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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Stock Market Tumbles; Prison Guinea Pigs; Should America Apologize For Slavery?
Aired February 27, 2007 - 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, everybody. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
We have got breaking news to start out with. Global markets, including the Dow, fall like a rock. What is happening right now as markets open in the Far East?
Also, out in the open: taking kids away from their parents because they're too fat.
And does America owe blacks an apology for slavery?
We start with that breaking news that has everyone very nervous here tonight. Will the global sell-off that's been shaking the world's stock markets for the past 24 hours keep driving down the price of shares? It started this time yesterday in China, and hit the U.S. like a punch in the stomach.
The Dow industrials closed down more than 400 points today, and it isn't over yet. In the Far East, it is already Wednesday morning, and the nosedive is under way again.
Ali Velshi is here to tell us what's going on.
What does that mean for us tomorrow...
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it means it didn't stop.
ZAHN: ... if the Asian markets are doing this?
VELSHI: It means we had a few hours to see whether it was going to take control in Asia. New Zealand is open. It's down. Nikkei, Japan's index, which is one of the biggest ones, has been open for one hour now, and it's down.
And, in 30 minutes, Shanghai opens again. That's where the trouble started 24.5 hours ago. If this doesn't solve itself overnight, we could be in for another rough day on the markets tomorrow.
ZAHN: So, what is your advice to investors tomorrow?
VELSHI: Well, because we don't know why this is happening, because it's not rational to see a 400-plus-point drop -- and, at some point today, 546 points -- on the Dow, the best advice right now is to wait until you know what's going on before you do anything, before you pull the trigger, because, if you didn't sell stocks today in the panic, you didn't lock in your loss.
A lot of value was wiped out, but, if you didn't sell, you still own your shares.
ZAHN: A lot of value? We're talking $600 billion.
VELSHI: Yes. This is very unusual.
ZAHN: .. in some major...
ZAHN: ... stocks.
Well, GE, what, lost 5 percent of its value?
VELSHI: Five percent.
Every single major stock in America lost money today, every stock on the Dow, all 30 of them, all the way down, on the Nasdaq, on the S&P 500. We haven't seen a day like this in a very long time. It was no surprise that markets were going to be down today. There were all sorts of economic factors.
The surprise is 200, 300, 400, 500 points. We recovered a bit at the end of the day. There has been a problem in trading at the New York Stock Exchange. Whether it's a computer problem or -- or a trading problem, we're going to get to the bottom of that tonight. But there is something wrong.
ZAHN: And you say there are a lot of economic factors at play, not the least of which is Alan Greenspan scaring the heck out of a lot of people, predicting a potential recession by the end of the year.
VELSHI: Yes. He...
ZAHN: Was that...
VELSHI: He still does that, even though he's not the Fed...
ZAHN: Impacted this today?
VELSHI: Yes, sure.
China, Alan Greenspan, the attacks in Afghanistan, some bad economic reports this morning, weaker housing prices, all this weighs on the market. It weighs on the market. There's nobody who thinks we needed a rout on the market like this. But this is how connected we are in the world.
It starts in China, gets all the way back through us. It's back in Asia again. The -- the story is going to happen tonight, to see if this thing comes back. Look at that, 546 points. But that was a glitch. You see, that all happened within three minutes.
ZAHN: Sure. VELSHI: We -- we lost -- we -- the market plunged from 300 to 400 to 500 to 546, and back up again inside of five minutes.
ZAHN: Very quickly, in closing, pretty clear from what I listened to today the government was very concerned about this.
VELSHI: The White House commented on it. The president is said to have called the treasury secretary.
We didn't find out what they talked about, but they wanted to know, what's going on? And I don't think the answer's very clear yet. We are going to -- this story is not going to play out fully until tomorrow.
ZAHN: Ali Velshi, thanks so much...
ZAHN: ... for the update. Appreciate it.
Now I want to bring out into the open a story that affects every one of you parents out there. Since one in five American kids is overweight, consider this: Should you lose custody of your child to the government if you give them too much pizza, too much ice cream? Well, it nearly happened today in England. Child welfare officials tried to take a boy away from his mother because he's too fat, about three times the size he's supposed to be.
Here's Alphonso Van Marsh with more.
ALPHONSO VAN MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At nearly 200 pounds, Connor McCreaddie knows a chicken drumstick can be finger- licking good.
CONNOR MCCREADDIE, 8 YEARS OLD: Hey, where's my pork chop?
VAN MARSH: But Connor is just 8 years old and nearly four times the average weight for a child his age.
His family told reporters Connor typically starts his day with a bowl of chocolate cereal, followed by toast with processed meat -- at lunch, burger, fries, and sausages or a pizza, a whole pizza. It's fast food or takeout for dinner. And toss in four bags of potato chips.
Connor's family admits that, in addition to all of that, he scarfs down cookies and other snacks about every 20 minutes.
