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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Deadliest Wildfires in a Decade Hit California; Baghdad Suicide Bombing Kills Dozens

Aired October 27, 2003 - 20:00   ET

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

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: "In Focus" tonight: A wave of suicide bombings kills dozens in Baghdad. The White House is on the defensive. How will the president fight off attacks from within his own party?
In California, the deadliest wildfires in a decade, thousands of acres burn, hundreds of homes destroyed. We'll go live to fire line for the latest on the devastation.

The science of survival: Why does one person escape in a catastrophe, while others die? When it's life or death, do you have what it takes to make the right decision?

And the money, the fame, and life in the spotlight: With the NBA season set to tip off in the shadow of the Kobe Bryant case, we're going to see what the league is doing to make sure its bright young stars don't fall hard off the court.

Good evening. Welcome. Glad to have you with us tonight. Appreciate your starting off the week with us.

Also ahead tonight: desecration of Jewish sites, violence, even talk from one head of state that the Jews rule the world. Our debate, is anti-Semitism on the rise around the world?

Plus, a tragedy in a middle-class home in New Jersey, four sons all but starved to death, their parents under arrest. After 38 state inspections in two years, why did the system fail?

And $789 a year, that's the difference an inch of height makes. We're going to show you a new study on the effect of your height on what you take home, earnings wise.

All that ahead tonight, but, first, here's Heidi Collins with some of the headlines you need to know right now.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Massive wildfires have so far consumed about 300,000 acres in Southern California. And tens of thousands of people have been forced from their homes. So how bad is it?

Let's go to Martin Savidge, who's standing by live now in Simi Valley, California -- Martin.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, it is going to be another nervous and dangerous night along the fire lines here in Southern California. The flames are stretching from where we are, 35,000 northwest of L.A., all the way down to the Mexican border.

So far, 300,000 acres have been charred, 500 square miles. That is half the size of the state of Rhode Island. Taking you first to San Diego, where the fire has been its worst and certainly has been its deadliest, it was another very difficult day there, as people frantically tried to get out of the way and pack up their things. Officials tonight worried, the three separate fires could merge into one mega-blaze.

And then over to another part, that would be to the east of Los Angeles. That is Devore, California. There, it was another difficult day of dealing with the Santa Ana winds, turning the flames literally into a blowtorch. The only weapons that residents had were their garden hoses. They didn't hold out long. Many of them had to flee.

And then, where we are in Simi Valley, there was an important line that was broached. That was Highway 118 that runs east and west in Ventura County. The flames have dropped south. For the first time tonight, they're in the borders of the city of Los Angeles. The only hope? A break in the weather midweek. That seems like a long way off -- Heidi.

COLLINS: Martin Savidge, thanks so much tonight.

And those are some of the stories you need to know at this hour -- now back to Paula.

ZAHN: In one of the bloodiest days ever in postwar Iraq, suicide bombers have once again struck in Baghdad. Dozens were killed today after three bombers targeted Iraqi police stations and a fourth hit the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

"In Focus" tonight: How damaging is this latest string of attacks to the White House? I'm joined from New Hampshire by regular contributor and "TIME" magazine columnist Joe Klein. We are also joined tonight by John Fund, editorial page writer for "The Wall Street Journal"'s OpinionJournal.com.

Welcome to both of you.

John, let's get started with your reaction to what the president had to say to reporters as he sat down with Paul Bremer earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The more progress we make on the ground, the more free the Iraqis become, the more electricity is available, the more jobs are available, the more kids that are going to school, the more desperate these killers become, because they can't stand the thought of a free society.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Will the American public buy that explanation, John?

JOHN FUND, OPINIONJOURNAL.COM: Some people in the administration oversold how easy the reconstruction of Iraq was going to be. The administration is paying a price for that.

But I suspect, in six months or a year, as we head into the 2004 elections, Iraq is going to be a lot freer and a lot safer. This will be viewed as one of many bumps along the road. And, remember, this changes week by week, Paula. The last time we had a really bad stretch, two days later, we had Saddam -- and Saddam's sons were caught and killed. So we could catch Saddam Hussein in two weeks. All of this could turn around.

This is an up-and-down situation.

ZAHN: Joe, a simple bump on the road or a quagmire here?

JOE KLEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, I think that we have a very, very serious situation, because the guerrillas are becoming more organized. Today, we saw synchronized attacks, which we hadn't seen before, four separate attacks.

And the targets are all strategic. If you're hitting the Iraqi police, it's doing severe damage to our ability to make a secure environment on the ground, which is the predicate for any kind of progress at all. Who's going to want to be a policeman? Who is going to want to come in? Which international relief agencies are going to want to come in and help? This is a very dangerous situation that is getting worse and worse.

FUND: But we can't put out.

