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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Overseas Oil Workers Attacked in Khobar, Saudi Arabia; Bush Lays Wreath at Tomb of Unknowns; Car Bomb Goes Off in Baghdad

Aired May 31, 2004 - 19:00   ET

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


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm Anderson Cooper.
The search is on for the gunman who got away after another terror attack, 360 starts right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): A Saudi terror attack targets foreigners but who let the al Qaeda gunman get away?

So much for a truce, al-Sadr's militia clashes with U.S. troops and a car bomb explodes in Baghdad.

Beauty, honor and American sacrifice, the president and the nation remember those who've given their lives.

Is John Kerry's war record turning him in to a broken record? Concerns the Democratic contender might need some new material.

The jury is set. Tomorrow the Peterson trial begins but with no crime scene and no cause of death how will the prosecution makes its case?

And, one-third of Americans believe in ghosts but where is the evidence? Our special series "Paranormal Mysteries" begins tonight, do you believe?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Live from New York this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

COOPER: Good evening.

It was bold. It was vicious and right now most of the killers responsible are still on the loose. Over the weekend, a group connected to al Qaeda terrorized a compound for overseas oil workers in the Saudi city of Khobar, tonight new details on the hostage takers and how some of them got away.

BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): The ordeal lasted 24 hours, 22 people died, nine had their throats slit. There were reports the body of a British oil executive was dragged through the streets behind a car. To end the standoff, Saudi security forces stormed the building where Islamic militants were holding 242 hostages. One of the attackers was wounded, the other three escaped.

The Saudi interior minister now admits they were set free because they threatened to blow themselves up and kill their human shields.

KEN ROBINSON, CNN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: They have on previous occasions allowed terrorists to get away. In this situation they are now threatening the royal family and so there's a new interest. There's a new renewed interest on their part to get aggressive toward these terrorists because it's now come home.

COOPER: A group the Saudis say is linked to al Qaeda has claimed responsibility for the attack saying this was meant to show the Saudis can't protect foreign oil workers. Saudi officials say despite the escape the situation is under control. They know who the three terrorists are and they will capture them.

NAIL AL-JUBEIR, SAUDI EMBASSY SPOKESMAN: The intent of al Qaeda from the beginning was to go after the Saudi state and the United States. Now they're trying to cripple the world economy by trying to send the message that foreigners are not safe inside Arabia.

COOPER: The Saudis also say this will not affect oil exports but the British ambassador is now warning that more attacks may be on the way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: President Bush called Saudi's Crown Prince to offer his condolences on the deadly attack. This was after he marked Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery where today several hundred veterans, their family members and others gathered to honor U.S. troops who have given their lives.

CNN's White House Correspondent, Suzanne Malveaux reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush honored America's fallen soldiers by placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at the Arlington National Cemetery.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Markers on these hills record the names of more than 280,000 men and women. Each was once or still is the most important person in someone's life.

MALVEAUX: With his emotions just on the surface, the president stood with his secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs to pay particular homage to those U.S. troops serving in the war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.

BUSH: In places like Kabul and Kandahar and Mosul and Baghdad we have seen their decency and their brave spirit. Because of their fierce courage America is safer. Two terror regimes are gone forever and more than 50 million souls now live in freedom.

MALVEAUX: The president now faces a critical juncture in the war on terror. Unrest in Iraq continues as casualties mount as the deadline to transfer political power to the Iraqis looms less than five weeks away.

A year ago at this time more than 160 American soldiers had been killed in Iraq. That number has climbed to more than 800. So, with a heavy sigh, Mr. Bush marked another passing of this somber holiday determined that the U.S. will win the war on terror.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MALVEAUX: Now, Mr. Bush will continue to make the case that U.S. policy on Iraq is sound. He will do so before a domestic audience, the U.S. Air Force Academy commencement speech in Colorado on Wednesday and to his international counterparts in Europe later in the week -- Anderson.

COOPER: Suzanne Malveaux, live at the White House thanks Suzanne.

How many Americans have been killed in combat? Here's a quick news note. According to the Pentagon since the American Revolution more than 650,000 American troops have died combat deaths. The highest casualty count was in World War II when almost 300,000 died in battle before the war ended.

This holiday weekend, Vice President Dick Cheney finds himself still on the defense over Halliburton, his former employer. Cheney's office is denying he was involved in any coordinated effort to secure a multibillion dollar contract in March of last year for the oil services company.

But the new edition of "Time" magazine reports that an e-mail was sent from the Army Corps of Engineers to a Pentagon employee when the deal was made saying they expected, and I quote, "no issues since action has been coordinated with VP's office," implying Cheney. A Cheney spokesman says, "The Vice President and his office have played no role in government contracting."

