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Interview With Rep. Mike Rogers; Veteran Senator Could Fall Tonight; American Prisoner in Cuba; Interview with Senator Patrick Leahy; Searching for Kidnapper and Murderer; Obesity in America; Kid's Hand Caught in Candy Machine

Aired May 8, 2012 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: And you're in the SITUATION ROOM. Happening now, airport screeners on alert for a bomb that could slip past metal detectors. U.S. officials are studying al Qaeda's dangerous new weapon fearing another device may still be out there. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, joins me with new details this hour.

The Cuban government appears to be making a new offer for the release of a jailed American in a letter that was hand-delivered to me this hour. New reaction to my exclusive interview with Alan Gross.

And her head bands and pant suits made headlines. Now, Hillary Clinton opening up about America's fixation on how she looks.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in the SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: We're learning more about a foiled airline terror plot and the sophisticated new bomb that has a lot of people very worried right now. Top lawmakers warn the device that was seized may not be the only one that was made for al Qaeda with the goal of attacking Americans. Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is here. She got the latest on the investigation -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, this is al Qaeda in Yemen, about a thousand fighters and some very expert bomb makers.


STARR (voice-over): U.S. officials say they stopped this plot but are worried there are similar bombs and other would-be bombers out there. One U.S. official telling CNN that al Qaeda in Yemen continues plotting right now to try and attack the U.S. Another official saying the threat is not over.

REP. PETER KING, (R) HOMELAND SECURITY CHAIRMAN: I tell you that it involves a number of countries, and at no time did the bomb ever make it on to the plane, but as far as even the country it originated from, all of that for various reasons is not being disclosed, but it is ongoing. It involved very sophisticated intelligence.

STARR: It was a tip from Saudi Arabia that uncovered what was supposed to be a suicide mission. A hidden explosive device would be carried onboard and detonated on a U.S.-bound airliner. When President Obama was first briefed last month by his intelligence staff, the U.S. was still trying to get possession of the device.

The FBI now says it was, quote, "seized abroad." The White House will only say that the alleged bomber is no longer a threat, but will not say whether he is in custody or dead.


STARR (on-camera): Now on this device, the detonator was more sophisticated than the U.S. has previously seen being tried by al Qaeda in Yemen operatives. That's a worrisome development, and again, they now believe that there may be more than one bomb maker in this part of the al Qaeda organization that can make these bombs with no metal content that can potentially slip past airport security -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very worrisome, indeed. Barbara, thank you.

Indeed, everyone who steps onboard the plane today or in the days and weeks ahead wants to know has al Qaeda actually found a terrifying new way to get around airport security? Our Brian Todd is over at Reagan National Airport outside of Washington, D.C. What are you learning, Brian?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we'll set the scene for you here. You see people getting ready to go through these body scanning machines here during the evening commute hours at Reagan National Airport. You know, these machines are now on the front lines of U.S. national security, but this plot has sparked some pretty substantive questions about their effectiveness.


TODD (voice-over): A senior administration official tells CNN the device recovered in the alleged plot to bomb a plane bound for the U.S. was not made to be implanted inside the body. U.S. officials described it as an evolution of the bomb smuggled onboard a U.S.-bound plane on Christmas Day, 2009, a non-metallic device found inside the attacker's underwear.

A key question now, could those full-body imaging machines now in U.S. airports and some overseas have detected it? Top security officials are confident.

REP. MIKE ROGERS, (R) INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: In this particular case, many believe that that would have caught this particular device.

TODD: And homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, says there's a high likelihood the bomb would have been detected if the attacker tried to slip it past U.S. security. Those body scanner which we once tested can see through clothes, reveal contours, detect prosthesis. (on-camera) But a government audit said it's not clear if they would have caught the Christmas Day bomber's device. And a TSA inspector general's report says there are vulnerabilities in these machines.

(voice-over) I asked former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes, a CNN contributor about that.

Could these body scanners have detected this device, do you think?

TOM FUENTES, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I think someone going through a body scanner, it may have been detected depending on how they packaged the explosive. If you have a large, plastic container and you've got that between your legs, that may have shown up on that type of scanner. The problem is you don't have enough of those even in the United States, much less the rest of the world.

