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Israelis and Palestinians Head Toward War; Bush Visits China

Aired February 20, 2002 - 22:00   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening again, everyone. One of the things I'm going to do tonight is look at China, 30 years after the Nixon visit. And without doing the whole thing now, let's just say it was an extraordinary moment, very likely the best moment in a troubled presidency.

It is also probably true that it was a trip only a Republican president could make. Had a Democrat done it 30 years ago, the charge of being soft on communism would have been political death. So Nixon could. He had a long anti-communist pedigree, and was smart enough to understand an isolated China made no sense.

As I was thinking about this today, I read an e-mail from a viewer upset with the piece that had been done on the network the other day, a piece that apparently told Americans how they could get into Cuba without being prosecuted by the government for breaking the law, as it remains illegal for Americans to spend any money in Cuba without U.S. Government permission.

This is a strange policy for a democracy, telling its citizens where they can and can not travel. But then a lot of the American policy in Cuba makes something less than total sense.

What is stranger still, is that China 30 years ago, today even, a formidable enemy, but Nixon went anyway. Cuba is hardly a threat to America. Maybe that's why it's so easy to dismiss.

On to the news we go, our whip around the world. We start out in Washington with a story we haven't talked about in a while, the crash of American Airlines Flight 587. Some developments there today. Kathleen Koch has worked the story from the beginning. Kathleen, a headline please.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, investigators have had these tapes for months, but today the public got a view of a world that very few of ever see and that's the inside of an air traffic control tower when a plane has slipped from radar. It is dramatic. It is fascinating, but offers no new answers on why this plane went down.

BROWN: Kathleen, back to your shortly. On to the Middle East, another bad day in a bad month in a bad year in a bad time there. Jerrold Kessel is working the story, a headline please. JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, guerrilla war and counter guerrilla war, that's the latest situation now being described. But with the Israeli military continuing its offenses into the heart of Palestinian cities, including to Gaza City itself, and more Apache helicopter attacks against the compound where Yasser Arafat is on the West Bank, it could be that this escalating situation is heading towards further turbulence and further explosive times.

BROWN: Jerrold, thank you. And now to Beijing. Jaime Florcruz to begin our look back at China 30 years ago. I'm not sure headline is the right word, but maybe that is.

JAIME FLORCRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, President George Bush arrived her about an hour ago and is now having a one-on-one meeting with the Chinese President Jiang Zemin. We'll tell you more about it, and also we'll recollect the memories of President Nixon's visit 30 years ago.

BROWN: Jaime, thank you very much. A lot of ground for us to cover tonight. Also on the menu, the Andrea Yates case again, and the strategy of those trying to save her from the death penalty, trying to save her from prison as well. The insanity defense, rarely is it a winning strategy. We'll take a look at why that is so tonight.

A dramatic day outside the Supreme Court, inside too. Arguments over school vouchers. Should federal dollars be used to give families school choice if the only real choice is a religious school?

And we're sure Miss Cleo marked her calendar to watch this one. OK, maybe she didn't see it in the stars. This story goes in the category of psychic under siege. I can't believe Miss Cleo's on the program. It must be Segment 7.

And, as we said, we'll look at China in a couple of different time frames tonight. We'll go back to President's Nixon groundbreaking trip, but we'll start with a look at the United States and China since the 11th of September.

Before that date, China was probably the biggest foreign policy concern on the U.S. radar screen. There was that downed U.S. spy plane from the spring, which was still very fresh in everyone's mind.

Well since then, terrorism has taken over as the top concern for the United States, and there's been a thaw in relations with China. That does not mean there aren't a lot of thorny issues the president has to deal with while he's there.

Mr. Bush landed in Beijing tonight. Earlier today, he spoke to U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, and struck a familiar chord, how terrorists misjudged the resolve of America.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They thought we were soft. They thought we were so materialistic that we would not be willing to sacrifice. They didn't realize that we're a patient nation, that we're a deliberate nation, and they're now beginning to realize that we're resolved to find the terrorists wherever they hide, and route them out.


BROWN: Beijing is the president's last stop on this Asian swing, after visiting Japan and South Korea, and as we said, later in the program we'll take a look at the opening of China to the West, 30 years later.

Other news now, American Airlines Flight 587, it crashed into a New York City neighborhood now more than three months ago. Everyone on board died and the cause remains unknown, which is not surprising at this point. These investigations can take a very long time.

