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Trial of Michael Jackson's Doctor Continues; Economy Showing Small Signs of Improvement; Vice President Biden Says Those in Charge Now Responsible for Economy; Listeria Outbreak Linked to Cantaloupe; Florida May Hold GOP Primary Earlier than Previously Scheduled; Social Security Unconstitutional?; Inside Notorious Fugitive's Astonishing Hideout; Congress Targeted in Fake Terror Story

Aired September 29, 2011 - 17:00   ET


JOE JOHNS, GUEST HOST: Happening now, secrets from Michael Jackson's death bed. Riveting new testimony about stashed evidence and his daughter's tearful scream for her daddy. Standby for the latest from the manslaughter trial of Jackson's doctor.

Plus, is cantaloupe safe to eat? Thirteen people are dead from bacteria tainted melons and the multistate outbreak is spreading.

And a startling remark by Vice President Joe Biden about who's the blame for the poor U.S. economy. The Obama campaign may be having fits over this one. Wait until you hear what he said.

Wolf Blitzer is off. I'm Joe Johns. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

It's a gut wrenching image. Michael Jackson's daughter, Paris, on the ground, balled up and crying outside the room where her father had just died and her brother, Prince, in shock. The scene described today during the manslaughter trial of Dr. Conrad Murray. And we heard powerful allegations about Murray's actions and inaction.

Let's go to Ted Rowlands in Los Angeles. What's the latest, Ted?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Joe, it was a compelling day in court so far. It continues this afternoon here in Los Angeles. All day, it has been Alberto Alvarez, the director of logistics for Michael Jackson, and he has taken the jury inside the Jackson house during those critical moments of chaos while Jackson was lying on his bed. He describes the scenario where he gets a call, rushes in there, sees Murray in the room, sees Jackson laying there with his mouth open.

He also testified that Murray asked him to help him collect bottles of Propofol, put them in a bag, before he had a chance to call 911.


ALBERTO ALVAREZ, DIRECTOR OF LOGISTICS FOR MICHAEL JACKSON: I believe Dr. Conrad Murray had the best intentions for Mr. Jackson, so I didn't question his authority at the time. I knew it was a medical emergency, so I proceed to follow Mr. Conrad Murray's instructions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. What did you think -- when did you think these items were being packed up for?

ALVAREZ: I thought we were packing, getting ready to go to the hospital.


ROWLANDS: Alvarez would testify that when he first walked into the room, Murray told him, get an emergency response here. We need help. Call an ambulance. But he said he didn't call right away. He said he reached for his phone, but then he was distracted by the Jackson children. He detailed for the jury how he took them away because they were watching their father. He says that Paris, Michael Jackson's daughter, screamed out, "Daddy, daddy," and was crying. It was another one of those emotional points of the case where the Jackson children were the center of attention and it made an impact not only on the Jackson family, but also the jury.


ALVAREZ: Paris screamed out, "Daddy!"

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you heard Paris scream out "Daddy," was she crying?

ALVAREZ: Yes, sir. Dr. Conrad Murray said -- don't let them -- don't let them see their dad like this. Don't let them see their dad like this. And I proceeded to turn around to the children and kind of ushered them out and said, kids, don't worry, we'll take care of it. Everything is going to be OK.


ROWLANDS: And testimony continues, Joe. We did see Katherine Jackson leave for the day, presumably. She's been the mainstay, the one family member who's been here from beginning to end, but she did leave about a half hour ago. We know she is taking the children out of Los Angeles, out of the United States for a couple of weeks, going to Europe in preparation for the Michael Jackson tribute concert scheduled in Wales. Joe?

JOHNS: Ted Rowlands in Los Angeles tonight. Let's talk more about today's testimony with CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta. And Sanjay, as you listen to all of this, does this sound like a doctor attempting perhaps to cover his tracks or something else at work here?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's hard to say. We focused really listening closely to the whole description of the CPR, where this is a cardiologist by all accounts who was essentially performing CPR with one arm at times, one hand and on a soft bed. This sort of violates some of the most basic rules, basic things you're thought. It's not just doctors, nurses, all sorts of people learn this.

