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Kobe Bryant Charged With Sexual Assault; White House Fires Back at Critics

Aired July 18, 2003 - 18:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT for Friday, July 18. Sitting in for Lou Dobbs, Jan Hopkins.
JAN HOPKINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone.

Tonight, Kobe Bryant, one of the most marketable sports stars in this country, was charged with sexual assault. The Los Angeles Lakers star is accused of assaulting a 19-year-old woman at a mountain resort in Colorado. Tonight, Bryant issued a statement saying he's innocent. Bryant said that he had made the mistake of adultery. His wife, Vanessa, also issued a statement, saying she believes in her husband's innocence.

Gary Tuchman joins us now from Eagle, Colorado -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you just said, Jan, just minutes ago, Kobe Bryant came out and said he did have sex with a woman here in Eagle County, Colorado, not his wife.

But the district attorney, about one hour ago, said it wasn't just sex, it was sexual assault, and that Kobe Bryant, one of the finest basketball players in the National Basketball Association, faces the possibility of up to life in prison.


MARK HURLBERT, EAGLE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: Basically, it is alleged that he had sexual penetration or intrusion and he caused submission of the victim through actual physical force. And that is contained in the complaint.


TUCHMAN: Well, we do have the complaint. And it says, in part, the defendant caused submission of the victim through the actual application of physical force or physical violence. It is a very serious crime. It's a possibility, if you're convicted on this charge, that you could just get probation. But that would be 20 years to life.

If a prison sentence is given to the person in this case, it's four years to life. Kobe Bryant was here in Colorado for arthroscopic surgery on his knee. He was staying at a hotel nearby, where he met this 19-year-old woman who worked in the hotel.

Kobe Bryant has come out with a statement today. And it reads as follows -- quote -- "I am innocent of the charges filed today. Nothing that happened June 30th was against the will of the woman who now falsely accuses me."

The woman, a 19-year-old who graduated from high school last year, and her parents are not commenting. They are at their home here in Eagle County, Colorado.

Now, just two nights ago, we saw Bryant in public. He was in Hollywood at the Espy Awards, the sports awards show. He was with his wife, who was sitting beside him, who has come out with a statement also, saying she supports her husband. If you didn't know about this case, she would know that nothing was abnormal.

Just last week Bryant, issued his only statement before this. He talked to "The Los Angeles Times." He told "The Los Angeles Times": "You guys know me. I shouldn't have to say anything. You know I would never do something like that."

It's not clear if he was talking about adultery in addition to sexual assault. But either way, tonight, Kobe Bryant from the Los Angeles Lakers is in a lot of legal trouble -- Jan, back to you.

HOPKINS: But, Gary, it took quite a long time to file these charges.


But in the state of Colorado, we have been told that it normally takes 40 days to get all the evidence back before you decide if charges should be filed. This has taken two weeks. So, in actuality, because it's high profile, we've been paying attention to it, most people think it's taken a long time. They say it's actually taken a shorter amount of time than the typical sexual assault case.

HOPKINS: Thanks very much, Gary Tuchman in Eagle, Colorado.

And joining us now is CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, how difficult is it going to be to prove this case in court, because it's kind of he said/she said?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it will be different because most people will come to this case with a favorable impression of Kobe Bryant. He is a person who is -- who has a public image that is uniformly favorable. But these cases are decided based on evidence in court. And if the prosecution can meet its burden, he'll be convicted.

HOPKINS: DNA evidence is going to be important?

TOOBIN: Well, actually, it might not be that important, because here you're going to have a case where the sex, the fact that sexual contact between the two people, is conceded. The prosecutor says it was forcible. The defense says it was consensual. So, the DNA evidence proving that there was sexual contact probably will not be disputed by either side. HOPKINS: But there needs to be some kind of evidence of force, yes, injury, perhaps?

TOOBIN: Well, that will be the crucial battleground of this case, because the issue is: Was it consensual? Was there evidence of force? Is there ripped clothing? Are there injuries? Did people hear noise? Was there an immediate complaint made by the alleged victim?

These are the kind of facts that, even though not legally required to prove rape, are certainly going to be required by the jury if they're going to reach a conviction in this case.

HOPKINS: In terms of trying to find a jury, this is a very well- known person who has a good reputation.

TOOBIN: It is. But, remember, this case will be tried in Colorado, not in Los Angeles, where he plays. So, even though, certainly, most of the people in the jury pool will have heard of Kobe Bryant, certainly, there will not be as many people as there would be in Southern California who had strong feelings about him. I don't expect that getting a jury will be all that difficult in this case.

HOPKINS: Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's legal analyst. And we'll have more with Jeffrey Toobin later in the show.

And make sure that you watch "LARRY KING" tonight, tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 p.m. Pacific. The show will include live coverage of a news conference by Kobe Bryant's attorney.

