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Fiscal Cliff Talks at White House Today; Pressure Mounts on Assad; Decades Old Mystery Surfaces; Flashes of Light over Texas; World Loses Legendary Architect; Tragedies Strike the NFL

Aired December 9, 2012 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Almost top of the hour, almost top of the hour. I'm Don Lemon. Thank you for joining us here in THE CNN NEWSROOM.

Headlines right now:

The future of Syria was the main item on the agenda when U.S. and Russian officials met in Geneva today with the U.N. peace envoy. Reports say after 21 months of relentless bloodshed they agreed it was still possible to find a political solution to the crisis. But Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov admitted the meeting did not mean Moscow support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is weakening.

Fierce fighting now threatens to engulf the capital city of Damascus.

Today is the second straight Sunday that an NFL team played a game in the wake of tragedy. This player, Jerry Brown Jr. of the Dallas Cowboys died early yesterday in a car accident. Brown was a passenger. The driver was his teammate, Josh Brent, who now has a half million dollar bond while facing charges he killed someone while driving drunk.

Police say Brent's Mercedes was moving very fast when he hurt a curb and flipped. Josh Brent has a history of DUI.

We have an update now to last week's tragedy in Kansas City. New video released by police shows Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher hours before he killed his girlfriend and then himself. The dash cam video shows police talking to Belcher after they found him sleeping in his car.

Listen to what police told him in this video released by Kansas City police.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OFFICER 1: You live right here? (INAUDIBLE). Then you just need to go upstairs, dude.

OFFICER 2: OK, that's going to be your best bet.

OFFICER 1: We're trying to cut you a break here.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Well, Belcher told police he was going to a nearby apartment to see a woman.

A cloud of political uncertainty is hanging over Venezuela. President Hugo Chavez announced that his cancer has returned and he is traveling to Cuba for surgery for a third time. But this time, the 58-year-old leader named the vice president as his choice to replace him in case something were to happen to him. Earlier, parliament voted unanimously to give Chavez permission to leave the country for medical treatment.

And just after midnight, gay couples living in Washington state made history. Joining in the first legal same-sex marriages in the state. Sarah and Emily Cofer were the first to get married at the King County courthouse in Seattle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SARAH COFER, SAME-SEX MARRIAGE PARTNER: We're totally in love with each other and we support each other through good times and tough times, just like any other marriage. And so, it's really important to us that we can honor that love with each other through marriage.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Governor Christine Gregoire signed the voter-approved referendum into law on Wednesday.

Breaking news on the fiscal cliff negotiations: President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, met face to face at the White House today for the first time in more than three weeks. We do not have any details about today's conversations but reps on both sides say the lines of communication remain open. The two men last met on November 16th.

Also today, another Republican senator announced his support for raising tax rates on wealthy Americans. Tennessee Senator Bob Corker says if the GOP agrees to the wealthy tax hike, Republicans would be better positioned to negotiate for bigger spending cuts on Social Security and Medicare.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: There is a growing group of folks that are looking at this and realizing that we don't have a lot of cards as it relates to the tax issue before year-end. A lot of people are putting forth a theory and I actually think it has merit where you give the president the 2 percent increase that he's talking about, the rate increase on the top 2 percent.

And all of a sudden, the shift goes back to entitlements. And all of a sudden, once you give him the rate on the top 2 percent, it's actually much lesser tax increase than what he's been talking about. The focus then shifts to entitlements and maybe that puts us in a place where we actually can do something that really saves this nation.

(END VDIEO CLIP)

LEMON: Corker joins fellow Republican Senators Coburn, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe in supporting an increase in tax rates for wealthy Americans.

CNN's Emily Schmidt joins us live now from Washington, our Washington bureau. So, Emily, interesting what's going on. What have we learned about today's meeting?

EMILY SCHMIDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Don, a little bit of interesting symmetry here. It is 23 days until the fiscal cliff deadline and it had been 23 days since President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner had met face to face about how to avert it. That is until they met this afternoon.

This was a bit of a surprise meeting. It certainly took place behind closed doors and all that we are being told resulted from it came from two separate statements. One came from the White House, one from a congressional staffer, and the statements' wording is identical.

This is it. This afternoon, the president and Speaker Boehner met at the White House to discuss efforts to resolve the fiscal cliff. We're not reading out details of the conversation but the lines of communication remain open.

