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PAULA ZAHN NOW

Tornadoes Kill at Least 18 in Alabama; Osama bin Laden Still a Threat?; Bill Clinton's Big Bucks

Aired March 1, 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. Glad to have you with us tonight.
We are continuing CNN's coverage of tonight's breaking news -- heartbreaking pictures coming in from Alabama right now, where Governor Bob Riley has just declared a state of emergency.

Tornadoes hit the state this afternoon, killing at least 18 people. In a southeast Alabama town called Enterprise, one of the twisters hit a high school. A big section of its roof collapsed. At least 15 people connected with the high school are dead.

Let's turn to Jamie McIntyre, who has been on the ground most of the day, or at least right after the twister hit.

Jamie, describe to us what you have seen as you have driven around and walked around.

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's just -- it was an amazing scene of devastation.

As we -- as drove into Enterprise shortly after we heard about the tornado, as we got closer and closer to Enterprise High School, which is here behind me, we began to see the extent of the damage. I mean, the -- the homes in the last block, as I walked toward the high school, most of them were -- were -- only had a few walls standing.

And, then, to get here to the high school, and see the -- the center of this huge, sprawling brick and steel building essentially reduced to rubble, twisted medal, leaking pipes, it was -- it was clearly a very powerful storm.

We talked, of course, to dozens of people here. And everybody seemed to have a story to tell.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were standing at the hotel. We seen it when it was coming through. I mean, everybody stopped. The lights went out. And the -- we seen it just go behind Lowe's. And it just took a path straight down. I mean, it was huge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I was right across the road, and I seen it come down from high in the sky, and it wiped out everything.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I put my children and I in the closet, and I covered our heads with a blanket, and we just held on until it was over.

When we stuck our head out, we could tell the roof was gone. And we waited for the wind to die down a bit. And everyone was crying. And we got back out. And...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCINTYRE: And the bitter irony, Paula, is that the students had been apparently gathered in the center of the high school in what was thought to be a safer area, in the auditorium, in advance of the tornado.

They had gotten about 28 minutes warning, we're told, of the tornado's advance, or the possibility of a very powerful tornado. And now there's second-guessing about what whether they should have acted more quickly to send the children home from school.

But, you know, the reality is, this was such a powerful tornado. It's such a random event. It's unpredictable where exactly it's going to hit.

And while it's easy to sort of second-guess yourself in this situation, it's also the case that, had they put the children on buses and sent them home, it's possible one of the buses could have been hit by this tornado.

It's -- again, it just wasn't at the school. It's widespread damage around the area, 15 dead here, two dead elsewhere here in Enterprise, and another one elsewhere in Alabama. This has been a very deadly and devastating storm -- Paula.

ZAHN: As you look at these pictures, Jamie, it seems almost incomprehensible that more people didn't die. I know that rescue workers are still on the scene. Is there any hope that -- that more survivors might be discovered?

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, there are plenty of survivors, but they don't -- they have not accounted for everyone.

And even just a short time ago, officials were actually going house to house in the neighborhood around here to make sure that everybody was OK, that there wasn't somebody trapped somewhere that nobody knew about, because they were perhaps distracted by the huge devastation right here.

But it's going to take a while for everyone to be accounted for and to actually have a firm grasp of the total in both -- in both lives and also in the -- the dollar amount of the destruction.

ZAHN: Jamie, I don't think you have even been able to see some of the pictures we're just putting on the air right now just fed to us from WDHN, a local affiliate there.

And we're going to try to re-rack the tape, so the audience can see it again. But you talked about how folks in this part of the country have had to live through a bunch of tornadoes. But, when you look at the sheer size of this, I haven't heard anybody been able to describe just -- just how wide a swathe it has hit just yet. But it is an amazing picture. It gives you a sense of just how powerful this tornado was.

MCINTYRE: Well, you know, you're absolutely right, Paula.

And I'm -- you know, I'm the senior Pentagon correspondent. I was actually down here at Fort Rucker, doing a story about helicopter training, just five miles down the road. So, when I came upon the scene, I was totally shocked by how devastating it was.

And I thought maybe it's just because I haven't covered these storms recently, but I ran into our colleague, my former -- my fellow reporter for CNN, Sean Callebs, who has covered a lot of these. And even he was saying that the -- it was unusual for the devastation to be so widespread.

Really, I don't think anybody could have predicted the impact that this storm was going to have on this small, tight-knit community in southeastern Alabama -- Paula.

ZAHN: Jamie McIntyre, we wish those rescue workers luck.

Right now, we want to turn to Toni Kaminski. She is the public information officer for the Enterprise Medical Center. That is where the injured were taken. She joins us now on the phone with us.

Can you describe to us the extent of injuries for some of the patients that you're treating tonight?

TONI KAMINSKI, ADMINISTRATOR, MEDICAL CENTER ENTERPRISE: Yes.

We have had an influx of about 50 patients related to the storm. A couple of them more severely injured, we stabilized and shipped to larger facilities in Dothan, Alabama. But they would include chest trauma and head trauma patients.

