problem here in terms of deforestation.

We're going to show you that helicopter ride a little bit later on 360. Right now, let's go back to New York and John Roberts -- John.

ROBERTS: Anderson, thanks.

From the rain forest of Brazil to the wilds of Maplewood, New Jersey? That's where our "Shot" comes from tonight.

A 400-pound bear shimmied up a tree in someone's backyard. Wildlife agents had to tranquilize the animal, which after it was tranquilized, fell safely into a net, which of course reminded us of one of our all-time favorite shots, where almost identically, the bear falls out of the tree -- you missed it there. The bear falls out of the tree but not into a net, onto a trampoline. Bounces once, falls on the nose.

Same problem, different approach. The trampoline clearly not the best choice. The net's always the way to go. Thankfully, though, neither bear was hurt.

Serious stuff ahead. The latest on Muqtada al-Sadr. Reports that he has fled Iraq for Iran. One of the America's top adversaries, is he really gone and if so, what does it mean to the mission?

Plus, they were held captive by killers. We covered the story, uncovered the facts and got action. Twenty-four hostages freed tonight. Only on 360 next.


ROBERTS: There are conflicting reporting tonight about Muqtada al-Sadr, the militant Shiite cleric who leads one of the most powerful militias in Iraq, the Mehdi Army. He is one of the United States' biggest adversaries, and senior White House officials say that al-Sadr has fled to Iran out of fear for his safety because of the coming military build-up.

But a spokesman for al-Sadr and a member of his bloc in parliament says that the cleric remains in Iraq.

CNN's Michael Ware is working this developing story and joins me now from Baghdad.

Michael, any way, now that the sun is coming up, to more clearly ascertain where Muqtada al-Sadr is?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, absolutely not. I mean, the situation remains as it did as 3 a.m. Baghdad Time when this story broke. I mean, maybe he's in Iraq. Maybe he's not. Right now, we just don't know.

I mean, this is such a typically Iraqi story. I mean, we've heard from these unnamed aides in the White House. Well, how many times have we seen and learned that what's said in Washington so often bears no relation whatsoever to the facts and the reality on the ground here in Iraq?

Yet again, on the law of averages, at some point Washington does have to get it right.

We spoke to -- we spoke to Muqtada's people just a few days ago in Najaf. They said he's here. At 3 a.m., we woke up a member of his party sitting in parliament, one of his spokesmen. He said he's here.

Now, you would expect them to say that if he was, in fact, here. But you would also expect them to say that if he had, in fact, fled.

One thing to bear in mind: this is a regional leader who travels. He could have gone to Iran. He might be in Iran right now. The question there is why that changes the whole dynamic. Nothing is clear, John.

ROBERTS: And Michael, it's not like he hasn't gone to Iran before, correct?

WARE: That's what I'm saying. I mean, this is a man who moves. I mean, he's just done a sort of regional tour to reassure Sunni Arab nations. He's been to Iran that many times. He receives support from Iran. There's a -- you know, religious links to Iran, political links to Iran. If you believe western military intelligence, weaponry links to Iran. So there's plenty of reasons that he might be there. We just don't know.

This is a fellow who's a recluse at best. A lot of people want to kill him, so he's very much going to watch his security. Much is uncertain.

ROBERTS: But Michael, just play prognosticator -- prognosticator here for a second. If, indeed, he has fled to Iran because he fears for his life, how significant a development would that be?

WARE: Well, I mean, politically, it will certainly send ripples throughout the Iraqi political scene. I mean, Muqtada is a potent political force, as indeed he's become a potent military force. He's not the largest bloc. He's not the largest military faction here. But goodness me, he can make some trouble.

And I mean, we saw that politically, he suddenly became king maker when he was able to put the current prime minister into his job.

Now, all of this, directing the political faction and directing his now pretty significant Mehdi militia, he can do from Iran. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are able to direct al Qaeda from caves in Waziristan, and al Qaeda barely seems to be skipping a beat.

Al Qaeda in Iraq continues, and its leader, Abu Hamza, is on the run.

It will be nothing. The Sadr's political movement and the Mehdi militia, sure they'll feel a squeeze if he has fled to Iran, but they will not cease to be, and Muqtada will continue to rein.

ROBERTS: Well, Michael, I'm sure it's going to be a busy day there in Baghdad trying to figure out exactly where he is. Thanks for joining us. Appreciate it. Coming up, another aspect of the Iran factor -- Michael touched on it briefly -- is Tehran injecting some especially insidious weapons into the battle. Over the weekend, military briefers said yes. Today, their Pentagon bosses said something completely different.

Also, warriors who kill and take hostages in a war over oil. We got a rare inside look last week. We showed you the story that one government did not want shown. Now the hostages are free, and we'll bring you the latest, only or 360.


ROBERTS: We first showed you those pictures last week in a report by CNN's Jeff Koinange after he visited a rebel hideout deep in the Niger Delta. The rebels allowed him to meet with two dozen Filipino hostages that they has kidnapped more than three weeks earlier. Today, those hostages were released, one day after Nigeria's government accused Jeff of staging his report, without offering any evidence of that claim, we should note.

This story has had many twists turns, and Jeff joins me now with this latest one.

Hey, Jeff.


