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Hunters Killed in Wisconsin; NBA Fight Fallout; Thanksgiving Travel

Aired November 23, 2004 - 07:28   ET


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, everybody. It's just about half the hour on this AMERICAN MORNING.
Investigators and community members are searching for any explanation as to why a group of deer hunters was gunned down in Wisconsin. Now a sixth person has died in that attack. A full report is just ahead in a moment.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Also, among NBA circles, the name Robin Ficker is legendary.

O'BRIEN: In a bad way.

HEMMER: Perhaps the most famous or infamous heckler ever, and we're going to talk to him in a few moments about what happened Friday night in Detroit, also find out whether he thinks the heckling code should be changed. And if so, how would he change it? I mean, this guy, he went to these games in Washington. Anytime a team came in from out of town, they put a microphone on Robin. And they would do a story on him.

O'BRIEN: Is there a heckling code? Is there really that?

HEMMER: I don't know. He would know.

O'BRIEN: There's a real likelihood (UNINTELLIGIBLE) one in his head.

HEMMER: Maybe he defined it.

O'BRIEN: OK, we'll see.

HEMMER: We'll find out.

O'BRIEN: First, headlines, Kelly Wallace is sitting at our news desk this morning.

Hey, Kelly, good morning.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Good morning, Bill. Good morning again, everyone.

Here are some stories "Now in the News."

Word this morning of a roadside bombing in the central Iraq city of Samarra. Wire reports say at least one person was killed, three others are wounded. Meantime, a major discovery in Kirkuk. Iraqi and American security forces say they have confiscated a variety of weapons and night-vision equipment and have detained almost 40 people.

In England, British security may have avoided a possible September 11-style terrorist attack. According to British media reports, al Qaeda had planned to attack Heathrow Airport and skyscrapers in London's Canary Wharf Financial District. There are also reports that training programs for suicide pilots were disrupted. It is not clear when or where the plots were uncovered.

Former President George Bush is sending his condolences to the families of three crewmembers killed in a plane crash in Texas. The jet was planning to pick up the former president for a trip to Ecuador yesterday when it apparently clipped a light tower. An investigation into the cause of the crash is under way.

And a 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich has sold on eBay for -- get this -- $28,000. That's because it is not just any sandwich. The owner says the bread bears the image of the Virgin Mary. The winning bidder is an online casino. Officials from that company say they will use the new sandwich to raise money for charity. To get $28,000 on eBay, you can only imagine what they might get to raise money for this.

O'BRIEN: I made so much fun of the woman who was selling that sandwich. I laughed at her mercilessly, and I am so sorry I...

WALLACE: Are you speechless this morning?

O'BRIEN: Twenty-eight thousand dollars!

WALLACE: That is a lot of money.

O'BRIEN: I've got to start leaving grilled cheese out on my counter and see what appears. That's unbelievable. All right, I guess it's for a good cause. Kelly, thanks.

WALLACE: It does, sure.

O'BRIEN: Weird but true.

A sixth person died following Sunday's shooting rampage in the woods of rural Wisconsin. The man who police say opened fire on the group of hunters is now in police custody.

Keith Oppenheim is in Meteor Township in Wisconsin this morning.


KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The residents of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, are taking in the deadly details.

LINDA KOHECZNY, RICE LAKE RESIDENT: I'm shocked, you know, and it's scary. You know, my family goes out hunting every year.

OPPENHEIM: On Sunday, in deep woods one hour away from town, a group of area hunters came across another hunter, 36-year-old Chai Vang, who police say was trespassing, illegally using a deer stand on private land. Investigators say the hunters told Vang he had to leave.

SHERIFF JAMES MEIER, SAWYER COUNTY, WISCONSIN: The suspect got down from the deer stand, walked approximately 40 yards, fiddled with his rifle, and some saw which appeared he took the scope off the rifle. He turned, and he opened fire on the group.

OPPENHEIM: Police say after the shootings, Vang got lost in the woods, then got help from two other hunters, who didn't realize he was a wanted man. He was later arrested by authorities without incident.

