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Russian Troops Keep Their Grip on Georgia; Vanishing Amphibians; Wal-Mart and Politics; China's Gymnasts Too Young to Compete?; Julia Child's Secret Life

Aired August 14, 2008 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: We begin with "Breaking News." Russian forces keeping their grip on parts of Georgia, America walking a very fine line, talking tough but also sending a clear message today, we're not spilling American blood over the crisis.

Though details are still in dispute, Pentagon sources say hundreds of Russian troops either are or were in two Georgian cities, Gori and the port city of Poti. Georgia claims that Russian forces now control a third of the country. Russia says they are mainly limited to the break away territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Secretary of State Rice is in Paris, bound for Tbilisi. Defense Secretary Gates today sounding a clear warning, if Russia doesn't pull back, he said quote, "The U.S.-Russia relationship could be adversely affected for years to come." He also ruled out any American use of force.


ROBERT GATES, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The United States spent 45 years working very hard to avoid a military confrontation with Russia. I see no reason to change that approach today.


COOPER: Well, that's the big picture. For details, let's go to "360's" Michael Ware in the Georgian capital Tbilisi and Jill Dougherty in Moscow.

Michael, the president told about a third of the country, Russia's Ambassador said that is quote, "Disinformation of spectacular proportions." Do we actually know what the situation is on the ground in terms of where the Russian troops are?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Anderson, we do have a fairly good idea. Now, what we do know is that the Russians attacked across two fronts. This is a two-pronged attack.

First, they went in both the pro-Russian enclaves here in Georgia; Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Now, once they secured those areas, what they did is they actually went further. It wasn't enough.

They pushed into undisputed Georgian territory and they seized one, if not two Georgian towns themselves. In fact, I saw one of these towns under Russian control myself. That's the town of Gori.

Now, there mingling with the Russian troops on the front line, the thing that struck me most was just how comfortable they were, so relaxed. Why? Because they know that there's no real threat against them. The Georgian troops I've seen have rallied from the original onslaught from the Russians but they pose no real threat. Nor does an overstretched America and the Russians know that.

Meanwhile on the second front to the west, they most likely it seems almost certainly seized the key port town of Poti. And then last night, we heard that a column of about 100 Russian armored vehicles were heading south through Georgian territory towards that harbor town, quite possibly to reinforce the troops already there. The Russians are in the box seat, Anderson, and it looks like they're consolidating their position.

COOPER: Jill, Russian officials said today that Georgia would help the two breakaway provinces Abkhazia and South Ossetia secede. What is their reaction? I mean how do they see it?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, actually they're not quite going that far. The Russians, it sounds as if that's what they're saying, but what they're saying is those two breakaway regions -- will have to be defined what is going to happen to them.

So the Russians are saying you do what you want. Whatever it is, whether it's seceding, joining Russia, whatever they want to do we will support it as long as it is in let's say compliance with international law.

But what they're making very clear is they believe that on the ground, de facto right now. There is no way, especially, that south Ossetia, is going to reunify with Georgia or anything of the kind.

The people there don't want it. So the Russians are saying, this is a situation on the ground. It'll have to be defined legally. But essentially there's no way they're going back.

COOPER: You know, Michael, I was in Abkhazia with Georgian forces in the mid '90s. They were trying to prevent Abkhazia from breaking away, they failed. They couldn't do it. Are Georgian forces any match for Russia's military now?

WARE: Well, no, absolutely not. And that's been made evidently clear. Now, and remember, this is a Georgian force that's heavily- backed by the U.S. There's more than 100 odd trainers or advisers here in the country. There's been lots of military aid in terms of material.

And in that area you're talking about, Anderson, over the last decade or so, the major administrative center has changed hands three times. The third time being just in the last few days, as the Russians retook that center from the Georgians. And that's the whole point.

As the Russian foreign minister said, Georgia is an American protegee. And it's two things. One, look what happened to its forces. But most importantly, look what's happened to an American military force already straining at the seams with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where are they? Where are they to back up their guarantees, their alliances, their NATO friends or their countries in NATO alliances like Georgia?

And that's the whole point, to send a message to the rest of the region. Bottom line, the Georgians are incapable of doing anything. It's now up to the Russians -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jill, I want to play our viewers something that Mikhail Gorbachev, the former president of the Soviet Union, said just a short time ago on Larry King's program. Let's watch.


MIKHAIL GORBACHEV, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE SOVIET UNION (TROUGH TRANSLATOR): I've been saying that we have not been able to establish a sound relationship between Russia and the United States after the end of the Cold War. I believe that the United States has made mistakes for which the people have to pay.


COOPER: Clearly this is a show of force. This is a flexing of muscles by Russia; sending a message to the United States and the world. How is America seen in Russia these days? I mean is it viewed as being weak?

