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Iran's Nuclear Capability; 2012 Presidential Election; Susan Powell Investigation

Aired February 15, 2012 - 19:00   ET


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: OUTFRONT tonight, Iran defies the world and showcases a new nuclear capability. And breaking news on Whitney Houston, her doctor subpoenaed. What she took before she died, and the siege in Syria continues inside Homs tonight. And Senator Lindsey Graham offers his plan for American action right now. Let's go OUTFRONT.

I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT tonight, hot rod show and tell. Yes, you heard me right, hot rod. Iran today defiantly flaunting its first Iranian made nuclear rods. If Iran is going nuclear this is a crucial step towards building a weapon. Now, a lot of this of course is propaganda and wearing a white lab coat for the cameras, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was on hand at a Tehran nuclear facility as fuel rods were loaded into a nuclear reactor core.

Now nuclear rods contain the pellets of nuclear fuel. That's essential for nuclear reaction. And while that was going on, Iran was also sharing some other news. It plans of producing yellowcake, which is another step to enriching uranium to the 90 percent Holy Grail weapons grade level. Now, Ahmadinejad, as we're all well aware, insists that Iran's nuclear program is for medical and peaceful purposes, i.e., nuclear power. But no one buys it not even the watchdog IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Association and definitely not Washington or Tel Aviv.

The question is have we reached a tipping point with Iran where sanctions will not be enough to stop the country from getting a nuclear weapon? A new Pew Research Poll says that most Americans, 58 percent, would consider military action to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Now again, Iran says they don't have them. But how do we know? We need to get it right this time because no one will tolerate another Iraq.

Let's take a look at this map from the Center for Strategic and International Studies. It shows the many nuclear facilities in Iran. Now they also have this satellite image of the construction of one of Iran's nuclear facilities. I just want you to look there in the middle. This is a before image and you'll see what we've highlighted there. In the picture, you see a vehicle entrance ramp that goes under ground, right, that "U".

Now we'll show you the after image. This is a photograph of the completion of the under ground building. And as you can see, the ramp has been covered with a dummy building. We'll show you that building from another angle. There is it is. Now CSIS says that there is a centrifuge, which is used to make enriched uranium underneath the ground, well underneath the ground.

And the truth is we don't actually know what's under ground or where in Iran. We've reported on this show that the United States thinks that to destroy the underground facilities in Iran would take 30,000 pound bombs, which are called massive ordnance penetrators or MOPs. So far, the U.S. only has 20 of those and Israel only has 5,000 pound bombs, but using them could mean war. And that is why it is worth knowing a few things about Iran's military.

It has a ground force of 500,000 people, more than 1,600 main battle tanks, at least 300 combat jet fighters and some 3,200 major artillery weapons and that doesn't even count its all-powerful Revolutionary Guard. So, is it time to strike Iran or is this folly and if we don't do it now, then when?

OUTFRONT tonight retired General "Spider" Marks and author, former military intelligence officer Paula Broadwell -- great to have both of you with us and I really appreciate your taking the time. Obviously some have described this as bellicose rhetoric that has been building up, "Spider", and I'm just -- and a lot of what we see today is a country that's being backed in the corner with sanctions that is doing everything to put bluster and show that they are moving ahead, but are they moving ahead?

MAJ. GEN. (RET.) JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, FMR. COMM. GEN., U.S. ARMY INTELLIGENCE CENTER: Well we have to assume that they are moving ahead and no one is backed into a corner. You allow yourself to get into a position where you have limited options and in this case, what Iran is doing is sending a very clear message that they are intent on producing a nuclear capability and everyone agrees, the IAEA included that we have to assume that this development is for military purposes.

It clearly has the ability to be used for military purposes, so it would be foolhardy for anyone to assume otherwise. So there has to be some type of an IAEA inspection that -- there has to be an open door type of a regime so that IAEA can get in there and look at what the development looks like, how progressed are they. Now also bear in mind that the United States produces national intelligence estimates, so these NIEs and specifically the capabilities that Iran is trying to produce has been developed and has been established. So there's a known timeline and I would tell you that the year 2012 is clearly the year of decision relative to Iran's nuclear capability.

BURNETT: Paula, do you agree with that and how are we getting information right now? You were a military intelligence official. How are we finding out what Iran is really doing? And who is on the ground there doing that work for the United States?

