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CNN NEWSROOM

California Arson Suspect Arrested; Virginia Sheriff and 12 Deputies Indicted in Drug Case; Outrage Over Lavish Wedding in Poverty-Stricken Myanmar; William Styron Remembered; Art Buchwald Celebrates His Life

Aired November 2, 2006 - 15:00   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips, live at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Don Lemon.

Charges of cop corruption in Virginia -- a sheriff and his posse, instead of laying down the law, they're accused of running drugs and using a postal worker to help. CNN's Kelli Arena is on the case.

PHILLIPS: Operation Falcon -- nearly thousands of sex offenders taken off the streets -- where and how they were nabbed.

LEMON: Inside a secret regime -- a lavish wedding fit for a princess -- on the outside, families suffer, no health care, and no money. CNN's Dan Rivers goes undercover from a rarely seen Asian nation.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: "We have done our job" -- that is what authorities in Riverside County, California, said as they announced that they have a suspect in custody, a local man soon to be charged in last week's deadly wildfire.

Thirty-six-year-old Raymond Lee Oyler was picked up last week in connection with two earlier fires. And, last hour, authorities from the various agencies involved declared him more than a person of interest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEIL LINGLE, RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, SHERIFF: We have recommended to our district attorney that he charge Mr. Oyler with the five murders of United States Forest Service firefighters, along with 11 counts of arson of forest land, and 10 counts of use of an incendiary device in those arsons.

ROD PACHECO, RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA, DISTRICT ATTORNEY- ELECT: It is important to note that the charges that we are filing today include the possibility that life in prison without the possibility of parole is one possible sentence, as well as death.

JEANNE WADE EVANS, SAN BERNARDINO NATIONAL FOREST SUPERVISOR, U.S. FOREST SERVICE: This has been a very difficult time for the Forest Service and the families of the fallen firefighters. And, as our days have been consumed with grieving and mourning, we really do recognize that there's been an extensive amount of work that has gone into this arson investigation. And we truly appreciate it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: The district attorney's office is taking the next 60 days to decide whether to seek the death penalty in this case. The deadly fire broke out one week ago today, killing five firefighters and burning more than 40,000 acres, before it was brought under control.

CNN's Kareen Wynter joins us from Riverside, California, with more.

Kareen, what exactly are the charges?

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the charges laid out here by Riverside County investigators, they are quite, quite stiff, Kyra, include charges of murder, five counts first-degree murder, as well as 11 counts of arson, and also use of an incendiary device in that arson.

As for the evidence in this case, investigators will only tell us, Kyra, that it is absolutely overwhelming. We tried to get some more specifics as to what exactly led them to 36-year-old Raymond Oyler. They said that they would not be able to discuss that right now.

Oyler, by the way, is expected to be arraigned in court in just about an hour-and-a-half from now. We're told, Kyra, that that could be postponed.

PHILLIPS: Authorities acted pretty quickly on this.

WYNTER: They absolutely did. In fact, one official we heard from behind me at the podium summed it up, saying that it was a rapidly evolving, a very, very complex investigation.

And to imagine it was just a week ago today that the deadly wildfire broke out, the Esperanza wildfire, as it's known, and seven days later, to have a primary suspect in custody, and to have these charges, pending charges, laid out, as we see here, according to one official I spoke to, is absolutely incredible.

Now, some of the things that they will be considering, the district attorney's office, is whether or not the suspect's background here, as it relates to capital punishment. They will also be looking at facts, they say, and circumstances of the offense itself. And they will be looking Oyler's criminal history -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Kareen Wynter, thanks so much.

Well, hundreds of people were forced out of their homes by that fire. And, last night, some of them had an emotional meeting with those who stayed on duty throughout. One deputy vowed that they -- quote -- "will seek justice." The forest ranger had only words of gratitude.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GABE GARCIA, U.S. FOREST SERVICE: On behalf of the San Jacinto Ranger District and the National Forest, we would like to express our appreciation for your overwhelming support and love.

This is a very sad and difficult time for all of us. And you have helped us through this. And thank you.

We can't express how much your support and love means to us in this difficult time, but thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: The ranger also extended a personal invitation to all those in the crowd to Sunday's memorial service being planned for the firefighters.

