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THE SITUATION ROOM
Italian P.M. Faces Trial on Sex Charges; Iran Cracks Down; Obama Defends Budget; Interview With Senator Portman
Aired February 15, 2011 - 17:58 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JESSICA YELLIN, GUEST HOST: Recent allegations of sexual misconduct are causing new legal turmoil for Italy's prime minister.
CNN's Senior International Correspondent Dan Rivers has the details.
DAN RIVERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, this has been a bad day for the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. He learned that finally now the allegations that have been constantly in the newspapers for months will land him in court. He will have to answer those charges on April the 6th.
RIVERS (voice-over): Silvio Berlusconi is facing the most sensational trial Italy has ever seen. The swirling sex scandals that have engulfed him for months now will finally land him in court.
The case centers around Moroccan belly dancer Karima el Mahrougm, AKA, Ruby, the Heart Stealer, who he met on Valentine's Day a year ago. That relationship is now under intense focus. Prosecutors claim he paid her for sex when she was an underage 17-year-old prostitute and that he abused his power trying to get her release from police custody after she was arrested last May. Allegations both she and Berlusconi deny.
The anger at his antics has spilled onto the streets regularly. This rally in Milan was organized to protest that the way women are treated by Italian society, particularly by their prime minister.
RIVERS (on camera): And this is the mansion outside of Milan where Silvio Berlusconi held various soirees. Now, prosecutors claim these were the so-called "bunga-bunga" parties which involves scantily clad women dancing in a makeshift nightclub in the basement, culminating in Silvio Berlusconi paying many of them for sex.
Berlusconi denies that as does this woman, Nicole Minetti, here with her lawyer. She was a regular at the evenings which she insists were innocent. She's also being investigated for procuring girls for the prime minister, which she denies.
NICOLE MINETTI, BERLUSCONI'S FORMER DENTAL HYGIENIST: I mean, the parties, if -- if we can call them parties were definitely much different respect of how the press describes them. He -- he sings. He tells stories, any type of story. I mean, even personal stories of his experience in politics. Humor stories. So that's a little bit how the evening was. I mean, nothing of lurid in any -- in any way -- any way.
RIVERS: Lots of pretty girls there?
MINETTI: Sometimes even pretty girls, absolutely, yes. Sometimes pretty girls, yes.
RIVERS (voice-over): But the 74-year-old prime minister remains popular with voters in Italy, and he's furiously denied the criminal charges, saying they are politically motivated.
Now three judges will decide. And they are all women.
(on camera): Many feel that even if he's found not guilty of these criminal charges, he's already guilty of a moral crime in the way that he's led his private life. These documents have painted a very lewd picture of his life involving dozens of young women staying the night at his villa outside of Milan. And for many of his enemies here, they feel that's simply to much, that he must go -- Jessica.
JESSICA YELLIN, CNN ANCHOR: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Happening now: an ominous warning to Iranians calling for change in their country. Lawmakers call for the execution of those who oppose them.
Also, digital activism, how it's fueling uprisings in the Middle East and what the U.S. is doing to help.
And has a centuries-old secret finally been revealed? We're learning that Coca-Cola's recipe may have been hiding in plain sight.
Breaking news, political headlines and Jeanne Moos are straight ahead. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jessica Yellin. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
A chilling chant in the Iranian Parliament one day after a massive anti-government demonstration. Lawmakers are calling for the execution of two main opposition leaders. The seeds of revolution are blowing across the region after the successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
But Iran's leaders are making clear the demonstrations they supported in Cairo will not be tolerated in Tehran.
CNN's Brian Todd is working that story for us today.
And, Brian, what are you picking up from the Iranians?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jessica, the situation on the ground there is still very tense. And the government is sending not so subtle signals to the protesters. Venture out again at your peril.
TODD (voice-over): Ominous signals from Iran's rubber-stamp Parliament that this wave of protest will not play out like Egypt's. Iranian lawmakers chant, Mousavi, Karroubi,execute them, an open threat to Iran's two main opposition leaders. One of them, Mehdi Karroubi, used to lead this Parliament. Now he and Mir Hossein Mousavi are blamed by lawmakers for inciting this week's protests.
Tens of thousands took to the streets, inspired by the Egyptian uprising, hoping to keep that momentum going and stir up a second major challenge to their Islamist government, following the Green Movement of 2009.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused the West and Israel of trying to create discord in Middle Eastern countries. That came as President Obama spoke to reporters with a stronger message of support for Iran's protesters than we have seen before.
(on camera): The president accused the Iranian regime of hypocrisy for celebrating Egypt's protests while crushing their own. And he stressed that America can't dictate what happens in Iran, but in the very same sentence he encouraged the protesters to persist.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My hope and expectation is is that we're going to continue to see the people of Iran have the courage to be able to express their yearning for greater freedoms and a more representative government.