British authorities are so concerned Connor's diet could seriously damage his health that they called in Connor's mother to consider putting him into foster care until he loses weight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now, he won't stop eating, but he will be allowed to stop with his mother. VAN MARSH: Just hours ago, British press led with the news that Connor can stay at home for now.
But the public debate over whether government can take a child away from his mother because he eats what he wants rages on.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's really terrible. I think, you know, to be honest, blame the parents.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She can't really look after a child. It's probably in the child's best interests that it is taken into care.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it's important not to blame anyone, isn't it? Just to help him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you have been brought up with ready-made foods, takeaways, and that's just the norm, why would you go for salad?
VAN MARSH: After the United States, Britain has one of the highest youth obesity rates of industrialized nations.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver recently took the British prime minister to task over the sad state of school lunches. The government listened, and dedicated millions of dollars to healthier options in the cafeteria.
But what happens outside the schoolyard?
(on camera): Despite high-profile campaigns to get children to eat more fruits and vegetables, like these, even at the corner grocery store, the shelves are stocked full of high-calorie, unhealthy temptations.
(voice-over): A family law expert says, if Connor's family can keep him from these temptations, keeping Connor at home is a good move.
MICHAEL NICHOLLS, FAMILY LAWYER: A number of these cases resolve themselves, without the court having to impose anything on anybody. But the essential -- the essential benefit of them is, they draw together everybody who's involved, with the assistance of usually medical experts, who are available to help.
VAN MARSH: Help Connor do what he says he's known all along.
MCCREADDIE: Eating less and eat healthy foods.
VAN MARSH: Lessons to live by.
Alphonso Van Marsh, CNN, London.
ZAHN: So, with obesity a crisis almost everywhere in the developed world, how do we stop parents from overfeeding their kids until they drop dead?
That's where a group called National Action Against Obesity comes in.
MeMe Roth is its president and co-founder.
Nice to see you, MeMe.
Do you think this mother should be convicted of child abuse?
MEME ROTH, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ACTION AGAINST OBESITY: You know, what she did to her son is abuse. She absolutely jeopardized his health. She has limited his possibilities. He -- he will pay the price for this for his entire life. And he likely will die a premature death, because of what's happened thus far.
Thank goodness someone intervened at this point, although very late.
ZAHN: Would you give this mother a second chance? Or she -- should she ever have her hands on this kid again?
ROTH: You know, you ask about a second chance. And, if you read through the paperwork, she has been given multiple chances again and again, appointments with doctors, nutritionists missed, guidelines given about what the child should be eating absolutely ignored.
She's been given chance after chance. And, yet, this child has grown more than 200 pounds. I'm not sure she needs another chance. But, you know, it's -- it's -- if she can demonstrate that she can finally care for her child, and get him on a healthier trajectory, that would be fantastic.
ZAHN: Well, you don't sound like you're confident that's going to happen. So, are you outraged by this decision, then?
ROTH: I'm not outraged. What's encouraging is that they are staying involved with this family.
And -- and what this brings to light for all of us in our country is, this problem is just not the U.K.'s problem, as you pointed out. This should sound the alarm in our country. We, the parents, are responsible. And, if our children are overweight, we're the ones who brought the food into the home. We're the ones giving them this food.
If they were lighting matches, we would be held responsible if they burned the house down. We are solely responsible for the health of our children, whether it's starvation or abuse in this manner.
ZAHN: Well, MeMe, as you have to acknowledge, when you look at these statistics, it's pretty darn clear we're not doing a very good job. Look at these numbers.
In the early 1970s, 4 percent of our kids ages six to 11 were overweight. And, then, in 2004, that number rose to 19 percent. That is a 15 percent increase. Some people think desperate times call for desperate measures, and they would like to see more government intervention.
ROTH: Yes, absolutely.
And I have gone on the record that obesity is absolutely child abuse. And it's on the states -- it's on the books in almost every state -- in every state that jeopardizing the health of your child is against the law. What you see in this country, though, is inaction when it comes to severe obesity.
And the point of intervention should come much sooner. Once these children go down the path of the obesity that we have seen in this child, it's practically too late. They will pay the price for so long. We want to get involved sooner, when we first start seeing signs this might be going on, just as we would if we were seeing early bruises or there were symptoms that a child might not be properly cared for at home.
ZAHN: MeMe Roth, thanks for the warning. Appreciate your time tonight.
Let's hear what our "Out in the Open" panel has to say about this tonight, Democratic strategist Morris Reid, Michelle Bernard, president of the Independent Women's Forum, and Rachel Maddow, talk show host on Air America Radio.
Glad to have all three of you with us.
MORRIS REID, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Appreciate it.
ZAHN: Do you think this mother should have been accused of child abuse?
REID: I do. I do.
ZAHN: Does she deserve to have this boy back?
ZAHN: She's been given multiple chances.
REID: I think that it's about parent responsibility.