John Kerry began today in Washington at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. A decorated Vietnam Vet himself, of course, Kerry often touts his military service but that is not always a formula for victory.

CNN National Correspondent, Kelly Wallace reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Kerry escorts the Bronson's (ph) of Massachusetts to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He helped get their loved one's name inscribed for this Memorial Day. William Bronson died in 1976 from injuries in Vietnam.

JOHN KERRY (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to lay a wreath together, can we do that all of us?

WALLACE: Quiet and modest here but in interviews later in Virginia...

KERRY: Well, I'm a Navy man first of all and, secondly, I'm a veteran of a war.

WALLACE: Wherever John Kerry goes he talks about his service in Vietnam.

KERRY: We were together in a river in Vietnam when we were ambushed.

WALLACE: And he often travels with fellow Vietnam Veterans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I owe this guy a lot. He saved my rear end.

WALLACE: But Kerry's Vietnam background, especially his work as an antiwar activist has turned off some veterans and their supporters. Just today at the Vietnam Memorial, away from the cameras, an unidentified woman shouted: "Are you paying tribute to all the people you spit on Senator Kerry," while a group of Veterans against John Kerry started a Web site months ago.

So, how does a war record impact presidential elections? If the past is any guide in the last three the active duty veteran was defeated, including Bob Dole who served in World War II.

FMR. SEN. BOB DOLE (R), FMR. PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sad you don't win on your war record. I mean I think people, I think they respect the fact that you're a veteran but not everybody could be a veteran. I think sometimes you can overplay your hand.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: Kerry's advisers say the Senator is not overplaying his hand, simply showcasing his background so voters can get to know him. Though, Anderson, part of the strategy here in touting his record is trying to battle a wartime president on an issue that is viewed as his greatest strength. That is his handling of national security.

COOPER: Interesting. Kelly Wallace thanks very much.

WALLACE: Sure.

COOPER: Well, those who are still serving are the topic of today's "Buzz." Would you be willing to pay additional taxes to give U.S. troops a raise? Log onto cnn.com/360, cast your vote. We'll have results at the end of the program. We'll also talk to Ben Stein about this idea.

In Iraq a cease-fire under fire, overnight U.S. forces battled it out with insurgents in Kufa. The city is supposed to be included in the so-called cease-fire deal made with maverick cleric Muqtada al- Sadr. Two U.S. soldiers were killed in this attack, as well as about 45 insurgents. Meanwhile, in Baghdad more deadly violence and a delay in announcing the new Iraqi government, CNN's Harris Whitbeck has that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The car bomb went off on a busy road normally used by coalition officials and members of the Iraqi Governing Council as they transit the Green Zone, the part of Baghdad (AUDIO GAP) the Coalition Provisional Authority.

It was the same area where another car bomb exploded two weeks ago killing the president of the Iraqi Governing Council. U.S. military officials at the scene said the attacks will not dissuade them from meeting the June 30 deadline.

COL. MIKE MURPHY, U.S. ARMY: I don't think this is going to slow down the progress of turning over sovereignty to the Iraqi government. I think we're firmly on track to do that.

WHITBECK: Some Iraqi government council members say they feel the U.S. also won't be dissuaded in trying to influence the makeup of the new interim government.

Over the weekend and into Monday, the council met, at times with U.S. and U.N. officials, at times on its own, trying to come up with Iraq's new interim president.

MAHMOUD OTHMAN, IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL: The United Nations was supposed to take a strong and independent role. We have not seen this and we think the Americans are the ones that are making the decisions.

WHITBECK: Many council members are said to favor Gazi Yawar (ph) a Sunni tribal leader they say has great popular support. The U.N. and U.S. are said to favor another Sunni Adnan Pachachi, former foreign minister (AUDIO GAP) nephew and son-in-law of former prime ministers of the pre-Saddam Iraq. Council members say what looks like a deadlock could be broken if a third name emerges.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITBECK: The big challenge for whoever is in the interim government will be in attaining credibility among the general population. A few here know about the process involved in choosing the government and few here have little trust for anything bearing the U.S. stamp of approval -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Harris Whitbeck, live from Baghdad thanks Harris.

Baby Jessica is back in the news. That story tops our look at what's happening right now "Cross Country."

Midland, Texas, this one might make you feel kind of old. This weekend Baby Jessica, remember her, graduated from high school. As a toddler, Jessica McClure (ph) captures national attention when she fell into an abandoned water pipe. There she is. Crews worked 58 hours to rescue her. That was 17 years ago. No word on her plans for life after high school.

New York, working for free, Al Franken says he agreed not to get paid, at least for now, for hosting the "O'Franken Factor" on Air America Radio. The fledgling network has been mired in financial and managerial problems since it went on the air two months ago.