TODD: The Department of Homeland Security says there are about 700 body scanners deployed in more than 180 airports inside the U.S. and in hundreds of locations around the world, but they're up against a terrorist who may have figured out how to evade them. Ibrahim al- Asiri, bomb making mastermind for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, he once placed a bomb inside the body of his own brother, which came close to killing a top Saudi official.

It's not clear whether al-Asiri made this latest device, but intelligence officials say he was behind the Christmas Day attack and the 2010 plot to send printer bombs to the U.S. Both were thwarted, but came close.

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: This is a bomb maker who learns from his mistakes. This is a bomb maker who's growing in sophistication, growing in confidence. A bomb maker who may have access to a greater amount of chemicals now in Yemen, perhaps, even laboratories.


TODD (on-camera): Experts say that's because al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has made territorial gains in Yemen recently, has established a deeper safe haven there, and now claims to have more access to all those materials. And, experts say Ibrahim al-Asiri is believed to have trained several other individuals in his bomb making techniques so that if he's killed, others can take up that work -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian, what more can you tell us about this bomb maker, Ibrahim al-Asiri?

TODD: Well, terrorism experts tell us that he's about 30 years old. He grew up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He studied chemistry at a Saudi university. They say that he became radicalized during the Iraq war. They spent time in a Saudi prison, but then, made his way over to Yemen where he joined al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Interestingly enough, there's one report from a Yemeni official a couple of years ago who with said that it was a Pakistani expert who trained several people in al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula on how to make bombs. That report from that official was never confirmed, but you know, there's a lot of speculation now as to just how Ibrahim al- Asiri learned his craft and who he's teaching it to.

BLITZER: Good points. Brian Todd at Reagan National Airport, thanks.

And Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan is joining us right now. He's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, have you been fully briefed, do you feel you've been fully briefed on this plot that was thwarted by the CIA?

ROGERS: I feel we got most of it as of today, at least, as far as the details of the event and what occurred in the process of us obtaining the actual device, the explosive device.

BLITZER: And have you seen photos of this actual explosive device?

ROGERS: I have.

BLITZER: Could you describe what it looks like, what it feels like? Give us a little sense of what it involved.

ROGERS: Well, I will tell you that this is the Christmas Day bomber next generation and that's what's so concerning to us is that they went to school on their mistakes. They looked at what happened in that particular event. It tells you they have the intellectual capital in one place to try to do the very painstaking, scientific, and engineering work to design that next generation of explosives.

So, I can't get into the details of it, but you can imagine that, you know, what concerns us, not that I would anticipate any change in the way we do security here in the United States as far as people going through the airport, but the fact they're spending that much time and effort trying to circumvent security systems with a device that appears to have been very lethal.

And I want to caution, it is right in the middle of its forensic analysis right now, and we'll hopefully know more in the days, if not weeks ahead.

BLITZER: And the device has no metal that would be detected by a metal detector, right?

ROGERS: There was no metal, apparent metal in the particular device, but other scanners would have, in fact, detected it, many believe. And again, it's a little bit premature, because we haven't done all the forensic work hasn't been done and hasn't been presented.

BLITZER: The explosive material, would it be powder?

ROGERS: I really shouldn't get into the details that specifically other than if you know what the Christmas Day bomber which was well explained, it was kind of the next generation of it. So, it was that, plus some improvements to try to circumvent security, and that's, again, what concerns many of us.

BLITZER: In other words, it could have been just used in underpants or something like that?

ROGERS: Something of that nature.

BLITZER: Something of that nature that would be worn as opposed to be put inside a body cavity or whatever?

ROGERS: I would agree with that assessment, yes.

BLITZER: OK. Now, what about the individual or individuals who were planning on doing this? What happened to them?

ROGERS: Well, rest assured that they present no threat to the United States or our allies or anyone at this particular point. And again, this is the importance -- I spent a lot of time in the intelligence community developing relationships, liaison relationships with foreign security services of all sorts.

Some may be hostile in some cases, others may be good allies to the United States and everything in between, and those relationships pay off over time and instances just like this. So, this was a liaison service who cooperated with the United States, and it was able to help in this particular case get on to this particular individual and obtained the device itself which was -- is incredibly important as we move forward.

So, we know -- again, having the device is so important for us because of the forensics that are involved in it in allowing us to understand how they operate, how they think, and where they're going next.