And, remember, Joe, you're right about the synchronized attack. But, remember, 9/11 was their synchronized attack from al Qaeda. And they used everything they had. We don't know how much they're doing to try to destabilize this in a last-minute rush. They may be very weak. They may be very strong. We can't draw any conclusions.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Well, Joe, you're not suggesting that the United States pull out, are you?

KLEIN: No, no. In fact, I think that we have to stay in, because, if we do go out, we're going to create chaos in the area. It is going to be a major disaster in this looming war against Islamic radicalism that we're going to be fighting for the foreseeable future. But you're seeing a lot of pressure from politicians. Last night in the Democratic debate, you saw a drifting toward: Get the troops out; we could spend $87 billion better here at home.

And I think that this is a situation that the Bush administration brought on itself through its unbelievable incompetence.

ZAHN: Well, you even admit it, John, the talk that maybe some members of the administration oversold what the plan was.

FUND: They were salesmen. Sure. Absolutely.

ZAHN: But the fact is, the criticism is not just coming from these candidates running who are against the president. It's got to hurt that it's coming from Republicans as well. The White House can't ignore that.

FUND: Well, certainly, you can question the management. But the majority of the American people still say we should have gone into Iraq. majority of the American people still support our troops before there. The majority of the American people believe we have to fight back against these terrorists.

If there's no state like Iran actively supporting these people, over the long run, these people are going to lose, because they cannot import enough suicide bombers. We are going to crush them. That's why we have to stay the course.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Joe, finally tonight, isn't that what the administration is always suggesting, already suggesting, help from Iran, help from Syria here?

KLEIN: Well, I don't think that -- al Qaeda, if they have gotten organized help from any state, it's Saudi Arabia. And I don't hear the administration talking about that very much.

The problem is, we went into this alone. We don't have the world alongside us. They're not coming to help us. And it's a very difficult, desperate situation.

ZAHN: Gentlemen, we are going to have to leave it there. Joe Klein, John fund, thank you for both of your perspectives this evening.

Now to another problem dogging the administration today: the request for documents by the panel investigating the 9/11 attacks. The chairman of the commission is warning of subpoenas if the panel doesn't get what it wants from the White House, setting the stage for what could be a major legal battle with the administration.

I'm joined now from Washington by White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.

Good evening, Suzanne.

What is the likelihood that a subpoena will be served here?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, good evening, Paula.

The White House says it has executive privilege here and that these are just too sensitive to actually hand over. The 9/11 Commission is saying, on the other hand, they have the right to see absolutely everything.

Well, today, President Bush weighed in on the controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Those are very sensitive documents. And my attorney, Al Gonzales, is working with Chairman Kean.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Now, Paula, these are the kinds of documents that really have never been turned over to Congress or to an independent investigative body. It's very rare that the White House would agree to such a thing.

But you had asked before, what is the likelihood of them being subpoenaed? Well, I spoke with a spokesman of the 9/11 Commission today. They say that both sides are negotiating how to get this information, how to share this information, that it's about access. While they wouldn't give the details about this, generally, what happens is that these commissioners have top security clearance. They could go into a room. They could take a look at the documents and then leave the room.

They don't have to physically turn them over to those commissioners. They could also have very detailed briefings giving them the kind of information that they want -- Paula.

ZAHN: And, Suzanne, is it true the most critical documents they're looking for are the actual briefing notes that the president received -- or that he took in the weeks leading up to September 11, 2001?

MALVEAUX: Absolutely.

Those are very serious documents. And those are the ones that really typically only the president and perhaps two or three other people would have access to those type of documents, would have their hands on those documents. I did talk with the commissioner, who said -- the spokesperson for the commission -- who said that they have 95 percent of what they need, and they expect that this is going to take weeks, not months, that they're going to have this wrapped up before Thanksgiving, and that they'll make that decision of whether or not they need to subpoena the White House.

But, clearly, they want all of the information -- the intelligence about what happened the month before leading up to 9/11 -- Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Suzanne -- Suzanne Malveaux reporting for us from the White House tonight.

I'm joined now from Washington as well by Jamie Gorelick. Gorelick is a member of the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks.

Good to have you with us tonight. Welcome.

JAMIE GORELICK, 9/11 COMMISSION: Pleased to be here.

ZAHN: You just heard Suzanne's characterization of what's going on now between the commission and the Bush administration. She said you're negotiating furiously. Do you think your commission is going to get the documents it wants? GORELICK: We have to. We have to, because we are charged with getting the full story out to the American people. And we will have that.

ZAHN: So are you saying that these documents will come without a subpoena?

GORELICK: I don't know, but I think it would be very foolish on the part of the administration not to have a commission who -- that was created by Congress, signed into law by the president, the chairman appointed by the president personally, with great statements by the president about how much cooperation we would get.

