LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES
GOP Courts African-Americans; Cocaine Kingpin Trial Begins
Aired May 8, 2003 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES with Paula Zahn in New York.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening and welcome on this Thursday night. We have a lot to share with you this evening.
The World Trade Center's Twin Towers, were they compromised structurally before the 9/11 attacks? Jamie Colby is following that story out of New York for us tonight. And then: In Miami, a cocaine kingpin goes on trial. Susan Candiotti is there to tell us about his case. And, in Washington, Jonathan Karl is following the GOP as it goes all out to recruit more African-Americans -- those stories coming up this hour.
But, first, our top story takes tonight us to ground zero in Lower Manhattan. The first of 6,000 plants were placed in the soil at a ground-breaking ceremony for what will be called the Gardens of Remembrance. These gardens will commemorate those who died in the September 11 attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center.
Meanwhile, as Jamie Colby reports, there is some new information about the structural integrity of the Twin Towers before the attacks.
Jamie, you're on the air.
JAMIE COLBY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So the package? No? Wait. We don't have the tape.
Well, Paula, today, there was information that had come out about an investigation that has been going on. The families of victims of 9/11 had said they wanted to know what the fireproofing was of the building that their loved ones went to work every day. And, as it turns out, the Port Authority, which built the structure that was here at ground zero, had authority to set whatever fire safety standards it wanted. It is exempt from city and state codes because it was created by a federal agency.
So what they did was, they decided in the 1960s, when the building was build, to use a half-inch of fireproof material. And what it was, Paula, was, they sprayed it on to the steel. And now what they're doing -- NIST, which is an organization that the government has set up to investigate the fireproofing of the building and whether it was sufficient -- this is what the families want to know -- they are testing the steel under simulated conditions, similar to the very, very intense flames that occurred after these two jetliners that were filled with fuel exploded within the buildings to see whether or not a half-an-inch was sufficient.
Now, the Port Authority refused our request for an on-camera interview. And what they said, though, was that all their buildings meet and exceed code, city or state or otherwise, even though they are allowed and are exempt to set whatever standards they want. But the families are not satisfied. The concern, Paula, of one of the family members that I met with today who -- she lost her husband in the World Trade Center. He had made it that day from the 103rd floor to the 78th.
She said, if the building could have stood even an hour longer, her husband would have had a chance of surviving. They were married 28 years. And she misses him, as you can understand, desperately. One of the towers lasted an hour and 45 minutes, the other less than an hour after the planes hit. Then, as you know, the steel crumbled.
So the investigation won't be complete until August 2004. The Port Authority insists that it met all regulations. But it cannot prove, Paula, to NIST that it actually has any documentation that inspections were made to satisfy that that half-inch was enough -- Paula.
ZAHN: Jamie Colby, thanks so much for the update.
Plans call for putting up the world's tallest building at the World Trade Center site. But a new poll suggests only 36 percent of all New Yorkers are in favor of that idea; 52 percent of those questioned said a shorter building should be less of a target; 39 percent favored a taller building as a statement of recovery.
The big question we can pose tonight: Is al Qaeda back stronger than ever, planning more attacks on the United States? Well, that possibility is being raised tonight. An Arab weekly magazine based in London is quoting a purported al Qaeda spokesman who says the organization has regrouped and is planning a new strike on the U.S. as big as the 9/11 attacks.
Terrorism analyst Peter Bergen joins us from Washington now with the very latest.
First of all, Peter, what do we know about this spokesman?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Not much.
This is the first time that this guy has come forward presenting himself as a spokesman. We have, in the past, seen somebody called Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti, who was the spokesman after 9/11. This man is a different person. It's really hard to know if he really speaks for the organization or not. This Arabic magazine believes that he does at least speak -- that he has some relationship with al Qaeda.
He's saying that al Qaeda is regrouping and that there are new leaders coming up and that the arrests haven't disrupted them of their senior leadership, for instance, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the military commander who was arrested recently. They're also talking about spectacular attacks on the scale of 9/11, which is basically what you would expect them to say. They're not going to say: Hey, we're out of business. We're severely disrupted. The war on terrorism has been a tremendous disaster for us, which, obviously, I think is really the case.
They have been disrupted. They weren't able to pull off anything during the Iraq war, which was clearly their intention. Bin Laden made a couple of statements before the war calling for jihad and attacks against Western targets. Those just didn't really happen. There was a surprising absence of terrorism during the war. It's too early to write, Paula, the obituary of al Qaeda. I wouldn't be doing that.
On the other hand, clearly, they've been disrupted and that is a good thing.
ZAHN: But with the organization degraded, there's still a fear when you talk with members of the administration that they are a very patient group.
ZAHN: They take many, many years to plan operations. No one should be breathing a sigh of relief here.
BERGEN: I couldn't agree with you more.
It took them five years to plan the attacks on the U.S. embassies in Africa in '98. It took them two years to plan the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000. It took them 2 1/2 years to plan 9/11. We're only 18, 19 months past 9/11 now. Just because we haven't seen a serious attack doesn't mean that they're not planning them. This is not a group that sort of -- I don't think Osama bin Laden is going to suddenly retire and stop his war against the United States.
You can't compromise with this group. You can't negotiate with them. They are very intent on killing Americans. It was a mistake to underestimate them in the past. Perhaps we are overly worried about them now, but that is an appropriate response to what happened on 9/11. And I don't think we can write their obituary. Maybe if we're having this conversation, Paula, three or four years from now and we haven't seen a serious attack against an American target, you'd say, hey, this group has really been out of business, but it's too early to have that conversation yet.
ZAHN: Finally, tonight, before we let you go, could you link two contradictory reports coming out of Saudi Arabia for us tonight? On one hand, there is a report that there may be as many as 19 men wanted on terrorism charges connected to al Qaeda. And then you have a member of a royal family of Saudi Arabia coming up out at the same time saying al Qaeda is nonexistent.
BERGEN: Well, the latter statement is absolutely ridiculous. The largest number of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay are Saudis. And Saudis play a very important role in this organization.
And to say that al Qaeda is nonexistent is completely ludicrous and very irresponsible, particularly for somebody in the royal family. And, as you say, 19 people have been arrested in Saudi Arabia just in the past day or two. And these people had 55 handmade bombs. They had 400 kilos of explosives, three machine guns. These are not the kinds of things that most people have in their houses. And this group was clearly planning to attack targets within Saudi Arabia.
The United States government recently issued another travel advisory for Saudi Arabia. Al Qaeda obviously exists in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. And it's very irresponsible for leading members of the royal family to make these kind of statements.
ZAHN: Peter Bergen, we are going to have to leave it there tonight. Thanks so much.
We're going to turn our attention to Iraq now. There is some hopeful news tonight about the lost treasures of the national museum. For weeks, we've been hearing about how much was lost to looting at the end of war. Well, tonight, U.S. officials have sharply reduced their estimates of how much is missing. They say some of the looting items have been returned already. And it turns out that many high- profile items were recovered for safekeeping before the war even began.
But sporadic violence continues in Iraq. U.S. Central Command says a soldier from the Army's 5th Corps was shot and killed while directing traffic in east Baghdad. Another U.S. soldier directing traffic nearby was wounded. Despite the similarity of the two incidents, troops are looking for two separate gunmen.
Here are some of the headlines making news across America tonight. A former FBI informant has been indicted on charges she obtained secret documents from her FBI handler. Katarina Leung is accused of taking, copying and keeping documents from FBI Agent James Smith, who happened to be her lover. The indictment, handed down by a federal grand jury, does not include espionage, despite allegations Leung was a double agent for China.
The mountain climber who had to cut off part of his arm from the elbow down to free himself from a boulder that trapped him in Utah while he was climbing last week says he isn't sure how he managed to survive. Aron Ralston also says he felt the pain, but he coped with it.
Heavy rains this week have caused extensive flooding in northern and central Georgia. Hundreds of people were evacuated today near the Georgia town of West Point.
One of the biggest names in the drug world is on trial in Miami. Fabio Ochoa, known as one of the cocaine cowboys, allegedly moved much of the world's supply through Colombia's Medellin cartel.
National correspondent Susan Candiotti is following the story for us tonight.
Susan, what's the very latest from there? Good evening.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Paula.
Well, on this, the very first day of trial testimony against Fabio Ochoa, one of his chief accusers, an admitted drug trafficker, took the stand against him. Fabio Ochoa, according to prosecutors, is the man who invented trafficking on a massive scale. In fact, they say he even invented something called the blue box, in which traffickers would place drugs before they would drop them into the water, so the drugs wouldn't get wet.
This is not the case about any drug deal, prosecutors say. It's a very big deal.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Fabio Ochoa is one of the original cocaine kingpins, but hardly looking the role since his extradition to the U.S. to stand trial.
TOM CASH, FORMER DEA SUPERVISOR: Here you have Mr. Ochoa, who nobody ever expected to be in Miami in the federal court, least of all Mr. Ochoa.
CANDIOTTI: That Ochoa could be sitting in a courtroom is staggering to those who tracked him over the years, including former DEA Miami boss Tom Cash.
CASH: His being in the courtroom shows extradition works and that there is future in justice for all.