DOUGHERTY: Well, you could say that some people who watch it closely do believe that the United States is overstretched and can't really do a lot. But there's also the feeling in Russia among the people, basically, would be a feeling actually of being surrounded. You know, the West has the idea of Russia is the aggressor.

But the Russians really feel that they're surrounded. For instance, if you had Georgia as part of NATO, it's right there on the southern border. They feel absolutely surrounded and this decision now by Poland with the United States to agree on the missile shield in Poland is another slap for the Russians. They're really not going to like that either.

COOPER: Jill Dougherty, Michael Ware, thanks.

As we've mentioned at the top -- we've heard a lot of tough talk from the President and Secretary of State, but a very clear message from the Pentagon, the Defense Secretary ruling out the use of force to defend Georgia.

We'll have more on that angle now, from the White House Correspondent Elaine Quijano who joins us live.

Elaine, we heard at the top of the program some pretty tough talk from Gates. We talked about this last night, too. I mean is this all just talk? We don't really have that many options. Do we?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know for the Bush administration, the only option that really seems to be at the forefront is relying on Russia to show some remorse for its actions. We certainly have not seen that.

In fact today, we saw Defense Secretary Robert Gates warning that if Russia does not step back from what he called its aggressive posture and actions in Georgia, the U.S.-Russian relationship could be adversely affected for years to come.

Now, President Bush, for his part, headed to Langley, Virginia today where he got a briefing at CIA headquarters on the situation in Georgia and the war on terror. The president again called on Russia to respect Georgia's territorial integrity and to honor the cease-fire agreement.

Now later, his Spokeswoman, Dana Perino, was asked whether Russia would face consequences for invading Georgia. Well, she said don't expect any immediate announcements on any punishments; that the focus right now is on cementing the cease-fire.

She said that the consequences would involve damage to Russia's reputation in the world. But Anderson, even she conceded that perhaps Russia's leaders just don't care about that. Russia -- or Anderson?

COOPER: Condoleezza Rice was in Paris on her way now to Georgia. What is she hoping to get out of all this?

QUIJANO: Well, that's right. First in France, talks with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. He's the head of the European Union and negotiated a cease-fire agreement that Secretary Rice is bringing to Georgia.

But before the President of Georgia can sign it, the French are working on closing a loophole in that agreement and that catch allows Russia to keep peacekeepers in south Ossetia and to enforce quote, unquote, "additional security measures in a limited area beyond that region."

Now a senior State Department official says that specific language really needs to be toughened up so that Russia doesn't feel it can use security as some kind of pretext to continue its military occupation deep inside Georgia.

So the French are working on that to clarify Russia's future military role. Secretary Rice meanwhile, is due to brief President Bush in person Saturday morning at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

COOPER: All right, Elaine Quijano thanks.

As always I'm blogging throughout the commercial breaks. Now, we also have a new Web cast live on our studio cam. During breaks, Erica Hill and I with special content only online. Just go to for that.

Up next, a big new development that could bring a lot more Hillary Clinton supporters onboard the Obama side in November. That's the idea at least, reaching a deal on her role at the Democratic Convention.

We'll tell you what it is in "Raw Politics."

Later, you know it for its always low prices but does Wal-Mart have another policy, never vote for Obama? Some company insiders say that's the message the company is now sending its employees, thousands of them. We've got the facts, "Keeping them Honest."

Also a new revelation, stunning if true that China knew that one of its gold medal-winning-gymnasts was only 13. Three years too young to compete. "Digging Deeper," "360" tonight.


COOPER: Barack Obama on the beach in Hawaii, soaking up the laid-back vibe, though he was also pretty relaxed after his campaign jet encountered mechanical troubles last month.

He didn't know then what we have just learned tonight; that the captain declared an emergency and the problem might have been deadly. An escape slide in the tail cone had inflated, squeezing the controls that point the plane up or down.

The captain told passengers it was a minor problem, then with St. Louis air traffic controllers, she declared an emergency. Listen.


PILOT: At this time we'd like to declare this an emergency and also have CFR standing by in St. Louis."

TOWER: I will show that and would you, do you have a preference on runways? Would you like runway 3-0 right or runway 3-0 left?

PILOT: Well which one is the longest?

TOWER: Runway 3-0 left.

PILOT: Ok we'd like 3-0 left and just for informational purposes, we have Senator Obama onboard the aircraft and his campaign.

TOWER: Roger that.


COOPER: A short time after that conversation, the control issues improved. The plane landed without incident.

Now the high stakes political showdown within the Democratic Party over Hillary Clinton and a name check at the Democratic Convention. A shout out in so many words for Senator Clinton; placing her name in nomination, up for a vote. No name check would be seen I guess as a diss for her and her 18 million supporters, that's what they have said at least.