This meeting was not on the official White House schedule today. Wednesday, a source familiar with the conversation said, the two actually spoke by phone. That was the first time in a week they had done so -- certainly no reported breakthrough then.

Back on Monday, the president and the speaker were at the same event together, a holiday party at the White House. Republican and Democratic sources said the two didn't even talk there. John Boehner said on Friday the White House had wasted another week in potential compromise.

At this point, we don't know what caused today's movement, just that for the first time in a while, the two sides are agreeing on something, even if it's just the wording of their statements about the meeting -- Don.

LEMON: All right. Emily, thank you very much.

Let's get some expert analysis as well on today's fiscal cliff meeting. CNN's senior political analyst is Mr. David Gergen, of course. And he joins me now by phone from Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

So, David, listen, before I ask you about this, it's interesting. This is the latest from Jessica Yellin and from our folks in Washington. Both sides are just saying, yes, they met at the White House, in efforts to resolve the fiscal cliff, not reading out any details. But they believe that this -- it is encouraging because they're on the same message here, and they seem to be in agreement.

David, what do you think? DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST (via telephone): I think it is encouraging, certainly on the surface. The most important reason it's encouraging is that both men are obviously looking for a compromise. They're both looking for a solution. And with time running out, it was urgent that this week, they try to strike a deal. And I think the deal can be wrapped up fairly quickly. Everybody knows what the debate for months and months and months how to possibly do this.

I think there are two questions, Don. One is the short-term question, are they getting closer to avoiding the fiscal cliff? That's the short-term. We have 23 days that we just heard.

The second question is the longer-term question. Can they reach a deal which actually leads to a grand bargain next year? And that's really the bigger question and more consequential question.

Senator Corker today in his appearance, when he said, you know, he's ready to raise the tax rate, which has been so contentious, and was a breakthrough. But he also said, listen, if we give him his tax rate, we may be able to hold the total package of tax revenues at one-half of what the president is asking for. The president wants $1.6 trillion in new taxes. And Corker's saying, maybe if we just do the rate, we can hold it to half that.

So you could -- we could get a short-term agreement that avoids the cliff, but it could mean that the long-term agreement is much smaller than what the president and economists and others really want.

LEMON: OK. I know you have good sources there. Are sources telling you anything about what happened behind closed doors since they're not talking about it?

GERGEN: I have not heard of anything. This is all broken fairly in the last, you know, hour or two. So I have not heard anything yet. I'm hoping to learn more.

But I think the truth is we're going to learn more tomorrow. That's what leaks are likely to start coming out, because Boehner's going to have to go back and tell troops on the Republican side and the president is likely to talk to Democrats.

LEMON: Once they start talking to people and word gets out, people will start talking to you guys.

GERGEN: Yes, we'll begin to get a sense of, are they really that close or not? And I -- one smells it, there are certainly the makings of a deal here.

LEMON: Yes.

GERGEN: I think that started when Boehner put revenues squarely on the table the day after the election. The president has indicated in a variety of ways that he is also more flexible than he may appear. And I'm told by people very, very close to him, I was told on Friday by one of his senior people, listen, he really wants a deal, and he wants a big one, and he's willing to do some things on the entitlement side that some Democrats are not going to want.

LEMON: Yes. Hey, I've got a question for you, David, before we run here. Is the GOP floating a trial balloon for waving the white flag on the tax hike for the wealthy, with all this -- what Corker's saying, do you think they're sort of just saying, listen, go for it?

GERGEN: I'm not sure. It will be interpreted as a white flag by many and it will be a victory for the president if he gets them to agree to raise tax rates. That clearly is something going forward he's insisted on.

But I think it's more to prepare the ground. It's -- it won't be a shock if Republicans suddenly come around. There are a number of Republicans have come out and said, we ought to be looking at this, the real issue, we're going to get leverage on spending cuts. So I do think they are psychologically preparing the ground.

LEMON: CNN's senior political analyst David Gergen, thank you very much, David, giving us the latest on the talks between the president and the House speaker.

GERGEN: Thank you, Don. Very good to talk to you.

LEMON: You as well. Thank you again, David.

So, what will it take for Democrats and Republicans to come together before the fiscal cliff? Ahead, we're going to discuss the possibilities. Ana Navarro and L.Z. Granderson join me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: It's a standstill, it's moving. It's a standstill, it's moving. Just when you thought the fiscal cliff talks were at a standstill, there's word that John Boehner spent time today at the White House with President Obama.