CANDIOTTI: When cocaine started blanketing Miami in the late '70s, Ochoa was still in his teens here on a student visa taking classes at a local college. But on Miami's streets, prosecutors say, he got an education in drugs and big money and put it to use in Colombia, his family creating the Medellin cartel.
CASH: The Ochoas, the Medellin cartel, were to the cocaine smuggling what Ford was to automobiles.
CANDIOTTI: Along with Pablo Escobar, now dead, and Carlos Lehder, now doing time in a U.S. prison, the Ochoas' Medellin cartel made billions. Authorities say the family curried favor among Colombia's poor, some of whom benefited from the Ochoas' drug trade.
JAMES MILFORD, FORMER DEA SUPERVISOR: They became heroes to most of the people in the towns and out in the villages, almost the Robin Hood mentality.
CANDIOTTI: In the early '90s, under mounting pressure, Fabio Ochoa surrendered to Colombian authorities. Following a plea deal, he spent six years in prison for drug trafficking. But when he got out, Ochoa, prosecutors charge, went right back to work doing what he does best, which led to his extradition back to the U.S. in 2001.
The charges prompted Ochoa's family to put up billboards in Colombia proclaiming: "Yesterday, I was mistaken. Now I am innocent," and on his Web site: "I submitted to a judicial process with a guarantee against extradition. I complied. Let them comply with me." Defense lawyers concede, Ochoa has been seen with now-convicted traffickers, including Alejandro Bernal, but insists there's no such thing as guilt by association.
FRANK RUBINO, FORMER NORIEGA DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Now you're trying to say to a jury: I'm a drug dealer and I've done these horrible, terrible things, but feel sorry for me because now they're picking on me.
That's a real tough defense.
CANDIOTTI: Jurors are under the highest secrecy and security, their names off-limits even to prosecutors and the defense, according to experts, with good reason.
CASH: They have been bribed in this city and in the state. Their verdicts have been changed as a result of that bribery.
CANDIOTTI: Jurors are being escorted to and from court by U.S. Marshals. The question is whether all of this security will somehow sway their verdict, as the defense fears, scaring the jury into a guilty verdict -- Paula.
ZAHN: Susan Candiotti, thanks so much.
Still to come tonight: the Republican Party's outreach to African-Americans today, a $2 million pledge and a challenge to the Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: People can call names and make excuses. I think we're actually doing something substantive. This is a symbol of what we're trying to get done. And I can't help what Ms. Pelosi says.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Also tonight: The SARS epidemic, it may be more deadly than you thought.
And then a little bit later on: U.S.-French relations, on this Victory in Europe Day, mending the fences between the two nations -- that story from Jim Bittermann.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In a country where frites have not yet become freedom fries and where no one pours wine of any nationality down the drain, some are perplexed by how intolerant and vengeful Americans now seem to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Time for a look at stories around the world tonight.
It begins with news about SARS. It is now deadlier than we thought. The World Health Organization said today it had underestimated the death rate from SARS. Experts now place it at about 15 percent of those who are infected, twice what they originally thought. SARS is especially lethal for the elderly, with health experts saying more than half of those over the age of 65 who contract the disease die from it.
Hamas is threatening to retaliate after one of its top leaders was killed in Gaza after Israeli helicopters opened fire on his car. Israel says the victim had been involved in several deadly suicide attacks and, at one point, belonged to a group linked to al Qaeda.
And at least 32 people, most of them German retirees, are dead after a train slammed into a tour bus in central Hungary. The double- decker bus was sliced in half, dragged down the tracks. Several others on board were severely injured.
Back to the United States now: Since the middle of the 20th century, most black voters in the U.S. have identified with the Democratic Party. Well, today, the Republican Party, which was founded by opponents of slavery, took a step to recapture the loyalty of African-American voters.
Here's our congressional correspondent, Jonathan Karl.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Republicans gathered on the porch of ex-slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass to announce $1 million to renovate his home and some ideas to refurbish their party's image.
HASTERT: We are proud to be here today to help fulfill America's promise with an agenda to empower African-Americans to achieve the American dream.
KARL: The Douglass House is in disrepair. Water has damaged the walls and forced the removal of Douglass' treasured library. But the GOP's reputation among African-Americans is in disrepair, too, damaged after Trent Lott was forced out as Senate leader for making racially- insensitive remarks. Since then, conservative commentator Armstrong Williams has led a Republican drive to reach out to African-Americans.
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: I think people more and more realize, hey, these guys are sincere this time. It's not just about rhetoric. But we cannot just stop and grow defensive because the Democrats are saying what was true of our party several years ago. This is a new party. This is Bush's party. This is Hastert's party. This is Frist's party. It's different.
KARL: The Republicans toured the house and presented a grab bag of ideas, ranging money for historically black colleges to more traditional Republican issues, like school vouchers and tax cuts. They've also promised to recruit more African-American staff and candidates.
(on camera): The Frederick Douglass House is an especially strong symbol for Republicans, because not only is he considered the father of the civil rights movement, but he was also a lifelong Republican.
(voice-over): But that was in the days when Abraham Lincoln was the most famous Republican. Democrats said today's event was little more than empty symbolism.
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: I think the African-American community can see through this. We all want to see the Frederick Douglass House restored. But this is also something we all should have done many, many years ago. So why now, a year before the election of 2004?
KARL: Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi also attacks the event as cosmetic.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Let me do something at the museum, while I do nothing to make sure you have a job.
HASTERT: People can call names and make excuses. I think we're actually doing something substantive. This is a symbol of what we're trying to get done. And I can't help what Ms. Pelosi says.
KARL: Now, the money the Republicans announced for that house, the Frederick Douglass House, will certainly improve it. Less clear is whether or not the policies they announced will improve their image among African-Americans. But they will continue to try.
Senator Frist, the Republican leader here in the Senate, announced today that he will go on May 17 and give the commencement speech at the historically black Morehouse College of Medicine in Atlanta -- Paula.
ZAHN: Jonathan Karl, thanks so much.
Still to come here tonight: It was her last day of school. She decided to celebrate by drinking and smoking pot. On her way home, she lost control of her car and ran over a 16-year-old girl.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARLA WAGNER, CONVICTED FELON: I took the life of a girl without even knowing it because I drove after drinking alcohol.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Also tonight: How would you define a peacemaker? Some think President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Others say, war and peace prizes don't mix. We'll debate that issue.
And then, a little bit later on: a radio talk show host, a classroom full of students, and the N-word -- Steve Kane tonight on what he said, why he said it and what might happen to him -- but, first, a look at the closing numbers from Wall Street.
We're back in a moment.
ZAHN: There is a new program in effect tonight that is supposed to give teenagers the skills they need to remain safe and alive on America's highways. It is called the Real World Driver program.
The carmaker Ford and the federal government are sending out videos and other materials to thousands of public high schools to help reduce an alarming statistic: 6,000 teenaged drivers were killed in car accidents last year. In fact, accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers.
Many of those accidents involve teens who drank and drove, including one woman John Zarrella tells us about tonight.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Carla Wagner should be in college. Instead, in shackles and handcuff, the 19-year- old speaks at high schools in south Florida.
WAGNER: I've been introduced to all of you as Carla Wagner, but I'm known to the Florida Department of Corrections as inmate M-32356.
ZARRELLA: Wagner is serving six years at a women's prison for DUI manslaughter. Almost three years ago, Wagner celebrated the last day of school by drinking and smoking marijuana with friends.
WAGNER: I never imagined what turn my life would take.
ZARRELLA: On her way home, she lost control of her car and killed 16-year-old Helen Marie Witty, who was roller-blading on the sidewalk.
WAGNER: I hit her against a tree and she died instantly. I never even saw her, but I live with that every day.
ZARRELLA: As part of her sentence, Wagner is required to speak at high schools about drinking and driving. There is no such requirement of Helen and John Witty. But they are there, too.
JOHN WITTY, VICTIM'S FATHER: Can you figure out how not to drink and drive? Are you smart enough to do that? Because you don't want anything to do with what happened to us, ever, in any way, shape or form.
ZARRELLA: At every school Carla visits, Helen and John come with pictures of their daughter, proofs she never got to see. And they tell their story of unfathomable loss.
HELEN WITTY, VICTIM'S MOTHER: There was a man on the scene that went right to her and he was the one who closed her eyes. I wish I could have done that.
ZARRELLA: The experience is cathartic for both the Wittys and Wagner. For the students here at Hollywood Hills High, it is sobering reality. The story gets and holds their attention.
JULIE ARMSTRONG, STUDENT: To hear Carla's story was unbelievable, because you feel her pain and you feel the family's pain all at once. And it's really hard.
JOSH PERRY, STUDENT: It hit me with kind of a full force, because it's really emotional when something happens like that, even to people you don't know.
ZARRELLA: The dozen or so assemblies Wagner and the Wittys have addressed during the past 18 months are planned to coincide with events: prom night, graduation, spring break. The hope is that the message sinks in and saves a life.
WAGNER: I'm in prison for DUI manslaughter, the involuntary murder of a person. None of you know what it feels like to be called a murderer. And I hope you never have to. And I'll say it again. Don't drink and drive.
ZARRELLA: John Zarrella, CNN, Hollywood, Florida.
ZAHN: A message we hope is heard loud and clear.