From a legal controversy to a political controversy, the White House today fired back at critics in the dispute over whether it used flawed intelligence to justify the war against Saddam Hussein. It released new documents in an attempt to prove that Saddam was trying to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program.

I'm joined now by White House correspondent Chris Burns, who is near the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas -- Chris.


The president doing fund-raisers, raising some $7 million tonight and tomorrow night in Houston and in Dallas. But one of his lieutenants is busy trying to knock down this controversy that could put his reelection campaign into trouble in the long term. They took the unusual action today of releasing this.

And this is parts of a highly top-secret national intelligence estimate back in October of last year that was used as the basis for the president's State of the Union speech back in January, in which he alleged that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium from Africa. That was later discredited by a lot of people, the White House saying that they were technically correct by attributing it to British intelligence.

But it is still a source of controversy. Now, in this national intelligence report, it says that, if unchecked, Saddam Hussein could have a nuclear weapon during this decade, and, if he had weapons grade uranium, he could actually have a weapon in months, and so that showing the urgency. But, at the same time, in the same report, it cites State Department intelligence saying that they find those allegations highly dubious, the ones about trying to buy uranium from Africa.

Now, the senior administration official explaining this report said that a member of the president's National Security Council went to the CIA, got approval of that. There were no flags raised. There was no further discussion. And so the fact-checking was done by these lower-level officials that the administration official says was accepted by the president. And the president went ahead and gave the speech.

Now, on Capitol Hill, there are senators who are now demanding that they be able to speak to some of these National Security Council people. The administration official says that that's not going to happen. They will cooperate with an investigation. They will provide information, but that testimony will not happen. Stay tuned -- Jan.

HOPKINS: Chris, the White House today made an announcement regarding British detainees in Guantanamo Bay. Is that because of Tony Blair's visit? And can you tell us a little bit about this?

BURNS: It could very well be seen as that. Tony Blair came from Britain. His country is very much upset. Many of his countrymen are upset that the U.S. is holding a number of British nationals at Guantanamo Bay, accusing them of links to terrorism, of links to al Qaeda.

And this was an action aimed at sort of calming the situation. The Bush administration says that they will now talk to legal officials coming from Britain next week to talk about the next step. But, at this point, they've suspended any legal proceedings. If these accused go before a military tribunal, they could face the death penalty, if they are convicted. And that is what has especially upset the British, because they have banned the death penalty in their own country.

So this is a very sensitive subject to the British public, the British public also very critical of Tony Blair at this point about that prewar WMD intelligence -- Jan.

HOPKINS: Thanks very much, Chris Burns, near the president's Western White House in Crawford, Texas. Thanks for joining us.

Another U.S. soldier was killed in Iraq today. He was the 33rd to be killed by hostile fire since the end of major combat operations on May 1. The soldier died when his vehicle drove over an explosive device near Fallujah. His death came as the Pentagon faces growing problems finding other countries to provide peacekeeping troops for Iraq.

Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre reports.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Hillah, about 55 miles south of Baghdad, the Polish flag signals welcome relief for U.S. Marines who've been in Iraq for four months, a multinational division made up of troops from 18 countries and led by the Poles, with support from NATO, is scheduled to take over for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force by September 1.

This Polish major says his soldiers should have the camp ready by mid-August, when the main force of about 2,000 troops should be in place. They'll be joined by troops from Ukraine, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, and some Asian countries, 10,000 altogether. The Polish, along with the British, have pledged to each lead a multinational division and take over some peacekeeping chores by September.

For the U.S., it's the one bright spot in the otherwise uphill battle to get other countries to help out.

DOUGLAS FEITH, UNDERSECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR POLICY: I mean, we'd always be happy if there are more and if everything were easier. But I don't think I'd characterize it as a difficulty. It's a project.

MCINTYRE: The U.S. likes to say it currently has 19 nations in its coalition. But of the 160,000 troops now in Iraq, 147,000 are U.S., 12,000 British, which leaves only about 1,000 from other countries.

Some countries are gun-shy, hesitant to send peacekeepers into what the Pentagon now admits is a raging guerrilla war. Other countries, like India, want a U.N. mandate before committing any troops. While the U.S. says it would like U.N. help, it's not asking for a formal U.N. endorsement, at least not yet.


MCINTYRE: And, Jan, at the moment, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is in Iraq getting a firsthand view at how things are going.

And up on the Hill today, Capitol Hill, the former administrator, retired General Jay Garner, said he thinks that the mission there, the reconstruction effort, has hit bottom, but is now on a slow climb upward -- Jan.

HOPKINS: Do we know anything about this Wolfowitz trip to Iraq, or is it pretty secret?

MCINTYRE: Well, they've been keeping -- they didn't announce it ahead of time in order to provide maximum security for the deputy defense secretary. But the mission is not really secret.