Whether it was someone who just panicked or whether it was somebody who already thought his patient frankly was deceased, it's hard to say. But there were a lot of mistakes that were made there, and some of the ones are so basic in terms of the nature of the mistake that it's hard to comprehend.

JOHNS: Does it raise any questions for you as to whether the doctor actually knew how to perform CPR in the first place?

GUPTA: That's an interesting point because if you listened a bit to the testimony today, which I did, they made a big point of the fact the doctor said does anywhere here know how to perform CPR? I think the prosecution was trying to make the point he didn't. That Dr. Murray did not know how to perform CPR.

I think what you will hear, is that he was essentially asking someone else to perform CPR so that he could start doing mouth to mouth resuscitation, so it was essentially trying to find someone he could work in tandem with. I think it would be very hard to believe that he did not know how to do cardiac compressions. I think it had more to do with one of the two things I said earlier, he was panicking or didn't think there was anything he could do because his patient was already dead.

JOHNS: Sanjay, as you know, there is some suggestion or a theory here that Michael Jackson may have injected himself with the fatal Propofol. There's also testimony in evidence that Michael Jackson was wearing a catheter. You being a doctor, are those consistent notions?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I mean, I feel like I've been giving this answer a lot, Joe, which is possible, but not likely. You know, this type of medication is something that certainly can be injected from what I understand.

He had what's called a port. You can sort of think about that as an indwelling IV, and it is possible. I heard this particular one was in his leg area. It is possible to you know, reach down and inject medication into that.

But you know, what's a little bit harder to believe, you have the catheter in part because you're laid out, unlikely to be able to get up and go to the bathroom, and now you're saying he's doing all these other things, walking around the room. Possible, Joe, again, but not likely.

JOHNS: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much for that.

Now to what's become the deadliest outbreak of food-borne illness in more than a decade. Federal officials stepping up efforts to stop the spread of bacteria tainted cantaloupes. They were taken off the shelves weeks ago, but new cases of Listeria keep popping up. Let's bring in Lisa Sylvester with details. And this is a very scary story and not perhaps just for people who eat cantaloupe.

LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is a huge one. And no doubt about it, there have been 13 deaths so far. This number is expected to rise. So far, most of the deaths have involved people older than 70. Federal regulators are teaming up with scientists to figure out how the bacteria could have gotten into the melons, which have a thick skin, but as of now, they have few clues.


SYLVESTER: The tainted cantaloupes are linked to Jensen Farms in Colorado. At least 72 people have become sick, 13 deaths reported in 18 states.

TAMMIE PALMER, WIFE OF LISTERIA VICTIM: It's just been pure hell, devastating, unreal. I can't believe that a cantaloupe would make somebody that ill.

SYLVESTER: Tammy Palmer's husband Charles is among those clinging to life in a hospital after eating a deadly cantaloupe according to a lawsuit filed by the couple. The elderly, pregnant women, and people with weak immune systems are the most vulnerable to Listeria. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, blurred vision, and diarrhea. Health experts say sit can be three weeks to two months from the time when someone eats the cantaloupe to when symptoms first appear.

DOUG KARAS, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: We've identified the source of the bad cantaloupe and we've recalled the product, but now we might still see illnesses and even fatalities for the next month up into October.

SYLVESTER: Listeria has been linked to deli meats and cheeses, but this is the first time cantaloupe has been identified as the source of an outbreak.

CHRIS BRADEN, CDC: It's a little bit of a puzzle to us where in the process it might have been contaminated. That's part of an ongoing investigation.

SYLVESTER: So, how do you know if you have one of these cantaloupes? They Food and Drug Administration says they would be labeled "Frontier Produce Colorado Fresh Rocky Cantaloupe, or Jensen Farms Sweet Rocky Fords." And you can't rely on how it tastes.

DR. DEAN ACHESON, DIRECTOR, FOOD AND IMPORT SAFETY, LEAVITT PARTNERS: Often with bacteria on the food, the food looks good, it tastes good. It doesn't make the food smell weird. These bacteria that we're talking about, they're little stealth bombs, and they will sit on the food and you wouldn't be none the wiser.


SYLVESTER: Jensen Farms has voluntarily recalled the cantaloupes. And again, this is really dangerous, particularly for pregnant women, newborns, the elderly, and people with a compromised immune system.

