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Trading Up on the Internet; Torture Debate Has Overshadowed Rice's European Trip; Guns on the Rise in New Orleans

Aired December 8, 2005 - 13:30   ET




Well, we've probably all traded something at one time or another, right, even if it was only a sack lunch in grade school. Well, a Canadian blogger named Kyle MacDonald is using the Internet to take trading to a whole new level. How? Stick with me now and I'll explain.


PHILLIPS (voice-over): There was Kyle MacDonald with a red paper clip. It sat on his desk and that could have been it, but he traded the clip to get a pen that was shaped like a fish. Then he thought once again. He traded the pen to get a doorknob. There was no door attached, but he wasn't a snob. A pen for a knob is a good trade indeed. It led to the question, where would this lead?

He traded the clip to get the pen. He traded the pen to get the knob. Now he traded the knob to get a stove, the kind you might use in a picnic grove.

From a clip to a stove is quite a big move, but Kyle MacDonald had something to prove. He traded the clip to get the pen. He traded the pen to get the knob. He traded the knob to get the stove, the kind you might use in a picnic grove. Now he traded the stove for something much greater. A powerful trade for a generator.

Since he had the power, he could see the light. He wouldn't give up without a fight. He traded the clip to get the pen. He traded the pen to get the knob. He traded the knob to get the stove. He traded the stove for something much greater, a powerful trade for the generator.

Now he traded the power for a neon sign, also a beer keg, which he thought was fine. He's using the keg to arrange a new deal, a beer bash for a snowmobile. A snowmobile from a paper clip. A trail of trades that's a long, strange trip.

Where will it lead? If his hopes aren't doused, Kyle MacDonald says he wants a house.

(END VIDEOTAPE) PHILLIPS: All right. So it may sound like a nursery rhyme, but there really is a Kyle MacDonald. He really did start a red paper clip and he really does hope to end up with a house.

He joins us now from Montreal. Kyle, great to have you with us

KYLE MACDONALD, INTERNET TRADER: Great to have -- great to be here.

PHILLIPS: All right, so I see that you are next to the keg. You are going to make the trade today for the snowmobile?

MACDONALD: That's right. In about an hour and a half, I'm going to make the trade and this will become a snowmobile.

PHILLIPS: Is it a full keg?

MACDONALD: It is not. Yes, you notice here, there's an IOU on it.

PHILLIPS: OK, very good. All right, let's just backtrack a little. How did this all start? Where did you get this idea?

MACDONALD: From a game we used to play as kids called "Bigger and Better." I thought of the idea, maybe trying to take it as big as I could. And I put a red paper clip on my Web site, and decided, let's see if we can get to a house with it.

PHILLIPS: Bigger and better. How old are you, Kyle?

MACDONALD: I'm 26 years old.

PHILLIPS: Twenty-six. Anybody here in the control room ever play bigger and better? Does anybody remember that? I think we're too old, Kyle. I don't remember bigger and better. All right, so you made your first trade. Who was the first person to respond or did it take a couple of people before you decided who you were going to trade with?

MACDONALD: The first person to respond was an anonymous e-mail from Nigeria.

PHILLIPS: From Nigeria?

MACDONALD: They offered a pen. And I wasn't too sure, because I get a lot of anonymous e-mail from Nigeria in capital letters. So it was a tough decision.

PHILLIPS: So you did end up trading with that person in Nigeria?

MACDONALD: No, I made the first trade in Vancouver, B.C. with two girls named Ronnie (ph) and Carina (ph). And I traded them for the fish pen at a convenience store right about half an hour from my home out in Vancouver.

PHILLIPS: So do you meet every person you trade with, or do you sometimes do it online? How has it worked out?

MACDONALD: I go and meet every single person that I trade with.

PHILLIPS: Really. Have you met any crazy people yet?

MACDONALD: No, not yet. I've met some really very interesting people, but no crazy people yet.

PHILLIPS: Really. Who's been the most interesting person?