LEMON: A sheriff behind bars -- he and 12 of his Henry County deputies sworn to uphold the law stand accused of putting drugs and guns seized from criminals back on the street.

CNN justice correspondent Kelli Arena on the case for us in Washington.

Kelli, what have you learned?

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You know, this is a story that has just infuriated the community.

The indictment alleges that, for the past eight years, Don, drugs and guns that were seized by the Henry County Sheriff's Office in Virginia were then sold to citizens, and wound up back on the streets.

Now, the drugs included cocaine, steroids, marijuana, the so- called date rape drug.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BROWNLEE, U.S. ATTORNEY: You have law enforcement risking their lives to take these guns off the streets, and then a very few other members of law enforcement putting them right back out there, not to mention cocaine and crack cocaine and others.

So, it was -- it is disgraceful corruption, that they would take narcotics that had been seized from the community, and then members of law enforcement would put it back out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ARENA: Twenty people were charged, including the sheriff, 12 of his uniformed employees, a probation officer, a postal worker, and five citizens.

Now, the sheriff -- his name is Frank Cassell -- was allegedly aware of what was going on, and helped cover it up, according to officials, but not only that; he is also charged with actually impeding this investigation.

He has been sheriff in Henry County for 14 years. William Reed, who is one of the indicted citizens that began cooperating in the investigation -- that's after he was arrested on drug charges last year -- he told investigators that he was actually working as a middle man, and he paid a sheriff's sergeant to use his house to distribute the drugs.

LEMON: Hmm. OK.

So, you got 12 members of the sheriff's department, and a couple others there charged. Who is protecting the people of Henry County now?

ARENA: Right. Well, who was protecting them before?

LEMON: Right.

(LAUGHTER)

ARENA: You have...

LEMON: Very good.

ARENA: Right.

The state has said that it would send in resources, state troopers and so on , to supplement that police force, until the sheriff's office is able to get the necessary bodies back in place, so that they can provide security for the community.

LEMON: Well, Kelli Arena, thank you so much for that report.

ARENA: You're welcome.

PHILLIPS: The cops drop the net, and it comes up full fugitive.

CNN's Deb Feyerick has more on Operation Falcon, a 24-state sweep that has resulted in thousands of arrests.

Tell us about it, Deb.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, we can tell you the attorney general today praised the operation, saying it had made America's streets safer -- hundreds of fugitive teams working 24 states east of the Mississippi, targeting violent criminals, sex offenders, gang members, and other fugitives. They were going after them. They netted some 11,000 people. We were along to witness some of the arrests.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His original charge is rape. He failed to register as a sex offender.

Any questions? Excellent.

Break.

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's cold and dark, and the coffee is just kicking in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're looking for somebody that might be living here.

FEYERICK: The man at the door tells the fugitive team the guy they want is his son-in-law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We left a team in there.

FEYERICK: He gives them another address. And it pays off.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So far, one for one.

FEYERICK: That's how Operation Falcon works, one by one by one. Teams of federal and local investigators, led by U.S. Marshals, hunt down criminal fugitives -- at the top of their priority list, sexual predators. A new federal law passed this summer will soon make failure to register a felony in many states.

GREG HOLMES, U.S. MARSHAL: Once they stop showing up for parole, they feel they don't need to let, you know, the precincts know where they're living.

FEYERICK (on camera): So, it's almost, at that point, that they can just disappear?

HOLMES: Pretty much, yes.

FEYERICK (voice over): We're with U.S. Marshal Greg Holmes and his team, targeting criminals in Brooklyn. They're after a man who served time for raping a teenager, then failed to register once he got out of prison. His last known address is across from a day care center, but neighbors say he's staying at a girlfriend's.

HOLMES: He's going to be a little harder to find, you know, a 22-year-old kid. And he's running around. And, you know, he's gotten in trouble before. And he will probably get in trouble again.

FEYERICK: As we wait outside, deputies inside are getting as much information as possible, sorting the truth from the lies.

(on camera): The team says, when it comes to sex crimes, neighbors tend to cooperate more easily. It's one thing to be living next to somebody who is dealing drugs or even selling guns, but to put your own kid in jeopardy with a sexual offender, that's a whole different story.