These are documents that we're talking about now that were denied to the joint inquiry of Congress. And that denial was what, in part, led to the creation of this commission. So I can't -- I honestly can't imagine that we would proceed with this inquiry without having meaningful access to those documents.

ZAHN: Can you give us any sense of perspective on this at all? I'm still having trouble understanding whether you think you're going to get what you need or not.

GORELICK: I do. I'm very confident that we will, because I just cannot imagine that this commission can do its job without them. And I think the president will ultimately so conclude.

These documents, while it is true that they are very closely held, it is not true that only two or three people see them. It is not the case that these are notes that the president makes. Rather, this is how the intelligence community briefed the president and his senior advisers. And if that isn't relevant to what we're doing, I don't know what would be. So I honestly cannot imagine that we would go forward without getting access to those documents. And I think the president will so conclude.

ZAHN: Finally tonight, your commission has received thousands of documents so far, in fact, Suzanne said about 95 percent of what you need. Aren't there some legitimate security concerns involved here, as far as national security goes?

GORELICK: Absolutely.

I have been the strongest proponent of our national security that you can find. And we all have very top clearances. And as your report just mentioned, there is a safe in which we meet that is highly secure. The people on this commission are honorable men and women. And we can keep secrets. And we will. We understand why the president does not want to put these documents out in public, but that's not what we're asking for here. And I don't think that the national security rejoinder here is going to work.

ZAHN: Well, thank you for taking us inside the process tonight. Jamie Gorelick, good to see you.

GORELICK: My pleasure. ZAHN: A mother and father in New Jersey arrested after their four sons were found starving, their 19-year-old weighing just about 50 pounds. Despite 38 state inspections over two years, how did the system break down?

Our debate tonight, is there a worldwide increase of anti- Semitism?

And we're going to take an inside look at how the NBA is helping its future stars navigate the often treacherous waters of going pro.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: In New Jersey tonight, people are asking how a horrific case of child neglect could go unchecked, unnoticed.

Deborah Feyerick is standing in Trenton, New Jersey, with the latest on this story -- Deborah, good evening.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Paula.

Well, another tragedy, another apparent failure by New Jersey's foster care agency. It's an agency that insiders describe as being driven from crisis to crisis. Four boys, ages 9 to 19, were living in this house. Investigators say they were being starved to death. None weighed more than 50 pounds. The oldest, at 19, was just 4 feet tall. A case worker was at the home almost once a month over the last few years.

Parents say the boys had eating disorders. But one lead investigator says the eating disorders were the parents themselves.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's unspeakable to describe to you what these children looked like. Their faces were gaunt, their bellies distended, their ribs obviously showing. But the thing that I won't forget is the look of their eyes, the look of complete desperation. And it seems to me that that's a look that results from a public system and an adoptive family that has sorely betrayed these children.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: New Jersey's Division of Youth and Family Services was described by the group Children's Rights Incorporated as one of the worst in the country. A recent study by that group found that one in 10 children in foster care is at risk of abuse or neglect.

Well, now the case workers involved in this recent tragedy, all of them have been dismissed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have a situation where the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services has failed to protect children. The situation is deplorable. It's unacceptable. (END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: In January, New Jersey's child welfare system came under fire, because a 7 years old boy was found stuffed in a plastic container. He had been starved to death. There was evidence of blunt-force trauma. At that point, New Jersey's governor, Jim McGreevey, said in the strongest language that changes would be made to the system. Well, once again, changes are going to have to be made -- Paula.

ZAHN: The whole thing just makes you sick.

Deborah Feyerick, thank you.

For more on this story, I'm joined from Atlanta by Marcia Lowrie. She's the executive director of Children's Rights, an advocacy group that sued the state of New Jersey in 1999 to force reforms within its child welfare agency.

Welcome. Glad to have you with us tonight.

MARCIA LOWRY, EXEC. DIRECTOR, CHILDREN'S RIGHTS: Thank you very much.

ZAHN: Marcia, it is heartbreaking to hear Deborah describe that a case worker, on average, went to this home once a month, some 38 visits in all. Can you tell me how it is that those children weren't taken from that home?

LOWRY: Well, I think there are two things that are very troubling about this, aside from the obvious horror of the situation.

And that is that, when we settled this lawsuit this summer, when the state admitted what a terrible child welfare system it had, we were interested in long-term planning to fix the system, but we were also interested in the children who were in jeopardy of being seriously harmed today. And so, as a result of that, we put into the court order that the department had to do 100 percent safety assessment on all children in care.

Now, there was a safety assessment done on this home this summer. So not only has this been going on, but there was a special assessment done of all homes. This home passed the safety assessment. Plus, about a year and a half ago, two years ago, there was a little girl put into the home. Now, how do you put a new child into the home where there are four little boys starving to death?