And dissing Hillary Clinton they warned could doom Barack Obama in November, but how to keep the Clintonites happy without seeming to cave. Well, today, after a lot of public posturing a backroom dealing, a deal emerged.

The "Raw Politics" from Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What to do at the Convention with Hillary Clinton and her 18 million supporters has been a burning question for Democratic leaders. One they hope will finally fizzle with the decision to put her name in nomination.

"As a show of unity and in recognition of the historic race she ran and the fact that she was the first woman to compete in all of our nation's primary contests."

Exactly how the Democrats will handle the details is not clear. But the roll call vote for candidates has been a staple of political conventions since the '60s. And many Clinton supporters want to loudly and publicly state their choice at this Convention.

In 1992, Pat Schroeder was the last woman to get votes at a major party convention. She got eight votes. Clinton could expect a lot more. Then political analysts say, she could politely decline the support and urge everyone to get behind Obama.

Larry Sabato is at the University of Virginia.

LARRY SABATO, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: If she can make it very high- minded, it's all about letting the people's voice be heard, letting the delegates speak. And that will supposedly lead to greater unity. Of course, in the process, she benefits enormously.

FOREMAN: She benefits because it puts the party's stamp of recognition on her accomplishments.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign.

FOREMAN: She benefits because if Obama loses, she's well positioned to run again in four years.

Still, plenty can go wrong. Conventions these days are all about selling the party's candidate to the public, not celebrating the one they didn't pick.

Unlike Bill Clinton and Al Gore, John Kerry was kept from unanimous acclamation by 43 votes going to Dennis Kucinich. If Obama loses too much attention, too many votes to Hillary Clinton --

MARK PRESTON, CNN POLITICAL EDITOR: That's certainly what the Republican Party would love to see on what a night should be about unification.

FOREMAN: Hillary Clinton vows that will not happen, and assures conspiracy fans there will be no last-minute grab for the nomination either. She will take her bow, enjoy the moment, and then hit the trail to get Obama elected.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: A different kind of coming together happens on Saturday. Barack Obama, John McCain on stage with Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in California where Pastor Warren is hosting a forum on leadership and compassion.

CNN of course is going to bring it to you live. Coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, on "360" the best political team on TV weighs in on the Democratic Convention and the very delicate stagecraft to bringing Hillary supporters into the Obama tent.

And the controversy continues to squirrel around the accuracy of the ages of China's very youthful-looking female gymnasts. We're "Digging Deeper" with U.S. gold medal winner Shannon Miller.

And before she became famous for her work in the kitchen, it turned out Julia Child was doing her best to keep her lowest profile possible, as a spy. We're going "Up Close."

Stick around.


COOPER: We have some more "Breaking News" to report out of Georgia. We have just received some video of Turkish journalists actually coming under fire. Take a look at this.

You actually hear the shots and watch the window. You'll see what happens. There you saw the window breaking out. Clearly they're trying to back up the vehicle. The man -- we're told one journalist was shot in the eye. We are not sure -- his left eye. We're not sure of his current condition.

Again, this video has just come in to CNN. Though, we are seeing this for the first time that you are seeing it. This on a day in which we have already seen one Georgian journalist shot, or at least grazed in the arm while doing a live shot.

This is the Georgian journalist earlier shot. The camera continued to roll. They remained live and here you see her being patched up. It was a minor wound, whether the bullet ricocheted or actually just scraped her arm is not clear.

This is the new video into CNN, Turkish journalists, a carload. You can see them backing up clearly in some area where they realized they were too close. It's not clear whether this was Russian troops, Georgian troops, south Ossetian troops. They were in south Ossetia we're told. We don't know the exact location.

They were on their way toward Tskhinvali in south Ossetia. Obviously, it is a -- they were traveling from Gori to Tskhinvali and, again, the sources of the shooting is not identifiable at this time.

There were four journalists in the car. We understand one -- the reporter was hit in his left eye. They were told, they were taken to a makeshift hospital in an underground shelter in Tskhinvali. And I'm just reading this literally as we're getting it.

It is obviously always a very difficult situation when you have multiple actors, armed actors, Georgian troops, Russian troops, irregular forces from south Ossetia.

Again, we are seeing this for the first time. One of the people in this vehicle was shot. There you can see it looks like they're treating him there on the right using some of their clothing to try to bandage him up.

That's one of the dangers of reporting in a war zone.

Back to politics now. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, putting the question of what happens at the convention to rest. Her name will be put up for a roll call vote. She'll encourage her delegates to vote for him.

Let's talk strategy now with CNN's senior political analyst, David Gergen, Mark Halperin, author of the "Page" on, and CNN's Candy Crowley.

Candy, did Barack Obama really want to have to do this or was his hand forced by the Clintons?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, depends on who you talk to. But in general, one would think that they would like a first round, everybody votes for him sort of roll call vote.