It all began with an invitation from a mysterious e-mailer named Jomo. We set off for the Niger Delta to meet his rebel fighters who call themselves the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta or MEND.

As for the hostages, we of course, met them when these MEND militants took us to one of their hideouts deep in the swamps. I'll have more details on the hostages' rescue. But first, here's a look at how we first met them.


KOINANGE (voice-over): Like Robin Hood and his men hiding in the dense woods, the MEND fighters have found safety in the unmarked islands hidden among the swamps of the delta. So, of course, there is no way to check on their claim. MEND tells these are but a handful of 200,000 fighters they have throughout these waterways, an area about twice the size of Maryland.

But they could prove their willingness for audacious crimes.

(on camera) Just to show us how confident these militants are, they brought us here deep in the heart of the Niger Delta to show us their latest hostages, 24 Filipino sailors.

(voice-over) It was a brazen raid at sea, the largest number of hostages kidnapped at once. The armed rebels' speedboats surrounded the workers' ship at sea, and they have now been held captive for nearly a month. MEND insists no harm will come to the hostages. This is about intimidation, a demonstration of MEND's power. It's also about ransom.

As for these dazed and confused sailors, imagine what they must be thinking when they see this menacing dance of madness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are all OK here, but only we want to be free. Yes. We want to be released.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a family, and we need to communicate with them but our communication is closed.

KOINANGE: But how did it ever come to this? Who is coordinating these attacks?

After much discussion, the rebels did agree to take us to their leader. But only under one condition: because of his superstitions, we could only interview him in the water, out in the middle of the swamps. We wondered, were we finally going to meet the mysterious Jomo?

(on camera) I am here to find out about the Movement of the Emancipation of the Niger Delta. Who are you? What do you want? What's your struggle?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta is a struggle, a movement for the liberation of the Niger Delta, the most devastated and most threatened region in the world.

KOINANGE: Is your fight against the oil multinationals or against the Nigerian government or against them all?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our fight is against everybody, every institution that don't want the people of the Niger Delta to have their fair share in the Nigerian project. Any person that is, either by knowingly or unknowingly, has connived or either conspired with the Nigerian state to deny the people of Niger Delta their fair share of the Nigerian project.

KOINANGE: And how far are you willing to go, sir? How far is MEND willing to go to accomplish your goals?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: MEND has come to stay and that there is no force in the universe that will stop MEND in achieving these demands.

KOINANGE: What do you tell people working in the oil companies right now? To leave Nigeria? Do you tell them...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are telling all expatriates to leave Nigeria. Leave Nigeria. We will take lives. We will destroy lives. We will crumble the economy, mercilessly.

KOINANGE (voice-over): And with that, the interview suddenly ends. The men feel vulnerable here in the open. We're escorted out and into open waters. But as we're about to take off, one of the masked men issues yet another throat the Nigerian government.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they don't listen, well, maybe Nigeria will go in pieces. We don't know how many pieces it will go into, but the federal government will not be in peace except they listen to us.

KOINANGE: As for Jomo, we never did get to meet the man that invited us here. Or perhaps we did, and he just wouldn't reveal himself.

But when we got home, we did get another message from the e- mailer calling himself Jomo. In this one, he complained the hostages we saw were not kidnapped by his group MEND and that our report would be misleading.

We have no doubt those kidnappers were MEND militants, and we have no idea why their leader would now distance himself from that. But the delta is full of mystery and magic and bloodshed.


ROBERTS: Jeff is back with us again now from Johannesburg.

That was an extraordinary report, Jeff. The fact that you were introduced to those hostages so deep in the Niger Delta. What are you hearing from the governments these days? What are you hearing from them now about the fate of those hostages?

KOINANGE: Well, what we're hearing, John, is both the Nigerian government and the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs have confirmed that all 24 Filipino hostages have been released, and more importantly, are in good health.

The Nigerian government would not disclose the location of the former hostages, but they did say they have been evacuated from the Niger Delta. The Nigerian government also insisting that no money was exchanged with the kidnappers.

As for the kidnappers, John, they say they freed the men on what they call, quote, "humanitarian grounds."

So finally, at the end of the day, some good news to report from the Niger Delta tonight.

ROBERTS: And Jeff, I've got to ask you one other thing. It's been sort of bothering me for a week here that the spokesman that you talked to in the middle of the river there, what was that that he was wearing on his forehead?

KOINANGE: That's a good question, John. A lot of people have asked that. Those are what they call amulets. Apparently, they're good luck charms or charms that are supposed to ward off evil, and also they insist bullets from the Nigerian military. Go figure.

ROBERTS: Well, you also had an angel looking over your shoulder, as well, during that whole thing. Jeff, thanks very much. Appreciate it. Straight ahead tonight, we're going to head back to the edge of the rain forest.

Also, the latest on the storm that's already dumping snow and bringing chaos from the Mississippi on east.

A break first. From Brazil to New York and all around the world, this is 360.


COOPER: And welcome back to the second hour of 360. We're coming to you from Brazil, from the edge of the Amazon rainforest, a forest under threat. We'll tell you how and what it means to you ahead tonight.

But first, let's go to New York and John Roberts for the day's top stories -- John.

ROBERTS: Anderson, thanks very much. And what a contrast we've got between there and our next story.


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