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THE SITUATION ROOM
Would-Be Mayor Busted; Atlanta's School Cheating Scandal; Educators Surrender in Cheating Scandal; Yonkers to Keep Kids in School Longer; Jackson Family Suing Over Michael's Death; Pope Kisses Disabled Boy; Seal Keeps the Beat in Study
Aired April 2, 2013 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to show you how a new Korean war might play out.
Busted in New York. A lawmaker is accused of trying to bribe his way into a powerful job as the city's next mayor.
And inside a massive school cheating scandal, educators, educators, accused of holding parties to tamper with test scores and get bigger bonuses.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around of the world. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
North Korea's Kim Jong-un is being warned that his nuclear threats and warmongering have simply gone too far. The communist regime announcing today it will restart a closed nuclear reactor. It's another in-your-face taunted of the West, even as the United States sends more firepower to the region.
Here's our foreign affairs correspondent, Jill Dougherty. She's working the story for us -- Jill.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Wolf.
Just a short time ago here at the State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry standing next to the South Korean foreign minister said that the North's actions were provocative, dangerous and reckless, and he said the United States will not accept the North as a nuclear power.
DOUGHERTY (voice-over): North Korea hurls another threat, announcing Tuesday it will restart a nuclear reactor it shut down more than five years ago.
From the United Nations secretary-general, an ominous warning.
BAN KI-MOON, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL: The crisis has already gone too far. Nuclear threats are not a game.
DOUGHERTY: In Washington, Secretary of State John Kerry meets with South Korea's foreign minister. The North's escalating belligerence topping their talks.
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Let me be perfectly clear here today. The United States will defend and protect ourselves and our treaty ally the Republic of Korea.
DOUGHERTY: Back in 2007, there were signs of progress, when the North's previous leader, Kim Jong Il, ordered the reactor at Yongbyon to be dismantled as parts of talks with the U.S. and its allies over his nuclear program. But soon after, nuclear tests continued. The latest one in February appeared to be the biggest yet.
VICTOR CHA, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL MEMBER: The seismic signature was larger than the previous two tests, which means whatever they blew up had a higher yield to it, which probably represents an advancement.
DOUGHERTY: But U.S. officials say they have seen no signs yet the North is trying to restart that reactor. The consensus for now at least, it's more bluster than reality.
DOUGHERTY: So the United States has parked a destroyer in the Western Pacific that is capable of shooting down missiles and it's ordered another one to remain on station in Asia -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jill Dougherty over at the State Department, thank you.
For all of North Korea's immediate threats, the biggest danger it poses at least right now isn't necessarily a nuclear danger. The regime could trigger a new Korean war with conventional weapons.
CNN's Tom Foreman is over here at the magic wall.
Tom, what could happen if North Korea were to start a war with some of those conventional weapons?
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, all we're really looking at here just the a lay of the land here.
If you look at North Korea up here, you can see that it's got this advantage in an interesting way. This water on both sides actually makes a big difference, because it makes it relatively hard to get in and respond to them. And of course you have the DMZ down here, where they could reach into South Korea with any kind of attack they wanted to stage there.
But let's look at the bigger picture of this. Why does all that matter? Because it's a small nation. This is one reason, because of their missile capability. Some of their lesser missiles have a range of 435 miles. As you can see, that completely engulfs all of South Korea and reaches over here toward Japan. Their bigger missiles come the way out here to 2,500 miles. We have talked a bit about the idea of some that can go all the way to the U.S., but that's sort of off the table right now. The technology just doesn't look that good. But these are real. And when you talk about their ground forces, then you start talking about an awful lot of people, simply put. I will put away the missiles right now and show you. When you talk about the ground forces, 1.1 million active troops in North Korea, almost five million in reserve. That's simply an awful lot of people for a small area, 605 combat aircraft, 43 naval missiles.
These might be very limited if they came out and tried to do anything. But when you combine it with all the artillery there, they actually have a somewhat fortified position -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What kind of defensive system does the U.S. have in the region?