So what was this agency thinking? We know the agency's been functioning poorly. And we expect that it is going to take a while to fix the agency. But to think that there's been a safety assessment done this summer as a result of a lawsuit, and that home passed the safety assessment is really, really frightening and makes us think that we really basically cannot trust any of the workers in that agency.

We're going to have to ask the state to go back and redo those assessments with independent people. We cannot trust anything that any of those workers are saying, unfortunately. These kids are in danger.

ZAHN: There are a lot of important questions you have just raised. Do you think it is a situation where someone was just not trained or someone who meant harm to these young boys?

LOWRY: Well, certainly, the family meant harm to these young boys.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: But I'm talking about the people who came to the home to check it out.

LOWRY: The level of functioning in this agency has been so low.

We have seen documents that describe abusive situations and the notations on them say business as usual. Clearly, business as usual in this agency for a long time has been ignoring the abuse and neglect of children. And I don't believe it is just these individual workers and supervisors who are involved.

I think that we have to look beyond that. This is a system that, for a long time, has tolerated treating children worse than animals.

ZAHN: Well, you certainly have got that right. Marcia Lowry, appreciate your perspective. We should make it clear that the New Jersey governor also concedes that the system has been broken for 25 years. And he says it's not going to get fixed in some 25 hours.

In the wake of the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case, we're going to see how the NBA is teaching its newest stars how to cope with the temptations of success.

And it is a favorite theme, short vs. tall, but it's no laughing matter when it comes to money. Are you being shortchanged in salary because of your height?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Some people say the situation Kobe Bryant finds himself in today is an example of too much too soon. But for nearly two decades, the NBA has been working to help its youngest players avoid off-the- court trouble. This year, the league let us see what some have called reality 101.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): The fast-paced high-stakes world of the NBA, young guys right out of college, or, in some cases, even high school.

DAVID STERN, NBA COMMISSIONER: The Cleveland Cavaliers select LeBron James.

ZAHN: Now skyrocketed into a world of sky-high salaries, high- speed travel, and blinding media spotlight.

Tom "Satch" Sanders, a 13-season NBA veteran, knows how dangerous the road can be.

TOM "SATCH" SANDERS, FORMER NBA PLAYER: The kind of situations that can endanger careers, endanger future income, endanger your reputation, image, and embarrass your family.

ANGELA WILDER, FORMER WIFE OF JAMES WORTHY: The last thing I expected, though, was to find out that my husband had been arrested for solicitation of prostitution.

ZAHN: Angela Wilder's husband was L.A. Laker all-star James Worthy. His arrest for solicitation was the first among many problems she says can come hand in hand with the endless temptations thrown in the path of NBA players.

WILDER: The amount of groupies, the intensity of their pursuit, it just exponentially increases at the professional level.

ZAHN: Wilder says neither she, nor her husband were prepared for how hard life in the NBA would be.

WILDER: It's not the NBA's job to be baby-sitters. It's not the national baby-sitting association. They're in a tough situation. They do need to provide some guidance, some education.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want you to think about...

ZAHN: And they do. In 1986, the league founded the NBA Rookie Transition Program. Every rookie, no matter how big a star, must attend.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the system that we live in.

ZAHN: For six days, 12 hours a day, they attend classes. Sure, there are classes on subjects like money management and nutrition. But there are also sessions on drugs, alcohol, sexual harassment, sexual health and...

CHRIS BOSH, NBA ROOKIE: Gambling. And you say, oh, I know about gambling. But then somebody that's actually been through it, they'll tell you a couple things, and you get surprised. You're just like, well, I didn't know that.

STERN: Chris Bosh from Georgia Tech University.

ZAHN: Chris Bosh could be one of the NBA's newest, brightest stars. He was picked fourth in the 2003 NBA draft.

BOSH: In college, I didn't have a car, didn't have money. All I had was basketball, my friends, and study hall. So I think it will be just adjusting to just the overall lifestyle of being an NBA player.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just real tired, baby.

ZAHN: And they're not just being lectured. Rookies watch actors play out tough situations.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told Tracy what she needed to know, OK?

ZAHN: Then they get up and role-play themselves.

LUKE WALTON, NBA ROOKIE: The skits are so realistic. Now somebody wants half your money or now someone wants your house. So to actually see it, after just learning about it, I think is real helpful.

ZAHN: For Luke Walton, the week has been learning experience. And he grew up in the NBA, his father, all-star Bill Walton.

WALTON: It's not just basketball anymore. It's a business. And it's a crazy business. And there's going to be people out there trying to take advantage of you.

ZAHN: A message that the NBA hopes this new crop of rookies is not going to learn the hard way.

SANDERS: When you read about half a dozen or maybe 10, 12 situations that have occurred, people have a habit of saying, oh, my, those NBA players. But the recognition has to be that you have to deal with this on an individual basis.