PAULA BROADWELL, FMR. MILITARY INTELLIGENCE OFFICER: Well, as you know, we don't have an embassy presence there and we haven't for a while, so we work through our allies quite a bit, Erin, to gather this intelligence, but we do have, as General Marks know, all sorts of intelligence platforms that are gathering intelligence, and so I think we do have a pretty good idea as he stated with NIE that a -- that Iran will be capable of producing a bomb by 2014 or 2013 and so this is a pressing issue. But the question I think we're probably leading up to is how can we stop them and is a military strike one of those options that make sense.

BURNETT: And how do you answer that?

BROADWELL: Well I would say it doesn't make sense in part because you have to look at what the rest of our military is doing right now and we couldn't achieve our objectives with a strike option. As you mentioned, we have a limited number of MOPs and we don't have the ground forces available to follow on with a ground war and we just don't have the funds or resources to sustain that right now nor I think the political will.

I think in that poll that you mentioned when Americans say they're willing to support military intervention, I don't think we're clearly communicating what the second and third (INAUDIBLE) repercussions would be. That there would be you know obviously instability in the region. We have to look at the balance of power and who Iran's allies are. Whose side is Russia or China likely to take? Well they have some pretty important partnerships with Iran as far as energy is concerned.

BURNETT: Absolutely.

BROADWELL: So would they take side of the U.S. and Israel or Iran? And then you have to look at what Iran's retaliation would be. And I think it's pretty likely that they will take advantage of some of their proxies. You know they have ties with Hamas in Gaza. They have ties to Hezbollah who could open up attacks on some of our softer targets like U.S. embassies, U.S. troops abroad, U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Remember Iran is right next to a country we have a very large, unprotected U.S. presence. Unprotected in a sense that we haven't been targeted by Iran in that part of the world yet, but I think they're probably thinking through what their retaliation would be.

BURNETT: General Marks, do you think -- I mean it sounds like from what Paula is saying I mean in a sense and Paula, maybe I'm reading too much into your words, but I might take away from that that we don't -- whether for will or for ability, it is what it is. They're going to get a nuclear weapon. They're going to get a nuclear weapon. Do you think that that is fair and do you think that we have a way, the United States militarily, that could prevent it that does not involve a ground war, which I think it's fair to say nobody in the country probably would really want.

MARKS: Yes, I'm in complete agreement with Paula in terms of the political will or the capability right now. But again we can't let the tail wag the dog here. In this particular instance, putting multiple boots on the ground, to have a large military presence in Iran is off the table. That's not an option. However, what is an option is an effort to take what Iran is doing right now and disrupt it. Clearly, what we want to do is extend the timelines that Iran has essentially put down and probably we have been able to discern.

In terms of when they're going to be fully mission capable, FMC, in terms of a new capability, so let's disrupt that and push that off to the right until we can continue to work other means of influence, which clearly are diplomatic, don't handicap that very well, but there are also some economic sanctions that we can continue to put in place and we can continue to work as Paula suggests, with Russia and China and others. Clearly, they have a dog in this fight and they have a side and they've already declared where they would reside here, but we have to continue to work from the outside in, but we cannot allow the capability to be built up in Iran. That is simply a nonstarter.

BURNETT: All right, well thanks very much to both of you. We appreciate it. And a quick anecdote (ph) for viewers, one thing I will always remember being in Iran last December, the most common build there has a nuclear symbol on it. Everyone we talked to there, if there was one thing they agreed on was a nuclear program, an issue of patriotism and they supported it.

All right, well have the Republicans shot themselves in the foot -- shocking new developments in the Powell murders as well. Did one of the children try to tip off a waitress before their mother was killed?

And Lin-sanity and New York around the world, I talk to a member of my family about the latest sports superstar.


BURNETT: President Obama is going Hollywood. He's raising big money in L.A. right now, a traditional gold mine of support for the president. As you may recall, Steven Spielberg is you know $100,000 to his Super PAC. One of the events tonight will be co-hosted by Will Ferrell. Look at him there with Jay Carney, look at that.

All right, at the home of the "Bold and the Beautiful" soap opera producer Bradley Bell (ph) and for those shelling out between 250 to $500 to attend, they'll be treated to a "Foo Fighters" concert. Now, the 80 people who stay for dinner after the fund-raiser, they are rich. They will pay $35,000. I'm -- no joke. They will pay that.

The trip comes as a brand new CNN-ORC poll shows the president would beat every Republican candidate in the general election. Even more notable, he's winning over the highly sought after independent voters. This is not good news for the Republican Party, which obviously as we're well aware, has some real problems picking who will be its nominee come November. As influential conservative blogger Erick Erickson says it's panic time in the GOP. OUTFRONT now John Avlon, Reihan Salam, and Jamal Simmons. It's panic time.