He is going to spend several days getting a firsthand look of how things are going. This comes a day after that report yesterday from an independent panel of experts, saying that things weren't going nearly as well as they could be. So he'll come back and report to the Pentagon, to his boss, the defense secretary, his impressions of how things are going and how things might be done better.

HOPKINS: Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thanks.

The CIA believes an audiotape aired on Arab television networks this week was probably the voice of Saddam Hussein. An intelligence official said the poor quality of the tape makes it impossible to say it is Saddam with -- quote -- "absolute certainty."

In Iraq today, U.S. soldiers destroyed the last remaining statue of Saddam Hussein in his hometown, Tikrit. Most of the statue will be melted down and used to make a memorial in Texas.

Iraq no longer has a nuclear program, but the U.N.'s atomic watchdog says that North Korea is a major threat. Today, the International Atomic Energy Agency said North Korea poses the most immediate and most serious threat to efforts to control nuclear weapons.

Kitty Pilgrim reports.


KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): North Korea is turning up the pressure on nuclear weapons, now saying it has reprocessed its 8,000 spent fuel rods. If that's true, North Korea would be only months away from having multiple nuclear weapons. Then, this week, North Korea shot at a South Korean position in the DMZ. And South Korea returned fire.

VICTOR CHA, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: I think one of the ways that we can interpret this is, it's another attempt, yet another attempt, by the North Koreans to try to coerce the United States into bilateral negotiations.

PILGRIM: With North Korea becoming so aggressive, China is trying harder to bring about resolution, stepping up efforts to broker new talks. The initial round of talks, hosted by China, failed last April. Today, Chinese deputy foreign minister Dai Bingguo, fresh from a four-day visit in North Korea, met with Bush administration officials. Scholars speculate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a rumor that the Chinese envoy may be carrying a letter from Kim Jong Il.

PILGRIM: Diplomats are optimistic.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The diplomatic track is alive and well. And I expect to see some developments along that track in the very near future.

PILGRIM: Meanwhile, other countries have turned up pressure on North Korea: China cutting off oil shipments for a time. And Japan is stepping up customs inspection of North Korean ships, clamping down on contraband drugs and counterfeit currency. So far, talk of tougher measures is just talk. The United States, if it's going to impose an economic embargo or, in the long run, even try military action against North Korea, has to get other countries on its side. And establishing that the United States sincerely tried to resolve the issue peacefully is a necessary prerequisite for that to occur. So, these negotiations are almost inevitable. Whether you're a hawk or a dove, they almost have to occur for either solution.


PILGRIM: The Bush administration wants the Security Council to take up the issue. And the Chinese minister met with the U.N. secretary-general this week. He said the visit to North Korea had encouraging results -- Jan.

HOPKINS: Thanks, Kitty -- Kitty Pilgrim.

Disturbing news today about the nuclear ambitions of another member of the axis of evil, Iran. Diplomats say that U.N. inspectors have found enriched uranium in environmental samples taken in Iran. Those diplomats said that the level of enriched uranium may be consistent with an attempt to make materials for nuclear weapons. Iran said that it had not been informed about the findings.

Still ahead: much more on the Kobe Bryant case and the sexual assault charges filed against the NBA superstar. CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin will join us again.

And later: our series of special reports, "Food Fight." Tonight, beyond crops, what's next to be genetically modified. And Peter Pringle, the author of "Food Inc.," will join us.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To which then, the minority member then said, "You little fruitcake, you little fruitcake. I said you are a fruitcake."


HOPKINS: After the altercation, Democrats introduced a measure to condemn Chairman Thomas for how he handled the committee. It failed on a party-line vote.

Wall Street more orderly today. The stock market rallied, breaking a three-session losing streak, the Dow industrials jumping 137 points. The Nasdaq added 10. And the S&P was up 11.

Christine Romans is here with the market -- Christine.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, today the focus on Ericsson and Microsoft earnings, of course, and an upgrade from McDonald's adding to this buying spree today. But the week, Jan, was mixed. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq fell slightly. And the Dow edged up just less than 1 percent. Now, strong gains for Dow components Caterpillar, Intel, and American Express lifted the Dow to its third week higher in a row. The Dow is in fact higher for seven of the past eight weeks, largely because of decent second-quarter earnings.

Now, Thomson First says, of the 158 S&P 500 companies that have reported, profit growth is 9.6 percent. Revenue growth is about half that. And this earnings season is far from over. More than 150 S&P 500 companies will report next week, Jan, among them, some pretty big companies that are likely to gain some pretty big headlines:, UPS, Merck, and Pfizer. So this is really just the beginning.

HOPKINS: The week as a whole, up or down?

ROMANS: The week as a whole, the Dow was up, but the Nasdaq and the S&P were down -- so mixed overall.

HOPKINS: Thanks very much, Christine Romans.


HOPKINS: And still to come tonight: a mysterious death at the center of the storm surrounding intelligence in Iraq.