I think that, in America, we -- we sort of skirt this issue. It's funny that the Brits are sort of taking the lead on this. But I think this -- this kid should be taken from the home. If the -- it was bruises or fire or alcohol or drugs, we would remove this child. I think we should have done the same thing.
ZAHN: Do you think that that's where the government belongs, in our homes?
ZAHN: I mean, there are a lot of people who are saying that American parents should be really nervous about this tonight, as we watch this play out in England?
MICHELLE BERNARD, PRESIDENT & CEO, INDEPENDENT WOMEN'S FORUM: Well, they should be worried about it.
But, you know, one of the things that MeMe said tonight that I agree with is, it's -- it's a matter of personal responsibility. I have been ambivalent about it. I have been thinking about it. Clearly, if she were starving her child to death, the authorities should come in there and take them, but -- take the child.
But I think that it's in the best interests of the child to remain with his mother, and for his mother to learn how to feed him properly. And maybe this worldwide ridicule, and knowing that she's killing her son, is enough. I wish that people would go after child molesters and child predators the way that they are going after this child's mother.
ZAHN: Sure. But do you think this ridicule in the end means anything at all? I mean, do you think parents in America are going to be concerned they're going to be labeled as -- as child abusers because they let their kids eat pizza three times a day?
RACHEL MADDOW, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think the politicization of obesity is an interest thing, because those of us who fight to keep our weight down, and those of us who worry about our own weight, and those of us who even worry about the overweightness of Americans in general, there's a lot of blame that goes with it.
And this is a story that takes the blame kind of out of it, because the kid is 8. And, yes, the kid says, I want another pork chop, and, no, I don't want fruits and vegetables, and I want junk food.
But we all know we're all mad at the mom. We're not mad at him. We realize this is a parenting issue. And obesity, as a health problem, makes this very clearly a question about whether or not this is the amount -- this abuse is abusive enough for the state to come in and intervene. You can't blame the kid.
BERNARD: And, also, we have to ask ourselves, is the state going to do any better than the mother? I mean, we could go from one extreme to the other. What kind of jeopardy do you put the child in by taking him out of his mother's home and putting him in some government-run facility?
Let's -- let's look at these statistics again to bring this back home to America. And, once again, they're alarming. Twenty-two percent of all Americans are obese. What is going to save us from ourselves here?
REID: Nothing's going to save us from ourselves but ourselves. I think that Michelle made an interesting point, that the government doesn't have a great track record, if you look at the foster kid system. But this is alarming.
ZAHN: Yes, I mean, what would you do, have police come in, and you -- you send these kids to a special place where they're put on a spa diet? I mean, how would that work?
REID: I don't think you need that.
But I do believe that, since this is sort of out in the open, and we're already talking about going after companies, we really need to look first at the parents. The parents are the guys.
And it's -- it's funny to me that, if your parent works out, you tend to work out. If your parent likes music, you tend to like music. So, we look at our parents as our first role model. And, if our parents are physically fit, more likely, the kids will be physically fit.
ZAHN: What about imposing penalties on our health care policies, so there really is a cause and effect here, and you know your health care costs will go up if you're putting your kid at a greater risk of getting diabetes?
ZAHN: This kid -- this kid is three to four times the normal size.
And we can -- and we can try to discipline parents around these sorts of things. But, when it comes down to it, how are we going to make it so that 22 percent of Americans aren't obese? Well, we have got to actually change things as a nation. I mean, we have got to stop subsidizing the kinds of companies that provide us processed food that make us fat.
We have got to start making school lunches smarter. We have got to -- actually, you have got to do stuff like invest in public transportation, so people walk, instead of get out of their cars.
I mean, there are so many things that you could do, as a country, in terms prioritizing this as a health issue, that we haven't done. It's easy to get mad at one parent, but, in terms of taking on obesity as an epidemic, we have got to get a handle on Archer Daniels Midland. We have got to get a handle on some of the food subsidies that are against our national health interests.
ZAHN: You know who Prince Charles got mad at today?
ZAHN: He actually said, rather casually, well, maybe we should ban it.
ZAHN: What are we talking about?
BERNARD: It's so silly. Why not just -- if you don't want your kids to be obese, don't take them to McDonald's? Why sue McDonald's? Just don't drive there. Don't go.
REID: ... about parents. It really is about the parents.
MADDOW: Are 22 percent of Americans obese now, as compared to when -- 30 years ago, because parents have gotten worse, or because American lifestyles have changed as a whole? American lifestyles...
ZAHN: I think we're a much more indulged society.
BERNARD: ... kids sitting in front of the TV...
BERNARD: ... playing computer games. They don't exercise.
BERNARD: They don't go out and have fun. It -- it's the parents' responsibility.
ZAHN: And I have...
BERNARD: Don't sue McDonald's.
ZAHN: ... got to move us all along.
Stay right here. We have got a lot more to talk about with our panel tonight.
Out in the open next: Is it finally time or way too late for this country to apologize for the ravages of slavery? And, a little bit later on, you're not going to believe what they're trying to do to people behind bars.