(voice over): A lot of times, people move to try to get a new start, where no one knows them.

HOLMES: Sometimes, they say that they thought they were done; they didn't need to register anymore. Others just, you know, shake their head. They know that they thought they would get away with it.

FEYERICK: The sun is finally up, and the arrests go on, day by day, one by one.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

FEYERICK: Now, by sweeping in and catching fugitives off guard, the goal is to get them when they least expect it.

And, by working together in these expanded teams, what you get is an effort, whereby everyone is working together. Everybody is sharing information. Everybody is sharing resources. Usually, according to the Justice Department, 1,000 fugitives are taken into custody every week. But, in this kind of operation, you have 11 times that number. So, the payoff is much bigger -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Incredibly effective, yes?

FEYERICK: Definitely effective.

PHILLIPS: Deb Feyerick, thanks.

LEMON: Breaking news happening. Let's head straight to the breaking news desk and Carol Lin -- Carol.

CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some developments, Don, in the case of three bodies found in a drainage ditch in Columbia, South Carolina. We just heard from the police chief there. This is what he had to say about a person of interest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN CRISP, COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA, POLICE CHIEF: We have a BOLO right now for a person of interest. We have a subject by the name of Charles Gamble. He's a black male, 24 years of age, height 5'5'', 150. His last address is 1428 Henderson (ph) Street, Columbia.

Now, we want to say that this person, again, is not, at this time, a suspect, and he's not subject to arrest. But he is certainly a person of interest that we would like to apprehend -- or not apprehend, but we would like to talk to regarding the information as it relates to this case.

So, we have -- we are passing out information to you right now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIN: Don, police are very interested in finding this man to question him.

In the meantime, they have cordoned off an apartment of a woman nearby where the bodies had been found. Police had said that this was to preserve evidence. And inside that apartment, they found a baby. That baby is now in custody of child protective services.

They're not revealing much other information, the sex of the baby, the sex of the victim, the age, their identity, or even really how they died, though the police chief did say in this news conference that one of the victims did have gunshot wounds.

So, they're protecting this information as much as possible. Frankly, in an investigation like this, it's unusual for them to not give out more detail than that, even the sex of the victims, but they're being very, very cautious here.

LEMON: All right, Carol, thank you very much for that report.

A possible invitation to fraud -- with a flip of a button, some voting machines could let people cast more than one ballot. That story is ahead in the NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: And whether it's the best of times or the worst of times, it's the only time we have got. So says Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Art Buchwald. Tomorrow, I will visit Art in his home, and I will ask him your questions. Just e-mail them to me -- the address, CNNNEWSROOM@CNN.com.

We will be back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Well, just days before the election, the state of Ohio has finally gotten its voting rules straight. With the clock ticking down, the state settled a legal challenge to voter I.D. requirements. The deal will do away with I.D. checks on absentee voters, which a judge struck down last week.

IDs will be required at polling stations, but, under a broader definition, to include Social Security numbers and documents issued by local and county government and colleges.

Now, you know the old saying, vote early, vote often? Well, it's a joke. After all, you can't vote more than once -- or can you?

Here is Eric Johnston of CNN affiliate KRON in San Francisco.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERIC JOHNSTON, KRON REPORTER (voice-over): Most voters probably wouldn't know about it, but some of the electronic voting machines in use in the Bay Area have a button on the back of the machine that could allow someone to vote more than once, if they know how.

And that's got some people worrying about voter fraud.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Using the touch-screen, make selections from each category.

JOHNSTON: The machines in question are made by Oakland-based Sequoia Voting Systems. DAVID WAGNER, COMPUTER SCIENCE DIVISION PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY: I think that fears are overblown.

JOHNSTON: U.C. Berkeley computer professor David Wagner is an expert on electronic voting machines. He says it would be almost impossible to cheat without getting noticed.

WAGNER: You would have to reach your arms way around the back of the machine, hold down the yellow button at the back for three seconds, come back to the front and press something on the menu. You have got to do it again. And, meanwhile, the machine's beeping at you three times.

If the machine starts beeping at you and you have got your arms wrapped around the back of the thing, I think poll workers are likely to be pretty suspicious. And you would have to be crazy to tamper with these machines right under the noses of poll workers. That's a felony, and you will go to jail if you get caught.