SHERIFF TOM RICHIE, BARRON COUNTY, WISCONSIN: The most frequently asked question is: How could somebody do such a horrific, inhumane act?

OPPENHEIM: At this point, police have no clear answer as to what might have led Chai Vang from committing a minor infraction, trespassing, to what police believe was his role in a multiple murder.

Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Rice Lake, Wisconsin.


O'BRIEN: A little bit later this morning, we're going to take you live to Wisconsin to hear from one man who knew many of the victims -- Bill.

HEMMER: Thirty-three minutes now past the hour, Soledad.

Our next guest today may be the most famous, or infamous, heckler in NBA history. Robin Ficker spent 12 years riding opponents to the Washington Bullets and Wizards. He turned taunting into what some would consider an art form. Robin Ficker is my guest in D.C. this morning.

And good morning to you. Good to have you on our program today...

ROBIN FICKER, FORMER NBA HECKLER: It's nice to be with you.

HEMMER: ... because this is more relevant than it has been in some time.

Listen, for the sake of our viewers who don't know the tactics you used to employ courtside, give us a quick 20-second rundown of what you would do as a heckler at the Washington games.

FICKER: Well, I wouldn't say anything that couldn't be printed in a family newspaper. No swearing. No drinking. So that you always know what you're saying and you're clear-headed. You wouldn't drink before you argue a case in court. No racial or sexual comments. No comments about children. But anything else is fair game.

I read Phil Jackson's autobiography to him. He got upset. And I said, 'Phil, why don't you sue yourself for libel? You shouldn't have written it if you didn't want it read.'

When Charles Barkley said he didn't eat vegetables, I brought the vegetables to the game. If the players throw something at you, say, "I'm the only thing you hit all night." If they throw water on you, just look up and say, "Is it raining in here?"

You've got to keep your sense of humor.

HEMMER: Hey, Robin...

FICKER: Keep it clean. Never throw anything on the court. And don't go on the court.

HEMMER: What did you get out of this?

FICKER: Well, I was the sixth man, the home-court advantage. I became part of the game, and I was able to have an influence on the huddles by drawing plays on my own black board, by talking to the players and distracting them from the task at-hand. When they were talking to me, they certainly weren't listening to the coach or thinking about stopping one of the Bullets.

HEMMER: Let's talk about Friday night. Have we now crossed a new line, Robin, in the relationship between fans and players?

FICKER: Well, the NBA is promoting propinquity, intimate relations with the players. The seats are close. At the same time, you have problems caused, because you have people who have diametrically-opposed views and very -- in close proximity. And it's a highly-charged emotional situation, because both the players and the fans have a desire to win the game.

HEMMER: But we have talked all week long about what is said to be the responsibility of the player in a situation like this. The standard is higher for an NBA professional athlete. What's the responsibility of a fan...

FICKER: Well, the fan...

HEMMER: ... to make sure their behavior doesn't cross the line?

FICKER: The fan certainly shouldn't go onto the court, shouldn't throw anything onto the court. If the players don't like what the fan is saying, the player can go to Eckerd Drugs, spend $3 and buy a set of earplugs.

The player is earning more in one game than the average American earns for an entire year. The fan is going to get a vicarious thrill, to be uninhibited, to have a lot of fun rather than sit still in the opera, ballet or movie. He wants to jump up and down and witness what gladiators used to do without clothes on when they were trying to kill each other. Here, we have modern-day gladiators, and it's an awful lot of fun to see them.

The NBA would be nothing, however, without the millions of loyal fans who come to the games, watch the games on TV and buy the products that are advertised.

HEMMER: Truth be known, though, a lot of people were turned off by some of your antics there in Washington. I understand you don't do it anymore, and that's because you have, what, two grown children?

FICKER: Well, I have three grown children, all of whom are athletes, and I go to watch their athletic competitions.

But there were an awful lot of people who wanted to sit in our section, because we had a great deal of fun. Charles Barkley said in "Sports Illustrated" that...