Still to come this evening: When you think of Nobel Peace Prize winners, who comes to mind? Former President Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, or maybe Mother Teresa? Do these two names belong on that list: President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair? Some people think so.
Also tonight: repairing a relationship on this Victory in Europe Day, U.S.-French relations, as live from the headlines continues on this Thursday night.
ZAHN: President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Thousands of people around the world, including members of national parliaments, university professors and former Nobel laureates can make such nominations and the nominations of President Bush and Prime Minister Blair was made by a member of Norway's parliament. It comes too late for this year's awards, so it would be in place for the 2004 peace prize.
And Jan Simonsen, the member of the Norwegian Parliament, who put the names in nomination, joins us now from Oslo.
Good of you to join us. My question to you is what do you say to critics of this idea who say why put forth this nomination when you're talking about two world leaders who actually waged a war?
JAN SIMONSEN, NORWEGIAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: Yes.
I would say that sometimes it's necessary to start a war, an effective and short war to make peace and to prevent a much larger and more dangerous war in the future. And if you had given Saddam Hussein 10 more years in power he could have set the whole Middle East in fire and this risk do not longer exist thanks to brave mens like George W. Bush and Tony Blair.
And also I would say that secondly and the argument for me is that Great Britain and the United States of America now has given the Iraqi people democracy, freedom and respect for human rights and I think those are two very good reasons to honor those people with the Nobel Peace Prize.
ZAHN: Given the divisions that exist in attitudes towards the war, have you taken much grief from anybody about setting forth this nomination?
SIMONSEN: Well, I hope to get some support for this proposal from other parliament members and if somebody of those parliament members or Congressmen listen now, they can support my proposal by sending a letter to the Nobel Peace committee in Oslo and say that they support this proposal.
ZAHN: Mr. Simonsen, very good of you to join us. Appreciate your time and we're going to debate whether this is something that should have happened or not.
Joining me tonight, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who is a nationally syndicated talk show host, author of a book called "The Private Adam: Becoming a Hero in a Selfish Age."
Also joining is Sam Greenfield. He hosts a radio talk show on New York's WWRL.
Good to see both of you.
ZAHN: Let me start with you, Sam. You heard the rationale of Mr. Simonsen, who entered the nominations. He said, and in waging this war you prevented a much larger war.
SAM GREENFIELD, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, Mr. Siminsen -- is it Siminsen?
ZAHN: It's -- in America, Simonsen. Over there, it's Simonsen.
GREENFIELD: Fine. This is an egregious publicity stunt. This guy is a far rightist. He doesn't have a political party. He is an independent. So no one will even have him.
He nominated these two guys -- if I may call them that -- he nominated these two guys after the deadline so he has to wait until 2004 and I just think we're in some kind of jabberwocky world where you nominate some one who declares a war for the Peace Prize. I mean, this to me is almost like Orwellian.
ZAHN: So you don't even buy into the notion that this war prevented a much larger war?
GREENFIELD: Well, he said if we didn't do this, then five or 10 years from now, this guy would have -- Saddam Hussein would have weapons of mass destruction.
ZAHN: You don't believe that?
GREENFIELD: Oh, suddenly he's a weapons expert. This guy can't even get a political party to back him and he's a weapons expert now.
No. No. Not at all. I think he did it for publicity. I think it's awfully convenient that he nominated them after the deadline and he's from that part of the world.
ZAHN: Well let's not talk about his actions. Let's talk about the impact of this nomination.
Rabbi, react to a little bit of what Sam has just said.
RABBI SHMULEY BOTEACH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, this prize should really be renamed the Nobel Appeasement Prize. It's suffered catastrophic blows to its credibility.
Its been won by Jimmy Carter, who appeased North Korea in 1994. They have two nukes now and now they're saber rattling against the West.
It's been won by Kofi Annan, who was asked to intervene militarily in Rwanda in 1994. But he doesn't see any role for the military and 800,000 people died. He won the Nobel Appeasement Prize.
And why didn't ever Chamberlain get it? He claimed there was peace in our time.
The fact is that to say that people who don't remove dictators are warmongers is like saying that some one who disciplines their children hates them. On the contrary, tough love is often necessary.
Now it's the appeasers who are really warmongers in every case throughout history, whenever we have appeased tyrants, they have about come back more powerful later and they have brutalized and murdered their population.
I think it's positively disgraceful and those who continue to oppose the removal of Saddam Hussein -- and we have seen pictures now of him having put soccer players in metal cages and put electrodes on their genitals because they missed the goal, for goodness sake. This man was a monster and to remove a monster from brutalizing his population and bringing peace -- Iraq today threatens no one. Under Saddam Hussein, they threaten every one. Of course, they should win this prize.
But I would rather -- to be honest, I would rather the death blow be given to the prize. Jacques Chirac is a leading candidate this year. Let him win it so we can dispense with it. Yasser Arafat is a winner of this prize.
ZAHN: Well, let's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about whether the Nobel Peace Prize should exist or not. What about this argument of this team bringing democracy to Iraq?
GREENFIELD: Right now Iraq is a poly-God of different cultures there's. There's no democracy now there. They've got a guy walking around like a madman going, I am the mayor. So there's no kind of democracy now. The Kurds are going to be fighting other people. The Shiites and the Sunnis are going to be at each other's throats and as far as...
ZAHN: Do you think it would have been any different if the inspections had continued?
GREENFIELD: I -- you know, I think we could have contained this guy, Saddam Hussein, and let the inspections continued and spared 100 American lives.
Also, we went in there because, according to President Bush, Saddam Hussein violated the agreement of the resolution 1441. Now we go in there, no one's found weapons of mass destruction and now we're saying but it's OK, he's a bad guy. Well of course he's a bad guy. Everyone knows he's a bad guy. Are we going to go after every bad guy on the planet?
ZAHN: Rabbi, how troubled are you that weapons of mass destruction haven't been found? Some tests are being done on what is believed to be a mobile lab that might contain biological weaponry.
BOTEACH: You know, Paula, were' the richest, most powerful nation in the world. We can't simply use our resources to simply stop men, women and children from being gassed and murdered by the world's foremost murderer.
You know, when I see some one on the street who needs food, even if I can't feed all of them, I don't stop -- I don't use that as an argument to not feed a single one of them.
The same thing is true here. We got to remove every single dictator, but I'm amazed that the Nobel Peace Prize, which was won by Martin Luther King, who fought to give dignity to America's black sons and daughters, that was given to Mother Teresa, that sought to give hope to those who had no hope and that was given to people like the Dalai Lama, who sought to free Tibet from the tyranny of China -- we are thinking about giving it to people who appease Saddam Hussein? This is astonishing. This prize will either have credibility or it won't have credibility?
ZAHN: And Sam -- let's give Sam a chance to go back to a point that you made that you didn't you an opportunity to respond to, that Jimmy Carter appeased the North Koreans.
GREENFIELD: Jimmy Carter didn't appease the North Koreans. Jimmy Carter tried to enter negotiations with North Korea and so did -- and so did Bill Clinton. And the Peace Prize has been won by a lot of people who are wonderful people. Elie Wiesel, for example. Martin Luther King, as you mentioned.
You want to honor these two guys, Blair and Bush, give them "Man of the Year," in "TIME" Magazine. That's a nice honor because they had a huge impact on the year's news. But a Peace Prize for people who declare war is like eating popsicles to lose weight.
ZAHN: We have to leave it there. Sam Greenfield, Rabbi Shmuley, thank you both for joining us in our New York studio.
GREENFIELD: Thank you.
ZAHN: Still to come tonight, a radio talk show host and the N- word. He said it in front of a classroom filled with students.
We're going to debate that question right after the break.
You're watching LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES.
ZAHN: A Florida radio talk-show host is under fire for something he said not on the air but at a public forum on affirmative action.
Critics say Steve Kane's remarks were insensitive, especially since he serves on a local diversity committee. Yusila Ramirez of our affiliate WFOR reports on how this controversy started.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right wing is (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait. Whoa.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on. Hold on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just dropped the N word and equated it with the right wing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me. The what? The what? The what? The what word?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The N word. YUSILA RAMIREZ, WFOR-TV, FLORIDA (voice-over): 1470 AM radio talk-show host Steve Kane says he was caught off guard by all of the controversy that followed after he made that comment during a debate last week at Deerfield High School. Wednesday night, Kane was with his adopted children at his Cooper City home, and he told us he didn't want to offend anyone.
STEVE KANE, RADIO TALK-SHOW HOST, 1740 A.M., FLORIDA: I was shocked and surprised. I did not use the word in a negative or insulting context.
Kane, who is a member of the Broward School Diversity Committee, was part of a forum alongside "Sun-Sentinel" columnist Michael Mayo in front of dozens of honor, government, and ROTC students. The discussion was on affirmative action. When Mayo asked the often controversial Kane if he was a right winger, Kane compared it to the N word.
KANE: I was making a point about an expletive, and I used it as an example of an expletive. And it is an example of an expletive. And I think people have just blown it way out of proportion.
RAMIREZ: But some school board members don't think that's the case, and they want Kane off of the committee, including the board member who appointed him.