MACDONALD: Well, I can't say who the most interesting is, but it's been a great experience. Annie Robbins (ph) in Seattle, an artist in Seattle, she was really great to hang out. My whole family was there with her. I met Shawn Sparks (ph) in Amherst. Seargant David Jay (ph) at Camp Pendleton. Marsen (ph) in New York. It's been an experience the whole way and I'm really looking forward to meeting Michelle Berett (ph) here in Montreal today.

PHILLIPS: And that's who you're trading the keg for the snowmobile?

MACDONALD: That's right.

PHILLIPS: Are you sure the snowmobile works or does it matter?

MACDONALD: He says it works, so I trust him on his word.

PHILLIPS: Very good. So, has there been any situations that have been -- I mean, you talk about how memorable all these meetings have been, these interesting people you have met. At any point did you get a little nervous?

MACDONALD: No, I've never been nervous making the trades. The only time I was nervous was going on to the military base at Camp Pendleton. We had to pull out our passports and we were Canadian, so I was nervous that we wouldn't be allowed on the base. But no problems whatsoever. We got on. Everyone was happy.

PHILLIPS: What was the trade there at Camp Pendleton?

MACDONALD: That was trading the Coleman stove for the generator.

PHILLIPS: OK, and did you hook up with one of the soldiers there and -- is that...

MACDONALD: Yes, there was Sergeant David Jay and he offered us his generator. We actually met him at his house and had a nice 15 or 20 minutes hanging out together.

PHILLIPS: Did you talk about the war at all? Did he go to Iraq or going to be heading to Iraq?

MACDONALD: He was heading home to South Carolina and he was really interested in getting that model of Coleman stove so he drove across the U.S. he could actually cook meals on it. So it was great. He got a good item and I got an excellent generator out of it. PHILLIPS: Now, I've heard there's some copycats out there? Other people are actually doing this as well?

MACDONALD: Oh, there's lots of copycat, and I encourage it. If you go to, click on start trading on the right and I'm actually linking to everyone else who starts their own trading game. So the more, the merrier.

There's a radio station in Vancouver, British Columbia called 99.3 The Fox. They started with a rock and actually right now they're up to a set of custom drums. So I encourage any radio station or broadcaster to copy my idea. And the radio station is actually going to auction the large item they get off at the end for charity. So this is becoming a sort of movement, a charitable movement.

PHILLIPS: All right. So you eventually want a house. How long do you think it's going to take to get there?

MACDONALD: I think it's going to take -- originally, I had it open-ended. I was going to go as long as it took. But I'm going to say July 12, 2006, one year from the day I started.

PHILLIPS: All right, so you're giving it one year. And do you know where you want to live?

PHILLIPS: how long do you think it's going to take to get there?

MACDONALD: I think it's going to take -- originally, I had it open ended. I was going to go as long a sit took. But I'm going to say July 12th, 2006, one year from the day I started.

PHILLIPS: All right. So you're giving it one year. And do you know where you want to live? Does it matter? What if someone offers you a house somewhere -- I don't know -- that you don't want to live?

MACDONALD: I will take a house anywhere in the world except for Yahk, British Columbia, Canada.

PHILLIPS: Why don't you want to go to Yahk?

MACDONALD: Because I need to say somewhere and I've been to Yahk and I know it might not be the best place on earth for trading. But, really, I just sort of chose it randomly.

PHILLIPS: All right. So you'll go anywhere, you'll live anywhere. And is your plan to -- once you finally get your house, wherever it is, will you work?

MACDONALD: I'll work. I'm working right now. I believe this is trading -- I'm not freeloading. Everyone's offering these trades. I would like to live and work in the house, when I do get to it yes.

PHILLIPS: What's your day job?

MACDONALD: My day job is a writer. You go to, you can click on short stories. I've written some short stories. I really would like to write a book about this experience.

PHILLIPS: You know what? And we'll probably be interviewing you and talking to you about that book. Kyle Macdonald. All right, keep us posted. Let us know how it goes. Tell us when you get that house and where it is and I hope it's not in Yahk.

MACDONALD: Thank you very much.

PHILLIPS: All right, Kyle.


PHILLIPS: Well, one of the first things that religious parents teach their children is that God is everywhere and who are we to disagree? After all, we've seen the Virgin Mary on the grilled cheese sandwich. It sold on eBay for $28,000 buck.