BLITZER: And when you say this individual is no longer a threat to the United States, that says to me this individual is dead or he's been detained or been arrested. Can you tell us what the answer is?

ROGERS: I can't confirm or deny this particular individual's status as of today.

BLITZER: And the friendly intelligence service that cooperated? Would that be Yemen, or Saudi Arabia or both?

ROGERS: Wild-eyed speculation, and I cannot confirm or deny any of the security services that may have participated in this particular event.

BLITZER: But their master bomb maker, al-Asiri, is he the guy who is largely responsible for this? Is he still at large?

ROGERS: It has all the signatures of his work and again, the concerning here is that over time. Here's the good news, we didn't find Yemen last week. This is something we have known to be a problem, have spent resources and capital, if you will, an electoral capital and agency and other spy agency capital to try to figure out exactly what the networks look like there.

And so, our concern is, it has those hallmarks, but could it be someone else? Could there be other folks who have gone to school on this particular way to develop these devices? That's all in the process of being figured now which is why this was so concerning, and it was leaked in the way that it was. A little bit of chest thumping, a little bit too early.

As an old FBI agent, Wolf, I can tell you, you want to follow an operation or a case or an investigation all the way to its conclusion before talking about it. Any time that happens a little short of that, that's a huge problem.

So, as a chairman of the Intelligence Committee, I've been asking a lot of serious questions about how this leak, in fact, happened and to make sure that there wasn't, as I said, a little chest thumping a little bit early at the expense of our national security.

BLITZER: You mean for political purposes. Is that what you're implying?

ROGERS: Well, you know, it is the funny season in this town, and it certainly didn't pass the smell test when we looked at all of the details of this particular case and how it happened and when there were press conferences scheduled. All of that stuff leads to a lot of questions. And again, this is so important that we keep politics out of our national security apparatuses.

It is incredibly important for the security of this country that it not be Republican or Democrat or for campaign purposes of any sort. And we need to make sure that, in fact, happened. And what happened with the earlier release, it didn't allow for the most robust conclusion of an operation or investigation into this particular event, and maybe put at risk some other operations and some of our allies.

BLITZER: The White House says President Obama was briefed in April. When were you briefed about it?

ROGERS: Well, that was another concerning thing. According to statute, this should have been what's called a big 8 briefing when the operation is first onto, and we weren't really brought in until yesterday, which is also another oddity. I have not seen that since I've been chairman. I've been fully open and transparent until this particular event.

It just raises a lot of questions given the press schedule of this event and how it was released early, and it raises a lot of question, unfortunately.

BLITZER: Yes. And I know there's going to be a lot of investigations and as someone who's covered the intelligence committees over the years. I found it odd that you, Dianne Feinstein, the chairman of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, the ranking members, as well, were not briefed until yesterday. That was pretty surprising to me, as well.

Congressman Rogers, thanks very much for coming in.

ROGERS: Thanks, Wolf. Appreciate it. We look forward to talking to you again.

BLITZER: A massive manhunt for an accused murderer who suspected of kidnapping two young girls. The search is getting more desperate, and police hope you can help. A new video of the prime suspect. That's coming up.

And the country's longest serving U.S. senator could soon be out of a job certainly after tonight's primary race. Why this Election Day could be an important test of the power of the Tea Party?

And it all started with my exclusive interview with an American imprisoned in Cuba. Cuban authorities contacted me to respond. Now, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is also weighing in to CNN. You're going to hear it all. That's coming up right here on the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: Jack Cafferty is here with the "Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Dramatic new warning out, Wolf, just about how fat Americans are getting. Forty-two percent of people in the United States will be obese by 2030, 18 years from now. Forty- two percent. According to a new study, 11 percent of them will be severely obese. That means 100 or more pounds over a healthy weight.

Already in 2010, 36 percent of adults were obese, roughly 30 pounds over a healthy weight, and six percent severely obese. If the obesity rate increases as predicted in the study, it could mean we have more than 100 million obese people in the U.S. in just 18 years. The numbers are staggering, and they come with an even more staggering price tag.

This report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests the increase in obesity would cost an additional $550 billion from now until 2030 in medical expenditures. It's estimated an obese person costs at least $1,400 more in medical expenses every year than someone who's healthy weight.

Carrying around all that fat increases your risk for other diseases, diabetes, heart disease, several kinds of cancer, sleep apnea, not to mention a shorter life expectancy. Obesity is one of the biggest reasons why healthcare spending in this country has been skyrocketing for the last 20 years.