MARTY RUBINSTEIN, BROWARD SCHOOL BOARD: I'm really disheartened that I had to take the action, but the idea, again, it becomes an idea of sensitivity.
RAMIREZ: While Kane says he is still on the board, some school board members say that is still in limbo. Meanwhile, at least one of the kids who was in the class during that debate tells us he wasn't offended.
BRANDON ROLLINS, STUDENT: I don't think it was bad, personally, because he didn't mean it -- he wasn't insulting anybody. So that's how I feel.
ZAHN: We'll going to take one more look at that exchange -- the start of the whole controversy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right wing is (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait. Whoa.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on. Hold on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You just dropped the N word and equated it with the right wing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Excuse me. The what? The what? The what? The what word?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The N word.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: We've asked the man who used the N word to join us tonight along with one of his critics.
Steve Kane joins us from Miami. Susan Silverberg is vice chair -- here's Susan -- of the Broward School Board Diversity Committee. She joins us from Fort Lauderdale. Welcome to you both.
Steve, I know in the taped piece you acknowledge that you were using the N word as an example of an expletive. Weren't there a number of different words you might have used in that setting that might have been less inflammatory -- particularly with students in the classroom?
STEVE KANE, CRITICIZED FOR REMARKS AT FORUM: Paula, to be honest with you, I was trying to search for a word that would make my point to Michael Mayo, who continued to say that calling me a right winger really wasn't an insult, it was really just descriptive.
I just want to point something out here. I was listening to your last interview, and the one guest, Mr. (UNINTELLIGIBLE), referred to the rabbi as an extreme right winger. Okay. He wasn't complimenting the rabbi. He was insulting the rabbi, and he was attacking the rabbi's credibility.
This was the point I was trying to make to Mr. Mayo, who routinely refers to me as a right winger. Mr. Mayo did not understand it so I searched for the most -- probably the mother of all expletives to try to illustrate my point. I didn't do it in an offensive way. I'd like to point out the young black student who you saw in the film piece who was there, he was not offended.
And I would like to know why Ms. Silverberg, who was not there -- and is white, the youngster wasn't offended -- I mean, Susan, is the question that he wasn't smart enough to be offended so you, as a white liberal, have to be offended for him? I don't quite understand that.
ZAHN: Well, let's Susan answer that question.
SUSAN SILVERBERG, VICE CHAIR, BROWARD SCHOOL BOARD DIVERSITY COMMITTEE: Ms. Zahn, it really speaks to matter more than it does to the word. I am not speaking for anyone who can't speak for themselves. I am speaking for myself.
And I also want to make that clear that although I do hold the position of vice chair of Broward County School's Diversity Committee this year and I was chair last year of this committee -- the first female, I might add, and very proud of that -- however, I will tell you that I do not represent them tonight here. I represent only my own viewpoint and only myself. And I am here to tell you that I was very, very upset about what occurred. KANE: The boy was not upset, and you were. I would like you to explain that to me -- why this boy, who is black, found my remarks innocuous, and you are, all of a sudden, taking such umbrage as a white liberal. Other than the fact that you don't like my presence on the diversity committee and that you lost the chairmanship by one vote ...
ZAHN: Let's not get into the issue --
KANE: Well, why not -- that's your issue.
ZAHN: Let me come back to Susan for a moment.
ZAHN: What Steve has repeatedly said -- that he was using the N word as an example of an expletive -- do you find that any less offensive had he used it in another context?
SILVERBERG: Well, I guess you'd have to view the video. You would have to speak to some of the people that were there. And apparently, the gentleman that you interviewed, that is the first that I've heard that interview.
KANE: Well, he doesn't count, Susan.
SILVERBERG: Excuse me. Let me finish, please if you don't mind.
SILVERBERG: I heard that there were students who actually left because they were --
KANE: That's a lie. You see, that's why I have to say this, Paula. That's why these second-hand accounts don't cut it. She heard that. It's not true. No one left. She also doesn't know that black students came up to me afterwards and smiled and shook my hand and told me how great it was. She also wasn't there so she doesn't know that four instructors in that class complimented me after -- one of them black -- who told me I did a great job and got through to the kids, and there was nothing offensive about what I said.
Susan doesn't know any of that. All she knows is she that wants me off the diversity committee. Isn't that right, Susan?
ZAHN: I don't want to cut to the internal politics.
KANE: It's not politics. It's just telling the truth.
ZAHN: Steve was saying that he equated the use of the term right winger in the same way that someone might be offended by the N word. Do you acknowledge that when people sometimes use the term right wing in a negative connotation, they find that inflammatory?
SILVERBERG: I think the word can be used negatively or positively. It depends on which side you're on. I don't mind -- . I really completely lost my train of thought now because I forgot what you asked me. He derailed me again, and that's his specialty. And I apologize for that, but, like I said, I don't want Mr. Kane off the diversity committee for any other reason other than the fact that his choice of forums, his choice of audience, and his choice of language to me was inappropriate for the setting. And --
ZAHN: All right, Steve, you get the final word here this evening. We should make it clear to our audience -- you have three adopted children at home, right?
KANE: I have more than that. I have four adopted children, and three of them are black.
ZAHN: And three of them are African-American.
KANE: That's correct.
ZAHN: Is this ever a word you would have used around the house in any connotation?
KANE: Absolutely. Yes. In a connotation of explaining to my children that this is a horrible, vile word, but that they should not give it too much power. Okay. They should not become a slave to it. That when this thing is used as an expletive and an attack, it's used by ignorant, stupid people -- and not to give those people any power and not to give this horrendous word all of the power that people give it in our society today -- that it is so important that it is that one word that one cannot mention.
This is a bunch of nonsense. It's what I teach my kids, and I would like to tell you, Susan, as you're worried about offending kids, my 11-year-old, who is my interracial daughter at 11 -- who reads the papers and reads your nasty comments about me -- told me to give you a message. She told me to tell you that she is offended that you inferring that her father is a bigot and that her father is not a bigot.
ZAHN: All right, Susan, I think you need to follow that up, and I'll give you about 20 seconds and we've really got to move on here.
SILVERBERG: Okay. What I can say, Paula, except that if had known that this conversation would have been this one-sided I could have gone on Steve's radio show. I am sorry about that I wish...
KANE: Which of course, she won't do.
ZAHN: Give her a chance to finish her thought here.
SILVERBERG: But I do want to say that my children as well are high school kids. They listen, they hear, they're impressionable. They have been brought up in a house where that word was taboo for obvious reasons and we have many different issues in hour household, both my ex-husband and I are both adopted and therefore we have no idea what are races are or our ethnicities are. So therefore we appreciate everyone for who and what they are, what religion or race they are. We wish that the sensitivity had been there and the judgment had been better with Mr. Kane.
ZAHN: Susan Silverberg, Steve Kane, we have to leave it there tonight. Thank you both for joining us.
Still to come upon tonight, mending a strained relationship. A report from France on a day when the French remember a time when the U.S. and France fought together.
ZAHN: Today was Victory Day in Europe. French president Jacques Chirac laid a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier in Paris.
And Jim Bittermann there was.
JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a town of 25,000 a half hour's drive from Paris, a crowd of French citizens saluted the American flag as the "Star Spangled Banner" echoed across the small square.
As every year since the war, the names of nine American soldiers who died on the spot nearly six decades ago were read out in remembrance. Said one city official, those who think the French have forgotten their debt to the U.S. simply haven't traveled much. The mayor says the difference of opinion should not turn a friend into a foe.
MAYOR GERARD LARCHER, RAMBOUILLET, FRANCE: In spite of the difference of the diplomatic approach, we know very well here where are our real friends.
BITTERMANN: But the compliance, the U.S. now seems to demand from its friends has been the subject of one conference after another on this side of the Atlantic. At this one, a warning from the American ambassador.
HOWARD LEACH, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO FRANCE: I do believe the relationship sat a crossroads. The direction it takes will depend on how we resolve the important issues immediately ahead of us.
BITTERMANN: If that was one way of saying our way or the highway, the ambassador's host disagreed.
ARTHUR PRAECHT, INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR STRATEGIC RESEARCH: The framework of partnership does not mean one party should be completely submissive to another.
BITTERMANN: In a country where freaks have not yet become freedom fries and where no one pours any wine of any nationality down the drain, some are perplexed by how intolerant and vengeful Americans seem to be just because others argue for a different view of the world. When an Italian comedian in Paris opened a review called George Bush, sad cowboy of god he was promptly beaten up. These people were clearly against the play, he says, but he stopped short of accusing Americans of being behind the attack.
(on camera): What is surprising is how restrained the public outcry has been here and which it directed again, most any other national or ethnic group would be as several commentators have pointed out, nothing short of bigotry. Back in Rambouillet a second ceremony marking Victory in Europe Day, the head of the Franco-American veterans association, the widow of an American soldier is disappointed at the way some in the U.S. have vilified France.
MARIE-FRANCE RODGERS, FRANCO-AMERICAN VETERANS ASSOCIATION: It's a pity. It's a little part of the United States, even if Mr. Powell says that it's a fault of France, but we are also Democratic here, we also can have an opinion.
