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PAULA ZAHN NOW

President Bush's Popularity Takes Huge Plunge in New Poll; A Mardi Gras to Remember; Greyhound Blood Sport Sparks Outrage

Aired February 28, 2006 - 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. Thank you all for being with us.
Tonight, a president's popularity takes a huge plunge, and three more years in office still ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): "Beyond the Headlines" -- losing faith -- tonight, the president's approval rating at an all-time low. Is there any way to turn it around? What does it mean for his party and for the rest of his term?

"Outside the Law" -- dangerous fare, a taxi driver's worst fear.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you think he was going to kill you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

ZAHN: Now security cameras are catching criminals at work, from drunks to punks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Goddamn!

ZAHN: A secret window shows you the dangers that ride in the backseat.

And the "Eye Opener" -- blood sport, three very fast dogs and one very unlucky rabbit. You might just be outraged.

DAN NOYES, KGO-TV REPORTER: That's got to be a tough way to die for a rabbit.

FRANK MORALES, VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL OPEN FIELD COURSING ASSOCIATION: I wouldn't want to die that way myself.

ZAHN: Is this cruelty or just another kind of hunting?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Also, tonight, she was the star attraction at the U.S. Supreme Court today. What did one-time playmate Anna Nicole Smith want from the justices?

But we begin tonight with President Bush facing an avalanche of bad news in the polls. Everything seems to be piling up and pushing his popularity down.

Just take a look at these numbers. On the port controversy, only 21 percent say the deal should actually go through. On Iraq, only 36 percent say things are going well. And only 43 percent approve of how he's handling the war on terror.

All this adds up to an approval rating of 34 percent, an eight- point drop from last month.

Tonight, White House correspondent Dana Bash takes us "Beyond the Headlines."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Who would have thought heading to India and Pakistan to talk about delicate issues like the fruitless hunt for Osama bin Laden, where protesters are waiting, would be a welcome diversion for the president, facing bruising fights at home?

Before setting out for five days overseas, one more embrace of the deal to let an Arab company run terminals at six U.S. ports:

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If there was any doubt in my mind or people in my administration's mind that our ports would be less secure and the American people endangered, this deal wouldn't go forward.

BASH: That inflexible statement angered some Republican leaders trying to cool the emotions surrounding the issue.

But, for Mr. Bush, the ports debate is hardly the only pressing challenge. Bloody sectarian violence in Iraq has many worried about civil war.

BUSH: The people of Iraq and their leaders must make a choice. The choice is chaos or unity.

BASH: Another tough stretch for a Bush team that had vowed progress in 2006, after a rocky 2005, marked by a botched Katrina response, a top aide indicted, and a Supreme Court debacle.

A new CBS poll shows the president's public approval taking another nosedive, now at 34 percent, down from January's already anemic 42 percent. Iraq is, by far, the biggest public worry and, aides admit, the biggest drag on Mr. Bush. A stunning 65 percent of Americans disapprove of how the president is handling it.

BUSH: America is addicted to oil.

BASH: Lost, it seems, State of the Union priorities like energy reform -- instead, public friction between Mr. Bush's staff and the vice president over his hunting accident and tension between already frustrated GOP lawmakers and the president over the ports controversy.

White House allies see second-term fatigue. In this op-ed three months ago, former Reagan Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein called for -- quote -- "new blood," and was ignored.

VICTORIA CLARKE, FORMER PENTAGON SPOKESWOMAN: They are grueling, grueling jobs, and they take a -- a big emotional and physical toll. So, that may be part of it.

BASH: Much of his senior staff has been there since day one. Privately, some admit they're tired.

But critics, like Clinton administration veteran Bruce Reed, say it's more than fatigue.

BRUCE REED, PRESIDENT, DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP COUNCIL: He designed an agenda that appeals primarily to one flank in his own party, and can't command majority support.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BASH: At the end of -- of last year, the president was upset about the piles of problems -- problems for his administration, and he showed his anger with his staff.

And, Paula, you might think, with the list of challenges now growing, he might be even more angry inside this White House when talking to his staff. But top aides insist that he is actually now in good spirits. And Mr. Bush, in an interview today, himself, insisted that he still believes he has ample political capital -- Paula.

ZAHN: He also, I guess, said, "If I worried about the polls, I wouldn't be doing my job."

We have heard that one before, haven't...

BASH: We sure have.

ZAHN: ... we, Dana?

(LAUGHTER)

BASH: We sure have. And we will hear it again, I'm sure.

ZAHN: Probably about a couple dozen times during the last campaign.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: Thanks, Dana. Appreciate it.

BASH: Thanks.