JOHNS: A very insidious notion -- an incubation period of three weeks to two months.

SYLVESTER: That's the thing that is stunning about this. It is very possible there are people who ate this cantaloupe two weeks ago, three weeks ago and are now showing symptoms of this. And that's why they expect the death toll, which is at 13 right now, to rise. JOHNS: Quite a surprise, right at harvest time for Americans. Thank you so much Lisa Sylvester.

New breaks in the cloud over the U.S. economy. But if folks in the Obama camp were filling upbeat, new comments by Vice President Biden may be bringing them down. Stand by for Biden's latest shocker.

And an up close look at the surprising hideout of a notorious fugitive arrested for four decades on the run.


JOHNS: New glimmers of hope today for jobs and the economy. The number of Americans filing for first time unemployment benefits fell to 391,000 last week, the lowest level in almost six months. That's better than economists had expected.

And a revised estimate shows the economy grew at a 1.3 percent rate from April through June. That's higher than an earlier estimate, but still pretty weak.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent Brianna Keilar. And before we get to the administration's reaction to these new number, Brianna, Vice President Biden has made a rather startling statement about the economy and who voters should blame.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Joe. This was a live interview he did with a radio station out of Florida, WLRN, some very candid words. He was saying that the economy has gotten better, but it's not good enough, and so it's not surprising who some Americans are blaming.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Even though 50 something percent of the American people think the economy tanked because of the last administration, that's not relevant. What's relevant is we're in charge. And right now, we're the ones in charge, and it's gotten better, but not good enough. I don't blame them for being mad. We're in charge.


KEILAR: So, you can sort of argue here that Vice President Joe Biden maybe stating the obvious. We know that a president is judged on the economy, be it good or bad, but the fact is, a person of his stature saying this is something that really gives Republicans an opening. The RNC has already circulated these comments. They said it. They're admitting to owning up to the problem here.

But the other thing playing here is that the president's top advisers believe that not only will the president be judged, but so, too, will Congressional Republicans. That's why you see the president hitting on Congressional Republicans and as he's characterizing them as standing in the way of the jobs plan he's put forward. Poll numbers stale blame President Bush. In our latest CNN-ORC poll, those polled showed 52 percent said President Bush and the Republicans are more responsible for the current state of the economy compared to 32 percent saying it's President Obama and the Democrats.

But the comments here from the vice president kind of cutting into President Obama's assertion that we've heard him make often, that he was really handed a tough situation, that the financial crisis happened even before he was elected, Joe.

JOHNS: So, Brianna, the question really is whether the administration is treating this as another one of Joe Biden's famous gaffes, or in the alternative they're sort of floating this out there to sort of change the way they talk about the economy.

KEILAR: What we've heard from Jay Carney today is he was kind of saying it is a legitimate way to look at things, but he stressed that all politicians will be judged by their record on the economy, and that's something the president's top advisers certainly believe, Joe.

JOHNS: Interesting. Brianna Keilar, thanks so much.

Let's dig deeper on these new numbers with a leading economist. We're joined by Mark Zandi, the chief economist for Moody's Analytics. And Mark, obviously, we want to know, is this the beginning of a turnaround or is this just another one of those false starts we've talked about so much in the economy?

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S, ANALYTICS: Well, Joe, not yet. No. I think the numbers today were good, but good in all the bad news we've been getting. The economy's still struggling. Still not creating enough jobs, so I don't think we're through this yet. We've got more tough times ahead.

JOHNS: And to ask it another way, a lot of people have heard so much talk about the possibility of a double dip recession. How do these new numbers play into those fears?

ZANDI: They're good. They indicate the economy is not in recession, so it's not that businesses have increased their layoffs yet, but we need to see much better numbers. We need to see those initial claims moving down in a very definitive way to suggest that businesses have started to hire again. Until businesses are hiring in a more aggressive way, I don't think we can be confident that the economy's going to get through this without going into recession. We're not in recession yet. We are still growing. But we're not growing fast enough. We can't be confident we're not out of the woods yet.

JOHNS: What's behind these numbers?