BITTERMANN: Searching for something hopeful to say about transatlantic relation, several of the VE Day commemoration pointed a visitor to the nearby (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of Rambouillet. Many of the trees from it's rustic pass came from seedlings grown in the U.S., a gift arranged by Thomas Jefferson to King Louis the XVI for his help during the American Revolution. For two and a half centuries they withstood every manner of storm. Said the mayor the trees are a symbol of a long, long friendship.
Jim Bittermann, Rambouillet, France.
ZAHN: That wraps up the first hour of LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES.
Coming up next the battle of the bulge. Should you pay an extra tax on unhealthy food like soda, candy and junk food?
Some people think so.
Plus this just in to CNN. Reports of a tornado touching down in the Oklahoma City Metropolitan area. We are told that power has been knocked out to at least 26,000 customers. A witness telling CNN, the local affiliate that he is convinced that there will be not only extensive damage but lots of injury, as well, this, of course following over the weekend some 80 tornadoes that touched down in Tornado Ally.
At the top of the hour, we'll bring you up-to-date on what we think we're looking at here.
ANNOUNCER: Nutritional experts are calling for a war on fat. Should junk food be taxed like tobacco? Should anyone but you be worried about your waistline?
And, a stranded climber who did what he had to do to survive.
ARON RALSTON, HIKER WHO AMPUTATED OWN ARM: I had plenty of time for solitary reflection and meditation last week as I reflected on my life to this point and realized that I have no regrets.
ANNOUNCER: The man who amputated his own arm now looks to the future.
LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES with Paula Zahn in New York.
ZAHN: Thanks so much for joining us. We've got lots to cover tonight. We're going to give you a quick preview now. Nic Robertson will join us live from Baghdad with some news on looted nuclear materials in Iraq.
And then at the State Department, Andrea Koppel will take a look at the price paid by countries that didn't support the war in Iraq, as well as the rewards for those who did.
We've got breaking news now out of the state of Oklahoma tonight. We have been told that a tornado has touched down. We're going to take these live pictures from our local affiliate there and try to make sense of them.
We know that at least one tornado touched down tonight flattening several buildings, including a McDonald's restaurant in the suburb of Moore. A General Motors plant we're told in another place called Midwest City took a direct hit. And a housing subdivision near Tinker Air Force Base we're told was also hit.
We know at this hour at least 26,000 people without power. Eyewitnesses say they believe not only is there extensive damage, but they expect there to be a number of injuries. We're going to stay on this picture and bring Orelon Sidney in from Atlanta to tell us about the severity of this weather system that has just struck Oklahoma -- Orelon.
ORELON SYDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Paula, thanks a lot. This particular storm that we watched actually on the radar for about the past 45 minutes moved through Oklahoma City. We actually have a radar picture of that as it moved across Moore, Oklahoma. That's the same location that took the direct hit from the tornadoes back on May 3, 1999.
There are tornado watches in effect for that area extending all the way down into Texas, northward into Missouri. And the Storm Prediction Center calls these areas particularly dangerous situations.
I want you to look at our radar if you can, quickly. And you can see the storm system as it moved through. I've highlighted it there. That one did produced a tornado warning. We also saw a tornado warning on a storm just to the north across the north-central portion of Oklahoma at about the same time. Both of those storm systems now have moved off to the north and east. But we still continue with numerous tornado warnings.
These warnings number one, number two, number three and number four, are all called by the Storm Prediction Center particularly dangerous situations. That means those storms could produce violent tornadoes, devastating damage, around 200-mile an hour winds are possible. And we could see, as we've seen in these pictures, some very, very damaging areas.
Looks like most of the buildings there have remained intact. So those probably wouldn't be F-4, F-5 damage. But we could see even greater damage than that as pictures continue to come in -- Paula.
ZAHN: Yes, no doubt, Orelon. By looking at those pictures, that tornado certainly made a direct hit.
Joining us on the telephone right now is Paul Sund who is the communications director for the governor of Oklahoma, Brad Henry. Mr. Sund, thanks so much for joining us. Can you tell us how much damage you think has been caused by this hit?
PAUL SUND, OKLAHOMA GOV. OFFICE: Well, Paula, we're really in the preliminary stages of just trying to find out just how bad the damage is. We're watching the images on television and we have teams on the ground in the damaged areas trying to report back just how severe it is.
The main thing, of course, is to get assistance to injured people and make sure we don't have any additional injuries because we've got lots of power lines down. You have possible gas line ruptures. And you just want to be careful that you don't compound the tragedy that we've already had.
ZAHN: And I know this is very early on in trying to figure this all out. But we've had a number of eyewitnesses tell the affiliate KOCO that they believe there will be -- I don't want to say extensive injuries, but some serious injuries.
SUND: We haven't gotten any reports of that nature yet. But just looking at the damages, it's difficult to imagine otherwise. Of course, in Oklahoma, we are prepared for storms like this. And we get very good advance warning from our meteorologists in the area. But still, you can never be prepared for some of these things.
ZAHN: Help us with the geography here. We know that a General Motors plant in Midwest City apparently took a direct hit. What can you tell us about that? Or is that still too early to tell?
SUND: Well again, all the reports we're getting are mostly via the television screen just like you are. But it's our understanding that they got advance warning that people were able to take cover, and that there were no injuries among the GM employees. But that's just, again, very preliminary information. And we're still trying to gather information at the scene and through our emergency management folks.
ZAHN: Eyewitnesses have also told CNN they believe extensive damage also happened in the suburb of Moore. Can you just give us an idea of the geography here, what kind of swathe we're talking about from Midwest City to Moore?
SUND: It's mainly residential all area. Those are both suburbs of Oklahoma City that are adjacent to the city. So it's mostly residential and business areas. And the same area, Moore in fact, was hit by a very large tornado four years ago. So again, I know Governor Henry, his thoughts and prayers are going out to the families, and we're doing everything we can to get them help right now.
ZAHN: We understand Interstate 200 or 240 as you guys call it down there has been shut down. Is that to make it easier for these emergency vehicles to get to the scene?
SUND: I think that's part of it but I also think there was debris in the roadway that they're trying to clear. And again, just trying to do everything not to compound the problems we have now. And allowing emergency management officials and emergency personnel to get to the scene to provide assistance.
ZAHN: And finally, coming back to the General Motors plant, and once again, I know you're making calls, trying to figure this out yourself. but is it your understanding the plant was in operation at the time?
SUND: I don't know that for sure, Paula. That would be my assumption. But I just don't know that for sure.
ZAHN: You're looking at some of the same pictures we're looking at here. I'm told you've lived in that part of the country for awhile. I guess after witnessing what we all did over the weekend, looking at some 80 tornadoes touchdown, just what goes through your mind as you see the tremendous damage this has caused?
SUND: Well like I say, I think for any Oklahoman who's grown up in Tornado Alley, you never get used to the images. But we are very prepared, we have some of the best disaster management people in the country here. And Governor Henry's doing everything he can to coordinate and get the assistance to the people who need it most now. And like I say, you never get used to it but I think we are very prepared to handle this in Oklahoma and that's what we're doing.
ZAHN: Well you've got a very important job to do, and we appreciate you spending time with to us bring us up to date on what has happened to your community. Paul Sund, communications director for the governor of Oklahoma. Thank you very much for your time. And good luck to your communities as you try to assess what has gone down there. And trying to get help to the folks who need it.
We're going to take a short break. Our coverage will continue right after this.
ZAHN: We're continuing to get more information in from the Oklahoma City area where it has now been confirmed that a severe storm system not only has hit the area but the confirmation that a tornado has touched down.
It is believed by the governor's spokesperson of that state that there is extensive damage to suburban areas surrounding Oklahoma City, and they're trying to do an assessment right now of how many people might have been injured as a result of this tornado. The good news is, according to the governor's spokesperson, that apparently people there knew the storm system was coming to the area and took the warning seriously once the sirens went off.
As soon as we can give you a better idea of just how extensive the damage is, we will let you know.
We're going to move on now to a different kind of story. In the Battle of the Bulge, the Bush administration is already ruling out one tactic. That is legislation that would force companies to make their foods healthier.
But another proposal that's gaining some support may be even less appetizing to the White House -- a fat tax.
Medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen explains.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For many years, experts have raised a red flag. The U.S. is becoming a fat nation.
In our daily life, junk food, fat and fast food everywhere. At work, at home, at the malls, at the ballpark.
The consequence? An estimated 64 percent of Americans today are either overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Poor nutrition and physical inactivity account for some 300,000 premature deaths in the U.S. each year due to diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other illnesses. Obesity costs the U.S. $117 billion a year.
So what to do about this huge problem? The strategy so far has been to tell people that being overweight is unhealthy, and they should change their diet and exercise more. But many argue that hasn't worked terribly well. After all, despite all this advice, Americans are fatter than ever.
So now some nutrition experts and consumer groups are calling for a war on obesity, more dramatic actions that would give clear incentives for people to stop eating so much.
One proposal on the table? The creation of a fat tax. Adding a small tax on high-calorie foods such as sugary soda, candies and snack food, to finance programs to improve diet and activity.
But taxing junk food raises questions. What is obesity? Just an individual problem or a societal one? A question of self-discipline or of the environment?
Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.
ZAHN: A fat tax isn't the only proposal that's being considered in what some call a war on obesity.
For instance, would you lose weight if your boss would give you a day off for it? Or a bonus even?