And we like to spend our Sunday afternoons with CNN contributors L.Z. Granderson and Ana Navarro. Hello.

L.Z., of course, is a senior writer for ESPN, and is Republican consultant and strategist. Good to see both of you. Doing OK?

L.Z. GRANDERSON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hey there.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Hello. Yes.

LEMON: So John Boehner had some pretty tough words for the president on Friday, listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There are a lot of things that are possible to put the revenue that the president seeks on the table. But none of it's going to be possible if the president insists on his position, insists on my way or the highway.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: So, Ana, he also said the White House has wasted another week. Now two days later, they're meeting again. Did Boehner's remarks make the difference?

NAVARRO: Good. Look, I think it's great. We cannot reach a deal if you are posturing and negotiating through press conferences. They need so sit in a room, they need to look at each other, they need to talk constructive debate, and they need to move this ball forward.

I think what happened today is a very good sign. Americans should be encouraged. It's a good thing, when our congressional leadership and our president are actually capable of meeting and talking about the difficult issues that face this country.

LEMON: Yes.

NAVARRO: What a refreshing and new idea.

LEMON: When you hear people like -- so you hear members of the GOP, Ana and L.Z., Saxby Chambliss, and you hear Corker, they're all saying, we're willing to do this, but the messaging you hear on television is quite different than what is actually being said behind closed doors. So, I think you make a very good point, Ana.

L.Z., do you think they're going to get something done with face-to- face talks and do you agree there seems to be competing messaging going on here?

GRANDERSON: Well, you know, they have to do the posturing in order to make sure the public stays on their side. The constituents think that they're doing something they said they were going to do. But behind closed doors, Ana is absolutely correct. This is the only way they're going to get anything done -- sitting in a room, hashing it out.

And, listen, both of these men are very, very pragmatic. They're both very cautious guys. They're not as extreme as some of the louder voices in their parties happen to be. So, you have two of the most rational politicians in Washington doing what needs to be rationally done for the better of the country.

I agree. I think it's a good thing. Perhaps when they both went and saw "Lincoln" together and said, we need to get something done, like Lincoln did.

LEMON: Ooh, like a bromance going on.

Ana --

(LAUGHTER)

NAVARRO: I think, you know, Corker, Senator Corker, brought up a very good point. This is not the end all, be all of, you know, negotiation. There's a lot of big, hairy problems that are facing this country that President Obama's going to want done, that Congress is going to want done. So there's a lot of room and a lot of space and time, four long years, for negotiations. Sometimes, the Democrats will have more leverage. Sometimes, the Republicans will have more leverage.

LEMON: Right, there you go. And everybody left side says, it's not fair when the other person has more leverage or the other team -- it's not fair, it's not fair. Everybody does it.

GRANDERSON: It's not even four years. We're going to have a debt ceiling conversation in a few months.

LEMON: Right, right.

GRANDERSON: You've got to remember, this is like -- you know, this is rapid-fire. As soon as we get past this fiscal cliff, President Obama's going to meet with Boehner again to talk about debt ceiling.

LEMON: OK, is there any chance that --

NAVARRO: They better like each other.

LEMON: Any chance John Boehner could have trouble with conservatives in the House? He's signaling a weakness to possibly compromising on tax hikes and he also tossed a few Tea Party types off key committees. Could that come back to taunt him, Ana?

NAVARRO: You know, I don't think so. I think it will help him.

Listen, membership has privileges. But leadership has that much more privileges. If you want to be the leader, you have to lead. You have to assert authority. He's had a hard time with his caucus in the last session, and I think he's trying to move things, get things done.

He needs people in his leadership. He needs people on his team, that are actually on his team. Not against his team.

So I would say to the folks that are not happy with the decisions he's made on membership of committees, look, you don't like the guy? Oust him. But if not, he is the leader and it is his responsibility. But it also his prerogative to choose who he puts in what committees.

LEMON: All right. Finally, check out this photo. Last night there in Las Vegas, Ana, Mitt and Ann Romney taking in the boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. Romney reportedly met with Pacquiao, who is a congressman in the Philippines, before the fight. Pacquiao lost in the sixth round knockout.

OK, guys. Discuss, go ahead, L.Z.