The story so far has unfolded in a way many have done before. Bodies have been recovered. Black boxes found. Theories floated, milestones to reach and another was reached today. The last radio transmissions between the ground and Flight 587 were released. So here again is CNN's Kathleen Koch.


KOCH (voice over): The last few transmissions between air traffic controllers and American Airlines Flight 587 were eerily normal.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: American 587, heavy turn left by the bridge, climb, contact New York departure. Good morning.

FLIGHT 587: American 587 heavy. So long.

KOCH: The plane had been cleared for takeoff and warned of possible wake turbulents from a 747 departing just before it. But at 9:13 an unknown voice, perhaps another pilot, alerts air traffic controllers there's trouble.

UNKNOWN: Tower, look to thee south. There's an aircraft crashing.


UNKNOWN: An aircraft just crashed to the south of the field.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: An aircraft crashed south of the field?

UNKNOWN: It's a fireball.

KOCH: Seconds later, a tower near the airport notices 587 has slipped from radar.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: American 587, heavy. I'm not receiving your transponder. American 587 heavy New York? American 587 heavy New York?

KOCH: Then another American Airlines flight confirms controllers' fears.

AA686: We saw a huge tremendous amount of black smoke south of Long Island.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: OK, so it's in the water or on the land?

AA686: It's on the land, and it's tremendous like it's a huge fire, tremendous amount of black smoke.

KOCH: A small private plane is quizzed on its perspective.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: One zero Charlie what do you see off to your left?

AIRCRAFT: A big column of rising brown smoke, just about in the middle of the land mass, just southeast of the old Floyd Bennett Field.

AIRCRAFT: One zero Charlie is looking right down at that smoke and it's a big intense fire down there.

AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER: OK yes, we've got helicopters there.

KOCH: Missing from the tape, any reports to the tower from the pilot of Flight 587, that the Airbus A-300 was having any trouble. Not surprising say experts.

PETER GOETZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING INSPECTOR: It's not unusual that the pilots don't communicate to the ground during a tragedy. Their hands are full. They are desperately trying to save their aircraft. The important communications at that point are picked up by the cockpit voice recorder.


KOCH (on camera): So while revealing the very tense drama in the air traffic control tower, when a plane goes down, investigators say that frankly this tape again, which they've had and studied for months, gives them absolutely no new clues into what caused the crash. Aaron.

BROWN: What do we know about the voice recorder, the cockpit voice recorder, anything?

KOCH: Aaron, if you'll recall because I was live on your set talking about this back in November. Those tapes came out immediately after the crash. And what we heard on those tape, we did hear airframe rattling. We heard the pilot say he was encountering some wake turbulents, obviously caused by the 747 that took off before it.

Then a little bit later, we hear the co-pilot calling for maximum power. Then about two seconds later, they discuss losing control of the plane and the tape stops. So it's that tape that is most valuable in giving investigators clues. This tape is interesting, but more interesting to the public than to those really trying to figure out what happened. BROWN: Kathleen, thanks. Kathleen Koch working the air crash story tonight. While we were listening to that, we thought in the calm of the air traffic controller's voice, what it must have been like up there, when they realized they had lost a plane that day. So close to September 11, after all.

On we go. A couple of unusual stories tonight, at least stories that would have been unusual this time last year. In North Little Rock, Arkansas, marines, about 300 of them were out prowling the streets, stalking mock terrorists, securing bridges, patrolling the streets. Marines say urban combat is the scariest and toughest kind. It's also the most common. Take Beirut or Mogadishu or even Kandahar.

Another exercise took place in the Nevada desert at the National Nuclear Test Site. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge was there for a demonstration. It involved a simulated raid on a nuclear plant, a plant taken over by terrorists.

Overseas, the war is real and so are the casualties. Today, it's almost hard to imagine that anyone still uses the phrase "peace process" when they're talking about the Israelis and the Palestinians. This whole sad mess seems a lot closer to all out war than even a week's worth of peace.

Israeli troops entered Gaza City today, as the Israeli Government ratchets up its response to the unending attacks from the other side. Here again, CNN's Jerrold Kessel.

KESSEL: Aaron, a lot of talk about war, as Israel continues its relentless drive against Palestinian targets on the ground and also from the air, all in the wake of the killing by Palestinian gunmen of six Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint on the West Bank.

And in the latest actions, the Israeli Army has gone in with tanks, and armored personnel carriers into two locations in Gaza, including Gaza City itself, where the troops blew up a television transmission tower, which put Palestinian television and radio broadcasts off the air.

