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CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN

Oklahoma City Devastated by Tornadoes; U.S. Wants Sanctions on Iraq Lifted; James Kopp Sentenced

Aired May 9, 2003 - 22:00   ET

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

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone. We marveled at a couple in Oklahoma we read about today. Jim and Frances Clark no longer had a roof on their house and their neighbor's washing machine had landed on their car. The Clarks put out a lawn chair in the front of their house to sit and wait for the insurance agent and then said this: "Homes can always be replaced."
They understand very well what can't be replaced, the dozens that were killed by tornadoes in Oklahoma City in 1999, and that it is no small miracle that no one was killed in Oklahoma City yesterday.

And Oklahoma City is where the whip begins tonight, Jason Bellini there for us so, Jason, a headline from you.

JASON BELLINI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Aaron, this is the second time in four years that Oklahoma City has been devastated by tornadoes and even just a superficial look around here you can't help but be amazed that no one died in yesterday's storm -- Aaron.

BROWN: Jason, thank you, back to you at the top tonight.

White House next, the president pushing for peace in the Middle East as his secretary of state heads to the region. White House Correspondent Dana Bash on that for us tonight, Dana a headline.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, the president said he's sending Secretary of State Colin Powell to the region in order to seize the moment on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, but he also said that security in the region will not flourish until Arab economies do and that free trade will help -- Aaron.

BROWN: Dana, thank you.

On to the U.N. and the United States effort to end the U.N. sanctions on Iraq, Michael Okwu is there for us, Michael a headline.

MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, the U.S. introduced a draft resolution today that would effectively lift sanctions on Iraq and give them control over Iraq's oil revenues, the result, a lot of questions but very little discord, at least for today -- Aaron.

BROWN: Michael, thank you.

And, sentencing day for the man convicted of killing a doctor who performed abortions, Jamie Colby in Buffalo, New York with that, Jamie a headline.

JAMIE COLBY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Aaron. In court today, James Kopp offered a history lesson comparing abortion providers to Nazis during the Holocaust, final grade 25 years to life -- Aaron.

BROWN: Jamie, thank you, back to you and the rest shortly.

Also coming up tonight on NEWSNIGHT, the rescue of Private Jessica Lynch as you have not heard it before, the story her doctors and nurses tell. We'll talk to a reporter who's done a terrific job of reporting for the "Toronto Star" on that.

We'll talk about taxes and the ongoing fight over how big the tax cut will be. Matt Cooper of "TIME" magazine joins us.

It's a brave soul who picks a fight with a fearsome force better known as Norman Mailer. We'll talk with comedian Dennis Miller, how he got into a sparring match with Mailer and Iraq and other matters. Mr. Miller has become somewhat of a darling of the conservative movement these days.

And, the truly brave souls in the program tonight, no sarcasm at all, are fighting the invisible enemy of SARS, a story about heroes in white in this hour as well.

So, we have lots to do, 90 minutes to take care of it. We begin once again in Tornado Alley where so many have gone through so much this week and where for now the fifth day in a row the weather warnings were up again.

Jason Bellini starts us off in Oklahoma City.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BELLINI (voice-over): House roofs ripped to shreds, furniture sucked up and spit out, cars dropped wherever the tornado was so inclined.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We got roof damage. Our shed's gone, siding and all.

BELLINI: Moore, Oklahoma yesterday became part of the mess in the Midwest caused by the attack of the killer tornadoes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I heard a sound that was just like metal being pushed and it was a horrible sound.

BELLINI: But the tornadoes hitting the Oklahoma City area killed no one, remarkable considering the extent of the damage, 300 homes destroyed, 1,200 damaged, part of a General Motors assembly plant disassembled. The list is long.

GOV. BRAD HENRY, OKLAHOMA: The overall damage is probably a minimum of $100 million and I suspect it may grow from there. BELLINI: Today, Oklahoma's governor, Brad Henry, asked for an expedited disaster declaration from the federal government while also praising Oklahomans for keeping the damage in perspective.

HENRY: The most amazing thing to me as we walk through the damaged areas here in Moore was the fact that the people are upbeat and almost to a person that we met they said, you know, it doesn't matter. It's just a home. It's just material goods, just personal things. We are just thankful that our family is safe, and that's the thing that we have to focus on.

BELLINI: Already some Oklahomans are concerned about what happens later after the insurance checks arrive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The big problem is getting these businesses back up and running. Each one of these owners will face the decision we can take our insurance, because they will have been insured (unintelligible) you know and then we lose the jobs and we lose the sales tax revenue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tornado on the ground. Tornado on the ground.

BELLINI: The tornado of 1999 killed 47 people and caused $750 million in damage in Oklahoma City. Much of that was in the Moore neighborhood as well. Even as they pick up the pieces here, tornado watches are still in the forecast.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BELLINI: Aaron, one of the things that's impressed us all week, and we've been traveling throughout the Midwest to various cities that have been devastated by tornadoes, it impresses us the concentrated strength of these tornadoes, how behind me you have cars that were thrown from one end of a parking lot to another, but then just across the street houses that have been untouched.

So, it rips through a city and in this city it happened to destroy 1,500 houses but the people around there are also affected as well because they saw, they heard the devastating force of this tornado and they too suffered the psychological damage of dealing with this destructive force -- Aaron.

BROWN: Jason, thank you, Jason Bellini in Oklahoma City tonight.

As we said at the top, weather bulletins remain in force across many of the hardest hit areas tonight. That means the cleanup goes on and so does the wind, the flooding, and the rain.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN (voice-over): We'll start in Tennessee where flooding continues to be the problem, the Chattahoochee River well over its banks.

RANDY BATTLES, TENNESSEE VALLEY AUTHORITY: A rough estimate is we'll discharge about 30 million gallons a day at this setting that we have here. On a normal day we'll put about three million gallons.

BROWN: Ten times what you usually do?

BATTLES: Approximately ten times.

BROWN: The rain has now stopped. The flooding is easing, one man now thought to be dead, a homeless man who drowned. Only minor injuries reported in Missouri, though the damage is anything but minor.

SEN. KIT BOND (R), MISSOURI: I have been visiting tornado sites and disaster sites in Missouri for over 30 years. I have never seen or heard of a tornado that had as much damage in as many different places as this one.

SEN. JAMES TALENT (R), MISSOURI: I'm surprised, of course, and pleased that more people weren't seriously injured because it really took out those neighborhoods.

BROWN: And in Kansas today was a day of survival stories and cleanup.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were all standing outside talking with other neighbors and next thing you know the funnel starts to come down and I saw the debris and I ran into my friend's basement and he chased through the house and went out the back side.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All we saw there was -- it was just stuff swirling everywhere. I was picking up roots. Everything was blowing everywhere. There's debris everywhere and I thought it was going to come to our house but it didn't.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: It's been a very tough week and a tough spring through lots of the country.