REIHAN SALAM, COLUMNIST: Indeed, it is. I think that panic is legitimate, but on the other hand, there are many months to go before the election. There are a lot of things that can happen between here and there. Remember George H. W. Bush, John reminded me of him recently, he was faring very poorly relative to Michael Dukakis until August, so a lot can happen.

BURNETT: Coveted independent vote, John Avlon is obsessed with this vote rightly so. You've been talking (INAUDIBLE) 40 percent. And now, President Obama is sailing in that group.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, he's benefiting by --


AVLON: (INAUDIBLE) in the new polls, but I want to caution everybody he's doing better by comparison, right? You know Mitt Romney was beating President Obama among independents handily for months. It starts to change when the primaries begin in earnest. Why, because the Republican primary is all about reaching out to the far right. When Romney says I'm a severe conservative that may play well at CPAC, but it doesn't work with Independents, that plus the avalanche of negative ads that alienates independents as well, so President Obama benefiting among independents by comparison to this process.

BURNETT: All right, Jamal, so that's good for the president. No question, but when you look at some of the polls, the latest polls that we have here at CNN, the president is not doing as well among men and among white voters. We'll put those numbers up. As you can see in terms of his approve-disapprove, more disapprove for men than for women. Clearly, and you see a similar trend among white voters, so what does this mean for the president? What does he need to do to woo these people over and does he care?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well I think he certainly cares. He's president of all the country. He wants as many people -- every politician wants everybody to support them, but you can't get everybody. I think when you talk to some of the strategists who are working on this day-to-day what they say is they look at unmarried women that unmarried women are really the place where they're going to really make up a lot of their votes.

Those may be women who are single, never married, women who are now divorced and some of those women may be disenchanted with the president because of the economy for some reason, but they may also now over the course of the last few weeks, they've heard a lot about conservatives and breast cancer and (INAUDIBLE) contraception, and choice, all those issues that may move them back away from conservatives back toward President Obama --


SIMMONS: And one more thing for John, he says it's comparative. Every election is always comparative. He's always going to be compared against Romney. Who cares what he is compared to the perfect person. It's always against the person he's running against.

BURNETT: I'm curious, John, about the GOP establishment. We talked a lot about this different primary season, right? The states all were fighting and they're losing all their delegates. There's all that. And then there was a sort of idealistic way to look at it, which is you draw your season out. Rick Santorum who is good hand-to- hand, goes hand-to-hand combat in every state --

AVLON: Right.

BURNETT: -- because there's not a Super Tuesday where Mitt Romney can rack it in and be done, it helps Rick Santorum, but then the dragging it out causes well all the --



AVLON: You can die a death of 1,000 cuts. Here's the irony here. Is that this whole system was set up by the RNC, this extended proportional representation in part is a reaction to 2008, to benefit candidates like Mitt Romney who was then the conservative candidate. There was criticism among the activists that John McCain, the center right establishment candidate cleaned it up too fast. They said you know what, we're going to open it up. We're going to have proportional. Well now that process ironically is really hurting them and then today Texas announcing it's going to move back to at least May, that's a big deal. It makes it much harder for any candidate to reach that 1,144 delegates they need to (INAUDIBLE) the nomination. That means this is going on and it's going to be bloody.

BURNETT: Oh well blood --


BURNETT: Good to watch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John, do you actually think that --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John, do you actually think that Mitt Romney has a strong chance in Texas? I mean, if Texas happens, it seems like Santorum or Gingrich might be the one who benefits --

AVLON: I think those conservative candidates are going to be looking to wrap it up, but remember Texas is proportional right now as well, so everyone will gain. But this whole scenario right now is Mitt Romney's worst nightmare.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Money didn't determine this race.

BURNETT: Which is an interesting point, the guy who paid the most at least so far --

AVLON: So far --

BURNETT: -- has not finished the deal. All right, well thanks very much to the musketeers. There are three of them, OK.

New developments in the case of missing Utah mother Susan Powell. Josh Powell, as you know, killed himself and his two young sons in a murder suicide two weeks ago. Late word today though that Josh Powell's father is invoking his Fifth Amendment right and will not answer any questions about how this all began.

In 2009, when his daughter-in-law, the mother of those children, the wife of Josh Powell disappeared. Steven Powell has been considered a person of interest in the case. Now, we are also learning some new details about the home that went up in flames -- the image that we have all now seen which killed Josh Powell and his sons. The Pierce County (ph) Sheriff's Office says Powell actually may not have even lived there.