But having said that, the Obama campaign knew from the very beginning that this was something that the Clinton people wanted, that they wanted to put a period on history as they said, that she wanted to do this for Chelsea and that generation, to kind of wrap up a campaign that they felt was historic.

So they've known all along that this was going to happen. And what they watched over the past three months or so has been sort of the bubbling up of people who've said, we're going to demonstrate in the streets, we're not going to vote for him unless her name gets put in the nomination.

So eventually it seems that both sides sort of looked at it and said yes, let's put her name in the nomination.

COOPER: Mark, for those who aren't as politically astute as you are, what exactly does this mean? I mean what are we going to see on television? Just when they go to each delegation, a certain number of people will say, x number of votes for Hillary Clinton?

MARK HALPERIN, THE PAGE, TIME.COM: Well, part of why this is not a total success for the goal of having a unified convention is they have not worked out the details. Her name will be put in nomination. What happens after that, the timing of it, they do it in at 1:00 in the afternoon, do they do it in primetime? We just don't know yet. They're still working that out.

This is a good deal for solving 37.2 percent I think of the problems that they have. But there's still a lot of problems out there, including Bill Clinton and what his role at the convention will be. The logistics of how this roll call works.

And also don't be fooled into thinking this means it's one big happy family working together in concert. They're still -- to my mind, there's still a surprisingly large amount of negative feelings on both sides with these two camps.

COOPER: David, were you surprised this happened and how big a deal do you think this is?

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I was surprised, Anderson. The deal itself strikes me as very good for Democrats. It's the right thing to do. It will provide a cathartic moment as Hillary Clinton has been arguing for some time. And it's been my understanding that it will not be at prime time it will be during the late afternoon. Mark I think may have more recent information, but I understand that's what has been anticipated.

But I have to tell you, Anderson, the process by which this was reached was sloppy. And I do not think it reflects well on the Obama camp how this was reached.

A few weeks ago, first of all, he said, ok now Hillary is going to have a slot. And then there were a lot of cries, well, that's not good enough. So they said, ok now, Bill is going to have a slot. Well, that's not good enough. Well, now we're going to have a roll call vote, which they didn't seem to want a few weeks ago.

They have given the appearance, I'm sure they didn't mean this, I'm sure they wanted to be gracious, but they have given the appearance that if you push hard enough against the Obama campaign, you can roll them, that they'll give in. And from my way of thinking, they would have been better off had they sat down and had one negotiation, come up with one final agreement, stuck to that agreement, had it comprehensive.

And so here's the deal. Rather than this piece by piece by piece and even now as Mark is saying, some of the details aren't worked out. I do not think as a candidate you want to be in a position where you appear to be, while wanting to be gracious, you appear to be making concessions.

COOPER: And I guess, Mark then, your critics say well, you can't stand up to the Clintons, you can't stand up to Putin.

HALPERIN: Well, there you go, there's that argument. But I think it's -- David says they want to be gracious. I think part of them does want to be gracious. But from the Clinton point of view, the biggest complaint is they believe Obama is not being gracious. Obama's camp basically says we won, the Clintons are the only people in the party we seem to have a problem with, why can't they just fall in line? The Clinton people say, Obama won, why can't he be a little giving and gracious and recognize not only the position we're in, but from Hillary Clinton's point of view, the position her supporters are in.

She has been warning and her people have been warning for a long time, mishandle this and you're going to have a lot of angry people in Denver. And this is an accommodation to that as much as it is to the Clintons themselves.

COOPER: Candy, is there any potential for embarrassment here for Obama, some sort of surprise during the convention?

CROWLEY: Well, I don't think some sort of surprise, but I do think that in a convention, which is designed to have nothing go wrong. This is one giant promotion for the party, that, you know, 100 people, 200 people can make noise.

Having said that, what the people take away from a convention is the speech of the nominee. And unless something horrific happens on the floor, which no one expects at this point, certainly there'll be arguments and certainly there are the dead enders who are not going to give up on Hillary Clinton.

But honestly, one good speech on Thursday night and let's remember Barack Obama is pretty good at giving speeches in front of 75,000 people, that's going to be the takeaway. And that's what the Obama camp is depending on.

COOPER: Candy Crowley, are you saying there are just a few dead enders? Haven't I heard that term somewhere before?

CROWLEY: You have, you have.

HALPERIN: Hillary Clinton promises there will be candy thrown at Barack Obama.

COOPER: Is that right? Candy Crowley, thanks so much. Mark Halperin, David Gergen.

Up next, our "Planet in Peril," frogs and other amphibians vanishing at a rate never seen before. What is going on and can the damage be reversed? When "360" continues.


COOPER: In tonight's "Planet in Peril" report, a warning about the future of frogs and other amphibians. Hundreds of species are already lost for good. And this threat of mass extinction could also have repercussions for the rest of us.

