Program note: See the full report from Drew and Scott tonight on AC360° at 10pm.
Drew Griffin and Scott Bronstein
CNN Special Investigations Unit
Did Roland Burris secure his appointment to Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat through some kind of pay-to-play politics of the very sort that have tainted the man who appointed him, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich?
Republicans in the Illinois state legislature are asking that question, and they want Burris, the former Illinois attorney general, to answer in person at a hearing scheduled for Thursday on Blagojevich's impeachment.
And the question is reverberating back to Washington, where Democratic leaders have been blocking Burris from taking the Senate seat, saying the appointment is tainted by Blagojevich, who was arrested last month and accused of trying to sell the seat for money and influence.
Blagojevich, however, has not been indicted and remains governor. He and Burris say the appointment is legal. In a written affidavit given to the impeachment panel, Burris said he had one limited conversation with the governor about the Senate seat before he was appointed. And that conversation, he said, was initiated by a Blagojevich attorney.
But records show the two men have long ties to each other - includinglucrative state contracts, political contributions and even a job for the governor's wife. Those records are raising thorny questions from state officials, particularly Republicans.
"I want Mr. Burris to, under oath, talk about that, about exactly when his interest in his seat, when he became interested in the seat," said Republican State Rep. Jim Durkin, "how far back it went, who did he talk to, and exactly the communication that went back and forth between him and the governor and any type of documentation which he may have given to the governor."
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There were new attacks and a shaky truce to get some humanitarian aid into Gaza on day 12 of the crisis.
As you see in this photo , an Israeli woman and her two children had to take cover during a rocket alert near Kfar Aza near Gaza. It was one of several missile attacks today on both sides of the battle.
But there was also a 3-hour break in the attacks to get much needed supplies to the residents of Gaza. The brief truce didn't start off well. Just minutes after it was to take effect, Israeli forces fired at militants in Gaza. The Israeli military says it had to take the action because it was being targeted by Hamas fighters.
Eventually, the "humanitarian corridor" into Gaza was opened and supplies started to get into the area. There are severe shortages of food, water and medicine. The goal is to have a three-hour truce every other day to get these goods to where they are needed.
Meanwhile, Israel says it "welcomes" a cease-fire plan by Egypt and France. It will send two people to Cairo in the coming days to discuss the plan.
The mess in the Mideast was likely a topic today at the ultimate White House power lunch.
President-elect Barack Obama got to a chance to get advice from President Bush and three former presidents (Clinton, H.W. Bush and Carter) about the Gaza crisis, the U.S. economy and other important issues.
We'll have more on the historic meeting and the battle in Gaza tonight on AC360° .
Hope you can join us at 10 pm ET.
Program Note: Watch Randi Kaye's full report tonight on AC360° at 10pm ET.
Randi Kaye | Bio
So many rumors out there about John Travolta denying his son anti-seizure medication we decided to tackle the subject for tonight’s show!
Here’s the issue. Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston are Scientologists so the blogs have been going nuts with chatter claiming that Scientologists don’t believe in medicine and that Jett Travolta’s parents denied him medication which contributed to the seizure that killed him.
I called the Church of Scientology to find out what is really going on. Tommy Davis, a spokesman for the church, told me, “Scientologists ... get conventional medical treatment for medical conditions" and "use prescription drugs as prescribed by a doctor."
Travolta’s lawyer had said last week that Jett had been on anti-seizure medicine for a few years but it stopped working. The seizures returned.
The Sporting Blog
Like many warm-blooded Americans, Cliff Stearns wants to watch Thursday's BCS Championship without work getting in the way. His job? Congressman. Hence the problem: Congress has a lot of, um, work to do to, um, fix the country. And Thursday, about the time Florida and Oklahoma kick off, Congress will be taking up a fairly important task: certifying the results of the electoral college to make Barack Obama president.
The Associated Press reports Rep. Stearns - who represents the Gainesville area - asked Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi to reschedule the certification vote and others scheduled for the later part of Thursday and Friday.
Program Note: Tune in tonight to watch Randi Kaye's full report on AC360° at 10pm ET.
CNN Medical News
Millions of Americans were sad to learn about Jett Travolta’s sudden death at age 16 - and speculation about the cause was immediate. Two medical explanations related to Jett’s health surfaced pretty quickly. Kawasaki syndrome and seizures. Many people wondered if there was more to it than that. Here's what we know:
Jett's parents, John Travolta and Kelly Preston, say that years ago their son Jett was diagnosed with Kawasaki syndrome at age 2. Shortly after the world learned about his death, one of the family’s attorneys, Michael Ossi, said Jett had had a seizure. Now various news media, including CNN, have quoted a funeral home employee in the Bahamas as saying the death certificate lists a “seizure disorder” as the official cause of death.
AC360º Associate Producer
So, I’ve been practicing my salute in case I run into Dr. Sanjay Gupta in the hall today. Granted, I’m used to saluting Anderson whenever I ask for a day off from taking Esther, his Orangutan, to tap dancing class but this is different. I can’t believe the next time I want Sanjay to check out a suspicious mole on my arm I’m going to have to go through Rahm Emanuel.
Without a doubt, Dr. Gupta will be an outstanding Surgeon General (assuming he accepts the post). He’s a brilliant neurosurgeon, he has government experience from his time working as a fellow in the Clinton White House and, as CNN viewers know, he’s an enormously gifted communicator. And, yes, Sanjay was once named one of People magazine’s “Sexiest Men Alive.” Just like C. Everett Koop.
The Sanjay news, of course, is only one item on a big list of headlines for the Obama camp this week. Among the others: Leon Panetta is going to be Director of the CIA. I know there’s some concern about him not having enough of an intelligence background but I think that’s unfair. After all, he owns The Bourne Supremacy on DVD and was once in line behind Tom Clancy at Wendy’s.
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Jack Nicholson and his daughter, Lorraine, attend the Los Angeles Lakers vs. New Orleans Hornets game at the Staples Center on January 6, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.
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Transition officials confirm that President-elect Obama has asked Dennis Ross, Richard Haass, and Richard Holbrooke, to serve as his chief emissaries to world hot spots.
It's expected that Ross will get the Iran portfolio, that Holbrooke, the hard-headed architect of the Dayton Peace Accords, will take the tough (and tougher) Southwest Asia portfolio, which includes India, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that Haass will deal with the Middle East.
Each man's turf is still in flux, so the assignments might change. Other envoys will be added to this list; they'll deal with Africa and South America.