FOREMAN: We have a lot of bodies there. That's for one thing.
In South Korea, for example, look at this -- 30,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea. Some F-22 Raptors were just sent there yesterday. If you go to Japan over here, very strong presence, ever since World War II, 800 U.S. troops there. A second early warning radar system has been put there to keep track of the missile attacks coming from North Korea.
And of course down here at Guam, you have 5,700 troops. This is one of the most important naval bases in the world for our long-range bombers. There is a lot of force that could respond to North Korea here, but what you will have is a push/pull between all of these forces trying to get in, from all these different places, if it came to that, and the conventional flow out of missiles from North Korea if indeed you move to a conventional war. Of course everyone hopes it doesn't go that way. But that's a bit how the lay of the land would be if it did.
BLITZER: It would be a disaster all around. Thanks very much for that report, Tom Foreman.
For more on North Korea's threats, go to CNN.com for five things you should know about the regime and what it's capable of doing.
Other news we're following. In Texas right now, hundreds of investigators are trying to figure out who killed two local prosecutors in two months. And we're learning about a new development in this case.
CNN's Ed Lavandera is working the story for us.
Ed, what have you learned about what investigators are looking at right now?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, since the murder of Mark Hasse two months ago back at the end of January -- he was the assistant prosecutor there in Kaufman County -- we know investigators have been starting from scratch, poring over through all of his case files trying to figure our or find some clues in those case files that might point them towards someone who might have had a grudge against these prosecutors and would want to kill them. There's been a great deal of attention focused in the last couple of days on the Aryan Brotherhood, perhaps even drug cartels and whether or not groups like that might have been involved. But we are learning that this investigation is going well beyond that, and that investigators are taking a closer look at public corruption cases there, local public corruption cases in Kaufman County and in thumbing through those files to see if there's something there.
One case in particular, we spoke with an attorney of a man who was convicted last year. This man is out of jail, and is serving probation. But according to this attorney, on Saturday night, just hours after Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, were found murdered in their homes, according to his attorney, his client was called by investigators and they met with this man at a Denny's restaurant in Kaufman, Texas, just hours after the bodies were discovered.
Those investigators wanted to take a swab of this man's hands to test it for gun residue. We don't know the results of that residue and what that is showing to investigators. But this attorney says that his client met with investigators, cooperated voluntarily, because he has nothing to hide -- Wolf.
BLITZER: What's the significance, though, of this development?
LAVANDERA: You know, I think it's significant.
There's been a lot of questions surrounding, and a lot of talk about the Aryan Brotherhood, drug cartels, what could be behind this incredibly mysterious rash of murders, the assassinations of these two prosecutors. Investigators have said almost next to nothing very publicly.
And even though they're not saying anything, it doesn't necessarily mean they're not pursuing any leads. But this is obviously very different from what we have heard over the last couple of days and that a lot of attention has been focused on that Aryan Brotherhood angle. This clearly shows investigators are looking in other places and poring over the case files, looking where Mark Hasse and Mike McLelland might have worked together on cases and see if there's a grudge somewhere locally that might explain all of this.
BLITZER: They should look at all of that, as they obviously are. Thanks very much, Ed.
And we're also getting some new information about the man suspect of killing Colorado's prison chief. Documents show that paroled inmate Evan Ebel removed his ankle monitor five days before the shooting. Colorado court officials have revealed that Ebel was still supposed to be behind bars at the time of the killings. Turns out he was released four years too early because of a clerical error, a clerical error. The judge is apologizing, promising an investigation.
Up next, a man who apparently hoped to be the next mayor of New York City busted, busted in an alleged bribery scheme.
And will a longer school year make schools better or parents' lives worse?
BLITZER: It sounds like a plot right out of a movie. A lawmaker -- get this -- a lawmaker trying to scheme his way onto a ballot in order to become one of the most powerful politicians in the country.
Turns out that's exactly what officials claim this man did, in hopes of becoming New York's next mayor.