HEMMER: All right.

FICKER: ... I was the No. 1 fan in the NBA.

HEMMER: Thanks, Robin. Propinquity. That will be the word of the day. Robin Ficker our guest from Washington D.C., thanks for your time.

FICKER: Thank you.

HEMMER: The University of South Carolina and also Clemson now are deciding not to accept post-season bowl bids. This is punishment for Saturday night's -- Saturday's, rather, fight on the field. That brawl broke out with just minutes left in the game.

The Clemson Tigers defensive lineman Bobby Williamson tackled South Carolina quarterback Syvelle Newton and appeared to keep him down too long. Individual suspensions now for players are still to come. That fight went on and on.

Later today, USC is set to announce that Steve Spurrier will be its new head football coach, replacing outing Coach Lou Holtz. Saturday was Holtz's last game at South Carolina -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Many Americans may be using today as an opportunity to make an early getaway for Thanksgiving. But it's tomorrow, one of the busiest travel days of the year, that will be the real test at the airports, on the highways and on the railways.

CNN's Chris Lawrence is live in Chicago for us with more this morning.

Hey, Chris, good morning.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Soledad.

And the people riding the rails tomorrow will have to take a lot of patience into account. Even on a normal day, Amtrak has some reliability problems. Trains only run on time a little over 70 percent of the time. You put an extra 100,000 people on those rails, and it becomes a major challenge to meet that demand.


LAWRENCE (voice over): It's a holiday that's supposed to put people on the move.


LAWRENCE: But it takes a lot of work to make sure Thanksgiving trouble doesn't come to a screeching halt. Amtrak expects to serve some 600,000 passengers this week...


FICKER: ... and 80 percent more than normal on Wednesday alone.

(on camera): So, there's no way a normal staff could handle the amount of people that will be riding this week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. Not around the holidays.

LAWRENCE (voice over): Amtrak's Don Saunders' (ph) plan includes an extra shift of officers to handle security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perimeter checks, platform checks, random ID checks.

LAWRENCE: Enough cooks and waiters to serve seven tons of roast turkey and added space for all of those passengers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're on target to build up to at least our 26 additional coaches in the Midwest corridor trains.

LAWRENCE: But the key to making it all work is people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you catching another train there?


LAWRENCE: Gino Engstrom has been work working holidays on the rails for over 30 years.

GINO ENGSTROM, REDCAP: It gets kind of stressful. People are screaming and hollering.

LAWRENCE: But his redcap is the first thing people see. So, he treats each passenger like they're special.

ENSTROM: Some of them haven't seen their families in years, and some of them are getting back together, some of them, you know, maybe for the last time. You know, you never know. Oh, thank you.



LAWRENCE: Yes, and Gino is going to have his work cut out for him. Amtrak is adding nearly 60 trains to its national schedule, and it's also attaching more cars to its existing trains from now through next Monday. It gives them about 40,000 extra seats, which they hope will be filled by people filled with patience and the joy of the holiday spirit -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, sure, I bet. No question about that. A quick question for you, though. With everybody trying to time the traffic or try to time all of the ways in and out of town, what do you think is the best time to leave right now?

LAWRENCE: Well, if you can avoid some of the crowds traveling today, tomorrow and Sunday it's for the best. If you can, say, leave on Thanksgiving and come back on Friday or Saturday, it won't be nearly as busy.

O'BRIEN: And we will see. All right, Chris Lawrence, as always, thanks, Chris.


O'BRIEN: Still to come on AMERICAN MORNING, investors knocking a big hole out of Krispy Kreme. Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business" just ahead.

HEMMER: Also, how does one of the world's greatest rock bands release a new album? Here's a hint: They did not call for a cab. The latest from U2 still to come this hour after this.


HEMMER: We're on the air.


HEMMER: What's happening, Jack?

CAFFERTY: I believe we are.

The "Question of the Day" is about these ads. We had Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge on this program yesterday. And they've come out with a series of TV and radio commercial print ads, the Department of Homeland Security, encouraging parents to talk to their kids about terrorism. Some experts, though, worry that the ads will frighten kids who see or hear them.