ZAHN: So, clearly, a lot of issues are reaching the boiling point for the administration.

Joining me now, CNN analyst and former Republican Party Congressman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma, and "New Republic" editor-at-large Peter Beinart, brand new title there, whose new book, "The Good Fight," comes out in May. Good to see both of you.

So, let's take a look at some of the factors contributing to the president's declining poll numbers. Let's start with the ports deal. The total number shows that 70 percent are against a United Arab Emirates company running U.S. ports.

Now, let's look at a further breakdown among Republicans who were surveyed. And that shows a surprising 58 percent are against the deal.

So, Congressman Watts, in spite of what the president is saying about not caring about these polls, he has got to be concerned he's losing support from among Republicans, doesn't he?

J.C. WATTS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Paula, I think the president pretty much does the things, and that he does the things that he does, not necessarily, but...

ZAHN: All right. But -- but, J.C...

WATTS: But -- but, Paula -- but, Paula...

ZAHN: ... this is not good news for the president.

WATTS: But, Paula, let -- let me answer your question.

Not necessarily because of the polls -- I don't think Republicans, and I don't think most Democrats, see the port issue as a Republican or a Democrat issue. I think they see that as a security issue. It's only here in Washington, where we come on shows like this, that we try to make it a Republican or a Democrat issue.

I think people are concerned about security first. And then we can talk about the rest of it, I think is what the American people are saying.

ZAHN: All right.

WATTS: I think it's dangerous in this sense, Paula. If the president loses -- he has always been very strong because his base has stuck with him.

But, in terms of this ports issue, people see that, yes, Republicans see that as a security issue. So, the president should be concerned about that.

ZAHN: All right.

Let's get Peter Beinart's reaction on that, because it wasn't just on the issue of the ports deal that the president sees eroding support. It is on a -- a whole broad range of issues here.

PETER BEINART, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": Yes, that's right. And the most worrying and the most startling thing is his negative numbers on the war on terror. That has been his ace in the hole ever since September 11. In 2004, 86 percent of voters who said terrorism was their number-one issue voted for George W. Bush.

Now a majority of people think he's doing a bad job. And, in a way, it's his own fault, because he has kept on telling Americans, Iraq and the war on terror are the same thing. Well, as Americans have seen Iraq go south, they have decided that he's not doing a very good job on the war on terror.

And that was really the last thing propping his poll numbers up.

ZAHN: So, J.C. Watts, how does the president turn this picture around, or can he?

WATTS: Well, Paula, I think that he can.

And -- and I -- and -- and, to Peter's point, I -- I beg to differ with him a bit. I -- I think trying to support Iraq from the war on terror would be about like trying to separate the water from the wet. Saddam Hussein is a part of the terrorist regime. He is a part of terrorism. I think what the president has got to do, it seems as though that the White House seems to be one step behind on -- or two steps behind, if you will, on most of these issues that's come out over the last six months, Katrina, the -- the way they handled the situation with president -- or Vice President Dick Cheney, this -- this ports issue.

I think they should have brought members of Congress in the fold. I think members feel like they were somewhat blindsided. So, there has been some mishaps. But I do think the president can recover. And those numbers are startling...

ZAHN: All right.

WATTS: ... but I do think he can recover.

ZAHN: So, Peter, you have got to admit, that's a pretty startling concession, as far as J.C. Watts is concerned, to -- to admit to these missteps of the president.

So, why aren't the Democrats gaining greater traction? These polls don't seem to indicate that they have gained any support on issues of national security.

BEINART: Well, there's some reason to believe that the way these things work is that -- is that people move away from the Republicans and, only as it gets closer to the election, do they move to the Democrat. I wouldn't read too much into that right now.

We're still very far away from an election, in which people have to choose between one -- between the two parties. And I think, if you look at '94, when the Republicans made such great gains, it was only really later in the game that people, after being frustrated with the Democrats, moved to them. So, I think the Democrats still have time. ZAHN: Well, we look forward to watching this election season unfold with the two of you.

J.C. Watts, Peter Beinart, thank you...

WATTS: Thank you.

ZAHN: ... for your time.

Now, to put President Bush's 34 percent approval rating in perspective, it's not the worst ever for a president. His father's approval rating dropped to 34 percent as well. President Clinton's fell to 36 percent, President Carter's to 26 percent. And, at one point, President Nixon's fell to 24 percent.

Meanwhile, six months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, are people really in the mood to celebrate Mardi Gras? Well, I guess you can make your judgment from these pictures that you're seeing right now. We are going to take you there live, though, as well in a moment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREG HUNTER, CNN CONSUMER CORRESPONDENT: Las Vegas, Nevada. I'm Greg Hunter.