Mary Snow is joining us from White Plains, New York, right outside of New York City with what's going on.
What are you learning, Mary?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, what prosecutors say is that this was a scheme that was cooked up over the last four months. What defendants didn't know is that they were dealing with an undercover agent, and a witness cooperating with the government.
It all ended early this morning when the FBI showed up at their homes, and arrested six defendants on federal corruption charges.
SNOW (voice-over): As New York City's mayor winds down his last term in office, the race to replace him now includes an alleged corruption plot involving six politicians, the key figure, state Senator Malcolm Smith, once one of the highest ranking Democrats in the state.
Smith remained silent as he was released on bond after FBI agents arrested him at his home in the morning. He stands accused of trying to buy his way onto the ballot in the 2013 mayoral race as a Republican candidate with the help of a city councilman and two GOP leaders who were also charged.
Steps from City Hall, Manhattan's U.S. attorney says, the corruption charges are indicative of a show me the money culture.
PREET BHARARA, U.S. ATTORNEY: Every New Yorker should be disheartened and dismayed by the sad state of affairs in this great state. From time to time, the question arises, how common is corruption in New York? I can tell you based on the cases that we have brought and continue to bring, it seems downright pervasive.
SNOW: A federal complaint details three separate bribery schemes, and more than $100,000 in bribes passing hands. The government relied on an undercover agent posing as a real estate developer and a cooperating witness.
In the plot involving Smith, he's alleged to have given instructions about the amount of payments to be handed out. Smith also said that before a committee leader received even a nickel more, he'd have to stand on the Empire State Building and drop every person he endorsed and hold Malcolm up and say he's the best thing since sliced bread.
Smith's attorney, Gerald Shargel, says he will enter a plea of not guilty if an indictment is returned.
GERALD SHARGEL, ATTORNEY: The allegations in this complaint do not tell the full story. I think that there is much more to this story. I ask anyone to -- reading this or reading about this to withhold judgment.
SNOW: In Smith's district, constituents were shocked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of people in the community depend on people like him to do the right thing. And if he's doing stuff like bribery, then he shouldn't be in the position that he's in.
SNOW: Now, according to the criminal complaint, the next meeting about this was scheduled to take place tomorrow. All defendants were released on $250,000 bond, their passports confiscated and their travel restricted -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Real scandal unfolding in New York. All right, Mary, thank you.
Today, the National Rifle Association trying to get a head-start on the upcoming debate over new gun laws, but ended up apparently disagreeing with one of its top representatives said right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Former Republican Congressman Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas unveiled plans to train school officials who want to carry firearms. Hutchinson's task force was set up by the NRA.
But here in THE SITUATION ROOM, just a little while ago, he revealed he personally supports an idea the NRA opposes, expanding background checks for potential gun buyers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASA HUTCHINSON, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY FOR HOMELAND SECURITY: We make sure that when someone purchases a firearm, that it is going to someone that's qualified to own it. We're all for that.
BLITZER: What I hear you saying is that you're open to expanding background checks personally.
HUTCHINSON: Yes, absolutely. I'm open to expanding background checks, if you can do it in a way that does not infringe upon an individual.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A little bit ago, a spokesman for the NRA emphasized that Hutchinson was speaking for himself, not for the NRA.
President Obama, meanwhile, jumps back into the gun debate tomorrow. He's heading to Colorado for a speech at the Denver Police Academy. He will be in Connecticut next week.
Today, the president ha his attention on a much different subject, what goes on inside our minds. He wants Congress to spend millions of dollars on brain research.
Lisa Sylvester is here to explain what this money hopefully would buy.
What does the president want?
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, much the way researchers were able to map the human genome, well, scientists are hoping to develop actually a map of the brain and to one day be able to turn on or off certain cells and cure diseases. And the White House is backing it up with a proposed $100 million.
ALAN ALDA, ACTOR: You want to do it? Go ahead.