CNN's Dan Simon investigates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Frogs have been around for hundreds of millions of years. When the dinosaurs went extinct, the frogs survived. But now these creatures are at risk; frogs, salamanders and other amphibians you've never heard of, dying at an alarming rate.

VANCE VREDENBURG, SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY: We think in just the last couple of decades, 20 years, we've lost hundreds of species. They've gone extinct.

SIMON: Vance Vredenburg is a biologist at San Francisco State University. He and other researchers have identified a common thread, a fungus that has infected habitats all over the world. It causes a fatal skin infection.

VREDENBURG: What's really alarming is when we lose species in the world's most protected areas, areas of national parks and wilderness; places that we have set aside as protected areas.

SIMON: This frog is representative of the problem facing amphibians. This is the southern mountain yellow-legged frog. It is native to California. A decade ago, there were tens of thousands of these frogs. But now there are thought to be only a few hundred left.

Scientists also believe global warming may be responsible for the loss of amphibians. The theory, the animals become more susceptible to the fungus with a change in temperature. Expanding cities and suburbs and their destruction of habitats, also a factor in the shrinking populations. Put it all together, it means that 2,000 amphibian species, a third of them, are threatened with extinction.

VREDENBURG: One male and two females.

SIMON: These three yellow-legged frogs are the only known survivors of what was a flourishing population in one California lake. Plans are under way to use them for breeding and release their offspring back into the wild.

So why should anyone really care about this? Well, amphibians are central in the ecosystems they inhabit. For one thing, they help keep insect numbers in check.

So insect populations would balloon just if you take amphibians out of the equation.

VREDENBURG: Exactly. We better get used to a lot of mosquitoes. And what does a lot of mosquitoes mean? Potentially, big outbreaks of malaria and other diseases like that. So there could be compounding factors that we can't even imagine right now.

SIMON: Because amphibians have survived when many other species have perished, scientists wonder if their die-off may serve as a warning to us.

In other words, is there a disease or an environmental change that could threaten humans? Scientists hope that by studying these creatures, they may be able to provide answers. Dan Simon, CNN, San Francisco.


COOPER: So strange.

A reminder, don't miss our second installment of "Planet in Peril Battle Lines" airing in December.

Coming up, Wal-Mart and politics, did the giant retailer try to pressure its employees to vote Republican this November? Wal-Mart says absolutely not. We're "Keeping Them Honest" just ahead.

Plus a story that has more twists and turns than an Olympic tumbling routine; China's women gymnastics, so talented and so small. Are they really old enough to compete? The debate continues.

And Julia Child's other life outside the kitchen and the limelight as an international spy. What we learned today about her double life; digging up secrets for the government.

All that is ahead on "360."


COOPER: Tonight, Wal-Mart is tangled up in a new controversy, this time over politics in the workplace and whether the world's largest retailer is pressuring its workers to help defeat Barack Obama. Wal- Mart employees say they are being told by their employer to vote Republican in November.

Wal-Mart officials do not see it that way. At the center of the story is a pro-labor law that Wal-Mart says will drive up its cost and the question, did Wal-Mart cross a legal line?

CNN's Randi Kaye tonight "Keeping Them Honest."


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The featured special at retail giant Wal-Mart these days is not for its customers but instead for its employees. And to some of the company's 1.5 million workers, the special message sounds like vote Republican. Stop Obama.

The theory goes if Wal-Mart can help keep Obama out of the White House that could keep labor unions out of Wal-Mart. After all, Obama has supported the pro-labor measure called the Employee Free Choice Act and said he would sign it if elected.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think that we should pass the Employee Free Choice Act. That will make it easier for unions to organize, make it harder for companies to block unionization.

KAYE: And that could drive up Wal-Mart's costs. Wal-Mart employees, like the one who sent us this e-mail, say they were summoned to meetings in recent weeks.

The e-mailer, a former department manager from Missouri, asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. He told us he attended a meeting led by his human resources director.

"He verbally and with a Power Point presentation informed us that a Democratic government would be bad for Wal-Mart. We were basically told that we should vote Republican because they were against this bill and it would be better for Wal-Mart. Several people were offended because we felt like we were being told how to vote."

The company says the meetings were only to educate managers and hourly supervisors about the Employee Free Choice Act and to explain why Wal- Mart is opposed to it. Some pro-labor groups say yes, the company is violating election law and are demanding the Federal Election Committee investigate.

Today, the group has filed a federal complaint against Wal-Mart. Josh Goldstein with American Rights at Work says he's heard complaints from dozens of Wal-Mart employees.

JOSH GOLDSTEIN, AMERICAN RIGHST AT WORK: Barack Obama's name was mentioned in the meeting saying that he was a co-sponsor of this legislation. If he becomes president that the Employee Free Choice Act would pass.

