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Parents of 16 Children Killed; Interview with President Obama; Jackson Hearing Delayed; Shuttle Endeavour Launch Threatened; Sotomayor Finally Gets To Speak

Aired July 13, 2009 - 17:00   ET



Happening now, an exclusive interview with President Obama. He goes one-on-one with CNN's Anderson Cooper in Africa. The world will take note of what he says about the war in Afghanistan, what's going on in Iran and his plans for the ban on gays serving openly in the United States military. Stand by.

Also, startling new images of North Korea's Kim Jong Il looking gaunt and frail. Now there are reports of a life-threatening illness and they're raising new questions about who will succeed him.

Plus, new insight into the potential custody battle over Michael Jackson's children and a time line on the criminal investigation. "INSIDE EDITION'S" chief correspondent Jim Moret -- he'll be here. He's been talking to sources close to the family. He'll be joining us live this hour.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: All that coming up.

But let's begin with some breaking news out of Florida. There's some new information coming in about that horrible crime -- a murder that's hard to comprehend -- the murder of a Florida couple with 16 children, most of them adopted with special needs.

CNN's David Mattingly has been working the story for us in Pensacola, Florida. There's some new videotape, some surveillance material coming up. We heard from the sheriff just a little while ago. This is really, really a horrible crime.

But what do we know now -- David?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The sheriff telling us that when you look at this video, you will see that there are several people gaining entry into the home the night that the couple was killed in their home. There's video surveillance set up at the house that shows men entering the front and the rear of the building. The sheriff's department now believes that there were six to eight people involved in the break-in at this house and the murder of the couple in their home. That's the headline here.

But, also, they're expecting more arrests. They are expecting -- right now they are talking to other persons of interest. They're expecting arrests, possibly tonight. And they're looking for some other people they haven't quite found yet. They released this photo. I'm going to show it to you right now.

This photo -- this was taken in a Wal-Mart parking lot a couple of weeks ago. This person in the middle is one of the men that has already been arrested and charged with murder in this case. Investigators want to know who these two men are and where they might be.

So right now, they're looking for six to eight people total involved in this attack on the home and the brutal murder of this couple in their home. They're also telling us they're able to determine that robbery was a motive, but not necessarily the motive. The sheriff still not telling us what was taken from the house, if anything.

Also, he is very good at keeping this mystery going -- giving us some small details each time he comes up here, but not giving us the conclusion -- not telling us exactly why this couple had to die in this break-in.

BLITZER: I just want to be precise, David.

What you're saying is three people have now been arrested and they're looking, what, for another three to five people, for a total of six to eight involved in this alleged conspiracy?

MATTINGLY: That's correct, three arrested over the weekend. They're expecting to find others -- six, up to six to eight total that were involved in the attack on this home and in the double murder. And they're expecting possible arrests tonight.

And the way things are going here, every single move seems to bring two others behind it. So, Wolf, we will definitely keep you posted.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, David.

We'll check back with you.

And now to a CNN exclusive -- the country's first African- American president on his first trip to Sub-Saharan Africa. And CNN's Anderson Cooper gained special access to President Obama during his visit to Ghana.

The president had some strong words about the post-election crackdown in Iran. And he also revealed his plan for the don't ask/don't tell policy -- the ban on gays serving openly in the United States military. That's coming up. But first President Obama reveals what weighs on him as commander-in-chief.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: This is the first time you've sent U.S. troops into -- into combat. You Senate t21,000. There are 4,000 Marines right now involved in Helmand Province.

Does it make you think differently about the conflict, knowing that you were the one who sent troops in?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Absolutely. I think it's the most profound decision that I've made since I've been president. And I think about it every day. You know, I have to sign letters for those who are fallen.

We've seen a ramp-up of fighting taking place in Afghanistan. During the G8 summit, I was with Gordon Brown as he received news reports that you had additional British soldiers killed.

The entire coalition is making enormous sacrifices. And obviously, our soldiers are fighting hard.. And so I want to make sure that we've got the best possible strategy to succeed in a very limited aim. And that is to ensure that Al Qaeda and its allies cannot launch attacks against the U.S. homeland and U.S. interests.

COOPER: On Iran, you had indicated, reportedly, to Israel that you're basically going to give them until the end of the year to make some sort of progress on their nuclear program.