Then: some of your e-mails on last night's "Grange On Point" segment about veterans affairs and a lack of adequate medical care.

And later: "Food Fight." We conclude our series of special reports on genetically modified food. Tonight, beyond crops, what's next?


HOPKINS: Police investigating the disappearance of a scientist at the center of the intelligence controversy in Britain have found a body. They say it matches the description of the missing scientist, David Kelly. Kelly was caught up in the dispute between the British government and the BBC over whether officials exaggerated the threat from Iraq before the war.

Bill Neely of ITN reports.



BILL NEELY, ITN REPORTER (voice-over): This is David Kelly as he hoped you'd never see him, under fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's their names?

KELLY: That will be provided to you by the Ministry of (CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, I'm asking you now. This is the high court of Parliament. And I want you to tell the committee who you've met.

NEELY: Under suspicion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did you go along with it, Dr. Kelly?

NEELY: Under the gun.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to say that there seems to be an inconsistency between your two statements.

KELLY: There's a number of inconsistencies. I'd have to agree with you.


NEELY: His voice was weak, his discomfort clear. That he sank under the pressure is a surprise to many of these M.P.s.

Yesterday morning, David Kelly sent this e-mail to a friend, thanking him for his support. "Hopefully, it will soon pass," he says, "and I can get to Baghdad and get on with the real job." His friend, a fellow weapons inspector, is angry at the politicians.

ALASTAIR HAY, FORMER WEAPONS INSPECTOR: To have been made this sort of ping-pong ball, put in this position, where he was used, and I think used abominably by the politicians.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've reached the conclusion that you were not the source.

KELLY: I don't believe I am the source.

NEELY: David Kelly denied the government's accusation that he was the source of a BBC journalist's story about Iraq's weapons.

(on camera): David Kelly had, for many years, met dozens of journalists to talk about Iraq's weapons. But it was the meeting he had here just eight weeks ago that was to entangle him in a dreadful web.

(voice-over): He met Andrew Gilligan, who was investigating whether the government had exaggerated the Iraq threat. One week later and Gilligan accuses the government of hyping the intelligence in its dossier. Nine days ago, Kelly was named as Gilligan's source. The Ministry of Defense said he'd broken the rules, warned him, told him to think about his options. His friends say they fed him to the wolves.

GARTH WHITTY, FORMER WEAPONS INSPECTOR: It looks a bit as though the priority has been to identify who the source of the information was and to discredit that source of information, thereby enhancing the original intelligence.

NEELY: This is the man who wanted the mole caught most of all, Alastair Campbell, who warmed the seat for David Kelly. Andrew Gilligan sat in the same seat and refused to name or clear Kelly. David Kelly was one of the world's top experts in biological warfare, seen here in Baghdad 12 years ago. Iraq, he joked, had changed his life.

Bill Neely, ITV News.


HOPKINS: Now for a look at some of your e-mails. Many of you wrote in about our series of special reports on genetically modified foods.

Sharon from Kansas writes: "In a time of terrorism threats, it's wise to think locally about food products, even if agribusiness would have us think otherwise."

David of New York City wrote: "As an American who has lived in Europe for eight years and now returned, I'm appalled that Americans openly accept G.M. goods. G.M. foods benefit only the corporations. There is zero benefit for the consumer."

Georgina Thomas of Minnesota writes: "If a starving nation rejects genetically modified food, then perhaps we Americans should accept such a clear message that genetically modified food is not a good future for our agriculture or our health."

On last night's "Grange On Point" segment about veterans affairs, Jay Hirsch of Minnesota wrote: "I find it incredible that the government does not fully fund the health care and services of our veterans, who are so deserving. Isn't it ironic, then, that illegal immigrants can get A-1 health care at the cost of millions to our hospitals, because states are told they can't turn them away? Americans should be furious."

And John in Mississippi wrote: "I am a veteran. I filed for V.A. health benefits in March of 2002. I have yet to have my first appointment. Something is very wrong."

We love hearing from you. Send us an e-mail at

And when we return, Kobe Bryant charged with sexual assault. We'll talk with CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin next.

And later: nuclear threats, North Korea characterized by a leading authority as an immediate threat. Former North Korean adviser to the State Department Wendy Sherman will join us.


HOPKINS: An intense search is under way tonight for 1,100 pounds of missing ammonia nitrate; 600 pounds of the explosive chemical was stolen from a business in San Diego this week; 400 pounds was stolen Monday from a quarry in Colorado springs. Ammonium nitrate is used in demolition and in agriculture as a fertilizer. But, also, Timothy McVeigh used 4,000 pounds of the substance to destroy the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995.

In other news "Across America": A Florida charter pilot is out of work tonight. The pilot, whose name has not been released, resigned after passengers videotaped him sleeping during a flight to Florida from the Bahamas.