And there, there were a number of people who were likely wounded as some fighting broke out, but there were four Palestinians reported killed in the southern Gaza town of Raffa, where another detachment of Israeli tanks moved in and blew up, reportedly blowing up the house of a man who had attacked a settler convoy the other night, killing a settler woman and two soldiers before being blown up, blowing himself up.

And in the last few minutes, on the West Bank, Israeli Apache helicopters have fired again missiles into the compound in Ramallah, where Yasser Arafat is staying. The building where the Palestinian leader is staying was not itself attacked, but certainly it's coming closer to home, these Israeli attacks in Ramallah, as they continue.

Much of the focus has been on trying to interpret what Ariel Sharon, Israel's Prime Minister has called a different course of action, which his army and his security services will launch in response to what the Israelis say is the escalating Palestinian attacks.

Well, Mr. Sharon has said he doesn't want to lead Israelis into war. He says he doesn't want an escalating situation, but this may be one of those occasions when events and deeds speak louder than words, louder than intentions, and intentions may be overtaken by the escalating situation on the ground -- Aaron.

BROWN: Well, I'm concerned this is my really stupid question for the night. Is there anyone, publicly or privately, trying to figure out a way in the Middle East out of this mess? Are there any talks going on anywhere?

KESSEL: Well, there are a lot of conflicting pressures on Ariel Sharon. There are those from the right who are demanding that he go full tilt against the Palestinian Authority and bring Yasser Arafat down.

There are those on the other side, particularly his foreign minister Shimon Peres who said there must be a parallel political dimension to this. But that's really beginning to sound more and more hollow as the events overtake any kind of intentions of moving in that direction.

And if Mr. Peres is intent on trying to pursue the avenue of trying to get some kind of political map, a roadmap laid out so that they can get back to the negotiations, it seems to be coming more and more a hopeless procedure in light of the ongoing and escalating situation.

And I think on the Palestinian side, you could say that too, because there are voices who are saying, "let the gunmen speak. Let them have their way. They are pressing the Israelis far more effectively than our negotiators."

That's been a view heard by senior Palestinian officials. So on both sides now, I would say, dominant at this stage is very much the military activity, the escalating activity on both sides. Aaron.

BROWN: Jerrold, thank you very much. Jerrold Kessel with us tonight. One other note out of the region, this week is a holy time for Muslims around the world as they fulfill one of the five pillars central to their religion, a pilgrimage to Mecca, called the Hajj.

Two million Muslim pilgrims have converged on that city in Saudi Arabia, including hundreds of pilgrims who flew from Kabul, Afghanistan. Lots more would like to get there from Afghanistan. It's been very hard to get a seat on an airplane out of the country.

The head of the interim government, Hamid Karzai, asked the British for help and he got some in the form of cargo planes, which will help move hundreds more.

A lot more to do. A lot more places to go tonight. When we come back, Houston next stop, the Yates trial and the complicated burden of proof in proving insanity. This is NEWSNIGHT on Wednesday.


BROWN: Day three of the Andrea Yates trial, the prosecution continuing to build a case that, in essence, says while Ms. Yates may have been sick, she was well enough to know right from wrong, and she knew what she was doing was wrong. And that is pretty much all the prosecution has to prove in this.

We'll talk about the insanity defense with noted criminal defense lawyer Roy Black shortly. But first, some background on it from CNN's David Mattingly.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): When it is a choice of Murder of madness, the prosecution almost always prevails. The insanity defense is rarely used, and even more rarely successful.

SANDRA GUERRA-THOMPSON, ASSOCIATE DEAN, UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON LAW CENTER: The odds are not good, obviously. The odds are very low.

MATTINGLY: For Andrea Yates, the Texas law regarding the insanity defense is considered mainstream, based on a standard established more than 150 years ago. Up until the 1980s, court interpretation had grown more liberal, allowing just the presence of mental illness to be a defense.

But that changed with the assassination attempt of President Ronald Reagan. John Hinckley, Jr.'s use of the insanity defense provoked a retreat to the old standard, placing a heavy burden on attorneys defending people like Andrea Yates.

ROBERT GORDON, DIRECTOR, WILMINGTON INSTITUTE NETWORK: What works against her is the fact that her behavior involved rational thinking and dialog when she called 9-1-1. She admitted and confessed that she had killed her children, and she also said she had been premeditating it or contemplating it for two years.

