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PAULA ZAHN NOW

How Real is Risk to New York City Subways?; Homosexuality Really a Matter of Choice?

Aired October 7, 2005 - 20:00   ET

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


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Glad to have you with us tonight.
It has been a very nervous day here in New York and in Washington. The fear of terrorism is very real.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNOUNCER: Millions of commuters, uneasy riders.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's nothing you can do. You say a prayer and let it be.

ANNOUNCER: On New York subways, a day of looking for bombs and wondering. How real is the risk?

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), MAYOR OF NEW YORK: If I'm going to make a mistake, you can rest assured it's going to be on the side of being cautious.

ANNOUNCER: Gay teenagers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My friends were like, that's awesome. Wow.

ANNOUNCER: Coming out younger.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More kids are getting caught up in it. And that's a tragedy.

ANNOUNCER: Creating a bigger controversy. Is being gay really a matter of choice?

Killer flu. Is the world waking up too late?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We could be battling 5,000 different fronts at the same moment. We could have a period of over a year.

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, we will ask the hard questions: How many people could die? What can be done before time runs out?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: We start on the "Security Watch" tonight, where I can feel the fear and frustration in the air here tonight in this great city of ours. It's been more than 24 hours since we were told about a specific threat against the city's subway system. We have since then learned some frightening bits and pieces since then. But we still don't know who to believe, Mayor Bloomberg, who told us there is a threat and then increased security here, or federal officials, who say it's not credible at all.

Credible or not, this can make you real nervous.

Deborah Feyerick joins me now.

Deborah, what's the latest?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, we can tell you that an official close to the investigation tells us that today, October 7, was mentioned as a day for a possible subway attack, another date, this coming Sunday.

And we're told that's one reason the mayor decided to go public and warn New Yorkers. And though he called the chief of Homeland Security to give them the heads up, that agency is now downplaying the suspected threat. And it is confusing, certainly, as you mentioned, but the mayor standing by his decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLOOMBERG: The intelligence information you get is never going to be so explicit and so guaranteed to be correct. By the time you get that, the event has already taken place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FEYERICK: And a high-level official tells CNN the information about the suspected attack came from a source who had provided accurate information in the past and that the source did take a polygraph test concerning the proposed New York City's subway attacks and did pass.

Now, based on the information, the U.S. launched a joint operation. Three men were taken into custody and they're being questioned -- Paula.

ZAHN: And I think the scary thing for anything that lived here today, there were a couple of false alarms. Exactly what happened?

FEYERICK: There were definitely a couple of false alarms. And it's the way it went virtually all day.

First of all, there was a suspicious package. And that happened during the morning rush. Then there was a can filled with some sort of green soapy liquid, we were told. Hazmat, which is hazardous material, teams, they were called in. And they had to find out what that was.

And we spoke to somebody, and that person told us that these kinds of incidents happen all the time. However, because of the threat, the level of alert was much more acute. There were more police officers who responded. And when we spoke to the police just a short while ago, they told us that there were many more incidents today, or many more calls, actually, today than there were at the same time a year ago. And that's how they compare it -- Paula.

ZAHN: Because of the two vastly different takes on the story, what kind of mood did you find among commuters today?

FEYERICK: Yes, we found a mixed mood as well.

There definitely was some fear, as you mentioned. But, also, I think that New Yorkers have a great deal of faith in the police commissioner. New York City has been the target of an attack a dozen times. And, of course, a couple of them were actually successful. So, if the police commissioner says, this is something we have got to do, a lot of people would much rather see an increased police presence. They would rather have their bags checked and at least know something could possibly happen. It's better to have the information than not.

And that's kind of the pulse that we were taking today -- Paula.

ZAHN: Deborah Feyerick, thanks so much.

Now, with 4.5 million people a day riding New York's subway system, it's hard to come up with a way to make it completely safe from terrorist attacks.

Jason Carroll has been looking into what's being done and joins me with now some of the details -- Jason.

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, there are some practical security measures that have already been put into place.

But when you talk to security experts, they say, don't expect to see the same type of security here that you'll see at the airports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL (voice-over): It's been said New York's subway system is a city beneath the city. There are more than 6,000 subway cars running on more than 600 miles of track.

WILLIAM DALY, CONTROL RISKS GROUP: The system was built to move people, large numbers of people, quickly throughout the city. And it was not designed for security.

CARROLL: Security expert Bill Daly spent 10 years as an FBI agent. He says, since the London bombings three months ago, law enforcement in New York has worked to improved security. They're installing 1,000 security cameras at subway stations. Currently, about half have them. Some of the new cameras will be smart cameras that spot suspicious packages. But it could be at least two years before that system is fully up and running.