KAYE: Goldstein says the act would help workers bargain for higher wages and better working conditions. CNN obtained this memo from Wal- Mart's chief operating officer to the management team. It reads --

"If anyone representing our company gave the impression we were telling associates how to vote, they were wrong and acting without approval. No matter what your personal political preferences might be, as a company we will not take sides."

Did Wal-Mart break the law? Federal election rules do allow companies to advocate for a candidate but only to stockholders, salaried managers and executives, not to hourly employees.

This law professor says Wal-Mart walked right up to the line but didn't cross it. Discussing consequences of an election he says is not illegal.

NATANIEL PERSILY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR: They have to have crossed an objective threshold into expressly advocating for the election or defeat of a candidate. If they're just talking about legislation, if they're talking about the pros and cons of different candidate's positions, then there's nothing wrong with that.

KAYE: Wal-Mart says "We believe that if the FEC looks into this, they will find what we've know all along, that we did nothing wrong.


COOPER: Randi joins us now live from Orlando.

Do we know what Wal-Mart's relationship has been in the past with the two parties, do they favor one more than the other?

KAYE: Anderson, at least financially, Wal-Mart does seem to favor the Republicans although now the company is saying that its political donations show that it can work with leaders from both political parties.

We checked with the Center for Responsible Politics, which tracks political donations, just to see where the money is going and we can tell you that we learned that Wal-Mart donated more than $1 million this year in this political campaign to both parties, the Democrats and the Republicans, giving the Republicans 56 percent of the money, the Democrats 44 percent.

Very different in the years past when the Republicans got most of the cash. Back in 1996, Republicans got 98 percent of the money; the Democrats just 2 percent.

COOPER: Interesting. Randi Kaye, "Keeping Them Honest." Thanks, Randy.

Still ahead on "360," stunning development, the controversy over China's gymnasts. Evidence that suggests that China's government knew that one of its female gymnasts wasn't 16 when she competed this week. Now that evidence, it's gone missing.

Plus, all chefs have secrets but Julia Child trumps them all. Coming up, her hidden double life as a spy.

You're watching "360."


COOPER: China's women's gymnastics team won gold this week, beating the prevailing world champion, the United States. There's no question China's gymnasts outperformed the U.S. team, but they cleaned up under a cloud of doubt.

It was obvious to everyone watching that the Chinese gymnasts are much smaller than their competitors. A debate now has been raging over whether three of the six Chinese gymnasts are actually as old as their passports indicate.

Today, the Associated Press says it found another Chinese news report online from November giving one of the girl's ages as just 13. The AP says that article was later pulled from the Website.

China insists all the gymnasts are old enough to compete.

Let's dig deeper though with former Olympic gymnast, Shannon Miller. She won gold in 1996 and also medaled in 1992. Also joining me, "360" MD Sanjay Gupta.

Shannon thanks for being with us. How much does age matter when doing gymnastics at this level?

SHANNON MILLER, 1996 OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: Well, you know, you take the good with the bad. At a younger age, obviously you can flip around a little bit easier; you don't have as much body weight, not as much height to flip around. But at the same time you have less experience than the older girls.

COOPER: Is there, Sanjay, a physical advantage to competing at a younger age and smaller stature? I mean, I guess that Shannon said, you kind of flip around more.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think from a medical standpoint, your bones just aren't as hard as they are as they get older. That's an ossification process it's called. So you're more flexible frankly.

So technically you can do things you probably couldn't do when you get older. The advantage of being older is you have a little bit more control over your body overall. So you're not quite as floppy maybe. Yes, there are some advantages to simply being younger.

COOPER: You know, Sanjay. Let's look at some stats. According to officials, the Chinese gymnasts average 16 1/2 years old, they're 4'7" and on average are 77 pounds.

A 2002 study by the National Institutes for Health said that 11-year- old Chinese girls averaged 4'9", weigh 80 pounds while 17-year-old Chinese girls average 5'2" and 114 pounds.

It does seem like they're closer to the age of an 11-year-old. Is there any explanation for that? Other than they're closer to that age?

GUPTA: One thing is and Shannon might know a bit about this as well, is that people who train extremely hard, gymnasts especially women, they do tend to change their hormonal concentrations as well. They tend to suppress estrogen and as a result they may -- the estrogen production may slow down the overall aging process, or at least the way they seem to age.

It's hard to say. That's true of a lot of athletic sports where there's intense training at a very early age. But one thing is that you know, besides looking at passports, from a medical standpoint, you can get x-rays of the hands, of the hips and get a pretty good idea within months or maybe a year or so of how old somebody is biologically by looking at those things.

COOPER: Shannon, in 1991, you actually lost the gold medal to a North Korean gymnast who lied about her age. She claimed to be 15 which at that time was within the range limit. But she was actually under age. Did you know at the time that something wasn't right with her?