FAIRY CAROLAND, RUSSELL YATES' AUNT: If you punish someone that's mentally ill and does not know the significance of what they're doing, that's crazy. That's insane.

MATTINGLY: Sometimes the insanity defense does work. In 1997, a jury determined Houston mother, Yvonne Rodriguez, did not know right from wrong, and found her not guilty of beating and strangling her child.

But under Texas law, legal experts say Yates' prosecutors offered all the evidence they needed for a conviction when they played the 9- 1-1 tape the first day.

GUERRA-THOMPSON: One can be very, very mentally ill and still appreciate the difference between right and wrong, where under the law, it is only the people who can not distinguish right from wrong that are insane.

MATTINGLY: If Andrea Yates is found not guilty by reason of insanity, it raises a question.

MATTINGLY (on camera): Could it happen twice? She is currently on trial for the murders of just three of her five children. Charges are still pending in the deaths of the other two. David Mattingly, CNN, Houston.


BROWN: We need to catch up a little bit, take a short break. When we come back, we'll talk with Roy Black about the insanity defense. This is NEWSNIGHT on CNN.


BROWN: And Roy Black is with us now. Mr. Black is one of the masters of courtroom strategy, and one of the country's most highly respected defense attorneys. He joins us from Miami. I assume that's where he lives. It's nice to see you, Roy.


BROWN: Here's a case where, if you look at Ms. Yates' medical record, she is almost a poster child for an insanity defense. Why is it so hard?

BLACK: Aaron, the problem is that jurors are very skeptical of what looks like an excuse for criminal conduct, and that's why they look at this with a jaundiced eye. You make an excellent point though.

When you read the psychiatric evaluations, the hospital records, all that occurred prior to the killing of the children, it was almost as if this was predicted. People should have been able to look at this and say, "this woman was a time bomb. She was a danger to the children."

But nobody seemed to take any real serious notice of it, and unfortunately there was a total failure, I think, of psychiatric care here.

BROWN: One of the things that obviously the defense has to do is paint her sympathetically. How does the prosecution go about painting her as they must, I guess, as a cold-blooded killer.

BLACK: Well, I don't know that they're going to say she's a cold-blooded killer. They're going to say, you know, they're somewhat sympathetic that she's mentally ill, but they had a huge victory today.

The court allowed in some 29, or is going to allow in some 29 photographs of the children's bodies at the crime scene, and also allow in excerpts of the home movies of the children.

You can only imagine how this is going to affect the heartstrings of these jurors.

BROWN: Let's go back to the insanity defense for a second. It's the McNaughton Rule, correct?


BROWN: Give me a better rule than McNaughton. If knowing right or wrong is somehow too rigid and doesn't get the job done, what does?

BLACK: Aaron, the problem is the McNaughton Rule was formulated in England in 1843. This is before we ever studied psychology or psychiatry, before Sigmund Freud put pen to paper, and here we are in our legal system, 160 years later ignoring all of this research and understanding of the human brain, which gets more and more every year, yet we lawyers, our legal system just totally ignores this.

I think we have to look more into something, does the person have a mental illness and was there act a product or a result of that mental illness? If so, I think the law has to say, we're not going to hold them responsible.

BROWN: Twenty seconds, as an officer of the court, is what you hope for here that the jury will, in some way, ignore the law?

BLACK: No. I think that the jurors are going to have to make a decision here as non-physicians, as non-psychiatrists. How we ask them to do this, I don't know, because it's going to be very difficult to do.

But this rule, you know, "did she know what was wrong?" Can any of us actually say that we know a person did something wrong or understood what wrongness and rightness was? That's a very difficult thing to do.

BROWN: Roy, as always, nice to see you.

BLACK: Thank you, Aaron.

BROWN: Roy Black on the insanity defense joins us from Miami tonight. Up ahead, a time for a different Republic president. We turn the clock back 30 years ago and go to China.


LOU DOBBS, CNN HOST: I'm Lou Dobbs with this MONEYLINE update. A powerful rally on Wall Street today, the Dow surged almost 200 points, the Nasdaq gaining 24 points. Accounting concerns not completely disappearing, however. Computer Associates defending its bookkeeping, saying it's unaware of any investigation. Watch MONEYLINE, weeknights 6:00 Eastern, on CNN.


BROWN: President Richard Nixon wrote this in his memoirs: "I never expected that the China initiative would come to fruition in the form of a ping pong team." He was talking about the American ping pong players who visited Beijing in 1971, which was the beginning.