TODD (voice-over): An increasingly dangerous proposition. Scores of people were killed and imprisoned in the 2009 uprising. Just last month, according to Iranian media, the regime executed at least 66 people, most reportedly for drug offenses, but the United Nations says some were political prisoners.
(on camera): Is that a lot of executions in Iran for one month? And does it speak to some kind of maybe nervousness on the part of the regime?
KARIM SADJADPOUR, ASSOCIATE, CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT FOR INTERNATIONAL PEACE: It's significant. Since January, you have had almost an execution taking place every nine to 10 hours in Iran. So, they have certainly gone on an execution binge.
And these types of executions and imprisonments, they do that. They create an atmosphere of fear and terror in Iran. And that's why when you have tens of thousands of people continuing to protest, it's incredibly significant, because you know that every single one of those people realizes that their life is in danger.
TODD: So, will Iran's leaders heed those calls from their lawmakers and arrest the opposition leaders or worse? We tried to get answers from Iran's mission to the U.N. Despite our repeated calls and e-mail, we have not heard back. Now, the government has put out some information on one man killed during Monday's protests, identifying him as a so-called martyr Sane Jaleh, saying he was a member of the Basij organization and was killed by protesters.
We cannot independently verify that. And there are conflicting reports that he himself was a protester. Remember, the Basij is a notorious militia affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard. They send plainclothed men out to the streets to beat up and round up protesters. And analysts say the government could be putting this out there as a call to arms for the Basij and warning to the protesters. That could be a very chilling warning for the protesters, Jessica.
YELLIN: And in addition to the unrest in Iran, there's also a lot happening in Bahrain, which is a crucial U.S. ally.
TODD: Very crucial and just a few miles from Iran's shores.
And we're going to lay some of that out in the wall here. Over the past few days, protesters have taken to the streets in Bahrain first demanding political reform, but now openly calling for the removal of the royal family. At least two people have been killed in these protests.
Now, this is critical for U.S. interests because Bahrain is the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. It's a massive fleet with 20-plus ships, including a carrier battle group. About 16,000 U.S. servicemen make up that fleet. It's responsible for a few million square miles of the most important territory strategically.
That includes the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, about 25 countries in that region. If Bahrain is racked with unrest and the Fifth Fleet is affected, American interests in that critical region could be compromised. We're talking about security and possibly oil, of course. Everything goes to oil.
YELLIN: There's just so much uncertainty.
TODD: That's right.
YELLIN: Thanks so much, Brian.
Back here in Washington, Democrats and Republicans agree on the budget. At least that's what you would think listening to President Obama and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not a matter of "You go first" or "I go first." This is a matter of everybody having a serious conversation about where we want to go and then ultimately getting in that boat at the same time so it doesn't tip over. And I think that can happen. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Well, I would encourage our friends on the other side of the aisle, 23 of whom are up in '12, to take another look at where they think the politics of this all might be and maybe join with us and see if we can't come together to significantly reduce spending for this fiscal year that we're in at the moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: Let's talk this over with CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger.
So, Gloria, it sounds like President Obama and Minority Leader McConnell are essentially saying the same thing, but they're certainly not on the same page. So what's going on?
Well, it's not rocket science. Everyone in Washington knows what needs to be done. Everybody knows that entitlements need to be reformed. And people know, quite honestly, what the first steps could be. I think the problem is, although you heard the president say that -- say it a little differently in the clip you just ran, the White House made a decision.
They didn't want to lead on entitlements right now in this budget. They didn't think the time was ripe. And, by the way, they did want to see the Republican hand. But what we did hear from the president today, Jess, is a little bit of an outline of what could come in the future, entitlement reform, coupled with tax reform, which could give you some more revenues. So he did talk about that. So that could be seen as kind of a positive sign.
YELLIN: Right. I did hear something of a plan forward from the White House, from the president and optimism that he can work with the Republicans and get something done. The question then is, what do the Republicans do next? What's their play?
BORGER: Well, if you listen to Republicans today, they say they're ready to do entitlements right now.
Take a listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I really do believe that this is the year for Social Security reform.
MCCONNELL: We're waiting for presidential leadership. We know and we will say again that entitlement reform will not be done, except on a bipartisan basis with presidential leadership.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BORGER: And let me read you a little bit of a statement today from House Republican leaders, as well as their budget chairman. And they said -- quote -- "Our budget will lead where the president has failed and it will include real entitlement reforms."
So, Jess, for the Republicans, it's all in the details. What do you mean by real entitlement reform? And one I think we're going to find out is whether the president is serious about doing this before 2012. So one possibility is that he was trying to bait the Republicans. Another possibility is that he's actually serious about doing it sooner, rather than later, or maybe all of the above.
YELLIN: I will ask Senator Rob Portman about his take about all this coming up.
BORGER: Right. Good.
YELLIN: But there's also this debate going on about the spending for this year, the stopgap measure.
YELLIN: With a White House veto threat on the one hand and Republicans dug in on the other, we could get a government shutdown. Do you think it will happen, though?