So, what about now? Police have increased patrols in response to the specific threat against mass transit. But, with 490 subway stations, each one with multiple points of entry, it would be impossible for a police force totaling 37,000 officers to patrol every subway entrance.

At some stations, you're more likely to find a musician.

(on camera): It's about lunch hour. This is Columbus Circle, one of Manhattan's busiest subway stations. Several lines come through here. We wanted to check security at the main entrance. No police officers in sight right now.

(voice-over): Our camera went down to the platform, still no officers. We checked back two hours later and did find officers on patrol. We took the subway half-a-mile north and got off. When we tried to reenter, an officer was posted in front of the turnstiles, but all we needed to do was go right across the street to avoid them.

PATRICK TIMLIN, MICHAEL STAPLETON ASSOCIATES: There's no way to completely secure a system of this size. You'll never be able to lock down a fluid transit system like this. And we don't want to do that, or the terrorists win.

CARROLL: Patrick Timlin heads a security firm. He's also a former veteran of the city's police department. He says installing a security system similar to one at airports in subways would be too expensive and impractical.

TIMLIN: At the airports, you have ticketed, identified passengers coming through. Here, we have movement of millions of people. We depend it on for the lifeblood of the city. We have to keep those people moving. So, they cannot be stopped arbitrarily and routinely.

CARROLL: Security experts say, despite increased police and new surveillance techniques, the best line of defense is still the eyes and ears of the public.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: Another point, Paula, there are some security measures that are being put into place that are not being publicized for obvious reasons, but, again, law enforcement asking the public to do its part to make mass transit more secure -- Paula.

ZAHN: So, Jason, we just heard your expert saying it would probably be do expensive and not terribly practical putting sort of the airline security in place in subway stations across the city.

But I'm just curious how commuters themselves would react to that, if it were a possibility.

CARROLL: We actually posed that question to a number of commuters. And the response we got was overwhelming, an overwhelming no. People do not want to have to wait. The reason why they use the subways the way that they do is because you can get in and out quickly. And a lot of New Yorkers say they feel as though that there are other ways to secure the system without having to wait like you do at the airport.

ZAHN: Jason Carroll, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

In the last day, I think we have call suffered a case of mental whiplash, New York officials warning about a potential terrorist attack, federal officials saying it's not even a credible threat.

Here's Brian Todd on why we're getting these conflicting messages.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Is this an overreaction? An important question floating in important circles between Washington and New York and forcing New York's mayor to address the issue.

BLOOMBERG: If I've got to make a mistake it's going to be on the side of protecting the people of the city.

TODD: But Mayor Bloomberg and his police commissioner insist it was not a mistake to announce a specific threat against New York's subway system and to step up security, even though federal officials question the credibility of the information.

Publicly, officials from the Department of Homeland Security say they support the mayor's decision. But CNN security analyst Richard Falkenrath, a former deputy homeland security adviser to the president, believes that privately, federal officials are, in his words, pulling their hair out.

RICHARD FALKENRATH, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Well, this is definitely a disconnect. This is not the way things are supposed to go. Clearly, the information was shared with the New York City government. That's an appropriate thing to do.

But the federal government was not prepared for New York City to release the information and give a public advisory about the threat. And that created a real problem of mixed messages, in my view.

TODD: But Mayor Bloomberg and former top FBI official Pat D'Amuro say information on the threat had already begun trickling out when the announcement was made.

PAT D'AMURO, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: Enough information got out through homeland security and other agencies and the police department that I think the mayor and the police commissioner felt they needed to make a public statement.

TODD: Adding to the public and private confusion, one law enforcement source expressed, quote, mystification that federal officials are downplaying the information, saying the person who provided it has been credible in the past. But Falkenrath says New York officials likely do not know all the details federal officials do, specifically details about intelligence operations in Iraq that provided the threat information, which federal officials, he says, have to hold very tightly.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Former law enforcement and intelligence officials say those operations overseas could possibly be compromised now that the threat information is out. Another risk, they say, the overall loss of confidence, when the public hears different interpretations from different figures of authority of one piece of information and comes away with a portion of a government not coordinated -- Paula.

ZAHN: Yes, it's all very confusing, Brian.

So, I'm curious if you're hearing that the fallout continues between the feds and the locals?

TODD: Well, it depends on who you talk to.