How do the people here cut down on crime? They put it on camera. We have criminals caught on tape -- coming up on PAULA ZAHN NOW.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: And, a little bit later on, incredible pictures of a very controversial and increasingly popular sport. Is it animal cruelty, or just, as some might argue, letting dogs be dogs?

Now, more than 18 million of you went to our Web site today. Here's our countdown of the 10 most popular stories on CNN.com.

In New York City, police hunt for the killer of a young graduate student from Boston. Her body was found this weekend.

Number nine, Democratic Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia says he regrets voting for the Patriot Act after September 11. He will vote no on renewing major provisions of the act, due to expire March 10 -- numbers eight and seven coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: So, the question tonight is, what is a former "Playboy" playmate doing at the U.S. Supreme Court? No, this one isn't a joke. The answer could be worth tens of millions of dollars.

Before that, though, let's head to New Orleans, where, as we speak, Mardi Gras is now in full swing tonight, Bourbon Street just packed with partyers. There, of course, have been parades, but there has also been the shadow of Hurricane Katrina, a very long shadow, at that.

Sean Callebs joins us now from Bourbon Street.

I hope you can hear us, Sean.

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, I can hear you loud and clearly. I hope you can hear me.

You know, this is my first Mardi Gras. And people say it -- it probably isn't as big as it has been in past years. But you know what? I find that hard to believe. And I can tell you, at this hour, Bourbon Street is really more beer-soaked. But, without question, many people in this area really believe they needed this celebration, especially the family-oriented parades.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CALLEBS (voice-over): In the swirl of colors, the music, the cheering, it could be just another Mardi Gras. But look again. It's different this year, everywhere, reminders of Hurricane Katrina.

The parades were enthusiastic, even if they were smaller than in years past. And look closely at that man in sunglasses on the horse. It isn't the Lone Ranger. It's New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

RAY NAGIN (D), MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: Happy Mardi Gras.

CALLEBS: Why is he dressed in full military regalia?

NAGIN: I'm honoring all the first-responders and the military that supported us right after Katrina, and one of my heroes, General Honore. I have my, you know, official cigar that I am going to be smoking later in his honor.

CALLEBS: The humor in these festivities sometimes had a dark edge. This couple is decked out in post-hurricane rescue codes, just like the ones rescue crews sprayed on house, as they searched for survivors and bodies after the storm.

And remember when helicopters dropped huge sandbags to plug holes in the New Orleans levees? This guy dressed up as a 2,000-pound sandbag, complete with a toy helicopter.

Actually, tourists like these are exactly what this city needs right now. New Orleans spent nearly $3 million on Mardi Gras this year, hoping to jump-start its economy. There's a long way to go. Only a third of the restaurants that were operating before the storm are open today. Hotel rooms are full. But, again, there aren't as many, 15,000, instead of the usual 25,000.

Here, in the French Quarter, they will be partying past midnight. Never mind that Lent starts tomorrow, the Christian season of repentance, with its fasting and doing without. Here, in New Orleans, they have been doing without for six months now.

Today, if only for one day, it was time to throw away the worries, along with the beads and trinkets, and let the good times roll.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CALLEBS: You know, it's really odd to be down here, because the people down here are all looking up there.

(LAUGHTER)

CALLEBS: And the people up there are all looking down here. So, it seems like nobody is where they want to be at this hour.

And you know what? Ash Wednesday comes tomorrow. And it is probably going to be a sobering day for a lot of people in this area, in more than one way. They are going to go back to life after Katrina, and not have this kind of atmosphere -- Paula.

ZAHN: Well, live it up before Lent starts, Sean.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: But just make sure you get all your live shots finished first, OK?

CALLEBS: Gotcha.

ZAHN: Quite a party he's right in the middle of there on Bourbon Street.

Thanks again, Sean, for the update.

Another city that is known for its partying also has a crime problem. Coming up, how has Las Vegas cut way down on crimes in cabs?

Before that, though, at just about 17 minutes past the hour, let's check in with Erica Hill at Headline News with the hour's top stories -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Paula. Nice to see you tonight.

ZAHN: Thank you.

HILL: A setback for abortion clinics today -- in a unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court said federal racketeering laws cannot be used to keep protesters away from the clinics. A 1994 law passed by Congress guarantees demonstrators the right of access.

A new Pentagon study shows one in every three Iraq War veterans has had psychological counseling. One Army doctor who co-wrote the report says counseling is being encouraged. It may mean fewer mental health problems in the future.