BORGER: We could. There are some House Republicans in particular who say maybe that's what we need to do, because Congress is a crisis-activated institution. So maybe we need to have a crisis.
I tend to think -- the president has got his veto threat on the table. I tend to think is what you're going to see is a shorter stopgap measure to get to the next stopgap measure, until they can figure out just what they want to do.
YELLIN: A loot of inching along. OK.
YELLIN: This, Gloria -- Gloria Borger.
YELLIN: House Republicans have targeted $61 billion in cuts from different current programs in the budget, but what is specifically on the chopping block?
CNN's Lisa Sylvester has that part of the story for us.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jessica.
Well, House Republicans are proposing cuts to some programs that are very popular, particularly among liberals. And topping the list is AmeriCorps, a volunteer service program. They also want to eliminate funding altogether for another program, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides funding for children's programs like "Sesame Street." It's the home of Elmo and Big Bird.
The Environmental Protection Agency would also have a cut, a 29 percent cut to its budget. And Republicans are proposing cuts, for example, to community health services and Head Start. What this is all doing is setting up a huge fight, because as you well know, Republicans control the House, but not the Senate or the White House.
I caught up with Democratic Congressman Ed Markey, who is leading the fight to keep funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: They refuse to cut the tax breaks for big oil, but yet they turn around and say they're going to cut Big Bird and all of its friends.
So, it just shows you what the priorities are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: Now, on the other hand, House Republican Todd Akin of Missouri, he sits on the House Budget Committee. And he told me in an interview, look, the reality is you're going to have to cut somewhere. And there's not a lot of areas for discretionary cuts. So, when you subtract out what has to be paid for, entitlement programs, servicing the country's debt, well, just about everything else then has to be considered.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TODD AKIN (R), MISSOURI: These are really severe times. And I try to make a distinction between if you have a family budget, you say, hey, we're spending a little too much, you can shave a little bit off of everything. We're not in that position. We don't have that luxury. What we have to do is, what's essential, we have to fund it, and everything else that is not essential really has to go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: Now, the president's budget increases money for the Corporation for Public Transportation and maintains funding for AmeriCorps.
So, Republicans and Democrats, they are really working from two very different playbooks, completely different approaches. And so there's going to have to be a lot of give and take in these coming days, Jessica.
YELLIN: And in fact, Lisa, as we reported now, the White House this afternoon threatening to veto the bill if the spending cuts stay basically where they are. So...
SYLVESTER: Yes. Yes. You can see the situation is somebody is going to have to blink at some point.
YELLIN: Exactly. SYLVESTER: And we are running up against the clock here.
YELLIN: Thanks so much, Lisa.
House Speaker John Boehner says, if government jobs are lost, so be it. But are Republicans risking sounding callous? I will ask Senator Rob Portman about that. He's here to talk budget.
And these Wal-Mart employees stopped an armed robbery. So why did they lose their jobs?
YELLIN: The budget battle is now in full swing, and not just over next year's spending plan. There's still no budget for this year, but House debate is underway and Republicans are swinging an ax at spending, vowing to slash $61 billion from the 2011 plan.
Senator Rob Portman of Ohio is here to talk about it all, and you should also note he was also budget director under President George W. Bush.
So you are an expert, sir, in these matters. Thanks for being with us.
First, straightaway, isn't this a fool's errand? We're talking about the 2011 spending gap. Isn't it a fool's errand bringing these cuts in when you know Democrats won't accept them?
SEN. ROB PORTMAN (R), OHIO: Well, I don't think so. I mean, this is happening because last year the Democrats did not put forward a budget, so there is no budget, as you say. Therefore, the government is running on what's called a continuing resolution, which is last year's spending.
And what Republicans are saying in the House and will soon be saying in the Senate when it comes over to the Senate in a couple of weeks is that we need to get the spending under control, this type of spending.
The annually appropriated spending for domestic programs has gone up about 24 percent in the last two years. That doesn't include, by the way, the stimulus funding or other funding which would take it up to about an 80 percent increase.
So as Americans families have tightened their belts, as businesses have learned how to do more with less, the federal government has grown a lot. And so the question is do you want to go back to the pre-crisis level of about 2008 or do you want to lock in all that higher spending, and that's really the debate here.
YELLIN: But, sir, -- but both sides agree that you need to make cuts, the issue is where are the cuts. And right now the White House is now threatening a veto of this measure if it cuts too deeply, and Republicans, many in the House are dug in.
So the bottom line is you could face a government shutdown. Is that what we're walking up to here?
PORTMAN: Well, I hope not and I don't think it's going to happen, because, as you say, I hope both sides realize we do need to make reductions in spending.
I will say, I like your optimism on that because the president's budget came out for 2012 and beyond, that starts in October of this year, and it does not have cuts. It has a freeze in spending; some programs are increased, like high-speed rail, others are reduced.
