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Custody Deal on Jackson's Kids; White House Beer Chat; Neda's Grave Is Scene of New Clash; Taliban Code of Conduct

Aired July 30, 2009 - 17:00   ET




A custody agreement has been worked out for Michael Jackson's children. It's being called a dignified outcome -- a phrase that, until now, hasn't necessarily always applied to the pop star's death and its aftermath. But in this case, lawyers for Jackson's mother and ex-wife say the right thing is being done for his kids.

Let's go live to CNN's Randi Kaye.

She's working this story for us -- Randi, give us details of the settlement between the grandmother and the mother.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, as you know, in Michael Jackson's will, he named Katherine Jackson, his mother, as the guardian of his three children. There was some discussion that possibly his ex-wife, Debbie Rowe, would try and seek custody of her two children that she had with Michael Jackson -- the two oldest children, Paris and Michael, Jr.

Well, now we are told that there is a custody agreement in place, that Katherine Jackson, the grandmother of the children, will retain custody of all three children. Debbie Rowe did not seek custody, but she will have visitation rights. The timing and the frequency of that visitation is still being worked out. Both sides will be meeting with a child psychologist. They will be splitting the expense for that, to figure out what's best for the children.

And speaking of money and expenses, it's important to note here with all the talk about Debbie Rowe quote, unquote, selling her children, possibly, and being paid off in this case, I'm being told that there was no money exchange, that Debbie Rowe has her divorce settlement with Michael Jackson, the $8.5 million that they had agreed to. That is the only money that she is receiving. She did not receive any extra money in terms of her part in agreeing to let Katherine Jackson raise these children.

BLITZER: Randi, what's the latest into the investigation into Michael Jackson's death?

KAYE: Well, we can tell you that we are being told by a federal law enforcement official that Dr. Conrad Murray, his personal physician, who was hired to go on tour with him, who was at his home with him when he suffered cardiac arrest, the day he died, they are telling us that Dr. Conrad Murray is the only one they are looking at. Now, that is coming from a federal source.

It's also important to tell you that, of course, we know that other doctors' records have been subpoenaed. Other doctors have been looked at. But in this case, it does seem that Dr. Conrad Murray seems to be, really, the person that the regular is focusing on. As you know, a source telling CNN earlier this week that Dr. Conrad Murray had given Michael Jackson Diprivan or Propofol, as it's also called. That's that very powerful sedative that authorities believe killed Michael Jackson. We were told that he was given that by Dr. Murray 20 -- within 24 hours of his death.

We also know that search warrants -- numerous search warrants have been executed on his properties in both Houston, his clinic there and a storage facility and also at his home in Las Vegas and his clinic in Las Vegas. They took all kinds of things, including hard drives and e-mails. And, clearly, they are beginning to focus on him. But we will tell you that his lawyer is still saying they are being told Dr. Conrad Murray is a witness and not a suspect.

BLITZER: Randi Kaye, thanks very much.

Randi has been all over this story now for weeks.

Appreciate it.

We're going to have more on this story coming up later this hour. Jim Moret of "INSIDE EDITION" is standing by.

A search for common ground on the White House grounds -- in less than an hour from now, President Obama will drink a beer with the African-American Harvard university professor, Henry Louis Gates, and the man who arrested him in Cambridge, Massachusetts, police Sergeant Jim Crowley. It's a stunning turnaround from last week's arrest and the outrage that followed.

Let's go live to our White House correspondent, Dan Lothian, to set the scene.

We're counting down to the meeting in the Rose Garden -- Dan.


And I can tell you that Professor Gates is now here at the White House. He arrived about 15 or 20 minutes ago. It's unclear whether Sergeant Crowley is here. Both of those men brought their family members along. They're expected to get a tour of the White House and then will sit down to talk with the president.

Now, Mr. Obama, who was earlier meeting with the president of the Philippines, afterwards he was asked a question about what is being called the beer summit. He said calling it an beer summit is a clever term, but he said that this is simply a meeting for everyone to sit down and talk to each other -- a chance for self-reflection.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I notice this has been called the beer summit. It's a -- it's a clever term, but this is not a summit, guys. This is three folks having a -- having a drink at the end of the day and, hopefully, giving people an opportunity to listen to each other.

And that's really all it is. This is not a -- this is not a university seminar. It is not a summit. It's -- it's an attempt to have some personal interaction when an issue has become so hyped and so symbolic that you lose sight of just the fact that these are people involved, including myself, all of whom are imperfect. And, you know, hopefully instead of ginning up anger and hyperbole you know, everybody can just spend a little bit of time with some self- reflection and -- and recognizing that other people have different points of view.