A school maintenance worker is in police custody tonight. Police say that he walked into a Charleston, West Virginia, school board meeting, doused two people with gasoline, shot another. The worker was said to be upset by people smoking around him.

In Arizona, the wildfire is still burning, but 5,000 people who live in the Fort Apache reservation are returning home tonight. Firefighters say their homes are no longer in danger. The fire has burned more than 20,000 acres.

As we reported earlier, basketball star Kobe Bryant has been charged with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman. Bryant issued a statement saying he is guilty of adultery, not sexual assault. If convicted, Bryant could face up to life in prison.

We're joined again by CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, this is a really interesting case. And, in some ways, we had Mr. Tuchman telling us that this was really short, two weeks before charges are brought. How unusual is that?

TOOBIN: That was a failure of coordination between the sheriff's office and the district attorney's office. And you can be sure when this case comes to trial, if it does, the defense will say, Look at the rush to judgment here. They arrested him the next day. They didn't even think about other suspects, alternative explanations. So the failure of coordination will give the defense some opportunity here. It may not be that big a deal if the evidence is strong. But this is why prosecutors and police officers try to coordinate their actions rather than work separately.

HOPKINS: It's interesting. It looks as if this is going to be a consent defense. How does that play out?

TOOBIN: Well, what it does for starters is it makes the DNA evidence, which is certainly present in a case like this, virtually irrelevant because both sides agree that sexual relations took place. The issue is was it consented or was it a sexual assault? Those tend to be the most difficult cases to prove for the prosecution and often the most agonizing for the alleged victim, because instead of being viewed purely as a victim, they are viewed, at least by the defense attorney, as almost an accessory to their own crime. It's bad enough that they feel that they're a victim. Here they are trying to snare someone in their web of lies, according to the defense. They tend to be very bitter, very difficult cases to prove for the prosecution.

HOPKINS: Apparently, or presumably, Kobe Bryant is going to have very high-priced defense team.

TOOBIN: I would if I were him. I wouldn't skimp.

HOPKINS: And that will help, won't it?

TOOBIN: Sure. I mean, allegedly, you get what you pay for. And, you know, good lawyers charge a lot of money. And, you know, he is on trial with -- you know, for his life. So he will probably get the best he can.

You know, you always have to be careful. Eagle County, if the trial remains there, relatively small county, 40,000 people. It's got Vail, a very famous, wealthy resort, but also poorer areas. Only 40,000 people live there. You often don't want to come into a community like that with some big shot outsider. You might want to spend your money on the best lawyer in Eagle County so that the jurors don't feel like something's being put over on them.

HOPKINS: But they also may move to get the trial out of Eagle County?

TOOBIN: Change of venue is always a possibility in high-profile cases. Less so in a case like this. This is not a case like the sniper case, where the whole community was a victim. It's not like the Laci Peterson case where you had the whole community mobilized to try to find her. It's a fairly discreet crime, relatively quick period between the crime and the arrest. So I think change of venue will be tougher.

Keep in mind, of that 40,000 people, only .2 percent, according to the figures I got off the Web, are African-American. That may figure into this as well.

HOPKINS: What does this do to his endorsement contracts, even playing in the fall?

TOOBIN: Well, I think the NBA came out with a statement saying they are not going to do anything. He is not suspended, he's not disqualified as long as the proceedings are pending, as long as there's no resolution.

I don't know if he can play under these circumstances. And certainly, he will not get any new endorsement deals. I guess everybody -- my sense is everybody wait and sees -- wait and sees how the case is resolved.

HOPKINS: Jeffrey Toobin, CNN legal analyst, thanks.

Time now for tonight's thought. "There are times when even justice brings harm with it." That from the ancient Greek playwright, Sophocles.

All this week we've been looking at the technology of genetic modification and its effect on the food supply. Tonight we conclude our series of special reports with a look at the bioengineering of plants and the promise of developing inexpensive treatments for millions of sick people. Bill Tucker has our story.



BILL TUCKER, CNNfn CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Let's face it. Many people don't have a very pleasant idea of biologically modified plants. But what if the tomato could be developed to fight cholera or rice grown to fight topical infections or tobacco used to fight the common cold?

Sound far-fetched? Welcome to the world of bioengineered plants, plants designed and grown with distinct pharmaceutical purposes. This is just a partial list of the drugs being produced by plants, whose biology has been reengineered to produce proteins to help fight specific diseases.

CHARLES ARNTZEN, ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY: The first commercial success that had to do with genetic modification of an organism was in moving the gene for insulin into bacteria so it could produce a totally human insulin. That is, a molecule that's identical to what we have in the human body, producing it in a commercial way, producing a complex protein and using it for pharmaceutical purposes.

TUCKER: The idea of modifying crops is not new. At the beginning of the 20th Century, farmers were cross-breeding corn to increase crop yields and to get a better-tasting ear of corn. The idea of bioengineering plants to help in the fight against disease is much newer, and its promise even more exciting.