And a new development tonight on a story we brought you last week on PAULA ZAHN NOW -- just a few hours ago, a federal judge ruled, the Coast Guard was wrong to send refugees back to Cuba after they landed on an abandoned bridge in the Florida Keys. The law allows Cubans refugee status if they can set foot on U.S. soil.

Paula, we will probably continue to hear a little bit more about that one.

On a much more upbeat note, happy Mardi Gras.

ZAHN: You as well.

(LAUGHTER)

HILL: Thank you.

ZAHN: Where are your beads?

HILL: I'm saving them for later for our show.

ZAHN: See, at CNN here in New York, they handed freebies out today.

HILL: You know, we have some here, too. But, oddly enough, I haven't gotten any.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: I will send you one.

HILL: Thanks, Paula.

ZAHN: It will be in the morning pouch.

HILL: OK. I look forward to it.

(LAUGHTER)

ZAHN: Erica, thanks. We will see you a little bit later on.

The pictures in our next story show real crimes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drop me off (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: So, what can stop this? How can cab rides be safer? And what's Las Vegas doing that seems to be working?

Also, something that has animal rights activists absolutely outraged. So, what's wrong with letting dogs chase rabbits? Well, you will find out tonight, as some critics charge, a little bit later on.

First, though, number eight on our CNN.com countdown -- the nation's top intelligence official today told a Senate committee that the deal to allow a Dubai-based company take over key operations at some U.S. ports poses only a low risk to national security. Number seven, heavy rain in Southern California leave a gaping -- that would be rains -- leave a gaping hole on a street in Los Angeles. In other areas, there were mudslides and extensive flooding.

Stay right there -- numbers six and five are coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: In tonight's "Eye Opener," if you let your dog loose in a field with rabbits, chances are it will start hunting. It's perfectly natural.

But the question tonight is, is it right to do it for sport, for people to set their dogs loose and cheer them on as they chase down and kill small animals? I want to warn you, some of the pictures you're about to see are quite graphic.

Here's Dan Noyes from our affiliate KGO-TV in San Francisco with tonight's "Eye Opener."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN NOYES, KGO-TV REPORTER (voice-over): A group of greyhound owners meet at a restaurant in Fairfield, California, before the sun comes up to draw the order in which their dogs will compete. They drive their trailers to a farm field just off Interstate 80. And the heats begin.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a 100-point maximum system. And there's a 25 -- up to a maximum of 25 points for speed, agility, endurance.

NOYES: The dogs race three at a time. They walk at the front. The rest of the owners and spectators form a straight line to the rear and try to flush out jackrabbits.

When one bolts, the handlers can't release their dogs until the hunt master makes the call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go!

NOYES: The race is on. The dogs get points for how aggressively they pursue the rabbit, for each time they make a turn, and for killing it. A few times on this day, the rabbit got away, through a fence or into a drainage pipe.

But, most of the time, the rabbit died, and, usually a slow, terrible death. We will stop the picture here, but this tug of war went on for a minute and 45 seconds.

(on camera): That's got to be a tough way to die for a rabbit.

FRANK MORALES, VICE PRESIDENT, NATIONAL OPEN FIELD COURSING ASSOCIATION: Well, I wouldn't -- I wouldn't -- I wouldn't want to die that way myself.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, you got blood on you. NOYES (voice-over): These people defend the sport by saying, it's not about killing the rabbit; it's about the chase.

BOB BULMAN, DOG OWNER: These guys are -- they're athletes. I mean, and -- and -- and just to watch them run is -- is sheer pleasure.

LOYCE RYAN, DOG OWNER: I guess, if I was a rabbit, I would think it was cruel, but not -- if I was a greyhound, I would love it.

NOYES: Most of these dog owners live in Northern California. Others flew in from Seattle or drove from Canada just for this day of open-field coursing.

ANN STANDING, DOG OWNER: If I had had my way, I would have been a track and field star. And now I'm not as fast. So, it's sort of, vicariously, the dogs do it for me.

MORALES: If it catches it, it should die.

NOYES: At the races, we met Frank Morales, a computer analyst for the San Francisco Unified School District. He's also the vice president of the National Open Field Coursing Association, founded in 1964. It's the umbrella group for 12 clubs up and down the state that do the same thing.

Morales says, this is just another form of hunting that's easier on the rabbits than shotguns.

MORALES: But if the rabbit does get caught, it isn't really wounded; it's killed immediately.

NOYES: That's not what our tape shows. After one dog catches this rabbit, the others join in. A full 30 seconds pass, and you can still hear the rabbit squealing.

The association keeps a Web site with coursing schedules for all sorts of dogs, including Afghans, saluki, and Irish wolfhounds. It also posts the results of each tournament and pictures of the top 10 dogs. All this comes as a surprise to the major animal rights groups we contacted, including the Humane Society of the United States.