The report's author says that we have an environment in this country that promotes obesity from fast food chains to cheap junk food, technologies like the internet that keep people sitting at home and at their offices all day long. Meanwhile, the study doesn't even take into account our children. Already, one out of three of our kids is obese or overweight and that's a sin. Here's the question, where is the U.S. headed if 42 percent of us are obese by the year 2030? Go to and post a comment on my blog or go to our post on the SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. Pass the doughnuts, really, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. You're tall and thin, so you don't have to worry about it, Jack. I got to lose ten pounds, I got to tell you that.

CAFFERTY: Get on that treadmill.

BLITZER: I will, tomorrow morning.


BLITZER: Thanks, Jack.

CAFFERTY: All right.

BLITZER: A Republican primary under way in Indiana right now could bring down a long-serving member of the United States Senate, and it could give us all a taste of the future of political campaigns. Here's our senior Congressional correspondent, Dana Bash.


SEN. RICHARD LUGAR, (R) INDIANA: Good to see you.

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The way Richard Lugar sees it, his 36 years in the Senate as the leading voice on foreign policy should earn him a ticket back to Washington.

LUGAR: I'm still working everyday. I'm getting warheads out of Russia and missile (ph) down. Things that are of great consequence. I would just say that people may not have their eye on the ball, but I do.

BASH: The way perplexed Republican strategists see it, talking nukes at a time of widespread joblessness is off key, a big reason Lugar is in serious danger. Case in point, this longtime Lugar supporter came out to vote against him.

RALPH WILLIAMS, INDIANA VOTER: He was running for something to do with foreign policy, I'd be all over it.

BASH: But you don't think that he's --

WILLIAMS: No, I think he's done.

BASH: When Lugar was elected in 1976, Jimmy Carter was in the White House and Rocky was in movie theaters. Many GOP votes say it's time for change.

MARTHA MYERS, INDIANA VOTER: I've supported him in the past with money and vote, but not anymore.

BASH: Lugar invited controversy with this, he lived up this driveway in suburban Washington for 35 years, not Indiana.

Did you lose touch with people back here in Indiana?

LUGAR: Of course not. Now, this is the most non-sensical issue of all. We had four fine sons. Charlotte and I wanted to make certain that they grew up and we're all together. And we were a family. Family values.

BASH: Another factor hurting Lugar with Republican voters ties to President Obama.


BASH: Votes for Obama's agenda, including both Supreme Court picks. It's a major line of attack from GOP opponent, Richard Mourdock.

RICHARD MOURDOCK, (R) INDIANA SENATE CANDIDATE: When he is seen and has been identified as the president's favorite Republican, again, among Indiana republicans, that's not necessarily worn as a badge of honor.

BASH: Mourdock has support fro tea Party and other outside groups spending millions in this race to oust Lugar. Unlike Republican senators toppled by the Tea Party two years ago, Lugar had time to attack right and protect himself. He didn't.

LUGAR: I thought carefully about each of the votes that I cast. I believe they were the right votes for America, and the right votes for Hoosiers.

BASH: It's been a plus for some voters.

VICKI JOHNSON, INDIANA VOTER: I like the fact that Senator Lugar isn't a strict party person. If he believes in something, he'll cross over.

BASH: Even Lugar's detractors respect him. One signs say retire, not fire.

LUGAR: Thanks for the past service.

BASH: Some voting against him react this way.

You were just talking to Senator Lugar.


BASH: Did you vote for him?

KITLEY: No. The first time I didn't vote for him.

BASH: That was a long pause there.

KITLEY: I hated to depart.


BASH (on-camera): Now, of course, if Senator Lugar is defeated tonight, the Tea Party and Tea Party affiliates will claim credit, because they have poured a lot of time, money, and energy into helping Richard Mourdoch, his opponent, win.

But talking to voters today, Wolf, it seems as though the issues here seem to be less about big government, the debt, the deficit, things that the Tea Part has espoused and more specifically about Senator Lugar and the fact that many voters, as you heard, who supported him for years and years decades think his time is passed.

BLITZER: Dana, I know well -- results, I think, 7:00 p.m. eastern. Of course, CNN will bring those results to our viewers. Thanks very much, Dana Bash out in Indiana.