The plant proteins dramatically lower the cost of drugs, making vaccines affordable and available to millions of people who otherwise would not have access to the medicine.

SCOTT DEETER, PRES. & CEO, VENTRIA: We start to think about global health issues such as, you know, diarrhea. I mean, there's 1.8 million children that die under the age of 5 that die every year as a result of diarrhea. That's sort of amazing to me. But -- and we have -- we have the capability to treat these diseases. But it comes down to affordability. And that's the promise of plant-made pharmaceuticals.

TUCKER: The promise of profit has attracted a number of companies along with non-profit educational research facilities. The companies range in size from large chemical companies to very small, privately held biotech companies.

But not everybody is thrilled about scientists playing around with plants, calling them Frankenplants, bringing to mind images of killer tomatoes.

JEAN HALLORAN, CONSUMER POLICY INSTITUTE: We just think that there will be accidents. They're engineering these plants to be little production factories for drug products. We're very concerned that there will be escapes from these plants, particularly if the plants that are engineered are corn and it's grown in the open air. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: Now, one difference needs to be underlined. Crops that are grown for pharmaceutical reasons are different from food crops, crops that are meant to eat. Pharmaplants are made to be processed into drugs and then used in vaccines. The idea is not that you can grow and eat a plant or a vegetable in your backyard that will then cure yourself of some disease, Jan.

HOPKINS: But the concern is that the pollen will spread to regular corn.

TUCKER: Exactly. Once the genie's out of the bottle, how do you get it back in? Some companies answer that by using self-pollinating plants.

HOPKINS: Thanks. Bill Tucker.

Many questions remain about the issue of genetically modified food and whether or not it is safe for humans and the environment.

Peter Pringle is author of a new book entitled "Food Incorporated: From Mendel to Monsanto, the Promises and Perils of Biotech Harvest." I recently spoke to Mr. Pringle and asked him simply if bioengineered food is safe.


PETER PRINGLE, AUTHOR, "FOOD, INC." Well, most -- even the most enthusiastic of the green groups now believe that there is no real concern.

But we can't be sure. We've only been eating these foods for about six years. We are putting new genes into -- into alien genomes, or alien genes into new genomes, and one has to be very careful about these things.

HOPKINS: One of the things that really surprised me was how widespread it is in this country. The Grocers Association saying that about 75 percent of the processed food that we eat may have some genetically modified food in it. And yet we don't know about it. It's not labeled.

PRINGLE: That's correct. As I say, it's been going since 1996. Some 70 percent of soybeans, which goes into an awful lot of processed foods, are now GM soybeans. Some 30 percent of corn is now GM corn. And you know, America, Argentina, China, they grow these things.

But it's not grown in the rest of the world. So although the manufacturers and the corporations would like to say that this has been a terrific takeoff for this revolution, if you like, of technology, actually it's only a very, very small percentage of the arable land, perhaps only 2 percent of the total arable land of the rest of the world is devoted to GM crops.

HOPKINS: But there's such a battle and a difference of opinion in the way Europe looks at this, Frankenfood, and the way the U.S. looks at this, basically acceptance. I mean, why such a big difference?

PRINGLE: Well, you know the old Jimmy Buffett song, "I Wish That Lunch Would Last Forever." That's a Jimmy Buffett thought. But actually, it's a European thought.

You know, Europeans take their food I think at least, being a European, much more seriously than Americans do. They pay more for it, for a start. They also went through a tremendous scare with mad cow disease, if you remember, five years ago, when that began. And they are very suspicious and skittish of new foods, and particularly suspicious of government regulators in the way that they may or may not be regulating food properly.

HOPKINS: So one of the things that the Europeans are asking is that the food be labeled. Why isn't that a good idea in Europe and in the U.S.?

PRINGLE: Actually, I think it is a good idea in Europe. I think it's a good idea for consumers. I think that it's a consumer right to know what they're buying and what they're eating. It's not a good idea from the European -- from the American manufacturers' point of view, because they'll have to separate out the two types of grain, the GM grain and the non-GM grain. And that's going to be a costly business. So of course, they're resisting it.

HOPKINS: Now, one of the things that we don't know about is whether it's going to cause a problem with the environment. You've done a lot of research. Have there been incidents where genetically modified food has caused a problem?

PRINGLE: Well, there's a problem if you plant genetically modified crops next door to non-genetically modified crops, and the pollen can drift in the wind or be carried by an insect from one plant to another. So what the government did in both Europe and America is to say let's set aside some refuge area between the two crops.

The question is how big should this refuge area be and will it be safe and will pollen be able to be carried by a bee for 50 meters or half a mile or -- and so we're still looking into that and we still actually haven't come to any real conclusion about it. And it's something which the public should be wary about.