JOHNSTON: We weren't able to reach anyone at Sequoia to comment. For now, state election officials are warning poll workers to keep a close eye on the machines next Tuesday.

In Oakland, Eric Johnston, KRON-4 News.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LEMON: An innocent vaccination campaign or partisan shot in the arm? The Democratic mayor of Houston has halted free flu shots at early voting machines in lower-income neighborhoods. Houston Republicans accused Mayor Bill White of targeting Democratic strongholds to boost Democratic turnout.

The city's health director says the shots were offered to anyone over the age of 50, regardless of whether they voted. More than 1,000 shots were given before the program was halted.

And make sure you join us next Tuesday, Election Day, for the races, the results, and the ramifications. CNN election prime time begins at 7:00 Eastern. Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Paula Zahn, and Lou Dobbs lead the best political team on television, as your votes are counted.

And our coverage continues with a special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE." That's at midnight. Hear from winners and the losers across the country, plus experts analysis -- only on CNN, America's campaign headquarters.

PHILLIPS: Straight ahead: something borrowed, something blue, something that cost $50 million? Well, I'm sure your wedding was nice, but this one was off the chain. And nobody did the chicken dance. Ahead, we will reveal the happy couple and why they have some explaining to do.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Carol Lin, what are you working on for us?

LIN: Working on a developing story in Houston, Texas, Kyra.

We're going to bring you pictures, live pictures here. You're watching a janitors strike go down. Those janitors near the Houston Galleria shopping center, they're sitting in a circle around a series of what appear to be trash bags under that circular street sign.

And the police now are going from janitor to janitor sitting in that circle, warning them that they will be arrested, unless they get up and go. This is about a janitors strike. It's in the second week of that strike, which started October 23. And they have threatening to take this nationwide.

They are demanding $8.50-an-hour pay. They want health insurance, and they want more guaranteed work hours for these janitors -- so, I mean, a serious situation for, you know, a -- a middle class struggling to make a working wage, so they would say, but this is how they're -- well, frankly, this is how they're demonstrating....

PHILLIPS: So, they're saying...

LIN: ... they're disgruntled.

PHILLIPS: ... they don't have health care; is that right?

LIN: Well, they want guaranteed health care. They want guaranteed hours. They want to make $8.50 an hour. So, what they're saying is, they're starting to spread the word nationwide to other union officials. And there may be symbolic picket lines set up in Chicago, L.A., Sacramento, and Washington next week, the day after the election.

So, they're making their point today in Houston, Texas.

PHILLIPS: All right. We will stay on top of that.

LIN: Yes.

PHILLIPS: Those pictures coming to us out of our local affiliate there out of Houston.

Carol, thanks.

Wal-Mart has been criticized for its treatment of employees, as well, and the company's new policy is already drawing howls of protests.

Cheryl Casone, live from the New York Stock Exchange, to explain why.

Hey, Cheryl.

CHERYL CASONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, you were just showing that picture of Texas. And there is a saying: Don't mess with Texas. Well, I am going to change that to, don't mess with Wal-Mart. That's the new saying around here.

(LAUGHTER)

CASONE: Wal-Mart, I will tell you, a tough company. They have got a new absentee policy for its employees. And it's certainly coming under some criticism that imposes penalties for being late or calling out of work too often.

Now, under this new plan, if you're more than 10 minutes late to work three times, you get a demerit on your record. And too many demerits, you get yourself fired.

Now, in addition, bad weather no longer an acceptable excuse for lateness -- so, if there is a big snowstorm, that's too bad. Unless it's a natural disaster, like a hurricane or a really bad blizzard, then maybe you're OK, but, otherwise, there are pretty tough penalties there.

Now, in the past, Wal-Mart employees could get permission to be late or absent directly from their managers. But now they are going to have to call an 1-800-number at least an hour before their scheduled start time, get a confirmation code from the hot line, then call their manager with that confirmation code -- all of this, again, under fire by critics.

They're claiming that the new policy is just Wal-Mart's way of weeding out unhealthy long-term workers to cut down their labor costs. The company held a conference call earlier today with employees and civil rights leaders to discuss the new policy, as well as other recent labor changes there -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: So, what are Wall Street (sic) shares doing on Wall Street right now?