New York, community service a good thing, "Newsweek" magazine reports Martha Stewart seeks to lighten her jail term by spending up to 20 hours a week teaching underprivileged women about business. Stewart is scheduled for sentencing June 17th, could face ten to 16 months in prison.

That's a quick look at what's going on right now "Cross Country."

360 next, the Scott Peterson trial finally begins a year and a half since Laci Peterson's death. Will justice be served? We'll preview the case.

Plus, deadly tornadoes strike in the Midwest and South. We'll take you live to one hard hit town.

And we are going on a ghost hunt. Well that's what they claim. We'll take you inside a supposedly haunted prison, part of our weeklong series "Paranormal Mysteries," do you believe, all that ahead?

First, let's take a look at your picks, the most popular stories on cnn.com right now.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In Tennessee, a 7-year-old girl was killed when high winds toppled a wall in her home. Her name was Katy Hardiman (ph). She was just one of eight people who died this weekend in severe storms. In all, 175 tornadoes touched down across the U.S.

CNN's Keith Oppenheim surveys the damage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Marengo, Indiana, there is the sweat of rebuilding and there are tears of relief that most people survived.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We made it.

OPPENHEIM: One elderly man though did not make it. He was killed when his mobile home flipped over in the storm. And in Giles (ph) County, Tennessee, a grandfather worried that his 7-year-old granddaughter was injured when a wall collapsed on their family's home.

DAN HALBAUER, MARENGO RESIDENT: My wife she's tore all to pieces.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is she injured badly? HALBAUER: My wife, no, my granddaughter is the only one that's hurt.

OPPENHEIM: The child later died.

In Warren County, Ohio, a fisherman was struck by lightning and was killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We was out on the front porch there and it was raining and we just seen a flash and then I heard somebody said somebody was down.

OPPENHEIM: And, in Indianapolis, 13,000 people were without power during the weekend as seven tornadoes were reported in the region.

In Limestone County, Alabama, mobile homes were banged up by high winds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think there's very much that's salvageable, just about (AUDIO GAP).

(END VIDEOTAPE)

OPPENHEIM: We're joining you live now from Marengo, Indiana. As you can see the devastation here is far and wide. We ended our piece with a gentleman who was admirably hopeful about the future and that's fairly impressive when you consider that the wind speeds of the tornado that came through here were clocked by the National Weather Service at 170 miles per hour.

But we should note there are still a number of regions of the country that have severe storm warnings right now, including the Great Lakes, Texas, the Mid-Atlantic region, as well as the southeast -- Anderson, back to you.

COOPER: It is just unbelievable those pictures. Keith Oppenheim thanks very much.

This weekend's tornado outbreak was the worst in 30 years. A quick "Flashback" to what they call the super outbreak of 1974. On April 3rd and 4th of that year, 148 tornadoes hit 11 states killing 315 people causing damage in excess of $600 million.

The deadliest recorded outbreak of tornadoes happened almost 80 years ago on March 18, 1925. Six hundred and eight-nine people died in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana.

In "Justice Served" tonight, Scott Peterson says the last time he saw his pregnant wife Laci she was in the kitchen watching "Martha Stewart Living." That was nearly a year and a half ago.

Since then the case has become cable news cannon fodder, every move and court motion reported, dissected, analyzed and punditized. Tomorrow the man who went from grieving husband to murder suspect and media sensation will finally stand trial for the murder of his wife and their unborn child.

Here's CNN's David Mattingly.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The next time Scott Peterson steps into court his every move and expression will be under scrutiny by a jury of six men and six women charged with a difficult question. Is he truly a remorseless and deceitful killer who prosecutors say murdered his pregnant wife Laci and dumped her body in the waters of San Francisco Bay?

CROCK SMITH, FMR. HOMICIDE PROSECUTOR: That is the theme and arguing to the jury that he's such a good liar he's going to lie to you.

MATTINGLY: There is already no doubt that Peterson was a cheating husband. Girlfriend Amber Frye says he convinced her he was a widower saying he believed they had a future together words that prosecutors plan to use against him along with wiretaps as they attack his credibility.

But the case against Peterson is largely circumstantial with no murder weapon, no clear cause of death or murder scene. Defense attorney Mark Geragos will argue investigators ignored credible witnesses reporting a mysterious van in the neighborhood the morning of Laci's reported disappearance.

SMITH: One measure of doubt based on fact, based on evidence, that's all he has to establish.

MATTINGLY: Barricades outside the courthouse stand ready for the crowd of working media as the Christmas Eve disappearance of a Modesto housewife in 2002 becomes the most talked about death penalty trial of 2004.

(on camera): Tuesday's opening arguments will set the tone for proceedings that are expected to drag for months, months before a jury decides on Scott Peterson's guilt or innocence.

