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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Entire Communities Consumed in California Wildfires; Chilling Testimony in Sniper Trial; Minneapolis Tops Fun List

Aired October 30, 2003 - 20:00   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): "In Focus" tonight, the California wildfires.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every plan we come up with just doesn't work out for us.

ZAHN: One entire community wiped off the map. We're going to meet members of the strike team who fought a losing battle to save the neighborhood from the inferno.

Chilling propaganda video urges children to commit suicide attacks and calls for deaths of U.S. forces in Iraq. Do these tapes exploit the poverty and despair of the Palestinian people?

And a new survey lists the top 50 fun cities in the USA. You'll be surprised by who topped the list and who's bringing up the rear. Where does your hometown rate?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And good evening and welcome. Glad to have you with us tonight.

Also ahead: a heart-wrenching scene in the D.C. area sniper trial, as the jury hears a husband's chilling 911 call on the night his wife was shot in the head in a Home Depot parking lot.

And the surprising results of a brand new poll on the Democratic presidential race. You won't believe who's way out in front.

Plus, a controversial look at daily life in Afghanistan after the Taliban. It's not what you might think.

Also, the new gadget that gives you a green light any time you want it. Is it a commuter's dream or an accident waiting to happen?

We will also stay on top of the California wildfires still raging tonight. The death toll now stands at 20, with at least 2,600 homes destroyed. We will go live to the fire line with Frank Buckley, talk with one of the 13,000 firefighters now battling exhaustion, as well as the flames. And we're going to meet a family who lost just about everything.

But, first, another story you need to know right now. CNN has obtained some disturbing new evidence of just how brutal Saddam Hussein's dictatorship was in Iraq. It is extremely graphic videotape of people being tortured, even beheaded.

CNN got ahold of the tape from independent sources. It was not released by the Pentagon.

Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre has the story and some of the pictures.

Good evening, Jamie.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, even though it wasn't released by the Pentagon, it was discovered by U.S. Army soldiers in Baghdad back in April shortly after the war.

The disturbing video shows what appears to be brutal punishment administered by the Fedayeen Saddam to enforce discipline in their ranks. It includes awful pictures of people's tongues being cut out, fingers being cut off, even people being thrown off of buildings from a height high enough -- intended to inflict maximum pain without actually killing them.

The videos are very unsettling. And the Pentagon says that they demonstrate the brutality of the regime. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld today said they portray a regime that's about as vicious as any regime could conceivably be. And the excerpts we're showing you aren't the worst ones. Having viewed the whole tape, I can tell you, the entire tape if very unsettling and, in fact, was stomach-turning -- Paula.

ZAHN: Yes, I had to look away a couple of times just watching what you think is the diluted part of all this.

Give us a better sense of how this tape was obtained.

MCINTYRE: Well, the U.S. Army came across it in Baghdad during a hunt in the city. How we came across the tape was from a third party who had come in possession of the tape. Of course, it was in the U.S. military possession some time ago. We asked the Pentagon for a version of the tape. And they have so far refused to release it.

ZAHN: Jamie McIntyre, thanks for the update, as disturbing as it was.

We move on now to the latest on the devastation in Southern California. More than 650,000 acres have now been scorched by the massive wildfires there. And Governor Gray Davis estimates the damage so far at some $2 billion. The fires are "In Focus" tonight.

I'm joined now by national correspondent Frank Buckley, who joins us from Cedar Glen, California. That's about 85 miles east of Los Angeles, the small community there all but destroyed.

Frank, what is the latest from there tonight?

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, it's difficult to really give you a sense of the devastation here in the community that's part of the Lake Arrowhead.

What I'd like to do is show you some of the homes, where some 300 to 350 homes burned to the ground here in this Cedar Glen neighborhood of Lake Arrowhead, obviously very devastating for the homeowners here, but also very difficult for the firefighters, who worked so hard to save these homes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BUCKLEY (voice-over): Firefighters couldn't hold the fire back in Cedar Glen. And the enormity of the losses are just beginning to sink in.

Walter Brush (ph) heard about his wife's family home on TV.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So we had to get up here to see, but 40 years gone.

BUCKLEY: The firefighters who tried to save the homes in this neighborhood fought to the point of exhaustion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because your homes -- they're somebody's homes. And if we can't save that home, then somebody's without a house.

BUCKLEY: We were with strike team 6224 Alpha, as Cedar Glen burned, 19 men and one woman on five engines from San Bernardino County, their mission, to cut off the fire and send it down a canyon away from homes.

(on camera): But conditions changed. And when the fire started to hook around their position, the strike team decided to move.