CASONE: Well, actually Wal-Mart losing some ground today, down about 1.5 percent right now., one of the worst performing stocks among the Dow 30.

But it's mainly because the company reported just half-a-percent growth in October sales, and said November, going to be slower than expected, as well.

Overall retail sales were mixed last month. And that, combined with a weak read on factory orders and a jump in labor costs, have contributed to a mostly lower section for stocks today, just can't seem to get out of the red.

All right, now, the Dow industrials, still dropping. We're down 25 points or so, on the verge of that five-day losing streak -- and the NASDAQ composite losing ground, as well, at this hour.

Well, that's the latest from Wall Street -- more from the NEWSROOM straight ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: (INAUDIBLE) great profit. State-run television reports that several missiles were tested today, including one that can reach Israel. The drills got under way just two days after another set of military exercises ended in the Gulf. Those were led by the U.S. and involved Gulf nations, including Qatar, Kuwait, and Bahrain.

LEMON: Well, watching someone's video can be sort of boring, but a 10-minute clip posted online is causing an uproar in the destitute nation of Myanmar. Now, it shows an outrageously lavish wedding thrown by the country's leader for his daughter -- the gifts alone reportedly valued at almost three times the country's entire health budget.

CNN's Dan Rivers has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAN RIVERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is a video Myanmar's military elite doesn't want you to see. Obtained exclusively for CNN, it shows Than Shwe, the man who rules the country with iron resolve, celebrating his daughter's wedding.

Myanmar, formally known as Burma, has been ruled by a series of brutal generals since 1962, but intimate footage like this of the powerful inner circle of Than Shwe is rare.

The largess of the wedding is staggering. Than Shwe's daughter is adorned with hundreds of diamonds and afterwards receives incredible gifts of jewelry, lavish luxury in a country, which according to the U.N., spends less per person on healthcare than any other nation on earth.

LARRY JAGAN, MYANMAR SPECIALIST: The daughter, obviously with those diamonds, millions and millions of dollars, unbelievable. The presents that she was getting, the emeralds, again, we're looking at millions of dollars and this is in a country where two out of five children under the age of five are severely malnourished.

RIVERS: CNN asked Myanmar officials in Yangon and the U.N. for their response, but the requests were ignored. This is the town of Tharcheleik. I have slipped across the border from Thailand to ask people about daily life here. Most are too scared to talk, but one brave man makes this plea to the west.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need your help because we are not free, we have no free speech.

RIVERS (on camera): What's sickening is the contrast between the military regime and ordinary people here on the streets. They live in a repressed, totalitarian state, where the army can do anything it likes.

(voice-over): Further inside Myanmar, hidden from the world's gaze, things are even worse. This video was shot by the pressure group the Free Burma Rangers. They say it shows government troops orchestrating the forced labor of hundreds of Kayin tribespeople. Some have horrific stories. This old woman says her son and son-in- law were killed by the regime. "My life is finished," she says.

While the people suffer, the generals are building a shiny, new capital, Naypyidaw, in the middle of the jungle. Foreign reporters aren't allowed here, but this secretly filmed footage shows the new city taking shape. These modern, new apartments are not for ordinary people, though, but for those that rule with uncompromising brutality.

The democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been under house arrest for almost 11 of the last 17 years. Her party won the 1990 election, but it was nullified by the military. Her passive resistance of the regimes earned her a Nobel Peace Prize.

The junta says it's planning a return to democracy, citing its constitutional convention that has been meeting sporadically for 13 years. The release of Aung San Suu Kyi, they say, depends on her behavior.

SPOKESMAN FOR KYAW HSAN, INFORMATION MINISTER: Whether she will be continued to be restricted or not depends on her interviews and on herself, her behavior and her acts.

RIVERS: Her house is off limits to reporters. She's cut off from the outside world. Her home, in effect, a leafy suburban prison. Detained by an elite, which if this video is anything to go by, seems to be amassing enormous wealth at the expense of its long suffering people.

Dan Rivers, CNN, Tharcheleik, Myanmar.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: At the United Nations, a compromise. Venezuela and Guatemala are backing off their fight for a Security Council seat. Instead, they have agreed to nominate Panama. The General Assembly has been deadlocked through 47 rounds of voting on who would get that seat. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez charged the United States was trying to strong-arm countries into voting for Guatemala.