I know of two patients that we had in surgery here at our hospital. They -- we had one patient with a ruptured spleen and one with bilateral fractures of the arms. We have seen a variety of injuries, from lacerations to shortness of breath, people that were just anxious, as people often are when something like this happens.

Our hearts and prayers are with those students and family members affected at the high school.

ZAHN: How quickly were these injured brought to you? I know it was very difficult to get into the high school where part of that roof collapsed and even get to some of these victims.

KAMINSKI: There were ambulance sirens, and ambulances arriving on scene probably within 20 minutes of the storm having touched down.

ZAHN: Toni, if you wouldn't mind standing by, I want to bring into to our conversation right now, Collin Chrisman, who is a senior at Enterprise High School.

Collin, I know this has been a shattering day for you. Your brother was hurt in the storm. He was taken to the hospital. How is he doing tonight?

COLLIN CHRISMAN, ENTERPRISE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: He's doing fine. He had six stitches in his head. And they put a knee brace on him, just because he didn't really want to bend it. But he's fine. There's nothing with him.

ZAHN: Did you see him get injured? Were you with him when it happened?

CHRISMAN: I was right across the hall, about 20 feet away. And he -- I didn't see it, because we were all ducking.

But, after -- as soon as it happened, I got up to go get him, and he was -- a bunch of girls were crying, and he was trying to tend to them. And I just seen a little blood on him. And I checked him. And he looked pretty fine. And that was all I did.

ZAHN: Our correspondent Jamie McIntyre was describing how there was a warning sound, and, in fact, as early as 9:30 this morning, that school officials and town officials were very concerned about how severe this might be.

Describe to us what it was like to be in the school just moments before that tornado hit and then what happened once it did.

CHRISMAN: Well, they had warned us about -- probably about right before 11:00 that -- that's when they -- the sirens were going off. So, we had to go in the hallway.

And we were there. And they said they were going to release us at 1:00. But, to begin with, before we ever even got in the hallway -- because they were supposed to hit right before 1:00, but we -- it just started getting to 1:00, and they said they were about to release us. And we were all about to leave. And then all I heard was the administrator said: Everybody, get down. It's about to hit.

So, everybody got down. And I looked outside. It went from sunny to black like in five seconds. And I just started seeing the wind start moving up a little bit. And then our teacher tried to get in a room. And it just pulled the door slammed shut. And I knew that was serious.

So, we all got down. I ducked. I just looked outside and I just seen the roof starting, piece by piece, coming off. And I just ducked. And a bunch of stuff hit me and it hit everybody else. I mean, it was over within five, 10 seconds.

And, when that happened, they -- I just got up and checked everybody. Where I was at, there really wasn't -- I mean, we was in the front of the school, but it really wasn't that (INAUDIBLE) injuries. The only injury I know of was a girl I think lost her leg. But, other than that, it really wasn't that bad on our side. So, we just went outside. And they told us to go down to the church right by the school. So, we went all down there. And that's all about happened.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: It's hard to believe that the storm, the -- the tornado could do that much damage in such a short period of time.

Collin, just describe to us not only the pressure you felt when you felt, you know, doors being blown out, but what it sounded like when this tornado struck.

CHRISMAN: All I know is, before it actually hit, my -- my -- my ears started popping a little bit. And I was like, well, that's not good.

And, then, right as it happened, all I know is, you know, I didn't really hear too much, because I was -- everybody was screaming. But all I heard -- you know, my -- my just -- the pressure was so big. I just -- I ducked. Everybody ducked. And it just -- I didn't really hear much, because everybody was screaming. I was more worried about not getting hit than the sound.

But it was really loud. But I just looked up and seen the roof, just piece by piece, just come -- just pulling off, and it just -- it was gone. The whole classroom that I was in before we got in the hallway was gone. Most of the classrooms right there in front of us were gone. But the doors and stuff right in front of us were still there.

ZAHN: Well, I don't know.

When you look at these pictures, some of these pictures of the storm -- they're just being fed to us -- and you talk about that sky turning jet black so quickly, it's -- I -- I -- I guess you could say that you were lucky that -- that more people weren't severely injured and killed, although the death toll tonight, we're told, stands at 18.

We -- we wish your community a lot of luck, as you try to deal with the aftermath of this storm.

Thanks, Collin.

CHRISMAN: OK. Thank you.

ZAHN: This storm happened to be part of a very large, powerful system that stretched from the South all the way to the Midwest.

Let's quickly get to the latest on where it's headed.

Reynolds Wolf is standing by in the Severe Weather Center in Atlanta with a lot of severe weather to talk about tonight -- Reynolds.

REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Paula, well over 1,000 miles, this system, going from the Twin Cities, where they were producing -- this storm was producing heavy snowfall, to the tornadoes and the large hail and damaging winds we have had in the Southeast, the Gulf Coast -- so, again, an immense system.