But I would hope the administration is getting the message not just from the November elections, but from the experts here in Washington, the Congressional Budget Office, the people who are following this at the Office of Management and Budget, which is that under the president's own budget the debt doubles in the next 10 years.
We have the largest deficit in the history of our country, the largest debt we've ever had, and it's affecting our economy today and certainly mortgaging the future for our kids and grandkids.
So I hope you're right that everybody is focused on how do you not just have a freeze, but actually reduce some of the spending.
YELLIN: Right. Well, in fairness, the president's budget also would see some serious cuts in specific agencies, but it doesn't make an overall cut in amounts of spending.
PORTMAN: That's true. It's -- it's a freeze.
YELLIN: Let's --
PORTMAN: In this area, it's a freeze on about 12 percent of the spending. In other areas, it goes up.
YELLIN: For one moment, let's stay on the stop gap measure that's being debated right now in the House. Speaker of the House, John Boehner, said something today. He said that if 200,000 new federal employees lost their jobs, quote, "so be it."
Do you share his view?
PORTMAN: Well, no, what I think he was saying is that we need to right size the government and what happens in terms of federal employment needs to follow whatever is the right thing to do for our country's future. So in the last few years we've lost, I don't know, about 3 million private sector jobs, and yet federal government jobs have increased.
So I think he makes it an interesting point there that we do need to figure out because of the fiscal crisis that's at our doorstep now how to do more with less in the federal government just as the private sector has had to do.
And, you know, the question is what is that going to this lead to in terms of federal employment. Nobody knows yet. The president actually has proposed, if you know, freezing salaries of federal employees.
So I think both sides realize, I hope, as you said earlier, we have got to get the spending under control. It's about our economy today, it's about the future for our kids and grandkids and that's going to have to include --
YELLIN: Well, let's look at the future here.
PORTMAN: -- everything.
YELLIN: Let's look at the future. President Obama has said that, you know, he does think that it's possible to essentially cut a deal and reign in the budget. Here's a little bit of President Obama from his press conference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let's face it, you guy are pretty impatient. If something doesn't happen today, then the assumption is it's just not going to happen. All right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: Now he's talking about the press, that we want to see cuts, cuts, cuts --
PORTMAN: I know, but you know, I think you all are representing the American people, which is, yes, we are impatient. All of us are, as taxpayers and citizens. We're impatient to see the government --
YELLIN: But, sir, let me ask you, you have been on the other side of this equation --
PORTMAN: -- begin the fiscal house back in order.
YELLIN: You have been on the other side of this equation, you were a budget director. Don't you know that they have to be careful for political reasons?
PORTMAN: Well, look --
YELLIN: Just bottom line.
PORTMAN: -- the president just issued his budget, which is a 10- year vision for where the country ought to go. He had an opportunity there, Jessica, to layout a reasonable way to get spending under control, to deal with not just this annual spending we talked about, which is 12 percent of the budget, but the bigger picture, which is the mandatory spending, the entitlement programs. He chose not to do it. He took a pass. As the said in "The Washington Post" editorial today, he ducked the tough issues.
YELLIN: And, sir --
PORTMAN: It's time for us to get serious on some --
YELLIN: But, sir, your administration --
PORTMAN: -- for the president to say, you all are impatient, yes people are impatient for him to lay out a vision that makes sense. And if he doesn't do that, it's very difficult to move forward.
YELLIN: Sir, your administration, the Bush administration, racked up $1. 3 trillion in deficit. So how can you slam the president for something that your administration never took on?
PORTMAN: Well, I was the budget director four years, and on this very week four years ago, I proposed a budget that was balanced over five years. And that was because, frankly, at that time period, we had a relatively low deficit, it was $161 billion, so one-tenth of today's deficit, and we had pretty good revenues coming in because the economy was doing well, the tax relief had worked to grow the economy. This was before the financial crisis.
But, you know, I know this is tough and it's difficult to be in a position of presenting a budget because you're never going to please everybody. But the fact remains, the president has been very eloquent about talking about the problem and yet his solutions don't meet the challenge, and we need that. We need to have a vision on how to move forward on a bipartisan basis to solve this problem. I hope we'll see that in the coming weeks.
YELLIN: We'll look forward to seeing how it unfolds.
Thank you so much, Senator Rob Portman.
PORTMAN: Thanks, Jessica. Thanks for having me on.
YELLIN: She lost to Harry Reid in the Nevada Senate race, but could she have her sights set on the White House? We will tell you what Sharron Angle is up to.
And a giant planet may be hiding in plain sight. It's four times the size of Jupiter. So how did it go unnoticed for so long? You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
YELLIN: We're getting word that two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have been shot in Mexico.
Let's go straight to CNN homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve. Hi, Jeanne. What do you know?
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Jessica, they -- these two individuals were assigned to the Mexico City attache office for immigration and customs enforcement, two of about 30 agents that are assigned there.