BOSH: I think, if you handle your personal life accordingly and you handle it good enough to where it's not that much of a big deal to everybody, all they can talk about is the 20 points that you scored last night and nothing else.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And never has this been more important than with the season getting under way tomorrow and the NBA under such intense scrutiny.

Desecration, violence, and even heads of state proclaiming that Jews rule the world. Is there a global rise in anti-Semitism? That's our debate tonight.

And do you have what it takes to survive a catastrophe? What you need to know as we look at the science of survival.

And tomorrow, Jeffrey Toobin reports live from Modesto, California, as Scott Peterson prepares for his preliminary hearing.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back. Much more ahead in this half hour, including our debate tonight: Is there a worldwide increase in anti- Semitism? Plus, we look at the science of survival. Do you have what it takes to make life-or-death decisions when disaster strikes?

But first, here is Heidi Collins in Atlanta with some of the headlines you need to know right now.

(NEWSBREAK)

ZAHN: An offshoot of the troubles between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East appears to be a worldwide upswing in anti-Semitism. In the cover story of this week's "U.S. News & World Report," editor-in-chief Mort Zuckerman writes, "The new anti-Semitism transcends boundaries, nationalities, politics and social systems." Mort Zuckerman joins us now, along with Middle East analyst Fawaz Gerges of Sarah Lawrence College.

Welcome, gentlemen. Mort, what evidence can you point to can you point to that we're actually seeing a rise, a global rise in anti- Semitism?

MORT ZUCKERMAN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": Well, if you look all over Europe, you've seen a huge outbreak of physical acts of violence against Jewish institutions, synagogues, cemeteries, against people who appear to be Jewish, hundreds and hundreds of attacks in countries that really had not experienced this for a long time. If you look at the Muslim world, you just saw the prime minister of Malaysia, Mahafir Muhammad (ph), who made some of the most outrageous anti-Semitism statements, and he was applauded by 57 leaders of the Muslim world.

So I think in two important parts of the world, if you want to include Russia in the Western world, you've seen a big outbreak of anti-Semitism, and the atmosphere for that has been almost incentivized by a lot of the media in Europe being particularly hostile to Israel.

The new anti-Semitism is not so much against an individual Jew or Jews, per se, as it is against a collective Jew, which is Israel. And Israel, in a sense, has become the Jew among nations, in that it is not allowed to do what most countries are allowed to do in their own self-defense, for example.

ZAHN: Do you buy the notion that you can't attack Israel without being considered an anti-Semite?

FAWAZ GERGES, MIDDLE EAST ANALYST: Let me first say that the escalation of Palestinian-Israeli hostilities has really done a great deal of damage to the prospects of religious coexistence between Palestinians, between Arabs and Israelis and Jews and all that.

ZAHN: Is it as dangerous...

GERGES: But I don't -- but I don't...

ZAHN: Do you think it's as dangerous as Mort just described?

GERGES: No. No, it's not. I don't really buy the argument -- I think it's very inaccurate to lump all critics of the Israeli government as anti-Semites. After all, there are many progressive Jews and peace-minded Jews who are as critical of Israel as some Arabs and Europeans.

Secondly -- secondly, I think it's also misleading to reduce Israeli society and culture to the executive Israeli government. There is more to Israel, Paula, than Ariel Sharon. And thirdly -- and thirdly and finally, with response to -- I really -- I fear sometimes that lumping -- lumping all critics of Israel, like some of us, as anti-Semites is used sometimes as a tool of political intimidation, in order to close rather than open the political debate.

ZAHN: All right...

GERGES: After all, the Israeli political scene is much more open and dynamic and critical than American...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: But you think it is appropriate to...

(CROSSTALK)

ZUCKERMAN: No, no. I don't lump everybody as critics -- who are critics of Israel as anti-Semites, but I am saying that there is a huge increase in those who treat Israel, as a member of the family of nations, the way Jews used to be treated. That is to say, they don't have the same rights. There's a level of moral equivalence, when there is no moral equivalence.

For example, there is a difference between the arsonist and firefighter, between the terrorist who seeks to maximize the number of civilian casualties and the response of a legitimate elected government of Israel, which seeks to minimize civilian casualties. So I think when you have these two being equated, that to me is another form of anti-Semitism.

When Israel cannot do in its own defense what every other nation is allowed to do in its own defense, that is a level of discrimination, and that is what I mean when I say it's against the collective Jew that there is an increase in anti-Semitism, where Israel is not allowed to do what other countries are allowed to do in their own defense, including us.

ZAHN: While you don't buy everything Mort's saying here this evening, do you concede it is dangerous for Jews...

GERGES: It's very dangerous...

ZAHN: ... in the world today?

GERGES: It's very dangerous. I'll tell you, in fact, we are -- it's very alarming that now a thick layer of religious extremism has been imposed on an essentially a political conflict -- that is, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. But I would go further and argue that the bleeding, the continuing bleeding of Palestinian-Israeli hostilities, I mean, does a great deal of damage.