(voice-over): But as they prepared to move out, a call comes over the radio. A CDF firefighter is injured. It turns out to be a minor injury, but it could have been fatal. A tree branch broke or burned off. Part of it hit the fireman. It was a physical blow at the end of a difficult day and night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is very, very tough for us. We don't want to give up. The men do not want to stop.

BUCKLEY: But the exhausted firefighters find new life in a new day. It is foggy and cold.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My nose is turning red.

BUCKLEY: Great conditions for killing a fire. And after their longest stretch of sleep in a week, four hours straight, strike team 6224 Alpha is ready to go back on the lines.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BUCKLEY: And I can tell you that this evening, Paula, it remains very cold here around Lake Arrowhead, great conditions for the firefighters. They made a great deal of progress today, very good news for them -- Paula.

ZAHN: How dispiriting is it for them when they lose one of their own, not necessarily a colleague that they're working side by side, but when they know they've lost one elsewhere?

BUCKLEY: Well, we were actually with some firefighters when that happened earlier in the evening. And there was a very definite reaction, one of them just turning and walking away.

This is a brotherhood, and a sisterhood, in some cases. This is a family. It's something that goes generation to generation, in many cases. When one firefighter goes down, all of them feel it -- Paula.

ZAHN: Frank Buckley, thanks so much.

Thousands of firefighters have worked tirelessly, as Frank just exposed you to, battling erratic winds and their own exhaustion in what has at times seemed to be a futile attempt at containing the flames.

We want to talk to one of them now. Captain Rick McClintock is with his colleagues in the San Bernardino County Fire Department.

Very good of all of you to join us. We salute all the very difficult work all of you are doing.

Captain McClintock, you've been there a week now. And, as I understand it, last night was the first night you've actually gotten some sleep in four days. How are you all holding up?

CAPTAIN RICK MCCLINTOCK, SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: We're doing good. We're all tired. Everybody out on the line is very tired. We got about four hours last night inside a building. That was pretty nice. We've been sleeping out on the ground and back in the hose beds since Friday evening. So we're doing good, though.

ZAHN: And I know none of you will give up until you can really contain these fires. And yet I'm just curious how the fatigue might have jeopardized your progress or perhaps even your effectiveness?

MCCLINTOCK: When we're working, it's really easy. We work real hard. When we're working hard, we just keep working. We go and go and go. The fatigue sits in when we're sitting down and relaxing or are on when we're on standby and we're sitting in our engines waiting to go to another assignment. That's when the fatigue sits in.

ZAHN: We look at these pictures, and I think it's so hard for any of us to understand just how dangerous it is for you every minute you're on the job. How bad is it out there?

MCCLINTOCK: This was an incredible fire.

We all fought this fire, and it was amazing. It's done things that we've never seen in our career and probably will never see again. It would build up and burn and have enormous flame lengths through the tops of these trees, when it would crown out. And then it would die back down and then it would take off again. It was burning against the wind, which is extremely dangerous. And it was an amazing fire, far beyond our ability to fight.

ZAHN: Well, Captain McClintock, I know you've been all praying for cold weather and I'm glad you've gotten a little snap of it. And I hope that helps you all make even more progress. Thank you, again, for spending a little time with us.

MCCLINTOCK: Thank you. All right, thank you very much.

ZAHN: Particularly when you've been so pressed to the limits there. Good luck to you all.

MCCLINTOCK: All right. Thank you very much.

ZAHN: And I am joined now by two of the thousands of people who have lost their homes in the wildfire.

Roberta and Yochanan Winston and their children join us now live from San Diego.

Thanks for joining us tonight, as well.

YOCHANAN SEBASTIAN WINSTON, WILDFIRE VICTIM: Thanks for having us, Paula.

ROBERTA WINSTON, WILDFIRE VICTIM: Thank you.

ZAHN: I guess, Roberta, in spite of the fact that you've lost your own home, do you feel pretty lucky tonight?

R. WINSTON: I feel lucky, really, in so many ways.

Obviously, we have our children and our dog, Sandy (ph), that we were able to get out. But the thing that has been the most moving for me personally is the absolutely overwhelming generosity and love and support that we've gotten from our -- from the Scripps Ranch community and the Jewish community, where we are, just the -- everybody really has been just overwhelmingly wonderful.

And the hard part is, we're not used to being on the receiving end of this. We're used to being on the giving end. And so that's what is the most actually difficult to receive.

ZAHN: Yochanan, you have had to make a lot of tough choices over the last 48 hours as a family. Take us back to the point in time when you realized your house was threatened and you had 20 minutes to get out of that house. How did you decide what to take with you?

Y. WINSTON: Well, actually it's easy, because, after the family and the dog, everything else is so much less of a priority. So, when you have a few minutes, after everybody is safe, you're know that you're going to get out of there, or you're pretty sure you're going to get out safely, then you go for the pictures, the most important things in your life that you can think of, jewelry, certainly, whatever it is that you just simply can't replace. And then the rest of it, you think that you're going to be able to get back. Until we found out for certain that the house was gone, I thought I was going to get back my music library. I thought that all of the rest of the photos were going to be retrieved.