On to other matters now, the secretary of state, Secretary of State Powell is off to the Middle East for another shot of diplomacy. Many see it as the best shot in a long time, the window open the experts say, with the naming of a new Palestinian government and the toppling of Saddam Hussein.

Now, it appears up to Secretary Powell to find a way of holding that window open for a while, reporting for us tonight CNN's Andrea Koppel.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the most intense U.S. push for Arab-Israeli peace in a year, President Bush says he is sending Secretary of State Powell to the region with a personal presidential commitment.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: America will work without tiring to achieve two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in security and prosperity and in peace.

KOPPEL: It's a goal spelled out in the U.S. backed road map for peace presented to Israel and the Palestinians late last month after the appointment of a new Palestinian prime minister fulfilling a key U.S. demand.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: So, I'm encouraged that we may have a fresh start. It's not going to be easy.

KOPPEL: Among the most difficult hurdles ending two and a half years of Palestinian violence directed against Israelis. Another hurdle, Prime Minister Sharon has already made clear Israel wants at least a dozen changes to the road map. Powell says he is ready to listen but expects to move beyond the current stalemate.

POWELL: We realize that both sides will have comments on it and we're prepared to look at the comments and, really, it's important for both sides to talk to each other and let us not go into another endless loop of discussions and negotiations.

KOPPEL: The biggest impetus for change, U.S. officials hope will be the new Palestinian leadership, Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and his cabinet although it remains unclear just how much control Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat will still exert behind the scenes. Experts say the key to the road map's future success to use it to jump-start negotiations.

ROB MALLEY, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP: Because nobody thinks, not the advocates or the opponents of the road map think that if you had to implement everything that's in there to the letter you're going to be anywhere near where they want us to be by 2005.

POWELL: I really do have to go.

KOPPEL (on camera): Powell plans a quick swing through Europe, including stops in Russia and Germany, the focus there fence mending and securing support for lifting U.N. sanctions on Iraq.

Andrea Koppel, CNN at the State Department.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: And when the secretary of state comes a calling he'll have more in his briefcase than just a road map and the influence that comes from just winning a war in the region. Today, President Bush gave his secretary of state a carrot to dangle.

Here's CNN's Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BASH (voice-over): With the war in Iraq over and Israelis and Palestinians poised to start peace talks, the president used a commencement address to introduce a new element in his efforts to revamp the Middle East. BUSH: I propose the establishment of a U.S. Middle East free trade area within a decade to bring the Middle East into an expanding circle of opportunity, to provide hope for the people who live in that region.

BASH: World trade in the Muslim Middle East has dropped 75 percent since 1980 while the population has exploded growing 70 percent. The road to a liberated secure region, said Mr. Bush, is economic progress that has so far eluded most of the Arab world.

BUSH: Across the globe free markets and trade have helped defeat poverty and taught men and women the habits of liberty.

BASH: A senior administration official says the plan is to negotiate a series of bilateral agreements in the hopes that a broad regional initiative could take hold by 2013. Negotiations are already underway with Morocco and administration officials point to the U.S.- Jordan Free Trade Agreement signed nearly three years ago as a model of success.

U.S. and Jordanian officials say the accord is already helping the country's economy. In 2002, exports to the U.S. totaled $412 million, up from $183 million in 2001 an 80 percent increase.

But some experts say Jordan is not typical. Other countries may be less willing to welcome governmental reform and fight terrorism in order to win economic investments, U.S. requirements for the initiative.

And while the administration hopes the proposal will be seen as a sign of good will to a skeptical Arab world...

MARTIN INDYK, SABAN CENTER AT BROOKINGS: From their perspective at the moment it could well look like another example of the United States trying to establish a (unintelligible), try and establish its hegemonic influence over the whole region, this time using economic power.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: And there's also an olive branch in this for Israel. Senior administration officials admit that implicit in this initiative is a requirement that Arab nations drop their boycotts of that country -- Aaron.

BROWN: All right, as simply as we can frame this, what's the best the White House hopes for out of the Powell trip? What's the best they can get?

BASH: The best that they hope for is just sort of an initial conversation with both sides to sort of lay down the groundwork, have the face-to-face, where are you, what really are your requirements for the Israelis? What really do you need to change there? And, for the Palestinians it's, you know, what are you really willing to give here in terms security and in cracking down on terrorists? That is probably what the best hope at these talks are is really sort of laying down the marker and letting -- before these peace talks go forward because they do admit here, Aaron, it's certainly going to take a while. There is no hope for a quick fix here.

BROWN: Well, no, it's gone on for a long time. Quick fixes would seem out of the question. Dana, thank you very much, Dana Bash at the White House.

On now to another knotty diplomatic problem, lifting economic sanctions on Iraq, with Saddam Hussein and the threat of weapons of mass destruction gone, you might ask what's the problem? Iraq has oil to sell and needs money to rebuild. American and British forces now control that oil but for now, getting it to market means going through the U.N. Security Council.

So today, the United States made an offer, reporting for us CNN's Michael Okwu.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

OKWU (voice-over): Today there were few signs of the division that buried diplomatic efforts before the war started as the U.S. and its allies asked the Security Council to approve their occupation of Iraq for a year and for permission to use Iraqi oil to pay for reconstruction.

JEREMY GREENSTOCK, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: It was a very constructive meeting.

JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIERE, FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: I think that's a good start.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are in a new situation now.

OKWU: What a difference a war makes.

JOHN NEGROPONTE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Well, I would say that I feel that most delegations saw this as charting a way forward.

OKWU: The eight-page draft resolution, co-sponsored by the U.S., Great Britain, and Spain, would life 13-year-old sanctions on Iraq and phase out the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program.

Iraq's oil revenues would go into an Iraqi assistance fund subject to international oversight but the U.S. and Great Britain would have authority to use the money to pay for reconstruction, Iraq's civil administration and to meet humanitarian needs.

GREENSTOCK: I think the council are pleased to see that we, the powers on the ground in the coalition accept that we are occupying powers and that establishes a basis for a clear political discussion as to what happens next.

OKWU: What happens next for U.N. weapons inspectors is unclear. Though it's been a clear demand of France, Russia, and China, the draft resolution makes no mention of them.

The resolution does call for the appointment of a U.N. special coordinator to work with the Americans and the British in restoring security, coordinating humanitarian aid, and establishing a permanent Iraqi government, but diplomats question how much authority the coordinator would really have.