New indications the Obama campaign knew about John Edwards' affair back in 2008. Just ahead, there's explosive testimony today from the former presidential candidate's criminal trial.

And what killed one of the most famous artists in the country. Shocking new details emerging of Thomas Kinkade's autopsy report. That's coming up right here in the SITUATION ROOM.


BLITZER: A controversial referendum banning same-sex marriages in North Carolina. That's key issue in tonight's primary in that state. Mary Snow is monitoring that and some of the other top stories in the SITUATION ROOM right now. Mary, what do you have?

MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just about two hours from now, we could know whether the amendment has passed. The referendum would alter the state's constitution to say the only valid domestic union is between one man and one woman.

A number of top surrogates have come out on both sides of the initiative, including a rare endorsement from the Reverend Billy Graham. Former president, Bill Clinton, take the recording opposing the amendment.

Dramatic cross-examination today at the corruption trial of former presidential candidate, John Edwards. A key prosecution witness testifying that he warned the Obama campaign in June of 2008 that tabloid reports about Edwards' affair were true and to thoroughly vet that information. He said that at the time, Edwards thought he was being considered for vice president, a concept the witness called, quote, "astonishing."

And an autopsy report is determined that artist Thomas Kinkade's death was caused by an accidental overdose of alcohol and Valium. And that and he suffered from heart disease. The self-described painter of light is known for more than a thousand pieces emphasizing life's simple pleasures. Kinkade died last month at the age of 54 -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Mary, thank you, The Cuban government is responding to my exclusive interview with the jailed American. Stand by for the details of the letter I received from the Cuban ambassador here in Washington. We'll get reaction from the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, as well. And could it all lead to Allen Gross' release?

And a massive manhunt for an accused murderer who's suspected of kidnapping two young girls. Will new video of the prime suspect help save the girls' lives?


BLITZER: The Cuban government is now responding to my exclusive interview with jailed American Alan Gross who fears he's effectively being held for ransom. Gross has served more than two years, almost two and a half years of a 15-year prison sentence in Cuba on charges of smuggling in illegal equipment and being a threat to Cuba's security. When Alan Gross called me from his Cuban prison last week he talked about efforts to win his release and about the possibility, possibility of a prisoner swap.


ALAN GROSS (via phone): I feel like I'm a hostage, and they, you know, just one quick thing. The president of the Dominican Republic told me two years ago when he visited he said Alan, I hope you realize this is not about you, and at that time I could understand that. I could intellectualize it, that it wasn't about me. That it was an effort on the part of the Cuban government to express its disdain to the United States, and to try to bring about some kind of trade, but right now it is about me, and it's about my family and it's about my mother, and I'm taking this very personally.


BLITZER: The day after that interview I received a letter from the top Cuban diplomat here in Washington, and this line jumped out at me. It says the Cuban government has conveyed to the U.S. government its willingness to have a dialogue to find a humanitarian solution to the case of Mr. Gross on a reciprocal basis. That clearly suggests to me that Cuba is open to releasing Gross if the United States were to free members or all of the so-called "Cuban Five". They're serving long prison terms after being convicted by the U.S. on spy charges. Our Jill Dougherty asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to respond to Cuba's suggestion of a prisoner exchange.


HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well first of all, Mr. Gross should not even be incarcerated in Cuba. Mr. Gross was not a spy. Mr. Gross was not an intelligence agent. Mr. Gross worked for a development group that was helping Cubans, principally in their small Jewish community in Cuba to have access to the Internet and Mr. Gross, in our view, is being held without justification and has been detained already far too long. So there should be a decision by the Cuban government to release him, and we would like to see that happen as soon as possible. Now we are well aware that the Cuban government wants to see the release of their intelligence agents, five Cuban spies who were lawfully arrested, tried and convicted for espionage.

One has already served his sentence in prison. He's continuing to finish out his parole. Another will be up for parole all within the regular order of our system. A system that provides due process, rule of law protections, does not have a record of arbitrary arrests and detentions like the Cuban government does. I am deeply distressed and unhappy for the Gross family. I've met with Judy Gross, people in the State Department stay in close touch with her and with her family. They've been incredibly brave in the face of this injustice, but the Cuban government has released political prisoners which is something we'd like to see them do with Mr. Gross.