R. WINSTON: My mom's artwork. She made magnificent pictures that were hanging all over the walls in our home. And they're -- I didn't get those.

Y. WINSTON: Right.

ZAHN: And when you return home, all that was left was what, just a part of the fireplace?

R. WINSTON: A garden hose, the garden hose with water spraying out of it. And the ugliest facade on our fireplace that you've ever seen, that I hated from the moment I walked in that house, was still standing. And the rest of it was gone.

ZAHN: Well, you have certainly inspired us tonight with your perspective and sense of humor, I might add, during a very difficult time for your family. Tell your kids that we're waving back to them now. They can't see us in the monitor. And best of luck, as you try to rebuild your life there.

R. WINSTON: Thank you so much.

Y. WINSTON: Thanks for having us, Paula.

ZAHN: Robert and Yochanan, again, appreciate your time.

Now to the D.C. area sniper trial, where jurors heard from another survivor of the attacks and from a man whose wife was killed.

For the very latest from the trial of John Allen Muhammad and a day of dramatic testimony, we go to Jeanne Meserve, who is standing by in Virginia Beach.

Jeanne, walk us through what might be considered some of the most brutal testimony you've ever had to listen to.

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It wasn't just testimony, Paula.

They played a 911 tape, this call made by William Franklin after his wife, Linda, had been shot in a Home Depot parking lot. You could hear him sobbing. You could hear him wailing. You could hear how incoherent he was. The panic pitched his voice so high that the dispatcher at first thought he was talking to a woman.

Also today, gruesome photographs, both of the crime scene and of the autopsy. Now, the defense fought very hard to keep all of these things out of evidence. They were unsuccessful. Only one crime scene photograph was kept out in the end -- Paula.

ZAHN: Jeanne, how did the jury react to what you heard in the courtroom today?

MESERVE: I watched one juror cry during the 911 tape, another juror wiping her eyes after the 911 tape. In addition, there was a third juror who I saw kept her eyes averted from the screens when they had up some of those incredibly grisly photographs of Linda Franklin.

ZAHN: And I also saw you visibly moved by what you had heard as well earlier today. That's pretty easy to understand, given the magnitude of what you have just described. Jeanne Meserve, thank you very much for the update.

MESERVE: You bet.

ZAHN: We're going to move on now. Who is shaping up as the No. 1 Democratic presidential contender of 2004? Well, some new poll results are in. And they show a surprisingly clear leader. Guess what? She's not in that picture.

Propaganda video aimed at Palestinian children reportedly calls for attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq.

Also, tired of sitting at endless red lights? Well, some new technology gives drivers the green light anytime they want one.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The latest Democratic presidential poll is an eye-catcher. It asks registered Democrats to rate the top declared candidates, as well as Hillary Clinton. The New York senator clobbered them all. She has 43 percent, 33 points ahead of her nearest competitor, retired General Wesley Clark, who gets 10. For the record, she says she's not running.

But to discuss what she might be thinking, I'm joined by her former press secretary, Lisa Caputo, and by Gail Sheehy, the author of a book called "Hillary's Choice."

Good to see the two of you.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: First of all, at times, what you've written Hillary Clinton has been pretty critical. Even you would have to concede tonight that the perception of her at this juncture is pretty darn popular. Were you surprised by these numbers?

(CROSSTALK)

GAIL SHEEHY, AUTHOR, "HILLARY'S CHOICE": No, actually I'm not.

I think that there's tremendous excitement around Hillary, particularly in the last few years, since she's been a senator, and she's shown that she's a very collaborative politician. She has won over so many of the rivals of her husband who were demanding his scalp. And she is making the case against President Bush and his handling of the war better than anybody. ZAHN: Has she won over you?

SHEEHY: Well, I'm not a political -- I wrote a biography of Hillary, trying to explain who she is.

ZAHN: I understand that, but you certainly have some personal opinions about her.

SHEEHY: Well, I do.

I think she's an excellent politician. I think she would make an excellent candidate. However, when you compare her -- when you look at that poll and you see her against President Bush, she loses just a point or two more than any of the other Democratic candidates. So it's interesting. She blows away her rivals, but, when she's up against Bush, she doesn't win the general.

ZAHN: Let's review for a moment what she's has had to say about any speculation involving a potential run for the presidency.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I have no plans, no intention. It's flattering for people to say something like that, obviously. But as far as I'm concerned, I have a great job. And it's a very challenging job, and I love doing it. And I'm going to do it to the best of my ability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: We've heard what the senator has to say, and yet we've heard numerous reports that her own office has done nothing to stop the speculation about a potential run for the presidency.