WAYNE PACELLE, PRESIDENT AND CEO, HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES: It's great to have field trials. It's great to have dogs running around. And we celebrate that. We love that. We think that is super. But they shouldn't be chasing live animals and tearing them apart.

NOYES: The sport was hugely popular in England, where thousands of people would turn out for a single event. But it was banned last year, along with fox hunting. In this country, many states prohibit the sport, but not California. There's even a Department of Fish and Game regulation that says, coursing dogs may be used to take rabbits.

That may change.

LONI HANCOCK, CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLYWOMAN: It's hor -- it's barbaric.

NOYES: After we showed State Assembly Member Loni Hancock pictures of rabbit coursing, she sponsored a new bill to ban it.

HANCOCK: I think that this is very keeping with other legislation that I have introduced. And I think it's -- this should not be happening in California.

NOYES: These rabbit coursers were preparing for their annual Super Bowl, what they call the Grand Course. If Loni Hancock has her way, it will be the last.

HANCOCK: It's amazing to think that people would be so insensitive as to think that that is a way to recreate themselves.

MORALES: But I can see it in that dog's eyes every time they run. They -- they live for this. This is what they have been bred for, for 1,000 generations. And they're not really complete until they have been running like this.

NOYES: In response to this report, the National Open Field Coursing Association is considering new rules to give rabbits a better chance to get away.

I'm Dan Noyes for CNN, Fairfield, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And we are going to dig deeper into this controversy now.

We asked someone from the coursers to join us. They declined.

So, joining me now from Washington, one of the men you just saw in that report, Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society.

Thanks for joining us.

So, do you see this as an obscure sport or a real problem?

PACELLE: Well, I think it's unknown to the public, and it's obscure in that sense. But it's a very real problem for the animals who are victimized.

Paula, this is not done for food. It is not done for management. This is done for entertainment and for sport. It's a spectator sport, essentially. And the animals are not killed quickly.

As your report and the report from Dan Noyes showed, they're killed over a minute or two or three, and they're torn apart. And I don't think, in our society, we can justify this. We have standards against cruelty. And this constitutes cruelty for entertainment purposes.

ZAHN: Wayne, let me read you part of the statement from this coursing group. They say -- quote -- "Many predators, including coyotes and foxes, take thousands of jackrabbits every day in California. The fact is that jackrabbits are a very abundant prey species, and dogs have evolved as their natural predators. Far from being cruel, coursing is the most natural form of hunting in the world."

Your response?

PACELLE: Well, wild animals kill for survival. They have to do it.

This is a spectator sport, where people are placing these dogs out there just for the purpose of having them chase down and kill animals, so the people can be entertained. These greyhounds are domesticated animals. They have been bred to be in our environments and to be with us. They don't need this. Most greyhounds never -- never taste the blood of animals.

ZAHN: So, Wayne, you have heard this group is now offering a potential change here, where they would make it a little bit easier for the rabbits to get away. Does that satisfy you? Is that a step in the right direction?

PACELLE: No. The only satisfactory outcome, Paula, is for them to use inanimate lures.

There are inanimate lures that can used, where the greyhounds can be -- run and exercise. And people can take joy in watching the animals run. They're fascinating, beautiful dogs, but they shouldn't be used as -- as hunters and killers, so people can delight in the bloodletting.

ZAHN: Wayne Pacelle, thank you for your perspective.

Just a reminder: We heard from coursers earlier this afternoon. And they said chasing lures just doesn't have the same effect.

You can decide, all of you watching out there tonight, what is appropriate here.

Moving on now, did you know that driving a cab is one of the most dangerous jobs you can have? Here is exactly why.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Goddamn!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: So, what can stop this? See what's working in Las Vegas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Brooke Anderson.

Celebrity chaos at the Supreme Court today -- photographers, reporters, swarming the entrance. And we will tell you why Anna Nicole Smith was in the middle of it when PAULA ZAHN NOW continues. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Now onto number six on our CNN.com countdown. A judge in Pennsylvania rules that the man who shot and killed 13 people in 1982 is too mentally ill to be executed.

And number five, another day of religious violence in Iraq. A series of attacks in Baghdad today took at least 55 lives, left nearly 200 people wounded. Our countdown continues with number four in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back. Now you're about to see some absolutely amazing video of criminals at work. And you'll want to remember this the next time you climb into a cab, because now cab owners are putting cameras in their cabs. It's helping solve crime and maybe even helping to save lives.