David Mattingly CNN, Redwood City, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: A deadly bombing at a house of worship tops our look at what is happening around the world right now. Here's the "Up Link."

Karachi, Pakistan, mosque attacked, a bomb at a Shiite Muslim mosque kills at least 18 people. Police killed three others during a violent protest that followed. No claim of responsibility yet for the bombing. About 50 people inside the mosque at the time.

Johannesburg, South Africa, Aristide arrives, a warm welcome for ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide as South Africa's president and cabinet ministers meet him at the airport. Aristide insists he is still the leader of Haiti and vows he'll return there one day.

And there's this hearty perennial and TV news favorite, Gloucestershire, England, on a roll. A former rugby player wins this year's cheese roll. Competitors from around the world run, stumble and, as you see there, fall down a steep hill named Cooper's Hill, though I'm not a sponsor, after a wheel of cheese is launched. Some say it began as a pagan festival. Others say it is an assertion of commoners' rights. We just report. You decide.

That's tonight's "Up Link."

Get ready for a ghost hunt, the location a vacant prison, is it haunted? That's coming up later on 360, part of our weeklong series.

And a little later, new details emerge, those hostage takers in Saudi Arabia over the weekend were allowed to escape, is that the right or the wrong move? We'll talk with Robert Baer, former CIA officer.

Plus, a tax hike for the rich to help boost military pay, we'll talk to Ben Stein about his controversial idea.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well not quite two months ago, a 19-year-old Marine private first class by the name of Chance Phelps was killed in Iraq. Lieutenant Colonel Mike Strobl a fellow Marine had never met Phelps but volunteered to escort his remains from Dover Air Force Base back to his hometown of DeVoy, Wyoming for burial.

Strobl wrote a poignant account of the journey which has become widely reprinted on the Internet. I spoke to Lieutenant Colonel Strobl recently about his account of the trip home with Chance.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I want to read something that you wrote. "I told them how" -- this is when you first met the family, the mom and dad of Private First Class Phelps.

You said: "I told them at every step, Chance was treated with respect, dignity, and honor. I told them about the staff at Dover and all the folks at Northwest Airlines. I tried to convey how the entire nation, from Dover to Philadelphia, to Minneapolis, to Billings, and Riverton expressed grief and sympathy over their loss."

And that really is how it was, the entire nation expressing their grief.

LT. COL. MIKE STROBL, U.S. MARINE CORPS: Right. Right and that's probably what moved me to write this down. I -- I noticed that everywhere we went and it was very powerful and I wanted to make sure, in writing it I wanted to make sure that I remembered what I saw but I also wanted to make sure that I conveyed that to the family so that they got a sense of how grateful the nation was for their sacrifice. COOPER: I think the first time I started tearing up reading your article, which happened I'm not too embarrassed to say several times while reading your piece, you wrote about a Marine master gunnery sergeant who handed you for the first time the personal effects of Chance. I want to read you what you wrote.

"He removed each item, a large watch, a wooden cross with a lanyard, two loose dog tags, two dog tags on a chain, and a Saint Christopher medal on a silver chain. Although we had been briefed that he might be carrying some personal effects of the deceased, this set me aback. Holding his personal effects, I was starting to get to know Chance Phelps."

STROBL: I don't know necessarily why I was so affected by that but it was very -- a significant experience for me when I received the things that he had been wearing while he was in Iraq and some of the things that I knew were very personal to him and I knew also that those were items that I would be giving to the family.

COOPER: I hope you don't mind. I want to read one other thing that you wrote.

"Now, as I watched them carry him the final 15 yards, I was choking up. I felt that as long as he was still moving, he was somehow still alive. Then they put him down above his grave.

He had stopped moving. Although my mission had been officially complete once I turned him over to the funeral director at the Billings airport, it was his placement at his grave that really concluded it in my mind. Now, he was home to stay and I suddenly felt at once sad, relieved and useless."

And you go on to say that you miss him.

STROBL: Yes.

COOPER: You still think about him a lot, don't you?

STROBL: I think about him when I see other Marines that I work with, Marines that I see on a daily basis and I see especially the young Marines that are doing such great work and frequently it tends to go generally unnoticed the great things that they do and it -- when I see those Marines, even in my daily work, I'm reminded of Chance Phelps.

COOPER: I don't want to sound too much like Oprah here but I do get the sense that this mission has changed you in some way. Can you tell how?

STROBL: Well, it's I think -- it has given me a renewed sense of pride in the Marine Corps and it has reinforced my belief in all that is good about this country. When I saw ordinary people from Delaware all the way to Wyoming and many places in between respond the way they did to this Marine's sacrifice, that's something that's hard for me to forget. I don't want to forget that and I was very proud to be part of it and I think it's changed me in a way that it has just reinforced my belief in what's good about what we do and about what America stands for.