SYLVESTER (voice-over): In this demonstration with actor Alan Alda, 18-month-old Kendall (ph) shows she has mastered the art of imitation.
SYLVESTER: Again and again, she takes turns copying what the grownups do. Scientists at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington have been studying the toddler and baby brain and have made astonishing discoveries.
ANDREW MELTZOFF, INSTITUTE FOR LEARNING AND BRAIN SCIENCES: What the new science is showing is they're born learning, born connected, born learning from others and want to be like you.
SYLVESTER: Children are sponges, soaking up new information, language, culture, accepted behavior, what's right and what's wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That first 2,000 days when the child is learning more than they will ever learn in any other five-year period in their entire lives.
SYLVESTER: But understanding how the brain works, how we imitate, retrieve a memory or learn a language is still a mystery. The White House announced a $100 million initiative, a push to map the human brain for the first time. The hope is that it will lead to new treatments for Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, brain injuries or epilepsy.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We can identify galaxies lightyears away, we can study particles smaller than an atom, but we still haven't unlocked the mysteries of the three pounds of matter that sits between our ears.
SYLVESTER: Ed Boyden is with the synthetic neurobiology group at MIT. He says there are one billion cells in the brain operating at a very high speed.
ED BOYDEN, MIT: We're talking about an enormous amount of information every second, comparable to the scale of, say, the entire Internet over brief periods of time being generated by a single human brain.
SYLVESTER: But why with a tight government budget should we spend millions on mapping the brain now? Well, the science is there, and researchers hope the federal dollars will be used to create new jobs and develop new technologies that will one day allow us to see how neurons work in the living brain.
DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: There are 100 million Americans who suffer from diseases that affect the brain. It's costing us $500 billion each year to give health care to those individuals. If we are ever really going to make progress, we have to build this foundation of understanding how the brain works.
SYLVESTER: The human brain, we use it every day, but know so little about it.
SYLVESTER: Now, it is still up to Congress to approve the money for this project. But it would bring together some of the best minds of the private sector and government, and the president's bioethics commission will also weigh in to make sure that this research is all being done in a proper way -- Wolf.
BLITZER: We waste so much money on stupid stuff, it would be good to spend some money and maybe really learn something about this critically important issue.
SYLVESTER: Well, the potential, I mean, and that's what everybody is hanging their hope on, the potential, if you can just think about it, the possibility of finding a cure for Alzheimer's, for Parkinson's, for epilepsy, even things like being -- curing blindness and hearing loss and so forth.
So they are just at the infancy in this type of research, and so in that sense there's a sense of excitement.
BLITZER: Well, I'm excited.
SYLVESTER: I am, too.
BLITZER: Thanks very much.
So, if you thought we were done with the Michael Jackson trials, they are just starting to pick a jury for what may be the most sensational trial yet. Stand by. We will update you on what is going on.
Also, the rapper Jay-Z trying his hand in a new career that has nothing to do with music.
BLITZER: Up next: Educators turn themselves in, in a massive school cheating scandal. We're going to get inside details on how students' tests were doctored.
And the mother of a disabled boy talks about his once-in-a-lifetime experience, getting kissed by the pope.
BLITZER: Happening now: teachers accused of being cheaters, teachers. Inside a massive school scandal, students' tests allegedly doctored for profit.
Summer break just got shorter. A new plan aimed at fixing some schools, it's getting an angry reaction.
And Jon Stewart gives a shout-out to his Egyptian counterpart, playing a serious free speech controversy for laughs.
I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
It may be the biggest school cheating scandal in U.S. history. Today, suspects began turning themselves in; 35 Atlanta public school educators are accused of tampering with students' standardized tests to improve their scores and earn cash bonuses for themselves.