Do they still have that much time given all that's happened now in Iran?

OBAMA: Well, as I said before, given the outrageous violence that we've seen directed against peaceful demonstrators post-election, the crackdown by hard-liners against journalists, the raiding of foreign embassies, it's not clear whether or not you have the kind of room in Iran that would walk through the door that we've left open for them to stand-down on nuclear weapons development and to be able to pursue a more peaceful path with their neighbors and abide by international norms.

COOPER: So, in your mind, something has changed?

OBAMA: Well, I think that it's still in flux. And what we have to do is evaluate, over the next several months, both how the Iranian leadership works through what appears to be still dissension within its ranks. I think that it's important for us to recognize that although the prospects of bilateral engagement may have been shifted as a consequence of this post-election activity, that we still have a multilateral tract with the Europeans and the Russians and the Chinese and others; that no matter what happened, we were going to have to mobilize to help obtain some sort of serious agreement with the Iranians and that diplomatic effort is going to continue.

So, you know, what we agreed to at the G8 was that we would re- evaluate at the end of August, the end of September, how the Iranian government is responding. And my hope is that they continue to see this as an opportunity.

But obviously, you know, what's happened over the last several weeks raises serious questions.

COOPER: One more question before I go to Africa -- don't ask/don't tell. It requires an act of Congress to overturn it. You said you wanted to overturn it. But your critics -- and even some of your supporters say, look, you could stop enforcement right now of don't ask/don't tell. You could defer enforcement you prod Congress to act.

OBAMA: Look, I've had conversations with Bob Gates as well as Admiral Mullen about the fact that I want to see this law changed. I also want to make sure that, A, we are not simply ignoring a Congressional law. If Congress passes a law that is Constitutionally valid, then it's not appropriate for the executive branch simply to say we will not enforce a law. It is our duty to enforce laws.

I do think that there's the possibility, though, that we change how the law is being enforced, even as we are pursuing a shift in Congressional policy.

But, look, the bottom line is I want to see this changed. And we've already contacted Congressional allies. I want to make sure that it's changed in a way that ultimately works well for our military and for the outstanding gay and lesbian soldiers that are both currently enlisted or would like to enlist. And...

COOPER: Do you personally have a timetable in mind when you want to see it changed?

OBAMA: I'd like to see it done sooner rather than later. And we've begun a process to not only work it through Congress, but also to make sure that the Pentagon has thought through all the ramifications of how this would be most effective.


BLITZER: And you can see much more of Anderson's exclusive one- on-one interview with President Obama. It's later tonight on "A.C. 360" -- a special report. That's at 10:00 p.m. Eastern tonight right here on CNN.

They stole the hearts of people all over the world and now how many are wondering what will happen to Michael Jackson's kids -- why a delay in their custody hearing might, in the end, turn out to be a good thing.

Plus, a big difference revealed between swine flu and the regular flu -- the part of the body it hits hard and why a new study has researchers worried.

And we're awaiting the launch of the space shuttle Endeavour. These are live pictures coming in from over at the Kennedy Space Center. The launch is set to go in the next hour. We'll see if it goes. And if it goes, you'll see it live, right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: There are more twists and turns in the aftermath of Michael Jackson's death. His sister makes a stunning allegation of murder, posthumous sales of his albums are going through the roof and a court hearing to consider who will have custody of his three children has now been put off again.

Let's talk about this.

Joining us, "INSIDE EDITION" chief correspondent, Jim Moret, who's been helping us better understand what's been going on.

What is this delay, first of all?

I think it's supposed to be today, but it's really going to be a week from today for this custody hearing to take place.

So what does that suggest to you?

JIM MORET, "INSIDE EDITION" CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: It suggests to me that both sides, Debbie Rowe's side and Katherine Jackson's side, are talking. And I think that's a good thing, because I think in the best interests of the children, you don't want a fight hashed out in court or in public, certainly. You want something worked out in private.

And the delay suggests to me -- and one of the attorney's statements also suggests to me that that's what's happening.

As a matter of fact, I talked to a close family friend today who told me that there will be no fight and that this will be resolved.