MILLER: I didn't know at the time. I was so into what I was doing, thinking only about my routines and my skills. It didn't come out until later really, it was kind of a story broke at the Olympic games in 1992.

She did keep her medals and she was the best athlete at that competition. She totally deserved the gold medal. But it's one of those things that if you're going to have that rule, then let's enforce the rule.

COOPER: And Shannon, I guess had the Chinese not won, no one would be talking about this, had they not won the gold medal this time around.

MILLER: You know, at the same time you've got other countries in the mix too. It's not just China and the USA. There are other countries and who knows at this point what could have happened?

The USA had some major mistakes, so they still may not have won. But at the same time if you have the three girls that are considered under age or under scrutiny for being under age, made up the entire uneven bar squad for the Chinese team and that's really where they pulled ahead from the Americans. So you'll never know.

COOPER: Shannon, when you see them, did you think some of these girls are under age?

MILLER: Well, there were a couple of them I hadn't heard about before. They're very new on the scene. And usually you have a bio that you look at and you see their international experience and when you're going to be on the Chinese Olympic team, you better have some experience.

So it was unusual to have a couple of the girls that look so young but also didn't have any experience to back them up.

COOPER: Briefly, Sanjay, if they are 14 or younger, how much damage are they doing to their bodies?

GUPTA: It can be pretty significant. Your bones start to fuse together as you get older. So there's these things called the growth plates, they're not fully developed at a younger age. You're putting a lot of wear and tear on those growth plates, possibly stunting growth later on in life.

Again, this changing of the hormonal balance in the body; that can have long-term repercussions as well. It could keep them small even as they grow older.

COOPER: Interesting. A lot of people weighing in on the blog; weigh in if you want.

Shannon Miller, thank you so much. Sanjay Gupta as well, thank you.

GUPTA: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next, the famous chef with an international following. She was also part on an international spy ring. The secret life of Julia Child; new details just ahead.

And you know the picture we're sort of obsessed with it on this show for some reason. It is, of course, do we have that picture? No, we don't.

We'll take look at the Sasquatch coming up. Yeti, Big Foot, whatever you want to call them. Brace yourselves, a new photo released tonight that's destined to become the iconic picture of the beast. I'm not kidding.

We'll be right back.



JULIA CHILD, INTERNATIONAL CHEF: That's all for today on "The French Chef." This is Julia Child. Bon appetit.


COOPER: Before she mastered the secrets of French cooking, Julia Child mastered the secrets of, well, secrets. Declassified reports released today confirmed Child worked for the Office of Strategic Services, the OSS, a World War II era agency, the forerunner of the CIA.

We had heard reports that she had worked for the OSS in the past. But this is the first time that we're learning exactly what she and other famous Americans did.

"360's" Erica Hill reports.


CHILD: Welcome to "The French Chef." I'm Julia Child.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Best known for her cooking show on PBS, America's first TV chef was whipping at specialties long before she fell in love with French cuisine, including shark repellent, used to keep creatures away from explosives aimed at German, U-boats in World War II. And just one of her duties at the Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the CIA.

CHARLES PINCK, PRESIDENT, OSS SOCIETY: Part of Julia's responsibilities was to assign names to various teams that were being sent behind enemy lines by the OSS. She chose the names of fruits, the names of walnut, names of various nuts; all food related which I think probably gave a hint to where her true talents lay.

HILL: Elizabeth McIntosh, now 93, was an OSS propaganda specialist. She remembers those fruity names.

ELIZABETH MCINTOSH, OSS OPERATIVE: She used to have great fun calling them all sorts of nuts, macadamia nut and walnut, "Team Walnut is now off in Burma."

HILL: The national archives just released the personnel files of nearly 24,000 OSS operatives, unmasking a World War II spy ring that reads like a who's who, including Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg and white sox catcher Mo Berg who spoke not only German but Japanese. And actor Sterling Hayden known for his role later on in "The Godfather" was said to be one of the toughest spies of his day.

The OSS recruited from everywhere, from academics to recent immigrants to prisoners. Marlena Dietrich even worked with the OSS recording American songs in German for propaganda broadcasts which earned her a medal of freedom.

While many of the former spies kept quiet about their days in the OSS, Julia Child's time overseas was well-documented. She met her husband while serving in what is now Sri Lanka. The two later transferred to China and it seems her days in the secret agency were never far from her heart.

PINCK: She gave her kitchen to the Smithsonian shortly before she died. When they were going through the drawers, they found some OSS paraphernalia that she kept. I think it may have been a mirror or some sort of a signaling device.

HILL: And a signal of her not so secret past.


HILL: And Anderson, I spoke this with Jacques, who was a friend of hers more than 40 years actually. He told me both he and his wife, their first reaction was that she really would have gotten a kick out of all of this.