GARY SANDERS, PIERCE COUNTY SHERIFF DETECTIVE: I kind of believe that he was using that mostly as kind of a prop.


BURNETT: Joining me now is CNN's Miguel Marquez, is from Los Angeles and Miguel let's start with Josh Powell's father, Steven. Now that he's pleading the Fifth does that mean we might never know what actually happened to Susan Powell, the woman at the center of this horrible tragedy?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is possible, but he may still talk to investigators yet because keep in mind Steven Powell has been arrested on pornography charges after police searched his home and they may be able to use that as leverage to get him to talk to them eventually. It's also not very clear how much he knows at the end of the day about all of this. They have searched his home and taken tons of material from there. They've also searched a storage facility off site from that house that exploded and they have tons of material from there as well. They have some blood evidence from that storage facility, but they don't know whose blood is it yet -- Erin.

BURNETT: And now what about the story that a Pierce County Sheriff's Office says this may have been a fake home. He said -- I'm just going to throw out the quote here, what the sheriff said. "He set it up like a rental place with pictures of the family. I think it was staged so when Child Protective Services came, it would look like a loving family. Was this a sham house and when did he start plans to blow it up?

MARQUEZ: Yes, the quick answer may be is yes, it was a sham house. He rented it in October say investigators. I just got off the phone a little while ago with them and they say they believe that because there were just a few pictures it was very sparsely furnished. The neighbors around there never saw him there. They did see him -- the neighbors around his father's house did see him there all the time. His van parked out in front, so they believe this house was mainly to present the idea that this was a normal family and it was anything but. They believe that on February 1st when the judge ruled that he had to have a psycho sexual exam, that's when he began the plot to murder his children and kill himself in the process.

BURNETT: All right, Miguel, thank you very much reporting there. Also news today that back in 2009, the morning that Susan Powell disappeared, the children, the father went to a diner. The children asked the waitress where their mother was. Josh Powell left the diner with the kids before they even ate. Maybe this all could have been solved a long time ago. Well breaking news in the Whitney Houston case. Why was her doctor subpoenaed today and also what was she doing the morning before she died -- breaking news on that? And a new Web site that helps you send a message to a number of politicians. I'm sure you've got one for them.


BURNETT: How many times have you answered your phone only to hear a computerized voice tell you to vote for some political candidate or buy something? Well these pre-recorded calls of course are called robo calls and today the FCC adopted rules to severely limit them. Telemarketers now have to get written consent from consumers before they can call. Even if the people they are contacting are not on the do-not-call registry.

Few, about 30 percent of all mobile phone complaints are related to these third-party messengers and unwanted calls and texts. Well the trade groups that represent phone owners call this a win for consumers which brings us to tonight's number, $4.49. That's how much it will cost you to send a robo call to the candidates. I'm not kidding.

A Web site called Reverse Robo Call allows users to record and send personalized voice messages to the politician or candidate of their choice for just 99 cents or you can bundle them together for a discount. For $4.49, the presidential hopeful package lets you send a message to the offices of Santorum, Romney, Gingrich, Paul, Buddy Roemer, Gary Johnson and others. But if you're interested in the service you better hurry because the anti-robo call rules are coming soon and they will also affect your ability to spam the politicians the way they have willfully spammed you.


BURNETT: Still OUTFRONT the "OutFront 5", Whitney's prescriptions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're trying to trace the doctors and the pharmacies.

BURNETT: Syria's front lines.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was just no sense of life anymore. Life has lost all of its value.

BURNETT: All this OUTFRONT in our second half.



BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our own reporting, do the work and find the "OutFront 5" and first tonight, Iran going bigger with its nuclear program. Today President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flaunted the first Iranian made nuclear fuel rod. As we have been reporting, if Iran is going nuclear it's a crucial step towards building a weapons. Ahmadinejad was at a Tehran nuclear facility as fuel rods were loaded into the nuclear core. Those roads contain the pellets of nuclear fuel essentially for reaction for peaceful power and also for weapons making.

Iran also said it plans on producing yellow cake, which is required to enrich uranium to the 90 percent weapons grade level.

Number two: the prosecution rested in the George Huguely trial. The defense began its case by calling a toxicologist who testified that Yeardley Love's blood alcohol was 0.6 when she got into a fight with Huguely. The defense is arguing she died from a fatal combination of Adderall and alcohol. Prosecutors claim love died after her ex-boyfriend slammed her head into a wall.

Number two, the vice president of China, Xi Jinping, met with key members of the Congress today as part of his U.S. visit this week. We've been telling you he's likely, for all intents and purposes, he will be the next leader of China. And he also went to Iowa where he stayed in 1985 as a young man as part of a Chinese delegation studying farming technology.