BLITZER: Because, it was interesting, in the announcement -- the court announcement -- they pointed to both Debbie Rowe and the mother of Michael Jackson -- both of them asking the court to delay the hearing for a week, as if -- it's as if they got together and collaborated in this request.

MORET: Right. And Debbie Rowe has made one statement. She -- first she said to a local reporter she wants the custody of her children. The only thing that she said emphatically was she wants to keep Joe Jackson away. We know that in the will -- Michael Jackson's will -- Joe Jackson, his father, is not listed as a guardian. Only his mother, Katherine, is.

And also, before the will was announced, Katherine went to court alone, without Joe Jackson. So it looks like Joe Jackson may not be part of raising these children, which I think would satisfy Debbie Rowe completely and allow the two sides to form an agreement.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting, last week, when the L.A. police chief, Bill Bratton, spoke to Ted Rowlands at CNN, he said, you know, he's not ruling anything out, including, potentially, the issue of homicide.

Well, now La Toya Jackson, the sister of Michael Jackson, tells the British tabloids -- and we believe she was paid for these interviews, an undisclosed sum of money -- that she believes her brother was actually murdered. Murdered -- that's the word she used.

When you read that, when you heard about that, Jim, as someone who has covered this story for a long time, what did you think?

MORET: Well, I think that that she may be using the word murder where he might be using the word negligent homicide or -- or criminal negligence, because I think that's specifically what the LAPD is looking for.

They're looking to see if the substance, Diprivan, may have been used in Michael Jackson's home, which is completely outside of normal medical protocol and there would be no reason for it. They want -- they're looking specifically to see if there was malfeasance, malpractice, criminal negligence involved. And you could have charges stemming from that that would be homicide, not quite murder.

But La Toya went a step further. She said that there were people around him that were trying to control him and using drugs. And I did speak with a close family friend who said that many people in Jackson's family feel the exact same way -- they think that people around him looked at Michael Jackson as a cash machine -- an ATM machine -- and that they could better control him if he was kept drugged.

BLITZER: You -- you went to law school. Manslaughter is the -- is the word I've heard that has been described as potentially a charge -- negligent manslaughter. That's short of homicide, if you will, or murder.

MORET: That's correct. There would be no intent to kill. However, it would be willful, reckless and -- and, obviously, the behavior could or should cause death. And so, yes, you're absolutely right. That's exactly what the charge would be.

BLITZER: How significant is the fact that these albums -- these records of Michael Jackson, since his death, have really skyrocketed, what, 800,000 last week alone?

One in 10 of the top 100 albums is a Michael Jackson album. This potentially is very significant.

MORET: It's huge. A few weeks ago, Michael Jackson had sold perhaps 10,000 albums. Now, you're looking at 800,000 albums. I mean, that's a tremendous amount of albums. The record industry is down substantially. You're talking about a tremendous amount of sales. He could be getting as much as $2 per record royalty. He had a very lucrative deal on the royalties. A lot of money coming in.

Also, you have a whole new generation that's now being exposed to his music. And all of this setting the stage, Wolf, for even more music, because there was a vault of unreleased music that Michael Jackson had -- and, frankly, the record companies have, as well. And you could be seeing Michael Jackson recordings coming out for years.

BLITZER: So when La Toya Jackson suggests that he was worth more dead than he was alive, she may have a point. MORET: She may, unfortunately, have a point. I mean, for one thing, the spending has stopped, so all of the income is just accumulating.

Also, Michael Jackson -- his image, his name, his likeness -- are worth a tremendous amount of money. Elvis Presley's estate just sold his name and likeness for $100 million. You can assume that Michael Jackson's would be on par with that. And, clearly, his estate is only going to grow with time.

BLITZER: Jim Moret, thanks very much.

MORET: Sure.

BLITZER: President Obama comes out swinging on health care reform.


OBAMA: Don't bet against us. We are going to make this thing happen.


BLITZER: But can he turn those words into reality?

Alex Castellanos and Maria Echaveste -- they're standing by to discuss.

And startling new images raising new questions about the health of North Korea's Kim Jong Il.

Does he now have a life-threatening illness?

And what about a plan for succession?


BLITZER: Let's check back with Betty Nguyen to see what other stories are incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Betty, what's going on?

BETTY NGUYEN. CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's a lot going on, Wolf.