Here is how it stands at this point. We have, at this point -- point -- four tornado warnings that are now in effect through parts of Georgia -- not Alabama, but Georgia. Now, this was part of a line that did go through southern Alabama. This tornado warning that we have is now in effect for Jasper, Jones, Butts, Monroe and Upson counties until about 8:15 or so, local time.

We have a few other ones over near Thomaston. This one is for Baldwin, Jones, and Putnam. This is going to be in effect until about 8:30. And we have another down near Milledgeville. That one should expire very quickly.

Let's go a little bit farther back out towards Alabama, Paula, where a lot of the damage took place. Farther to the south, in Montgomery, we don't have much action. In Enterprise, in terms of severe weather for tonight, they should be in the clear.

However, just over near Eufaula, where they have had some damage in that area, they have got one more cell to deal with. And, then, farther to the north, north of Montgomery, we have another intense lines of -- line of storms. It's going to move from eastern Alabama and into western Georgia over the next couple of minutes.

So, things are looking better now than they did, say, a few hours ago, certainly better than they were early this afternoon. But it has been quite a night. And, still, we're going to keep an eye on it for you overnight and into tomorrow morning.

ZAHN: That...

WOLF: Back to you, Paula.

ZAHN: ... still happens to be one nasty map you're looking at tonight.

WOLF: No question.

ZAHN: Reynolds Wolf, thanks.

WOLF: You bet.

ZAHN: And, of course, stay with us. We will be watching the situation in Alabama and throughout the region during this hour and bring you the very latest from the scene as soon as we get it.

Also out in the open tonight: a brand-new claim that Osama bin Laden is still alive and still very much a threat.

Also: Bill Clinton's big money. How many millions are we talking about anyway?

Please stay with us. We will have the details for you. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Out in the open first: a startling claim that the world's most wanted terrorist is not only still alive; he's still training people to attack Americans, even rebuilding training camps.

Osama bin Laden has not been seen since late 2004. And, apparently, he's been very busy. So, does it seem to you like he's been forgotten?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): Intelligence agencies are reporting disturbing signs of an al Qaeda and Taliban resurgence.

There was the Taliban claim of an assassination attempt against Vice President Dick Cheney at a U.S. base in Afghanistan. Cheney wasn't hurt. But at least 15 people were killed in that car bombing. The Taliban and al Qaeda are now distributing videos apparently showing preparations for suicide bombings and even attacks being carried out.

We all remember the president's tough talk about Osama bin Laden right after 9/11.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, SEPTEMBER 17, 2001)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, wanted, dead or alive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: A lot of time has gone by since the president said that, so much that one Democratic senator recently asked whether the hunt had been abandoned altogether.

SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA: Does anybody hear anybody talking about Osama bin Laden, or, perhaps better described, Osama- been-forgotten these days?

ZAHN: But, in an exclusive interview obtained by Britain's Channel 4 News, a senior Taliban commander says al Qaeda is still fighting in Afghanistan, and he says Osama bin Laden is still alive.

MULLAH DADULLAH, TALIBAN COMMANDER (through translator): We exchange messages with each other to share plans. We also go to the battlefield together. We actually meet very rarely, just for important consultations. It's hard for anyone to meet bin Laden himself now. But we know he's still alive. His comrades stand shoulder to shoulder with us. They keep us informed.

ZAHN: The U.S. director of national intelligence told Congress this week that bin Laden is most likely in the rugged lawless provinces of Pakistan, setting up terrorist training camps.

JOHN "MIKE" MCCONNELL, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: To the best of our knowledge, that the senior leadership, number one and number two, are there, and they are attempting to reestablish and rebuild and to establish training camps.

ZAHN: Vice President Cheney is demanding that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf go after al Qaeda and the Taliban more aggressively, before bin Laden and his followers are strong enough to attack again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Now, it may be a coincidence, but, earlier today, Pakistan security forces told Reuters, a news agency, that they have just captured the number-three man on the Taliban's leadership council. There's no indication that Osama bin Laden, though, is about to be caught any time soon.

Let's bring in CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.

Always good to see you, Peter. Welcome.

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: So, the United States has been putting an awful lot of pressure on Pakistan to crush the Taliban leadership. So, here we are, some six years after a major arrest of -- of a Taliban leader. What do you make of the timing of this?

BERGEN: Well, certainly, the fact that the Pakistanis managed to find this guy Mullah Obaidullah, the number -- supposedly the number three in the Taliban, and arrest him, according to these reports from Reuters, that -- I mean, there is -- I mean, it's right at the same time that Vice President Cheney, more or less, was visiting Pakistan.

So, to me, it sort of indicates that Pakistani security forces do perhaps have an idea about where some of these senior Taliban leaders are, contrary to denials that they have issued in the past.

I mean, it is the universally held view of U.S. military officials in Afghanistan that the Taliban senior leadership is in Pakistan. And this arrest seems to demonstrate that, because, after all, this guy was arrested in Pakistan.

ZAHN: Sure.