And this particular increase in anti-Israeli activity, sentiment, you might say anti-Zionism, is basically located not in culture or religion, but rather in the continuing political conflict. And this is why it's essential to address the root causes of this particular anti-Israeli or anti-Zionist -- by trying to stop the shedding of Jewish and Palestinian blood, by finding a settlement...

ZAHN: What do you think...

GERGES: ... by -- by...

ZAHN: ... people are attempting to do right now, maybe not successfully, but there is an attempt...

(CROSSTALK)

ZUCKERMAN: ... an attempt. There have been attempts going on. There was, after all, Camp David, which was not so long ago, three years ago, when the Israeli prime minister made extraordinary proposals to the Palestinians, which were rejected. And from that point on, you've had three years of violence. And it's that violence and the response to that violence that has contributed to exactly what you're saying. I don't disagree that that is -- it is becoming more and more of a religious conflict, but the religious extremism, I might say, is not so much on the Israeli side as it is on the Arab side.

ZAHN: I need a quick rejoinder here.

GERGES: First and foremost, the bloodshed must stop. A settlement must be found. The U.S. administration must intervene not only to exert pressure on the Palestinians but also on the Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to show restraint and allow Palestinian self-determination. This is how you resolve this simmering conflict between Jews and Arabs and...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Last word because your last name begins with "Z."

ZUCKERMAN: Yes, well, I mean, I share the view there should be a settlement, but again I will point out that that is easier said than done. After what happened at Camp David, I mean, I remain -- I was very involved in Camp David, and it was rejected by Arafat. I don't see any progress as long as Arafat is the leader of the Palestinians.

ZAHN: Gentlemen, we got to stop there. Mort Zuckerman, Fawaz Gerges, thank you...

GERGES: Thank you.

ZAHN: ... for dropping by in person.

When catastrophe strikes, why does one person live and another person die? We're going to look at the science of survival and ask if you have what it takes to make a split-second decision to save your life.

And we're going to meet the author of "The Joy Luck Club." Celebrated writer Amy Tan shares her insights into the relationships between mothers and their daughters.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) ZAHN: You have heard the amazing survival stories, like the ordeal of Aron Ralston, the man who cut off his own arm to survive after getting trapped under a boulder. So what is it that separates the survivors from victims? Do you have what it takes to make a split-second decision to save your own life?

Let's bring in the truth squad. Laurence Gonzales is the author of "Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why." He is also contributing editor to the "National Geographic Adventure" magazine. He joins us tonight. Welcome.

LAURENCE GONZALES, AUTHOR, "DEEP SURVIVAL": Thank you.

ZAHN: Are we born with an instinct to save ourself?

GONZALES: Well, I think we're all born with the survival instinct, but I think the true survivors who get out of really bad situations are ones who have lived in a certain way that directs them towards survival.

ZAHN: So what is it that separates them from the rest of us?

GONZALES: Well, there are a lot of qualities that are described in the book, but I think taking responsibility for yourself is certainly a big one. And we live in a culture that encourages us not to take responsibility. We're always expecting someone else to come and get us. If something goes wrong, we blame other people, we sue each other. Survivors don't think that way. They think, If something bad happens, it doesn't matter whose fault it is, I'm going to take care of it.

ZAHN: So what are the biggest mistakes people in general make during a crisis?

GONZALES: I think the first one is they don't see what's going on. They deny it. You've been in a high-rise building for years, working on a certain floor. You've never smelled smoke. One day you smell smoke. What do you do, talk about it, sit there, keep working? Or maybe you go find out what's wrong, go down to the first floor? I had a flight instructor, when I was learning how to fly, who used to say about the weather, If it looks bad, it is bad. And then he used to remind me that I'd much rather be on the ground wishing I were in the air than in the air wishing I were on the ground.

ZAHN: Smart instructor. Let's talk about how 9/11 has changed everything and all of our senses, collective senses of vulnerability. When I think of the stories that are going to stay with me forever, these are the stories of people who carried folks down in wheelchairs 30, 40 flights, folks that didn't even know they would be physically capable of doing that. What did we learn that day about the will to survive?

GONZALES: Well, I think we learned a lot about the will to survive, but I think we learned that these environments that we accept as completely safe are not really completely safe. Every day, we spend time in places where the thin reed of technology that we depend on can break and leave us stranded. This happened in Chicago the other day, where I come from. There was a high-rise fire...

ZAHN: Awful.

GONZALES: ... and people didn't know where the stairwell was. They knew where one stairwell was, but that was the one that was on fire. And six people died as a result of simply not looking around their own environment and saying, Well, where am I really? I'm 200 feet off the ground in a manmade maze.