First up, this. We cannot confirm the date and time of this video, but we are told it was shot today at Tehran's largest cemetery, where an Iranian family buried their 19-year-old son. Now, they learned of his death almost a month after he was killed during a demonstration over Iran's disputed election results. A human rights group says the teenager apparently was shot to death June 15th, during one of the many violent protests. At least 20 people died in the weeks of chaos.

And this just in to CNN -- the FBI in Minneapolis tells CNN that it has made an arrest in a Somali terror recruiting case. The agency says Salah Ahmed was taken into custody Saturday. He's been indicted for providing material support to terrorists -- one count of conspiracy to kill, kidnap, maim or injure a foreign country and two counts of providing false statements. We'll continue to follow that story.

And after a day of intense fighting in Somalia between Islamic insurgents and government troops, dozens of people are reported dead and more than 150 wounded. Gunshots could still be heard today, even though witnesses said insurgents had retreated from areas around the presidential palace. Now Islamic groups have been battling the U.N.- backed government for the past two-and-a-half years. Somalia has not had a functioning government for 18 years.

And now onto this story -- could it be Jon and Kate plus 8 plus one?


Three weeks after Jon and Kate Gosselin announced their separation, well, photos of Jon Gosselin vacationing with another woman in France -- they have surfaced. identified her as the daughter of a surgeon who performed cosmetic surgery on Kate.

All right, are you following all this?

Well, the Gosselins' popular TLC reality show has followed the pair as they raised twins and sextuplets. Kate has filed for divorce -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Intriguing stuff.

Thanks very much, Betty, for that.

There's some developing news down in Florida.

I want to go to CNN's John Zarrella at the Kennedy Space Center.

The shuttle Endeavour is supposed spoke to take off, what, in about 40 minutes or so -- or something like that. But the question is the clouds...

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. 6:50, actually -- about 6:51 p.m. Eastern time liftoff...

BLITZER: Oh. So a little more than an hour-and-a-half from now.

ZARRELLA: Yes, we got a -- we got a little -- yes, plenty of time for the storm clouds to build up. But right now, in NASA parlance, everything is green and go for liftoff.

I know on the radars that -- that we have, we can see that there are some storm clouds to the -- the north and west, as well as to the south and west. And I can see them out here, primarily to the south and west of us.

Of course, you know, I look over my shoulder at the shuttle and it looks great out there. It's blue. That's the way it was yesterday, as well. But those -- the lightning was within 20 miles of the landing site here at the Cape. And that's critical, because if, for whatever reason, they would have to return here to the landing site, if there were an emergency on liftoff and they tried to make it back here, they want the sky perfectly clear at the landing strip here. That wasn't the case yesterday.

Today so far, the weather is holding. The astronauts are out at the launch pad. They are on board the shuttle Endeavour. In fact, we can see the pictures from the white room. The hatch is closed. And they're keeping their fingers crossed, Wolf, that today -- the fifth attempt -- will be the charm -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Well, we did see some lightning in the area. We'll see if that happens.

John, we'll check back with you.

Thank you.

Some top lawmakers are now questioning whether former Vice President Dick Cheney actually broke the law. He's accused of ordering the CIA to keep Congress in the dark about a counterterrorism program. Alex Castellanos and Maria Echaveste -- they're here with their take on what's going on.

Also, researchers uncover a disturbing difference between the regular flu and the so-called swine flu -- it's information we all need to know.

Plus, a family files a lawsuit against a genie -- why one court is actually taking this case seriously.


BLITZER: She would be only the third woman to serve on the United States Supreme Court, the first Hispanic. Today we finally heard from Sonia Sotomayor, as her confirmation hearings got underway.

Let's bring in our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley -- the stage has now been set, Candy, for Q&A tomorrow.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It absolutely has. You know, Wolf, by the clock, Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor listened to roughly three-and-a-half hours of Senatorial talk. Like any good nominee, she said as little as possible -- eight minutes -- while still addressing her critics judiciously.




CROWLEY (voice-over): Her turn -- Sotomayor on Sotomayor.

SOTOMAYOR: Many Senators have asked me about my judicial philosophy. Simple -- fidelity to the law. The task of a judge is not to make law, it is to apply the law.