The lawyer for one defendant spoke out, claiming his client is innocent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAYMOND LAIL, LAWYER FOR SUSPECT: This is the closest she's even been to a jail in her life. She's been an educator since she graduated from college, and has been an educator for about 20 years now. So it's very unfortunate. She's absolutely not guilty of these charges, and we look forward to going forward with this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: There are reports that some teachers actually held pizza parties to doctor students' test scores. As you can imagine, this scandal has rocked the Atlanta school system and has horrified parents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm disappointed. As a parent that wants the best for their child, I'm very disappointed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The test cheating scandal was first exposed in an investigation by the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution." And we're joined now by the newspaper's editor, Kevin Riley.
Kevin, thanks very much for coming in. Thanks, obviously, for your good work. This is the culmination of a long investigation. Your paper certainly has been at the forefront. What indications did you have at the beginning of all of this, and what was your reaction when you first reported -- got some serious reporting on what was going on?
KEVIN RILEY, EDITOR "ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION": Well, Blitz [SIC], our reporters have been working -- Wolf, our reporters have been working on this for years, this story. And at first it happened years ago when a couple of our reporters noticed that a couple schools' advancements in the tests didn't seem to make sense. And so they kept digging deeper. And ultimately we did a computer analysis of the scores. It showed the teacher -- the students had made advances in the tests that just really weren't possible.
BLITZER: Give us some examples of how this cheating allegedly occurred. What kind of things did the teachers, the principals do, for example, to propel it and to cover it up?
RILEY: Well, first of all, it seems to have started at the top, if you look at the indictment. Principals were told that they would be fired if their students' test scores did not improve. And it went from there.
In our reporting, we -- and in the state's investigation, examples were things like teachers standing up in front of the classroom, giving students hints about what the appropriate answers were. And even teachers getting together after the test sheets were filled out and changing them to make the answers correct.
BLITZER: How fearful were teachers about all of these standardized tests, getting involved in this alleged cheating ring? And what about the superintendent?
RILEY: Well, as you know, our national education policy is based on testing. And so there's enormous pressure around these tests for superintendents, for principals, for teachers, for students. And so it seems as if people got caught up in improving their test scores at any cost.
BLITZER: And the motivation was what, to get a bonus? Was it money? Is that what you're discovering?
RILEY: Well, certainly that's how the district attorney feels in Fulton County. Because the indictment, which includes racketeering charges, indicates that they will pursue a case that says this. People were financially motivated. They got bonuses, all the way to the top; in fact, the superintendent's bonuses totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And it looks like the D.A. is going to try and prove that that's behind all of this. That the better the scores were, the more money people made.
BLITZER: This bombshell, the reporting, the indictment, all of this, this school cheating scandal, if you will, what's been the impact on the schools? What's been the impact on the kids, the students?
RILEY: Well, that -- that's an important part of this story. I mean, it's a real tragedy. We're talking about educating our children. Nothing could be more important than that. And we have kids who were told they were learning what they should learn. We have parents who thought their kids were learning what they should learn. And in fact, they were not.
And that -- another part of this is that, don't forget, there were almost 200 teachers named in the initial state report. We have about three dozen educators indicted now. But most teachers in Atlanta, most educators in Atlanta were not cheating.
BLITZER: That's a good point to make. All right, Kevin, thanks very much. Kevin Riley is the editor of the "Atlanta Journal- Constitution," doing some serious reporting in Atlanta.
RILEY: There are lots of proposals out there to improve public education. Here's what three elementary schools in Yonkers, New York, are trying to do.
Starting next year, the last day of school will be delayed until July 31, shortening summer vacation to just one month. When schools -- kids are in school, the days will be longer.
CNN's Pamela Brown has more from Yonkers.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the school behind me here is one of three in Yonkers deemed to be failing by the state. So a deal was struck with the district to make the school days and the school years longer, something that's not sitting so well with some parents.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to enjoy the summer, and not be in school all day.
BROWN (voice-over): But now summertime isn't going to be what it used to be for kids at three Yonkers, New York, public elementary schools.
RICHARD MERCED, FATHER: I always put them in baseball. That's it.
BROWN (on camera): And now they may not be able to do that. How do you feel?
MERCED: It's wrong. Sad.