By the way, there's big business with Iowa and China. The Chinese signed a record $4 billion deal today to buy more than 8 million tons of U.S. soybeans. Iowa produces 13 million tons of soybeans a year. It's a big deal. And yes, they use it for soy sauce. They're a big buyer.

Number four, U.S. homebuilder sentiment rose to the highest level in five years. The National Association of Homebuilders index rose for the fifth month running, and is good news. But any number below 50, and this was 29, is considered bad. That means contracting still. They have not seen 50 or higher since the height of the housing boom.

An economist from Barclays told OUTFRONT, "We see this report as consistent with our view that housing will not hinder economic recovery in the same manner that it did at the end of the last recession."

Remember, at the peak, housing was really 15 percent to 20 percent of the entire American economy.

It has been 194 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, the economy growing is going to help. But U.S. industrial production was flat in January and manufacturing continues to improve in this country. But we saw a drop in mining and in utilities. The warm winter has been hurting them.

We have some breaking news right now on the death of Whitney Houston and we've been hearing some details on what she did hours before her death.

Don Lemon, as you know, has been following this case, he's in Los Angeles, and he's OUTRONT tonight.

Don, you've been reporting on this. And what can you tell us?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's important because it contradicts what her friends were saying about her state of mind and behavior in the days and hours before her death. I've spoken to a source who was briefed on Whitney Houston's activities and her behavior in the days before her death.

And I want to get this straight. I'm going to read from my notes, Erin. Basically, it is saying that the days before her death, she was seen ordering and consuming considerable quantities of alcohol before 10:00 a.m. in the morning, sometimes as early as 9:00, 9:30 in the morning, on Wednesday and Thursday at the Beverly Hilton lobby and pool.

And, Erin, they're saying she was doing somersaults into the pool and around the pool and that she was walking around. Her clothing, according to the source, appeared to be disheveled and mismatched and she was overheard complaining about the drinks saying the drinks -- her drinks were being watered down, and that there was too much ice in her drinks. Other hotel guests became concerned and even complained about it.

So, that's important because if she was using prescription drugs and we know, Erin, they found them in her room, then that is definitely of concern. And real quickly, I think it's important to point out that you can be in recovery, addicts know this, people who dealt with addicts before, you can be in recovery a while, sometimes even years and you think you'll have a harmless glass of wine or beer, or just what-have-you, and then all of a sudden, you're back down that slippery slope again.

BURNETT: Absolutely. I want to ask you -- I mean, these are big details, Don, because you're right. Everyone around her has been trying to say something different, that she really recovered and this does paint a very different picture, what you're reporting.

I wanted to ask you what authorities did today, issuing subpoenas for her medical records and prescriptions from doctors, obviously, West and East Coast doctors and pharmacists.

Is this standard or do you read anything into it?

LEMON: Well, nothing is standard when it comes to a celebrity that is this high profile, this high level. It's not standard. They do have the power to do it, but the coroner did issue subpoenas for several doctors and pharmacies here on the West Coast and also on the East Coast and they want to know exactly what she took so that they can compare it to the toxicology reports.

And again, I think, as you said, it's important that the people around her are saying one thing. But here is what's important. This is a copy and it's not a photocopy that I have here. This is an actual copy from the coroner's office of Whitney Houston's death certificate. I never thought in a million years that I would be showing this or holding this in my hand.

That's the reality of it and that's what investigators are trying to get to the bottom of why this happen, why now -- this death certificate at such a young age.

BURNETT: All right. Don Lemon, thank you very much, reporting on the breaking news on what Whitney Houston was really doing before her death.

Now, you know the private funeral is set for Saturday in Newark, New Jersey. But it could be weeks before we learn officially what killed her. Now, if her past is any indication of what contributed, obviously there is a wealth of information. She admittedly abused drugs and alcohol for years. You've been hearing friends and family say she was on the comeback.

Obviously, what Don just reported seems to indicate perhaps that is not fully the case. Prescription drugs also seemed to play a part, given that they were in her room, although, again, unconfirmed at this point.

Dr. Sandeep Kapoor was charged with writing prescriptions for Anna Nicole Smith in 2007. He was cleared. Obviously a lot of personal experience here.

Shelley Ross worked with Whitney Houston as an executive producer at ABC. She's also the founder of the blog, "DailyXpress."

Good to have both of you with us.

Dr. Kapoor, let me start with you.