You know her better than just about anybody. How do you think she really is internally reacting to these numbers?

LISA CAPUTO, FORMER HILLARY CLINTON PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think the way she's reacting is, everybody is asking the questions. She is not.

Polls come and go. She's not somebody who is beholden to polls, never has been. And I think a lot of this, in her view, certainly, is being whipped up, in large measure because there hasn't been a Democratic nominee selected yet. The field hasn't really shaken out yet. And so there's a lot of speculation hovering around her, because, as Gail said, people are intrigued by her.

And, also, she's doing a very fine job as senator. And managed to navigate both sides of the aisle extremely well. But I think a lot of this is due to the fact, particularly amongst the press corps, that there has not been a lot of excitement in the Democratic field yet. And I think, once you start to see this play out, you'll see Hillary campaigning across the country for whomever the nominee is.

She's actively trying to help Democrats get elected across the country. And she has said repeatedly she's not running. I believe her. She's said it repeatedly to me. She's going to stick out her six-year term in the Senate.

ZAHN: Do you believe her?

SHEEHY: I think that one fact of political life -- and I wonder if you'd agree with me, Lisa -- you have to catch the golden ring when it comes around the first time, because it usually only comes around once.

When people really want you to run for president and your party reaches out for you, which the Democratic Party hasn't necessary yet...

ZAHN: When you see the golden ring

(CROSSTALK)

SHEEHY: You got to do it, yes. I think so. What do you think?

ZAHN: She says she's not running.

CAPUTO: She's not running. She said she's not running.

And that's an awfully big hypothetical to throw out there in this race yet, because let's be fair to the candidates in the race. We've got a lot of them. We're just around the corner from Iowa and New Hampshire. And I think, once we come out of those two states, we're going to see a couple people emerge at the head of the pack.

ZAHN: Well, we'd love to have you both back as we move in on those two very important dates on the political calender.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: Great to see you both.

Congratulations on your almost brand-new baby, Lisa.

CAPUTO: Thank you.

ZAHN: And when we come back: Palestinian television is airing some provocative propaganda, music videos aimed at encouraging violence by children. Do these images represent the aims of the Palestinian people?

And getting the green light whenever you want it, a commuter's dream come true or a traffic nightmare?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And welcome back.

Iraq may be the major front now in the war on terror, but should the U.S. be more worried about what's going on much closer to home?

National correspondent Mike Boettcher reports from the tri-border region of South America.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): More than a decade in the making, senior Latin American and U.S. intelligence operatives fear a seamless terrorist highway now runs through South America, from the Chilean port of Iquique, through the scenic tri-border region, where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay intersect, north through the Brazilian jungle, then branching out to Surinam, Guyana, Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama, and on to the United States.

Drugs, weapons and laundered money were once the sole illicit commodities that moved along the route. Now those intelligence analysts say there's growing evidence that terrorists are using it as a launching pad against the United States. The U.S. State Department's counterterrorism ambassador, Cofer Black, says the threat has long been anticipated.

COFER BLACK, U.S. COUNTERTERRORISM AMBASSADOR: These countries are close to us. We anticipated this. And we have been in and are positioning ourselves to effectively identify and engage potential targets that come to our hemisphere.

BOETTCHER: Some have already passed through, according to South American counterterrorism officials. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, believed the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, is one.

Brazilian police records revealed only this year that he came to Brazil in December of 1995, entering with a Pakistani passport. And Osama bin Laden, according to a former top Argentinian intelligence official, established links in South America well before 9/11.

MARIO BAIZAN, FORMER ARGENTINE INTERNATIONAL OFFICIAL (through translator): We were able to dismantle two cells of Jemaah Islamiyah, which is al-Zawahiri's group. He is al Qaeda's second in command. That was probably the first contact in this area between bin Laden and this Muslim diaspora.

BOETTCHER: Intelligence operatives also see evidence that this group, the Colombian narco terrorist organization called the FARC, along with Asian and African-based crime organized families, are working hand in hand with Islamic terrorist groups.

BLACK: We are concerned about the signs of increasing interaction between those who are involved in narcotics and those who are supporting of the scourge of international terrorism.

BOETTCHER: To see how easy it is for terrorists to move undetected through one part of the vast region, we took a small boat from the shores of Puerto Iguazu, Argentina. And, within minutes, the unpoliced shores of Paraguay appeared.

Off the boat and into a van, then down a dirt road to Ciudad del Este, Paraguay. (on camera): There were many, many businesses here, and still are. But after 9/11, the whole complexion of the place changed; 2,500 businesses closed down, because the authorities here were cracking down.

No, no watch, please. No, no, thanks.