CROWLEY: It is the crux of the matter -- how does the judge judge?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: But there must be a vigorous debate about the kind of judge America needs, because nothing less than our liberty is at stake. Must judges set aside or may judges consider their personal feelings in deciding cases?

Is judicial impartiality a duty or an option?

SOTOMAYOR: I want to make...

CROWLEY: The legal and political framework for the week was set off the bat, when every Senator on the 19 member Judiciary Committee broke roughly along party lines, Republicans suspicious that the words and some decisions are telltale signs of a liberal activist judge.

SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: Call it empathy, call it prejudice or call it sympathy, but whatever it is, it's not law. In truth, it's more akin to politics. And politics has no place in the courtroom.

CROWLEY: And it's clear Democrats intend to defend a judge with heavy credentials and a record they say is mainstream.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: She understands there's not one law for one race or another. There's not one law for one color or another. There's not one law for rich and a different one for poor. There's only one law.

CROWLEY: The Democrats were solicitous of her background and credentials. The Republicans, tough but polite. The nominee took it all in with her best poker-faced judge look and then laid the groundwork for Tuesday. Her allegiance is to the law, she says. Her background helps make her good at what she does.

SOTOMAYOR: My personal and professional experiences help me to listen and understand with the law always commanding the result in every case.

CROWLEY: It promises to be a high-minded discourse on judicial philosophy, but everybody on that panel understands the strong undertow of politics which may crop up. They also understand the reality of what's ahead.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Unless you have a complete meltdown, you're going to get confirmed. And I don't think you will, but, you know, the drama is being created here is interesting.


CROWLEY: Senator Graham said he had some questions about whether Sotomayor's judicial decisions are colored by her background. Both Graham and fellow Republican Orrin Hatch signaled they're at least inclined to believe that the nominee is qualified.

BLITZER: I guess the drama right now is how many Republicans eventually will wind up voting to confirm her. We assume all 60 Democrats will. Right.

CROWLEY: Yes. And I think, you know, what we heard, Wolf, as we sat there and listened today, both hatch and Lindsey Graham certainly sounded like two men who wanted to ask their questions but in the end were very inclined to vote for her. I think that will tend to influence other Republicans when the vote gets to the floor. She could have -- she could come in with a fairly good number.

BLITZER: And our hearing coverage will continue tomorrow morning, 9:30 a.m. eastern. That's when the questioning of Sonia Sotomayor begins.

Today's hearing, by the way, was interrupted by some anti- abortion protesters who shouted over members of the judiciary committee giving their statements. Listen to this.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The officer -- the officer will remove the person. The officer will remove the person. We will stand --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everybody is a guest of the senate. Judge Sotomayor has the respect to be heard. The senators deserve the respect of being heard. No outbursts will be allowed.




BLITZER: The witness list for Sotomayor's confirmation hearing is an interesting mix, by the way. Among those scheduled to testify on the judge's behalf, the former Major League Baseball pitcher David Cone. He was active in the players' union back in 1995 when Sotomayor effectively ended the baseball strike, ruling in favor of the players. Also, the former FBI director Louis Freeh. He and Sotomayor worked together as federal trial judges. Fellow New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg also will encourage senators to vote in favor of Sotomayor. But this man right here, Frank Ricci, he will take a different position. Frank Ricci is one of those New Haven, Connecticut, firefighters who sued the city for discrimination. Judge Sotomayor ruled against them, a decision later reversed by the United States Supreme Court.

Congress allegedly kept in the dark about a CIA counterterrorism program on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney. And now some are questioning whether he actually broke the law. CNN's Elaine Quijano is following the growing controversy for us -- Elaine?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, as President Obama tried pressing ahead with his domestic agenda, the possibility of a looming investigation threatens to steal some of the focus in Washington.


QUIJANO: Some Democrats want an investigation on the heels of the news that CIA director Leon Panetta told lawmakers former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered the CIA to keep key members of Congress in the dark about a still secret counterterrorism program.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: If that disclosure was not made, if it was ordered not to be made, that's a serious thing. I understand the House Intelligence Committee is going to take a look into this. I think it's entirely appropriate they do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There should be an investigation here?

DURBIN: I believe there should.