BROWN (voice-over): This mother is shocked to learn summer vacation next year won't start until August 1. She believes it will take away valuable time with her 6-year-old daughter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm upset. Really. Because I like -- me and my children, we do a lot of things in the summer. We look forward to the summer. Family values and vacation is very important. And to take that away, I don't think it's fair.
BROWN: The students will also have to stay in class an hour longer each day, and at least half the teachers will be replaced.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just unfair all around, all across the board.
BROWN: Forty-eight percent of the nation's public schools are not making the progress they're supposed to. Now, in the most extreme cases, districts across the country, like Yonkers, are forced to use plans like this one to get extra funding for failing schools.
(on camera): So what do the kids think about this plan?
BERNARD PIERORAZIO, SUPERINTENDENT: I think, you know, every child wants the freedom of summer.
BROWN (voice-over): But Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio says research shows shorter summer vacations equal almost 10 percent higher achievement levels among students.
PIERORAZIO: We have to do something different. Our children are not achieving at the levels we need them to achieve at.
BROWN: Not every education expert agrees keeping kids in the classroom longer is the answer.
STEPHAN BRUMBERG, EDUCATION PROFESSOR: These are children. They're not automatons. You can't force them into the kinds of learning situations that we put them in, continuously. Why can't they have a little time off?
BROWN (on camera): As districts across the country deal with the challenge of underperforming schools, kids losing more of their summer vacation could be something we see more of -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Pamela Brown, thanks very much. She's reporting from Yonkers.
It's been almost four years since Michael Jackson's death shocked the music world. Just a minute, we're going to explain why the whole case is now about to go back to court. The answer could be worth, some think, millions, if not billions of dollars.
BLITZER: The man described as the Egyptian Jon Stewart now has a fierce defender, after his arrest on charges he insulted the Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, and insulted Islam. That defender is the real Jon Stewart. Last night "The Daily Show" star talked at length about his Egyptian counterpart, Bassem Youssef, and he mocked President Morsi.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JON STEWART, HOST, COMEDY CENTRAL'S "THE DAILY SHOW": So Bassem Youssef pokes fun of your hat and your lack of promised democratic performs. What are you worried about? You're the president of Egypt. You have an army. He's got puns in his show. You've got tanks and planes. We should know: we still have the receipts. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Bassem Youssef tells CNN his weekly show won't ease up on the political satire because of his arrest on Sunday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BASSEM YOUSSEF, COMEDIAN/SATIRIST: I'm not intimidated. I'm just exhausted by this. So I'm not going to let this drain me. I'm just going to continue and continue with the show, continue with the same high tone of the show. We're not going to back down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Youssef's arrest came not long after the Egyptian president, Morsi, he insisted to me when I interviewed him in Cairo that he is committed to allowing free speech in his country. Jon Stewart, by the way, played the clip of my interview with President Morsi last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Just to tie up this issue, Bassem Youssef, Amr Moussa, Mohamed ElBaradei, they don't have to worry about going to jail?
MOHAMED MORSI, PRESIDENT OF EGYPT (through translator): They are Egyptians. They are part of my family from Egypt. There is no way that any harm can befall them because of their opinions or their personal opposition.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Bassem Youssef, by the way, is free on bail. He's facing three lawsuits for his political satire.
We're learning, by the way, that the Web site for U.S. forces in Korea, the Web site -- get this -- has now gone down in the midst of rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
A U.S. Defense Department official tells CNN there was a hardware crash, and it could be a while before that Web site goes back online. We're told, as of right now, there is no sign that this had anything to do with a cyber attack or some kind of outside interference. We're monitoring this situation. We'll update you as more information comes in.
Up next, a kiss from the pope may have changed one disabled boy's life. My conversation with his mother. That, and a lot more coming up.
BLITZER: In Los Angeles today, they started looking for a dozen or so people who can listen to weeks of lurid, sensational testimony, then figure out who's to blame for Michael Jackson's death in 2009.