DE AL SABLIERE: The role of the U.N. coordinator or special representative, whatever you call it, should be enhanced and, in particular, in the political field.

OKWU: One non-western diplomat said regardless, countries like Chile and Mexico are focused on mending fences with the U.S. and that the African nations will not oppose this. With a little fine tuning, the diplomat said, the resolution should pass 50-0.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OKWU: But perhaps we're getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. Certainly what we saw today is simply just the pre-game show. The United States would like to see this wrapped up within the next two weeks and certainly during the course of that time many issues will come up. In fact, Sergey Lavrov the Russian Ambassador was asked whether he had any questions about this resolution. He said ominously we have a long list -- Aaron.

BROWN: Michael, is there any indication in this that the Americans are at all willing to give up their primacy in controlling Iraq in the post war?

OKWU: There's absolutely no indication that they're willing to give that up, Aaron, although U.S. officials have been saying for close to about a week now that this is not a take it or leave it resolution. Clearly, they're asking a little bit of the moon here with some small concessions hoping that there is some room for movement but there are some things about which they will not negotiate -- Aaron.

BROWN: Michael, thank you very much, Michael Okwu at the U.N. today and tonight.

And, ahead on NEWSNIGHT on a Friday, political maneuvering of all sorts, including a vote on the tax cut plan, though it is still a long way from becoming law. We'll tell you why coming up.

And later, the man convicted of murdering a doctor who performed abortions in Buffalo, New York, meets the judge.

This is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: For all the talk of a Republican congressional rebellion over tax cuts, we ought to point out the question isn't will there be a tax cut. The question is how big will it be and who will benefit? Today the House of Representatives voted to pass a ten-year $550 billion package, the Senate now hard at work on a tax cut of its own; CNN's Kate Snow tonight on the politics and the state of play.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: It's time to change the focus. It's time to get this economy going again.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the Republican-led House it's not too hard to sell a tax cut. Sure, the Democrats fought it, said it would put the government too far in the hole, only to help wealthy taxpayers.

REP. GENE TAYLOR (D), MISSISSIPPI: When I go home and see my son tonight I got to look him in the eye and say I failed you.

SNOW: Democrats don't have the power in this chamber.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this vote, the ayes are 222, the nays are 203.

SNOW: The House vote is the opening shot in a tax battle that could get very messy.

SEN JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: What we're witnessing is a war, a political war, but the combatants are Republicans battling Republicans.

SNOW: The problem House and Senate Republicans are operating on totally different game plans. For Americans to get a tax cut they have to agree. No one in Congress is giving the president exactly what he wants. He'd been stumping for $726 billion in tax relief, a full repeal of the tax on dividends corporations pay to their shareholders. From the House he got $550 billion and a reduction, not a repeal.

In the closely divided Senate, Republican leaders cut a deal with their more moderate members, $350 billion, no more. The dividend tax reduction has to be paid for. The result the Senate bill lowers taxes for most Americans but raises taxes on others, including Americans living overseas. House conservatives say there's no way they can go for that.

REP. RON LEWIS (R), KENTUCKY: This is outrageous and I didn't come here to Washington to increase taxes. I came here to cut taxes.

SNOW (on camera): But Republican leaders aren't losing hope. While it may be tricky to work out the details, this president is still hugely popular and new polls show most Americans now want a tax cut. With the economy still sour, Republican lawmakers say they have to do something.

Kate Snow, CNN, Capitol Hill.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BROWN: For more on the political dance, how it's playing out, we're joined in Washington tonight by "TIME" magazine's deputy bureau chief there, Matthew Cooper, good to have you with us. Is it possible to say tonight what the likely package coming out of the Congress will look like?

MATTHEW COOPER, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, you can hazard a guess, sure. I mean if it's about $350 billion in tax cuts coming out of the Senate and $550 coming out of the House, it's a safe bet the final number is going to be somewhere in between.

Is it going to be exactly at the mid point? I can't do the math fast enough to figure out what that is but, you know, it's going to be somewhere in that middle range and that's where we're going to be at the end of the day, and I can guarantee you the president will call it a victory even if it's way short of what he wanted.

BROWN: They always do. Can we in looking at where the two houses are, can we make an educated guess about what taxes will be cut? Will the president get much, some, none of his dividend cut, for example?

COOPER: Oh, sure. He'll get some of it. I mean this has become kind of his obsession. It's become a big quest for the Republican Party. You know it used to be the Republican Party was very hot to cut capital gains taxes. It was a mantra all through the '80s and the '90s. Now it's become the double taxation of dividends and sure there will be some reduction but not the complete reduction that the president sought.

BROWN: Help me on this then, Matthew. I thought the House -- what the House passed today reduces the tax on capital gains when you sell a stock as well as reducing the tax on dividends, a little bit of both of those cuts.

COOPER: Yes. They did both but it's the dividend tax which has really been driving the president. I mean the sort of tacit assumption here of the White House and their gamble is that, you know, cutting this dividend tax is really going to kind of jazz the stock market, get the Dow up, get everybody feeling better about their retirement money and kind of get the whole economy goosed. So, it's true, they took a little whack at capital gains but the big Kahuna for the White House is this dividend thing.

BROWN: One other thing out of the Senate, the majority leader was talking today about trying to change the filibuster rule, at least as it applies to appointments, a kind of...

COOPER: Right.

BROWN: It takes 60 now to end a filibuster and a kind of sliding scale, right?

COOPER: Right. It's, you know, you learn in school and you learn in, you know, schoolhouse rocks or wherever that, you know, the way you pass a bill through Congress is the majority of each house passes it and the president signs it and it becomes a law.

In fact, in the Senate it's really topsy-turvy but there's always been this filibuster rule where basically one person, one Senator can stand there and kind of keep the thing from being voted on until 60 or so of his fellow Senators shut him down.

So, effectively you need 60 votes to pass things in the Senate and that's what's got the Republicans frustrated because the Democrats are throwing up roadblocks to a number of the president's judicial appointments, just as many of the Republicans had done to Bill Clinton. So now, they want to re-jigger the rules and kind of basically neuter this whole filibuster thing.

BROWN: Now, presumably if you just do this in a sort of normal fashion, it would take 60 votes to do that too and they're not likely to get that. Is there any way that Republicans, Republican leadership can manipulate the rules so all it takes is a simple majority to end the filibuster over appointments?

COOPER: Well, you get into real (unintelligible) here. I think the short answer is probably not.

BROWN: OK.

COOPER: I mean, you know, the Senator -- I mean Senators, you know, every one of them sees themselves as a king, especially in the Senate and part of the way they see themselves that way is because of the filibuster because they know each of them has the power to really kind of shut down the government.