ZAHN: Out in the open tonight: apologizing for slavery. Believe it or not, no president, Congress, nor state has ever bothered to do that.
But, over the weekend, Virginia's legislature came very close. It unanimously passed a resolution expressing profound regret for Virginia's role in American slavery. It has the Internet buzzing with calls for Congress to make a national apology for slavery and even consider paying reparations to the descendants of slaves.
Just today, Congressman Steve Cohen, who represents a mostly black district in Memphis, Tennessee, introduced a bill to make the government apologize for both slavery and segregation.
He tells CNN, "It's important for this country to make a formal apology for slavery, so that it can move forward and seek reconciliation, justice, and harmony for all of its citizens."
With me again, our "Out in the Open" panel, Democratic strategist Morris Reid, Independent Women's Forum president Michelle Bernard, and Air America radio host Rachel Maddow.
You are outnumbered tonight.
REID: I am.
ZAHN: But I'm still not going to let you start first.
MADDOW: ... among women.
REID: Great company. Great company.
ZAHN: So, does Congress owe blacks an apology for slavery?
BERNARD: You know, I don't see -- I read today a columnist said that they really have a dog in this fight. And I feel like I do, too, as an African-American.
Why not? It -- I mean, why not apologize? We teach our 5-year- olds and our little -- you know, our children, when you do something wrong, apologize for it. And I can't see why not. It's -- to me, the question is just so simple. MADDOW: They're worried that an apology will open the door to reparations. And they don't want to talk reparations. I think that's the resistance...
BERNARD: Well, I think that's the resistance, but I also think people are pandering to -- to -- to less -- to elements in our society that would probably -- none of us at this panel would probably want to go to dinner with anyway.
I mean, it's really stupid. I -- I think about...
ZAHN: You're talking about, what, members of the Klan? Is that what you mean?
I mean, if George "Macaca" Allen could introduce a piece of legislation or -- for the United States Senate to -- to pass a resolution apologizing for the fact that the Senate never passed anti- lynching legislation earlier than they did, then, the entire United States Congress or state legislatures can apologize for slavery.
ZAHN: I want you to listen to something.
REID: I just have a take -- a different take on...
ZAHN: Real quickly, though.
REID: I just think it's an empty promise.
I don't want a -- I don't want a sorry. You know what I would rather the Congress did? Fund public education and make sure people had universal health care, you know, make sure we had good schools. That's the -- that's the real issue here. African-Americans feel like they have been neglected, they have always gotten a second -- been a second-class citizen.
Don't give me an empty promise. Give me what I want, which is a good education, health care, and -- and safe schools and a safe community. That's more important to me than an empty promise that's going to be watered down, that's going to be politicized, and just going to cause more division.
ZAHN: What I want you all to listen to is something that a Virginia congressman had to say, Congressman Frank Hargrove. And he said this back in January, when that state was debating the issue. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK HARGROVE, VIRGINIA HOUSE OF DELEGATES: Not a soul in this legislature had anything to do with slavery. It's harmful to society in general just to keep recycling this thing, which we all know and all despise and all have no respect for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: So, he was essentially saying, get over it.
There are many American families, like mine, that did not own white slaves. So, why should we feel obligated to make that kind of an apology?
BERNARD: Why not apologize for the wrongs of your ancestors?
You know, there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. I think that what -- that what this gentleman said, he really should be embarrassed about. There are so many things that the African-American population in this country is still dealing with from century after century. We know that race still matters in the United States.
Let's apologize, and let's just move forward. Let's talk about school choice. Let's talk about education reform. Let's talk about all of the things that we know matter to the African-American community. And I think that, if we were to see something, whether it is symbolic or not, the nation will -- will just move forward. And we can get to a point where we really are being judged by the content of our character, and not our skin color.
REID: Michelle, let's not waste our time on this, you know?
I have got to tell you, I feel very passionate about this. I spoke to my grandmother about this. And I really, really had to really search my soul here, because it's an empty promise. It's like saying...
ZAHN: So, it wouldn't mean anything to you.
REID: It's like, you know, saying that, OK, I'm going to vote for Harold Ford, and then going to vote for the other guy.
You know, it's like, I'm tired of it. I don't want to hear that Americans want to feel good about something. I want Americans to do something. I want Americans to say, look, if you really care about this, let's fund public education.
REID: If you really care about this, let's give decent health care. That would really make a difference, not an empty promise from...
BERNARD: But it's not an empty promise.
REID: It's an empty promise.
BERNARD: It -- it has nothing to do with being an empty promise.
If African-Americans want to complain about things being an empty promise, go out and vote. Demand education reform. Demand the ability to have school choice. It's -- this has nothing to do with being an empty promise. Yes, it is a symbolic gesture. But what's the big deal?
MADDOW: But you know what? There is...
ZAHN: Final thought.