ZANDI: Well, it shows that businesses are just extraordinarily nervous. We've been through a lot. The recession was deep and severe. Businesses have been struggling to survive. People are just really shell-shocked. And we've gone through a series of what I would consider pretty serious policy mistakes, everything from shutting the government down in the spring to the spectacle over the debt ceiling, and I just think that's made people very nervous.

It's not that they're pulling back. Not like businesses are increasing layoffs, but they are frozen in place and you can't stay here long. Either confidence revives and businesses start hiring or we're in the soup. So we need policymakers to step up and do a few things to ensure confidence moves in the right direction and the economy begins to recover.

JOHNS: How long do you think it will be before we see improvement in the unemployment numbers?

ZANDI: Joe, I really think it's not going to be until this time next year. I think confidence is still very weak. We need policymakers to follow through on the debt ceiling deal. We need them to extend the current payroll tax holiday. We need good things to happen in Europe as well. Europe has become more of a problem.

So I think we've got the foreclosure issues, state and local government cutbacks. We've got a good, solid, six, 12 months of difficult times. It really won't be until this time next year when we're going to get enough job growth to bring employment down.

JOHNS: All this week, we've been talking about broken government here and you touched just a minute ago on the nervousness created by political gridlock, the notions of the possibility at least of shutting down the government. Is there anything beyond nervousness we need to worry about as a result of this sort of intractability in the relationship between the White House and Capitol Hill?

ZANDI: Absolutely. In my view, the economy cannot digest the tax increases that will come next year unless policymakers act, unless Congress and the administration act, and at the very least, extend the current payroll tax holiday. The president has proposed expanding it and I think that would be an prominent thing to do.

So if policymakers do nothing, we're going to have a problem. They've got to act and they've got to work on the dell ceiling deal. They've agreed to $900 billion. They've got to follow through with more deficit reduction by the end of the year to convince everyone, us and global investors, that we're serious about this and we're going to address our long-term fiscal problems. So policymakers can't standstill here. They've got to act, otherwise the odds of recession will be high through next year.

JOHNS: We have to take a peek at the global picture. Germany approved a bailout today. Do you think they're making the right move?

ZANDI: Absolutely it's good news, very good news. They've got to do a lot more. There's a few other European countries that have to get this through their parliament. They've got to recapitalize their banking system. Today's news was good news. They're moving in the right direction.

JOHNS: Thanks so much. Good to see you.

ZANDI: Thank you. JOHNS: New signs former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani may be getting serious about a GOP presidential run. Is it too late for him or anyone else to jump in the race? Our strategy session is coming up next.


JOHNS: A potential shakeup in the GOP presidential primary calendar. Let's get to our strategy session. Joining us is CNN political contributor and Democratic strategist Paul Begala. He's a senior strategist for the Democratic fundraising groups Priorities USA, also, Republican strategist Nicole Wallace. She's author of the new book, "It's Classified." Thanks for being here.

Let's talk primary politics, and as you know, it's likely, at least, not certain, but likely that Florida is going to move its primary up to January 31st, which means Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, I think I got them all in, they'll also move up very probably. What does this mean for presidential politics, Republican field, as it stands now?

NICOLE WALLACE, FORMER MCCAIN CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISOR: I spoke to two top Florida Republicans on my way over here and they think this is a very important move for the state. It means that Florida will matter. They feel that Florida determined the outcome of the Republican primary four years ago when Romney campaigned hard there. McCain won and they feel that was decisive. They think it's possible that coming out of Iowa, you could have someone like Perry win Iowa, that you could have Huntsman or Romney win in New Hampshire and that Florida could be the deciding factor in the primary contest.

PAUL BEGALA, CLINTON-GORE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: It could be, but I'm worried -- it's not my problem.


BEGALA: They'll keep cascading forward and so we'll have Iowa like during thanksgiving, when Texas is playing Texas A&M. I do think the party needs a strong chairman. In this case, this guy Reince Priebus with the unpronounceable name, needs to step in and say here are the rules, boys and girls, and everybody is going to follow them. Howard Dean did that in my party the last time around, and it worked.

JOHNS: Florida actually did this and got penalized.