BROWN: Matthew, good to have you with us on a Friday. We know these weekends are busy for the magazine. We appreciate your time. Thank you.

COOPER: Thanks, Aaron.

BROWN: Coming up on NEWSNIGHT on a Friday, a man convicted of killing a doctor who performed abortions in upstate New York faces the judge, long jail term, the details coming up in just a moment.

Around the world, this is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: James Kopp believed he was doing the world a great service when he shot down a doctor in cold blood at the doctor's home in front of the doctor's children in 1998. Kopp, as it says on JamesKopp.com, ended -- quote -- "the life and career of one very prolific serial killer."

The person he describes to the serial killer was a well-respected doctor in Upstate New York who also performed abortions. Now James Kopp will have a lot of time to reflect on the brutality of his righteousness.

Reporting from Buffalo tonight, here's CNN's Jamie Colby. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE COLBY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): James Kopp has been given the maximum sentence allowed, 25 years to life in prison. The 48-year-old anti-abortion activist who still has supporters. . .

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He stopped him from killing babies.

COLBY: ... had admitted he pulled the trigger in the 1998 sniper-style shooting of Dr. Barnett Slepian, an upstate New York obstetrician who also performed abortions.

Prosecutor Joseph Marusak claimed the ruling by Erie County Judge Michael D'Amico a victory for Slepian's wife Lynn, a nurse, and their four children, two of whom witnessed the murder.

JOSEPH MARUSAK, ERIE COUNTY PROSECUTOR: From day one, this was not about abortion, this was about murder.

COLBY: Kopp had elected a non-jury trial, instead, stipulating to 35 pages of facts and giving the judge the authority after a one- day trial in March to convict him of murder.

Abortion rights advocate Vicki Suporta says Kopp's stiff sentence sends a message to anyone considering interfering with a woman's right to choose.

VICKI SUPORTA, ABORTION RIGHTS ADVOCATE: And it's important that that serve as a deterrent for others who would want to commit a copycat crime.

COLBY: Marilyn Buckham, a co-worker of Dr. Slepian, says justice even after a four and a half year wait is worth it.

MARILYN BUCKHAM, SLEPIAN FRIEND: The best thing is that this is over and he's going to prison forever.

COLBY: A rifle and cap left in the woods behind the Slepian home tied Kopp to the fatal shooting. Slepian was in his kitchen making soup with his wife and two of his sons at his side when he was shot in the back.

Judge D'Amico refused to accept Kopp's explanation given in a jailhouse confession to a Buffalo newspaper he only intended to injure the doctor, not kill him.

BRUCE BARKETT, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's certainly true he did not intend to kill him. I think that the judge said are the feelings of a lot of people, how could you not have expected him to have died?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLBY: Kopp evaded the authorities for two years, landing on the FBI's most wanted list. He was eventually captured in France and extradited on the condition he wouldn't face the death penalty. He still faces federal charges and remains a suspect in three nonfatal shootings of abortion providers.

He's got 30 days, Aaron, to appeal today's sentence of 25 years to life -- Aaron.

BROWN: Did they talk at all about where, what kind of prison he will be sent to, under what circumstances and conditions he'll be held?

COLBY: They've been very hush-hush about actually where he'll be held, I think for security reasons. That seems clear.

But they are also waiting to decide depending upon whether or not the government will go forward with its federal case. That could definitely determine where he'll be kept.

BROWN: And...

COLBY: Aaron.

BROWN: I'm sorry.

And the federal charge is what?

COLBY: For blocking the entrance of an abortion clinic. The federal statue requires that you cannot block access. And he was notorious, known as Atomic Dog. That was his nickname, Aaron, for going outside these women's clinics and actually blocking access and talking to women about not going inside.

BROWN: Yes, unrelated to the Slepian case.

Jamie, thank you very much. Jamie Colby is up in Buffalo, New York, tonight.

Still to come on the program: the standoff at a Cleveland college, as a gunman shoots his way into a school building. We'll tell you about that -- Dennis Miller coming up, much more as well, as NEWSNIGHT continues on a Friday from New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: And still to come on NEWSNIGHT: the latest on the standoff at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

We'll take a quick break first.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Not sure about some of those.

A strange and deadly incident begins our look at some of the other stories making news around the world tonight. This one happened 30,000 feet above the African country of Congo aboard a converted Russian-made cargo plane. Somehow, the rear loading door came open. Air rushed out. And it is feared as many as 129 people were sucked from the plane. According to the officials at the airport in Kinshasa, just nine people survived. They're being treated for minor injuries and major psychological trauma.

Three American soldiers were killed today when their Black Hawk helicopter crashed in central Iraq. It was one of two choppers that had been sent to pick up a badly wounded child in Samarra. The first Black Hawk took off safely with the child. The second snagged a power line and flipped into the Tigris River.

The accident followed a car crash yesterday in the same city that took the life of Elizabeth Neuffer. Ms. Neuffer was a roving foreign correspondent for "The Boston Globe." She and her translator died yesterday when the car they were driving in hit a guardrail. She was 46.

A few stories now from around the country. One of them continues to be troubling: a shooting at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio. A gunman in camouflage opened fire inside the business school, at least two people wounded, a number of people -- it's not known exactly how many -- trapped inside, afraid to move, as police sealed off the building and searched for the gunman.

A replacement has been named at NASA for Ron Dittemore as manager of the space shuttle program. William Parsons gets the job, Mr. Parsons a former Marine officer who has held engineering and management jobs in three different NASA centers. His first goal will be to put in place the advice of the Columbia Accident Board and to get the shuttles flying again.

And the governor of North Carolina is one lucky man tonight. Governor Mike Easley walked away unhurt after driving a race car into a padded wall at 165 miles an hour. Governor Easley was driving as part of a charity event, but is admittedly is a huge NASCAR fan. One suspects he has greater appreciation for it all now.

Ahead on NEWSNIGHT: a war of words over Iraq -- that and other things when Dennis Miller joins us to talk about his spat with Norman Mailer. We'll talk about more than that after the break.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: You might think, with the war in Iraq essentially over, the arguing about it would be over, too. No, not in this country. Witness the back-and-forth over the last week between the writer Norman Mailer, who wrote in "The Times of London" that: "With their dominance in sport, at work and at home eroded, Bush" -- that would be the president -- "thought white American men needed to know they were still good at something. That's where Iraq came in" -- Mr. Mailer's take on the war.

Comedian Dennis Miller responded in a "Wall Street Journal" op-ed piece, called Mailer a victim of dementia, among some other things. It has not gotten a whole lot nicer since. Since, in an effort to play peacemaker, our natural role, or perhaps provoke actual fisticuffs, we invited Dennis Miller to join us from California tonight. It's nice to have you on the program.