ZAHN: So we're basically asleep, you're saying.

GONZALES: We're asleep at the wheel, a lot of us. And I am, too. If there were a fire here right now, I don't know how...

ZAHN: I'd help you out.

GONZALES: ... to get out.

ZAHN: I know the way the out of here.

GONZALES: You'd help me.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: Let's talk about some of the general rules of survival because I think you have an interesting approach to the whole idea of panic. Panic isn't necessarily people screaming, it's being frozen in time.

GONZALES: Right. A lot of people in the World Trade Center just sat there for a variety of reasons -- denial, this isn't really happening, thinking someone else would rescue them, or just being so afraid they couldn't move. But I think there are four -- in the excerpt in "National Geographic Adventure" of the book, there are a bunch of different qualities we use, but there are four ways this breaks down in my mind. One is your attitude. Another is your perceptions. Another is your plan. And another is your actions. So all of those can be kind of lumped together under those four things.

ZAHN: And then you have another point where you say celebrate success.

GONZALES: Yes, and when you...

ZAHN: Be a survivor. Do not be a victim.

GONZALES: Right. You've -- we've all met whiners, people who complain about everything and blame others. That's not what a survivor's like. A survivor takes the attitude that, This is a challenge. I'm going to meet it. I have the will and I have the skill, and I'm going to do it. And they go forward.

ZAHN: Well, "Deep Survival" confronts a lot of questions I think many of us have asked ourselves and sometimes been too troubled to try to answer them. So thank you for going over them with us tonight.

GONZALES: You're welcome.

ZAHN: Good luck with the book.

GONZALES: Thanks very much.

ZAHN: Laurence Gonzales.

One of America's most popular novelists, author Amy Tan, talks about her struggle against a debilitating disease. And new evidence that size matters, the study that says if you're tall, you will earn more. We're going to ask actor Gary Coleman what he thinks about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Amy Tan's novels touch on family dynamics and mother- daughter relationships. Her new book, "The Opposite of Fate," is her first work of non-fiction. Amy Tan's own story, as it turns out, is as compelling and harrowing as any of the stories she's ever written.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMY TAN, AUTHOR: I want to understand my mother. I really try. But in so many ways, she's always been a stranger to me. I guess she always will be.

ZAHN (voice-over): It was one of those books, one of those movies that stays with you forever. The immortal, vivid words of Amy Tan's "Joy Luck Club" made her a book club darling. Yet ironically, if her mother had had her way, Amy never would have written a page.

(on camera): She wanted you either to be a concert pianist or a doctor.

TAN: Yes. Yes.

ZAHN: Now, 55 years later, are you satisfied with the choice you made?

TAN: It was not what she expected, and yet after it happened, she would brag to everybody, I always knew she had a wild imagination. I knew she would be a writer. And so, in a sense, she revised herself and made it seem as though she expected it all along.

ZAHN: What have you learned over the years about the intimacy of a mother-daughter relationship?

TAN: Part of it is that it changes. Part of it was getting older and realizing that she was a human being, and some of the things that she -- the warnings she gave me, like, Don't kiss a boy. If you do, you know, you'll get pregnant and you'll put the baby in a garbage can and you'll go to jail and you might as well kill yourself right now. You know, she'd say things like that, and I had no context for it. When I realized what that came from in her life, the trauma she had gone through, it made me appreciate how much love was behind those warnings. ZAHN (voice-over): Warnings that no doubt helped Tan deal with the many tragedies that have struck her life over the years, starting at just 15, when her father and then brother died of brain tumors.

TAN: It was a terrible time, but it was also a formative time for me as a writer because I had to ask questions. I had to observe and know what was true. And it made me the kind of writer that I am today.

ZAHN: To this day, she has written over half a dozen novels, most best-sellers, all while dealing with more loss -- the 1999 death of her beloved mother, and just two weeks later, the death of her long-time editor. But recently, writing has become almost impossible. Tan suffered from extreme pain, depression and bizarre hallucinations. It took 11 doctors, $50,000 in medical bills and almost four years to diagnose the cause: neurological Lyme disease.

TAN: I wasn't diagnosed until about six months ago, so there was a lot of time that it went unchecked and it went into my brain. I had 40 different problems. And I'm finally getting medical treatment, and I'm very hopeful. I expect to be doing well, but at the same time, I'm aware of the reality that I may never be 100 percent and I may have to continue treatment for the rest of my life.

ZAHN (on camera): In addition to struggling with Lyme disease, you've also had to deal with depression. Do you have that under control?

TAN: I think some of the depression was related to the Lyme disease. But yes, there is a history of depression in our family. But I'm doing wonderfully now. Despite having Lyme disease, despite a number of other things, I'm a very happy person.

ZAHN (voice-over): Tan credits her husband of 29 years for that happiness. He is her rock, her anchor, perhaps even her muse.