WALLACE: But I think the argument that they make is that Florida is much more representative of the country. It has 10 media markets. There is a need to campaign for the Hispanic vote. You have to understand the separate issues the Cubans care about. It is a state where if you can win in Florida it is, they would argue, a more meaningful victory.

JOHNS: Who gets the advantage between Perry say and Romney? Who's going to benefit the most if they move up?

WALLACE: I think those guys are in the one category of the kind of benefit because it takes money to campaign in the state with 10 media markets.

JOHNS: What you're talking about is perhaps the potential of others getting in.

BEGALA: If they get in with money, they'd be OK, but the losers are the Jon Huntsmans who were hoping to ride a come from behind victory in New Jersey, or Santorum who was hoping for some miracle in one of those retail political states.

BEGALA: The movement candidates who have been more interesting and dynamic than the establishment candidates. Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, have won important early tests and nobody in the establishment saw them coming.

WALLACE: That's fair.

JOHNS: Paul, let's talk about the Democrats. All right, and we have been sort of tracking this notion of lack of enthusiasm among democratic voters. And one thing that seems pretty clear if you look at this Gallup poll from September 15th through the 18th, we asked are you more enthusiastic than usual about voting for Democrats. And now 45 percent, in 2008, 79 percent. What on earth are the Democrats going to do especially among African-Americans to get some excitement?

BEGALA: Young people, African-Americans, Latinos, single women, this is the heart of the Democratic Party. That's a catastrophic number. If you go from 79 percent of your folks as we used to say for president Obama, fired up and ready to go, down to 45 percent. The president and his team, myself, all the Democrats, we've got to work at billing that back up.

There's some anecdotal information that it's moving. The president turned the corner with that job speech. Democrats loved it, by the way so did independents. And so if he's out there fighting for the middle class, I think he will fire up his troops and they'll be ready to go again. But that is really troubling poll number.

WALLACE: The problem with the enthusiasm gap on either side is that there are certain people that always vote. The behavioral voters will always turn out. But that's not how Obama won. The extraordinary story of the Obama victory was that he brought all these new voters to the table. That was why he won. So he will certainly bring back the Democrats who are not going to vote for a Republican no matter who it is.

But the coalition that delivered him the White House is not there for him, and if he has to spend all his finding them, exciting them, getting them off the couch, having them figure out where to go vote again -- a lot of those people move around in four years -- he will have a very hard time winning again.

JOHNS: One of those things you find out on the campaign trail is that anger is always a motivator, and you certainly find that among Tea Party voters, for example. But on the Democratic side, it just doesn't look like they have that anger, except some of it is actually directed at the administration. (LAUGHTER)

BEGALA: And this is why God made me. You might have wondered, Joe, but people like me can do this.

In other words, I like the president and I support him. You know what I like more? Hitting the other side. Not Nicolle, who I love, but Democrats need to stand up and say look at what the Republicans are doing.

Make Democrats watch the Republican debates, which are very highly motivating for the Democratic base, because one candidate wants to abolish Social Security entirely, the next one wants to hand it over to Wall Street. One says Medicare is unconstitutional, the other says we should give it over to insurance companies.

These things -- you know, I'm all for hope and change and love as a motivator, but let me tell you, the threat to the Democratic base that any one of those Republican candidates represents, that's what can fire my people up.

WALLACE: But the problem here is that the Republicans aren't going to run as a field of nine guys still working out their message. They're going to run in a one-on-one contest, against a president who has failed to fix this economy. And that was the single referendum I think that voters were going to look at him for four years later. Are they better off than they were four years ago? And I think the answer is no.

JOHNS: Now, let's listen to something Jay Carney said at the White House briefing today.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: When we have positive signs, those are obviously good and we welcome them. But again, I have to acknowledge up front that there's a certain amount of volatility in that particular number. And it doesn't change the fact that we need to take dramatic action, significant action, to address the unacceptably high unemployment rate in this country.


JOHNS: So, I just talked a couple of minutes ago to Mark Zandi, and there are some numbers out of there, just a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel, perhaps, for the administration on jobs and the economy. But the question is whether they're going to get there in time for it to have a real effect and make people feel it.