LOTHIAN: So the White House is clearly dialing back expectations from this meeting. And, in fact, Wolf, we had thought that perhaps we would get a little time to probably take a peek into the discussions that would take place. In fact, that will not be happening. This meeting that will be in the back of the Rose Garden, on a patio there, the media or the pool press will be allowed to come in, stand 40 feet away from where the three men will be and only be allowed to shoot pictures of the event for about 20 seconds before they'll be ushered out -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You know what would be good afterwards, if the three of them emerge together, make a statement to the press and so maybe we'll get that teachable moment that the country wanted to see.

Thanks very much for that.

We'll see if that happens.

We'll have coverage coming up, obviously, here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We've got cameras all over the place over at the White House.

In the continuing fallout from the Gates arrest, by the way, a Boston police officer who was suspended for using a racial slur to describe the Harvard University professor has now apologized.


EDWARD F. DAVIS, BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: The Boston Police Department has a top to bottom commitment to community policing. Community policing is based on trust. This type of venomous rhetoric is severely damaging. Maintaining our community relationships is paramount to our mission to serve the citizens of Boston.

We all work with the community and have made great strides to earn their trust. We must not allow this action to affect the relationships that have been forged and the progress we've made over the years.


BLITZER: Police say the officer, Justin Barrett, used a slur in a mass e-mail. The police commissioner called it a "venomous record," saying Barrett would face a termination hearing as soon as next week.


OFC. JUSTIN BARRETT, BOSTON POLICE: I am sorry that I wrote that. And I'm sorry that my family has to deal with this selfish motivation and feelings that I had. I regret that I used such words is -- I have so many friends of every type of culture and race you can name. And I'm not a racist.


BLITZER: You can hear more from Officer Justin Barrett later tonight. He'll be speaking with Larry King about that racially- charged e-mail that he sent out and its consequences. "LARRY KING LIVE" later tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern, only here on CNN.

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

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: You may not be aware of this. I wasn't. Organic food is no healthier or more nutritious than regular food. But it is more expensive.

That's according to a study commissioned by the British government and published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition".

Researchers looked at 50,000 studies conducted over 50 years and found no significant differences in the foods. They focused on a wide range of crops and livestock raised and marketed under organic standards. The few differences they did find were about the kind of fertilizer used, like nitrogen or phosphorous, and how ripe the crops were when harvested.

They say these differences are unlikely to provide any health benefit to consumers.

This will probably come as a blow to those who shell out a lot of extra money to buy the more expensive organic products because they think they're healthier. Sales of organic foods have skyrocketed in the United States in the last 20 years, topping $23 billion last year.

Critics of the report says it ignores possible side effects from pesticides and that organic farming may be better for the health of the animals. They say consumers who buy organic are supporting a system that bans the routine use of antibiotics, hormones, treats the livestock better.

But if you buy organic food because you think it's more nutritious, you may want to think again. Plus, the regular food is cheaper.

So here's the question: What does it mean if organic food is no healthier or more nutritious than regular food?

Go to and post a comment on my blog -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I didn't know that, either, Jack. I always assumed organic food must be healthier.

CAFFERTY: Somebody who started out marketing the organic products did a good job of convincing, I think, most of us of that.


CAFFERTY: We thought it was healthier, better for us, etc. It's not.

BLITZER: I see the regular banana, the organic banana, I go for the organic banana.


BLITZER: All right.

CAFFERTY: That's your choice -- that's your option.

BLITZER: That's my option.


BLITZER: Thanks. Jack has got useful information for all of us.

Iranian police crack down on protesters. The latest clash occurs at the grave of the young woman whose death came to symbolize Iran's post-election violence.

And the Taliban's little blue book -- it's being passed around the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We have a copy of what they call their code of conduct.

Plus, how is President Obama handling the fallout from the Professor Gates arrest?

Candy Crowley, Paul Begala and Alex Castellanos -- they're standing by.


BLITZER: Neda, the young woman whose violent death made her a symbol of Iran's post-election protest, was once again the focus today, as Iranian security forces clashed with thousands and thousands of demonstrators at her grave site.

Let's go to CNN's Reza Sayah.

He's over at the CNN Iran Desk -- Reza, this marked a 40 day period -- end of mourning, which is customary in Islam.

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. And opposition supporters took advantage of this day to come out in big numbers again. And once again today, we saw violence and drama in the streets of Tehran.

An estimated 3,000 supporters defied a ban by the government and took to the streets -- this time, the main cemetery in Tehran. And there you see them, many of them wearing green. Opposition leaders there, as well. The man in the white turban, Mehdi Karroubi, one of the opposition candidates. That's where they were met with security forces. And there, using batons, firing their guns in the air and using tear gas, they dispersed the crowd.