BLITZER: And the top Cuban diplomat here in Washington who wrote to me about the Alan Gross case, Jorge Molanos (ph), so far has declined our request for an interview, but we hope he comes here to THE SITUATION ROOM.

And joining us now the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Senator you are one of the few that had a chance not only to meet with Alan Gross in Cuba while he's in prison, but also with Raul Castro. Tell us what needs to be done to get Alan Gross out of jail.

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY CHAIRMAN: Well I suggested to president Castro that he hire an airplane (INAUDIBLE) come back in my airplane and he basically said good try. I think that eventually he will be released. I wish it was now. The Cubans have admitted and he's admitted to me that he's not a spy. He's not considered a spy. They, of course, have five Cubans who were charged and convicted in the United States. They want them back. We want Alan Gross back, but I don't see it being a quid pro quo.

BLITZER: Now I don't think the U.S. is going to release those five, but maybe one or two of them. Is that something you'd think that could entice the Cuban government to release Alan Gross?

LEAHY: Well you'd have to (INAUDIBLE) but I think there are humanitarian considerations all the way around. Certainly there are significant humanitarian considerations for Alan Gross. What he did, the sentence is just proportionally too long. He's not a spy. His health is such, family's health and such, he should be returned. But at the same time I think you could make the argument that some of the Cubans have reached a point where they've served a long term should they be returned, but I think if you go into it, we'll give you two if you give us one or we'll give you three if you give us one. That's a non-starter. We ought to talk first humanitarian and we ought to talk to the bigger issues of relationships between our countries --

BLITZER: But doesn't President Castro, Senator Leahy, realize that as long as Alan Gross is in prison, the prospect of really significant, any serious improvement in U.S.-Cuban relations is virtually nil? LEAHY: I don't think that is necessarily the case. It would certainly help to return him. It would certainly help relations, but the Pope asked to have him returned and he wasn't listened to either. If you're going to make our relations continue on just one issue then you're always going have somebody be able to stop things from going forward.

BLITZER: How is he doing? You spent, what, two and a half hours with him in prison.

LEAHY: I spent quite a bit of time with him in prison. Both Senator Chris Coombs (ph) of Delaware and I did. He's lost a great deal of weight. His spirits were a lot better than mine would be under those circumstances. I think I would be banging my head against the wall trying to get out of there knowing that I should not be held that long from what was a relatively inconsequential thing.

BLITZER: Senator Leahy thanks so much for joining us. Good luck to you, and I know you're working hard on this issue.

LEAHY: Thank you very much, Wolf. I'm glad you're covering it, too.

BLITZER: I contacted Peter Kahn. He's the lawyer for Alan Gross. He's with the firm Williams and Connelly (ph) here in Washington and he sent me this statement reacting to what the Cuban introsection (ph) said in their letter to me.

The statement says "The Cuban government continues to say they're seeking a humanitarian solution on a reciprocal basis, but it consistently fails to explain exactly what that solution is or what it is prepared to put on the table. If its words are code for the Cuban Five there is nothing reciprocal about this five for one proposal, rather, it would establish what many have believed all along that Alan was arrested and is now being held prisoner as leverage to try and force the release of the Cuban Five. If so, Alan was absolutely right when he said that he is being held hostage by the Cuban government.

His freedom is being ransomed in a cynical attempt to win the return of the Cuban Five. If it is otherwise, then let the Cuban government affirmatively state that it is not seeking the return of the Cuban Five for Alan Gross and identify exactly what it wants for his release so we can move forward to resolve the Gross case."

That statement from Peter Kahn of Williams and Connelly (ph) here in Washington. We'll continue to stay on top of this story and update you with new information. Once again, we've invited the Cuban ambassador to join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. We hope he accepts our invitation.

A massive manhunt for an accused murderer who is suspected of kidnapping two young girls, are the children still alive and can police find them? Officials hope you can help. They're releasing new pictures of the prime suspect. We'll have the latest. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: New developments today in the desperate manhunt for an accused murderer who is suspected of kidnapping two young girls. The mother and wife of the prime suspect have been arrested and police are releasing new pictures of the fugitive hoping it might save those girls' lives. CNN's David Mattingly is following this case for us very closely. What's the latest, David?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, we want you to take a good look at this face. It's 35-year-old Adam Mayes. He hasn't been seen for a week. We now have some new video, convenience store video that was released to us today showing what Mayes looked like the day before he eluded authorities. He may have changed his appearance, cut his hair, shaved, and he may be on the run with two young girls.