Now, former federal Homeland Security officials we spoke to say there's no doubt in their minds that the feds are still very upset with New York. One of them told me he didn't think that the federal officials even wanted New York to hold that news conference yesterday. But there are others, former and current officials -- and President Bush is among this camp -- who say, look, Mayor Bloomberg got this information. It's his prerogative to do with it what he feels is necessary. And they applaud him.

ZAHN: It makes you wonder, though, what this could mean down the road between these federal agencies and local agencies.

TODD: That's absolutely right.

And you do wonder how this is going to be coordinated and what the message will be. But everybody I talked to today said, look, this is part of the new environment. This is part of the new threat assessment environment and the new environment of information sharing. They say, we're going to see this type of disconnect again. But then it will kind of gradually gel back together.

ZAHN: Yes, we're waiting for it to gel back together here.

TODD: Right.

ZAHN: Brian Todd, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

In a moment, I want to talk to you about something that may be a more imminent threat than terrorism. If a killer flu virus hits the U.S., can Washington actually help?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope so. No.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: I think we have a problem. Have the hurricanes made us lose faith in Washington just when it could be a matter of life and death?

And, a little bit later on, a story that a lot of us just can't figure out. Would you make New Orleans levees better or rebuild them just the way they were? Well, guess what they're doing.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As CNN celebrates its 25th anniversary, editors at "Fortune" magazine compiled the top trends that are shaping our future.

Oil prices continue to skyrocket, along with worries over decreased supplies. Americans burn nearly four billion gallons of gas a day. When it comes to oil, the U.S. is the world's biggest consumer, accounting for about a quarter of the world's total. China has surpassed Japan to become number two.

CAIT MURPHY, SR. EDITOR, "FORTUNE": I think we're decades away from that changing fundamentally. I think it will happen through a series of small steps, you know, such as hybrids.

LIN: What used to be more of a concern for environmentalists is now mainstream. People are taking alternative energy more seriously.

Additional technologies like wind farms and fuel cells bring hope of an oil-free society.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: More about avian flu than you've ever heard before, and there's a very good reason. Suddenly, the threat of a global outbreak of bird flu is getting an awful lot of attention. The disease has only infected about 100 people, but half of them died. There's no vaccine, no cure. And, by one estimate, 150 million people could die if the disease spreads among humans.

Well, today, President Bush met with executives from six drug companies to discuss speeding up development of a bird flu vaccine. And Health Secretary Michael Leavitt led a meeting of 80 nations to find ways to keep the virus from spreading. Well, maybe they better hurry. The virus so far has been concentrated in Asia, but a report out of Rumania today says officials there have found avian flu virus in some ducks in a family's yard. The virus is now being tested to see if it's the deadly strain. For the time being, Rumanian officials say the area is under quarantine.

So, the question is tonight, just how prepared are we?

Candy Crowley went looking for answers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Think the U.S. government is ready for a deadly global flu epidemic?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Surely you jest. No.

CROWLEY: They're lined inside a Maryland grocery store for a garden-variety flu shot. Most have heard of bird flu. All have heard of Hurricane Katrina.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, the federal government, we're not -- we are not ready for anything.

CROWLEY: The government's initial reaction to Katrina permeates the discussion of a bird flu which may or may not happen, but most certainly would be catastrophic. A recent Pew poll found the percentage of Americans who think the government is almost always inefficient rose by 9 points post-Katrina to 56 percent.

It's why the State Department is anxious to show this, an international meeting to talk about an early warning system for a flu which has already migrated from birds in Asia to birds in Europe. And it's why the White House put this out, the president and drug company execs discussing vaccine production.

Call it the FEMA effect. Everybody feels it, the public, the experts, the government. Remember those ill and elderly patients lying on the floor of the New Orleans Airport?

KIM ELLIOTT, TRUST FOR AMERICA'S HEALTH: But imagine that times 50 simultaneously, where we have to see things like high school gymnasiums and hotel ballrooms converted to field hospitals. And I would be willing to wager that, in most communities, the local Marriott or Days Inn hasn't been notified by the local health department that they may need to take over that facility to treat sick patients.

CROWLEY: This is the man who does not want to be Michael Brown. Post-Katrina, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt walked through medical facilities and shelters in 17 cities in seven states.

MICHAEL LEAVITT, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: I saw row after row of cots, medical cots, that had been put together in very short periods of time.

CROWLEY: Secretary Leavitt is responsible for the government's response plan for the flu.

LEAVITT: I also thought, what if I were seeing this happen all across the country? What if I were seeing it at a time when people were afraid and not anxious to help? Those are two of the things that worry me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think the federal government's prepared?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hope so. No.