According to a statement from ICE, they were shot in the line of duty while driving between Mexico City and Monterrey, Mexico, which is to the north, closer to the border. They were shot, according to the statement, by unknown assailants. ICE is working with the State Department and the Mexican authorities and U.S. law enforcement partners to investigate the shooting.
It says right now, "Our thoughts and prayers are with our colleagues." An ICE official tells me that these two agents were seriously wounded. As I mentioned, They Were part of a group of about 30 stationed in Mexico City. They work on a variety of issues, including drugs, immigration, currency, weapons, the full gamut of things that are issues for law enforcement between the U.S. and Mexico.
We will bring you more details when we have them, Jessica.
YELLIN: All right, Jeanne, thank you for staying on top of that. We will come back to you when you have more information.
The uprising in Egypt, one activist there calls it the Twitter revolution. And the U.S. is moving to make sure others like him can get their message out.
Also, a spectacular close encounter with a comet. We have some stunning new images.
And has one of the most closely guarded secrets in the world finally been revealed? Someone says they have uncovered the recipe for Coca-Cola.
YELLIN: Social media is now part of the U.S. foreign policy, and, after the revolution in Egypt, Internet freedom is taking on new importance at the State Department.
CNN foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty has more with that.
Jill, what's going on?
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, today, Secretary Clinton had a speech about Internet freedom, and, you know, she said that two billion people now are online and nearly a third of everyone on Earth, and, in the next 20 years, nearly five billion more people will join the network.
So, if we needed any proof of how important all of this is, you just have to look at what's happening right now in the Middle East.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): As the Egyptian revolution picked up steam, digital activist Ahmed Zidan was helping his fellow activists communicate. But some of them were getting blocked. So he tells me he used an application called Al Qasr (ph) that solves the problem. It was invented by a Yemeni blogger.
AHMED ZIDAN, MIDEASTYOUTH.COM: And it's very easy to use. And it gets around any connection. It has any blockage with Internet. It has some sort of browser, and you can navigate through this browser any disabled contents in your country.
DOUGHERTY: In a Skype interview from Cairo, Zidan says the Egyptian revolution made history because of the Internet.
ZIDAN: If I can name it, I will name it a Twitter revolution. It's a Twitter revolution, of course. And I'm betting on this new trend of revolutions, hash tag revolutions, if we can -- if you can name it -- that are sweeping across the region.
DOUGHERTY: In a major speech on Internet freedom, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. will provide more help for Internet users worldwide to get around filters and get their message out.
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have our ear to the ground, talking to digital activists about where they need help, and our diversified approach means we're able to adapt to the range of threats that they face.
We support multiple tools. So if repressive governments figure out to target one, others are available.
DOUGHERTY: In the last three years the State Department has awarded more than $20 million in grants to activists working at what she calls the cutting edge of the fight against Internet repression. This year they'll add another $25 million.
New York-based Movements.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping grassroots activists, has received support from the State Department. Cofounder Jason Liebman says what's been happening on the streets of the Mideast is stuff they've been talking about for two years. Now it's for real.
JASON LIEBMAN, CO-FOUNDER, MOVEMENTS.ORG: The exciting thing for us is looking at what's happening in Egypt and Tunisia for the first time, we saw examples of where these tools were actually being used and to affect real change. And you know, hopefully we'll see that happening over and over again over the coming years and months.
DOUGHERTY: And Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee accuse the State Department of being slow to disperse U.S. government funds for Internet freedom. And they say it shouldn't be the primary driver for the government on this issue.
Debates in Washington will continue. But no one is questioning the fact that the Internet and social media now are playing a critical role in U.S. foreign policy -- Jessica.
YELLIN: Fascinating shift. Thanks, Jill.
A celestial meeting could shed light on space secrets. NASA's spacecraft Stardust had a very close encounter with a comet half the size of New York City. Let's get more on that comet fly-by from CNN's John Zarrella in Miami.
John, what's this about?
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Jessica.
Well, you know, NASA had billed this as the Valentine's Day rendezvous with the Tempel-1 comet and the Stardust spacecraft. Two hundred million miles from earth, so we don't have to worry about this Tempel 1 coming anywhere near Earth.
But what had happened was that NASA was looking at some terrific images coming down through the course of the day as Stardust got very, very close to Tempel 1. And the images show literally what looks like, you know, a big rock out there, a boulder in space or maybe a meatball that wasn't quite formed the right way.
But they what were hoping to find was a crater, and this crater would have been formed five and a half years ago by another spacecraft called Deep Impact. What you're looking at there is from five and a half years ago when this spacecraft, Deep Impact, was intentionally hurled into Tempel 1, formed a crater. But because the cloud of debris was so thick at the time, NASA could never see what was formed by the crater left behind.
Well, they'd hoped they'd see it today. But in reality the images that came back from Stardust were less than dramatic to the naked eye and really didn't show any real dramatic crater. The scientists say now what they believe happened was the dust particles all settled right back into the crater that was left behind by Deep Impact. And so they didn't get to see a whole lot.