QUIJANO: A knowledge source familiar with the matter says the post-9/11 program was never fully operational. Still, a member of the House Intelligence Committee says Congress should have been kept many the loop.

REP. PATRICK MURPHY (D), PENNSYLVANIA: It's disturbing. You know, when it comes to national security, Wolf, you know that politics should always stop at the water's edge.

QUIJANO: And the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee raised the possibility the former vice president's actions broke the law.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, it is pretty clear that the law provides that the Congress should be briefed before any sensitive operation, and that is usually the case. We were not briefed here.

QUIJANO: But two former U.S. intelligence officials tell CNN there was no requirement to brief Congress because the program had not actually been implemented. Some Republicans accuse Democrats of playing politics.

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: I think to some extent it's an attempt to keep beating up on the previous administration when this administration has kind of stalled in its domestic agenda.


QUIJANO: CNN did leave messages seeking comment from former vice president Cheney's spokeswoman. So far, we have not heard back -- Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Elaine. Let's discuss what Elaine just reported. Democratic consultant Maria Echaveste, CNN political contributor, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.

Maria, is this something the Obama white house looks forward to or simply a distraction that they wish would go away?

MARIA ECHAVESTE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think the signals have been pretty clear that they want to look forward, not backward. But there are voices in Congress who have been quite vocal about the need to really get to the bottom of what was done in the past and whether any laws were broken. I think that this is why we have three branches of government. And so, the Obama administration may not want to focus on this but I think they're going to see some --

BLITZER: It looks like a key member of the Obama administration, Eric Holder, the attorney general, does want to investigate at least one part of the harsh interrogation techniques that may have gone beyond what even the Bush lawyers at the justice department authorized.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: He seems to be eager to dig up the past on all of these topics. And again, it's not in the interest of the Obama administration or the Republicans in Congress. I mean, clearly, it's -- as far as we know at this moment, this was not operational.

BLITZER: We're talking about the operation --

CASTELLANOS: The operation.

BLITZER: That vice president Dick Cheney at that time ordered the CIA not to inform Congress of.

CASTELLANOS: It once operational. Wolf, how many things haven't you done yet that -- please tell me about them. They weren't operational.

BLITZER: I believe the words they used, the CIA director Leon Panetta told Congress in briefing them about this operation that it wasn't, quote, fully operational or whatever the hell that means.

CASTELLANOS: Well, it's an operation from what we hear that was designed to up close lethal operations against al Qaeda. Frankly, I'm distressed that we didn't have that. I thought we did.

ECHAVESTE: I think the issue is really the attorney general, as we've learned over the years, is really the attorney for the country, not solely the president's attorney general. And that means that he has an obligation if the facts warrant it to ensure that no laws were broken by high ranking officials. I think, in this situation, what we need to understand and what he may have to do is what are the obligations the CIA had to inform Congress? And then if there was an obligation, why wasn't it done?

BLITZER: Maria teaches law at UC Berkeley, former deputy white house chief of staff during the Clinton administration. Guys, thanks very much.

He's suddenly pale and gaunt and these images of North Korea's Kim Jong-Il have everyone wondering what's wrong with him. Now a possible explanation surfaces.

And a new documentary on Ted Kennedy reveals former President Richard Nixon talking about spying on him.


BLITZER: Is North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il in failing health? A South Korean news agency reported today the 67-year-old leader in the north has pancreatic cancer. Our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty, is joining us now from the State Department.

What are you hearing about Kim Jong-Il's health, Jill?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just how sick is Kim Jong-Il? Well, nobody outside of the north seems to know for sure, and that is fueling concern about instability in North Korea.


DOUGHERTY: Does this video tell the real story? Intelligence officials are poring over the latest pictures of Kim Jong-Il from July 8th, his first public appearance in months. The 67-year-old North Korean leader looking much thinner and more frail than in this video from a few years ago. Publicly, U.S. officials aren't saying much.

IAN KELLY, STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: He didn't look in the pink of health, I have to say.