Could the Pakistani security forces deliver Osama bin Laden if they wanted to?

BERGEN: I don't -- No. I think that that's a tough one, because bin Laden isn't doing the sort of things that get you caught.

You get caught by making cell phone calls, satellite phone calls. He hasn't made any of those for years. You get caught because somebody drops a dime on you because they want to pick up a reward. There's been a reward for bin Laden now going back until 1999 -- no takers. The people in his immediate circle are not motivated by money. And, finally, he can make a mistake. Eventually, he will make a mistake. He's a human being. Human beings make mistakes. But, so far, he's just proving to be very security conscious.

And, Paula, he didn't start getting security conscious, you know, after September 11. He's been like this, you know, for years -- for decades, very careful about the people he meets, et cetera.

ZAHN: One of the most chilling things I heard in the testimony yesterday came from the former head of the -- the -- the CIA bin Laden unit, where he said that he believes that al Qaeda today was planning to make yet another attack that would make September 11 look like a day at the beach.

What is al Qaeda capable of pulling off at this stage?

BERGEN: I think that it's difficult for them to attack United States.

Paula, you may remember, in summer of 2006, there was an attempt to bring down 10 American airliners with liquid explosives. Now -- and that was an al Qaeda operation directed from Pakistan, according to U.S. intelligence.

Now, if that attack had happened, thousands of people would have been killed. A lot of Americans would have been killed. But that attack -- you know, al Qaeda is smart enough to try and attack America targets outside the United States. That attack was supposed to happen in Britain.

So, I think that they have been damaged. The United States government is making -- made us safer. The American Muslim community has rejected the al Qaeda ideology almost entirely.

And, so, you know, it's still tough for them to attack. But, you know, you mentioned earlier in your piece that -- this idea of al Qaeda regrouping. And there's no doubt about that. And, if they can attack in London, as they did last year, killing 56 people in -- in July of 2005, they're -- they're at the point where they can really reach out thousands of miles from their home base.

And, of course, eventually, they will try and attack us. And, unfortunately, eventually, they will succeed.

ZAHN: Well, that was terrifying to listen to all that terror -- testimony yesterday.

Peter Bergen, thank you so much for giving us a better perspective on all that tonight.

We're going to move on now.

Since he left the White House, a former president has earned so much money, he makes "The Six Million Dollar Man" look poor. Wait until you hear the grand total. It's out in the open next. Then, a little bit later on: In this land of plenty, are you living in a food desert? Are you being discriminated against, having to drive twice as far as anybody else simply to buy groceries?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Out in the open next: the $40 million man. In the six years since he left the White House, Bill Clinton has been raking in big bucks. Well, now that his wife is running for president, the Clintons' family finances are under new scrutiny.

And, as senior national correspondent John Roberts reports, the numbers are raising an awful lot of eyebrows.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Dow may go up and down, and the economy grow and slow, but there's not even a hiccup in the earning potential of Bill Clinton Incorporated.

KEN BAZINET, "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": He is probably the Daniel Webster of our day, you know, hypnotic, provocative, oratory, that just mesmerizes the crowd. And whether that crowd is a group of CEOs or the larger Kiwanis Club, if you will, he owns his audiences.

ROBERTS: So, how much does he own? According to financial disclosure forms filed by his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton, in 2005, he was paid nearly $7.5 million for 43 speaking engagements.

The numbers for 2006 aren't in yet, but it's estimated he did even better, taking home $9 million to $10 million. Some critics have a problem with that.

Conservative columnist Cal Thomas blasted Clinton's "greed," accusing him of cashing in with "shameless abandon."

Thomas also wonders if foreign governments and businesses have been buying influence. Clinton was paid handsomely for speeches by a Saudi Arabian investment firm, a Chinese real estate company run by a Communist Party official, and a Canadian company founded by a Kenyan immigrant convicted of stock fraud.

Thomas turned down our request for an interview.

And what about the intersection of money and politics? Some of Clinton's biggest paydays have come from Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, which count as the top two donors to his wife's political career.

Conservatives, long suspicious of the Clintons' financial dealings, wonder if some of those enormous speaking fees could end up financing Hillary's presidential campaign.

GROVER NORQUIST, PRESIDENT, AMERICANS FOR TAX REFORM: Certainly, the campaign finance laws don't take into account that a husband could be getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks, while the wife's campaign is limited to $2,000 in checks. And that is what's happening in this case.

ROBERTS: Presidents cashing in on the speaking circuit is nothing new. Ronald Reagan took in $2 million from a single speech in Japan right after he left office.

But the granddaddy of all paydays belong to George Bush Sr. He took stock options for a speech to the telecom startup Global Crossing, instead of his usual $80,000 fee. The value of those options soared to nearly $15 million.

BAZINET: But Bill Clinton takes it to a whole new level, because we have never been in a situation where you see a former president who is now campaigning so that his wife might be a future president. And, because of that, I think that -- that both Clintons are going to have to get used to the fact that there's going to be, you know, massive scrutiny. And I think, again, it's fair game.