MADDOW: There's something that's not symbolic about this, is that slavery was an economic system. Slavery was the economic foundation of early America, billions of dollars based on the slavery economy.
We need to decide whether or not we're willing to give up some of the benefits that we still accrue from having based our economy on slaves and think about reparations. That's the hard question we need to get to.
ZAHN: And that's what you think this really is all about.
MADDOW: That's what I think this is really about.
ZAHN: Michelle Bernard, Morris Reid, Rachel Maddow, more to debate coming up.
Right now, doctors can't do experiments on people in prison -- out in the open next: a government plan that could make inmates guinea pigs once again.
And, then, a little bit later on: These people are in what may be the most controversial reality TV show ever. You're going to see it and find out why so many people are outraged.
We will be right back.
ZAHN: A controversial proposal to use inmates as guinea pigs in medical experiences -- experiments, that is, is out in the open tonight.
Right now, more than 2.2 million people are behind bars in federal, state, and local prisons. And drug companies and the federal government are eying this captive population for use in medical tests, even though the practice was shot down in the '70s, after decades of abuse.
Jason Carroll has more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, man, come on. Not again, no.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These men say they still bear the marks from one of the darkest moments in medical history.
EDWARD ANTHONY, FORMER INMATE: Right now, my fingernails are deformed, and these are scars left from the remains of that test.
CARROLL: Edward Anthony and other former inmates from Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia say they were used as medical test subjects during their incarceration in the 1960s, a time when critics say prison inmates were treated like human guinea pigs in the name of science.
LEODUS JONES, FORMER HOLMESBURG INMATE: I thought that what I was doing was -- was -- was making some kind of contribution, you know, and getting paid at the same time. I had no idea that these studies would cost me what it's costing me now.
CARROLL: Medical experiments on inmates largely ended in the United States in 1978, after strict regulations were passed to protect prisoners from abuse.
But the government is considering easing those restrictions and allowing testing to begin inside prisons once again. The Department of Health and Human Services asked the Institute of Medicine to study the issue.
In their report, released last August, the IOM recommended experiments with greater risk should be permitted on prisoners, if they have the potential to help. The report says, "Research affords the potential of great benefit, as well as burden."
These ex-inmates don't believe the assurances.
JONES: Look at us. They lied then. So, what makes you think there's any difference today? It's the same soup, a different day. That's all.
After all this came out...
CARROLL: Leodus Jones was one of hundreds of inmates at Holmesburg Prison paid to participate in studies, mostly dealing with dermatological tests. He says they were told the medical experiments would not hurt them.
But Edward Anthony shows scars he says were caused by a new bubble bath formula tested on him while in prison.
ANTHONY: The third day into the past study, my body just broke out, from my head to my foot.
CARROLL (on camera): Broke out with what?
ANTHONY: Like -- it looked like German measles.
CARROLL: I see.
ANTHONY: Little red pustular bumps, real small and close together.
CARROLL (voice-over): The experiments ended at Holmesburg Prison in 1974, after revelations that some doctors had exposed inmates to dangerous hallucinogenics and toxic chemicals, like dioxin.
DR. BERNARD ACKERMAN, FORMER HOLMESBURG DOCTOR: I think there has to be scrutiny of what the evidence is and lessons learned from it, so that this kind of thing is not done in the future.
CARROLL: Doctor Bernard Ackerman was in his second year of residency at Holmesburg in 1966, and says he deeply regrets experimenting on prisoners, a population that he feels could easily be taken advantage of again.
ACKERMAN: There are probably between 4,000 and 5,000 medical students in the United States at any given time. What about them? There are families of each of those people who would advocate using prisoners. What about them? Until they're prepared to use those populations, I think we should not pick on prisoners once again.
CARROLL (on camera): The Department of Health and Human Services declined CNN's request for an on-camera interview, saying that they are still actively considering the issue.
In a statement, they said that they are reviewing ethical considerations, because prisoners require -- quote -- "specific protections when involved in medical research."
(voice-over): Pharmaceutical industry analysts also say there simply aren't enough willing human test subjects to go around.
But former inmates like Edward Anthony are highly skeptical.
ANTHONY: I don't believe it's going to work. It's going to fail. It's going to go right back into the crookedness and right back into the money.
JONES: That's all they're concerned about.
ANTHONY: That's all they -- they will have no human concern.
CARROLL: The government says it will give careful consideration before making any decisions. To these former inmates from Holmesburg, that's little comfort. They say they'll suffer for the rest of their lives psychologically and physically and don't want another generation of prisoners going through the same pain.
Jason Carroll, CNN, Philadelphia.
ZAHN: And there is another thing to add. In the last two years, several pain medications were taken off the market because early testing did not include large enough numbers of patients to catch serious problems.
"Out in the Open" next, a new reality TV show with disabled contestants. Is it exploitation, as some say who are very outraged by this, or could it help them actually gain acceptance?
And then a little bit later on, a brand new and shocking report on women in the military.