But once again, a show of defiance by opposition supporters. They had requested the government to go out and peacefully mourn Neda. In Iran, in Shia Islam, it is tradition, 40 days after somebody passes away, to have a commemoration ceremony. But Iran's leadership rejected that request. And today, the opposition leaders, along with an estimated 3,000 people, defied the leadership, showing up there. And once again, clashes today with security forces -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And those disturbances spilled over onto the streets, didn't they?

SAYAH: They did. The action took place for hours after that. Once these crowds were dispersed, they headed up north to neighborhoods throughout Tehran, especially the intersection of Valiasr and Vanak. And that's where you see this confrontation -- security forces beating up on a protester. And if you listen closely you can hear gunfire.


SAYAH: There, we just heard it. And that -- and that gives you an idea. That puts, in a nutshell, the opposition supporters against the security forces. There you saw the security officer beating up that protester with a baton. But the protester defiant, standing his ground. Despite seven weeks of a crackdown, the opposition defiant, standing put -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Reza Sayah watching this for us.

An important story.

Our condolences, of course, to Neda -- Neda's family.

A guidebook for Taliban warriors is being passed around the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan -- rules to live by and fight by.

CNN's Stan Grant picked up a copy of this little blue pamphlet. He's got the story from Islamabad -- Stan?

STAN GRANT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Taliban code of conduct has been drafted by the militancy's leadership and distributed to fighters in the field -- over more than 60 pages. It covers chapters such as prisoners, regional issues and things that are prohibited. It sets down a very strict hierarchy and limits the use of violence: "Suicide attacks should be at high value and important targets, because a brave son of Islam should not be used for low value and useless targets."

This is clearly designed to limit civilian casualties and go after coalition troops or government officials.

It goes on: "It is strictly prohibited to exchange prisoners for money. Killing can only be decided by the imam or his deputy. No one else has the right to do so."

The imam in this case is Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Omar. He also has the final say of whether, "any military infidels should be killed if they are captured."

There is also a long list of don'ts -- things that are prohibited. It says the Taliban fighters should not steal from civilians, they should not take civilians' weapons and they should not smoke.

Now, this comes as the Taliban is bogged down in fighting both in Afghanistan and in Pakistan. It is seen as an attempt to win the hearts and minds of ordinary civilians. It is being dismissed as mere propaganda by NATO officials.

It also comes just ahead of the Afghanistan elections. And the code of conduct calls the government in Kabul a "slave government."

It just remains to be seen how closely this Taliban code of conduct will be followed -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Stan Grant, thanks very much for that report.

Pentagon pork -- the House approves more than $600 billion in spending on some big ticket items that the military says aren't even needed. CNN has been looking into this story for you.

Plus, it's not your run of the mill traffic stop at all -- video you have to see.

Stay with us.



BLITZER: Fredricka Whitfield is monitoring some other important stories incoming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now -- Fred, what's going on?


Hello, everyone.

A Georgia police department is investigating two of its officers. They're accused of running a criminal background check on President Barack Obama. The Secret Service notified the police department of the request. It isn't clear why the two officers initiated the background check. They're on leave pending the outcome of the investigation.

A Massachusetts woman accused of cutting a baby from her mother's womb was arraigned this morning in New Hampshire. Julie Corey was arrested yesterday at a homeless shelter in Plymouth, New Hampshire after an acquaintance became suspicious that she had given birth to the baby. The baby is in good health. Corey is being held on a $2 million bail.

A South Korean fishing boat and its four member crew have been seized by North Korea after the boat entered North Korean waters. South Korea says the boat's satellite navigation system broke down, causing the vessel to drift into the North's waters. South Korea is urging the north to free the boat and the crew, of course. North Korea says it's investigating that incident.

And here's some video you just have to see.

It looks like a routine traffic stop, right?

Yes, that little person -- until that little person jumped out -- seven years old, a boy. This is the view from the police car's dashboard camera in Plain City, Utah. The boy says he took his parents' car for a ride because he didn't want to go to church. He's now probably hearing a sermon on repentance. And he may have been a pretty good driver, at least for a second -- Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm surprised he could reach the -- the brakes and the gas pedal.


BLITZER: He's a lucky kid that he's...

WHITFIELD: He must be a really tall 7-year-old.

BLITZER: Well, he's a lucky kid that he's OK.


BLITZER: Because that's a dangerous situation.

WHITFIELD: That is very true.

BLITZER: All right, thanks.

Thanks very much.

He's better off in church.

Beer and politics -- they just may go hand in hand. We're taking a look at that, as we stand by for the president's meeting with Professor Henry Louis Gates and the police sergeant who arrested him. A little bit more than a half an hour from now, we'll be at the White House for that.

And what do the American people think of President Obama's handling of the Gates situation?

We have some brand new poll numbers to share with you.

And watch what you Tweet -- a Chicago woman faces defamation -- a defamation lawsuit over what she wrote on Twitter.