ROBERTS: Bill Clinton's office insists, there is no connection between his speaking connections and political donations.

But, when asked if he would continue to give speeches to his wife's donors as the campaign heats up, Clinton spokesperson Jay Carson: We will cross that bridge when we come to it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: As for the former president being greedy, his spokesman says, Clinton gave 352 speeches last year, and was paid for only 20 percent of them.

The rest were fund-raisers for either his Clinton Foundation or other charities, to which he donated his time. The past two years, according to his office, charity events that Clinton headlined grossed more than $11 million.

And, Paula, we should point out that the front-runner on the Republican side of the political equation in the run for president, Rudy Giuliani, is still giving paid speeches himself -- Paula.

ZAHN: If I remember those numbers from an article I just read, just his speaking fees alone brought in $8 million last year?

ROBERTS: Nine to 10 million.

ZAHN: Nine to 10.

ROBERTS: He's -- he's bumping it up every year.

ZAHN: Oh, off by a million or two, yes.

ROBERTS: He gets more successful every year.

ZAHN: John Roberts, thanks. Appreciate it.

Our "Out in the Open" panel is standing by, ready to weigh in. With me tonight, Karen Hunter, Pulitzer Prize winner and professor of journalism at New York's Hunter College, Marc Lamont Hill, professor of urban education and American studies at Temple University, and Mark Smith, who is a constitutional lawyer and a conservative commentator.

Welcome, all.

Let's take another look at some of former President Clinton's earnings. And we will put it in two separate graphics to give you an idea of what he made for the speeches and overall over the last five years.

Now that his wife is running for president, is he ethically bound to cut back on any of these speaking engagements?

MARC LAMONT HILL, PROFESSOR OF URBAN EDUCATION AND AMERICAN STUDIES, TEMPLE UNIVERSITY: Absolutely not.

I mean, I think the problem is that suddenly the right is up in arms because it's Clinton. But, for years, Reagan, Bush Sr. -- and certainly Bush Jr. will do it in the future as well -- they have all cashed in on their presidential status.

So, my concern isn't that Clinton is making money. We do need to think, though, about what it means for him to get money from companies who are funding Hillary's campaign. That's the ethical issue that comes up. But we need to confront that, but not say he can't make money.

ZAHN: How thorny of an issue is that?

(LAUGHTER)

MARK SMITH, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY: You know, here's the thing, Paula.

Bill Clinton is perfectly allowed to make as much money as he can make. That's fine.

ZAHN: Yes. Isn't that what capitalism is about?

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: Exactly. That's fine.

But the problem is, with the Clintons, not just now, but in the past -- and it's going to haunt Hillary in this upcoming presidential election -- is, even when they do things legally, it often smells bad.

ZAHN: Well, what smells bad right now?

SMITH: Well, let's -- what smells bad?

Here is a guy who is making $40 million, much of which from people who -- or companies that are in a position to help his wife get elected to the White House or who have interests that are being regulated by the United States Senate, of which his wife is.

KAREN HUNTER, JOURNALISM PROFESSOR, HUNTER COLLEGE: This sounds like jealousy. This sounds like pure jealousy.

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: No, no, no.

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: In fact -- let me finish.

HUNTER: You -- you want to make this money, don't you?

SMITH: No.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNTER: Tell the truth. Tell the truth.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNTER: You would love to make this money.

(LAUGHTER)

HUNTER: If you could, you would make it, right?

SMITH: I'm sorry. I don't under...

HUNTER: You would want to make this money, if you could?

SMITH: Money. Of course I would. Of course.

HUNTER: Right?

SMITH: And Bill Clinton is allowed to make the money.

But the point is, even when the Clintons act legally, they often do it in a way that looks bad for the Clintons.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNTER: Because people like you and people like Cal Thomas make an issue of it.

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: Remember when they pardoned -- remember when they pardoned Marc Rich?

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: They pardoned Marc Rich legally, but it looks bad.

Remember when Hillary Clinton made $100,000 off cattle futures? (CROSSTALK)

HILL: But I just want to see that -- but I just want to see that indignation across the board.

(CROSSTALK)

SMITH: The point is, he can legally do it, but it always looks bad.

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: Enron looks bad. Halliburton looks bad. Across the board, we need to check out corporate greed.

SMITH: It always looks bad for the Clintons.

HILL: We need to check out people who are doing things that are unethical.

HUNTER: Is it greed to get paid for speeches?

HILL: No.

HUNTER: Is it greed to...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: That's not the point. But what is the concern about potential conflicts of interest down the road, if, in fact...

HUNTER: Let's deal with it when it comes.

ZAHN: ...he's taking speaking feeds from corporations that might ultimately end up funding his wife's campaign?

HUNTER: But is that what we're dealing with right now? Is that's what's on the table right now? Has he taken money from corporations that are backing Clinton -- I mean Hillary?

HILL: Oh, absolutely. Oh, he is.