Joining us now to talk about that are Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science and the Public Interest. He joins us from Washington tonight.
MICHAEL JACOBSON, CENTER FOR SCIENCE AND THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Hello.
ZAHN: And -- good evening.
And from the University of California at Berkeley, Joanna Ikeda of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.
Welcome to you both.
JOANNE IKEDA, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION TO ADVANCE FAT ACCEPTANCE: Thank you.
ZAHN: I'm going to start off with Mr. Jacobson tonight. You are a big supporter of these taxes. How would you decide which foods would be taxed?
JACOBSON: Well, that's up to legislatures to decide.
ZAHN: How would they decide?
JACOBSON: Well, a dozen state legislatures already have decided. A dozen states tax soft drinks and sometimes candy and snack foods, other snack foods. Together, they raise $1 billion a year. It's a lot of money.
Unfortunately, none of that money is earmarked for health programs. So it really doesn't do any good. I don't want taxes for taxes' sake. I think government should be investing in major health campaigns to reduce the rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases.
Ideally, legislatures, be it state or federal or even city councils, would take money out of general revenues and use that to fund campaigns. But they haven't. So I think it may make sense to take the next step and tax the junkiest foods.
ZAHN: All right. Let's let Miss Ikeda react to that. Mr. Jacobson pointing out that legislatures have already made some of these tough decisions. And when you go back and look at the history of cigarettes in this country, a lot of people say, Hey, you tax folks for smoking now, why not tax them for eating foods that might ultimately lead to obesity and diabetes that's out of control?
IKEDA: It's very difficult to draw the line. In other words, to have some objective criteria on which foods you tax, which you wouldn't. Some years ago in California, we attempted to establish a snack tax and it was defeated and part of that was because we couldn't establish objective criteria for which foods would be taxed and which wouldn't.
ZAHN: Do you understand that dilemma there, Mr. Jacobson?
JACOBSON: Well, California taxes soft drinks. There are little gradations. What if something has less carbonation? But legislatures decide it.
That's not the stumbling block. The block to a junk food tax is industry that does not want to have its products taxed, with the revenues going -- being devoted to criticizing those products, in part.
Revenues could also build hiking trails, bike paths, basketball courts, tennis courts, all kinds of facilities to promote physical activity, which is kind of the other half of the reason we're so overweight. We don't exercise enough.
ZAHN: Miss Ikeda, let's talk about that. What about putting in place incentives for people to lose weight, either in the workplace or outside of the workplace? Whether it be a bonus, or an extra day off. Do you see that working?
IKEDA: Not really because people can lose weight by taking up smoking. They can lose weight by going in the bathroom and sticking their toothbrush down their throat and throwing up. They can lose weight by -- through poor nutrition and malnourishment. And I certainly wouldn't want those kinds of behaviors rewarded or reinforced.
ZAHN: So what is it that you would -- that you would recommend, Miss Ikeda, that you think would bring down the obesity rate?
IKEDA: Well, I would agree with Michael in that we need to create environments that support and foster...
ZAHN: And we just lost Miss Ikedae. You saw that shot go down Jacobson.
Just a final thought on where you see this plan for proposed taxes going, given the fierce opposition from the food industry to this do you think it goes anywhere?
JACOBSON: I think it's going to happen more readily at the state level than the federal. But there are a lot of other things. Fat taxes are not the only way to go. Like putting calories up on menu boards at fast food restaurants so people realize that how many hundreds of calories so many of these foods have. Getting junk foods out of schools. Having clearer food labeling to highlight some of the problem foods. Notices on soft drinks, for instance, saying try to limit yourself to one drink a day. And massive educational campaigns supported by general revenues to remind people to exercise more and to eat less, and choose more healthful foods when you eat. ZAHN: And Mike have 10 seconds left.
You don't think the American public understands when they eat a hamburger that has three patties on it, that might not be the smartest choice?
JACOBSON: I think they understand. Just like they understand that McDonald's sells hamburgers. McDonald's spends $1 billion a year reminding us of that fact. We need support, encouragement, peer pressure, media pressure, all kinds of things. It's a tough problem. And our society has yet to grapple with it.
ZAHN: Michael Jacobson, thanks so much for your time. And we apologize to Joanna Ikeda out there on the West Coast for technical difficulties there. Glad to have you both on the air as brief as the joint appearance was.
Just ahead something you would think no sane person would ever attempt. Yet a popular TV show and movie may have convinced young people to try it anyway, with tragic results. We'll see in a moment.
Also, word that something much more disturbing than Iraq's antiquities may also have been looted.
ZAHN: You're looking at live pictures from in and around Oklahoma City tonight. At just about 20 minutes or so after a tornado has touched down there. We were just on the phone with a man representing the governor of the state. He said it is his understanding that there has been extensive damage. 26,000 people without power right now. There is some concern that maybe some fuel lines have ruptured. But this is all very new information coming in. The governor's spokesperson wasn't too comfortable going beyond that. Associated Press reporting Oklahoma City's ambulance service is saying there are at least 25 injuries, one of them serious.
We are told that this tornado hit down in an area called Moore which described as a suburban area. The governor's spokesperson telling us about the only good news that you can glean from all of this is that there was an early warning system in place. Sirens went off, and apparently people heeded those warnings. As soon as we can get more information for you, we'll bring to it you. We'll continue to stay on this picture provided to us by our local affiliate KOCO out of Oklahoma City.
Right now, travel to another state, Kansas where Jason Bellini is standing by where there's a severe weather pattern overhead. And he joins us on the ground now with a man who has made a business out of chasing storms.
Jason, how bad does it look right now?
I can't tell from the picture.
Are the skies pretty dark? JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This storm has been moving so quickly, that you might not believe it from looking at it picture here but there were swirling dark clouds above us, not a tornado, but very ominous looking clouds in this area just a short while ago. We've been listening to the radio in the car where there have been warnings to people to take shelter all around the Topeka area. The storm is heading north-northeast. It reported by the police -- let me break just a second so you can listen to the storm chaser who had been following.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is funnel coming over here?
That's beautiful, man. That is beautiful. That's sweet. Right there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BELLINI: Well, beautiful to the tornado chaser who we were following. He's on the road now. We broke away from him as he continues to chase this storm, heading north-northeast. We imagine right now he's probably near Lawrence, which is a city located between Topeka and Kansas City. Just heard on the radio moments ago the people there need to take shelter immediately in Lawrence because there's a tornado that's touched ground, that's heading in their direction, may be there at this very moment. So far, Topeka has been lucky. It's been spared tornadoes. Although there have been warnings and sightings all around that metro area. They're not out of the woods yet, because the storm is continuing to move north. And they're keeping an eye on various storm systems where the weather's become very severe for those who develop into tornadoes that could head straight towards Topeka. But for the moment they're OK -- Paula.
ZAHN: Jason, thanks so much for the update. I think we're going to try to go back to the picture from KOCO. I just wanted to add a statistic that's stunning, that tornadoes spawned from these storms this month so far have already set a record, 225 reported in the first seven days of May. When you look at these pictures, you can see how extensive the damage is. Reports of many buildings where roofs were torn off.
We are told that some people have been trapped in vehicles. Some people may be trapped in trailer homes. And the concern right now on the governor's staff's part is getting emergency vehicles into that area to help those people out. Again, we have people on the ground. As soon as we can add to these reports, we'll bring it to you.
We're going to switch gears now.
When it comes to mindless stunts done in the name of entertainment, few television programs can top a show called MTV -- on MTV called "Jackass." An raunchier movie version was a huge hit in theater and is out on video. "JACKASS" has sparked countless real life imitations with some tragic results. We need to warn you that some of the images you're about to see are disturbing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go, recording.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oooh! Oh my God!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, he's dead!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you laughing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paul, you all right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need help!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody help him!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay still! Stay still!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call 911!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call 911!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: In Sarasota, Florida, some teenagers tried jumping into a swimming pool, as you could see, from the top of that 5-story building. You probably also made it out from the picture that one of them hit the concrete edge of the pool. We are told he is alive. His legs are shattered. We contacted MTV and representatives there, who refused to comment.
In Los Angeles now to talk about the effect of these kinds of programs on teens is Dr. Carole Lieberman. She's a psychiatrist and specializes in the psychological impact of the media. Also in Los Angeles is sociologist Barry Glassner. He is a professor at the University of Southern California. He is also the author of a book called "The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things."
Dr. Lieberman, I want to start with you. What makes you think that just watching this show alone might have caused these kids to do it?
DR. CAROLE LIEBERMAN, PSYCHIATRIST: Well, obviously, people are vulnerable depending upon what kind of life situation they have.
Like, for example, in this case, the boy's mother supposedly had said that he had been doing these kinds of pranks before. And she should have gotten him help before. But the thing is that there are countless examples of this, from "Natural Born Killers," to all kinds of movies and television shows. And what it comes from is the fact that we have a videotape in our mind and we register these images. And it also has to do with the fact that, in this show, there's a kind of flaunting of the rules of society that appeals particularly to teenage boys.
ZAHN: Dr. Glassner, do you concede that these kinds of shows can be very damaging to impressionable young men and women?