COOPER: Lieutenant Colonel Mike Strobl thank you very much for being on the program.

STROBL: Thank you. Thank you. My pleasure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: The article is remarkable. You can find a link to it, to Lieutenant Colonel Strobl's full story on the Marine Corps homepage, which is usmc.mil or you can link to it from our Web site, cnn.com/360.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER (voice-over): A Saudi terror attack targets foreigners but who let the al Qaeda gunmen get away?

Is America shortchanging its full time fighters? Ben Stein's pay raise plans for U.S. troops, 360 continues.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In the next half hour on 360, do U.S. troops get paid enough? If you answer no, you'll hear from been Stein and what he plans to do about that, and how it involves your taxes, perhaps.

First let's check our top stories in tonight's reset. Across the country right now, picking up the pieces after a weekend of deadly tornadoes. At least eight people were killed, dozens injured, an estimated 175 tornadoes reported, and thousands left without power.

Arlington National Cemetery, remembering fallen heroes. On this Memorial Day, President Bush laid a wreath at the tomb of the unknowns. The President today said the men and women who died in Iraq served the cause of freedom.

In Baghdad, awaiting Iraq's future leaders. No decision has been made yet on when the interim government will be named. Today U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said he'll announce the makeup of the government "when he's ready." A coalition spokesman denied rumors that the U.S. is at odds with the council over who should be president.

In Saudi Arabia, terrorists linked to al Qaeda get away. Officials say three of the four attackers who killed 22 people over the weekend were allowed to escape after they threatened to execute 242 hostages they had taken at a compound for overseas oil workers.

A senior Saudi interior ministry official says that security forces know who the escaped attackers are, and what they look like, and says they will be caught. But the question is why were they allowed to escape in the first place? Bob Baer is a former CIA officer, and author of "Sleeping with the Devil; How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude." He joins us now from Washington. Bob thanks for being on the program.

BOB BAER, FMR. CIA OFFICER: Good evening.

COOPER: Does it make sense to you that these guys were allowed to escape?

BAER: No, not at all. I've done a lot of hostage rescue training, and been involved in these programs overseas. The first thing you always do is surround the site, completely surround it. Put helicopters up in the air. No one gets out of there without being questioned. It doesn't make any sense to me how they let a car like this get away.

COOPER: For our viewers who don't know, the Saudi government officials are saying look, these guys were threatening to blow up the hostages. There were more than 200 of them. They also say well they switched cars a lot. But I mean, I don't get it.

BAER: It doesn't matter. You still put up helicopters that are out of sight that can watch the car, even if you don't want to be right on him. You just don't let the people get away. And the reason you don't, the primary reason, is to make sure that there isn't another attack under way that these guys might know about.

COOPER: Is it possible there was some kind of collusion? I mean, between the security services? I mean I don't want to go out too far on a limb here.

BAER: You're not going too far on a limb. When I was in the CIA we read consistently that they've allowed militants to stay in the military and the police. What I'm wondering is whether some of these militants are still there, supporting terrorist operations like this, because they're true believers.

COOPER: The objective of the attack clearly seems to be targeting foreigners, trying to get foreigners to not go to Saudi Arabia, I suppose, to not work in the oil industry. Is that correct?

BAER: I'm more worried about this attack than the previous ones. Because the first attack which occurred on 12 May last year indiscriminately killed a lot of people. People in Saudi Arabia were furious about the killed Muslims. But this attack, selected out westerners. Non-Muslims. And they let the Muslims go.

And it was a very clear message from these militants, these terrorists, the Saudi people, we're not after you. We're after these westerners. We're after the Saudi royal family. And the fact that there's been two attacks, one in Yanvu (ph) a month ago, and this one now tells me they're focusing on the petroleum industry and they'd like to bring down the kingdom of Saudi Arabia by going after the economy.

COOPER: Is the kingdom vulnerable?

BAER: I've heard a lot of troubling reports out of Saudi Arabia. People are worried that we're getting, moving closer to chaos in the kingdom. And it certainly bears watching. I wouldn't say the sky is falling now, but we're going to have to watch in the next six months.

COOPER: We'll continue to watch. Bob Baer, thank you very much for being on the program tonight.

BAER: Thank you.

COOPER: Today of course the country is honoring the men and women of our armed services with flags and salutes. What about something more substantial? Some say it's time soldiers received a significant pay raise and they want to tax the rich to cover the cost.

That idea is being proposed by Ben Stein, humorist, author of "How to Ruin Your Financial Life." He joins us now from Los Angeles. Ben thanks for being on the show tonight.

BEN STEIN, AUTHOR, HOW TO RUIN YOUR FINANCIAL LIFE: It's my pleasure.