ZAHN: A new TV show may be pushing the limits of good taste tonight and bringing "Out in the Open" the controversy surrounding reality TV. Is it entertainment or sheer exploitation?
Fred Pleitgen reports on a dating show for disabled people that premiered on Dutch TV just hours ago.
FREDERIK PLETIGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Lydia Van Dam knows exactly what the man of her dreams would be like. He'd look just like this famous Dutch pop singer. She's even met him several times. But Lydia Van Dam remains lonely, she says.
Born with cerebral palsy, she's been in a wheelchair all her life. She's never had a relationship.
LYDIA VAN DAM, CONTESTANT: I tried a chat in a chat room for some sort of a relationship Web site. And it went OK, but as soon as you tell people that you're handicapped they don't want to continue.
PLEITGEN: That's why Van Dam is going on The Netherlands' newest and most controversial dating show. "Love at Second Sight" is sparking amazement and anger here.
Eight disabled people are profiled. Among them Gerard, blind; Ludvena, progressive muscle disorder. Then viewers write letters and e-mails asking for dates with the contestants. After several dates, the show's producers hope all will find true love.
(on camera): The show caused a stir in the Netherlands even before its first airing. While the Dutch are used to breaking ground with television formats, some say a dating show for disabled people goes one step too far.
(voice over): Even in the hometown of one of the contestants, dismay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It might turn into sort of a freak show. Even though they're not freaks, of course.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't see the necessity of exploiting it on television.
PLEITGEN: But the show's producer says it's not exploitation, it's education.
ALEX VAN ZIJLL, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: I don't think it's a very sensitive topic at all because what we are trying to tell the audience is that these people with a handicap are normal people.
PLEITGEN: People like disc jockey Peter Kunnen, another contestant on "Love at Second Sight."
PETER KUNNEN, CONTESTANT: It's so strange that normal people have problems with the show. That's very -- that's incredibly -- that's very strange, because normally a disabled person would have -- could have problems with the show, but only the normal ones have problems with the show.
PLEITGEN: Partially paralyzed in a car accident 17 years go, Kunnen says he's making the most of his life but still hasn't found the right lady.
KUNNEN: If you look to me, you see me walking, then it's a little bit difficult to fall in love with me from the first sight. So you must know me better before you can love me.
PLEITGEN: He says he can't understand the controversy surrounding the show. All the contestants want, he says, is to finally find someone to love.
Frederik Pleitgen, CNN, The Netherlands.
ZAHN: Let's go straight back to our "Out in the Open" panel now -- Morris Reid, Michelle Bernard, and Rachel Maddow.
Just to give our audience an idea of how people are reacting, we're going to put up on the screen now a statement from the American Association of People with Disabilities here in the U.S.
They said, "Singling out people with visible disabilities to showcase on television as their best hope for finding a mate is disrespectful, exploitative, and plain wrong."
But contrast this with what the producers of the show say. "The main aim of the program is to remove prejudice about these people, to create more acceptance and respect, and, of course, to find the love of their lives."
Which one is it, Morris?
REID: Well, you know...
ZAHN: Is it exploitative, or is this a smart way to create a sense of humanity around these people that might not exist?
REID: Well, as long as Flavor flav is not a part of the show, I'm OK with it.
REID: When I first heard of it I was a little nervous, but seeing that package it seems to be OK. I had an uncle who was blind, so it really hit home with me.
So if it's done in a tasteful way -- most reality shows in America, however, are not done in a tasteful way. And as long as Flavor Flav is not involved or New York, I think I can live with it. If people -- if the participants feel like this is something that's important to them.
MADDOW: It's one thing -- you know, had the Dutch Association of People with Disabilities decided, we want to do this for ourselves and we want to put ourselves out there so people know that we're interesting and should be -- I'd feel OK about it. The producers say they're doing this all for the dignity of disabled people.
I just don't believe the producers. They're doing this to make money.
ZAHN: Of course.
MADDOW: And so they're doing this to exploit...
ZAHN: But they make money off people having facelifts. They make money off of people exposing all parts of their lives on TV.
MADDOW: Everybody is allowed to take whatever it is about themselves that is exploitable and exploit it for fun and profit and sex and fame and food stamps. I mean, anybody can cash in their dignity for anything they want. We have to decide, is it moral for us to enjoy them exploiting themselves?
REID: Well, we all like a good train wreck. And we -- when I heard that, I thought maybe it's a train wreck. But it appears to be OK.
ZAHN: But at the root of this debate, is there a question that maybe as a society we are not comfortable with people with disabilities, and maybe that's why this seems so icky to so many of the people that are outraged? Could this not build some bridges?
BERNARD: It could build some bridges. I've got to tell you, I feel like this is much ado about nothing. If it makes you feel icky, don't watch it.
You're absolutely right. They are here to make money. But these people, I would assume, are mentally competent. They are going on the show voluntarily. They know what the show is about.
Most intelligent people know that reality TV is pretty stupid. And if they want to do it, they should do it. Who cares?