(LAUGHTER)

CROWLEY: But the FEMA effect blows many ways. Remember the blame game, who should have done what, when? Consider a pandemic.

LAURIE GARRETT, AUTHOR, "THE COMING PLAGUE": Public health is executed by states and cities and, in some states, by counties, and all with different laws and different sets of responsibilities. Very few states and very few large cities in the United States have developed their own flu preparedness plan.

CROWLEY: And the truth is, even as you worry about the government's preparedness, it worries about yours.

LEAVITT: That kind of natural disaster, time after time, we see that, for a certain period of time, 36, 72 hours, people are pretty much on their own. And what you do in the 100 hours before a disaster is a lot more important than what happens in the few hours after.

CROWLEY: When it gets right down to it, life can turn on whether there's an axe in the attic or hand sanitizer in the cabinet.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And that was Candy Crowley reporting for us tonight.

As I mentioned today, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt hosted officials from 80 different countries in a meeting about avian flu. And Rumania revealed it has found bird flu virus in three ducks.

Just a while ago, I spoke with Secretary Michael Leavitt about all of this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So, what's your fear tonight about these three confirmed cases in Rumania?

LEAVITT: Well, the first thing is to confirm that in fact it is H5N1 or that it has -- and then the second thing is to determine how they got it.

Did they get it by handling chickens or other animals? Was there clearly a person-to-person transmission? Every time you hear one of these, it of course makes you -- sends a little chill down your spine. But we have the best people in the world at CDC, and -- who are deployed and dispatched whenever we hear this kind of thing, and they find out just exactly what it is.

I'm sure the World Health Organization will be exploring it. And, as soon as we have information, we will begin to make it known and act accordingly. ZAHN: Transparency has got to be a big issue. China was not very forthright when SARS became an issue in its country. Was that something that was talked about today, countries taking a pledge of transparency?

LEAVITT: That's an absolute certainty in terms of our need.

We have to have transparency. We have to have a sense of cooperation. I'm leaving tomorrow, actually, to go into Southeast Asia. I will be taking a team of public health officials, as well as someone from the State Department and the Department of Agriculture. We will be meeting with heads of state, and we will be meeting with health ministers to talk face-to-face about the jointly-held dilemma we have.

ZAHN: Let's talk about the battle here at home. You probably have heard some of the comments made by Democrat Senator Tom Harkin, when he said your department -- quote -- "drug its feet" in ordering crucial supplies of the flu drug Tamiflu to build up our stockpiles.

And now he's saying, along with a couple other senators, that the manufacturer is so overwhelmed that the U.S. has to wait in line behind other countries who were more proactive. How did that happen?

LEAVITT: I have assured him and I would assure the American people that we have conversations with the manufacturer of this drug, and they've assured me that they'll be able to supply our needs. And we're working to make that happen very quickly.

ZAHN: So, you deny that you drug your feet at HHS?

LEAVITT: No, we were working to build up stockpiles. Would I be pleased if we didn't move faster to get larger stockpiles? Yes.

But, at this point, we have -- we don't have avian flu, but we are developing a stockpile, one big enough to be able to deploy. People tend to look at this antiviral called Tamiflu and equate it with preparation. It's a very important part of preparation. And we will have adequate supply. But it needs to be a comprehensive plan.

Another point that is really a very important one, it may be H5N1, but it probably won't be. But we will have a pandemic at some point in the future. This conversation ought to be leading us to the conclusion that we will be prepared not just for the current enemy virus, H5N1, but we will be ready for the next one, which inevitably will come.

This preparation is clearly have -- has to be done for today, but it also has to be thought of as a long-term strategy to be ready, whatever happens.

ZAHN: Thank you for your time tonight. And good luck.

LEAVITT: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ZAHN: And, still ahead, a story that sounds to me, or it may sound to you, like bureaucracy completely run amok. Why are repair crews only allowed to make New Orleans levees the same as they were when they failed, but not better?

Plus, an explosive new controversy over gay teenagers. Should they be encouraged to change their sexual preference?

First, though, let's check this hour's top stories with Erica Hill at Headline News.

Hi, Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, the Iraqi town of Haditha lies in rubble, as U.S. Marines fight grinding battles with insurgents near the Euphrates River, west of Baghdad.

Also, in western Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi troops ending a six-day operation known as Operation Iron Fist. The U.S. says troops killed at least 29 insurgents during the campaign. Meantime, six Marines were killed yesterday in a pair of roadside bombings in two Iraqi towns. The number of attacks has increased dramatically in recent weeks, as Iraq draws near to the October 15 vote on a new constitution.