LEMON: On the trail of the Taliban. It's still a live fire zone in the mountains and villages of Afghanistan. The hideouts, the hunt, the humanitarian mission coming up in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Live in the CNN NEWSROOM, Kyra Phillips and Don Lemon.

LEMON: To Afghanistan now, where the Taliban may no longer run the government, but it's still an active and powerful group outside of Kabul. U.S. troops are spread, albeit thinly, throughout the countryside working to take away that power.

CNN's Jennifer Eccleston reports. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just a few miles from the Pakistan border, when the Taliban moves, so do the Americans. For now, overwhelming firepower denies them a sanctuary in these pine-studded mountains.

The village of Mangretay sits at the base of these jagged hills. It's just one of thousands of remote hamlets that dot the landscape here where over 1,000 soldiers conduct operations along some 400 miles of border. That's roughly three soldiers for every mile of this rugged terrain.

(on camera): This is part of the problem of securing these remote villages. The Americans roll in, they secure the town, the townspeople come out and receive humanitarian aid -- food, blanket, shoes -- and then the Americans roll out onto another town. Night falls and then the Taliban come in from these hills in front of me.

(voice-over): Mangretay's village elder says he is grateful for American and international aid, but he's nervous. The Taliban are watching. "They will likely steal it," he says. "That's what happened last time." Other Taliban influence is even more sinister.

CAPT. RICK FISCHER, U.S. ARMY: They won't let them have schools, they won't let them have madrasses here. The reason for that is the education. They don't want them to have the education. They want to keep them uninformed and also get them to go to school outside of Afghanistan.

ECCLESTON: Keeping them uninformed and under threat, a twisted way of guaranteeing the Taliban new recruits in the fight against the Americans in these hills and beyond.

Jennifer Eccleston, CNN, Afghanistan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: The Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist William Styron has died. Styron, who was 81, had been in failing health for quite awhile. He died of pneumonia Wednesday at Martha's Vineyard Hospital in Massachusetts. He is survived by Rose, his wife of 53 years, four children, and eight grandchildren. He also leaves behind some unforgettable works of American literature.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS (voice-over): American slavery and the Nazi Holocaust -- it's hard to imagine two more divisive or morally-charged topics to write about, but that's exactly what author William Styron chose to explore in his two best-known novels: "The Confessions of Nat Turner," and "Sophie's Choice."

"The Confessions of Nat Turner" imagined a life of the southern slave who led an infamous and short-lived rebellion ahead of the Civil War. It earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1967 and blistering accusations of racism. How could a white man possibly understand the experience of a black slave? 12 years later, Styron published "Sophie's Choice," an almost unbearable tragedy about a Polish- Christian woman who survived the Holocaust.

Merle Streep won an Oscar for the film version of "Sophie's Choice," but, again, some critics pounced saying Styron had no right to imagine the experience of Holocaust survivors. But his literature made history and we'll never forget it. Styron also struggled with depression and his own issues with substance abuse, but he turned that, too, into art.

When the "American Journal of Psychiatry" reviewed his 1990 memoir, "Darkness Visible," a memoir of madness, it suggested it should be required reading for anyone in the profession. In his later years, Styron teamed up with Humorist Art Buchwald and CBS newsman Mike Wallace to talk about depression at an event they called "An Evening with the Blues Brothers."

Perhaps one of the Styron's own sayings would be the most fitting epithet for such an incredibly gifted author -- "A great book should leave you with many experiences and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it." Certainly, William Styron lived many lives in his writing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: As we remember Bill Styron today, we're also honoring one of his best friends, humorist Art Buchwald. He has actually cheated death and now he's talking and laughing about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ART BUCHWALD, HUMORIST: People don't like to talk about death and the fact you're talking about it makes it so much easier for all of us as something that we can bring out in the open.

PHILLIPS: Art Buchwald shares what he has learned about life and death and everything else in between straight ahead from the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Whether it's the best of times or the worst of times, it's the only time we've got. So, says Pulitzer-Prize winning humorist Art Buchwald. This year, doctors told him he only had a few weeks to live but he has proven them wrong. He's one of the few people who has checked out of hospice care. Now he wrote a book about it. I was hoping he would because when I visited Art in the hospice this summer, I never realized how fun it could be and that death doesn't have to be so scary.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome back.