Here's consumer correspondent Greg Hunter with tonight's "Outside the Law."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREG HUNTER, CNN CONSUMER CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Las Vegas. This city truly never sleeps. It's a playground for adults. Thousands of tourists come here to have fun, hoping to strike gold. But when night falls, it can be a dangerous place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Drop me off. (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Drop me off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello. I've got a problem here.

HUNTER: This is not a scene from an episode of the HBO television show "Taxicab Confessions." Watch again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Drop me off.

HUNTER: The cab driver is being attacked. The crime was caught on camera and the police have a warrant against the attacker thanks to a new technology that keeps drivers a little safer.

A camera is mounted right by the rearview mirror. It provides a wide angle view inside the vehicle. Michael Taylor has one in his taxi. Just months ago, he was a victim of crime.

MICHAEL TAYLOR, LAS VEGAS CAB DRIVER: And it was a good ride. It would have been a good ride. So, you know, I took him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, going down to 3700 Eastern (ph) Avenue ...

TAYLOR: We had some great conversation on the way there.

HUNTER: Only three months on the job, he stopped for what he initially thought was just another night fare, but when they reached the destination and Michael asked for his fare, the ride turned ugly.

TAYLOR: I turned around. He's like, no, give me the money. And that's when I turned around and looked back at him. And he had a knife in his hand.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just give me your money. All of it.

HUNTER: Take a look at his left behind. It's a knife.

(on camera): What raced through your mind?

TAYLOR: The first thing that ran through my mind was like oh, God, this can't be happening to me. I'm never going to see my twins again, I'm not going to see my kids get to grow up.

HUNTER (voice-over): Michael was unhurt, but the camera captured it all.

(on camera): One of the features of this video system is every single time a person opens the door, a camera automatically goes on inside, and that way each and every person is on video.

(voice-over): The robber realized that. At knife point, he told Michael to rip the camera off the windshield.

TAYLOR: I'm trying it -- you see, I'm trying to pull it off, man, all right?

HUNTER: He tried. But it didn't budge. The robber got away with $300, but without the camera. Now, police have his picture and are looking for him. While it may not stop a determined criminal, drivers say cameras serve as a deterrent.

TAYLOR: He knew it was there, but he was desperate enough to do it anyway. And not too many people are going to take that chance when they know they're caught. I mean, if you're caught, you're convicted.

HUNTER: And cameras are aren't capturing crime just in Vegas.

When this young group got into a cab in West Virginia, it seemed like they were just having a fun night out. But take a look at what happens next. The girl in the middle of the back seat pulls out a gun right there and starts firing.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God damn.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNTER: Look at the cab driver. He is terrified. Nobody was hurt, but the gun slinging woman was convicted of carrying a dangerous weapon and she served time in jail. Driving a cab is one of the most dangerous jobs in America, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Drivers work alone. They deal in cash. And they often work at night. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Chavez (ph) was shot while working as a taxer driver.

HUNTER: So it's no surprise that violence against cab drivers is a common event, especially where there are no safety measures like cameras. Only weeks ago a driver in Palm Beach, Florida, was robbed and fatally shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The shots rung out.

HUNTER: In Jacksonville, Florida, a taxi driver was killed. Her body was later discovered in the trunk of her car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people who committed this crime to be brought to justice.

HUNTER: In Seattle, the brutal murder of a taxi driver changed the law there to require cameras in cabs. But in cities with little or no safety measures, taxi drivers remain vulnerable.

(on camera): Did you think he was going to kill you?

SILVANA SANDRI, FMR. CAB DRIVER: Yes.

HUNTER (voice-over): Silvana Sandri, a former cab driver from Orlando, Florida, was working the night shift on her wedding anniversary in 2004. She thinks a camera could have prevented what happened to her.

SANDRI: He opened the door, but he still had the knife on my throat. And he pushed me out of the car then with his other hand once he got out. He grabbed me by the hair and pulled me out of the car. Then he sexually assaulted me outside of the car.

HUNTER: She is now suing the cab company she used to work for for not providing safety measures.

(on camera): So far he's gotten away with it.

SANDRI: Yes.

HUNTER: Do you think they'd be able to find him quicker with a photo?

SANDRI: Absolutely.

HUNTER (voice-over): Back in Las Vegas, authorities say cameras are effective in fighting crime. Since they were installed in more than half the taxies in the city, cab robberies have dropped almost 70 percent.

(on camera): You think you can attribute that to cameras in cabs?

ROB STEWART, NEVADA TAXICAB AUTHORITY: I think so. I think among the factors, cameras absolutely. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don't you shut your mouth (EXPLETIVE DELETED) ...