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

Happening now, brews over at the White House -- can President Obama's meeting with a policeman and the man he arrested calm the storm over the issue of racial profiling?

We're standing by.

Over the president's objections, the House passes a bill -- a spending bill to give the Pentagan dozens -- Pentagon dozens of new ships, planes and armored vehicles that the military says it doesn't even need.

And a warranty from your doctor -- you get free follow-up care for any complications. It's actually happening as part of a radical new approach to medicine. We're going to tell you where that's happening.

I'm Wolf Blitzer.


Drinking cold beer on the White House lawn -- a sharp contrast to the hot tempers surrounding last week's arrest of the Harvard university professor, Henry Louis Gates. There's a certain tradition behind the president's invitation to the professor and the police sergeant who arrested him.

CNN's Carol Costello takes a closer look -- Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, some say it's no accident the president chose beer to serve at his shindig tonight, one because, as the president has said in the past, he never drinks down a beer. And, secondly, beer has become quite the political tool because it levels the playing field. Really.


COSTELLO: (voice-over): It's a strategy that's spawned more than a few cover headlines, like this one in the Huffington Post: "Obama Names Thursday Drink A Beer with Someone Who Arrested You Day" or this one in "Politics Daily": "Beer and Loathing At the White House."

It's tough to say if Mr. Obama's beer diplomacy will heal the wounds, but some say at the very least, his choice of beverage will level the playing field between president, professor and police officer.

It's a tried and true political tactic.

SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER GOVERNOR OF ALASKA: Let's commit ourselves, just everyday American people, Joe six-pack

COSTELLO: Who can forget that?

Supporters say Sarah Palin is a master at appealing to the commonsense average Joe and she used a six-pack to do it. During the Democratic primary, Hilary Clinton tried something harder, but mostly stuck with beer. And Barack Obama played to the beer drinking crowd, too, enjoying a few brews on the campaign trail.

Perhaps the only misstep in the president's latest beer diplomacy strategy is not inviting all parties to his White House shindig, as in the woman who called 911 to report there was someone breaking into Professor Gates' House.

This is her lawyer.


WENDY MURPHY, WHALEN'S ATTORNEY: So the three highly trained guys, who reacted badly, are getting together tomorrow for a beer at the White House. And that's a good thing. But the one person whose actions have been exemplary will be at work tomorrow here in Cambridge. I don't know, maybe it's a guy thing. She doesn't like beer anyway.


COSTELLO: All joking aside, some say settings are important and an outside picnic with beer might induce people to talk more frankly. And that's probably what the president is hoping for -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Carol.

Thanks very much.

We're only about a half an hour away from that meeting in the Rose Garden. That's where it's going to be taking place.

Let's talk about that and more with our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley; along with two of our political contributors, Democratic strategist Paul Begala; and Republican strategist Alex Castellanos.

The Pew survey, they had a poll, how is the president doing handling this situation in Cambridge, the Gates' situation?

Twenty-nine percent say they approve of what he's done. Forty- one percent disapprove. Thirty percent don't know.

He's got some work to do.

ALEX CASTELLANOS, REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: He does have some work to do. And it has hurt the president here. You know, one, a racially polarized America is what he avoided in the campaign. This takes us back to before that and it doesn't help.

But, two, the elitist argument -- president against working class cop. That doesn't help him.

But I want to give the president some props today -- give him a thumbs up. He's doing something important. Keeping this story alive has a political cost.


CASTELLANOS: It has a political cost for him. Politically, it's not smart for him to do. I think he's doing it for the right reason. I think he's doing it to tamp down that -- the divisions we've seen.

So I think he's paying a price for doing the right thing. Good for him. Today we should be proud of our president.

BLITZER: That's probably why the White House is limiting coverage of this event in the Rose Garden. I mean you've worked in the White House.

Would you have let the cameras in to listen to this entire conversation?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Oh, no. In fact, by the way, we're not limiting coverage of this, either. I mean that -- it's fine. But, no, I think it's -- I think Alex is right, actually. There's an opportunity cost that he has paid and is still paying today. Hopefully for his sake he won't be paying it more tomorrow.

In other words, every minute we spend on this that we're not on health care, which is his preferred agenda item, is a minute that Barack Obama is losing. But you know, hopefully it's a casual atmosphere. I mean, I think Carol's report was right. Maybe this will -- FDR famously made martinis for Churchill.

I think, I might have my history wrong, but I think Jimmy Carter brokered the Middle East peace deal between Egypt and Israel over Jell-O shooters at Hooters.


BLITZER: I think you missed out on that. Not exactly right.

BEGALA: Maybe a little bit.

BLITZER: We got the -- they're supposed to be sitting at a picnic table. I guess they're going to move that -- a picture there. I don't know if they're going to move it into the Rose Garden. Yes, that is the Rose Garden. Maybe it's not. That's not the picnic table.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not the picnic table outside the oval office.