Ronald Stephens (ph) of the National School Safety Center warned that this could scare kids into -- quote -- "feeling like the big bad boogeyman is going to get them at any moment."

The question is this: How much should you tell children about terrorism? We're getting many responses.

Patrick in San Antonio: "The sooner we inform our children about the dangers in the world, the sooner they can begin to live a normal life around the dangerous possibilities we all face."

Raine in Galax, Virginia: "Answer their questions, no more, no less. Children are bright, curious creatures not given the credit they often deserve. When they want to know about any particular thing, they ask." Jack in Louisiana writes: "Young children don't need to know anything about terrorism. Families should have a plan to deal with emergencies of all kinds. It's enough that adults seem to be afraid of the most unlikely possibilities without placing the same burden on their children."

And Lorraine writes, a former New Yorker: "I tell my 8-year-old age-appropriate information. When I was in first grade in Catholic school in 1954, we used to have nuclear bomb drills. We hid under our wooden desks, like that would prevent us from having any harm done to us. I was terrified of a Russian nuclear bomb until I was 15."

"Age appropriate" is the key word there.

O'BRIEN: And it was interesting to hear the secretary of homeland security talking about how it's almost in the same vein, he thought, of parents telling their kids about not talking to strangers, you know, because the realities of someone in this day and age can snatch a kid off the streets.

CAFFERTY: The problem is, how do you define terrorism to a 7- year-old kid? How do you define that word?

O'BRIEN: Well, I will say, you watch those commercials, and it makes you say, we've got to get a plan. And that's the goal, to get of the adults thinking about...

HEMMER: That's right.

O'BRIEN: ... boy, I've got to at least have a discussion about where do we go.

HEMMER: And that was the target more so than children, they say.

O'BRIEN: Right.

CAFFERTY: But to have a discussion you have to be able to explain to them what you're talking about when you say "terrorism." And I go back to, how do you explain the concept of terrorism to a child? I'm not sure you can.

HEMMER: Good question.

CAFFERTY: And I've raised four of them. And I'm glad they're old enough to figure it out for themselves, because I wouldn't want to have that responsibility anymore.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Those conversations with your kids.

CAFFERTY: It's easier to do that birds-and-bees deal.


CAFFERTY: The stork brought you. Now go do your homework.

O'BRIEN: That's (UNINTELLIGIBLE), that's all I have to say about it.

All right, thanks, Jack.


O'BRIEN: Well, another bad day for Krispy Kreme donuts, more bad news. A look at that and also what's ahead on Wall Street today. Andy Serwer, "Minding Your Business."

What do you want to start with?

SERWER: Well, I'm not going to be in your good graces, because I'm doing a couple of food stories and I didn't bring any...

O'BRIEN: There are no props, by the way.

SERWER: ... props and samples. Let's talk about the markets first of all, Soledad. A good day across the board. The Dow was up 32 points, the Nasdaq up 14.

Apple Computer boosting it up $6 yesterday. I think we've got a bit of a frenzy going on there.

Krispy Kreme, though, on the skids, now down below $10, first time since 2000. They reported a loss. And as I said yesterday, it's hard to have a loss when you're selling donuts. Sliding right down that slope. You know, there is an accounting investigation, a lot of things, a lot of issues, as Jack would say, at that company.

Now another food story. And I've been a business journalist for 20 years, and this is the first time I've ever gotten do this story, a macadamia nut story. Hershey's is buying the Mauna Loa Nut Company for 112...

O'BRIEN: A good opportunity for a prop. Hello!

SERWER: Yes, a prop, Soledad, nudge, nudge.

CAFFERTY: Those things are really good.


O'BRIEN: Oh, they're so good.

CAFFERTY: I love those things. . SERWER: For $112 million. They've got a 40 percent market share. Just FYI, they do $80 million in sales.


SERWER: And they have been flying off the shelves because of the low-carb thing...