Then a bartender in Switzerland came up with Jesus on a half shell, an image, he said, of Christ of a discarded oyster shell. And just in time for the holidays, two -- count 'em, two -- more particles of faith in keeping with the Christmas season: the Baby Jesus Cheeto, which sold for just $22.50 on eBay; and fished out from under a West Virginia car seat, the Funyon Madonna and Child.

An anonymous online bidder has pledged to pay $609 for this item. And if you find this whole trend hard to swallow, well, watch out. You could be called snack-religious.



PHILLIPS: Iraq has finally shut its western border with Syria. It's a pre-election precaution in light of Syria's alleged role as supplier, or at minimum, conduit of fighters and weapons. Car, train, and pedestrian traffic on hold until further notice. There's also a curfew and a ban on civilian weapons.

A bombed out bus on the uphill road toward bona fide democracy. A representative government in Iraq one week before Iraqis choose a four-year parliament, a suicide bomber jumped on a bus leaving Baghdad for Nasiriya, in the deeply Shiite south.

At least 30 people were killed on that bus and at a nearby food stand, where the blast reportedly set off secondary explosions in propane tanks. It all took place at a major depot where more than 40 people were killed in a triple car bombing back in August.

Some day, Iraqi troops and police are supposed to be ready, willing and able to face and defeat insurgents on their own. It's a tall order. One American lawmaker worries it's taller than you think. Democratic Congressman Rush Holt feels that terrorists are infiltrating Iraqi security forces. He's going to join me live in the next hour of LIVE FROM. And the torture debate rages on. It's overshadowed Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's latest European trip. The issue was raised again in her meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels. She admitted abuses of terror suspects could still happen despite U.S. rules prohibiting torture. Still, she may be winning European politicians over.

CNN European political editor Robin Oakley reports.


ROBIN OAKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's taken all the charm she can muster, along with plenty of hard-headed diplomacy. But slowly, grudgingly, Condoleezza Rice seems to be winning over Europe's politician to the U.S. policy of extraordinary rendition, spiriting away terrorist suspects to mystery destinations for robust interrogation.

In Kiev, she pledged the U.N. convention against torture applied to U.S. personnel abroad as well as those at home. Detainees were not to be subjected to degrading treatment, not covered by the convention. The pledge that America has a no torture policy was repeated when she met NATO foreign ministers in Brussels.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: The United States does not engage in torture, doesn't condone it, doesn't expect its employees to engage in it.

OAKLEY: But the breakthrough seems to have come over dinner Wednesday. Fighting terrorism, she acknowledged in softer tones than before, create a dilemma for democracies. And it was all about striking the right balance. Her allies were swift in support.

JAAP DE HOOP SCHEFFER, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: I think it was a good discussion. I think it cleared the air. I think that Secretary Rice made a strong intervention.

OAKLEY: But crucial approval afterwards too, from some who had been sharpest in their criticism of alleged U.S. practices.

BEN BOT, DUTCH FOREIGN MINISTER: It is often difficult to strike a balance, but given the assurances which, once again, she has given, that the United States will act in conformity with its own constitution, its own laws and will obey or act also in accordance with international agreements, I think that we have gotten all the guarantees and all the satisfactory answers we can hope for.

OAKLEY: Across Europe, Dr. Rice has insisted good intelligence is the key to fighting terrorism. And governments, she insists, have to accept the consequences.

RICE: This is not like normal, criminal activity where you wait until something has happened and then you arrest the suspects and then you try them, and then you punish them. Once the crime is committed in this case, 3,000 people are dead in New York and Washington, or people are dead on July 7th in -- and the scores in Great Britain, or a Palestinian wedding party has been attacked in Jordan.

OAKLEY: At the expense of other business on her trip being totally submerged, Dr. Rice has removed some of the suspicions of European ministers. But many of them, she's implied, had more than an inkling of what was going on anyway. Persuading Europe's parliaments and people the U.S. has not been subcontracting torture may take a good deal longer.

Robin Oakley, CNN, at NATO headquarters in Brussels.