But they say they still have so much new data to analyze. And this was the first time a comet had ever been visited twice by a spacecraft. So they've got lots of analysis to do over the course of the next several years. And those pictures are still really spectacular from 200 million miles away. So pretty neat stuff.
YELLIN: It is neat. Does this mean that there could be a giant planet basically hidden in our solar system?
ZARRELLA: Well, you know, this is -- that's another story altogether. What happened was that there is some thought that way, way out at the edge of the solar system in what's called the Oort Cloud -- O-O-R-T, I'm not making that up -- and this cloud is filled with tens of thousands of comets in this Oort cloud, that some scientists believe that perhaps obscured in that cloud there may be a massive planet. Something like three or four times the size of Jupiter. They don't know for sure if it's out there.
But there is a telescope. And there you can see an image of what it might look like. There's a telescope, an infrared telescope that NASA had launched called the WISE telescope. And over the course of the next two years, the data that's being analyzed from that telescope may show a planet, if it really is out there. And I've think they've kind of billed it -- Tyche is the name of what this planet would be if it really exists. But we may not know that for another couple years.
And you can't see it from the Earth, so that's one of the reasons why they have to use this space telescope to try and find it, if it's out there at all. Kind of neat to think that it might be.
YELLIN: It's fascinating.
YELLIN: You have a great job reporting on all this space stuff.
ZARRELLA: Yes, I do.
YELLIN: Thanks John. John Zarrella.
Well, it is one of the most closely guarded secrets of all time. Or so we thought. Find out what Coca-Cola's billion-dollar secret recipe is. It might not be so secret anymore.
And four Wal-Mart employees risk their lives to stop an armed shoplifter. So why are they all now out of a job?
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
YELLIN: Legend has it that Coca-Cola's recipe is so secret that it's locked away in a bank vault. Or maybe not. Because has that mysterious recipe been revealed after more than a century? Let's find out more from CNN's Martin Savidge, who is in Atlanta, which is Coca- Cola's headquarters.
Marty, say it ain't so.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hello, Jessica.
And you know what? I would say it almost isn't so. But lets not give it all away just yet.
You know, when I first heard this story, I said you've got to be kidding me. I'm supposed to believe that the secret recipe of perhaps the most famous soft drink brand in all of the world had been published in a newspaper 32 years ago, almost exactly to the day. I mean, I said that had to be some sort of Internet hoax or urban legend.
So I started to do some digging. And I went to the first place you want to go when you want to look something up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE (voice-over): I head to the main branch of the Atlanta Library downtown and take a seat.
(on camera) So Dewey McCollum -- McCollum right? -- had decided to help us. He is the reference librarian here. And he's actually found the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution" from February 18, 1979.
(voice-over) That's the paper and the day where the recipe supposedly was published on page 2-B. And sure enough a quick search finds the story.
(on camera) So this article that was written by Charles Salter basically talks how the author had an encounter with a gentleman, a pharmacist, who had a ledger, and in that ledger, supposedly, was the recipe for Coca-Cola. And here is a photograph, if I move it over. And it may not show up too well on camera, but listed here are all the ingredients, supposedly, for Coca-Cola.
(voice-over) But could that really be the recipe? That led me to my next stop.
(on camera) Since Atlanta is home to the world headquarters of Coca-Cola, we thought, "Well, what better place to come to start looking for answers?"
(voice-over) In a courtyard I meet a man who knows a lot about Coke's past.
(on camera) Bill, how long have you been a historian with Coca- Cola?
PAUL MOONEY, COCA-COLA ARCHIVIST: I've been here 33 years.
SAVIDGE: Is the secret of Coca-Cola, the recipe, is it here?
MOONEY: Well, it's actually not in our headquarters building. It's actually in a vault in the SunTrust Bank.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): That's in downtown Atlanta. And Phil says only a handful of executives actually know the recipe. He's very familiar with the 1979 "Atlanta Journal" article.
(on camera) Is that the formula for Coca-Cola?
MOONEY: No, it's not. I mean, the formula for Coca-Cola is probably the most closely-guarded secret in the history of American commerce.
SAVIDGE (voice-over): Phil says every couple of years somebody claims to have an old document, believing it's the recipe for the original Coke, only it's not. He says what they are, are early attempts from the 1900s when others tried to replicate the recipe. In other words, they are cola recipes, but they are not the real thing. Of course, I figured Phil wouldn't tell me even if it was the real recipe. My real shock came when I talked to marketing professor Doug Bowman, who said it may or may not be the real recipe. But it doesn't really matter at all.
DOUG BOWMAN, MARKETING PROFESSOR, EMORY UNIVERSITY: I don't think we'll ever know if it's really the recipe. And I don't think Coke really cares. Coke is selling a lifestyle brand. They're selling refreshment. They're selling happiness.
SAVIDGE: In other words, Coke is a lot more than, say, just a list of ingredients on an old piece of paper. It is almost part of our lives. It is a brand.