DOUGHERTY: U.S. intelligence sources tell CNN they believe Kim Jong-Il had a stroke last summer, but they cannot confirm South Korean media reports that he has pancreatic cancer. The north, they say, appears to be in the throes of political succession. Kim Jong-Il grooming his youngest son, 26 Kim Jung Un as his heir. The only known picture of him, this one taken when he was 11, seeing here being burned by South Korean protesters. That uncertainty could be linked to the north's recent provocative action, firing missiles, carrying out a nuclear test. A senior U.S. official says that behavior ,"Could be explained by insecurity among the authorities there. It's all related to power, consolidating power." But with little reliable information about the truth of Kim Jong-Il's health, the U.S. watches and tries to understand.

KELLY: Our means of getting information, of course, are very limited.


DOUGHERTY: And information that the experts on North Korea say the information about the health of Kim Jong-Il is one of the most closely held secrets in one of the most secretive countries in the world -- Wolf? BLITZER: Jill Dougherty working that story for us. Lots of mystery unfolding.

We have heard now the swine flu in the United States is much like the seasonal flu. But researchers have uncovered a disturbing difference. The new study finds swine flu can ravage the lungs. Research done on monkeys, mice and ferrets at the University of Wisconsin shows the H1N1 virus, as it's called, spreads through the respiratory system and causes lesions. It doesn't stay in the head like the seasonal flu. Also, blood tests showed survivors of the 1918 flu pandemic are immune to swine flu but not the traditional flu.

The U.S. is getting ready for a resurgence of swine flu in the fall when flu season begin, and they're stepping up vaccine efforts right now. The health and human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius says the U.S. will spend another $1 billion on vaccine orders. She says the shot should be ready by October. That's just when the flu season is supposed to begin. Abbi Tatton has been tracking the flu virus for us.

What should we be looking for in trends right now?

ABBI TATTON, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: The CDC estimates that more than a million cases of swine flu have occurred here in the U.S. that's just the estimate. The confirmed number is a little under 40,000, but by looking at those confirmed numbers of cases, you can really see how this is still spreading. Let me take you back to the first couple of weeks after the outbreak. In the beginning of May, we were at 160 cases in half the United States. Add a month onto that and it really rises, going up to 10,000 cases total, 17 deaths, all states affected, and now the latest CDC report now at almost 40,000 cases, 211 deaths at this point. Those numbers have dropped off just in the last week or two, but the CDC saying don't let that fool you. These are still unprecedented levels for this time of year, because it's not flu season here right now.

BLITZER: It is flu season in the southern hemisphere right now. What does it look like there?

TATTON: It's an area the CDC health officials here are tracking very, very carefully because July, August in the southern hemisphere, where it's winter, those are the peak months for the flu, and it's really on the rise right now. Over 7,000 cases in Chile and Argentina, swine flu cases, deaths doubling in just a week. So, health officials here looking very closely at how and where the swine flu is spreading because, of course, the season is going to start up again here in the fall.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks very much, Abbi, for that. We'll try to get ready for it when it comes.

Big storms and lightning kept it grounded over the weekend. Will three times be the charm for the space shuttle "Endeavour"? The astronauts are now on board. We'll check in at the launch pad to see if it will take off today.

And a new HBO documentary on Senator Ted Kennedy and opponents who charged him with getting by on his famous name.


BLITZER: Could this time be the charm for the launch of the space shuttle "Endeavour"? It's endured several delays, even lightning strikes as it sits on the pad over the Kennedy space center, waiting to blast off. Let's go back to John Zarrella, who's picking up the story for us. About an hour from now, they're supposed to launch this shuttle. What's the latest?

ZARRELLA: Yes, they're counting down right now from 14:30 then they will go into a nine-minute hold and watch the weather. This is the fifth attempt to launch, twice delayed by hydrogen leaks, two more times by weather over the weekend. Still thunderstorms in the area to the south of us and a couple to the north of us. Right now, they're red because of lightning within ten miles of the launch pad but they expect that to clear up and I think it's just going to be a matter of dodging these storms and just hoping that it's clear and that they're green to go at 6:51 p.m. Eastern time -- Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll get back with you. We want to see this launch, if in fact it does take place.

There's a new documentary by our sister network, HBO, on Ted Kennedy, in his own words. Let's bring in Brian Todd, taking a closer look at what we're learning in this HBO documentary.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's just a lot of fascinating detail. Rare clips from the archives of Ted Kennedy in a documentary airing tonight on HBO which we have to mention like CNN, is owned by Time Warner. It's a portrait of the senator's life and times told in his own words, including his earliest bid for office 47 years ago.