BEGALA: Right. And I think this is the big story in Washington for the next year. Right? Will the Republicans hurt the economy in order to help themselves politically? I think yes, and here's why.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate Leader in the Republican Party, says his top political priority is defeating the president. Not jobs, defeating the president. John Boehner, the House Speaker, when told his policies might cause layoffs, he said, so be it. Congresswoman Bachmann said, I hope high employment helps my campaign. Rush Limbaugh says, I hope he fails.


WALLACE: Well, listen, it is not likely that Michele Bachmann will be the candidate that our party settles on. It looks like right now Romney is polling very high, and he is someone who is running on a message of turning around the economy. He's someone that has actually been in the real economy, and I think he's someone that will give President Obama a run for his money.

JOHNS: Nicolle Wallace, Paul Begala, thanks so much. I appreciate it.

BEGALA: Wait. I'm psyched about this book.


WALLACE: The reason I write fiction.

BEGALA: Love this book, Democrats will love this. It's a behind-the- scenes tale. Those of us who have worked in the White House can attest to that.

JOHNS: A good publicist. That's right. All right.

WALLACE: A good friend.

BEGALA: It's classified.

JOHNS: Thanks so much, guys.

WALLACE: Thank you.

JOHNS: Add another Republican presidential debate to your calendar. CNN just finalized plans to co-sponsor a debate in Arizona on December 1st, along with the state Republican Party. And don't forget CNN's Republican presidential debate live from Los Vegas on Tuesday, October 18th.

A new decision about treatment for the man charged with shooting Gabrielle Giffords. Is there any hope that he may eventually be competent to stand trial?

And the link between the Japanese tsunami and a surprising discovery in a public restroom.


BLITZER: Lisa Sylvester is monitoring some of the other stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now.

Lisa, the man accused of shooting Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords may eventually stand trial after all. SYLVESTER: Yes, that's right, Joe. Jared Loughner will stay in a mental health treatment facility four more months. An Arizona federal judge asked that Loughner then be reevaluated to see if medication would make him competent to go to trial for the deadly Tucson shooting rampage. The 23-year-old has been diagnosed as schizophrenic. Loughner could face the death penalty if he is convicted.

And up to 15 years in prison. Twenty doctors arrested during Bahrain's political protest were sentenced today on several charges, including trying to overthrow the government while setting up shop in the capital city's main hospital. Human rights organizations say the charges are "simply ludicrous." The doctors plan to appeal the convictions.

And a mysterious and generous gift just showed up in a public restroom in Japan. An anonymous donor left about $131,000, along with a note that said the cash should be used for tsunami victims. The money will eventually be passed on to the Japanese Red Cross.

OK. Here's proof that it's not over until it is over.

Yes, down 7-0 last night, the Tampa Bay Rays answered (ph) the New York Yankees with a winning homerun in the 12th inning. Unbelievable.

The Rays, they clinched a wildcard spot. And thanks to the Boston Red Sox, who have suffered one of the most epic September collapses in the sport -- I know a lot of Red Sox fans are crying right now -- they were on top of the league's leader board at the beginning of this month -- the Red Sox lost 20 of their last 27 games, and their World Series hopes died last night with the loss to the last place Baltimore Orioles.

My husband was watching those games and he is heartbroken. He's a big Red Sox fan, so a lot of tears this morning.

JOHNS: I have to tell you, that was one of the most -- and many people have said this to me -- one of the most amazing nights in Major League Baseball that anyone had ever seen. So much happened so fast.

SYLVESTER: Yes, I was told not to interrupt him. He was parked in front of the TV set. Apparently, he was going back between the two games. It was a pretty big night for the Red Sox.

But sorry, Red Sox fans. Sorry.

JOHNS: Into the regular season. Thanks so much, Lisa.

Remember, beginning Monday, THE SITUATION ROOM moves up an hour. Be sure to join us from 4:00 to 6:0 p.m. Eastern on weekdays. John King will follow at 6:00 Eastern. And the new "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" airs 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

In Italy, a dramatic close as an American student, Amanda Knox, appeals her murder conviction. Details in our next hour.

And a mock news organization sends out a fake tweet about terror at the Capitol, and law enforcement officials are not laughing.