He said he never suspected it, that she talked about her husband's time in the State Department and said she was just a clerk. Never did anything exciting and that she joked saying, "Imagine me, six feet tall with the voice that I have trying to be a spy and be inconspicuous, can you imagine what that is like?

COOPER: That's amazing.

HILL: Apparently she can imagine.

COOPER: It's so cool that they released those records and finding that stuff. Amazing.

HILL: Yes. Some really fascinating information in all of them. We'll be coming through those a little bit more.

Also I want to get you an update. A number of people in the blog have been asking you about the breaking news that you just brought us, Anderson, that video of the journalist, the Turkish journalist being shot.

Here's what we know, apparently these journalists came under fire in south Ossetia on Sunday but the tape is just now making its way to us. One of the folks in that car was hit in the eye but it is still unclear who opened fire on them. Just moments ago, we did learn though that all the journalists are safe and are now back in Turkey.

Some news on the home front; the number of homes in foreclosure jumped to 55 percent last month that's compared to the same as a year ago. California, Nevada and Florida were some of the hardest hit states.

Tonight, though in California, Ed McMahon no longer facing foreclosure; thanks to help from another celebrity. Donald Trump plans to buy McMahon's Beverly Hills home for an undisclosed amount and says he will then lease it back to him.

And San Jose State University has announced the winners of its annual bad writing contest. Participants are told to do their very best to write their very worst. The top writer takes home a cool $250.

We thought we would let our crews share the winning work. Story time, I believe, Frank, you have a little something for us?

FRANK: Now, our "Beat "360"" winners, our daily challenge to viewers to show up our staffers by coming up with a better caption.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frank, read the script.

FRANK: I don't have the script. I'm sorry. Thank you. Thank you.

COOPER: This is worst writing award.

FRANK: This is the worst.

Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride, burning rubber and like the city, their passion was open 24/7. Steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm moist white breath through manhole covers stamped by the Delaney brothers in New Jersey.

COOPER: Wow. That was great reading.

FRANK: Thank you.

That was really -- Terrible writing

COOPER: Very bad writing but very good reading. We have the "Beat 360" winner, I believe.

HILL: Maybe Frank should do those, too?

COOPER: I think Frank should do this actually. He was doing a good job of it.

So you know, that's the picture on the "Beat 360" challenge. Our intern came up with a quote, "Julia Child's secret spy name, the tenderizer."

That was very good, that was from Van, our summer intern. Our viewer winner is Mitchell from Jamesville, Wisconsin. His caption, "Back in the day, I used to tenderness and cleavage in my work with the OSS. Now it's tenderizer and cleaver. Still works."

HILL: A cleaver? What? A meat cleaver perhaps? Thank you, Mitchell.

COOPER: How clever, Mitchell. What was that?

HILL: She said --

COOPER: What was that? What did she say? All right, Frank. Thank you, Mitchell. Very clever, cleaver, your "Beat 360" T-shirt is on the way. You can check out all the other stuff at the site. That's the T-shirt front and back.

Coming up on the program, get ready for the latest proof, that's right, photographic proof, even photogenic proof of big foot. No, not that picture. There's a new one, a new picture allegedly of Big Foot. We're going to show it to you.


COOPER: Time now for the "Shot." Erica, you don't see this everyday. Everyone knows the Big Foot or Sasquatch, whatever you prefer, is camera-shy. Today, a new picture surfaced. It is quite a shot of Yeti. Do we have that picture?

HILL: It's creepy.

COOPER: His body is stuffed into a freezer. We're not sure what the stuff is at the bottom of the picture, in fact we don't really want to know. That's allegedly the face at the top, you can see the teeth there which looked like they've been widened.

The creature, we're told is 7'7" inches tall, weighs more than 500 pounds. It has reddish and blackish gray eye. It's feet are flat, similar to human feet, allegedly. These are the guys who are taking credit for this. Two are from Georgia and hunt Big Foot in their spare time. The third is described as a world famous Big Foot hunter.

They say they found Sasquatch in an undisclosed location in North Georgia, we're not sure if that's also where Dick Cheney stays. They also say they saw several similar creatures that were still alive. They claim they're going to have a press conference tomorrow. I don't think CNN's going to cover it live though.

HILL: I don't know that we are.

And I do want you to know because you know and many of our viewers know I have a very good friend who very seriously does go out on Big Foot hunts, not to hurt him just to prove the existence.

I have called and emailed him, Scott, I have not heard back. But I'm interested to get his take because frankly I'm creeped-out by what's in that crate.

COOPER: He could either be excited or he could feel like -- the meaning of his life over if Sasquatch is actually that.

HILL: I hope that's not it.

COOPER: We will let you know what happens.

You can see all the most recent shots on our Website, You can also see other segments from the program, read the blog, check out the "Beat 360" picture.

That does it for this edition of "360."

Thanks for watching.

Larry King starts right now.