BUCHWALD: Thank you. Is there any messages? PHILLIPS (voice-over): He is being hailed as the celebrity of death.

(on camera): So, Art, I've known you for 20 years. Where do we start?

BUCHWALD: Where do you start? We start at a heck of a place. It's a hospice.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): Are you laughing, too? Well, that's exactly what Art Buchwald wants.

BUCHWALD: I remember the first month, all my buddies showed up, all of them. It was like Radio City Music Hall. They used to say at the beginning, have you seen the Lincoln Memorial and Art Buchwald?

PHILLIPS: It's true. When Art decided he had had it with dialysis, his doctors told him he had less than three weeks to live, so he checked into hospice. Everyone came to say good-bye. Mike Wallace, Ethyl Kennedy, Tom Brokaw, Ben Bradlee, Walter Cronkite, the Queen of Swaziland and, yes, me. No, I'm not one of Art's famous friends. I mean, look at his life. Betty Bacall and Humphrey Bogart persuaded his Art's wife Ann wife to marry him.

Lucille Ball brought her kids over to visit. Hanging out with Paul Newman, Duke Ellington, and Eddie fisher was just another day in the life of Artie. But I was one very lucky college student, given a pretty challenging assignment -- interview Art Buchwald and live to tell about it. The year? 1989. My headline? Columnist Buchwald -- the Laughs Started Here.

BUCHWALD: Very nice article. I hope you got an "A" in it.

PHILLIPS: I may not have received an "A" on that article, but I did earn something far more valuable. A friendship, a pen pal, a mentor, and a man that continues to teach me life lessons.

(on camera): Do you find it funny that you check into a hospice and your doctors actually say you're doing better?

BUCHWALD: Well, I don't find it funny. I find it funny about all of the things that have happened to me since I've been there. Unbelievable experience because after two-and-a-half months, I've had a chance to say good-bye to everybody in my life, everybody in every walk of my life, my orphan asylum days, to the Marine Corps, to USC, to Paris, to today, and I've gotten between 3000 or 4000 letters now from people.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): Growing up an orphan, Art used humor to cope. He never imagined it would define his career. He joined the Marines to become a man. He went to USC to become a writer. Then Art bout his one-way ticket to Paris to become famous. It worked. Now a half century, more than 8000 newspaper columns, and a Pulitzer Prize later, Art Buchwald is still using humor to cope happily, planning his funeral, eating McDonald's everyday, and reveling in all of the gifts he's gotten since his life went into overtime. BUCHWALD: This is Pete Carroll -- he gave me his autograph, Pete Carroll because I want USC to win a game once in awhile. Thank you.

PHILLIPS (on camera): Give me a fight on, Artie.

BUCHWALD: Fight on for USC. OK.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): At 81, instead of dying, Art says he's having the time of his life, which includes giving each one of his nurses a heck of a time.

(on camera): What do you love the most about him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His sense of humor. His sense of humor.

PHILLIPS: Art, what do you love the most about your favorite nurse?

BUCHWALD: She beats me up.

PHILLIPS: You beat him up?

BUCHWALD: Yes. She doesn't give me breakfast and she beats me up.

PHILLIPS: Is that true?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you call giving him a good bath "beating him up", yes. Doesn't he look good?

PHILLIPS: So what it's like having Art here at the hospice?

ROGER SULLIVAN, HOSPICE VOLUNTEER: It is never a dull moment, never. He is quite the guy and we are going, I'd say, he keeps us all very busy. He's got friends from all over the world, calls come in from all over the world. Just amazing. Packages come in. Fruitcakes come in, flowers come in. That's an amazing experience to have him here.

PHILLIPS (voice-over): And Art is still amazing us all. He checked out of hospice in June. He's still is writing his column. And now he has finished what may or may not be his final book.

Art Buchwald, "Too Soon to Say Good-bye: I don't Know Where I'm Going, I Don't Even Know Why I'm Here."

Well, we all know he's sticking around to spend more time with his kids and grandchildren. He's proving to all of us it's OK to die and you can do it with dignity.