Of course, the ping pong diplomacy was just the beginning in what was to be one of those moments in our national history that deserves the term watershed. Thirty years ago, President Nixon stepped down from Air Force One and shook hands with Chinese Premier Chou En-Lai, a watershed moment indeed.

So we had this idea. We'd show you how CNN covered this dramatic moment 30 years ago. Unfortunately, that was a decade before CNN existed. So here's a look at how we covered the 20th anniversary, a decade ago. The correspondent is Mike Chinoy.


MIKE CHINOY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Richard Nixon called it the week that changed the world, this most anti-Communist of presidents, taking the first cautious steps towards rapprochement with the most militant apostles of revolutionary Communism.

HAN XU: As President Nixon stepped down from his plane, he had out his hand waiting to shake hands with Premier Chou En-Lai. That was a gesture to make up for past offenses of United States when it refused to have any contact with new China. And I believe that is not a gesture easily made.

CHINOY: To Premier Chou En-Lai, and Chairman Mao Tse Tung, spurned and ostracized by the U.S. for a generation, it is hard to exaggerate the importance of such a gesture, as Henry Kissinger found out when he made a secret visit in 1971 to lay the groundwork for the Nixon trip the following year.

HENRY KISSINGER, FMR. U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: When I met Chou En-Lai the first time, he talked about the refusal of John Foster Dulles to shake hands with him 20 years earlier. And in fact, the very first words he said to me were, "Are you authorized to shake hands with me?"

CHINOY: What brought the U.S. and China together was a shared fear of the threat from the Soviet Union and the hope this common strategic bond could nurture a new relationship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The main motive for the Chinese to re-open communications with us 20 years ago was the Soviet threat and border clashes with the Soviet Union. And that was one of our main motives with respect to balancing Soviet power around the world.

CHINOY: Nixon's visit was the climax of a process that began with ping pong diplomacy the previous year. It was a process that caught the public imagination in the United States, although China and especially its leaders remained cloaked in mystery.

KISSINGER: What was for outside visitors, first time visitors, striking about Mao, was the air of mystery that surrounded him. You never had an appointment. We only later found out that was in part because he was so old, that they had to pick the hours of the day when he was in best shape.

And then when you got there, it was quite a different atmosphere than when you go and see other heads -- government heads of state. None of the trappings. Mao was a very powerful personality. When he got up from his chair, you knew where the center of the room was.

CHINOY: For Nixon and Kissinger, establishing contacts with Beijing was an unprecedented opportunity to play the China card against the Soviet Union. For Mao and Chou En-Lai, Nixon, anti- Communist or not, was a practitioner of real politique, with whom they could do business.

But for both China and the United States, this development touched a deeper emotional chord. Public enthusiasm, which preceded the visit, developing into a kind of euphoria, a set of heightened expectations. And on the American side, a sense of romance that lasted for nearly two decades.


BROWN: That was how CNN covered the 20th anniversary of President Nixon's trip to China. That was something to watch, wasn't it?

Our next guest watched that history happen from a very different perspective and place. He's on a farm in China's Hunan's Province. It's been quite a journey of from there for Jaime Florcruz. He's now our bureau chief in Beijing.

Good to see you. Welcome.

FLORCRUZ: Good to see you, Aaron.

BROWN: What was it like then? How different was China then from China now?

FLORCRUZ: It was 30 years ago this week when President Nixon visited China. And I remember listening to his speeches at that time, along with Chinese farmers in Hunan Province. And I remember being so stunned, because only a few weeks earlier than that, the Chinese were chanting songs condemning U.S. imperialism.

So China has changed. The United States has changed. We now see a very different China. China, 30 years ago, was this inscrutable and angry China, the hermit land, the stereotype said. And the economy was a tattered economy. The people were angry and poor. And now it's a very vibrant economy they have here, and a more pluralistic society, too -- Aaron.

BROWN: One of the arguments in making the trip, in making any of these trips to countries like China is that it helps normalize, not just that it helps normalize relations. It helps moderate those countries, when they get exposed to Westerneres, Western values, and the rest. Did that happen in China? Was it, in part, the modernization in part due to the Nixon visit and the opening of China?

FLORCRUZ: In many ways yes, Aaron. And I saw them with my own eyes. I think the normalization of ties and the eventual opening up of China helped the hands of the pragmatic leadership at that time, who wanted to modernize China, instead of radicalize China. And we've seen the fruition of that in the China that President Bush will see today.