Now just in case some of you want to write down what actually is in the ingredients we found in the newspaper, well, we put together the list. Let me just read it to you. It's called the Secret 7X Flavor. Use two ounces of flavor to five gallons of syrup. So you're going to be making a lot.
Alcohol, 8 ounces; orange oil, 20 drops; lemon oil, 30 drops; nutmeg oil, ten drops; coriander, five drops; neroli, I think, ten drops; cinnamon, ten drops.
By the way, all of this was brought to life by that radio program on NPR, "This American Life." They actually put that recipe together, people tasted it, and they said, "You know what? That's not Coke."
So it appears that the recipe is safe, Jessica.
YELLIN: Nutmeg, coriander and cinnamon. I wouldn't have guessed.
SAVIDGE: Good luck finding it
YELLIN: Yes. Don't make that at home. Thanks, Marty.
SAVIDGE: You bet.
YELLIN: Great story.
Well, he may have been censured, but don't count out Congressman Charlie Rangel. The veteran New York congressman is making a comeback move.
And Rahm Emanuel was President Obama's right-hand man at the White House. So is the Chicago mayoral hopeful getting some campaign help from his former boss? We'll tell you what Mr. Obama is saying. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
YELLIN: One controversial member of Congress is eyeing re- election. Lisa Sylvester is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.
Lisa, hey, what do you have?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jessica.
Censured Congressman Charlie Rangel is thinking about running for a 22nd term. The New York lawmaker has filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission. The 81-year-old stepped down as chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee after an ethics panel found him guilty. The full House punished Rangel by censure.
Tea Partier Sharron Angle may just have her sights set on the White House. The former Nevada lawmaker who almost beat Senator Harry Reid is visiting some key primary states. Angle is headed to New Hampshire and South Carolina for premiers of a Christian movie, and Angle is saying that she is not ruling anything out.
Democrat Alvin Greene is on the ballot again in South Carolina. He is one of four candidates trying to win the Democratic nomination for a seat in the state legislature. Greene lost his campaign against incumbent Republican Senator Jim DeMint last year. Greene will face trial for distributing pornography to a college student. He pleaded not guilty.
And Rahm Emanuel might be one step closer to becoming Chicago's next mayor. It looks like the former White House chief of staff has enough support to avoid a runoff. A new poll shows Emanuel with 58 percent of the vote. The next closest candidate is former Chicago board of education president, Gery Chico, with 24 percent. Emanuel needs more 50 percent in next week's election to avoid an April runoff. Just today President Obama was asked if he's been making calls for Emanuel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't have to make calls for Rahm Emanuel. He seems to be doing just fine on his own. And you know, he's been very busy shoveling snow out there. I've been very impressed with that. I never saw him shoveling around here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SYLVESTER: So he has been a little bit busy there. Who was -- so was it New York Mayor Cory Booker?
YELLIN: Cory Booker, yes.
SYLVESTER: Wasn't he doing the same thing out there, shoveling?
YELLIN: And Rahm Emanuel did get out and shovel snow. And then Cory Booker tweeted Rahm, saying, "You're doing a good job" a while ago, so -- it's going around.
Anyway, with numbers like that it looks like he doesn't need the president's help. That election is next Tuesday.
YELLIN: Thanks, Lisa.
They're heroes who stopped an armed robbery.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GABRIEL STEWART, FORMER WAL-MART EMPLOYEE: Time stopped. I -- I didn't know what to do.
SHAWN RAY, FORMER WAL-MART EMPLOYEE: He looked right at me and said, "The gun is cocked. Come on, guys, just let me go. I don't want to do this. I don't want to hurt anybody."
JUSTIN RICHARDS, FORMER WAL-MART EMPLOYEE: "Don't make me do this."
RAY: "Don't make me do this."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
YELLIN: After enduring all that, they've been fired from their jobs. Why?
Plus an incredible shaving helmet. Really? Sounds too good to be true. Is it?
YELLIN: Four Wal-Mart employees put their lives on the line to stop a gunman but now they've been fired. Andrew Adams of CNN affiliate KSL has more.
STEWART: Absolutely, time stopped. I didn't know what to do.
ANDREW ADAMS, REPORTER, KSL (voice-over): Gabe Stewart froze. A gun pressed into his back, he was pushed up against a wall, and Justin Richards and Sean Ray were backed against a closed door.
RAY: He looked right at me and said, "The gun is cocked. Come on, guys, just let me go. I don't want to do this. I don't want to hurt anybody."
RICHARDS: "Don't make me do this."
RAY: "Don't make me do this."
ADAMS: It was January 13 inside this Wal-Mart on Hillfield Road. A police report obtained by KSL shows Trent Allen Longton was seen stashing a netbook computer inside his clothes in the electronics department here. Then he headed toward the front of the store. These workers approached, escorted him to the loss prevention office. That's where Longton took out the laptop and then a loaded handgun. Bullet in the chamber, he rushed the workers, pushing the gun into Stewart.