And, oh, yes, he wants to keep us laughing and all his lady friends guessing just a little bit longer.

BUCHWALD: I always liked women. I liked them better than boot camp. Women are funny. If they know that you have a feeling about them, they have feelings about you. I mean, it's an (INAUDIBLE) thing, two people crossing the night.

PHILLIPS (on camera): Do you think it's your good looks? Do you think it's your sexy self? Do you think it's your sense of humor? What is it?

BUCHWALD: Mostly luck.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Tomorrow, Art has invited me into his home and we'll be live from the CNN NEWSROOM, right there in his living room, to share his wisdom, his new book and, of course, his amazing sense of humor. He'll also be answering your questions. I actually haven't told him this yet, but if you have a question, hit send to CNNNEWSROOM@CNN.com. And join us in the NEWSROOM tomorrow. Actually, we're in his home, but it's coming to you from CNN NEWSROOM. And it's at the 1:00 Eastern hour, to hear Art's answers.

LEMON: Oh, my gosh. That was incredible. And you know what's amazing about him?

PHILLIPS: He's a piece of work.

LEMON: Yes, it's like, he doesn't take himself too seriously. And that is really, you think, the key to his longevity, at least one of them, right?

PHILLIPS: Absolutely. I mean it's incredible just -- well, we'll talk more about it tomorrow. I have a lot I can say.

We got to check in with Wolf Blitzer. I know Wolf is a big fan of Art Buchwald as well.

LEMON: Hey, Wolf.

PHILLIPS: I've known him for 30 years. Kyra, you did a fantastic job. He's a great, great person and a great writer. I grew up reading his stuff.

PHILLIPS: Well, he loves your show, by the way. He always watches the "SITUATION ROOM".

BLITZER: And I read every column he writes. I love Art Buchwald, wish him only, only the best.

Thanks, Kyra, very much for doing it.

Now, coming up at the top of the hour, President Bush, stumping for fellow Republicans, but under the shadow of an increasingly unpopular war. What impact will the Iraq factor have? I'll speak live with the White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. He'll join us here in the "SITUATION ROOM".

Also, who's to blame for the deteriorating situation in Iraq? Would it be the defense secretary, or as one leading Republican lawmaker implies, the generals on the ground? Plus, the campaign and the culture wars. We're going to show you how gay marriage is taking center stage in one state.

All that, guys, coming up right here in the "SITUATION ROOM" at the top of the hour.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, wolf.

LEMON: All right, Wolf, thanks.

That's the first time I've seen you at a loss for words, Wolf. You got all choked up there.

All right, Wolf, we'll see you at the top of the hour.

Let's move on now. It's been nine weeks since Katie Couric made history as the first solo female anchor of a nightly network newscast. She debuted to a huge audience that has since leveled back down to the pre-Katie days at CBS. Last night she sat down with CNN's Larry King to talk about the ratings' reality.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: You had extraordinary ratings, they shot 13.6 million, I think, opening night.

KATIE COURIC, S ANCHOR: Yes.

KING: And now you've kind of leveled off and are running about third, where they always run. Is this a time phase thing?

COURIC: Time phase?

KING: My meaning, is it going to take some time? Is this a phased-in process?

COURIC: Yes, well, obviously, I think it does take some time. Viewing habits are hard to change, and I think, you know, the bottom line is, Larry, I didn't take this job for ratings. I took this job for the challenge and for the ability to really work on editorial content, to do serious news stories. The opportunity to work on "60 Minutes", which I think is the only true journalistically superior magazine show on television. I've always dreamed of working on that show.

KING: But you're used to top ratings, Katie. You're the girl who -- you're used to being number one.

COURIC: Well, you know, when I started at the "Today Show", we were number two and, to be honest with you, I've always thought that some of the best shows we did were when we were in second place. And I think anyone who's worked with me would tell you that I'm blissfully unaware of ratings. Obviously, if they do well and obviously if we have a big sampling the first couple of days or so, it's nice to hear, oh, that's nice, a lot of people watched. But it's just not something that I dwell on. (END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: Make sure you tune into "LARRY KING LIVE" week nights at 9:00 Eastern only on CNN.

Closing bell and word of the year straight ahead.

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