We talked about this subpoena today and how doctors have been subpoenaed and what kinds of prescriptions they gave her. You were in this situation where I know people came in, gave you fake IDs. You were ending up giving all these prescriptions to Anna Nicole Smith and weren't even aware of it.

What do you think could happen in this case?

DR. SANDEEP KAPOOR, ANNA NICOLE SMITH'S FORMER DOCTOR: I mean, I think it's, you know, kind of hindsight again, it's 20/20. But you treat a patient with good intentions all the time. And a lot of times, you know, this nightmare occurred to me about five years ago and unbeknownst to me, I hadn't seen her in about nine or 10 months.

So, as they now look at the physicians or the medical treatment that Whitney Houston had received, it's going to be very difficult to piece together really a pattern of how they're going to figure this out. They're on two coasts and they're trying to figure out essentially how medication ended up in her system and may have perhaps interacted with other substances like alcohol.

BURNETT: Shelley, you've known Whitney Houston for a long time and you wrote a blog about it today. Are you surprised by what Don just reported? That now it's coming out that people in the hotel, that literally in the 24 hours before her death, she was drinking to such an extent that she was complaining that people were watering her drinks down?

SHELLEY ROSS, FOUNDER, DAILYXPRESS: I'm not surprised. I think the music industry -- and I won't say that I know or I knew Whitney Houston well. I know the people who worked with her. I certainly know Clive Davis and very well-meaning people around her.

Ultimately, Whitney Houston gets the responsibility for what's happened to her, her shortened life. But I'm not surprised or shocked. This has been not so well-kept secret for, I gather, it's nearly 20 years now, really since 1992.

BURNETT: And you say you mourned her death a decade ago when you wrote in your blog, and you talk about the enablers around her. Tell us about those enablers.

ROSS: Well, some of them are unwitting enablers. I question -- I know that Clive Davis discovered her, nurtured her, loved her as much as anybody loves anyone else they're not related to. Yet, I question whether trying to rediscover the angel within her extended her life or destroyed her life.

She's been -- I would really come out and say that Whitney Houston was a junkie. We can call it addiction, we can dress it up and it's really tragic. Even last night, I watched on your network, on CNN --


ROSS: -- it's an industry denial. Two producers who worked so closely with her in a recording studio were saying that she was actually suffering from an aging voice that was not what it once was. And the truth is, she was suffering, her voice suffered the ravages of cocaine abuse.

What it -- ask Sanjay Gupta what it does when you smoke marijuana regularly, laced with cocaine, what snorting cocaine does to vocal chords. I actually worked with the three tenors, who were so protective of their throats, they didn't allow any flowers in the room other than roses, because all flowers had pollen, which were irritants to a masterful vocal chord.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to both of you. Appreciate you taking the time.

One thing we're learning today, people saying don't even have Xanax with anything. I mean, the combination could be lethal in very, very small amounts. Never mind what it appears may have been the case in Whitney Houston's situation.

Well, the siege in Syria continues and CNN has a reporter who has risked her life to be inside Homs and she is up next.

And then we're going to talk what the U.S. will do. Senator Lindsey Graham, a key player in that, he is on the show tonight. And Jeremy Lin, his Lin-derella is tonight's upset.


BURNETT: We do this at the same time every night. Our "Outer Circle," where we reach out to our sources around the world.

And tonight, we go to Honduras where a raging fire at an overcrowded prison has killed nearly 300 inmates. Relatives and friends lined up outside the building to find out of their loved ones.

Rafael Romo is CNN's senior Latin American affairs editor. And I asked him what caused this fire.


RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Erin, prison officials say they're investigating two possible causes. An inmate may have set a mattress on fire or the fire could have been started by a short circuit. In any case, the fact that the prison was overcrowded made the fire much more tragic than it would have been otherwise. There were nearly 900 inmates inside the prison when the fire broke out, more than twice its capacity.

We have heard stories of prisoners who said they had to breakthrough the roof to escape the fire using only their bare hands. Others said they were sleeping and we're awaken by the screams of inmates who were caught on fire and were dying in front of their eyes. Officials say the flames quickly spread engulfing half the prison and leaving inmates with little opportunity to escape -- Erin.


BURNETT: All right. Thanks to you, Rafael.

Well, now, the slaughter in Syria. Thirty-two people reported killed today. The fighting intensifying and we have some video. It's disturbing and we want to warn you.

But this is new video of a victim, a child. Again, we just want to warn you that it's graphic and very disturbing. This is the body of a boy. He was shot in the left torso and arm.