COOPER: Ben, the House just approved a $447 billion military package, basically two weeks ago. It includes a 3.5 percent pay raise. You think those soldiers still aren't getting paid enough. You have a solution. What is it?

STEIN: Well, the 3.5 percent isn't even close to enough. Now Bush has raised their pay by about 23 percent compared with what it was under Clinton. But you've got master sergeants, you've got corporals, who have got families with a wife and two children, or a husband and two children, who are earning barely above the poverty level.

When they go on deployment the people left behind have to buy day-old bread at the grocery store. They have to go buy used furniture at church bazaars. They have to go on women, infant and children welfare payment. I've got e-mails from military families saying they have to sell their blood to make ends meet. These guys are all that stands between us and defeat and anarchy and terror and oppression. We've got to pay them like we mean it.

COOPER: So what's your proposal?

STEIN: My proposal is we have a surcharge on the taxes of income tax of the top 1 percent of American taxpayers. A 5 percent, not on their total income, but on their taxes. That would yield enough money to give a $10,000 payment to each and every person in both the active and National Guard service.

And that would be enough; it seems to me, to show them that we care. I don't think that's enough permanently. I think they need to be paid even more. I think they should be given enough to be accorded solid middle-class status. Why should they have to be begging, and pleading for welfare when they're indispensable? They're much more indispensable than you and I are, Anderson.

COOPER: So you're saying a surtax on the tax of the top one percent of the population pay, which I'm assuming, I don't want to go out on a limb, you're in this percentage?

STEIN: I'm easily in that percentage. And I'm happy to pay more tax. Look, it just means drawing my pen across a green piece of paper. It means life or death to these people who are fighting. A person shouldn't have to go down a street in Fallujah in a U.S. uniform and have in the back of his mind that he's getting divorced because his wife and his children are suffering and they're mad at him because they don't have enough to eat.

He shouldn't have to go be worried all the time that he's not going to pay his bills. I get e-mails all the time from soldiers, marines saying they're going into bankruptcy. Their families are falling apart. Not only because of stress of deployment, because of stress about money. That's outrageous.

COOPER: Are you suggesting this is a one-time payment of $10,000?

STEIN: No, no, no. I think there should be more than $10,000. It should be more than yearly. I mean I think it should be permanent. I think we should have a commission on equalizing military pay with civilian pay. I mean, we've got people who are executives in the military who are majors, colonels, earning barely more than people who are secretaries at law firms, or in Hollywood movie studios.

In fact they earn less than that. Why shouldn't they be paid a decent wage, which is in accordance with the importance of what they do and with their sacrifice? It's nice to go to parades. It's nice to honor them at military cemeteries. But let's show them we mean it in a way that means something. Let's pay them a living wage.

COOPER: We're going to put this to our audience. Ben stein, thanks for being on the program tonight.

STEIN: Thank you.

COOPER: Thank you, Ben. It's our topic of today's "Buzz" question. Would you be willing to pay additional taxes to give U.S. troops a raise? Not exactly what Ben Stein is proposing, but the question is, would you be willing to do it? Log on to cnn.com/360. Cast your vote, we'll have results at the end of the program tonight.

Well, on a far lighter note, get ready for a ghost hunt. Coming up next on 360 we're going to take you inside a supposedly haunted prison. Go room to room in search of what some people say are phantoms. Part of our weeklong series, paranormal mysteries. Do you believe?

Plus are you trying to kick the habit? One little girl's message may inspire you or someone you know. Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok, on my go, single. Spangler (ph) I want a confinement screen (ph) from you, OK? Go! Hold him up there. He's going to move. Hold him up. Go! Start bringing him down. Start bringing him down. You've got him. Don't cross the screen (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe now you'll never slime a guy with a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) huh?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That's a scene from the 1984 hit movie "Ghostbusters." Had millions of people around America saying "I ain't afraid of no ghosts." That is how some ghost hunters feel when they walk the dark, vacant halls of a West Virginia state penitentiary. Tonight, CNN's Jonathan Freed takes us on one of their ghost hunts as we begin our weeklong series, paranormal mysteries, do you believe?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The West Virginia penitentiary in Moundsville was built right after the civil war. It is a place marked by violent death. Close to 100 people were executed here. Most by hanging.

JOHN MCCLINTOCK, GHOST HUNTER: I think you really have to be prepared, be a little scared. Because when you lose that edge, the fun of it's gone. The awareness.

FREED: In all, about 1,000 died. Half murders and suicides. The prison hasn't housed an inmate for a decade now. At least, not officially.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It felt like somebody was up here behind the railing.

FREED: Al Brimsa (ph) and his fellow Allegheny mountain ghost hunters believe many inmates are still here in spirit. In part, because their earthly departure was so sudden.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're essentially a walking wired machine between maybe a still camera, motion picture camera, and an audio recorder. We're good to go.