In Ohio, an emotional homecoming for a Marine reserve unit ravaged by losses in Iraq. Thousands of family members, friends and well-wishers turned out today to greet the Marines in Columbus. And Lima Company have lost 16 Reservists. The unit is part of the 25th Marines, which, all together, lost 48 Marines in the war.

The Senate votes to give President Bush $50 billion more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, tucked inside the measure is a provision sponsored by Republican John McCain banning cruel or inhumane treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody, that provision already drawing a veto threat from President Bush.

And, Paula, that's the latest from Headline News at this hour -- back over to you.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Erica. Appreciate it.

You could say that two forms of gambling are in the news in New Orleans tonight, but only one involves casinos. The bigger gamble may be the levees. Why aren't repair crews trying to make them better? That answer just infuriates the New Orleans residents.

And they say better late than never, but is it really worth going one or one -- or going out on 911 calls if they were made back during Hurricane Katrina? You'll be surprised by this one.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Right now, the latest on the recovery in the Gulf. I'm not sure whether you'll agree with this one or not, but Mayor Ray Nagin is betting that Las Vegas-style gambling is the answer to New Orleans' money problems. A couple of hours ago, he proposed letting the big hotels near the French Quarter put in a lot more than slot machines to attract more tourists.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RAY NAGIN (D), MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: It would be a U-shaped casino conversion and gaming zone. And, in that zone, hotels that have 500 rooms or more would be allowed to convert into a full-fledged casino.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Meanwhile, a few of Louisiana's riverboat casinos are reopening this weekend. Three are in Lake Charles, where Hurricane Rita hit just two weeks ago. And, on Monday, a casino in the New Orleans suburb of Kenner opens for the first time since Katrina hit.

Congress today approved a $1 billion bill allowing Gulf Coast communities to get federal loans to pay their police, firefighters and other essential workers. Just Wednesday, the sheriff of St. Bernard Parish, near New Orleans, told CNN he couldn't make his payroll.

It's pretty safe to say that all the rebuilding money in the world won't matter much in New Orleans unless the levees are fixed and hold up, particularly during a catastrophic storm. But guess what? the Army Corps of Engineers said this week they are rebuilding the levees just as strong as they were before Katrina. And we all know how well that worked.

The reason? Well, the Corps needs an act of Congress to allow them to make the levees stronger. Let's find out now where things stand with Dan Simon in New Orleans. Always good to see you, Dan. So what's the deal here? We know what this last hurricane did to this city and its levees. So why wouldn't they attempt to build these levees stronger?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, it's a question that a lot of people are asking here tonight. Basically it comes down to money according to the Army Corps of Engineers. They don't have the funding to get it done. And they also say there's a time line issue.

They say there's no way they can build those levees up to Category 5 strength before the start of next hurricane season. Now, we spoke to Bob Turner, he runs the local levee district. Take a look at what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB TURNER, PRES. ST. BERNARD LEVEE DIST.: I think everybody is on the same page in that we have to have hurricane protection for next season, and that's why I believe the Corps is proceeding with such haste to get that work done before June 1st.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: Now, Paula, it is a monumental project. We were over there today, and you had bulldozers there clearing the dirt. So it's obvious that it's going to be a long time in coming to, obviously, get these levees up to par.

Now, what we're hearing from the Corps is that it's going to take, you know, many months, just to get them to Category 3 strength. So, if you want to get them to Category 5, they say they're going to need billions of dollars to do so and that it's going to take several years -- Paula.

ZAHN: So, what are the residents saying about all this?

SIMON: We're getting mixed signals from residents. Some are saying, I'm going to rebuild, no matter what. And some are saying, you know what, if it's not up to Category 5 strength, I'm out of here.

One thing I found interesting, I actually spoke to a guy who is with the Army Corps of Engineers and he lives in St. Bernard Parish and he lost his house. And I said, would you be comfortable rebuilding? And he told me categorically, the answer was yes.

ZAHN: And I'm just curious and maybe you didn't ask this specific question of people, whether they actually expected Congress to go for an act of Congress to change this?

SIMON: We actually did ask those folks. And, obviously, they were hoping that Congress would step up to the plate and give the Army Corps of Engineers the money it needed to do this. At the same time, they understand that Katrina, to a certain extent, was an anomaly, and that those levees just gave way because the storm surge was so strong.

So, you know, we're hearing all types of things from residents. But, for the most part, I think people are really optimistic that they can rebuild here in St. Bernard Parish -- Paula.