In this video, his brother is crying over the body while the men in the background are reading a prayer. It is very hard to look at that.

Ahmed is one of thousands who have died since the uprising began.

Our Arwa Damon has been made inside Homs. She has been in Baba Amr, the very dangerous neighborhood where there are snipers, where government forces have been shelling the city for days.

I was able to speak to her earlier and I asked her what she saw today.


ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, we spent a better part of the morning at the medical clinic in the neighborhood in Baba Amr and this is the area if you'll remember that has really seen the intense bombardment over the last 12 days. We felt the impact of some of the shells that were landing here, they shook buildings, they shattered windows. A 9-year-old girl that was inside bursts into tears.

And at the medical clinic, we really got a sense of appreciation as to exactly what the activists and medical staff there are up against. Bearing in mind that this clinic has been struck by shells in the past on three or four occasions and the doctors there, they're not specialists in this type of emergency care. One of them actually specialized in internal medicine. The other is a dentist.

And they have bed upon bed of patients, many in critical condition, many of them who need at the very least, get out of the neighborhood, if not out of the country entirely.

BURNETT: Arwa, what can you tell us about children and women? Obviously, activists have come on and told us that women and children have been targeted. That we have some horrific pictures today of a child. And yesterday, we saw a child being, someone risking their life to save a child.

Have you heard or seen of women and children being killed, being targeted by Assad's troops?

DAMON: Well, there was a woman wounded in clinic. She did not want to be filmed, did not want to appear on camera. But she and her sister had been wounded in one of the shelling instances that took place and she was lying there covered in shrapnel wounds that had been very coarsely, rapidly stitched together. Her sister was actually in another clinic. They hadn't seen each other since the attack had taken place.

And they -- she said they were out walking in the street. And you look around and you see children in the street every here and there. And, you know, we've been asking, wondering why these families don't leave and it's quite simply because they can't.

DAMON: All right. Arwa Damon, thank you very much -- reporting live from Syria for us tonight.


BURNETT: Well, you remember this uprising did begin about year ago. And as we've been telling you, 6,000 people have died, according to activists.

The question for the United States is perhaps a moral one more than anything else. OUTFRONT tonight, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator Graham, I really appreciate your taking the time to come on the show tonight.

Arwa Damon, you just heard her reporting and I don't know if you could see the picture of the dead child with his brother at the top, which was very moving and disturbing.

Arwa Damon is saying there's a sense that government forces are beginning to fray. Obviously, though, many people in the country still support the government. They feel there could be a civil war.

Is this something that is front and center right now for you as a member of the Armed Forces Committee and of the Senate?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't think it's nearly as front and center as it should be, so reporting like this really helps. But I can show you places in the world where children are poorly treated and killed, Sudan, the Congo, and we have to look at this as a humanitarian issue, just as we did in Libya, stopping the slaughter.

But our strategic interests in Syria are much greater than they were in Libya. This regime is the biggest of Iran, which threatens the world even more so than the Assad regime.

So it's in our national security interest, Erin, without a doubt to replace Assad and to break up this Syrian-Iranian alliance. And we should be spending more time talking about this. We should press the Russians and the Chinese, bring a resolution a week, expose them for siding on the wrong side of history and do parallel agreements with the Arab League to try to help these people in the humanitarian way and maybe providing arms. We need a dual track.

BURNETT: Let me ask you about each of those things. First, providing arms. Should we do that? And do you feel we really know who this opposition is?

GRAHAM: Quite frankly, that's a very good point. Who we've got to convince, the Alawites, the people around the president, to basically say that you have a place in Syria. The coalition that's fighting Assad has to be inclusive.

And I don't really know who we'd be getting weapons to yet. But the Arab League seems to be providing some assistance. Turkey is a key player here.

So, I'd like to have a parallel track. I'd like to get to know more about the opposition. Press them to be inclusive to bring the Alawite community in and saying, listen, our problems with Assad, not with a particular group.

And arming people with something to consider, but right now, I'd like to know more. But surely, we can help them economically.


GRAHAM: We can help with doctor care and we can really push the world community, Russia and China, particularly to get behind getting Assad out. And he's very close to falling. We just need to push.

BURNETT: It's interesting you say not yet with the weapons. I think it's a very important point to emphasize. But what about Russia? I mean, they do provide the weapons here, to the Syrian government.


BURNETT: The MiGs. They use the navy facilities.

GRAHAM: Right.

BURNETT: You got an "election" coming up, in quotes, in Russia in 10 days. But Russia is not bending to U.S. pressure. They are sort of giving us the -- you know what.