RAY: I reached up and grabbed his wrist and his shoulder and spun him around.
LORI POULSEN, FORMER WAL-MART EMPLOYEE: I was thinking whose house am going to go into tonight to tell their family that their loved one was shot?
ADAMS: As that protection supervisor, Lori Poulsen, says, they went hands on. She ripped the gun away. They restrained him until police arrived.
POULSEN: And you have to make a decision: do I fight for my life or do I stand here and watch?
ADAMS: Game over, happy ending, right? Fast forward one week.
POULSEN: They called and set up the appointment for me to come in and be terminated from the company.
RICHARDS: Said you are fired -- you are being terminated for a violation of APO 9.
ADAMS: APO 9 is Wal-Mart's policy on dealing with shoplifters. It shows employees are allowed to use reasonable force to limit movements of struggling suspects, but if a gun comes out, associates must disengage and withdraw.
In this case withdraw where? These workers say they had nowhere to go and no other real option.
RAY: The police have told us we did everything right.
ADAMS (on camera): Layton police say Longton, a convicted felon within a loaded gun, multiple outstanding warrants and a long criminal history, likely would have faced a stiff police response outside.
LT. GARRETT ATKIN, LAYTON, UTAH, POLICE: Then likely they are going to, you know, produce their hand guns and try and, you know, take the person into custody because you've got to be ready for it.
ADAMS (voice-over): While Layton P.D. would not comment on the appropriateness of these workers' actions, the officer in the police report says it was in his and citizens' best interest in safety to take the suspect to the ground.
Longton was initially charged with five crimes. This week, he pleaded guilty to two counts: robbery and possession of a gun by a restricted person.
ATKIN: After taking his statements along with the information that they learned from the store employees, the officers felt that probable cause existed for the charges that I outlined. ADAMS: Wal-Mart responded to KSL's calls and e-mails with a written statement: "We appreciate the intentions demonstrated by our associates in this situation, but the actions taken put their safety -- and potentially the safety of our customers and other associates in jeopardy."
The statement also points out the workers knew the rules before they acted. No consolation to Stewart and the others.
STEWART: I honestly felt worse than -- than when I had the gun to my back. I -- I honestly felt betrayed.
YELLIN: That was Andrew Adams of KSL. We'll be right back.
YELLIN: Who needs a razor when you've got the shaving helmet? Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Want to shave your head without lifting a finger?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So this is a shaving helmet, four-blade array mounted on Teflon-coated aluminum rails powered by two servos.
MOOS: For some of us in the media, it was a close shave.
(on camera) This one I believe for about ten seconds.
(voice-over) They test it on a guy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does it feel?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A little strange.
MOOS: And when the helmet comes off.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Any nicks? Oh, wow. Nice it looks smooth.
MOOS: Oh, it's smooth all right, a smooth fake, thanks to a pair of twins.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's ridiculous.
MOOS: It looks too small.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you have a bigger head.
MOOS: While the camera panned away for 15 seconds.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you shave your head manually...
MOOS: The twin who had hair was replaced by the twin whose head was already shaved. The switch-a-roo is revealed in the follow-up video, "The Making of the Shaving Helmet."
(on camera) Now, you think of this as a viral marketing touchdown, correct?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's correct.
MOOS (voice-over): A touchdown because it spread globally from Web sites to TV.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You put your head in this thing.
MOOS: Sure, lots of folks didn't fall for it. Skeptics wondered, "Where does the hair go?"
(on camera) It's basically a hoax.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mm-hmm.
JAMES PERCELAY, CO-FOUNDER, THINKMODO: Yes. It is. But we find that you have to go to extremes to get attention.
MOOS (voice-over): Just as a company marketing water-repellent shoes did when it created a viral video showing guys running on water. Turns out they were running on a wooden walkway beneath the surface.
And this water slide, known as Megawoosh, supposedly sent a slider airborne into a tiny pool. The Discovery show "Mythbusters" busted that myth by recreating it. A marketing company confessed it was digital magic done from Microsoft Germany.
The shaving helmet, it turns out, was aimed at promoting a company called HeadBlade, and you better not put that helmet on while it's turned on, or you could get scalped.
MICHAEL KRIVICKA, CO-FOUNDER, THINKMODO: Never, ever believe a video on YouTube if it is too good to be true.
MOOS: Keith and Kenny Lucas say even though Mom thought the shaving helmet was real...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She had no idea that we switched. She thought that was just Kenny in it. And I'm like, "No, Mom, it was both of us."
MOOS: They even added a mole to Keith so he'd match Kenny. Holy-moly. Seeing is no longer believing.
(on camera) This is making like little electronic noises.
(voice-over) Jeanne Moos...
(on camera) My hair's stuck. (voice-over) ... CNN...
(on camera) Don't turn this damn thing on.
(voice-over) ... New York.
YELLIN: I'm Jessica Yellin.
"JOHN KING USA" starts right now.