DENNIS MILLER, COMEDIAN: Hey, Aaron, how you doing?

BROWN: I'm fine.

MILLER: I think I will bring Gore Vidal in as my cut man.

BROWN: There you go. And, if you like, we can do history and contemporary battles at the same time.

How did the thing with Mailer happen? Did "The Journal" call you up and say, you want to write a op-ed piece?

MILLER: Yes. And I had heard about what he said, but then I read it in total. And it's not as rancorous as one would think. He sent me a pretty funny e-mail where he smacked me around a little. It's like the first time I met Rickles. You run into Mailer and you go against him, you know you are going to get whipped around. Well, he sent me a funny e-mail. I sent him a funny e-mail back. I don't know

Listen, I think that what he said -- "Naked and the Dead" is a great novel. I have read some of Mailer's stuff and I enjoy it. But that was a crazy thing to say. And I think the left sometimes misses the point when they say stuff like that, that they expect nobody to come back at them. And I just thought it was my turn to come back at them.

It's the same way when I hear that people on that side of thing say that -- when they mislabel Hitlers, like I hear that Ashcroft's a Hitler, Giuliani is a Hitler. No, there's only one Hitler. There's only one systematic elimination of six million people. And to compare anything to that is just crap. So I thought, well, yes, I will call him on this. It's not bad.

BROWN: You called him pretty good.

Has this been -- I was thinking about this stuff coming up tonight. I remembered an HBO show where you did a long rant. And I think you were in your Perot period, OK?

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: OK. Are you sort of going through a series of political incarnations?

MILLER: I don't know.

As you get older -- listen, I wanted Perot in there just because I wanted to see how crazy that would be. I just loved him at a state dinner misidentifying the queen of the Netherlands as Ruth Buzzi from "Laugh-In" or something.

(LAUGHTER) MILLER: I really wanted to see that sort of chaos, because I have a theory. I think the president, in some ways -- except in times of war, where this man has stepped up, has shown us we do need a leader -- I think the president in some ways is like a place where you are almost negated by so many checks and balances.

I have a theory that you could have thrown Perot in there and nothing much would have changed, as crazy as he was. So I wanted to see that chaos. But, as I get older, yes, I do find that I've become a bit more conservative, because, quite frankly, I'm not certain enough of my guesswork to be liberal anymore.

And you know something? I remember the last election we had. I remember thinking, well, what are the liberals offering me? And it seemed like they were saying, well, we want a little more of your money. And we don't want to protect you from nuts. And I thought, sorry, check, please. I'm out of here.

You know something? I want to tell the liberal American that we don't really care that much about a comprehensive health care program that will take care of us from the injuries we suffer in the next terrorist attack. We care about taking out the terrorists. Let's think of it as preemptive health care.

BROWN: So 9/11 was the catalyst to...

MILLER: Hello? Yes. I mean, geez, that's the biggest catalyst in the history of this country, yes. I think a lot of things changed the next day.

And I remember thinking -- people always say, well, the secular state of Iraq has nothing to do with the radical fundamentals. I think, hey, come on, they both think we're Satan. Isn't that enough of a reason for them to have each other on lunatic speed dial? What, am I supposed to believe that they never talked to each other, ever? Why, the wives don't get along, so they can't carpool?

I just assume that what we did here will set off a ripple effect, where we will remind the world that we are a great country and we have a long fuse, but, at end of the day, it's connected to a big bomb. It was time to do something.

BROWN: Are you sure we haven't just stuck our hands in a hornet's nest that's going to be very difficult to...

MILLER: Oh, come on, Aaron, you think they didn't hate before this war? For God's sakes, let's face facts. It was a hornet's nest before this all went down. It wasn't like we were going to talk our way out this. You have to show some force once a while. Occasionally, good has got to kick evil's butt.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: I'm sorry. That sounds pretty certain.

MILLER: Well, I don't know. What? I don't want to be nebulous about my survival. I hope I never get so figured out about the opposition that I somehow turn off my survival instinct.

BROWN: Let's go back to -- seriously, go back a second to this notion of certainty. You found the left or you found liberals too certain. You don't find that also true on the right?

MILLER: In certain more radical parts of it.

But I'm telling you, I was hearing it almost across the board on the left. And when I see some of these people come out and say, there will be 500,000 innocents killed in Iraq, listen, where is that person today saying: "Sorry, I missed it. I missed the point"?

And that sort of certainty was just starting to be repellent to me. Yes, I'm not firmly in the conservative camp. There are a lot of areas I'm still liberal about. But I do know, over here, at least I can take a pause and I don't have to have a knee-jerk reaction and I can think about things for a second.

BROWN: Has this been good or bad or neither -- or you don't care -- for your career?

MILLER: Neither. And I, quite frankly, don't care.

When I used to be more of a liberal, I said that. And now that I am -- well, I don't even feel like I have floated to the right. I feel like they got whacked and I'm exactly where I used to be, which is just kind of a pragmatist, quite frankly, Aaron. And as far as career goes, it hasn't affected me in any way. I don't think I will be in Rob Reiner's next film, but he's not exactly riding the career thunderbolt himself.

BROWN: Is there backlash in Hollywood?

MILLER: No, I don't sense that. People -- I think people bad- rap Hollywood. Listen, you get whacked in Hollywood because you don't sell tickets, at the end of the day.

BROWN: Yes.

MILLER: And that's the simple fact. It's not McCarthyism. It's Andrew McCarthyism.

BROWN: So as long as the movies's a hit or your TV shows are a hit, that's all Hollywood...

MILLER: Are the jokes funny?

BROWN: Right.

MILLER: Yes, there's a certain point you can go by where you become an idiot and too radical, and that's going to hurt you. But, by and large, I find it to be very open-minded town. I think there's a lot more liberals out in Hollywood than you would think.

I just think most people realize that they have a public persona; 50 percent of the country is liberal or 50 percent is conservative. And they're not willing to eat into their ticket sales by coming out with an opinion, because, really, most -- I'll be honest with you. A lot of opinions out here are unformed, probably including mine on certain subjects.

But I just saw so many people coming out against this president that I remember thinking: I should say something. He seems like a good guy to me.

BROWN: Well, you have said it pretty loud and pretty well. It's good to have you on the program. We enjoy you.

MILLER: Thank you, Aaron.

Norman, e-mail me.

(LAUGHTER)

BROWN: Well, we will bring him next and we will have the two of you and we'll see what happens. I will just go home early.

Thank you, Dennis.

MILLER: All right, Aaron. Thanks.

BROWN: Appreciate it, Dennis Miller from L.A. tonight.