GRANDERSON: Well, I thought it was absolutely awesome that Mitt Romney went in and gave Pacquiao a pep talk, then Manny goes out and gets knocked out. It was so symbolic.

LEMON: You are wrong for that. I thought about it, just didn't say it.

GRANDERSON: It was so symbolic. It was like, wow, really?

You know that "Smooth Criminal" by Michael Jackson, like, Annie, are you OK? Are you OK, Annie?

I just keep going, Manny, are you OK? Manny, are OK? Are you OK, Manny? He was knocked out. It was so funny.

NAVARRO: I just want to tell you this. I think as a superstition person, I'm not sure meeting with the loser brings you good luck. That's all.

LEMON: Oh my God.

NAVARRO: Manny Pacquiao may want to rethink.

LEMON: Oh my gosh! Kick a man when he's down, a member of his own party, Ana, what's up with that? You called him a loser.

NAVARRO: I'm telling you, I'm superstitious. You got a losing candidate, let's say that.

LEMON: OK.

GRANDERSON: He's not a loser but definitely you don't want, he had the vibe, he had the loser vibe going in.

LEMON: OK. All fight.

NAVARRO: I'm very happy to see Mitt Romney out and about, leading his life. Boy, I wish he'd gone to Costco and boxing fights before the election. Think it could have been helpful.

LEMON: Yes. All right, guys. Great conversation. Thank you. I'll se you back next weekend if not sooner. All right? Have a great rest of your weekend.

GRANDERSON: Thanks, you too.

LEMON: All right. The Syrian civil war is raging from one neighborhood to the next. Now, shortages have families caught in the middle of the conflict, desperate for staples like food and water. We'll give you an exclusive look from inside Syria.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, his announcement that he will back off from a controversial edict granting himself sweeping new powers, is not calming the opposition. Protesters gathered in front of the presidential palace again today and they're calling for nationwide protests on Tuesday.

Now, there's word Islamist groups plan to stage a rival demonstration that same day. Anti-government protesters are furious that Morsi won't delay the constitutional referendum scheduled for Saturday. Critics say it was drafted by an Islamist-dominated assembly that squeezed out Egypt's liberal and moderate voices. The pressure cranked up this week on Syria's President Bashar al- Assad. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will attend a meeting of a group called Friends of Syria, where most attending countries already see the rebels in Syria as a legitimate representative of the people.

Shelling and street fighting killed more than 130 people on one day alone this weekend. Syria's rebel fighters now have control of the country's biggest city, Aleppo. But the people there have something new to fear now, something as frightening as civil war.

CNN's Arwa Damon is there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Crammed inside a tiny two-room home, the adults say they can handle the hunger. It's the children they worry about. There are 13 of them. As relatives moved in together after one family's home was destroyed.

When we asked the kids what they ate today, the response is: nothing. Mohammed Salmo, father of about half the children here, tells us, "Today I sent my brother to get bread at 6:00 a.m. Look, it's 3:00 p.m. right now, and he hasn't gotten any. The kids haven't eaten."

The power is out, as it has been for weeks. And now, the water is cut as well. There is a growing sense of desperation among people here, stalked by both hunger and danger.

"God gave me these children. These children are my responsibility," Salmo laments. "Now I can't even get them a loaf of bread. Before, I could. Now, I can't."

The price of bread has skyrocketed due to a flour shortage. Along with it, a population's anger.

(on camera): The situation is so dire that people say society is beginning to disintegrate. This is yet another bread line. We were just at one further up the road where the crowd ended up mobbing around us, furious. They said that they wanted us to leave because they were fed up with people filming them. They feel as if the world is simply mocking their misery.

(voice-over): In just four days, the cost of fuel jumped from 85 Syrian pounds to 150. But beyond the now astronomical cost of survival, it's the constant fear and insecurity that has come to define life here -- snipers seemingly everywhere. The threat of random artillery or air strikes, constant.

And then there is the daily assault on human dignity, in a city once known for its beauty and heritage. Children pick their way through the streets that are now a massive garbage dump.

What makes it more unbearable is that few can see an end in sight.

Arwa Damon, CNN, Aleppo. (END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: Beatings, sexual abuse, and murder. It's what some have said they were forced to endure at a former reform school for boys. Now, new information uncovered that may help solve the mystery of what went on at the school.