Jackson's family is suing the company that promoted what would have been his comeback tour. CNN's Miguel Marquez is watching this whole trial unfold.
It hinges, I take it, on the hired doctor, Conrad Murray. What kind of evidence are we expected to see, Miguel?
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're going to see a lot of evidence in this case. Stuff that we haven't heard about Michael Jackson before, if this goes to trial, if they don't work out some sort of deal. That seems possible, just given how the sparks are flying in the courtroom already today.
Michael Jackson's kid -- kids, Paris and Prince Michael, are expected to testify. They'll talk about their father in open court. That's something we'll never have heard about before.
The -- the lawyers for AEG saying they will extensively talk about Michael Jackson's medical records in that trial, as well. So we can expect to hear some -- some revealing details about the King of Pop.
BLITZER: Are there going to be TV cameras inside that courtroom?
MARQUEZ: That is yet to be determined. The court today was on fire between these two attorneys, these two teams. Very, very high stakes here. Billions of dollars at stake.
The defense team for Michael Jackson, or the team for Michael Jackson, the plaintiffs, they want cameras in the courtroom. AEG, the defense in this says, "Nope, we don't want the cameras in." And that's where the real battle took place today. Because the AEG's and Michael Jackson's lawyers went on camera with CNN over the weekend. We ran some of that today. There will be a longer documentary this weekend.
And the -- Michael Jackson's attorney just hammered away at the AEG attorneys over them taking part in that CNN interview and talking about evidence in the case. At one point saying, you know, "Mr. Putnam" -- referring to Marvin Putnam -- "it's not funny. A man is dead here. Excuse me, Mr. Putnam." It really got very intense in there -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jury selection is going to be intense. What kind of questions are we anticipating to these prospective jurors?
MARQUEZ: Yes. We're through about 30 jurors. They've come up with a handful that will come back next week and be questioned even further. They're going through another 35 jurors now to see how many they can get.
This -- 123 questions total for the jurors, specifically on Jackson. More generic questions, just on -- to see whether or not they can actually last for the two or three months of this case.
Two questions are interesting. One, No. 40, "Do you think celebrities and high-profile people feel they're entitled to act however they please?" Another, 43, "Famous musicians are powerful." They asked them to disagree or agree with that.
This one's very revealing: No. 65: "Are you familiar with any of the following prescription drugs or medications? Sleeping pills, Propofol, Demerol, other opiates, Valium, Ativan." You can see where this is going, Wolf. Going to be very revealing.
Back to you.
BLITZER: All right. We'll be watching. Thank you very much, Miguel.
Please be sure also to watch later tonight, 8 p.m. Eastern. "ANDERSON COOPER 360" has an exclusive jail -- jail interview with Michael Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray. That's at 8 p.m. Eastern. You'll want to see it later tonight.
And check out this alarming new video obtained by ESPN's "Outside the Lines." It shows Rutgers men's basketball coach Mike Rice berating and abusing his players in practice. You can see him heaving basketballs at them, pushing them aggressively. And the video even shows him using anti-gay slurs while yelling at one of his players.
The clips, by the way, compiled from 2010 to 2012. Last year, Coach Rice was suspended for three games for, quote, "inappropriate behavior and language," but he has not been fired.
A player interviewed by "Outside the Lines" calls it outrageous, although other former players have defended this coaching technique.
The governor, by the way, of New Jersey, Chris Christie, upon seeing all of this and learning about it, said he was deeply, deeply disturbed. Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey.
We also have some pictures many of you will think are cute, but believe it or not it's also an important moment for science.
BLITZER: There is a look at this hour's "Hot Shots."
In Puerto Rico, a large moon -- look at this -- shines over the water.
Here in Washington, kites fly high during the annual Blossom Kite Festival.
In England, the sun sets on a cold, gray day.
And in New York -- look at this -- people dress up to participate in the annual Easter day parade.
"Hot Shots," pictures coming in from our CNN iReporters around the world.