As you can see, the business of this place is black market, counterfeit goods. And there are some tough streets here.

(voice-over): Streets where $71 million a day is earned in legal and illegal transactions, with large sums of those revenues siphoned to support terrorist activities, say top intelligence officials in the region.

As we boarded the small boat for the return trip to Argentina, there were no authorities present, just the boat owner. He entered our passport information into an old logbook, never checking if the photos matched our faces, no customs control, no questions asked.

We sped back across, Paraguay behind us, Brazil to our left, Argentina straight ahead, free to land anywhere, undetected.

Mike Boettcher, CNN, in the tri-border region of South America.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And television as a tool for terrorists? Palestinian propaganda, music videos calling for martyrs, chilling images with a deadly message, asking children to kill.

And after the war in Afghanistan, has life returned to normal on the streets of Kabul?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back. In just a moment, music videos promoting martyrdom. We're going debate (ph) the kind that Palestinian children are watching.

First, though, the headlines you need to know right now. A scare on Capitol Hill today. A congressional office building was locked down after an X-ray machine revealed what looked like a gun in someone's bag. By the time the security guard noticed, the people with the bag had gone inside the building. It turns out the gun was fake, part of a Halloween costume.

At least four people died today in the collapse of the top five levels of a parking garage that is being built in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Twenty-One others are in hospitals. One man is still missing.

And we are just getting word of a strong earthquake in Japan, the magnitude 6.8 quake shook buildings in Tokyo. So far no reports of damage or injuries, but officials are warning the quake, which was centered offshore, could cause a tidal wave. As soon as we have more information available, we bring it to you live.

Now, for some time the Palestinian authority has aired music videos at children promoting the virtue of martyrdom. Now some of those tapes reportedly encourage violence against the U.S. forces in Iraq. And that has drawn the attention of Congress. I'm joined now by Itamar Marcus, founder and director of the Palestinian Media Watch. He testified today before a Senate Committee hearing before on the topic. I'm also joined by Hussein Ibish, communications director for the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee. Welcome to both of you.

We're going to start off this evening by taking a look at one of the clips you talked about today on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(MUSIC)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: All right, we're just seeing a very small part of what you find so highly objectionable. Characterize for us, the overall impact of these music videos.

ITAMAR MARCUS, PALESTINIAN MEDIA WATCH: Well, this is a music video that ran during the war, where Palestinians were glorifying the killing of American soldiers. They kept showing pictures of American soldiers being carried off. They called on the Iraqis, to kill American soldiers. In fact, ending with a coffin with American and British flags on them.

And the message was, Americans and British, your going to be killed in Iraq. And they called on the Iraqis to kill them.

Now this message which started actually years ago, this hatred towards the United States, continues until this very day. In fact, this week there was an e editorial in a Palestinian newspaper critical of those in Iraq who are not encouraging the suicide bombings.

The irony was, that on the very day, in the same paper that called for the killing essentially of Americans, there was a U.S.A. aid announcement of more funding for Palestinians.

ZAHN: Hussein, let's look at this other video, as I understand it, that tries to encourage children to, what, commit suicide? To be martyrs? Hussein, what possible reason would there be to air these videos if not to incite violence?

HUSSEIN IBISH, AMER-ARAB ANTI-DISCRIM. CMTE: Well, no. I think a video like the one you're showing probably does have that intention and might even have that effect, although very few, 3 percent of Palestinians report actually watching Palestinian TV. But we don't hear about the other stuff. Let me just quote from "The Wall Street Journal"...

ZAHN: Before you go to the other stuff... IBISH: No, no, hold on...

ZAHN: You're offended by what you just saw?

IBISH: Yes, I really dislike what I've seen. I think it shouldn't be made and shouldn't be aired, but there's a war going on, and people are angry and it creeps into popular culture.

But that's not all that's on Palestinian TV, "The Wall Street Journal" talked -- let me just read two sentences from a "Wall Street Journal" story from July, "an orthodox Jewish boy dances with his Palestinian playmates, Muslims and Christians in a dance of peace. White doves soar, a tree is planted and the children sing in Hebrew and Arabic of a dream of freedom. The seven minute peace song is now a regular feature on Palestinian television." That's the "Wall Street Journal" from a couple months ago. So, this is not the whole story. Also, we never hear about...

ZAHN: Hang on, Hussein. Let me give Itamar a chance to respond to this, because he raised this issue of how children are used by both sides. There are some pictures that we're going to put up here now of Israeli children posing with weapons in banners. When you look at these images, what do you think?

MARCUS: There is a tremendous difference between having an isolated picture of Israeli children, who, I don't know where they come from having...

IBISH: They come from AP...