SMITH: Well, of course. Of course.

HILL: That's part of the problem, is that many of the companies that are giving him money are going to offer support to Hillary because they...

HUNTER: Are going to.

HILL: No, these companies offered support to Bill.

ZAHN: But that is the question, whether that's a quid pro quo or not.

HILL: Well, that's the ethical concern that we have. And we have no reason, as you just said, to say that it's going to be a quid pro quo, but it very well could be. And that's what raises the eyebrow.

We need to -- we need to keep a close on this, but it's too early to say that they've done anything wrong.

ZAHN: And there's no precedence for this. You've never had an ex-president whose wife is running for president.

HUNTER: I can't believe we're talking about this -- in a capitalist nation, we're talking about how much money somebody -- we're trying to restrict how much money somebody can get...

ZAHN: But no one is attacking the amount of money he's making.

HUNTER: Oh, yes. Cal Thomas called him greedy.

ZAHN: Well, I know, he called him...

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: But none of us here are talking about that tonight. We're talking about the potential conflict.

SMITH: And there is an ethical issue here. Bear in mind that Bill and Hillary share the same checking book, the same checking account. So any money that you pay to Bill goes in to Hillary's checking account for her to right checks. That's the problem with spousal donations and the like.

HILL: Right. And if she rejects private campaign -- public campaign funding, then much of the money that he's getting will go to her campaign. That's a concern. But at the same time, we can't be selectively indignant.

We also need to worry about all the people on the right who do the very same thing. It seems that when it comes to the Clintons, they get this special treatment and this special scrutiny. We need to look at this across the board.

ZAHN: I bet you Rudy Giuliani is going to...

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: He needs to.

ZAHN: No?

HILL: He's still charging for speeches and he's about to run for president. He is running for president.

ZAHN: Well maybe -- you're the guy we're going to put in charge.

We're going to take a short break here. Don't move. We've got a lot more to debate tonight. "Out in the Open" next, a scandal in cities all over America. Do you live near a well-stocked supermarket? And what people call a food desert, where a lot of people feel they're being discriminated against simply because of the color of their skin.

Also, a congressman who's under a cloud, under a investigation, gets an assignment on homeland security after trying to fight some bribery charges. How did that happen?

Coming up, my "Headline" crime colleague Glenn Beck. He's outraged.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: "Out in the Open" tonight, a different kind of discrimination threatening even the health of many Americans. Millions of people are living in what many call food deserts. Imagine living in a crowded neighborhood, in a big city, and having to travel for miles just to find fresh fruit or meat.

Keith Oppenheim reports from Chicago's south side, where right now more grocery stores are closing and creating quite a crisis.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): On Chicago's south side, Helen Bradley trudges through the ice with two bags of food and two jugs of Hawaiian Punch. For everyday groceries, this 51- year-old grandmother walks a mile to a Dollar Store.

(on camera): Does it get you mad that there's not a grocery store nearby?

HELEN BRADLEY, CHICAGO RESIDENT: Yes, it gets me very upset and gets my kids upset.

OPPENHEIM (voice over): Helen has five mouths to feed. She does all the shopping without a car and without a full-sized grocery store in her neighborhood.

BRADLEY: Plus, I have to catch about three buses to get to the bigger store.

OPPENHEIM (on camera): Three buses?

BRADLEY: Three buses.

OPPENHEIM (voice over): Urban planners say grocery stores are an anchor in any neighborhood, but Helen lives in what's called a food desert, where fast food and liquor stores are plentiful and grocery stores with fresh produce and meats are scarce.

BRADLEY: Some people don't understand because they're in cars. They have much more money than I have. But I have to come so far to get the things that I need. OPPENHEIM: Helen says she can't get what she wants from the local convenience stores. Only full-size markets have the fresh fruits, vegetables and quality meats that her family needs. But most are more than two miles from her house. A round trip can take an hour and a half.

(on camera): Is it stressful?

BRADLEY: It's very stressful because sometimes the bags -- the bag is not small enough.

OPPENHEIM: When you're on the bus?

BRADLEY: Yes.

OPPENHEIM (voice over): Helen Bradley is not alone.

MARI GALLAGHER, RESEARCH CONSULTANT: And what we found is that for a half-million Chicagoans, it is very difficult to get to the grocery store.

OPPENHEIM: A 2006 study showed Chicago's driest food deserts are in predominantly African-American, low-income neighborhoods. In fact, the reports said, compared to whites, Chicago's blacks travel 50 percent farther to get groceries.

GALLAGHER: You potentially could suffer in terms of your health outcomes. You might be more likely to have diabetes or hypertension or some kind of diet-related disease.

LEDONNA REDMOND, CHICAGO STATE UNIVERSITY: It drives you kind of crazy, because you're like, well, what's wrong with my community that we don't have access to a supermarket?

OPPENHEIM: Ledonna Redmond is an activist pushing for government to rethink food access as a public health issues. She argues grocery stores should be subsidized so they can survive in the inner city.