BLITZER: No, no. That's a different table.

CROWLEY: This is a different thing.


BLITZER: Definitely not the picnic table that we thought they were going to be using. That's a different -- that's a patio table.

CASTELLANOS: Cost a trillion dollars. It's much nicer.


CROWLEY: I mean, one wonders, however, despite, you know, the props to the president are doing this, would he be doing it had he not said that the police acted stupidly? And I think not. I think this was -- this is part repair. This is part kind of dialing this back and trying -- and he admitted again today in that quick oval office meeting that he was having that, you know, things got out of control and that people, including himself, are imperfect when they talk about things like this.

BLITZER: It's not exactly a summit. He says let's calm down. It's three guys, they're going to have a beer. Wasn't exactly the way your former boss, Bill Clinton, brought Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat together on the south lawn of the White House for that handshake. You remember that.

BEGALA: Right. Arafat, in fact, brought a beer bong and we said no -- sorry, Yasser.


BLITZER: I don't think that happened either.


BLITZER: Paul, look at these poll numbers. Our CNN Poll of Polls. These are the average of the major polls. How is the president handling on foreign affairs, for example? 54 percent approve, 31 percent disapprove.

On the economy, 48 percent approve, 45 percent disapprove. Healthcare is most important domestic issue right now, only 43 percent approve, 45 percent disapprove. More Americans right now disapprove of the way he's handling health care than approve.

BEGALA: It's a serious concern. I mean, first off, set aside foreign policy. It's an area of traditional presidential strength, irrespective of party, and thank goodness most people will say he's handled it well. Right? We've had, I think, showed some strength with Iran, with North Korea. So that's all going pretty well. My concern and my advice to him would be, you're acting as if the world was created the day you were inaugurated. In other words, you forgot that George W. Bush not only walked the earth but, in the eyes of Democrats, created this mess.

I think he has left that out. I think he ought to spend a whole lot more time still pointing fingers and assigning blame...

BLITZER: He says that at almost every speech.

BEGALA: Oh, not enough for me.


BEGALA: He owns the economy in the way that I don't he should because we're still in a terrible recession. I fear the recovery will be really slow in terms of job creation. He's going to own this soon enough. I think he's accepted ownership too soon.

CASTELLANOS: He's pointed back at George Bush, blaming everything. He'd point his finger to a nun that there isn't anything left here. These numbers are a concern, I'm sure. Foreign affairs, I don't agree he's handled it all that well. But weakness in North Korea, they fire a missile, but the missile doesn't hit grandma's house, it doesn't affect us here.

You know, in Iran, they kill protesters, their voters, but they don't touch ours over here, distant, far away. But those domestic issues, they do affect me. You take control of my health care, that does concern me. You put me up trillion dollars in debt, $2 trillion in debt, that does affect me. And that's why the numbers...

BLITZER: But as important as health care is, Candy, jobs and the economy. That's going to be even more important when all the political dust settles.

CROWLEY: In the end -- there's sort of inextricably linked in a lot of ways and he, in fact, has linked them. But you're right, it's the overall economy. If he cannot drive those job numbers down, that's a problem.

And he -- again, he said that today. He said, look, because -- you know, there are some good numbers out there, but he rightfully has sort of dismissed them and said, listen, this is about getting people back to work and the economy being, you know, good at home.

BLITZER: Because, Paul, with every month that goes by it's going to be increasingly more difficult for him to blame Bush.

BEGALA: Absolutely. And I -- but he has, as the poets have said, world enough in time. He doesn't have to run until 2012. He has his party up in 2010.

BLITZER: And they're nervous.

BEGALA: I was on Capitol Hill this morning. Believe me, they're nervous as a hooker in church. They want to make sure that things are doing better by the time they run. And here's the thing. They have to pass a health care bill. They have to. Something that the president can sign and...

BLITZER: Even if the liberals don't like it?

BEGALA: I think so, yes. Because having gone through this with Bill Clinton, it is the failure to pass a health care bill, I think, that croaked us in 1994 and they've got to have some accomplishment there. I think the health care...

CASTELLANOS: That does it.

BEGALA: ... bill will move irrespective of the criticism of the bill.

CROWLEY: He still have a health care bill. He will have something by the end of the year that says health care reform on the top of it, and he will sign it, they can claim victory.

Will it be as soon as he wants? Obviously not. And will it be what he wants? Not everything.


CASTELLANOS: If it has a trillion-dollar price tag on it, if it grows control of the government over your health care, Democrats are going to pay a huge price for that in 2010.

BEGALA: I'd rather have that debate than the certainty of...