GRAHAM: Yes. John McCain made a good point. The Russians are providing weapons to the Assad regime, we might as well be arming the opposition.

I guess what I want to know, I believe the idea of arming these groups is something which we consider. But I would like to push them to have a game plan -- if we do arm you, what would happen when Assad falls? Are you going to be inclusive? Is it going to be a purge of the Alawite community when that probably doesn't help us?

So, Russia, I think, is on the wrong side of history. What's odd is that Russia is taking a position that I think is more about their own fate in Russia because, you know, the Russian government, Putin, is not really in great standing with his own people, I think he is exposing himself for sort of the thuggish guy he is. And I can understand why he would want people to have a chance to determine their own destiny. We need to push him quite frankly.

BURNETT: All right. Senator Graham, thank you very much. It's always a pleasure to talk to you, sir. Thank you.

All right. Lin-sanity is coming to New York. We look at Jeremy Lin's impact on the game and we meet the latest member of the OUTFRONT family. I assure you, you want to meet this young man.


BURNETT: Let's check in with Anderson Cooper. Anderson, what's coming up the top of the hour?

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Erin, more on breaking news and death of Whitney Houston ahead on the program, including details of her behavior and activity in those final days. A source now telling CNN that Houston was seen drinking by the pool at Beverly Hilton on the day she died. We're going to speak with Dr. Drew Pinsky and Dr. Sanjay Gupta about what that might mean given Houston's prior addictions issues.

Also, the larger issue. We look at just how easy it is to die from mixing medications. So many people in this country do. Even one medication taking with alcohol, what Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Drew have to say tonight completely opened my eyes about the dangers of, say, even having two glasses of wine for taking a sleeping pill.

I urge everyone to listen to what they have to say tonight about the danger of prescription drugs.

Also, we still don't know why Whitney Houston died on Saturday. Tonight, though, we look at the recent deaths of so many stars and the see the common ways their lives were cut short. The bottom line, again, precipitation drugs.

Plus, our report from Syria. Our own Arwa Damon snuck into Homs and great risk to herself to document what is happening there. All that at the top of the hour, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to you, Anderson.

Well, you see the headlines everywhere you go, right? Lin- credible, Lin-perno, Lin-sanity, all for one person, Jeremy Lin. The 23-year-old New York Knicks phenom has taken the league by storm. He has started and won six games in a row this season, including the one last night when he scored the game winner in Toronto with less than a second on the clock.

His success has been huge for the NBA. TV ratings for the Knicks up 70 percent. And it's estimated he will increase revenues for the league by as much $20 million in the year. That is pretty darn incredible for a player that went undrafted after college and was cut by two NBA teams.

In addition to that, he's Asian-American. Jeremy Lin, in fact, is the first Taiwanese American NBA player ever. And that is a big deal for the NBA.

He is adored by many in the Asian community. His fan page has more than a million followers. Fans are packing bars in Taipei to watch the games. His jerseys are selling out in China. But, it's always Taiwanese fans in this country that are excited.

For perspective, we reached out to a member of the OUTFRONT family, and my own family, my nephew Jasper is Taiwanese-American and a huge sports fan. And he came OUTFRONT -- actually, Lin-front earlier today.


BURNETT: Jasper, I was thinking today. You know, you and I, we don't talk a lot about that you are Taiwanese-American. I have been thinking a lot about that because he is. And I was wondering if you felt something -- a connection to him or something special about him because he's Taiwanese-American?

JASPER, ERIN'S NEPHEW: A little bit. Yes. I think he makes a lot of Taiwanese-Americans proud. He's also changed Americans' points of view or maybe how they think about Taiwanese-Americans. And he's also shows that Taiwanese-Americans can be good and succeed and yes, he's one of the first NBA players to be Taiwanese- American. So, it gives Taiwanese-Americans something to follow, something to be proud of. It shows they can do it.

BURNETT: And someone like you, you can really do it. I mean, I was telling everyone today -- there are not many people on this planet who love sports more than Jasper Yang (ph).



BURNETT: I don't think there is anybody who loves sports more than Jasper Yang. But I have to say this, I'm grateful to Jeremy Lin for giving me a chance to talk to Jasper about something we haven't talked about before, about how he feels about being Taiwanese- American.

And I know that Jasper inspires me. But I also think it's amazing when you have sports stars who can inspire people to feel great about who they are and what they can really be. And I personally don't really care how long this phenom goes on. But I know that even what it's done so far is good enough because it is pretty darn Lin-tastic.

Thanks so much as always for watching. "A.C. 360" starts now.