O'BRIEN: Right.

SERWER: ... and also because they taste good.

CAFFERTY: Oh, that's wonderful.

O'BRIEN: Dip them in a lot of chocolate.

CAFFERTY: Get those cookies with macadamia nuts.

SERWER: All right, so you want me -- maybe I can get back in your good graces?

O'BRIEN: I think we can revisit this tomorrow again.

SERWER: Yes, or maybe later in the program, yes.

O'BRIEN: Later is always good.

CAFFERTY: When you come tomorrow, bring your nuts.


SERWER: Yes. Taxi!

HEMMER: Thank you, Jack.


HEMMER: Mauna Loa, good research, too.

SERWER: Mauna Loa.

HEMMER: You know, you get those trips to Hawaii.

In a moment here, did you see this yesterday? U2 surprising thousands on the streets of New York City. We'll talk about it. A big album is released today. Is it any good, though? Toure checks in after this on AMERICAN MORNING.


HEMMER: That was on the streets of New York City yesterday. Fans in New York, a special surprise from Bono and U2. The rock band, an unannounced 45-minute concert yesterday at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. That was late in the afternoon. But earlier around noontime, they were going right down Broadway, right to the heart of Times Square.

The new album is out today. The band is promoting that new album, and Toure has heard it. Toure checks in now, our -- what are you, a pop culture correspondent?

O'BRIEN: Pop culture.

HEMMER: Is that what you are? Good morning to you.


After four years, U2 is finally back with a great new album called, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb." Here's a look.


TOURE (voice over): If they weren't trying to save the world, it wouldn't be U2. The liner notes for "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" urge readers to stop violence against women, free Burma and join Greenpeace. And then there's the music.

You know the album has a political soul from the title. At one point, Bono sings, "Where you live should not decide whether you live or whether you die."

But while Bono was out meeting world leaders and advocating AIDS drugs for Africa, the rest of the band was in the studio, returning to their roots. Yes, after a long musical journey, U2 is once again a real rock band!

These are big sounding songs, made to be played in arenas, anchored by the edges of delicious and muscular guitar rifts, celebrating the fourth phase of U2's career.

The first phase was new wave hero rock, epitomized by "Boy." Then they fell in love with American blues and soul and made "Rattle and Hum." For them, the '90s was about experiments in electronics on records like "Zooropa." Their 2000 album, "All That You Can't Leave Behind," ushered in phase four, which happily is most like phase one. Let's call it neo-hero rock.

The trip through electronics changed them, but now U2 is a rock band, baby!


They're not just trying to save the world, they're also trying to save the record business, which is still troubled, still trying to figure out how to harness the power of the Internet and not get clobbered by illegal downloads.

For this album, U2 has made Apple Computers a partner in their marketing effort with a commercial for the new iPod, which I have right here -- a commercial they weren't paid for -- and a box of digital music released on iTunes only today, which is going to be a lot of people's first time buying digital music. So, bringing them into the future.

HEMMER: What do you think it says about the influence of that band that you're doing an entire segment on the release of an album.

TOURE: They are loved. They are still one of the best bands in the world. I mean, the '80s was about Madonna, Prince, U2, right? And Michael Jackson. Who is still making relevant music? U2.

HEMMER: Did you like their last album, "All You Can't Leave Behind," in 2000?

TOURE: It didn't kill me, because I loved the electronic period so much, so I was a little sad to see that go. But this, they're really back to being the biggest rock band in the world, and they're really getting it right.

HEMMER: I tell you why I loved the last album is because it came in the shadow of 9/11, and they were able to take that theme and transpose it into their music. And when they went on tour, they paid a lot of tribute to the victims of September 11 in this country...

TOURE: That's right.

HEMMER: ... which made it extremely relevant for so many.

O'BRIEN: A great story. Thanks, Toure.

Coming up in just a moment, today's top stories, including President Bush. Is he pushing a plan that would expand the Defense Department's role in covert operations? We'll take you live to the Pentagon just ahead. Stay with us. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.


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