REDMOND: It would protect the quality of life for millions of Americans if we did so.

OPPENHEIM: In fact, in Chicago, the city does provide tax incentives to entice grocery chains to build in the so-called deserts, especially in neighborhoods that are starting to revive.

LORI HEALEY, COMM. OF PLANNING & REDEVELOPMENT: We are encouraging them to look -- to take a leap and look at a neighborhood that might be marginal on their model.

OPPENHEIM: But in an industry where profit margins are tight, it can be a tough sell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Supermarkets and any other business want to go where they can get the best return on their investment. They are not in the social welfare business.

OPPENHEIM: So, right now, with the free market determining the location of the supermarket...

BRADLEY: I understand they have to make money, but they have to -- we have money, too.

OPPENHEIM: ... shoppers like Helen Bradley are left feeling her dollars count less and that she will have to do more just to get to the grocery store.

Keith Oppenheim, CNN, Chicago.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Let's go back to our "Out in the Open" panel to see what they have to think about this -- Karen Hunter, Marc Lamont Hill, Mark Smith.

Welcome back.

HUNTER: Thank you.

ZAHN: It's really hard to here Helen talk about what she has to go through just to get fresh food. Is this, though, discrimination or just sheer economics?

(CROSSTALK)

HUNTER: Before we get to this serious issue, I'm just sick of day in and down out talking about poor black folks and everything that black folks are going through as if this is not a countrywide problem, because it is. All these issues are countrywide problems.

All these issues affect all of us -- how to get healthy food, or else 28 percent of white folks wouldn't be obese if it wasn't an issue. But this smacks of racism.

My dad had a grocery store for 16 years in Newark and he did very well. And for people to think that it's a leap to put a store in a neighborhood and that people won't patron it is silly. Just ask Magic Johnson, who's made a mint putting high-end stores in black neighborhoods.

ZAHN: But there is a reason why these grocery stores aren't going into these -- we heard in some cases some of these neighborhoods are just starting to come back.

HILL: Well, absolutely. And it's cheaper in the suburbs to build -- to get land. And they figure people who want to go to the supermarket will just travel far away. But that is a problem, and I do agree with you that does speak to a structural racist issue here.

It's not that people are saying we don't want black people to have healthy food. But there is a wanton indifference to the lives and health of black people. If this were a wealthy, rich neighborhood, there would be a supermarket there. If these were poor white people there would be supermarkets there. But the fact is, these are everyday poor black and brown people, and there's no concern for them.

(CROSSTALK)

HILL: There's no concern for them.

SMITH: Exactly...

ZAHN: What about the grocery store owners that say, hey, look, a lot of these people are buying processed food. You know, we can't tell them to eat fresh food. We can't tell them what's best for their health. These are very personal choices people have to make about food.

SMITH: Right. Exactly. The only discrimination that may be going on here is not between black and white. It's about green.

At the end of the day, people who open grocery stores or movie theaters or anything are in it to make money. And what's happening is, if people are not able to make money in these areas...

HUNTER: How do they know they're not able to make money if they never tried? How do they know they're not going to make money?.

SMITH: Of course they've tried, because -- of course they've tried over and over. And if there's an opportunity to make money, they will make money.

HUNTER: Where have they tried over and over?

SMITH: The problems in places like south Chicago, the south side of Chicago, is they have a heavy-duty crime problem. And crime drives out prosperity. Crime drives out jobs. Crime drives out people who were willing -- excuse me.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNTER: They still have to eat.

SMITH: Crime drives out people who want to open business and provide services, because it makes it so expensive.

HILL: That's why it's so critical to think about this as not just as an economic issue, but as a public health issue. People are dying every day.

Every time a supermarket is added to a black neighborhood, the fruit and vegetable intake goes up by 32 percent. People live better when -- this should be a government problem. The government intervenes on the market all the time to save major corporations, to save multinational corporations, to save the rich. The government can intervene right now and provide public-private partnerships to save these organizations.

ZAHN: Well, they are providing some financial incentives.

(CROSSTALK) HILL: I'm talking about subsidies. Assuming the risks and the rewards of building a supermarket.

HUNTER: I think there's an opportunity now -- I think there's an opportunity now for people to now go into the communities and open stores like we used to do back in the day when we were self-sufficient and not depending on anybody to help us. And I think that whole mindset needs to come back.

HILL: But part of our rights as citizens is to receive things from the government. It is important for us to receive support from the government and for them to intervene the same they intervene for rich people, the same way they intervene for a whole bunch of white folks.

ZAHN: All right, Marc. We've got to leave it there.

Karen Hunter, Marc Lamont Hill, Mark Smith -- oh, my gosh, two Marks here tonight.

SMITH: That's right.

ZAHN: Oh, it only took me 10 minutes to figure that out.

HILL: Marc squared.

ZAHN: Yes. The right Marc and the left Mark.