HUNTER (voice-over): Just like this man. He tried to open the cab's door while it was moving.

UNIDENTIFIED: Touch me once ...

HUNTER: When the driver told him to close it, he punched him. Because of this video, police found out who he was. He later pled guilty to battery.

They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. But now if you commit a crime in a cab, don't bet on it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So Greg, this is such a great idea. Why aren't we seeing more of this around the country?

HUNTER: Well, there's a couple of things slowing it down. For one, privacy concerns. The American Civil Liberties Union has raised that in Las Vegas.

Also, cost. If you want a DriveCam video system in a cab, it will cost the cab company more than $1,000. But according to the cab drivers and police I talked, to they say it is worth it.

ZAHN: Especially when you look at the case of this young woman who was allegedly sexually assaulted. A lot of people, as she said in this piece, thought if there had been cameras in there that might have helped find the person who did this to her. Where does that investigation stand tonight?

HUNTER: Well, the guy who raped Silvana Sandri has been linked to two other rapes. They haven't caught him yet, but Silvana Sandri, who was raped on her wedding anniversary, said she's going to remarry her same husband on a different day to put it behind her so she has a new wedding anniversary. And she's since stopped driving a cab.

ZAHN: So sad, but hopefully shedding some light on this might stop more of these incidents from happening in the future. Greg Hunter, thanks so much.

Coming up, we shift our focus quite a bit. Anna Nicole Smith is, well, I guess you could say known for her measurements. Yes, I said that. But will her case measure up at the U.S. Supreme Court? Tens of millions of dollars are riding on that answer.

And later, his movie isn't even out yet. Why is the new James Bond already getting some really, seriously bad reviews?

Now, in number four on our CNN.com countdown, a New Jersey teacher who had a sex change operation to become a woman will be allowed to continue teaching even though many parents in the school district are opposed to that idea. Number three, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: So chances are you've probably heard about the new James Bond. Not sure whether you've heard some of the frightening rumors that he's kind of a wimp. Here's Jeanne Moos.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When your name is Bond ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who are you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bond. James bond.

MOOS: ... you've got a lot to live up to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Remember, I know all about you, 007. Sex for dinner, death for breakfast.

MOOS: What happens if you're lunch? The new James Bond is being eaten alive by the press.

KATRINA SZISH, EDITOR, US WEEKLY: People are calling him the blond Bond-shell. He's just a blond shell of the Bond.

MOOS: "Bond's Bad Luck" was the headline in "Us Weekly." It started the minute he was introduced, arriving by boat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: James Bond wearing a life jacket? Give me a break.

MOOS: That other James Bond steered his own boat, dodging bullets, and actor Daniel Craig is perhaps a little too honest.

DANIEL CRAIG, ACTOR, "CASINO ROYALE": Well, I like to think the Royal Marines for bringing me in like that, and scaring the (EXPLETIVE DELETED) out of me.

MOOS: Now filming of "Casino Royale" has started and in his first fight scene, Craig's two front teeth reportedly got knocked out.

SZISH: His dentist had to be flown in from London.

MOOS: Then the new Bond got shafted by the stick shift of that classic Aston Martin.

(on camera): You know, he got in the Aston Martin and he couldn't drive a stick shift.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's just not right.

MOOS (voice-over): The "Chicago Sun-Times" asked, "isn't this just required guy knowledge, passed on with how to open a bottle of wine or how to operate a gas grill?"

(on camera): Do you think a guy should already know how to drive a stick?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I would. Should know how to drive everything.

MOOS (voice-over): And to think Pierce Brosnan managed to drive upside down. Maybe Craig needs that gizmo that lets Bond drive from the back seat.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's ugly to begin as Bond. He's not handsome. I mean, if you lined ...

MOOS (on camera): I think he's handsome.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... up all the other James Bonds with him, would he be your first or second choice?

MOOS (voice-over): Could it get any pettier?

SZISH: Well, we also are hearing that he's shaved his chest.

MOOS: Contrast that with furry Sean Connery. One British tabloid called Craig "ow, ow seven," saying he got a nasty bout of prickly heat after getting sunburned while filming in the Bahamas. None of this, by the way, has been confirmed by Craig's press reps.

And then there's the anti-Craig Web site, craignotbond.

SZISH: Ouch.

MOOS: It calls for a boycott of the new Bond movie. It morphs Craig's face into one of the three stooge, into Neanderthal man and compares his looks to the riddler.

Past Bonds have come to the rescue, saying what a fine actor Craig is. People are still sticking that gear shift to him, 007 may have a license to kill, it's his license to drive that's killing him.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Through have it. Let's see what the reviews are when this movie finally coming out.