Ahead on NEWSNIGHT: a tribute to the brave people on the front lines, a terrific tale coming up, the battle against SARS -- segment seven.

A short break first. This is NEWSNIGHT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: They put themselves in harm's way for the sake of perfect strangers, fighting a dangerous enemy, leaving their families behind to worry whether they'll come back home alive.

The battle we speak of here is not the one being fought at checkpoints of Baghdad, but in hospital rooms of Beijing and across Asia. And the heroes are not armed with guns and tanks, but stethoscopes.

Profiles in courage tonight from the war against SARS, reported by CNN's Michael Schulder.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MICHAEL SCHULDER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It has all the trappings of a war: children seeing their parents off to the front. In this case, the parents are medical workers with China's People's Liberation Army. And the front is a Beijing hospital, where they've been enlisted in the battle against SARS.

Some of the bravest front-line troops we saw this week were not wearing green uniforms. They were wearing white. In Hong Kong this week, we met Dr. Tom Buckley (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nicholas (ph), my 10-year-old boy, said, after about three or four days, that: If daddy gets this disease, will he come home or will he die?

SCHULDER: Dr. Buckley agreed to take over an intensive care unit at Hong Kong's Princess Margaret Hospital after 16 medical workers at the ICU came down with SARS. And so careful not to touch any surface where the virus might live or expose any possession that he might bring home, Dr. Buckley leaves his family behind and enters the war on SARS.

Some never return from that war; 38-year-old Lao Wing Kai (ph), a nurse in Hong Kong, contracted SARS at the hospital where he worked. He was buried this week in a cemetery called Gallant Garden, which honors those who die while performing their duties with exceptional courage.

For medical professionals, working around SARS patients poses a real risk, not only to themselves, but to their families as well, which is why this brother and sister on a tricycle in Taiwan are taken to a street outside the hospital, where their father works, so they can see him through a window at a safe distance, which brings us back to Dr. Buckley and his children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am proud of dad because he's big and he's brave.

SCHULDER: At hospital, Dr. Buckley instituted stricter precautions at ICU, including more thorough checks to make sure every medical worker's protective clothing was put on correctly. Dr. Buckley has not caught SARS and neither has any other worker in this hospital since he arrived.

Given their accomplishments helping to contain the spread of SARS, those of us who are not walking around with masks on our faces have the heroes in white to thank.

Michael Schulder, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: That's the first hour, 30 minutes to go.

We'll take a break first. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Well, we may do this half hour a bit on the fly. We may get a -- the mayor of Cleveland in a news conference in this half hour to talk about the events at the university, this shooting incident that's been going on for seven hours now.

If that happens, we'll take that. In the meantime, we'll just forge ahead the way we planned it for now. It was quite a memorable headline from late last month, American forces and a terror group reach a cease-fire agreement. As President Bush himself once said, terror is terror, we must fight it wherever it exists. So what made these terrorists worthy of a truce?

The difference here, it seems, is that the group's terror is aimed at Iran. To a lot of people, it seemed like the United States might be rewarding the bad guys, because the bad guys, at least for now, were on our side. Now the United States has tried to dispel that impression.

Here's CNN's David Ensor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Iranian People's Mujahadeen has an army made up of more women than men, tank drivers in (UNINTELLIGIBLE) based for years now in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, well equipped, die-hard opponents of the mullahs in Iran. And, says the U.S. government, terrorists.

Now U.S. officials say they are demanding the group surrender its heavy weapons, keeping only sidearms.

RICHARD BOUCHER, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN: The goal that we have had is to get the -- is to end the terrorists, the military activities of this group, and to keep them from continuing that, talk about surrender of these people.

ENSOR: The change in tactics follows several weeks when the U.S. Army and the Mujahadeen actually had a truce arranged at the local level.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were not fighting us, so it would have been inhumane to continue fighting them. So we (UNINTELLIGIBLE) brokered a local cease-fire agreement, put them in safe areas. And we let them have their equipment for self-protection. They had concerns with Iranians trying to come across the border to attack them.

ENSOR: With offices in Paris and Washington, the People's Mujahadeen was the first to expose Iran's then-secret nuclear facilities under construction near Natanz and Iraq. They argued that they should be considered American allies, since both oppose the clerical regime in Iran.

But U.S. officials say the group was involved in the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, back before it broke with the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini, and has since committed terrorism against Iranians.

The temporary cease-fire prompted some difficult questions at the State Department.

GARY SICK, IRAN EXPERT: Here's the State Department, just, you know, a few days ago coming out with its new terrorism report, and at the same time, you've got the forces in the field cutting a deal with this group that is formally identified as a terrorist group. It's -- I was astonished. I really was.

ENSOR (on camera): Now officials say that cease-fire will be replaced by a complete surrender of the Mujahadeen. Officials are not saying whether those thousands of troops will be allowed to stay inside Iraq. If they were forced to go back to Iran, some analysts predict, they would all be killed.

David Ensor, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: We said the other night that we thought there was more mystery than fact where Private Jessica Lynch was concerned. Reports of her rescue, how she sustained her injuries, the treatment she received by Iraqi doctors, all of these things muddied somewhat by both the Army and the media's desire for a perfect story, not just a very good one, which the Lynch story is no matter the specifics.

There's still -- there is somewhat less mystery these days because of the reporting work of Mitch Potter of "The Toronto Star." Mr. Potter joins us from Baghdad.

Good to have you with us.

Let's break this into a couple of pieces, if we can. First, now, you went to the hos -- you went back to the hospital in Nasiriya to try and figure out what happened. Let's talk first about the rescue itself, the degree to which there was resistance, if any.

MITCH POTTER, MIDDLE EAST BUREAU CHIEF, "THE TORONTO STAR": Good morning, Aaron.

Yes, there were so many stories swirling around the media tent here that I just felt like I needed to try and drill down a little deeper and go to the hospital and find out what people there had to say.

So last week, I did drive down to Nasiriya, and I spoke to as many of the doctors, the medical staff, the locals who knew anything about the story. And I thought it was important to interview them separately to see if there was consistency in their stories.

So in terms of the rescue itself, there was consistency. Everybody said the Iraqis had long since left the hospital, anywhere from 30 to 36 hours before the rescue itself happened. There were commanders, there were Iraqi military in the basement and the ground floor of the hospital, but they left. They gave up.

BROWN: And so when the Americans arrived, and they arrived in force, there was no resistance, is that correct?

POTTER: Yes. All the medical staff at the hospital huddled inside the X-ray department, which has no external windows. They had expected that there would be some kind of American arrival. In fact, they told me that they told Jessica Lynch, You'll be going home soon, because this territory now belongs to the Americans. So they were expecting them any minute. So they had worked out a plan that when the Americans come, let's all go into the X-ray department and just wait, and try and be safe there.