BARRY GLASSNER, SOCIOLOGIST: Well, it certainly is the case that, when you see that video, it's horrifying, it's terrifying. And we all hope that our young people are smarter than that.
But I think that's part of the point, isn't it? This isn't a 4- year-old here. This is a mature -- or should be a mature adolescent. And to point to a particular TV show, frankly, seems to me to be ludicrous. Presumably, those young people in this tragic incident watched lots of movies, lots of TV shows. Why would we point to that particular one? And most of what they watch, by the way, has in it what might of called gratuitous kindness.
Why weren't those young people off kissing? Why weren't they off playing basketball, the sorts of things that one sees in those sorts of shows. The problem...
LIEBERMAN: Well, unfortunately, the kinds of television shows and movies that appeal particularly to teenage boys are the ones where it seems really cool to be doing these kinds of acts. And I think that you can't really say, why weren't they doing something else? We don't have enough role models.
And the kinds of -- I don't think that they would have gotten that idea from anyplace else. And the tipoff is the fact that there was a video camera involved. He was being videotaped when he did these stunts. It wasn't just out of the clear blue sky. Kids want to be stars today. And the fact that there are all these reality shows going on makes it seem much more likely that they could perhaps send in a video tape and get to be a star on a reality show.
ZAHN: Are you suggesting, Dr. Lieberman, that you yank all these shows off the air? Is that realistic?
LIEBERMAN: Well, there are certain ones that aren't quite as dangerous as others. I guess we have less likelihood to go into the Amazon and eat bugs. The average kid isn't going to be able to do that.
But I certainly think that this show should have been yanked off the air the first time that there was an incident. There have been incidents since the beginning. And the disclaimer on the show is not enough. In fact, what it does is act as a challenge to get the kids to do it more.
ZAHN: Dr. Glassner, a final thought from you. We have to accept the realities of this business. Obviously, these shows make lots of money. Do you think programmers should be more responsible?
GLASSNER: Oh, this kind of argument has been made for years and years, many years. It goes back to Plato. Plato warned against telling stories to young people because they're impressionable and they can't tell the difference between allegory. During the golden age of radio, this kind of argument was made.
It's silly. We're going to have all kinds of shows. Young people are going to watch them. They're going to copy some things. They're not going to copy other things. If we are going to remove something, let's remove "The Three Stooges" reruns. They were always poking each other's eyes out. Come on. Let's give young people more credit than that and let's hope that, if they're silly enough to believe that they can do what stunt people do and what professionals do and trained people do, that we teach them better than that, that we instruct them better.
What we should be worrying about are the dangers that they face in a more predominant way, unintentional injuries in their homes, where their homes could be made safer, millions without health insurance. Let's talk about real problems that lots of kids face.
ZAHN: Parental responsibility, a debate, I think, for another night.
Dr. Lieberman, Dr. Glassner, thank you for both of your perspectives.
GLASSNER: Thank you.
ZAHN: We're going to take a short break here.
When we come back: Did looters in Iraq make off with radioactive material? If so, what kind of threat does it pose?
And what is President Bush doing for those who supported the war and doing to those who opposed it? We'll find out.
Stay with us.
ZAHN: Since the fall of Baghdad, there has been looting all across the country. But now there's evidence something much more dangerous than furniture and antiquities may have been taken. Some Iraqis say nuclear materials have been looted. And officials are worried they could be used to make dirty bombs, not to mention, serious health risks might be posed to the people who took them.
CNN international correspondent Nic Robertson reports.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With assurances of safety, Iraqi atomic scientists lead us into Iraq's primary radioactive materials store.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These barrels are emptied by the people inside. And they took it to their houses. ROBERTSON: As we go further into the site that is part of Iraq's Al-Tuwaitha nuclear research facility, engineer Hisham Abdel Mulik points out more evidence of looting and danger.
HISHAM ABDEL MULIK, TUWAITHA WORKER: These barrels are liquid radioactive waste, solidified. See? Inside that gate, there is radioactive sources, gamma sources, high energy sources. So it's better to keep away from this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the neutron source.
ROBERTSON: Getting closer, Dr. Shaker Al-Jibouri, a leading atomic physicist, shows where the looters got in.
SHAKER AL-JIBOURI, IRAQI SCIENTIST: See, they opened the door and they go inside to take the neutron sources there.
ROBERTSON: His colleague retrieves a discarded lead container used to store one of the highly radioactive sources.
AL-JIBOURI: No, it is not active now. This is the lid. You see, they took out the source.
ROBERTSON: More empty lead containers on the ground.
At the broken windows, the scientists see evidence of the scale of the looting. On the ground, freshly drying concrete, where the engineers have tried to contain new radioactive spills of uranium yellow cake.
AL-JIBOURI: These are small people. Small people. They haven't an idea about what they stole. They see it's yellow, yellow, shiny. They think about, this is very good material. Maybe they'll sell it.
ROBERTSON: At the IAEA, or International Atomic Energy Agency, headquarters in Vienna, concerns growing over looting at this site since Saddam Hussein was forced from power April 9.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're concerned about the possibility of nuclear terrorism. This is the material that can be used for dirty bombs. And, ultimately, we are responsible for preventing the proliferation of material that might be used in a nuclear weapons program.
ROBERTSON (on camera): By the 11th of April, the International Atomic Energy Agency say that they had requested the United States ensure that the material here was properly protected and that access to the site was restricted. They say that they received such assurances.
(voice-over): A handful of U.S. troops patrol the massive site, as they have for several weeks now. But some privately admit, keeping everyone out is tough. They say they suspect former employees are returning to burn sensitive documents. At the secure main gate, an argument develops as Engineer Mulik accuses a scientist of being a Saddam loyalist. MULIK: The officials every day come here. You know why? Just to get the documents. Some of them sent other people to burn the offices, because secret documents inside.
QUESTION: About what?
MULIK: They are talking about the previous regime and his intentions to produce a bomb.
ROBERTSON: In his house, scientist Faiz Al-Berkdar denies the accusation.
FAIZ AL-BERKDAR, IAEA: Anything which is out from my office, some of it is here.
ROBERTSON: The files, he says, are here for safekeeping. He shows us documents concerning reports scientists wanted to publish, but were refused by Iraqi politicians.
AL-BERKDAR: It is written here that Haman (ph), he want to publish it. But when they wrote to Tariq Aziz, he says here he wants to talk with the other people. So it seems to be, he didn't sign it, because he thought -- maybe to Tariq Aziz. And Tariq Aziz, they don't like to publish it.
ROBERTSON: At that time, 1993, Tariq Aziz headed Iraq's concealment committee. Already these documents are beyond control of the handful of troops guarding this nuclear site. Now the problem is even bigger: not only tracking down the scientists with the documents, but also the looted nuclear materials.
AL-JIBOURI: Maybe you see the new government have too many things to think about it. They think about the electricity, medicine and then (INAUDIBLE) Not too important now, the Iraqi (INAUDIBLE) but it will be for the future a bigger problem for us, if they doesn't solve it now.
ROBERTSON: And for these scientists, concern it may already be too late.
ROBERTSON: And the scientist who was showing us those documents in his house, he was actually going through them and telling us which documents he didn't think he needed to keep. And he was telling us that he was actually going to burn them, so some of these documents clearly beyond the reach of U.S. forces at this time, and with scientists who are prepared to burn them, whatever their value to U.S. intelligence officials may be -- Paula.
ZAHN: Nic Robertson, thanks for that report.
And while looking to Iraq's future, the White House is not forgetting who helped out in the war and who didn't.
State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel has more. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A big White House welcome for the emir of Qatar, whose country hosted the U.S. Central Command during the war and will soon replace Saudi Arabia as the new home for U.S. regional air operations.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Emir, you made some promises to America and you kept your promises. We're honored to call you friend.
KOPPEL: Another close friend, Prime Minister Howard of Australia, got a rare invitation to the Crawford ranch.
Washington has become a revolving door for dignitaries, leaders whose governments remained in lockstep with the United States on Iraq, singled out for special attention: seven European countries set to become NATO members.
ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And these East European nations were proud to stand up early and alongside the United States. And the president is unabashedly proud to say thank you to those countries.
KOPPEL: President Bush has also been quick to reward or punish countries based on the support or resistance they displayed. Just this week, Secretary of State Powell announced Poland will get a special deal on 48 F-16s and promises of future U.S. investment, while Bush froze the assets of a Basque separatist organization considered terrorists by Spain.
The president also signed off on a free trade agreement with Singapore, but not with Chile, whose deal was delayed after refusing to support a second U.N. resolution authorizing war with Iraq.
CLAUDE BARFIELD, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: And the administration, because of the lack of support, I think just wants to give them a tap on the wrist. I wouldn't call it a heavy blow.
KOPPEL: Other small symbols: a White House decision not to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday, unlike previous years; a last-minute cancellation of a presidential trip to Canada; and a snub by Attorney General Ashcroft of a press conference following a justice minister's meeting in Paris.
Still unclear: what the consequences will be for traditional U.S. allies France and Germany after refusing to support the war. Secretary Powell seemed to suggest the U.S. would not hold a grudge.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: That is all behind us now. Now we have to come together again.