MARCUS: And having systematic thing done by the only station in the Palestinian authority. There was Palestinian television ran these music videos encouraging children to go out and literally have themselves killed in the conflict hundreds of times, the same music video. Particular one that we saw on TV, a boy writes a farewell letter and goes off to die. That was on virtually every day in 2001.

ZAHN: Hussein says less than 3 percent of Palestinian peoples watch TV.

IBISH: No, watch Palestinian TV. What they watch is al Jazeera and al Arabiya. The same channels that all the Arabs watch

ZAHN: Hang on. I'm going to give you both 20 seconds for a closing thought.

MARCUS: The point is, the Palestinian authority has many means to encourage children to want to be suicide bombers. For example, they had summer camps this summer that were named after teenage suicide bombers. There was a summer camp...

ZAHN: Hang on. Just let him finish his thought.

MARCUS: There was a summer camp for teenagers named the Ayatol Ahmah (ph) Summer Camp. She was a 17-year-old suicide bomber under the auspices of the Palestinian Ministry of Sports. There is no greater encouragement of suicide bombing than role-modeling after a suicide bomber.

ZAHN: Hussein, you get the last word.

IBISH: Basically what Mr. Marcus is trying to do is trying to give Americans an alternative explanation for why there's a conflict other than the fact of the occupation. The fact that millions of Palestinians live under the rule of a hostile and abusive army, the Israeli army and they're struggling for their freedom. Of course there's excesses. Of course there's anger and outrage and hatred on both sides, but that's the effect of the conflict. The root cause is the occupation. If we want to end the hatred and violence...

ZAHN: But sir, even you can see there's no excuse for these tapes.

IBISH: Of course.

MARCUS: If there's a conflict, you don't fight it by sending children to die. You don't fight it by sending children to die.

ZAHN: All right. I've got to leave it there. It's a wrap, because I've got to hit a break here. I appreciate both of your perspectives this evening. It leaves us with a lot to ponder this evening.

Life in Afghanistan after the U.S.-led war on terror. Has everyone in Afghan society really tasted the freedom promised by the fall of the Taliban, especially women?

Also, a new gadget that gives you a green light on demand, but will this technology put the brakes on road safety?

And tomorrow an exclusive interview with the man in charge of the FBI's hunt for terrorists.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Now to a startling look at female oppression inside post- Taliban Afghanistan through the eyes of a Western journalist.

Asne Seierstad spending six months living with an Afghan family, wearing the birka, hearing their secrets, living their lives. She has written about her experience in "The Bookseller of Kabul," but now finds herself in a legal battle with the book's namesake, a man who is depicted as a family tyrant.

Asne Seierstad joins us now.

Good of you to join us. Welcome.

ASNE SEIERSTAD, AUTHOR: Thank you.

ZAHN: Let's take a bit about why this book is so controversial. The man whose family you lived with is basically saying this book is full of lies and misrepresentations. Who's telling the truth here?

SEIERSTAD: Well, I believe that one thing is that he tells me his version. But when he sees how I write this or how I see the family, I suppose that it was very hard for him and very direct to see the thoughts of the other family members as well, because this is not just a book about the bookseller. It's about his two wives, his sisters, his sons and their thoughts and their stories and...

ZAHN: And what is it that is so inflammatory? What is it that you don't think he's able to confront?

SEIERSTAD: Well, I think it's -- well, I think it's actually the whole book. There are some parts that he's very not pleased with.

It's, for instance, it's the fact that he's got one wife, and that at some stage he decided to get another wife. And I depicted it, as it happened, that because through -- marriage in Afghanistan is actually you buy something or you sell your daughter or you buy a wife. So he bought her for a little amount of money, some clothes, some gold and et cetera.

So in the book it looks -- it looks like a sale. And he doesn't agree with the fact -- the way I describe this.

ZAHN: But you experience in the six months you spent with this family showed that even in this post-Taliban Afghanistan, life for women has not changed all that much.

SEIERSTAD: It hasn't changed almost at all. Of course, the institutionalized oppression is gone, the fact that the women couldn't go out from their houses alone, take education, work and so on. Now, they can, according to the law and according to the government, but that doesn't matter if they have a father who says no, or a grandfather or a husband or an uncle. It's still -- everything is in the hand of the family father. And that's why it's so difficult to change anything and for development, because you have to reform every single family.

ZAHN: But, Asne, you have to concede that the criticism is not just coming from this man whose family you lived with. "The New York Times" has quoted two journalists who called your book a "gross ethical breach," and that you "played an innocent female journalist" to get this story.

Did you misrepresent yourself?

SEIERSTAD: No. I came in with totally open cards. We had an agreement that I should follow the lives of this family. And I even said that if there's something you don't want to be written in the book, you please tell me. And there's so many things I've taken out as well because of things they told me or because I just realized this is too intimate.