CASTELLANOS: And you know who's going to benefit? Your old boss, the last president, to actually balance a budget and display some fiscal responsibility. The Clinton wing of the Democratic Party is going to be empowered. They'll be back.

BLITZER: All right, guys. We'll leave it right there. We're counting down to the big meeting in the Rose Garden.

BEGALA: They've had beer 30, right?

BLITZER: You know? We've saying -- given their beer preferences, red, light, and blue. Those are the three beers.


All right, guys. Next Thursday, by the way, Thursday night to be specific, our 200-day special. 8:00 p.m. Eastern. It's your chance to grade the president, grade the Congress, grade the news media, grade a lot more.

We'll have live coverage. 8:00 p.m. Eastern Thursday night. The CNN "National Report Card."

Finally something positive in the Michael Jackson death saga. We're going to have news on who will get full custody of his kids.

And a new defense spending bill that's full of pork. Who sponsored the bill and what does President Obama plan to do about it.

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Get some more now on that agreement that's been reached on the custody of Michael Jackson's children and money apparently not, repeat, not an issue.

Let's turn to Jim Moret, the chief correspondent for "Inside Edition." What happened on the money front between Debbie Rowe and Michael Jackson's mother?

JIM MORET, CHIEF CORRESPONDENT, "INSIDE EDITION": Well, basically nothing. There is no new money exchanging hands in return for Debbie Rowe giving up any claims for custody of the children.

She never officially sought custody but there was always the threat that she would go into court, into the hearing that's scheduled for Monday, and try to seek custody of two of her children -- the two children that are biologically hers.

She has under, a previous agreement, an agreement dealt with in 2000 when they got divorced, $8.5 million for spousal support, and she's not seeking any more money on top of that.

And this is really good news, Wolf, because this is really one less issue for the judge to deal with at that big hearing that's going to deal with the estate on Monday.

BLITZER: She's 79 years old, Michael Jackson's mother. She's not a young woman. We hope she lives many, many years. But God forbid if something were to happen to her, what happens next?

MORET: You know, I talked to a prominent attorney here in Los Angeles. I said, do you think that there's a provision for a nest in chain, so to speak, and the will specifically says that Diana Ross would be the next in line.

And this attorney said he does not expect, based upon the agreements he's had with people in the past, that they've even addressed that. So, he fully expects that on Katherine Jackson's passing there may very well be another legal fight. One can only hope that at least one or more of the children will be of age so that won't be an issue.

But there's no -- there's nothing of the agreement that's being made public to address that specific point.

BLITZER: What about Joe Jackson, Michael Jackson's father? Where does he fit into the child custody issue?

MORET: Well, he does not officially have custody. Katherine Jackson does. Joe Jackson and Katherine Jackson are still married, but they live separately. He lives in Las Vegas. She lives in Los Angeles in the Encino compound. And Debbie Rowe had spoken to a reporter a couple of weeks ago saying that she would seek a restraining order but there's no indication that that's part of the agreement.

So we can presume that Joe Jackson will certainly have access to the children, but Katherine Jackson is the one with legal guardianship, legal custody. She will be the one to make all decisions regarding those children.

BLITZER: Take us a little behind the scenes, Jim. Tell us how they worked out this custody agreement.

MORET: The judge was very clear with all the parties when they held their first hearing a few weeks ago. He said, look, I can make the decision for you. What I'd rather have happen is for all of you to work this out among yourselves. And we know that behind the scenes Katherine Jackson and Debbie Rowe's attorneys have been trying to do that.

There apparently have been some sticking points and frankly Debbie Rowe has gotten a lot of bad press that she frankly doesn't deserve. A lot of people have said she's selling her children again and clearly money is not an issue here.

What happened, I believe, is that Debbie Rowe always felt Michael Jackson was great father. When he died, perhaps she thought I want to make sure these kids are well cared for.

What is happening, and this is interesting, a child psychologist will be brought into the mix and introduced the children to Debbie Rowe. They don't know her as their mother, so this will take time. They're already grieving for their dad who's gone, but you have to now introduce Debbie Rowe into their lives through visitation as their biological mother.

BLITZER: At least for two of those kids. The third one is not.

MORET: At least the two. Correct.

BLITZER: That's right. All right, thanks very much, Jim Moret, as usual, for helping us better understand what's going on.

Here's some advice from me to you -- be careful what you Tweet, what you write on your social networking site could land you in a lot of legal trouble. Jessica Gomez tells us about a Chicago woman with a defamation lawsuit on her hands.


JESSICA GOMEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The whole story started here at this luxury Chicago apartment complex with a dispute between a landlord and a tenant. Horizon Realty Group, which owns this apartment complex, says the tenant wasn't happy about a leak in the roof. That tenant took her complaint to the social networking site Twitter, tweeting that there was mold in her apartment and that her landlord was OK with it. Just 16 words later and they slapped her with this -- a $50,000 lawsuit.