KOPPEL: But Powell's spokesman later suggested that there could be consequences, hinting that the Bush administration might try to exclude France from future decisions at NATO, reading between the lines, Paula, a not-so-subtle warning from the Bush administration that all may not be forgotten -- Paula.
ZAHN: And, Andrea Koppel, thanks so much.
We take you back straight back to Oklahoma City now, where the information is becoming a little clearer. We reported to you at the top of the hour that a tornado took a direct hit on some suburban areas surrounding Oklahoma City. We now can tell you that Associated Press is reporting that nearly 100 people have been injured, some of them critically.
There is a report by Associated Press that there are some 96 injuries already reported at local hospitals. We know from our own conversation with the governor's spokesperson of the state that extensive damage has been caused by this tornado.
We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we're going to talk with a number of people who were on the ground when this tornado struck.
We'll be right back.
ZAHN: It was about an hour ago that we got our first reports that a tornado had touched down in the Oklahoma City area. Now we're getting reports of a confirmation of a tornado, too, touching down in Kansas.
Orelon Sidney is standing by in Atlanta to give us an idea of just how severe this storm system is tonight.
Orelon, a record was already set before tonight for the number of tornadoes spawned by this terrible storm system.
ORELON SIDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's right.
It's going to be -- and not to be facetious or light-hearted, we're going to bat this out of the park. It is unreal how many warnings I have. I can't even keep up with them. We do have tornado warnings right here across the northwestern portion of -- let's say the northwestern portion of Missouri on into northern Kansas. Severe thunderstorm warnings are in effect there.
But this is the storm cell we're most concerned with, one south of Beatrice, Nebraska, the other one right here, just out to the west of Kansas City. That one has a confirmed tornado. Storm spotters are following that one. It's moving northeast at 40 miles an hour. They report a large and destructive tornado on the ground. And they're advising everyone in Atchison County, Leavenworth County, and Linn County, Kansas, to take cover immediately, as that tornado continues to work towards them -- Paula.
ZAHN: Orelon, we are going to leave it there, because we have on the phone with us now -- thanks so much -- Steve Eddy, who is the city manager of Moore City, a place that we are told has suffered extensive damage as a result of that tornado that touched down in Oklahoma City over an hour ago.
Steve, what can you tell us about what you think your community is looking at here?
STEVE EDDY, CITY MANAGER, MOORE, OKLAHOMA: Well, Paula, unfortunately, we're looking at a tornado coming through that they tell us it's probably an F-2, F-3 that perhaps went through our city. And, incredibly, it's generally along the same path as the one in May of 1999.
ZAHN: And that one was a bad one, too, wasn't it?
EDDY: It was an extremely bad one. We don't have anything like that now, thank goodness. But we do have quite a bit of damage.
ZAHN: Steve, as you have driven around and tried to assess what kind of damage you might be faced with, what did you see? What concerned you the most?
EDDY: Obviously, well, Paula, the people first is our first responsibility, obviously. I haven't been out myself to see it personally. I'm in the EOC just overseeing the operations here. But we have a lot of help from many departments around. So I think we're doing relatively well. And, unfortunately, we have some experience with this kind of thing.
ZAHN: There are some reports from Associated Press that it is being reported that as many as 100 people might have been injured as a result of this tornado. Can you confirm that?
EDDY: I've heard those same numbers in terms of the local reporting here, Paula. We're part of this overall system. There was actually more extensive damage on north and east of us, but I don't have a report actually in our city limits.
ZAHN: And I understand there's also some concern. I was talking with the governor's spokesperson a little bit earlier on this evening about maybe some ruptured fuel lines. Is that still considered to be a problem?
EDDY: I think we've had some reports of gas lines sporadically, again, here in Moore, I don't think quite as much, perhaps. But there's certainly a concern about that, yes.
ZAHN: Steve Eddy, thanks so much. Best of luck to you as you try to help your community out during this very tough time.
Also joining on the phone is Paul O'Leary.
Paul, you represent whom?
PAUL O'LEARY, OKLAHOMA CITY EMERGENCY MGMT: The Emergency Medical Services Authority, or EMSA. We handle the paramedics for Oklahoma City. ZAHN: And, unfortunately, how busy are you tonight?
O'LEARY: Well, we're very busy, Paula. This is eerily similar to the disaster that struck here four years ago on May 3, 1999. Fortunately, for us, it looks like we're going to have far less in the number of injured and killed in this disaster.
ZAHN: But, nevertheless, early reports suggest as many as 100 people have been injured here.
O'LEARY: Yes. It is a devastating situation nonetheless. You've got to look and see how the track of this tornado almost mirrored the one that hit four years ago. We have at least 100 people injured, possibly as many as 125. So there are quite a few injuries.
One of those is a possible fatality. We've still investigating that. And we have perhaps as many as a dozen of the 120 to 130, perhaps a dozen critical injuries.
ZAHN: And how are the local hospitals able to put up with this crush of victims?
O'LEARY: They're doing pretty well right now. One of the lessons we learned in 1999 is to use your resources. There are several hospitals in the metro area.
And what we've found is that, if you're able to use all the resources, use all the hospitals to take your patients as they come in and as use your ambulance to take them to these hospitals scattered around the area, you can prevent overloading one area. And it's a valuable lesson. It was a painful lesson back four years ago. But it's one that we're able to utilize now and we're able to keep the hospitals from being swamped.
ZAHN: And I guess one of the powerful lessons your community learned from that other horrible tornado four years ago was the lesson of really listening to these early warnings.
As the evidence suggests -- and I know the governor's spokesperson was saying he thinks, he believes that saved a lot of lives here, that people really did pay attention to the warnings.
O'LEARY: I don't think there's any question, Paula, that when you have as terrible a disaster as May 3 was in 1999, you're going to have people really -- you're going to have believers.
When the weathermen get on the air and they say, take cover, or maybe even, a couple of years ago, build a shelter, and they have built those shelters, people listened and they stayed inside. And, in fact, what I can tell you is that the critical injuries we're looking at are from people who were on the road. People who were inside their houses were spared serious injuries. The people who were critically hurt were the ones who were trying to drive or who didn't get the message and were out on the roadways.
ZAHN: It's just heartbreaking to see all these pictures. It looks like dozens and dozens of homes with roofs ripped off. Have you been able to go outside and see any of the damage yourself?
O'LEARY: The thing was, I was driving down from a meeting to work. And I don't work very far from what you're looking at right there on the screen. And I had a feeling.
It was just that, there's the temperature, there's the sweltering, there's an effect that's hard to communicate. But you can feel it. And I've been in several tornadoes. And you just -- after awhile, you know something's going on. And so I went straight into dispatch and I put on the pencil and put on the hat and got ready, because you can just feel it getting bad. And the weatherman in fact said, there's a tornado forming.
And, sure enough, in a matter of minutes, we saw the tornado come down. And it started off just about where it started off before. And it went right through where it went before. And it was eerily similar to what we had four years ago.
ZAHN: I guess what is so astonishing to folks who might not have lived in the path of a tornado before is just how twisted these pieces of metal are, and some of them just being slammed into wooden structures.
O'LEARY: The speeds they reach are astonishing. I can tell you that you'll see straw go through telephone poles. You'll see people twisted beyond recognition. And the terrible force of Mother Nature is beyond words.
And then you have to go in and try to put these lives back together. And these people are absolutely at a loss. And they do not know what to do, because you walk up to what was your house and there is very little there. There will be just a few sticks of furniture and some papers from a notebook. And what was recognizable as a home a few minutes before now looks like rubble.
And this is in a path that goes for 30 miles. And that is the sort of situation we're dealing with right now. And, unfortunately, it's the same people who had this happen to them four years ago. And you think they might look up to the sky and shake their fists and say: What did we do here? We didn't deserve this again so soon.
And I think a lot of people are going to be asking questions. Why us again? Why here in Oklahoma, when we've had the Murrah Building. We had May 3, 1999. And now we have this.
ZAHN: This obviously is a very cruel thing that's happened to your community. Before we let you go, I know that early reports suggests this might be an F-3, might have been an F-3 tornado, which moves at speeds of 150 miles an hour-plus. Can you give us any sense of the geography, from Midwest City, we're told, a suburban area, to Moore City, what kind of swathe was cut by this tornado?
O'LEARY: It's my understanding about a 30-mile length, with about a 2-mile-across to 1-mile-across. The tornado at one point is reported to have reached an F-4, which is just one notch below the most powerful. In fact, an F-5 was reported May 3, 1999. If this is anywhere from an F-3 to an F-4, you're going to have major and substantial damage, which is what we see here.
It's a very flat area. Oklahoma is mostly a flat state, especially in the central areas. And so this tornado doesn't have anything to stop it at all, but some houses and not major, large businesses. We do think that one General Motors plant was hit very hard. Fortunately, because this was not an F-5 tornado, which has such high winds that nothing stands in its path, because it was an F- 4, it looks as if if you were inside a stable structure you survived.
ZAHN: Well, Paul O'Leary, we know you have a lot of work today and we know there will be tremendous demands on your EMT force. Good luck to you and good luck to this community that's been so badly hurt, two times now in four years. Thanks again for your time tonight. Our thoughts are with you.
We lost Paul O'Leary. He has a lot to do tonight, unfortunately. That wraps it up here for us on LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Thanks again for joining us tonight.
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