This next story demonstrates the power of a simple gesture of love and concern. While mingling with the Easter crowd in St. Peter's Square on Sunday, Pope Francis hugged and kissed a disabled boy. People around the world were charmed and intrigued, and last night I had a chance to speak with the boy's mom.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: It's not every day, Christiana, that someone's son gets kissed by the pope. What was that moment like for you and for Dominic, especially for Dominic?
CHRISTIANA GONDREAU, MOTHER: You know, it was really moving and he was -- yes. It was really moving. It was -- Dominic is a people person, but I think he understood that that was exceptionally special. And I think that you can see that in the pictures and in the video, because he broke out in a huge smile and wrapped his arm around the pope, which is very moving as a mother. And for my family to see that.
It was very beautiful moment, even for the people around, because there was not a dry eye around us. It was really, really moving.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I love the way Dominic, he smiled. You could see that powerful smile on his face, and he put his arm around the pope. It was an emotional moment. Everyone who saw it, look at that. Sweet little boy. The pope gives a nice kiss, and then you can see a smile from that -- watch. Look at that. Look at that smile. Look at that hug. That is a wonderful, wonderful moment.
I was moved. A lot of people, in fact, around the world were moved. We have a lot of reaction from that.
Birds do it. People do it. And it turns out sea lions can move to a musical beat, as well. CNN's Jeanne Moos shows us a very cute moment that's important for science, as well.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you think this is the only way a sea lion moves, watch her groove.
PETER COOK, RESEARCHER: Her favorite song is definitely "Boogie Wonderland" by Earth, Wind and Fire.
MOOS: Fired up is what researcher Peter Cook is.
COOK: She did not do it spontaneously. It took a lot of training.
MOOS: Almost after a year and a half of study, researchers at Long Marine Lab at U.C.-Santa Cruz published a California sea lion can keep the beat even to the Backstreet Boys.
(on camera): Now, you probably think, big deal. Any idiot can keep a beat.
(voice-over): But sometimes it's hard, even for humans. Ask Karl Rove.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This man will never stop. Look at him, jumping up and down, ready to hop.
MOOS: Or Rodney Dangerfield.
Scientists used to think only humans could keep a beat. But then a cockatoo named Snowball wowed the Web, bopping to the Backstreet Boys.
Research on Snowball showed birds with a talent for vocal mimicry are also able to keep the beat. Birds with the capacity for complex vocal learning.
But now Ronin, the sea lion, with no talent for vocal mimicry is getting down to Earth, Wind and Fire. Of course, Ronin needed fish as a reward and had to start by bopping to the click of a metronome. Eventually, she learned to find the rhythm buried in music.
And though YouTube is awash in dancing animals like Lucky the elephant -- and Stewart the salsa-dancing dog -- even walruses dancing to Michael Jackson. The difference is, they're likely responding to cues from a trainer or simply swaying rather than keeping the beat. Alone with nothing but music as stimulus and fish.
But how do Earth, Wind and Fire feel about having a sea lion for a fan?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jeanne, he's nailing it. He's nailing it. And what I like about him, I think he might have to join the group. We might have to call it Earth, Wind, Fire and Water, right?
MOOS: Next assignment, Ronin the rapper.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got the groove.
MOOS: ... CNN...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't wait till he hears the new album.
MOOS: ... New York.
BLITZER: Got the groove, indeed. Love Earth, Wind and Fire.
This is important. Tomorrow, Ted Turner, the creator, the founder of CNN, he will be my special guest. He's the man who hired me, by the way, here at CNN 23 years ago. Ted Turner, an amazing man. In June, 1980, he thought the world, not just the United States, needed a 24/7 cable news network. He created CNN. We've been on the air ever since.
The whole world, he changed the whole world. Think of all the cable news networks that are out there right now, not just a half-hour newscast or an hour newscast but 24/7 newscasts. Local cable channels, national cable channels, international cable channels in dozens and dozens of language. Ted Turner changed the world. He'll be my special guest tomorrow right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
Erin Burnett "OUTFRONT" starts right now.