JOHNS: A provocative new look at how the richest Americans hold most of the nation's wealth. It's a special money issue of our corporate cousin, "TIME" magazine. You can see the cover titled, "What We Spend: The Age of Volatility."

Joining us now, "TIME" magazine's managing editor, Rick Stengel.

And this is a very provocative cover. If you look at it very closely, it says next to the tall stack of bills in order -- in other words, the richest 20 percent of households own 85 percent of the wealth. So you're talking about the gap between the rich and the poor in the United States, and it seems to be widening.

Why is that?

RICHARD STENGEL, "TIME" MANAGING EDITOR: Yes. I mean, it's the widest it has been, Joe, since 1929, the eve of the Depression. In fact, one percent of all households control about 25 percent of all income, which is another statistic, which, again -- which is very similar to what was happening in 1929 on the eve of the Depression.

There are all kinds of reasons for it. I mean, there has been a hollowing out of the middle class. Globalization has meant a lot of jobs have been exported. You know, people borrowing and not saving. There are a lot of things that we actually know about what's been going wrong for the past 25 or 30 years that have accounted for this.

JOHNS: And on the lower end of the scale, if you will, there are those Social Security recipients, the people who get Social Security for a living, perhaps for a livelihood. We have a poll that we'd just like to talk to you a bit about on Social Security.

Our CNN/ORC poll, when we asked the question, "Is Social Security unconstitutional?" And this issue has come up on the campaign trail a few times. Of all Americans, 21 percent say yes, it's unconstitutional, 73 percent say no.

But if you look at the party breakdowns between Democrats and Republicans, it shows 11 percent think it's unconstitutional, and 32 percent of Republicans think it's unconstitutional. A high number for Republicans.

What does that say on the campaign trail? And is it sort of a benefit for a Mitt Romney, who supports Social Security, or the other guy, Rick Perry, who's been a critic and called it a Ponzi scheme?

STENGEL: Well, I've got to say, Joe, to me, the question of whether Social Security is constitutional or unconstitutional isn't an important one. I mean, no even moderate person thinks that Social Security is unconstitutional.

We actually have in "TIMES"/CNN poll, which is in the cover story, a different question which I think actually cuts to what is more important on the campaign trail, which is that 74 percent of Americans think Social Security will not be there for them when they retire. Now, that gives some momentum to Rick Perry saying that it's a Ponzi scheme, because people feel like, you know what? It's not going to be there for me.

They do understand that Social Security -- in fact there is no trust fund. It's a pay as you go system. And that goes to this new era that we're living in, this era of volatility, where there aren't the same securities that we have had before.

It's much more like the era of 1919 to 1945, where there were lots of changes every few years. There were recessions and booms. And it looks like we're going back to a period like that.

JOHNS: But in the realm of public opinion, who's winning when 32 percent of Republicans would take an extremely critical view of Social Security, which is a lifeline for so many Americans?

STENGEL: You know, they may think it's unconstitutional, they probably still want to get it. So I have to say, I don't think that the constitutionality of Social Security is really going to be become an issue.

The issue will be, is it viable? Is it viable for the next 20 years? Is it viable for 30 years? Should we lower the age that Social Security begins? Should we means test Social Security where people like Warren Buffett do not get it?

I think those will be issues that are really discussed and go to one of the main campaign issues that we're going to see, is what is the role of government in our lives?

JOHNS: Absolutely. Thanks so much for that, Rick Stengel. And we'll be looking at the magazine. Appreciate you coming in.

STENGEL: Thank you. Thank you, Joe.

JOHNS: It's been called the most beautiful Eden on earth. Ahead, stunning details behind the secret hideout of a notorious fugitive.

Plus, their message: end corporate greed. Next hour, those mass protests on Wall Street two weeks in the making.


JOHNS: We're learning astonishing, new details about the secret life of a notorious fugitive, George Wright, at the end of more than four decades on the run.

CNN Senior International Correspondent Dan Rives got an up-close look at Wright's hideout and the unbelievable history behind it.


DAN RIVERS, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As hideaways go, this is about as idyllic as it gets. Lord Byron describes Sintra as the most beautiful Eden on Earth. And it's easy to see why. It perhaps explains why one of America's most intriguing fugitives sought this picture-postcard cottage as his final hideout.