And also, I don't speak the language. So it's not that I'm sitting around listening to what -- people's secret conversation are about. Everything has been translated to me word by word by the family members who speak English.

So there will always be criticism. Some people support me, some people are against. But what gives me the most warmth is the is the -- support from the Afghan women, you know, who tells me this is a book about my life. And that is important enough for me.

ZAHN: Well, there's certainly no dispute that "The Bookseller of Kabul" is a provocative account of at least one family's life in Kabul.

Thank you very much for dropping by tonight.

SEIERSTAD: Thank you for inviting me.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Fun City, USA, the surprising winner in a new survey of America's top spots for fun times. It's not where you'd expect.

And it sounds like a driver's dream come true. Would you spend $300 for a gadget that turns red lights to green?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And we're back.

According to federal statistics, Americans spend about an hour a day in their car. So who hasn't wished for a button that could turn lights from red to green? Well, for about $300 you can buy one, a box that uses infrared light to do just that. Now since the device has hit the news this week, one maker says it has been flooded with questions.

And joining us now from Washington to talk a little bit more about what this could mean for your commute is Warren Brown, automotive columnist for "The Washington Post".

Good to see you.

WARREN BROWN, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Hey, Paula. How are you?

ZAHN: I'm good, thanks.

BROWN: You know.

ZAHN: So on the surface, this sounds like a pretty good thing. Is it?

BROWN: Yes. On the surface it sounds like a pretty good thing, Paula. But actually what you're talking about is plug-in technology gone wild.

These things are called mobile infrared transmitter I.D. devices. You can buy it for $300, stick it on the top of your dashboard, plug it into your -- into your, you know, car's lighter's outlet and what have you. It sends 15 watts of power. It works the distance of 1,500 feet from your car to the transmitter box and the red light -- push a button -- you turn red to green. It sounds good, sounds simple.

ZAHN: Yes. It sounds really good so far. So what's the problem, Warren?

BROWN: What's insane is can you imagine, having these devices in the hands of everybody, say in the traffic jam -- traffic situation either in New York, Los Angeles, or just any large city, and everybody, you know, decides that he or she wants to go green instead of red. It's total chaos.

I cannot believe that this is not going to go unregulated or unchecked by the government. Right now, you have a bit of a loophole, because, as you said, these things use infrared, you know, transmission.

ZAHN: So what you're saying -- wait -- wait a minute, Warren.

BROWN: Yes.

ZAHN: Right now there is no regulation of this type of device?

BROWN: No, because it's using...

ZAHN: So basically we could all set off any light we want.

BROWN: It's using infrared technology, which basically means it's into going through -- you know, it's not using radio waves and it's not controlled by the FCC. It's not affected by the FCC. So right now you have a bit of a loophole.

But I would imagine that there must be some legislators, lawmakers, city council people in various cities out there somewhere, saying this is nuts, and, you know, we can't have civilians changing -- you know changing equipment that is meant to protect, you know, the general public.

I liken it to, you know, somebody sitting on an airline -- maybe it's an exaggeration -- but somebody sitting -- you know, sitting on a -- sitting on a jet, you know, working with a little device that changes what the air traffic controllers are doing. It's just that crazy to me. But...

ZAHN: The bottom line is, when it sounds too good to be true...

BROWN: When it sounds too good to be true, there could be a lawsuit or a hospital waiting for you.

ZAHN: Well, appreciate your getting us some perspective this evening. I don't think that's where we all end up -- want to end up, but thanks for your honesty tonight. Warren Brown, love to have you back.

BROWN: Take care, Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks. New York, Los Angeles, maybe Miami or even Seattle. Sure, they're all great places. But which American city is rated as Fun Town, USA. Well, Las Vegas may be Sin City and New York the city that never sleeps, but you might be surprised where they end up on the list.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Las Vegas may be "Sin City" and New York "The City That Never Sleeps," but it turns out neither is really the most fun city in America. Bruce Burkhardt tells us which one is and it might surprise you.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE BURKHARDT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How do you define fun? How do you define fun?

(on camera): It must be a trick question, because something doesn't add up here. According to this recent survey, Minneapolis was named the most fun city in America, and coming in dead last, number 50, New Orleans.

(voice-over): It goes back to this question of how you define fun. Coming in at No. 4 is Atlanta. I love Atlanta. Atlanta is not the fourth most fun city in America.

(on camera): According to the surveyor sponsors, the company that makes the board game "Cranium," here are the criteria. One, the number recreational sites in city, theaters, parks, restaurants, even toy stores.. No 2, per capita spending, how much households spent on fun. No. 3, how much a particular city spent supporting recreational activities.