BROWN: There were a lot of questions about how she was treated by the Iraqi doctors and the rest. You talked to the doctors, talked to the nurses. Again, you talked to them separately, so you could, I guess, verify their stories as best you were able.

In a general sense, was she at any point badly treated?

POTTER: Not that I can determine. And let's face it, neither of us were there. I'm going after (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to go back, and I'm certainly not a judge and jury. I can only report what I'm told.

But I have to say that I got a sense there aren't really any bad guys in this story. For the first day or two when she was in the hospital, there seemed to be a possibility that she could be in some kind of trouble from the security people in the region. But all the doctors told me that after two days, the road to Nasiriya, to Baghdad, was cut, and it was at that point they realized she was in no danger.

And they really went out of their way to give her the best possible care, even though there were hundreds of Iraqi civilians and soldiers in the hospital they were trying to look after at the same time.

BROWN: And they gave you a couple specific examples of that, one having to do with a plate that was put in her leg, a leg that was broken.

POTTER: Yes. The initial reports did say that she'd been shot a couple of times and also stabbed at close range. And that doesn't appear to be the case. The -- she had a bad compound fracture on her left femur, her left upper leg, and also in her right shoulder.

They did do orthopedic surgery on her when she'd stabilized enough that they could do this, this procedure. And so they're -- according to the doctors is a rare platinum plate. They only had three at the hospital. They had dozens of Iraqis in need of it. But they gave the best they had to Jessica.

And I have attempted to try and confirm that with the Walter Reed Memorial Hospital, where she's being looked after now. It seems like that part of the fog of war can't be mistaken. She either has a metal plate in her leg, or she doesn't.

But at this point, the U.S. spokesperson at Walter Reed won't confirm it.

BROWN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) why, according to the doctors in Nasiriya, did they treat her, if, in fact, they're telling the truth here, did they treat her better or certainly no worse and arguably better than the other Iraqi patients? Why?

POTTER: It's a good question. I think it speaks to something I've known for a long time. I'm based in the Middle East, and there is an extraordinary hospitality in the Arab world. It's almost involuntary. They go way out of their way for guests. The word is madhaba (ph). They welcome you.

And in the case of Jessica Lynch, everybody seemed to establish an instant empathy with her. She was not only badly injured, but she was very, very scared, which is understandable. She's in a strange country, she wakes up in what she thinks is a hostile bed.

So everybody, all the doctors, most of whom speak a little bit of English, seemed to take her under their wing and really try to look out for her.

BROWN: They were eager to tell the story?

POTTER: They were eager to tell the story. And as you can understand, there's still almost zero communication. They're only beginning to realize, from reporters like me, how this story has played out in the States. And they're very disappointed about it. As I say, they consider themselves to be the good guys too. And they were very scared the night the special forces came in.

But they did go way out of their way, they tell me, to care for her. They did everything they possibly could. And they do tell me that three days after the rescue, an American military doctor did come back to the hospital and specifically thank them for the treatment that PFC Lynch received through it all.

BROWN: Mitch, nice job of reporting on this. This is a terrific job of reporting, and we appreciate your time tonight. Mitch Potter...

POTTER: Thanks very much.

BROWN: ... of "The Toronto Star," who got himself a story there.

There's a story been playing out in Cleveland for most of the evening, about seven hours now, a gunman who went into Case Western Reserve University, shot some people. The -- and then held hostages, held people there for, again, about seven hours. The police chief in Cleveland has just briefed reporters as this thing now appears to have played out.

You see one of the fire trucks moving away from, we assume, the university. These are live pictures coming out of Cleveland, a couple of cameras, obviously, involved there, those aren't edits.

In any case, the police chief has briefed reporters on what happened, how it played out. And we have some of that sound now.

CHIEF ED LOHN, CLEVELAND POLICE DEPARTMENT: Ladies and gentlemen, tonight I have to report to you at this time, we have a male in custody.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're making way for a bus that's coming in to take some more people out, and we're talking with Chief Edward Lohn, chief of the Cleveland Police Department.

LOHN: Sorry, let me repeat that again. At this time we have a male in custody, and at this time we believe he is either the shooter or one of the shooters.

I want to take this opportunity to thank Sheriff Gerald McFall (ph) and Chief Stephanie Dan Pookach (ph) for their SWAT team and assistance. I also want to take a moment to thank Gerald Mack (ph), the special agent in charge of the FBI here in Cleveland, for his SWAT team. And, of course, I cannot forget Chief Mane (ph) from the Euclid Police Department, who sent his SWAT team also over.

It was a very -- it's a very large building. We're still doing a cursory search of the building. There was a -- there were approximately 70 people in the building, and we have taken almost all of those people out. We're going to debrief them and hopefully reunite them with their families.

The -- as far as injuries goes, I'm not going to speak to that right now because we have not made any notifications to the family. Again, this is a partnership between our agencies. It's worked well together. We have trained for this. And tonight, hopefully, this is over, and it has been concluded. Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

BROWN: To Ed Lohn, the police chief in Cleveland, Ohio, 60 people at one point or another held hostage or at least being kept in a safe room, in any case. One person dead, one person in custody, maybe some other injuries. The chief not being very specific on that while they wait notification of family members in the Cleveland area. All this at Case Western Reserve University, now, while that is going on.

We're also getting reports of another tornado in the Oklahoma City area. We saw a flash of lightning in this, you can see in, although I'm not necessarily the greatest help on these sorts of radar things, that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) -- the most intense area, the red area, would be thunderstorms.

We don't necessarily see a tornado in all of that. And to be honest, somewhere along the way in my Midwest background, I was told that once the storm starts, the tornado's unlikely. But that may be wrong. So if you're in Oklahoma City, don't necessarily be following that advice, OK?

In any case, they've got some nasty weather. Whether it turns out to be a tornado or just a ferocious thunderstorm, they don't need either in Oklahoma City and around those parts. They've had more than enough in the last couple of days.

Calvin Trillin joins us. We'll lighten things up on a Friday. We'll take a break first. This is NEWSNIGHT from New York.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BROWN: All right. Pardon the self-indulgence, but here's a story that fits the guest pretty well. When we first moved to New York, our daughter was 3 1/2 years old, and we went and got her a New York bagel, because that's one of the things you should do. And she bit into it, and she looked at me, said, Dad, it's so chewy.

Having had bagels in Seattle, she didn't quite understand the concept. All of this makes sense, because Calvin Trillin is here, and he's written a new book, "Feeding a Yen." It's a look at some of the best food that the globe has to offer.