TODD (voice-over): His first senate campaign was no cakewalk. Ted Kennedy remembers it.

SEN. TED KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: It was full court press by Eddie McCormack. It was really quite baptism of fire.

TODD: His 1962 Democratic opponent said his main qualification was his Kennedy name.

EDDIE MCCORMACK (D), SENATE CANDIDATE, MASSACHUSETTS: With your qualifications, Ted, if it was Edward Moore, your candidacy would be a joke. But nobody's laughing.

KENNEDY: We should not have any talk about personalities or families. I feel that we should be talking about the people's destiny of Massachusetts.

TODD: A new HBO documentary tells the story of Ted Kennedy in his own words, based on his interviews and speeches, including his convention concession address ending his 1980 presidential race against jimmy carter. KENNEDY: The cause endures. The hope still lives and the dream shall never die.

TODD: It is a life of victories and defeats both political and personal, including the assassinations of his brothers, John and Robert.

KENNEDY: I think about my brothers every day.

TODD: Also found in the archives, Richard Nixon heard here speaking with top white house aides about spying on Kennedy.

SUSAN MILLIGAN, CO-AUTHOR, "THE LAST LION": Kennedy kind of embodied a lot of what Nixon despised, the whole idea of this privileged family and being so liberal and so forth.


TODD: Of course, this documentary all the more poignant considering Senator Kennedy is now battling brain cancer. In spite of his illness, his office says he keeps in touch with his aides and close associates in the senate on the phone, and about health care reform, the legislation that he's championing in Congress, and he also speaks with President Obama on occasion. He spoke with him twice last week.

BLITZER: We wish him only the best, good health for Senator Kennedy. Thank you.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's resignation, the father of her only grandchild, gives his take.


LEVI JOHNSTON, EX FIANCEE OF BRISTOL PALIN: I think she got a few offers and decided to take the money. She was a little stressed out at the same time.


BLITZER: Levi Johnston launches a new skirmish in a very public family feud. He's got a lot more to say.

Plus a unique and bizarre lawsuit moves forward. The defendant, guess what, is a genie.


BLITZER: Things that go bump in the night that can get on your nerves. One Saudi family has had enough and is going to court. They say a genie is harassing them. CNN's Mohammed Jamjoom is joining us now with more on this story now.

How does a genie make its way into a serious courtroom?

MOHAMMED JAMJOOM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a lawsuit that surprised even the most seasoned of Saudi legal experts. It's the case of family versus genie.


JAMJOOM (voice-over): Say the word genie, and this is what usually comes to mind. Big, blue and bubbly, the spirit in the movie Aladdin grants wishes with a smile and a song. Or Jeannie in "I Dream Of Jeannie." She sought only to serve. But in Islamic cultures, a belief in genies is common. In Saudi Arabia, many believe genies are very real and extremely creepy. More like something out of the film "Poltergeist."

Living among them and capable of demonic possession. One Saudi family is convinced a genie has haunted their home and can't take it anymore. They say they couldn't get the spirit to leave their house so they decided to take the spirit to court. The lawsuit accuses the genie of leaving threatening voice mails, and hurling rocks at them when they leave the house at night. The family has been relocated while the court investigates. So how exactly do you sue a genie? The head of the court doesn't quite know, but told Saudi newspapers we have to verify the truthfulness of this case despite the difficulty of doing so. Even if the court verifies its presence, how is a spirit served with a subpoena?


JAMJOOM: I have spoken to several Saudi lawyers who say this is a first and really think the whole thing is quite funny. One of them even joked with me and said if the judge does find a way to get the genie into court, at the very least, he would have gotten the genie out of the family's house -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Let us know if they find the genie.

Happening now, the president's Supreme Court nominee faces her senate judges and promises to be faithful to the law. Sonia Sotomayor gets an earful about the influence of race and gender on her rulings.

Plus go or no go. We're standing by right now to see if the weather will finally cooperate with the shuttle "Endeavour." The count down clock is ticking toward a launch this hour.

Latoya Jackson's shocking claim that her brother Michael was murdered. We are digging into new remarks by Jackson family members and their possible motives for speaking out. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.