FREED: The group stakes out supposedly haunted places. Hoping a paranormal stalker will float by their infrared gear.

MCCLINTOCK: Ghost hunting is one of the most boring things in the world. But it's shattered by moments of pure excitement when you either see something like a ball of light moving in your camcorder.

FREED: They say that looks like this. You're matching their video of what they claim are moving orbs of concentrated ghostly energy. But the group captured it's prize footage last year, thanks to Brimsa (ph) who explains he's sensitive to psychic disturbance. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I get like a jab of a head headache on my right side there.

FREED: Brimsa (ph) says he took these images in the prison basement. The specter of a bearded man, the group believes was killed here a century ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When this happened, I just knew there was somebody standing over against that wall.

FREED: Do you ever have moments where you stop and think to yourself, what on earth am I doing in the basement of this prison at 4:00 in the morning?

MCCLINTOCK: Do I wonder? Yes, but if you like history, and you like the good ghost story, it doesn't get any better.

FREED: Jonathan Freed, CNN, Moundsville, West Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, some one-third of Americans say they believe in ghosts. There are of course also skeptics such as James Randi, former magician, escape artist known as the Amazing Randi. He's now president of the Randy Educational Foundation, a nonprofit organization which supports research into paranormal claims. He is not an apparition; he's live in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Thanks very much for being on the program, James.

JAMES RANDI, PARANORMAL INVESTIGATOR: My pleasure.

COOPER: So you heard those two guys talking about they've seen moving orbs, I wrote it down, moving orbs of concentrated ghostly energy. Do you believe them?

RANDI: Well, the orbs is a recent development, particularly with digital cameras. It's an artifact of the camera itself. Any tiny mote of dust and old houses and old prisons do have a lot of dust and junk floating around in the air, any little bit of dust like that illuminated and out of focus appears to be what they call an orb.

COOPER: Well, those guys also showed the picture of what they said was somebody with a beard. They said it was some sort of an apparition and the guy said he gets headaches when I guess ghosts are nearby. What do you make of that?

RANDI: Well, I'll ask you quite frankly. Do you see the bearded man that he says he sees? He's seeing one now, but that's me. I can't make out what he's talking about there in that image.

COOPER: Right. So you think people sort of see what they want to see?

RANDI: That's right. They see what they expect to see. They're evidence searching. They're locking for something to be there. And the last thing they want to do is go away without having seen anything.

And remember old houses like old people, they creak. You never heard of an apartment house, a modern apartment house that was haunted, did you? I have never heard of one myself, and I've heard of a lot of haunted places that are supposed to be all over the world, and very famous. But they're all old houses. Old houses make strange noises.

COOPER: You've also offered, I mean, you sort of put your money where your mouth is. You've offered $1 million to anyone who can prove some sort of paranormal occurrence. I guess so far you haven't paid out the money. Has anyone even come close?

RANDI: No, no one comes close. And I wish I could say, gee, there was one that came very close. No, it's not very really exciting. Now, I've seen it all. I just finished a TV series in Korea, and I've done them in Germany, and I've done them in England.

I've done them all over the world where we investigate these things and we offer the James Randi Educational Foundation's million- dollar prize. It's not my money. It's the money of the foundation. So far no one has ever passed even the preliminary tests.

COOPER: But you're open to the possibility of there being ghosts, yes?

RANDI: Absolutely. Yes. I'm also open to the possibility that maybe Richard Nixon is alive and well and living in Argentina. I don't think it's very likely. Nor do I think that ghosts are very likely.

COOPER: You said no one's met sort of the basic criteria. What are the basic criteria?

RANDI: Well, they have to define what they mean by a ghost, first of all. Then they have to say how does a ghost manifest itself or herself or his self, I don't know what they call them. They have to say what the test will be, under what circumstances, and what will actually happen. They have to be able to outline an experiment that will prove or disprove the existence of these spirits.

COOPER: Well, it's a fascinating topic. James Randi, thank you for being on the program to talk about it.

RANDI: Great pleasure.

COOPER: Our series, paranormal mysteries; do you believe continues all week. Tomorrow, communicating with the dead. Certainly a big business. But are those attempting to cross over being double- crossed? John Edward will take your e-mails. Start sending them now to cnn.com/360. That's tomorrow.

And on Wednesday, extraterrestrial life. Is the truth out there? See how some scientists are trying to communicate with others in outer space. On Thursday inside the world of psychics. They say you can tap into your own powers of extra sensory perception. I'm not really sure what that means, but we'll see.

And on Friday, you've heard of pet psychics. We'll put one of them to the test with my own dog. Is there a message behind all her barking? We'll try to find out.