Horizon refused to talk to us on camera but issues this statement says, simply, they're trying to protect their reputation.

So we wanted to sort of find out whether or not this lawsuit has any legs.

PROF. JIM SPETA, NORTHWESTERN UNIV. SCHOOL OF LAW: I don't think at the end of the day it has any legs. Sometimes people bring defamation suits because they just want to clear their names and that may be what the realty company is thinking about. But I think they'll have a very hard time winning the lawsuit.

In this country, we really like free speech, so we make it very hard for plaintiffs to bring defamation suits. They have to prove it was false.

GOMEZ: All right. Next stop. Internet cafe. Let's go check out what social networkers are saying.

Do you ever think about what you say that it could offend somebody or it could be grounds for a lawsuit?

HEATHER PIESKE, SOCIAL NETWORKER: Yes, absolutely. I think there's a lot more censorship with that type of media and it's -- it's sort of a new -- it's a new thing that people have to sort of monitor themselves.

GOMEZ: What are your thoughts about this? You're on Facebook. You're on some of these social networking sites. What do you think?

RACHEL STEWART, SOCIAL NETWORKER: I think that people should have a right to say what they want to say but, you know, if she was already suing them, then maybe she was kind of digging a hole for herself.

GOMEZ: The tenant has since moved to a new neighborhood. We tried to get a hold of her but were unsuccessful. And her Twitter account has been closed down. Experts say while this might be one of the first few cases of its kind, it certainly won't be the last.

Jessica Gomez for CNN, Chicago.


BLITZER: Want to go back to Fredricka. There's a story that's just coming in from Texas.

What's coming in, Fred?

WHITFIELD: Right. A big warehouse fire that's taking place just close to central Texas. We're talking about an area called Bryant, Texas. You see the plume of smoke right there. Well, apparently that kind of orangey golden plume of smoke could be seen miles away.

It's unclear exactly what started this blaze, but they have put in place a mandatory evacuation of about a four-mile radius and that impacts about 80,000 people in that area. They're hoping that people would not inhale any of these chemicals that are in the air. It's believed that fertilizer may be burning.

That's what we know right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Fred. You'll update us. Thank you.

We're only minutes away, maybe less than 15 minutes away. We're going to be going to the White House Rose Garden to see the president. He's sitting down with the Harvard professor and the police sergeant who arrested him.

The reporters and the camera crews, they're in the White House briefing room right now. They're getting ready to be escorted out to the Rose Garden for that photo-op. We'll go there. There they are. The White House press corps. They're going to be taken out to the Rose Garden in a few minutes to see what's going on and share that video with all of us.

And some call it pork. Others call it national defense. Will the president make good on a veto threat?

Stick around. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Just want to update you. We now know that Sergeant James Crowley is over at the White House getting ready for this meeting with the president and Professor Henry Louis Gates. He arrived a little while ago as well. We'll have live coverage coming up in a few moments.

Defense projects or pet projects. Congress wants to spend money on weapons that even the U.S. military says it doesn't want or need.

Our Pentagon correspondent Chris Lawrence is adding it all up for us. Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the 18 members of the committee that came up with this bill accounted for one-third of the earmarks contained in it.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): $600 billion won't buy you any more F- 22s. The House cut funding for the fighter jet that's never fired a shot in battle. The Pentagon didn't want that jet anyway, but it's still stuck with projects it did not ask for.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates didn't want a new missile defense system or another engine for the joint strike fighter or nearly half a billion dollars for new presidential helicopters. Come to think of it, even President Obama didn't want those. They're all in the new defense spending bill.

RYAN ALEXANDER, TAXPAYERS FOR COMMON SENSE: The Department of Defense has no history of being frugal.

LAWRENCE: The president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan watchdog group says the words Pentagon and frugal have never been connected before.

ALEXANDER: And when they say we actually don't need this, it's pretty extraordinary. We should listen to that.

LAWRENCE: Nearly $3 billion of the extra money goes to earmarks, which are projects demanded by individual congressmen. Mostly for work in their home state.

REP. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: If they're so good, why do we have to earmark money for them? Why don't we say compete on your own like everybody else?

LAWRENCE: Representative John Murtha sponsored the bill that cut the F-22 money, but says his earmarks provide good jobs for American workers and produce needed equipment like body armor.

REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: The biggest complaint I get from troops in the field, I don't know how often you visit the field, Mr. Flake. I don't know how often you come to the people that do this work.


LAWRENCE: Representative Murtha was responsible for 23 earmarks totaling $90 million. The most of any House member. But we'll have to see if they all make it through, because President Obama has threatened to veto this bill and some of these projects were included -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see if he does. Chris Lawrence, thank you.