But, first, this past week, unemployment fell to its lowest level in nearly four years. It is a positive sign. But most would agree this is an economy still struggling. So how are some businesses finding ways to keep their doors open while others are failing?

Our Tom Foreman looks for some answers in today's "American Journey."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amid the bustle of Broadway, against the bad economy and the crushing competition, at the Strand, the show goes on. Started more than 80 years ago, this independent bookstore has beaten the odds, surviving the Great Depression, World War II.

And Fred Bass, who was a baby when his dad started the Strand, says the store is enduring these tough times, too.

FRED BASS, OWNER: Mainly by having good books and good prices. Lately, we have been selling a lot of new books at discount, but it's mostly used books or bargain books that we sell or antiquary and out of print books.

FOREMAN: The Strand's eclectic approach allows it to appeal to a broad array of clients hunting the trivial and treasured on its shelves like this rare signed copy of "Ulysses" by James Joyce.

BASS: What are we selling this one for? Huh? Twenty-five thousand, a bargain, really.

FOREMAN: But the Strand's success is about more than inventory. Employees top to bottom must possess a deep knowledge of books, and embrace the idea that they're maintaining a business, yes, but also a community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is just a comfort here where people feel willing to open up and to have 30-minute conversations with you in the aisles, even when you probably should be working.

FOREMAN: The Strand has kept up with the times too, to compete with mega bookstores and Internet retailers, it now offers almost all of its books online.

Still, it could be argued that in these days of everything moving faster, the Strand's winning edge really comes from going slower.

IRIS LEVY, CUSTOMER: There is something about being able to just browse through all these aisles and hold a book and read a book and look at a book. That's wonderful. FOREMAN: The bottom line of all this, even with the economy down, sales at the Strand are up. And another great season of holiday shopping is going on the books.

Tom Foreman, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Half past the hour now. Let's get you updated on the headlines.

Breaking news on the fiscal cliff talks. President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met face to face at the White House today trying to prevent the fiscal cliff now just 23 days away. Their last face- to-face meeting was more than three weeks ago on November 16th. We don't have any specific details on that conversation -- on their conversations. Reps from both sides say the lines of communication remain open.

A half million dollars. That is the bond set today by a judge near Dallas for Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent. He was behind the wheel in the car accident this weekend that killed teammate Jerry Brown Jr. Police believe Brent was drunk when the accident happened.

President Obama visits union-heavy Michigan tomorrow, a state he won easily last month and now the center of new labor protests. The Michigan legislature is close to passing a right-to-work law and that is not sitting well with workers in the state where organized labor was born.

One of the biggest labor unions in the country, United Auto Workers, is firmly against the law which limits the unions' power. Michigan's Republican governor says he'll sign the bill if it hits his desk this week.

We heard today from the boss of that radio station behind that London hospital prank. The joke apparently led to the suicide of a nurse who worked there. The Australian network chairman calls the death of nurse Jacintha Saldanha truly tragic and says they're waiting for the full investigation to be complete.

Two Australian deejays called the hospital on Tuesday impersonating the British royals and managed to get personal information about Prince William's wife. The nurse who took the call was found dead two days later. The hospital says the deejays' prank was foolish.

It is a decades-old reform school mystery that still haunts its students. Stories about boys who were brutally beaten to death by guards and boys who suddenly disappeared. Official finding some recent state investigation are set to be released tomorrow.

And CNN's Ed Lavandera visited the former school in Mariana, Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A mystery haunts the grounds of this now-defunct reform school for boys in the Florida Panhandle town, involving teenage boys sent here decades ago, some never seen again. In recent years, former students now in their twilight years have come forward with horrific stories of punishing abuse doled out by school leaders and of friends who vanished. Stories told by CNN. They accused former school leaders of beatings, sexual abuse, and even murder.

Which brings us to this cemetery on the school grounds, the bodies of 31 boys are buried here. Florida authorities claim they know how all the boys died. Some killed in a fire, others in a flu epidemic. Nothing criminal. But new research shows other bodies could be buried in this area, too. And dozens of former students and families say that's proof of a more sinister story hidden in these woods.

(on camera): Back in the early 1960s, the leaders of the Boys Reform School had a local Boy Scout troop come in here and clean up the cemetery. They put up these 31 crosses. But now a team of anthropologists over the last year has been going through all of this area, cleared out all of the woods around here, and they're finding the possibility of many more grave shafts which is only leading to the mystery of what happened in Marianna.