(voice-over): They don't mention per capita beer consumption. By that measure, which is clearly weighted by family fun, here are the top five: Minneapolis, Orange County, California, San Jose, California, Atlanta and Chicago.

So, no matter where you live, we hope you're having fun. And if not, do what I do when I'm looking for a good time, pop into the neighborhood toy store. Brew Burkhardt, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And your kids will love you for it if you take one of those home to them.

I'm joined now by a couple of men more than interested in this story, R.T. Ryback is the mayor of Minneapolis, No. 1 on the fun list, along with his twin city St. Paul. I'm also joined by mayor Oscar Goodman of Las Vegas, the home of high rollers and 24-hour buffets, surprisingly enough, was ranged 25th. Good to see both of you.

So, Mayor Goodman, does Minneapolis deserve to be No. 1 on the fun list?

MAYOR OSCAR GOODMAN, LAS VEGAS: I would never knock Minneapolis, but the jury had to have been composed of the Vikings Leaf Erickson and Eric the Red instead of Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss. That's all I can tell you.

ZAHN: What about that, Mayor Rybeck?

MAYOR R.T. RYBECK, MINNEAPOLIS: I think Oscar, who's a good friend of mine, should come up to Minneapolis. Because, you know Oscar, what they say about Minneapolis, what happens here stays here.

GOODMAN: You're the best.

ZAHN: Does Las Vegas really deserve to be 25th on a list mayor Rybeck?

RYBECK: Las Vegas should be a much higher rating, it's a great time. But in Minneapolis, we sell more theater tickets than any city, even New York. We have a park system where there's a park within six blocks of every resident. You can take a bike down around 11 lakes and down the Mississippi River. You can go to the New Walker Arts Center which is the greatest contemporary arts center in America. We have new light rail line from downtown to the Mall of America. We've got four professional sports teams, 3 in downtown Minneapolis, 1 in downtown St. Paul. I can go on and on. It's a great city, and it's good clean fun.

ZAHN: So Mayor Goodman, you heard the salient word there, good clean fun. Was that a little dis of your city coming from mayor Rybeck?

GOODMAN: Well, I love the major, but we have the greatest entertainment in the world. We've got the best restaurants in the world, the best boutique shopping, the best weather in the world. You can't beat Las Vegas, 124,000 hotel rooms are filled all the time, because people have fun here. That's what the city is all about.

ZAHN: So why are you number 25 on the list?

GOODMAN: There had to be some morons doing this poll. That's all I can tell you.

ZAHN: All it has to do with is a game board company, doesn't it Mayor Rybeck. How seriously should fellow travelers out there take these statistics?

GOODMAN: This is the most serious I've ever been about fun. Minneapolis invested in fun. We've spend a tremendous amount of money. All these cities around the country have stopped spending money on the arts. Look at Minneapolis. We're building a new Guthrie Theater, a new Walker Arts Center, an Institute of Arts expansion, children's theater expansion and it's paying off.

You go to Broadway today, and the hot show is Hamlet. Last year, the Tony was from our children's theater for Frog & Toad. New York is kind of like our new haven. We let them try out our plays before they really come back here.

ZAHN: Boy, they keep coming tonight, don't they Mayor Goodman.

RYBECK: Oscar is pretty fast.

GOODMAN: We have the city of fun, and then we have the city of serious things, like what you're talking about. We have a performing arts center on the drawing board, an academic medical center, great ballet, great symphony, but that is not what we consider fun here. We consider the entertainment, the food, the electricity, the neon, that's the fun of Las Vegas.

ZAHN: All right. Gentlemen, we're going to leave it there. I've got to be honest here this evening, I have twin loyalties to Minneapolis and your great city of Las Vegas.

RYBECK: So you're the politician. C'mon over here and try some of our restaurants.

ZAHN: I've been in both of your cities. I will be a repeat visitor to both. Gentlemen, thank you for dropping by. Appreciate your time. Glad you two like each other.

We're going to switch gears now for a more of an update now on the California fires. Let's turn to Gary Tuchman, who joins us live from Stevenson Ranch, California. Gary, good evening. What's going on there right now?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, you can still see the flames from the Simi Valley fire behind me. But a dramatic improvement from just 12 hours ago. Because of the colder weather, the moist air, they've been able to contain a lot of these fires, now nearly half contained. And people here, in the Simi Valley area in northwestern Los Angeles County and Ventura County, about a half an hour north of Los Angeles, many of them are going back to their homes, convinced they will safe.

ZAHN: And we wish all those firefighters that have worked around the clock, some of whom we have met earlier tonight, working for 4 days straight with no sleep, tremendous luck as this challenge goes on. Gary Tuchman, thank you for the update.

And we want to thank you all for being with us tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Hope you'll be back with us, same time, same place tomorrow night. And early happy Halloween greeting.

END

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