I mean, I just think it's silly.
MADDOW: But I do think that we have to decide, like, how far are we going to go with what we're willing to say is, OK, it's just because it's entertainment? How much are we going to say, like, you know, watching "24" torture people every week, oh, it's cool, it's just entertainment? Watching disabled people try to get dates with normal people, as they describe them here, that sounds cool. Let's watch that.
Let's watch car crashes. Let's watch other people -- I mean...
BERNARD: But do you have a right to tell the participants, because you're disabled we don't think you should do this? It's really a question of individual liberty. If they want to do it, more power to them. Don't -- turn it off.
MADDOW: I'm not saying they don't have a right to do this. I'm saying I have a right to make fun of them mercilessly for doing it.
BERNARD: Turn off the television. You know what? If enough people turn off the television, it won't be on the air anymore.
ZAHN: Well, why would you make fun of them for participating in the show?
MADDOW: I wouldn't make fun of the disabled people for participating in the show. I'd just make fun of the people who green- lit this as a project for a reality show. Same thing -- same as I would for the Flavor Flav show, honestly. Like -- you know what? That ended up being great for Flav. It ended up being great for him.
REID: I'm not so sure these people would agree with that. I this is a completely different thing.
We think about reality TV in America, it really is not that great. But this show seems to be pretty good.
And if the participants feel good, they want to find love like everyone else, god bless them and have a good time.
ZAHN: I've got to tell you, there was nothing that I found inflammatory in that -- in that clip in any way.
MADDOW: No. If you exploit people with very nice lighting it can be very moving.
ZAHN: But there are challenges these people have in developing relationships.
REID: Yes. Well, I would have rather seen a show that actually followed the deejay in the course of his life on an everyday basis. That would have been more educational. We would have really seen some interaction, the way people discriminate against the disabled.
I know my uncle was blind. So I know firsthand.
ZAHN: Yes. Well, guess what? That show probably wouldn't have made any money.
REID: Well, and we would have had Flavor Flav involved.
ZAHN: Morris Reid, Michelle Bernard, Rachel Maddow, thank you very much for being with us tonight.
"Out in the Open" next, a Navy medic gets home from Iraq, but her deadly troubles were only starting.
And a little bit later on, the first female speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. And a "LARRY KING LIVE" exclusive coming up at the top of the hour.
We'll be right back.
ZAHN: "Out in the Open" tonight, a first-of-its-kind study released today on women soldiers and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The results appear in the new issue of the "Journal of the American Medical Association," and they show that women are much more likely to suffer PTSD than men, and that remembering and talking about traumatic experiences seems to be the most effective therapy.
But what happens to women warriors who can't deal with combat stress once they come home?
Deborah Feyerick has one Iraq war veteran's story for us now.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Navy medic Linda Michel came home from Iraq in September, her husband and three kids met her at the airport, overjoyed she was back safe, or so they thought.
FRANTZ MICHEL, WIFE COMMITTED SUICIDE FOLLOWING AFTER IRAQ TOUR: Seemed a little nervous, a little -- I don't know, a little different.
FEYERICK: Linda, a trained nurse, had been treating prisoners at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq for almost a year. Like many women returning from war, the transition would be tough.
MICHEL: She had to kind of get used to these children. She had to kind of get used to -- to the house. There was a lot of difficulty adjusting. FEYERICK: For Linda, getting readjusted was especially hard. Her husband, Frantz, a lieutenant colonel in the infantry reserve, had searched in Iraq a year earlier. As a result, the couple had been apart for nearly three years.
MICHEL: I think she was afraid that she might not be able to pick up the pieces and get her life back the way it was.
FEYERICK: Two weeks after coming home, Linda Michel, Navy medic and mother of three, sat on her bed and shot herself in the chest with her husband's gun.
FEYERICK (on camera): Were you the one who found her?
MICHEL: Yes. I had no idea at what level, you know, how -- how deep -- how much pain she was in.
FEYERICK (voice-over): About 150,000 women have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Experts say, women are more likely than men to feel the emotional effects of the battlefield once they come home.
An Army study this year examined 220 veterans, and found nearly 24 percent of women, compared to 19 percent of men, suffered some mental illness.
HELENA DAVIS, MENTAL HEALTH ASSOCIATION OF NEW YORK STATE: You know, it is the intensity of pain.
FEYERICK: Helena Davis, a mental health expert, says, Linda's feelings are common among women, who learn how to survive in combat zones, only to lose their identity when the fighting stops.
DAVIS: A woman coming home from war, first of all, has to deal with letting go of her warrior self and coming back to her parent self, caretaker self.
FEYERICK: Women may isolate themselves rather than ask for help, which they feel, mistakenly, is a sign of weakness.
(on camera): Do you think your wife hid her vulnerability?