(voice-over): Untangling the story may be lost to time. The school closed last year. These events happened from the 1940s to 1960s. Most of the school leaders from then have died. But a research project led by University of South Florida anthropologist Erin Kimmerle turned up evidence of additional grave sites during months of searching the school grounds.

Kimmerle says as many as 18 more bodies could be buried here and that the research team believes a second cemetery could be hidden on the school grounds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got something right there.

DR. ERIN KIMMERLE, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA: We've found burials within the marked -- current marked cemetery and then we've found burials that extend beyond that.

LAVANDERA: Kimmerle has traveled the world investigating war crimes for the United Nations, searching for mass graves in places like Yugoslavia and Peru.

(on camera): Have you done just this area or has all over?

KIMMERLE: All of it.

LAVANDERA: Her team used high-tech equipment to scan into the ground. All the red you see suggests the location of possible gravesites. But we won't know for sure unless exhumations are ordered. Florida state officials won't comment until they can review Kimmerle's findings.

KIMMERLE: These are children who came here and died for one reason or another. And quite literally have just been lost in the woods. And it's about restoring dignity and helping -- if not putting a name to them, at least marking them and acknowledging that they're here.

LAVANDERA: The anthropologists also studied historic documents and public records and discovered a disturbing discrepancy. Boys unaccounted for.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This was long about the last pictures we had of him.

LAVANDERA: Ovell Krell's brother was sent here in 1940. She says Owen Smith dreamed of playing guitar at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. The 14-year-old had a musician's vagabond soul. He was shipped to reform school for stealing a car. Ovell never saw him again.

Her family was told Owen had run away. She still has a letter sent by the school superintendent more than 70 years ago.

(on camera): "We have been unable to get any information concerning his whereabouts. We will appreciate your notifying us immediately if you receive any word from or concerning him."

(voice-over): But Ovell Smith believes her brother was already dead. A few weeks later, his family was told his decomposed body was found under a house near the school.

KRELL: They think he crawled under there trying to keep warm and that he got pneumonia and died. And that was their official cause of death was death from pneumonia and exposure.

LAVANDERA (on camera): But that wasn't based on anything scientific or any kind of autopsy?

(voice-over): Ovell says another student told them a far different story.

KRELL: He looked back and my brother was running out across a field, an open field. And there was three men shooting at him with rifles.

And I believe to this day that they shot my brother that night and I think they probably killed him. And they brought him back to the school and buried him.

LAVANDERA: Against the family's wishes, Owen Smith was buried on the school grounds. She's never figured out exactly where. No one was ever charged in his death back in 1941. But because of that case, along with other accounts of alleged abuse, beatings and killings, the Florida State Law Enforcement Agency launched an investigation in 2008.

Its report concluded there was no evidence to suggest that any of the deceased died as a result of criminal conduct. The agency also said it couldn't find evidence to prove claims of physical or sexual abuse at the school. But many former students like Robert Straley say that report is a whitewashed cover-up. State officials say they stand by the report's findings. ROBERT STRALEY, FORMER STUDENT: I am mad at the state, yes. I'm angry at the state because they let this go on for 68 years. And did nothing about it.

LAVANDERA: Straley says he was beaten with a leather strap and that some school leaders killed young boys and made them disappear.

STRALEY: It is important to find all of the boys that were buried there. I mean, they were practically crawling out of their graves crying out, help, remember me.

LAVANDERA: To Robert Straley and others, the Florida Reform School for Boys is still hiding an evil, untold past.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Marianna, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: There is a mystery in Texas as well. What was that so many people saw? Look at that. What is it? Was it falling the sky over Houston? Take a good look, we're going to get a look at it as well.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Can we get the "Twilight Zone" music with these strange flashes? This is why. Strange flashes of light zoomed over Texas. People looked up in the sky and saw streaks of white and orange. What was it?

We get more now from our Texas affiliate KTRK.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: From a NASA camera it looked like a bright light above the earth. That's the view from space. These are from eyewitness viewers around the Houston area just as day was breaking. A bright flash of light that some people first thought was lightning.

ASHLEY GRAHAM, SAW FLASH OF LIGHT: When I looked, I guessed it was going to rain.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It wasn't the weather and it was spotted all around Texas. This map just a sampling of sightings of the Houston area. And these are some of the pictures sent to ABC13.com, showing a small area of colored light, others showing a trail behind it. And people have been talking about it all day.