HOPKINS: So you're basically saying that it's not frankenfood but that we still need to really be watching this? Is that what you're saying?

PRINGLE: I think we still need to be watching it but we also need to be looking at what the promises are. I mean, is it possible, for example, that GM foods could make a difference in developing countries? Could you produce a corn in Africa or a rice in Asia which will overcome drought, which will overcome arid client, which will overcome poor soils, which will overcome the idea that farmers in poor countries can't afford the same kind of chemical inputs, fertilizers, and pesticides that we can afford in the northern climes? So I think we should be careful. These foods deserve respect from all of us who eat them. But they also deserve respect from the idea of trying to increase yields of agriculture in countries where there's a serious problem of malnutrition.

HOPKINS: Peter Pringle, author of "Food, Inc." thanks for joining us from Moscow.

PRINGLE: Thank you so much for having me.

HOPKINS: Another issue we explored this week was the intelligence included in the president's State of the Union Address. That's the topic of tonight's poll. We ask you, who is responsible for the WMD intelligence controversy? the CIA, President Bush, the Democrats, or the British? Cast your vote at We'll bring you preliminary results later in the show.

Now the final results of yesterday's poll question, do you think CIA Director George Tenet should resign? 31 percent of you said yes. 69 percent said no.

And coming up, nuclear threats. The leading nuclear watchdog calls North Korea the most immediate threat. Ambassador Wendy Sherman, former North Korea adviser to the State Department, will be our guest.

And also ahead, this week's "CEO of the Week" wrote the book on leading a diverse company to staggering gains in a market environment that is difficult to read.


HOPKINS: And now our "CEO of the Week". Terry McGraw began working at McGraw-Hill in 1980. He took over the CEO spot in 1998. In his tenure as CEO, the company's stock is up 60 percent. Adding to McGraw-Hill's record of outpacing the S&P for the past three years in total return to shareholders. Terry McGraw is our "CEO of the Week".


HOPKINS: Terry McGraw is well aware of the 115-year history behind McGraw-Hill, the company his great grandfather founded. First as COO and then CEO, McGraw worked to transform the company, with 15 divisions and an inconsistent record of growth and shareholder return.

HAROLD "TERRY" MCGRAW III, CEO, MCGRAW-HILL: You can't have footprints in all sorts of different types of markets. So we focus on three markets, and they are three very strong markets that have growth globally, that allow us to be able to really extend and build size and scale.

HOPKINS: Today McGraw-Hill is a near $5 billion company that looks like this. Education is still a key contributor.

MCGRAW: We have capabilities in all phases of it, whether it be elementary, secondary, testing, supplementary, higher education, professional, and of course globally.

HOPKINS: The financial services division is dominated by Standard & Poor's, the largest independent investment research provider on Wall Street. In addition to the S&P indexes, the company is also a ratings powerhouse. The media portion of McGraw-Hill is led by "Businessweek" magazine.

MCGRAW: It represents what I call a calling card for the McGraw- Hill companies. It represents everything that we strive to be. It is a wonderful brand. It is the highest level of journalistic capability.

HOPKINS: The company is one of only 21 in the S&P 500 with an overfunded pension. It's on track for a dozen consecutive years of earnings growth. Nine of the last 11 years have been double-digit. The company has also increased its dividend for 30 consecutive years.

And McGraw-Hill supports the communities it serves, with over $50 million in charitable activities. Especially important to Terry McGraw, is a prize in education named for his father. Last year's recipients rang the opening bell on Wall Street and received grants of $25,000.

MCGRAW: The Harry McGraw, Jr. prize in education is a terrific award, And it puts a spotlight on people that don't normally get spotlights. And that's exciting.


HOPKINS: Terry McGraw, McGraw-Hill, our "CEO of the Week". Congratulations, Terry.

Hollywood stars are out in force in the latest quarter supporting Democratic candidates in the presidential race. Among the notable donors, actress and singer Barbara Streisand gave $1,000 to each of the six of the nine Democratic contenders. Howard Dean, John Kerry, John Edwards, Dick Gephardt, Bob Graham, and Al Sharpton. "The West Wing's" Bradley Whitford stayed true to his character's politics. He gave $2,000 each to Dean and Kerry. And President Bush didn't have quite as much support from Hollywood, but the former owner of the Texas Rangers did get $2,000 from Yankees owner George Steinbrenner.

A reminder now to vote in tonight's poll. We ask you, who is responsible for the WMD intelligence controversy? The CIA, President Bush, the Democrats, or the British? Cast your vote at We'll bring you preliminary results in just a few minutes.

Still to come North Korea's nuclear threat. We'll talk to an expert on North Korea and a former adviser to the White House, ambassador Wendy Sherman.

Also ahead, next stop for President Bush's former White House spokesman, Ari Fleischer, the talk show rounds. That and more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HOPKINS: Returning now to one of tonight's top stories, the North Korean nuclear threat. Today the United Nations Nuclear Monitoring agency said North Korea poses the greatest nuclear threat to the world.