George Wright has been on the run for 41 years after escaping from prison in New Jersey, where he was serving time for murder. But it was his involvement in this hijacking in 1972 that put him in the big league, forcing the FBI to hand over $1 million in their swimming costumes to show they were unarmed.

Wright, the money, and his accomplices escaped, forcing the pilot to fly to Algeria, where they disappeared. Now the FBI has finally caught him here, in the hamlet of Casis Novus.

(on camera): After such an eventful early life, George Wright clearly decided to embrace tranquility and seclusion here in rural Portugal. His neighbors, though, could not believe his incredible past.

(voice-over): This woman says he led a quiet life, "He kept himself to himself," she says, "but we never had any problems from him."

Wright's lawyer says he will fight extradition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a Portuguese citizen. He leaves here. He has family here in Portugal, and in this case, you don't want to go to United States, because he thinks that if he goes to United States, he will die.

RIVERS: George Wright spent his time running this small photocopying business. Now Wright is facing extradition to the United States, ending decades on the run. But his lazy days on the beach may soon be a memory. The FBI wants him to finish his 30-year jail term.

If Hollywood ever makes the film, it probably won't be a movie with a happy ending.

Dan Rivers, CNN, Sintra, Portugal.


JOHNS: It was supposed to be satire, but a mock newspaper's fake tweet about terror at the Capitol made a lot of people angry. Stand by for that story.

And the allegations about a plot to attack the Capitol using a model plane. New information about the suspect and his strange behavior in our next hour.


JOHNS: Members of Congress can often be the butt of tasteless jokes here in Washington, but today, the publication known as "The Onion" is in serious hot water for posting a horrifying story that many say went over the line.

CNN's Athena Jones joins us now with details -- Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joe, as you mentioned, "The Onion" a satirical newspaper, and usually their stories poking fun at members of Congress, at the White House, and at ordinary folks prompt a lot of laughs. But today was a different story.


JONES (voice-over): Just one day after a Massachusetts man was arrested for allegedly plotting to use model planes to attack the Capitol, a fake news story by "The Onion" about members of Congress holding children at gunpoint was not welcome.

The trouble began Thursday morning, when the newspaper tweeted, "Breaking: Witnesses reporting screams and gunfire heard inside Capitol building." A short time later came this tweet: "Breaking, Capitol building being evacuated, 12 children held hostage by group of armed congressmen."

BRIAN STELTER, "NEW YORK TIMES" MEDIA REPORTER: They were posting tweets on their own without any context, and you understand why some people might have been freaked out temporarily by that.

JONES: Twenty minutes after the first tweet, "The Onion" linked to this story: "Congress Takes Group of Schoolchildren Hostage," which included an obviously doctored photo of Speaker John Boehner and a short video purported to have been shot during the standoff with people impersonating a senator and a congressman.

The reaction was swift, leading the Capitol Police to release a statement after multiple calls to the press, saying, in part, "It has come to our attention that recent Twitter feeds are reporting false information concerning current condition at the U.S. Capitol. Conditions at the U.S. Capitol are currently normal. There is no credibility to these stories or the Twitter feeds."

Despite the confusion and anger the fake story prompted, media watchers say even jokes people don't like must be protected.

STELTER: Yelling "Fire!" in a crowded virtual theater is not the same as yelling "Fire!" in an actual theater. And in this case, humor has to be protected.


JONES: Now, Joe, none of the offices of the members who were mentioned in the story or in that short video had any comment on the record. But the staffers I spoke with said that they believed this "Onion" joke was in incredibly poor taste.

Now, for The Onion's part, earlier today they were quoted as saying, "This is satire. This is how it works."

When I spoke with them and asked them if they were sorry that the story was taken the wrong way, I didn't get much of a comment back until just a little while ago, when they sent this statement. I'll read a part of it.

They said, "We at 'The Onion' feel it would be irresponsible to comment on such irresponsible reporting, nor will we succumb to unfounded sensationalism until all the facts have been thoroughly obscured."

So, just another sign that "The Onion" wants to keep this joke going -- Joe.

JOHNS: Thank you so much for that reporting, Athena.

JONES: Thanks.