STEPHANIE SOTO, FRIEND SAW FLASH: Like a UFO taking a picture of the sky, like a big flash.

TANYA, MISSED THE SHOW: A co-worker started talking about, did you, you know, hear about the flash this morning? I'm like, flash? Should I be concerned?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: At the Houston Museum of Natural Science, not concern but a lot of curiosity. CAROLYN SUMNERS, HOUSTON MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCE: Yes, it was going so fast it actually gets through the atmosphere, that makes the glow.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The museum's astronomer suspects it's a meteorite, a small piece of rock burning through space. If it meets the criteria.

SUMNERS: Did it make a trail? Did it actually move? Did it change color? Did it move from east to west?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: A lot of scientists searching for an explanation to what's called the fireball over Texas, a lot of people who aren't scientists as well.

GRAHAM: But I've heard so many different things about, you know, 2012. So it's like, kind of scary because it's getting closer to that day.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: A NASA expert says it may have been a meteor. The National Weather Service says it was probably just space junk. There you go.

His architectural masterpieces speak for themselves. Oscar Niemeyer's works -- his works spread across the country of Brazil. Next we're going to look at why his legacy will go on long after his death.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: We lost an architecture legend this week. Brazil's most influential modern architect, Oscar Niemeyer, died at the age 104. His resume includes the United Nations building in New York along with countless other iconic buildings across Brazil.

CNN's Azadeh Ansari is here with more. And had he modeled these designs by Brazilian women, let's be honest.

AZADEH ANSARI, CNN INTERNATIONAL DESK EDITOR: Right.

LEMON: Who he found beautiful like the one that was -- it looks like a waistline to me, others look like the shape of a breast, and that's where he -- that one looks like an upside down breast, that's where he drew his inspiration.

ANSARI: He did, and he did bring movement to modern architecture. And he is one of the patriarchs of this modern architectural movement. He's not only an icon in Brazil, Don. You know, he was an internationally celebrated architect. And one of the most prominent architects of the 20th century. And we can see all of his grand architectural pieces here behind us. And he was a contemporary of Mies van de Rohe like we were just talking about, one of your favorite architects.

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: -- Building so I love Mies, the Barcelona chair and all that, it's amazing.

ANSARI: But, you know, it's really the world lost a genius.

LEMON: Yes.

ANSARI: And the thing that I find so astonishing is that he lived to be 104 years old, right? But he continued to work through his 80s and through his 90s and he never gave up. Defying convention, convention in every regard, not just in his work, but also in his personal life. And I -- we have some sound here that I want to bring in from when he was alive.

LEMON: OK.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OSCAR NIEMEYER, ARCHITECT (through translator): What really gives me joy is when I look at a building that I designed and know that it's not the same as the other ones. It's a bit different. It surprises. It amazes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANSARI: And there you can see the United Nations building, which he was the architect for. But still continues to amaze and his pieces look as if they're from the future.

LEMON: Yes.

ANSARI: You know, you can't imagine --

(CROSSTALK)

LEMON: Look at that one behind you. It is --

ANSARI: Well, that's --

LEMON: It was amazing, the one with the loop and the woman walking out.

ANSARI: Well, that the Cathedral of Brasilla, right?

LEMON: Yes.

ANSARI: And that's the one that has the 16 concrete columns as we can see here. Right?

LEMON: Yes.

ANSARI: That's the one that he's really, really known for in Brazil.

LEMON: Yes. Gorgeous stuff. He is not the only legend that we lost this week.

ANSARI: That's right. We were talking about legendary jazz composer, pianist, Dave Brubeck. LEMON: Brubeck. Yes.

ANSARI: And not only was he known for his intricate rhythms, Don, but also he was a huge civil rights advocate and activist, I should say, as well. And he was one of the handful of white musicians, jazz musicians, in the 1950s. And you know -- let's take a listen here of some of his songs.

(MUSIC)

LEMON: Amazing. Amazing. So I could just sit and listen to him, you know, all over again. I mean, for the entire show. But I want to move on because I want to talk about -- we said that Niemeyer was 104 but that's nothing compared to the world's oldest woman.

ANSARI: Bessie Cooper, this week as well.

LEMON: Yes.

ANSARI: Well, she was up until a couple of days ago.

LEMON: Yes.