ZAHN: Dan Simon, you've got a lot of background noise that you had to compete with. Thank you for cutting through there, thanks.

Our Randi Kaye has found a story in New Orleans that will really leave you scratching your head, listen. So why are emergency crews only now responding to 911 calls made six weeks ago during Hurricane Katrina? The startling answer coming up.

Plus, a high school trend that many people find deeply disturbing. And it's debate over whether -- when teenagers should come out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: We have a story for you, now, at first that you might find hard to believe. But in the surreal landscape of post-Katrina New Orleans, just about anything is possible. Law enforcement officers are working their way through a backlog of 911 calls that goes back six weeks. That is all the way back until when the storm hit. Randi Kaye went along as officers went to the scene of pleas for help that were never answered.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Barry Boright and his partner Patrick Brennan are United States Marshals from Washington, D.C. They're in New Orleans playing catchup, responding to 911 calls six weeks old, dating all the way back to the night Katrina hit.

BARRY BORIGHT, U.S. MARSHAL: We have gone through about 15,000 911 calls. We've got it narrowed down to under 1,000 now.

KAYE: Most of the calls came from or about the Lower Ninth Ward, people calling to be rescued.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got a handicapped girl, and I got a baby that's on the pump (ph) machine. The water is coming up.

KAYE: Relatives calling about loved ones, or residents who were trapped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you in the attic ma'am? The water's high?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, it's high.

KAYE: Because of the chaos and flooding caused by Katrina, it's taken until now to respond.

PATRICK BRENNAN, U.S. MARSHAL: I like being part of it. I like feeling that I'm doing something besides watching it on CNN at home.

KAYE: After the storm, police and other law enforcement couldn't access the Lower Ninth, too much water. This is the first time the marshals are getting a good look inside. They don't expect to find survivors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

KAYE: Making their way through the muck and the mud isn't easy. And inside there's heavy lifting, so the marshals can get a clear picture of the floor. The attics are checked, even what's left of this kitchen. Boright and Brennan squeeze their way through crawl spaces, then spot a red flag.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A powered wheelchair here has me really concerned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a wheelchair in the corner.

KAYE: They leave without finding the man relatives had called 911 looking for.

(on camera): Are you pretty confident that nobody is in there?

BORIGHT: Yes, as sure as we can be without emptying it completely, you know, emptying the house completely. KAYE (voice-over): The marshals move quickly from one house to the next. Some days they and the rest of their team check off as many as 800 calls.

(on camera): The marshals haven't recovered any bodies here in the Ninth Ward on this round. But we did spot a dog up here on one of the roof tops. They believe he likely swam through the storm and ended up there. Probably now without food and water for about six weeks. Luckily, the marshals carry that with them in their car and gave some to him right away.

BORIGHT: Are they sending out animal rescue?

KAYE (voice-over): The marshals make a 911 call of their own to animal rescue. While we wait, the dog waits, too. Then disappears into the house through a crawl space. The marshals try to get inside to rescue him, but it's too dangerous. They leave more water, and wait. About an hour later the dog is rescued by animal control. And the marshals move on. Still hoping to find answers, knowing hundreds of families are still waiting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: At least one positive step there, hard to believe that this is almost six weeks after the storm hit. Randi Kaye reporting. Everybody doing what they can do.

Coming up, a story that I think you might find shocking. Children as early as fifth grade saying they're gay. A fascinating new report and a controversy that's just beginning to heat up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Coming up, I'm going to introduce you to a young man who says he's known he was gay since he was in fifth grade and there's some people who say they want to do something about that.

And a little bit later on, if you can make any law any law, what would it be? First, though, Erica Hill at HEADLINE NEWS with a look at the hour's top stories -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: The Bush administration is congratulating U.N. Nuclear watchdog, Mohamed ElBaradei, for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Also receiving the prize, the organization he heads, the International Atomic Energy Agency for its efforts to contain the spread of nuclear weapons. ElBaradei is the same man the White House tried to remove from the job after he wanted to continue weapons inspections in Iraq rather than go to war.

Some new figures on job losses in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The government says 35,000 jobs were lost overall last month, nudging the unemployment rate up to 5.1 percent. The stock market shrugged off the news finishing the day flat after a day of steep losses.

Children were among the thousands left homeless when Hurricane Stan hit southern Mexico and parts of Central America. The storm caused flooding and mudslides. More than 240 people have died.

The captain of the Ethan Allen says there were more passengers than usual when he took the boat out on New York's Lake George last weekend. Twenty elderly tourists died when the boat capsized. Captain Richard Paris says he usually took 30 to 35 people out from the tour buses that pulled up, but last weekend there were 47 onboard.