A teachable moment in race relations in America. We're awaiting President Obama's White House chat over a beer with a Harvard professor and the police sergeant who arrested him. That's minutes away.


BLITZER: A Coney Island makeover. High rise, its upscale shops. The new rides are in the works.

Our Richard Roth has more on how the controversial plan is supposed to work out.


RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Coney Island. A New York City institution. The beach. The rides.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll see them all, freaks.

ROTH: Yes, the freak shows.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Getting those hot dogs down. That is a true champion.

ROTH: And, of course, the hot dogs. A long time ago Brooklyn's Coney Island was the place to be. Cooling off at a time when air conditioning didn't exist.

On a summer afternoon at the famous Nathan's Hot Dog stand, Brooklyn-born Irv Millman came back to visit and reminisced.

IRV MILLMAN, NEW YORKER: It was just a wonderful time. Kids and the beach and the water and the sun. What else is there for a kid?

ROTH: More recently historic Coney Island has been caught in a controversy about its future. New York City and developers want to revitalize much of Coney Island which became seedy and rundown as city people moved to the suburbs.

New York approved on Wednesday a large redevelopment plan filled with hotels, apartments, and stores.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, NEW YORK: Let's -- be honest about this. The best days for Coney Island have passed unless we do something, and here we are doing something to try to give it a real future.

ROTH: Frustrated Coney Island activists watched the vote occur. They see corporate America destroying an iconic part of the fabric of New York.

DICK ZIGUN, "MAYOR" OF CONEY ISLAND: There's not enough acres left when you are stick all these hotels and stuff that doesn't belong in the amusement area. The rides are the very amusements that are attracting.

ROTH: The city says the cyclone and the wonder wheel will survive along with new amusement attractions. Jobs and housing are promised for local residents. 55-year-old Mark Page was at the boardwalk with his family. He has seen the ups and downs of Coney Island as a life-long resident.

MARK PAGE, CONEY ISLAND RESIDENT: I know it's modern, and we have to step up to the future. It's the 21st century, but don't get rid of the essence. That's what I think is important.

ADRIAN PAGE, CONEY ISLAND RESIDENT: I hope they retain the feeling of Brooklyn. Brooklyn is like the world.

ROTH: New York will now seek to buy back the precious Coney Island land from the current owner. Rollercoaster ride for this unique stretch of old New York is not over. Richard Roth, CNN, New York.


BLITZER: Now let's go to Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

CAFFERTY: You ever ride the cyclone at Coney Island?

BLITZER: No, I'm scared.

CAFFERTY: Bone charring rollercoaster ride, but it's great.

Question this hour: What does it mean if organic food is no healthier or more nutritious than regular food?

Lynn writes from South Carolina: "It means you're ignoring the effects of pesticide on the land and on the animals. The run-off into our rivers and oceans and the efforts of family farmers over the agribusiness corporations. I frankly rather pay more money to the small responsible farmer. There are too few of them left in America."

John in Arizona: "Another glaring example of how gullible the American consumer is. Especially those suave, yuppy intellectuals that like to preach about how and what we should eat."

Casey in Minneapolis: "I'll always be willing to pay more for produce that isn't treated with environment-harming chemicals and from meat that came from animals treated a little more humanely. Not everything is about us, Jack."

Gene in Colorado writes: "It means I'll continue to shop as I always have, ignoring the organics but not wondering anymore if I'm making a mistake."

Shelly says: "I buy organic all the time. I don't usually think it's healthier. I think this study misses the point. The reason most of us buy organic is because we know the food has been grown without pesticides and hormones. And that's healthier, is it not?"

And Jamie says: "Dear Jack, I don't always buy organic, but I'll tell you that when you go into a store here in Oregon that sells organic or even our local supermarket which offers local organic food, it looks way better, smells better, and tastes much better."

Jenny says: "Jack, it means someone is being fleeced beside the organic sheep, of course."

If you didn't see your e-mail here, you can go to my blog at Look for yours there among hundreds of others -- Wolf?

BLITZER: Jack, thank you.

And to our viewers, you're in THE SITUATION ROOM. Happening now. They're breaking out the beer over at the White House. We're standing by for President Obama's remarkable get-together with an African- American scholar and the police sergeant who arrested him.

Our cameras are zeroing in on the White House this hour for the so-called teachable moment for America. Maybe turning into an invisible moment. Stand by.

Health care that comes with a warranty. It's part of one medical group's prescription for treating you better while spending less. CNN's Jessica Yellin with a story you will see only here on CNN.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in CNN's command center for breaking news, politics, and extraordinary reports from around the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

All right. Take a close look at this. When we say we're covering the president's attempt at beer diplomacy from all angles, we really mean it. Five live cameras are now trained on various locations over at the White House. But we may not see much of the president and his two guests.