PHILLIPS: Crime is down, but fear is up, way up, in New Orleans. We're going to tell you about a run on the guns in the city when LIVE FROM returns.


PHILLIPS: Well, in the devastated city of New Orleans, crime is down but fear is up. And as CNN's Susan Roesgen reports, there's been a run on guns as people try to fight that fear.


MOREY BUTLER, GUN STORE MANAGER: If I can get my hands on one now, I'll go ahead and order it.

SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Morey Butler, manager of the Shooter's Club, can't keep enough guns in stock.

BUTLER: I have no Springfield Armory product in the store.

ROESGEN: He says sales are up 150 percent, with many more first time buyers.

BUTLER: I've had people in their mid to late 80s coming in. I've had a lot of single mothers or people who are down here and their family is somewhere else and before they bring them home, they want to feel safer.

ROESGEN: This is one of those first time gun buyers.

DEANNA ECKHOLT, GUN OWNER: Are you like stuck now?

ROESGEN: Deanna Eckholt, mother of a 2-1/2-year-old son. Her husband has been working out of town since the storm and she's got a new gun.

ECKHOLT: In my neighborhood, unfortunately, it seems that there's been an increase of drug activity, looting activity and I just thought to myself you know what, I'm going to have to prep myself.

ROESGEN (on camera): Here's another reason people are scared. Forty percent of the city is dark, no power still, after three months. And at night in dark neighborhoods, people get nervous. DANELLE FLEMING, GUN OWNER: When there are no street lights and you hear a noise, you don't want to go outside and start looking around.

ROESGEN (voice-over): Danelle Fleming lives in one of those areas without electricity. She's getting by with three Coleman lanterns and a new double-barreled shotgun.

FLEMING: It's sort of scary to think about owning a gun, living two blocks from Canal Street, in the middle of the city. It's strange to think about needing a gun.

ROESGEN: The police say Danelle doesn't need that gun. New police chief, Warren Riley, says there are plenty of police to protect a much smaller city and crime is way down.

ACTING SUPT. WARREN RILEY, NEW ORLEANS POLICE: Because the city is clearly not heavily occupied, it's safer than it has been probably in 100 years.

ROESGEN: The police patrol the more populated parts of town. But when the sun goes down, living in an area without police patrols, without neighbors, without lights, Danelle says she's glad she's got that shotgun and if she has to, she won't hesitate to use it.

Susan Roesgen, CNN, New Orleans.


PHILLIPS: Yesterday, the TSA held a news conference at the New Orleans airport where it asked residents to stop packing guns, literally. Since October, TSA has discovered ten guns in carry-on bags there, some of them loaded. And in case you're wondering, yes, that's a felony.

Let's go straight to the newsroom. Carol Lin working a story for us right now. Carol, what do you have?

CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, we're following up on Rigoberto Alpizar, who was shot and killed by an air marshal on a flight to Orlando. He had reached into his pocket, was acting strangely and air marshals opened fire.

We just heard from his brother and sister, who made a statement, a quick statement, to reporters in Maitland, Florida. Let's listen to it. It just came in.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rigo Alpizar was a loving, gentle and caring husband, uncle, brother, son and friend. He was born in Costa Rica and became a proud American citizen several years ago. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him. That's all.

QUESTION: Steven (ph), is there anything you wanted to say?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I said no questions, thank you. And now, we would...

QUESTION: And your relation to the family? I'm sorry, one more time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Brother and sister.

QUESTION: How is Anne doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You guys can go now, please, and get off the property and we really would like to -- leave us alone, please. Be respectful of my request. Thank you. Have a good day.

QUESTION: Thank you. We're sorry.


Clearly, a family in mourning and in shock. The neighbors were telling CNN, as well, that Rigoberto Alpizar was a quiet man and they were utterly stunned that he behaved this way on the airplane and that he is now dead -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Well, we'll keep hearing that from various family members, I know, Carol, and bring that to our viewers, as well as talking about what happened yesterday, from the federal air marshals' point of view all the way to the family's point of view. Carol Lin, thank you so much.

We're going to take a quick break. More LIVE FROM right after this.



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