He is wanted for the kidnapping of a Tennessee mother and her three daughters at the end of April. That mother, Jo Ann Bain and her oldest daughter, 14-year-old Adrienne, were found murdered and buried behind the house belonging to Adam Mayes' mother in Guntown (ph), Mississippi. Yesterday Tennessee authorities arrested Mayes' mother and his ex-wife. The affidavit alleges the mother knew about the kidnapping and the ex-wife actually participated, driving the abducted Bain family to Mississippi.

The biggest question in this disturbing case is why? The Bain family was packing up to move to Arizona. Jo Ann Bain's husband and the father of the three young girls was the one who reported them missing. He actually thought at the time that his family could have run off with Adam Mayes. Mayes is described as a very close friend of the family. He was actually helping them pack for their move to Arizona. So far, no one in either Mississippi or Tennessee has publicly stated an official motive.

Why Mayes would want to kidnap them or why he would want to kill the mother and the oldest daughter, investigator have had to cast a wide net. Mayes has ties to seven states, but roadblocks have gone up in Mississippi in what authorities describe as strategic places there. This obviously suggests that they believe Mayes could still be in that area, Wolf. There is a $50,000 reward for information leading to his capture.

BLITZER: And we hope it works. We hope they find him and find him soon. Thanks very much, David, for that. Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state au-natural (ph), why she now tells CNN she's not afraid to let her hair down or pull it back.

And what's believed to be Marilyn Monroe's final formal photo shoot revealed for the first time.


BLITZER: Israel reaches an historic deal to form one of the largest coalition governments in its history. Mary Snow is monitoring that, also some of the other top stories in THE SITUATION ROOM right now. What do you have, Mary? MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's right wing Likud Party (ph) and rival Centrist Political Faction Kadima (ph) say the new government will be more capable of addressing key domestic and security concerns, potentially including Israel's growing concern with Iran's nuclear program. The new government is made up of 94 out of 120 Knesset members. The deal will put off early elections until late next year.

George Zimmerman, the Florida man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teenager, was arraigned today but was not in court. The judge accepted a written not-guilty plea on his behalf and Zimmerman's attorney waived his right to a speedy trial asking for more time to prepare. Zimmerman is facing second-degree murder charges and is currently free on bail.

It's believed to be Marilyn Monroe's last ever formal photo shoot, the complete set of never-before-seen prints in which she posed topless. It went up for sale at a New York auction house today, but the auction house tells CNN today's bid of $14,000 did not meet the seller's price. The pictures were originally taken for "Vogue" magazine back in 1962, and Wolf, those photos were apparently taken six weeks before she was found dead.

BLITZER: Amazing photos, I've seen them. All right thanks very much for that.

Everyone knows Hillary Clinton is very, very smart, but her hair, her clothes, her looks sometimes have been scrutinized, sometimes for decades when she was first lady, then as a United States senator and now of course as secretary of state, but guess what? Hillary Clinton tells our own Jill Dougherty she's over it.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In the blogosphere there is a big thing about Hillary au-natural (ph). In other words, you without makeup, you wearing glasses. And what can I say? But this is exactly what you were saying, that it's either the hair or something like that.

H. CLINTON: You know, I feel so relieved to be at the stage I'm at in my life right now, Jill, because you know, if I want to wear my glasses, I'm wearing my glasses. If I you know want to pull my hair back, I'm pulling my hair back, and you know, at some point it's just not something that deserves a whole lot of time and attention, and if others want to worry about it, I'll let them do the worrying for a change.

DOUGHERTY: So it doesn't drive you crazy --

H. CLINTON: It doesn't drive me crazy at all. It's just not something that I think is that important anymore.


(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Love her laugh. She's got a great laugh. I saw her in Brussels at NATO headquarters. I thought she looked terrific. Jack Cafferty, he always looks terrific. He's here as well -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Don't be trying to suck up to me.

BLITZER: Yes, you do look terrific.

CAFFERTY: For an old man of my age with no hair --

BLITZER: I didn't say that --


BLITZER: I didn't impose any conditions.

CAFFERTY: Well they're self-imposed. The question this hour is where is the U.S. headed if 42 percent of us are slated to be obese by the year 2030? That's a new report, says that's where we're going.