MICHEL: She always wanted to portray herself as being strong. Every job she did, she did it at 110 percent.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Frantz says, in Iraq, Linda was prescribed antidepressants, which she quit when she left. He had no indication how serious the problem was from either his wife or the Defense Department.
The armed forces do not monitor troops who may suffer psychological problems once they get home. Even the symptoms for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder may not surface for weeks. The Veterans Administration says, monitoring vets would be an invasion of privacy.
DR. PATRICIA RESICK, DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: Once you're discharged, you're a citizen. I mean, we can't -- we can't mandate citizens of our country to go get mental health care or get checkups, as -- as veterans.
FEYERICK: Frantz Michel says he doesn't blame anyone, and that he and his wife are patriots, proud of their service. Now he's left to pick up the pieces.
(on camera): So, what does the youngest ask you?
MICHEL: When is mom coming back?
FEYERICK: What do you tell her?
MICHEL: Mom is in heaven now. Mom is not coming back. But mom is always with us. And she will always be part of the family.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Albany, New York.
ZAHN: Yet another sad reminder of the toll of this war.
One more thing from today's new study. It says many veterans in therapy are not encouraged to talk about combat experiences but to focus on current problems.
Moving on to the top of the hour, and that means "LARRY KING LIVE" will be cranking up his show, and joining him tonight is a woman who is credited with helping pierce the marble ceiling.
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": She sure has.
ZAHN: You should have fun tonight.
KING: Yes. We've got the speaker of the House.
Nancy Pelosi will be our special guest the first half of the program. And that should be more than interesting.
And then Suze Orman, speaking of more than interesting, the personal finance expert. And she's going to talk about what the hell happened on the stock market today.
So two very prominent American women in two walks of life -- Nancy Pelosi, Suze Orman, top of the hour, following another prominent woman. I'm surrounded by them.
ZAHN: Oh, that is so nice of you. I love it when you herald female talent. And I would try to defy Suze Orman to figure out what really happened on Wall Street today. We spent some time with Ali Velshi at the top of the hour and he said it's still not clear exactly how that glitch contributed to the seventh largest drop in the Dow ever.
Really scary to watch.
KING: Boy. Is it going to go up tomorrow, did he say?
ZAHN: Well, we're looking at the Asian markets, and that doesn't bode too well for it. But he's advising investors to sort of sit tight, because you don't lose money until you sell. So I don't know. It could be quite a ride tomorrow morning.
Keeping our fingers crossed.
KING: Hey, that's right. You don't -- you don't lose money until you sell.
KING: Never put it -- never put it that way.
ZAHN: Yes. See?
ZAHN: All this investment advice from your friend here in New York, Larry.
KING: I'm happy. Thanks, Paula.
ZAHN: Have a good show.
ZAHN: Coming up in a minute, our weekly "People You Should Know" segment. You're going to meet a man whose middle name is Hope. See why he's a beacon of hope for city dwellers.
We'll be right back.
ZAHN: And welcome back. It's that time of the night where we take a quick "BizBreak." And for that we return to Kiran Chetry.
ZAHN: Our "People You Should Know" segment focuses on a man who is building wealth in America's inner cities. He's teaching people to change how they think about what they earn and what they spend.
Chris Lawrence has tonight's "People You Should Know."
CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The L.A. riots in 1992 left much of America in despair. But there was one man with hope.
JOHN BRYANT, FOUNDER, OPERATION HOPE: You cannot have a rainbow without a storm first. LAWRENCE: For John Bryant, whose middle name happens to be Hope, that rainbow came in the form of Operation Hope, a nonprofit organization he created to empower low-income Americans with financial literacy.
BRYANT: The average net worth of a middle class Hispanic is $7,700 today. The average net worth of a middle class back is $8,800 today. The average net worth of a middle class white is $88,000 today. And white folks are any -- are not any smarter than black or brown folks. Same education, same income level.
The difference is choices.
LAWRENCE: For 15 years, Bryant's Operation Hope has been turning renters into homeowners, check-cashers into account holders, and minimum wage workers into living wage workers.
BRYANT: We teach people, you know, checking, savings, credit, investment, the history of banking. We're giving them an opportunity to do for themselves and to take care of their family, to move them up and out of poverty by their own steam. That's really what we're teaching, is dignity.
LAWRENCE: Bryant believes if America's inner cities are taught how to make better financial decisions, it could mean a richer future for all.
BRYANT: I think that people might be shocked to hear this, but I believe that the inner cities of this country might actually save this economy. Latinos and blacks alone represent $1.2 billion a year in consumer spending power. That's a huge consumer spending force waiting to be born.
LAWRENCE: Chris Lawrence, CNN, Los Angeles.
ZAHN: Nice to see that kind of contribution.
"LARRY KING LIVE" exclusive just minutes away. Larry sits down with the first woman speaker of the House. You know who that is, Nancy Pelosi.
We'll be right back.
ZAHN: And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight.
We'll be back same time, same place tomorrow night. We hope you'll join us then.
Until then, have a great night.
"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.
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