And Paula, that's going to do it for us over at HEADLINE NEWS. Back to you. Have a great weekend.

ZAHN: Well, you too. Thanks, Erica.

Coming up next, a very difficult question, and I'm sure it is, wherever you live. Should teenagers be encouraged to declare they're homosexuals, in some cases as early as fifth grade? Well, some people want them to try something called conversion therapy. That debate on the other side.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Tonight I'm going to introduce you to a young man who says he knew he was gay in fifth grade, but he didn't feel like he could say so until his last years of high school. Well, researchers say that more gay teenagers are doing the same thing, but now they're coming out of the closet and right into a battle for their souls. Here's Tom Foreman.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The suburbs of Reading, Pennsylvania, are hard-working, hard-praying communities, traditionally hard places for a teenager to say he is gay. But high school senior Corey Clark did just that last year, admitting feelings that started long ago.

COREY CLARK, GAY TEEN: Then this happened like probably fifth grade.

FOREMAN (on camera): In fifth grade you knew you were gay?

CLARK: Yes, so ...

FOREMAN (voice-over): Revealing his secret, however, was not as difficult as he feared.

CLARK: It wasn't hard coming out here.

FOREMAN (on camera): How did your friends react?

CLARK: My friends were like, that's awesome! Wow! I can't believe it. And that was that. They didn't really treat me any differently.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Buoyed by growing public acceptance and positive media images of gays, researchers say more teens are coming out earlier, before college. Corey is the centerpiece of an article in "Time" by John Cloud, who came out at the age of 23.

JOHN CLOUD, TIME MAGAZINE: If you look at the research now, the average gay person comes out just before or just after graduating from high school, so right around 18. And the average same-sex attracted kid is first engaging in sexual behavior at age 15. So these ages were surprising to us.

FOREMAN: The gay community is welcoming these teens. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, says they have helped raise the number of gay/straight alliance clubs at high schools from 100 to 3,000 in ten years.

MICHELLE MARZULLO, COLLEGE STUDENT: My girlfriend and I, you know, we were 19 when we came out, and so we felt very isolated and alone.

FOREMAN: In college, some kids, like Michelle Marzullo, are getting assistance from a nationwide scholarship program for gays and lesbians, The Point Foundation.

BRUCE LINDSTROM, POINT FOUNDATION: They don't have anyone that they can turn to. In many instances, The Point Foundation becomes their first positive experience within the gay and lesbian world.

CLARK: All those things put together helps you realize that, you know, you're not alone.

FOREMAN: But what gay advocates call support, some religious groups call recruiting.

ROBERT KNIGHT, CONCERNED WOMEN FOR AMERICA: More kids are struggling with this problem because it's been promoted in our culture, over and over, through television, MTV, radio, movies, you name it. Even the schools themselves are promoting the idea that it's normal, so more kids are getting caught up in it. And that's a tragedy.

FOREMAN: So, religious conservatives are expanding their counseling services, no longer condemning gay teens so much as saying they are accepted, they are loved, and they can change their sexual preference, even though many mental health professionals disagree. Advocates of what they call conversion therapy at such young ages these kids may be confused, they may be experimenting, but they're not necessarily irreversibly homosexual.

DR. WALTER JONES, LIBERTY'S CHOICE: And I find it very interesting that gay rights activists constantly put up the front that it's OK for somebody struggling with those feelings to be encouraged into homosexuality, but not OK for them to be encouraged out of it.

FOREMAN: Corey Clark says he went to one of the big camps called Exodus where he talked a lot about being gay, and he reached a conclusion.

CLARK: I believe you could choose not to be gay.

FOREMAN (on camera): You think you could?

CLARK: I could. It's a possibility. But it's not a choice I see myself making anytime soon.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Only a small minority of churches fully accept gays into their congregations. Still, so many teens seem at ease with gay friends, those churches are trying to convince other churches to reconsider.

REV. DEAN SNYDER, FOUNDRY UNITED METHODIST CHURCH: We'd better look at examining our own biases and prejudice against gay folk, because if we don't get over it, we'll lose our credibility I think with young adults in general.

FOREMAN: The seasons are changing in Pennsylvania and the times are, too. Some say for better, some for worse. And Corey Clark is in the middle, caught between the values he grew up with and the values he is growing into, whatever they may turn out to be.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Tom Foreman reporting for us tonight.

It's about eight minutes before the hour, time to check in with Larry King who I haven't talked to in a whole long time. Happy anniversary. I heard you had quite the bash last night.