China, at that time for example, were waving -- the Chinese were waiving the little red book of Mao. Nowadays the Chinese swear by books which tell people how to pass TOEFL English exams. At that time, Mao was the role model. Now there is no single role model. And if you ask urbanites here, they'll probably tell you that it's Bill Gates or his Chinese counterparts. Aaron?

BROWN: We got about 30 seconds left. If you were out in Hunan Province, as opposed to in the capital, was the Nixon visit considered a huge deal or not?

FLORCRUZ: In Hunan Province at that time, no, but the Chinese at that time in Hunan Province were already wondering what was in store, where was China going to after the Nixon visit. I think they had started to wonder what Maoism was all about and what it would bring them. And they also were looking forward to a different China, a China that I think we are seeing now.

BROWN: Jaime, you've got a presidential visit to cover. Thanks for joining us. Our bureau chief in Beijing tonight.

Our time went too fast. If I hadn't asked a 45 second question, we probably would have been better off. In a moment, debating school vouchers. The Supreme Court took the case up today. We'll talk with a couple parents in a moment.


BROWN: I think it's fair to say that most parents will tell you that choosing where to live often comes down to finding out where the best schools are. Which of course is fine, if you can afford to live in those places.

Wealthy suburbs rarely have bad public schools. But big cities often do, and it is hard to find agreement on exactly how to go about fixing them. Especially knotty now, the question of vouchers, giving parents money or a voucher to send their child to private or a parochial school. There are some practical concerns here. Do vouchers work? Do kids actually get a better education? And there are some constitutional issues. Do vouchers amount to government subsidies for religious schools?

And it is that second question that the Supreme Court was dealing with today in a case that comes out of Cleveland. In a moment, we'll hear from two parents on opposite sides of this.

But first, some background from CNN's Kathy Slobogin.


KATHY SLOBOGIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what the fuss is all about, taxpayer dollars pay the tuition for more than half the students at this Catholic school. 99 percent of the voucher students in Cleveland go to religious schools. It wasn't intended to be that way, but very few non- religious private schools participate in the program, or have tuitions, the $2,500 state voucher can cover.

Sister Karen, principal of St. Francis, says parents choose her school for its brand of education, not its brand of religion.

SISTER KAREN: We haven't had a convert from any voucher parent or student that's come to our school. We haven't tried.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So from yesterday's reading, what do you remember?

SISTER KAREN: We have 20 children out of our 260 children who are Catholic. So we're not here to make more Catholics. That's not our purpose. We're here to educate children with a moral base.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does anyone know what the first commandment si?

SLOBOGIN: That means a half hour religion class every day, tailored to the students' eclectic mix of faith, but nevertheless, religion. Parents here seem hungry for a moral dimension they feel they can't get in public schools. Victoria Pope has four children at this school.

VICTORIA POPE: They really, like, teach morals and values. They encourage the things that I'm trying to teach them at home. It gets reinforced here.

SLOBOGIN: For Sister Karen, the Supreme Court debate over vouchers, which is really about separation of church and state, misses the point. Is that really the central issue from where you sit?

SISTER KAREN: Not at all. I think it's about children. I think it's about education. And I think it's about parent choice.

SLOBOGIN: For Linda Hardwick, principal at a public school just over a mile away, it's about money.

LINDA HARDWICK: Less students, less money.

SLOBOGIN: Hardwick's School is a model school, but they scramble for every dollar. It doesn't help struggling inner city schools, say educators here, to have state aid diverted to private schools, private schools that unlike public schools, can throw out any student who doesn't measure up. Robert Bernetich has been teaching for 22 years.

ROBERT BERNETICH, TEACHER: When you decide we want you because you do your homework and we don't want you because you don't do your homework; we want you because you sit quietly at your desk, we don't want you because you have a couple fights, it is not an even playing field.

HARDWICK: And when they are let go from the voucher schools, where do they come? They come to the public schools.

SLOBOGIN: To add insult to injury, says Hardwick, the public school doesn't get the voucher money back. Despite the odds, Cleveland Public Schools may be doing a better job than many voucher parents think.

(on camera): Vouchers were started in the first place as a ticket for poor children to a better education. But evaluators here compared the academic performance of voucher students to those in public school over three years and found there wasn't really any difference.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The length was four and the width was three. And so that's times together equals 12.