Joining us now is Ambassador Wendy Sherman. She served as special adviser to President Clinton on North Korea. Ambassador Sherman joins us from Washington.

Ambassador, we talked to you in March, and you said that the real threat was when North Korea started reprocessing fuel rods. North Korea says it's reprocessing fuel rods. How serious is this?

AMB. WENDY SHERMAN, PRINCIPAL, THE ALBRIGHT GROUP: I think that Mr. ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has it right. This is probably the most dangerous spot if indeed North Korea has begun reprocessing, and I think most experts believe that they have at least reprocessed some of their spent fuel rods. So we are at a more dangerous point. And I think the Bush administration is trying to decide, with some help from China, as to the next step to try to avert a terrible, terrible crisis.

HOPKINS: Do we wait for more evidence, or do you have to act at this point, believing what the North Koreans are saying?

SHERMAN: I don't think we should wait for more evidence. In fact, I wish that we had been having very serious talks with North Korea for some months now. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry, who's quite an expert on North Korea and Asia, recently gave an interview and said that in fact we have been drifting towards war and that he had stayed silent but it was important now for the administration to focus on this problem, to get talks under way, serious talks that really put some proposals on the table to get North Korea to freeze its program and then to step back from it entirely.

HOPKINS: China is definitely stepping in. Of course, China is the direct neighbor to North Korea. Is that involvement enough to get these talks going, or does the United States have to be more directly involved?

SHERMAN: I think China is playing a very constructive role. I think the most hopeful thing to happen this week was that China sent Vice Foreign Minister Dai to North Korea and met with Chairman Kim Jong-Il. And that that meeting took place is hopeful because it says that North Korea is still open to a diplomatic solution. And so I think China pushing for talks with the United States and if possible, with South Korea and Japan,. But most importantly let's get those talks under way and not just focus on who is at the table but actually have something on the table to discuss to try to begin to resolve this crisis.

HOPKINS: What's at stake here? What's the real danger?

SHERMAN: The real danger is that we drift toward war or that we drift to a point where North Korea has more than one or two nuclear weapons that we think we have now, because when you have only one or two nuclear weapons, you're not likely to sell them. You're not likely to use them. But if you have three or four or five or six, you're going to sell them, as North Korea has sold all of its missile technology, and you may in fact use them. So the deterrence by North Korea of our forces, of South Korean forces increases, and the chance that we would have a confrontation with them over their possession of nuclear weapons or their selling them to bad people around the world increases and we could find ourselves on the brink and over the brink into war.

HOPKINS: North Korea has a history of making threats and then getting itself in a bad situation that it can't get out of, right?

SHERMAN: Absolutely. And so I think it's important that we try to help them get out of it.

HOPKINS: With more direct involvement of the United States and perhaps President Bush?

SHERMAN: Well, I think ultimately President Bush will probably have to be involved. But we can begin, certainly, at a lower level. And I think one would begin by getting North Korea to freeze their nuclear program, to get inspectors back in, for talks to get under way, and for us to say while those talks are under way we will not strike North Korea militarily. But we need those inspectors back in to make sure that the program has been frozen in place and then begin serious negotiations, where we get more for more from North Korea and ensure that they end their nuclear program, dismantle their nuclear program, and at the same time give North Korea what it wants, which is the survival of their regime, about which there is not complete agreement within the administration, and I think that's why we're seeing some of the hesitancy about how to proceed here.

HOPKINS: Ambassador Wendy Sherman, thanks for joining us from Washington.

SHERMAN: Thank you.

HOPKINS: That brings us to tonight's quote on the threat of nuclear power from the so-called axis of evil and reports that Iran may have enriched uranium. Quote -- "This is exactly one of the concerns that has been articulated, particularly by President Bush, concerning not only Iraq but Iran, North Korea and, more recently, places like Syria. The fact that they seem to be doing something that hasn't been declared is a very worrying development." That from former U.N. weapons inspector Garth Whitty.

When we return, the preliminary results of the poll tonight, and then former White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer talked to David Letterman about the president's unique speaking style.


HOPKINS: And finally tonight, the lighter side of a very serious issue. Many have commented about President Bush's challenges when it comes to pronunciation of certain words, even when it comes to matters that lead to war. David Letterman certainly noticed, and last night he discussed the issue with former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.


DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": When President Bush speaks about weapons of mass destruction, he pronounces the word nuclear, he pronounces the word nukular.


LETTERMAN: And I always thought it was nuclear. I think it's spelled nuclear.


LETTERMAN: And you know that it's nuclear, right? You and I both know it's nuclear.

FLEISCHER: That might be why we haven't found them yet.


HOPKINS: That's our show for tonight. Thanks for joining us. For all of us here, good night from New York.


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