TAN: We are they now, in love, in awe.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: The words of Amy Tan. What you heard her reading is a love poem to her devoted husband.

The long and the short of the new study that says tall people earn more, about $800 a year more an inch.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The long and short of how much you're paid may depend on whether you're long or short. A University of Florida study found that a person who is six feet tall will earn about $5,500 more a year than a person who's five feet, five inches.

We asked satirist Andy Borowitz and actor Gary Coleman to help us check this out. Andy's here with me in New York. Gary joins us from Los Angeles. Good evening to both of you. ANDY BOROWITZ, "THE BOROWITZ REPORT": Good evening Paula.

GARY COLEMAN, ACTOR: Hello.

ZAHN: All right, Andy, let's start off by looking at the chart here tonight. The research from the study shows that someone who is six feet, three inches, makes $34,734, but someone who is five foot, three inches, only makes $25,266. Do you buy these numbers?

BOROWITZ: Well, I have some concerns about them. For example, the sample of tall people -- I want to know if that includes people like LeBron James, for example, or Shaquille O'Neal. That would skew the entire sample. So I think that -- we have to sort of take those two gentlemen out and see if it still holds up.

ZAHN: Gary Coleman, does the study hold up?

COLEMAN: Well, I'm actually surprised that the University of Florida is actually wasting time on this. But you could just look at nature. Nature itself tends to feed the larger members of the litter or the larger members of the babies more food than it does the runts. So in that instance, I would say, yes, I guess taller people get more money because they pose some kind of mental threat. Like, Oh, they're big, they're bad, they might come after me if I don't treat them fairly. Whereas smaller people are looked up on as, Oh, I could kick them around as much as I want and they're not going to anything.

So there's a lot of truism, if you will, to the big versus the small, but...

ZAHN: Well, I think what Gary...

COLEMAN: But I don't agree with it because your spirit should be measured more than your height or your stature.

BOROWITZ: Gary sounds like...

ZAHN: Well, that may be true...

BOROWITZ: ... he's still running for governor, actually.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: Well, he got 15,000 votes, after all.

COLEMAN: No, no. This is actually -- this is actually a subject that's very close to my heart because I -- I suffer a little bit from Napoleonism, if you will. I don't like being short. I wish I was tall because I'd be accepted in other, more tall circles or adult circles, if you will.

ZAHN: Well, I think Gary makes a very interesting point about how much height is valued in our society. Do you think your height entitles you to everything you've got in your life right now?

BOROWITZ: Oh, no... ZAHN: A higher salary than short people?

BOROWITZ: Well, no. I don't think...

ZAHN: And are you a better leader because you're tall?

BOROWITZ: No. I think I'm a better leader because I'm sexy, Paula. But I think, you know, really...

ZAHN: Do we have to vote for that one?

BOROWITZ: You don't. You don't. But...

ZAHN: Oh, I'll vote for it right now.

BOROWITZ: Oh, well, thank you. But...

ZAHN: Go, Andy, go.

BOROWITZ: You know, in Hollywood, for example, which Gary is very familiar with, sometimes it is the shorter people that are running the game.

ZAHN: Gary?

COLEMAN: I agree with him. I think some of the studio execs and some of the powerhouses in Hollywood, like Danny DeVito, for instance, are smaller people. But overall, I mean, if you look around -- if you use Hollywood as the example, who's the ones that get, you know, $18 million, $20 million a picture? You know, they're tall. They're good-looking. They're pretty. Who are the ones that seem to have all the money and all the power? They're usually tall. They usually have some kind of threatening posture, if you will, as opposed to somebody like me. They're, like, Oh, yes. You? You want $18 million? Prove to me that you could come take $18 million away from me. You know, it's that kind of attitude, so -- and like I said, if I use nature, actual, you know, animals in nature, it is the runts that die and the healthy kids that get all the food.

ZAHN: Well, let me ask you this, Gary. You were actually the shortest gubernatorial candidate in California during this recall race, but you were the first to actually land a job at a radio show. So do short people really finish last?

COLEMAN: No, no. Landing a job with all-comedy radio at KLSX -- that was providence. That was something that's been in the work for two years. So whether or not I ran for governor, I was going to have that job.

ZAHN: See? The tall guys don't always get everything, Andy.

BOROWITZ: I would also point out that on "Different Strokes," your character often got the best of Willis, who was taller than you were on the show. So let's keep that record straight, as well.

ZAHN: We will keep that in mind as... COLEMAN: That was by design.

ZAHN: ... as we thank you both for joining us tonight. Gary Coleman, Andy Borowitz, appreciate your time tonight.

And we want to thank you all for joining us tonight. That wraps it up for all of us here. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Thank you again for joining us tonight. Hope you'll be back with us again tomorrow night. Until then, have a good night.

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