SLOBOGIN: It may be that the real conflict in Cleveland is not between church and state or between good schools and bad schools, but between a public which hast lost faith in its schools and schools which need that faith to succeed.

Kathy Slobogin, CNN, Cleveland, Ohio.


BROWN: Well, this debate over vouchers is a highly emotion and vocal one. Protesters for and against were out in force in Washington today. We hope for a somewhat gentler exchange of ideas tonight. That is our way.

We're joined now by two parents. Steve Crume has two children in the public schools in Cleveland. And Maura Wyrock is a mother of three kids who attend parochial schools. Welcome to you both.

We've agreed on first names, I think. So Maura, let me start with you. You're not Catholic, but your kids go to Catholic school. Do you have any trouble with public money being used in that way?

MAURA WYROCK, PARENT SUPPORTING VOUCHERS: I have no problem with public money being used in that way. The empowerment that the voucher program or the scholarship program gives me as a parent provides a choice between a system that works, so far so good, and a system that cannot and has not worked in many many, many, many years.

BROWN: But you're spending tax dollars?

WYROCK: My tax dollars. I work.

BROWN: Well, all of our tax dollars.

WYROCK: All of Ohioians tax dollars.

BROWN: Right, public money on parochial education.

WYROCK: Right, but I'm part of the public. And it's my choice in this republic that we live in, in the society which we deal with, to determine whether or not and where that money is spent. BROWN: Well, we'll see how the court comes down on the that. Steve...


BROWN: Among the things that's interesting to me about your argument is that your first argument here isn't the church/state argument at all. It's the damage to public schools.

CROAM: That's correct. I think that what's really going on is a diversion of public funds and a diversion away from the true issue. The true issue is our children and the schools.

The public schools, for a long time, have been underfunded. And there's a lawsuit in Ohio that has -- that was won that, declares that Ohio's use of funds is unconstitutional. And this lawsuit has been going on 10 years.

Whereas a voucher program is only five years old. And the true issue is the fact that the public schools aren't getting the funding and the money that they need in the first place. And I think the vouchers are just draining away resources that we're already in desperate need of keeping.

BROWN: And let me make a gentle argument here.


BROWN: And well, to some extent compelling, I think, which is that public -- the competition ultimately will benefit public education, that if it sees that its kids are going other places because that's where the good schools are, public schools will simply get better.

WYROCK: Absolutely. It's improving.

CROAM: That's totally -- that's not going to happen. If you take money away from a school system that needs it, how can they compete with another school if they don't have the money in the first place?

The issue here is to make sure that our public schools have the correct funding and that the state makes sure that each school has everything, all the teachers have all the things that they need in order to give our kids a good education.

A private school doesn't have to hold up to the standards that a public school does. A private school is totally unaccountable. And my and our public tax dollars are going this school. And we have no say in how it's used and no say in the way that it's administered. And I just think that's completely out of order.

BROWN: All right, I need to get to Maura before her head falls off from the shaking there. I'm not sure how long your list is now. Go ahead. WYROCK: OK, let's start with the money issue. Number one, let's establish the fact that we are not against the parents and the children of the public school system. We are in alliance with them to better the system for the children. And if the Cleveland public school system had done their job between now and then, letting us know precisely how and what they're spending this money on...

CROAM: Well, see, that's the whole point of the lawsuit. The lawsuit was stating that the state wasn't using the money correctly.

WYROCK: Sir, the public schools system maintains and still gets...

CROAM: And still hasn't had the chance to do that.

BROWN: All right, Steve...

WYROCK: They maintain and still get the public funding.

BROWN: Go ahead, Maura.

WYROCK: They still get the public funding. The money that comes into the scholarship program is nearly, on an average, $1800. And the public school district that I live in, they still get the state funds. And it's on an approximation of $7800 at this point.

BROWN: All right, Maura?

WYROCK: My school produces a better product with less money and produces a better society at that point.

BROWN: Well, that's a more complicated question. Steve, 20 seconds last word.

CROAM: In 20 seconds, this is where -- she's saying that we're both on the same side. I agree with her. We're both looking for education for our children.

The problem is what you're doing is taking the needs of a few, a handful...

WYROCK: We're not taking anything from them.

CROAM: Approximately 6,000 kids of the 70,000 that are in Cleveland school system, giving them and opportunity, and leaving the other 70,000 children behind...

WYROCK: You may apply.

CROAM: ... rather than focusing on making the public schools better by forcing the state of Ohio to appropriate the funds like they're supposed to.