And it's always nice to see him.

CALVIN TRILLIN, AUTHOR, "FEEDING A YEN": Thank you. The...

BROWN: Well...

TRILLIN: ... I used to want to say that my own daughter, when I took her home to Kansas City, where I grew up, she grew up in New York, when she was about your daughter's age, 3 1/2 or 4, said, Daddy, how come the bagels in Kansas City taste like just round bread?

BROWN: Yes, well, see, that's it.

TRILLIN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

BROWN: If -- the -- one of the points of the book is, if you want a bagel or -- well, if you want a bagel, you ought to be in New York.

TRILLIN: Exactly. Some Canadians would say you could go to Montreal, but I would generally think that you have to go to New York, that's right.

BROWN: Do we -- are we a country that pretends to like ethnic food but doesn't really?

TRILLIN: I think some ethnic foods have been sort of folded in, like bagels. For instance, bagels, when I grew up, were Jewish. Gefillte fish was Jewish. Gefillte fish is still Jewish.

BROWN: Yes, and with good reason.

TRILLIN: With good reason, right.

BROWN: Yes.

TRILLIN: And bagels, I think the leading bagel-producing state, because of a big factory out there, is now Iowa.

BROWN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they make frozen bagels, right?

TRILLIN: Yes.

BROWN: Yes.

TRILLIN: Yes. So you can get bagels at McDonald's with ham on them now.

BROWN: Yes, that's a kind of an odd thing, isn't it?

TRILLIN: Yes.

BROWN: Yes. The reason I wondered is, it seems to me right now the hottest Chinese restaurant is a franchise, a chain, I don't know if it's a franchise, it's a chain of restaurants, P.F. Chang's. It's sort of very safe. It's not -- and not bad Chinese food. And Olive Tree, which I'm sure is fine food too, selling...

TRILLIN: Right.

BROWN: ... Italian food, and there's probably others, other examples like that. And maybe we just want to say we like ethnic food, but we want the safest, most Americanized version of it.

TRILLIN: Yes. I think of that as sort of theme food rather than actual ethnic food. I always say that I would only eat ethnic food in a place that has enough of that ethnic group to have at least two aldermen.

BROWN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

TRILLIN: If they don't have at least two aldermen, they don't have a critical audience.

BROWN: So San Francisco's Chinatown's not a bad place to eat Chinese.

TRILLIN: No, not at all.

BROWN: Yes.

TRILLIN: And in fact, I just had an excellent meal in Daley City, a suburb that I had used to joke about. But it was a Chinese meal. And I would say, yes, San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles has tremendous Chinese food.

I have -- I discuss in the book an almost mystic and bizarre feeling that I'm going to come across a Chinese restaurant no matter where I am. I have some faith in the overseas Chinese that somehow in small, Midwestern farm towns...

BROWN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) true...

TRILLIN: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

BROWN: ... actually. I was once in York, Nebraska, and there wasn't much else there, but there was a Chinese restaurant. Wasn't necessarily a great Chinese restaurant, but it was OK.

The best city in the country to have dinner?

TRILLIN: Oh, I guess that's probably New York.

BROWN: More than New Orleans.

TRILLIN: Yes. Well, there's more variety. And although the last couple times ago when I was in New Orleans, had wonderful Chinese -- kind of Chinese-Vietnamese food.

But in general, yes, New York.

BROWN: New York.

TRILLIN: And particularly since the 1965 Immigration Act that brought so much. You know, before 1965, we were allowing in more English people than wanted to come...

BROWN: Yes.

TRILLIN: ... and basically excluding Chinese. This is, this is sort of culinary terms, sort of suicidal, you know.

BROWN: Still feel the best barbecue in the country is Kansas City?

TRILLIN: Well, I mean, it's my home town.

BROWN: You're a Kansas City guy.

TRILLIN: Right, I'm a Kansas -- that's my sainted home town. Yes, it's very good. And -- but, it's, you know, it's different. I pretty much -- I used to find that any time I got back from North Carolina, people from North Carolina who were...

BROWN: Yes.

TRILLIN: ... the North Carolina crowd here would say, Did you have any barbecue? And I'd say, Yes, it was all right. And they'd say, Well, where were you? And I always -- they'd always say, you know, You were east of Rocky Mount. You were supposed to be west of Rocky Mount. I never could quite get on the right side of...

BROWN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

TRILLIN: ... Rocky Mount.

BROWN: There is in the Carolinas that whole -- there's all sorts of -- there's barbecue of many different sorts.

TRILLIN: Right.

BROWN: There's the vinegar, mustard, anyway, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

TRILLIN: And, of course, if you get to Kentucky, you get barbecued mutton, and that -- and one of the specialists has a sign above the counter that says, Mary Had a Little Lamb...

BROWN: Oh.

TRILLIN: ... You Have Some Too. BROWN: That's a good way to end it. Nice to see you. Have a great weekend.

TRILLIN: Good to see you, Aaron.

BROWN: Thanks for coming back. Good luck on the book.

TRILLIN: Thank you.

BROWN: Thank you.

Ahead on NEWSNIGHT, the moment everyone's waiting for, right? No, you're not. Come on. You're going to bed. We'll do tomorrow morning's papers, around the country and around the world.

We'll take a break first. Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: Morning papers from around the country and around the world.

We'll begin quickly with a story that it won't be in many of them, but just received word that Senator Russell Long, who's incredibly powerful Louisiana Democrat, he was in the Senate for three decades, has died in Washington. He was 84 years old. Senator Russell Long, former senator Russell Long.

OK, one minute to take care of this little piece of business.

"Cincinnati Inquirer" leads, as you would expect with something like this happens, "Hamilton," Hamilton County, I think it's Hamilton County, maybe it's the city, "Soldier Shot Dead in Iraq." He was on traffic duty in Baghdad. A picture of that young man. And that will be the story of the day, even with the festival and all the other weekend activities going on in Cincinnati, Ohio.

"The Miami Herald" leads with "The Sound of Silence -- Orchestra Laid Off, Permanent Shutdown May Follow," all but five of the members of the Florida Philharmonic laid off. So that's kind of a sad deal, isn't it?

How we doing on time? "San Francisco" -- Fifteen? Oh, come on. Well, I should probably just do the headline and stop arguing with you, David. "Peterson Lawyer's Mystery Woman," a development in the Scott Peterson case. Mark Geragos says there's a woman out there, someone, somewhere, that will help him with his case.

That's as much time as we're going to get, kind of short with the morning papers. Have a great weekend. We'll see you all Monday, 10:00 Eastern time. You'll be back, won't you? Good night for all of us.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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