Coming up, another veteran of the movies in a role you've never seen. Will Anna Nicole Smith's case be a hit with the Supreme Court? That's coming up right after Erica Hill and the Headline News Business Break -- Erica.

(BUSINESS BREAK)

ZAHN: Things are getting uglier and uglier between Mr. Stern and the guy who once was his boss at CBS. Just about 12 minutes before the hour, time to check in with "LARRY KING LIVE," whose show gets underway at the top of the hour. So Jon Stewart was really fun last night. How are you going to top that tonight, Lar?

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: We can't.

ZAHN: No, I know.

KING: So we'll do a diverse topic and look at New Orleans six months later. Harry Connick Jr., Branford Marsalis, a whole bunch of other guests. Families displaced, the governor of Louisiana, a whole program devoted to Katrina at the top of the hour. We'll include phone calls as well.

ZAHN: Stellar lineup. And we're glad at least to see some of the pictures tonight from Mardi Gras, some folks are trying to turn the page in spite of those terrible, terrible challenges they face. Larry, see you in a couple of minutes.

KING: OH, bye, Paula.

ZAHN: Coming up, ex-"Playboy" playmates usually don't end up at the Supreme Court. So what the heck was Anna Nicole Smith doing there today?

First though, onto number three in our CNN CNN.com countdown. Iran insists it will continue enriching uranium for peaceful purposes. So far the U.N.'s nuclear agency has found no proof Iran is making atomic weapons. Number two when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: I think you're going to agree that two vastly different worlds came together in Washington. The majesty and dignity of the Supreme Court, and, of course, the tabloid spectacle of a former stripper and "Playboy" playmate. That combination is number two in our cnn.com countdown. Yes, it was Anna Nicole Smith's day in the nation's highest court, as she fights for part of a $1 billion inheritance from the 89-year-old Texas oilman she was married to for about a year. Here's Brooke Anderson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ms. Smith went to Washington today, and the walk-up the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court turned into a paparazzi parade; photographers tripping all over themselves to get to her.

Anna Nicole Smith, usually red carpet eye candy, came covered in black for her date with the nine justices.

A shimmy, a wiggle, a sex kitten kiss. Few celebrities have perfected the art of getting attention like Anna Nicole Smith.

JIM MORET, LEGAL ANALYST, INSIDE EDITION: You look at the justices, and they're a very sedate group of people. Who's before them? A woman who received money for breast implants by her then- boyfriend, then following that, her husband. She was a "Playboy" playmate. And that's the woman who's going to be standing before the justices.

ANDERSON: With that image, the gavel opens case number 04-1544, and Marshall v. Marshall morphs from legally esoteric to colorful character fun.

It was 1993. "Playboy" magazine had named a Marilyn Monroe-esque blonde its playmate of the year. A former topless dancer from Houston named Vicky Lynn had officially made it. The world met Anna Nicole. This was her fairytale moment.

ANNA NICOLE SMITH: To have all this fame and fortune, it's just -- it is a Cinderella story to me.

ANDERSON: It was while working as a topless dancer in 1993 that Smith met J. Howard Marshall, one of the wealthiest men in Texas. They married a year later. She was 26; he was 89. Rarely photographed together, the young starlet regularly professed her devotion to her octogenarian spouse.

SMITH: I want to tell my husband, J. Howard Marshall, that I love him very much. And I wish he was here and I miss you.

ANDERSON: Marshall died later that year, just 14 months after the wedding. That's when the legal action began. For 10 years, in both state and federal court, Smith has been fighting her husband's family for a portion of his estate. The family feud eventually landed in the federal system, because Smith filed for bankruptcy in a California federal court. She would later be awarded $88 million of her husband's fortune, but a court of appeals threw out the entire amount, arguing that the case should be settled in Texas.

Now, the Supreme Court is set to decide...

MORET: Should the federal court be involved in a dispute between a wife and her husband's estate, which is a state issue? It's really that simple. We're interested in this as a nation because of the spectacle. That doesn't undervalue or devalue the importance of what could be decided.

ANDERSON: We won't know that decision for several months, which may be as long as it takes to get the image of Anna Nicole Smith meeting the Supremes out of our minds.

Brooke Anderson, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: So I guess the spectacle will live on for several months here.

The number one story on cnn.com is coming up next.

And then at the top of the hour, "LARRY KING LIVE." New Orleans native Harry Connick Jr. on the first Mardi Gras since Katrina.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: We move on to number one on our cnn.com countdown. A new book quotes President Bush as saying that a video put out by Osama bin Laden just before the election helped him take the White House.

That's it for all of us. Have a good night.

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