BROWN: Steve, thank you. Maura, thank you. We'll let you guys finish the argument tonight. And we'll bring you back...

WYROCK: It's in the hands of God and the Supreme Court right now, Aaron...

BROWN: We'll bring you back.

WYROCK: But thank you very much.

BROWN: Thank you very much. We appreciate this.

CROAM: Have a good night.

BROWN: A couple of quick things before we go to break. This one on the Olympics because it's one of those stories honestly we can't resist telling. And it's a great back story.

Jim Shea, you may have heard this today, won the gold medal in the men's skeleton, with fans chanting "U.S. Shea!" This is the event where you slide down the bobsled track or chute, face forward.

Now the back story. Shea's father competed in the '64 Olympics. And his granddad, Jack Shea, won two gold medal in the 1932 Games. You may recall that Jack died in a car crash just a couple of weeks before he was to see his grandson compete. And today, his grandson, Jim, carried a photo of his grandad pressed inside his helmet, as he won the gold.

Now a couple of more odds and ends. A ton of e-mails, OK, well it's about a dozen, from people unhappy with our segment on the swimsuit edition of "Sports Illustrated." Last night, Anne Taylor Fleming talking about that.

One person went so far as to say the pictures that we showed were like pornography. Others said NEWSNIGHT should have a higher standard. One person wondered if we had any standards at all. Still another thought this must be a cheap ratings ploy. We'll just say one of you got it right.

Another group of writers pointed out a small but significant error. In introducing a guest on an administration plan to encourage marriage among those receiving welfare, I noted that many studies show men live longer and are happier if they are married. I said I didn't know, but I assumed the same applied to women.

Not so, said a number of viewers, all of them female. Studies show single women are happier than married women. One viewer said that's because married women have to take care of and pick up after a jerk, who lies on the couch spilling popcorn and watching a ball game. I've asked my wife to stop sending these e-mails. We'll be right back.


BROWN: Finally from us tonight, Miss Cleo. Now the beauty of this story is that the subject, Miss Cleo, knows exactly what we're going to say. That after all is her talent, she's a psychic. But just in case that's all some kind of phony deal to sucker people out of their money, we're going to tell Miss Cleo a little more. The state of Florida is suing you, but then you knew that anyway, didn't you, Miss Cleo?

For the rest of you, here's CNN's John Zarrella.


JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This woman is Youree Dell Harris. Do you recognize her? How about now?

MISS CLEO: You pass up a good one.

ZARRELLA: It's Miss Cleo, of course, the so-called psychic tarot card reader of late night infomercial fame.

MISS CLEO: You run around looking look a pauper and he runs around looking GQ.

ZARRELLA: State authorities now say a courtroom is in the cards for Miss Cleo, asserting her company violates Florida law by intentionally keeping callers on the line as long as possible to run up the bill.

DAVID ARONBERG, ASST. ATTORNEY GENERAL: We settled with them three separate times. This is their fourth bite at the apple. And now we decided to stop settling and actually start suing.

ZARRELLA: Adding insult to injury, Aronberg says callers don't even get a promised three-minute free reading after being kept on the line.

ARONBERG: Which of course means the people who dial up for $4.99 a minute are often played for the fool.

ZARRELLA: Others are getting bills for calls they never made.

ARONBERG: We had a person who said my mother got this bill for calling Miss Cleo. It's for $300. She never made the phone call. And so we said, "How do you know she didn't make the calls?" She said, "Well, because my mother died two years ago."

ZARRELLA: One of the complaints against Miss Cleo came from Paula Castro.

PAULA CASTRO: This is the first letter that I received August 21st, a collection letter for unpaid services, charging me $289.

ZARRELLA: The letter is from Miss Cleo, of course. The Castros didn't pay because they say they never even thought about calling the 800 number. Then threatening collections letters started showing up.

CASTRO: They pressure you.

ZARRELLA: Now the state is pressuring Miss Cleo. Since state investigators admit they can't read minds, they've subpoenaed her birth records. They want to know if the woman who lives in this Broward County suburb is Miss Cleo, and is she really the master tarot card reader from Jamaica, she claims to be. (on camera): Neither Miss Cleo, nor her attorney, are discussing the accusations. They have until next month to respond to the state's complaint. As for law enforcement, they say if they play their cards right, they'll be putting Miss Cleo out of business.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.


BROWN: See you tomorrow at 10:00. Good-night.




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