Coming up, her husband fought for the Confederacy 150 years ago. Remembering the last surviving widow of the Civil War. That is just ahead in "The Nth Degree."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, third grader in Oklahoma already has a pretty impressive line for her resume in advertising. She created an anti- smoking ad that beat out more than 1,000 entries and is airing in parts of Oklahoma. Let's take a look at the winning ad.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Don't be a stinker. Recently I spoke with 9-year-old Carina Adelizzi about her budding career.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So Carina, how did you come up with the idea for this campaign?

CARINA ADELIZZI, CONTEST WINNER: I went over to my friend's house one day, and her mom smokes. And it stunk inside the house. So, I went outside to get away from it, and their dog had got sprayed by a skunk, and I had to choose between smelling the skunk or smelling the smoke.

COOPER: So it was either a question of staying in your friend's house with the mom who smokes or hanging out with a dog who just got sprayed by a skunk? Which one did you choose?

ADELIZZI: I stayed outside.

COOPER: Did you tell your friend's mom your choice?

ADELIZZI: No. I never did.

COOPER: Probably best not to. I understand you have some people in your family who smoke and you've been trying to get them to stop. Why do you want them to stop so much?

ADELIZZI: Because it's bad for their health and they've been smoking a lot. And my grandma, she's real sick all the time.

COOPER: Your grandma smokes, also your aunt smokes. Do you think they're going to give it up after seeing your commercial?

ADELIZZI: I hope so.

COOPER: A lot of kids smoke. A lot of teenagers smoke. What do you say to them?

ADELIZZI: Well, they probably will need to quit smoking while they're still young enough to. My grandma has a hard time smoking, so probably if they keep on smoking, they'll have a hard time to get off of them.

COOPER: Now, was it fun making this commercial? Did you ever do anything like that before?

ADELIZZI: No, I've never done it before. And it was pretty fun making it.

COOPER: Yes? What do you want to be when you grow up?

ADELIZZI: Well, before I started making the commercial and really thought about it, I wanted to be a doctor. But now, it was sort of fun making it, so I was wanting to probably be an actress or something like that.

COOPER: Wait a minute, you've gone from wanting to be a doctor to now wanting to be an actress? Not sure your mom's going to be too happy about that.

ADELIZZI: Well my mom, I think she'll be OK about it.

COOPER: Well, it's a great commercial. And it's a great thing you did. Carina, appreciate you being on the program to talk about it. Thanks very much.

ADELIZZI: You're welcome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Quick news note on kids and smoking. In Carina's home state of Oklahoma, 33 percent of high school students currently smoke. Nationwide, 28 percent of high school students smoke.

Time to check on some pop news in tonight's "Current." Let's take a look.

"The Day After Tomorrow" raked in an estimated $70 million in its opening weekend. Which well surpassed the record of that other huge disaster film, "Gigli."

Movie ushers across Britain will be equipped with a new device to detect people making illegal copies of films. The ushers will use military style night sights to scan the darkness. The goal is to find pirates. But warning, they can also be used to spot anyone making out on the balcony.

And finally parrots will soon be getting some home video entertainment. The world parrot trust is producing DVDs to keep the birds happy. Daytime programming shows birds feeding and flying and then at night, the mood changes. That's right. You know what the music means, parrots uncut, uncensored, totally wild. That's the nighttime programming. He was a civil war soldier. She was his wife. A woman married to a rebel from the south has died. We'll look at her life ahead on "The Nth Degree." And today's "Buzz" is would you be willing to pay additional taxes to give U.S. troops a raise? Log on to cnn.com/360, cast your vote, we'll have results when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for "The Buzz." Earlier we asked "Would you be willing to pay additional taxes to give U.S. troops a raise?" Fifty- eight percent of you said yes, 42 percent of you said no. Not a scientific poll but it is your "Buzz." Thanks for voting.

Tonight, taking May-December romances to "The Nth Degree." It seems fitting somehow that on this Memorial Day, a day that began as a way to honor the dead from the Civil War, we end with a story of Alberta Martin, the last surviving widow of a soldier from the Civil War.

The story goes that back in 1927. When she was just 21, Alberta married William Martin, who at the time was 81 and a veteran of the Civil War. Mr. Martin died in 1931, and Mrs. Martin actually wound up marrying his grandson. But that's a whole other story.

In the last decade, the state of Alabama decided that Alberta Martin should receive a pension because of her first husband's service. And she became the darling of Confederate history buffs. Today, Alberta Martin died. She was 97. And lived in Enterprise, Alabama. Add her name to the list of those we remember on this Memorial Day.

That's 360 for tonight. I'm Anderson Cooper. I'll be on NEWSNIGHT later tonight. PAULA ZAHN NOW is next.

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


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