Rick in Detroit, "probably means the insurance companies will use us for an excuse to raise premiums for overweight people just like they now charge extra for smokers. Insurance companies will begin selling health care coverage by the pound, like we buy steak at the grocery store. They'll allow a small discount for lean people and they'll charge extra if you're fat."

Dave writes "this is one area where people have to accept personal responsibility and control their eating habits. Most people would rather blame McDonald's or the snack food industry. The solution is simple eat less, exercise more."

George in Pennsylvania, "we're out of the game, off the team and headed for the bleachers. There we can order hotdogs and beer until we go broke or have a heart attack. Next question?"

Kirk writes, "in my view, America's weight gain trend is part of a broader the American exceptionalism issue. Since World War II, we've been raised to believe we can do anything we want, whenever we want to whomever we want, including ourselves, with no negative consequences. We spend too much. We eat too much and we consume everything too much. It may be the American way, but it's often counter to our personal and national well-being."

Bob in Pennsylvania, "how much weight can you lose playing video games?"

Elsie in Wyoming "we're headed for survival of the fittest. People are in denial about what fat will do to you. They have to see for themselves. Life expectancy will go down, medical expenses sky- rocket, and sizes of clothing, furniture and cars will be in the stratosphere."

And David in Tampa writes "we could have mandatory liposuction, turn it into bio diesel. Talk about a renewable energy source." If you want to read more about this go to the blog, or through our post on THE SITUATION ROOM's Facebook page. It's a problem we just don't seem to be able to get a handle on, Wolf.

BLITZER: A very serious problem --


BLITZER: We laugh about it but it's a very, very serious problem. It's a life and death problem for some folks.


BLITZER: All right thanks very much for that. Jack will be back tomorrow.

A child's quest for gumballs turns to chaos when the machine swallows his hand. What's going on? Jeanne Moos says he's not willing to give them up (INAUDIBLE).


BLITZER: Machines filled with candy and stuffed animals probably every child's dream come true until they get stuck inside. It happened to one child recently on a quest for gumballs but it isn't the first time. Here's CNN's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This 2-year-old wanted to chew some gumballs. Instead the gumball machine swallowed his hand or as his dad put it --

TERRELL PARKS SR., FATHER: I turned my back for one minute, they were trying to get some gun out of the gum machine, and his hand was stuck up in there completely man.

MOOS: His cheeks were wet with tears as the Texarkana Fire Department came to the rescue of Terrell Parks Jr.

VINCENT JOHNSON, TEXARKANA FIREFIGHTER: Initially we did not have a plan. We were hoping that we would come in and it would be as simple as putting some oil or something on it and sliding it out. It wasn't that simple.

MOOS: Turns out they had to break the plastic and disassemble the mechanism.

(on camera): You mean there were gumballs all over the floor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All over the floor.

MOOS (voice-over): All over the floor, not counting the ones in Terrell's hand.


MOOS (on camera): At one point during the rescue the kid got some gumballs in his fist but he refused to open his fist and give up the gumballs.

(voice-over): Firefighters had to coax him so they could get his hand out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open your fist. Open your hand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let the gumball go.

MOOS: Which he finally did.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There you go, buddy.


MOOS: No injuries to the hand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does that hurt?

MOOS: But the best kid stuck in a toy machine video ever features a girl who climbs head first into the door where the prize normally comes out in one of those claw machines like the one in "Toy Story".

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have been chosen. Farewell my friends. I go on to a better place.


MOOS: Once the girl disappears up the hole, another kid tells mom and his mom goes for help. The little girl pops up amid all the toys. Mom spends some time trying to retrieve her by the feet and knocking on the window but the girl keeps climbing the mound of toys.

(on camera): Whatever you do, mom, don't try to shake her out.

(voice-over): Actually this isn't so uncommon. There are other photos of kids trapped in the belly of a toy machine. Eventually this little girl came out exactly the way she went in, exiting feet first with a little help from her mom. It was as if the vending machine gave birth. Did she leave without taking home a prize? The gumball kid got to keep a few to help him chew over the experience.

Jeanne Moos, CNN --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready to go home?

MOOS: New York.


BLITZER: He's ready to go home. That's it for me. Thanks very much for joining us. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. The news continues next on CNN.