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you. The actual anniversary was June, but CNN threw the party last night at Spago's. We had over 300 people. It was wild and my two little boys stole the show.

ZAHN: And shouldn't they?

KING: You're not kidding. Hey, we're both in black.

ZAHN: What, are we mourning?

KING: My goodness (ph). Symbolic of something -- what is this?

ZAHN: It's Friday night.

KING: Oh, yes. Friday is -- that's right -- black night.

ZAHN: So, who you talking to tonight?

KING: Oh, we're doing a great show tonight. We're reuniting the Roseanne group. Roseanne and John Goodman and Sara Gilbert and Alicia Goranson and Michael Fishman, all the kids, and of course, Roseanne and John reuniting their great sitcom. They're all together here for the first time since that show went off the air. It could be quite an hour.

ZAHN: That should be fun.

KING: Yes. Looking forward to it.

ZAHN: I'm sure there will be a lot of quotable material, Larry.

KING: You're not kidding.

ZAHN: You get that gang unscripted. Have fun, and, again, happy anniversary.

KING: Thanks, Paula. You too, thanks.

ZAHN: Have a good weekend.

And how many times have you said to yourself, there ought to be a law. I've done that hundreds of times. Well, Jeanne Moos has found a contest that is just what we were looking for.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: So that's how New York City looks tonight, as the city is in a heightened state of alert. You can still see plenty of traffic out there. Hard to tell how much commuting is being done on the subways at this hour, but a damp night out there.

So I think there ought to be a law that on Fridays, that the day should go pretty smoothly, that so we all head into the weekend in a good mood. What kind of law would you make if you could? Jeanne Moos found some really wild answers.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ever wished you could take the law into your own hands? Literally? What laws would you dream up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would have a law about the people walking around with the little earphones on their telephone. It's going to say, you can't walk around and look like you're an insane person, talking to yourself and scaring the people around you.

MOOS: Remember how we used to learn how a bill became a law?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not easy to become a law, is it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. But how I hope and pray that I will, but today I am still just a bill.

MOOS: Well, Bill, these days, you could enter a contest.

JOE SIMITIAN, CALIFORNIA STATE SENATE: My annual contest is called there ought to be a law.

MOOS: In five years, California state senator, Joe Simitian, has gotten all these entries, and what do the winners get?

SIMITIAN: The real prize, if you will, is that at the end of the year, their idea has become law for 36 million Californians.

MOOS: Eight bills have actually been signed into law, like the one about antifreeze submitted by a retired nurse. SIMITIAN: Her puppy died, she didn't know why. A little exploration turned up the fact that the puppy had apparently lapped up some antifreeze in a parking lot.

MOOS: That led to a law that requires antifreeze to contain a bitter tasting substance to prevent kids and pets from drinking it. Without the bitter stuff, the antifreeze tastes sweet. Another winner ...

SIMITIAN: I had a constituent who took her $100 gift certificate into a local retailer and they said, sorry, we're going through bankruptcy proceedings and we can't honor that.

MOOS: She figured there ought to be a law, and now there is, requiring a business that goes bankrupt to honor gift certificates. Among the contest rejects, a proposed law saying for every law passed, one should be taken off the books. Never getting on the books was a suggestion to reprogram ATMs to function as voting machines. Maybe you'd prefer a law against say, spit.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People who spit everywhere. That bothers me.

MOOS: Or one requiring public toilets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put port-a-potties out, so that 59th street doesn't smell like (EXPLETIVE DELETED).

MOOS: The make your own law concept is spreading. New York assemblyman Jimmy Ming's (ph) contest has attracted proposals like requiring all people to wash their hands in public restrooms, not just employees.

(on camera): Personally, I think there should be a law against people who block the left side of the escalator rather than standing on the right, so the people like me can get in the passing lane. Excuse me. Sorry.

(voice-over): If you think that's petty, "Reader's Digest" once joked there ought to be a law against rotating a circular merchandise rack while another shopper is browsing. And how about a ban on the press shoving cameras inches from your face.

(on camera): That should be a law.

(voice-over): This guy's proposed legislation was based on the Bible.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This says every green seed bearing plant is good for you.

MOOS: It figures a guy with a sign saying, can you spare a dollar to buy pot, proposes legalizing it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Surprise. Thanks, Jeanne.

Next week, will you please help out the victims of hurricanes. They need jobs. Do you need a worker? We'll match you all up. Thanks for joining us again tonight. Have a great weekend. LARRY KING LIVE starts right now.

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