ANSARI: When she passed away at 116 and she's a Georgian native. And again -- but the world's oldest woman, Don, lived to be 122 years old and she's a French woman. Can you imagine this?

LEMON: No.

ANSARI: But all these individuals regardless of their circumstances and what they did in their lives, they left a legacy and that's the thing to remember here and they left their footprints and fingerprints all over their work.

LEMON: Can you imagine, 122?

ANSARI: I don't know. What would you do?

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Whatever I wanted.

(LAUGHTER)

LEMON: Hundred and twenty-two, I'd do whatever I wanted and say whatever I wanted. All right. Thank you. Appreciate it.

ANSARI: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: How is the NFL dealing with the recent player tragedies? Plus one pro team may be changing its name to an unlikely bird. We're going to talk about it in sports with "Sports Illustrated's" Jon Wertheim next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LEMON: Let's talk pro football where tragedy has struck for a second straight week. Jon Wertheim is back. He's the senior investigative reporter for "Sports Illustrated." There's the current issue right there of "SI", sportsman of the year, LeBron James, on the cover.

Man, Jon, I mean, tragedy in sports is usually limited to something like a player who suffers a devastating injury, maybe, but for two weekends in a row in Dallas, Kansas City, we've been reporting on murder, the murder-suicide, now intoxication manslaughter.

What do you make of these two incidents?

JON WERTHEIM, SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED: Yes. I wrote this week, Don, that the NFL is king, ratings are through the roof by every sort of commercial measure. This is a wildly successful league. And yet off the field it's just been awful times. I mean remember we had a Hall of Fame player commit suicide in the spring. And then these past who weekends have just been absolutely brutal. So it's a really strange time for pro football right now.

LEMON: You know, pro athletes are obviously human beings, human problems. You know, people put them up on a pedestal because of their athleticism but everyone is human, no one is infallible, but they are literally million dollar investments. Is there anything more that pro teams can do to help their players?

WERTHEIM: Yes. I mean I think that's a good point. I mean, look, we're talking about there are more than 1,000 players. We're talking about 25-year-olds, guys in their 20s with millions of dollars. I mean, bad things are going to happen, but I mean that's a really good question. These guys are employees of -- remember they're also members of a union. And one thing that's become clear, you know, we've sort of -- this has gone into directions of gun control, of domestic violence and now obviously drunk driving.

But one thing that's clear is that these programs that exist for the players are not being taken advantage of as much as they should. So maybe that's the first step. Some of these orientation programs, some of these transition programs, they need to do a better job of making sure that the players attend these seminars and really make sure these players sort of go to these programs that are available to them.

LEMON: All right. You know, we always seem to end up talking about this, the NBA negotiations, the NFL lockout. All these things. Remember hockey? Remember, the league is in the middle of another labor dispute. The all-star game is canceled, along with more than 800 games so far. I mean, is the National Hockey League, you know, sort of going to go away maybe?

WERTHEIM: Yes. Hockey is a game -- I think I remember they play it on ice with sticks.

LEMON: On ice. And yes, yes. The puck.

WERTHEIM: But this -- we're coming really close to, you know, to D- Day here basically, and basically this is going to be the second time in nine years without a hockey season. We were just talking about how popular the NFL is. And I don't think hockey has this luxury. I mean this is -- this is really bad news for hockey fans, and you know we'll see if they are -- you know, some 11th hour decision can be reached, but this has not been good.

It's not as if people are clamoring for their NHL either. I mean this is a little different from the dynamic we had last year with the NFL and football.

LEMON: Yes. OK, so listen, I've got about 20 seconds here. But my sister went to a high school in Port Allen, West Baton Rouge, it's called the Port Allen Pelicans, right? So now my home state ion VA team is thinking of changing their name into New Orleans Hornet in order to honor the state bird, the Pelicans. This does sound very aggressive to me.

WERTHEIM: No, that's the pocket projector of franchise nickname. I mean New Orleans -- you've got hurricanes, you've got cuisine, I like the Jazz at Utah then lifted when they got the team. But no, pelican is not -- I'm not sure that's cutting it.

LEMON: Yes. Beautiful, but that doesn't sound like --

WERTHEIM: (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: Yes, you know -- all right. Thank you, Jon Wertheim, always a pleasure to see you.

WERTHEIM: Same. Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Next international leaders are gathering in Norway where they are preparing to honor the best of the best.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)