A congressman who is under investigation by the FBI has just been put on one of the most sensitive committees on Capitol Hill. My "Headline Prime" colleague, Glenn Beck, has some doubts about that. Why if he was taken off the Armed Services Committee he would be put on the Homeland Security Committee, that's "Out in the Open" next.

And then a little bit later on, how journalist Daniel Pearl's shocking kidnapping and death gave his father a new mission in life.

We'll be back with more.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Every week about this time we like to sit down with outspoken "Headline Prime" host Glenn Beck to hear what's on his mind. This week he is really fired up about the appointment of Democratic Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana to the Homeland Security Committee, even though Jefferson was thrown off another House committee after being accused of taking $90,000 in bribe money and stashing it in his freezer.

Glenn Beck, thanks for stopping by.

Don't laugh.

GLENN BECK: It's like a bad "Scooby-Doo" episode. It is.

ZAHN: But the House... (CROSSTALK)

BECK: He's got $90,000 -- I know. That's what's...

ZAHN: All right. Has he been found guilty of a bribery scam?

BECK: No, no, no. Has not been found guilty, but still investigating.

ZAHN: All right. Do you believe in the concept of innocent until proven guilty?

BECK: Oh, absolutely. Do you believe in the concept of common sense? We don't throw him off of one committee because he's got $90,000 in his freezer and he can't really explain it, and then put him on Homeland Security. To men, that just shows common sense in America is dead.

ZAHN: But the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, has argued that he can play a critical role in bringing back New Orleans. After all, his district was one of the hardest ones hit during Hurricane Katrina.

BECK: Yes.

ZAHN: Does he have nothing of value to add to that process? Doesn't he have any understanding of what needs to be done there?

BECK: Seeing that the -- that the state of Louisiana is the most corrupt state in the union, I personally think that we should probably back off anybody who we suspect of corruption, getting them anywhere near the money to spend for the recovery of the victims of Katrina.

ZAHN: Let's move on to Condoleezza Rice and some of the controversy she's stirring by going on record saying that sometime next month the United States will have contact with leaders of Syria and Iran. Senator Richard Lugar, a widely respected senator, is saying this is a very constructive step.

Do you agree?

BECK: For what -- constructive for what reason? If we really think that we're...

ZAHN: In some way establishing a dialogue between these countries and perhaps coming up with a way to make Iraq ultimately a more secure place?

BECK: Right. The question that I would have to ask is, does anybody really think that a country who says we're going to destroy you, we're going to wipe Israel off the map, and we're building nuclear weapons and you can't stop us, does anybody think that they are someone we should have deals with?

ZAHN: I'm not talking about deals. I'm just talking about simple conversation.

(CROSSTALK)

BECK: I have no problem with conversation. I subscribe to the Corleone theory, which is, keep your friends close to you and your enemies closer.

ZAHN: One last issue for you to weigh in on tonight...

BECK: Yes.

ZAHN: Something you've been really upset about on your show, this whole idea that Bank of America has of extending access to credit cards for people whose Social Security numbers may not even exist at all.

This is a practice that other banks have done.

BECK: Sure.

ZAHN: Citigroup has done this before.

So what's the big deal?

BECK: I want to know who is who. I don't want anybody doing business with banks -- why is it hateful or racist or whatever, unreasonable, to ask, let's identify people? Let's make sure when you're doing money transactions, even small ones, let's make sure we know who you are with the bank.

We can have the argument of whether we ship everybody back who's here illegally or we give them all amnesty. We can have that argument. Let's just secure the borders first. I want no move towards any kind of discussion on the other side until we secure the border.

ZAHN: Back to Bank of America, final thought, though. Essentially, you're saying if you don't have a Social Security number, no bank in America should ever give you a credit card?

BECK: Yes. I don't think if we can't identify who you are, no, I don't think so.

ZAHN: Glenn Beck, thanks.

BECK: Thank you.

ZAHN: Always good to see you.

BECK: You bet.

ZAHN: And he will be back next week.

We're still watching tonight's breaking story. In a little bit, we'll take you back to the Alabama high school that was hit by tornadoes this afternoon. The amount of devastation is absolutely incredible. Look at how little is left.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Time now for a quick "BizBreak".

(BUSINESS REPORT)

ZAHN: Five years after the killing of "Wall Street Journal" reporter Daniel Pearl, his story is more "Out in the Open" than ever before, with a movie coming out this summer. But Daniel Pearl's father has also been building a powerful memorial to his son's life.

Ali Velshi has that story in tonight's "Life After Work".

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JUDEA PEARL, DANIEL PEARL'S FATHER: Our weapon is the image of Danny. The icon of an American who was decent, who give gave without asking in return, who constantly stretched his hand in friendship to the Muslim world.

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Judea Pearl is the caretaker of that icon. His son, Daniel Pearl, was killed five years ago by terrorists in Pakistan. After Daniel's death, Judea and his wife channeled their grief into action, launching a foundation in their son's name that combats religious and cultural intolerance.

PEARL: The Daniel Pearl Foundation was founded to continue the spirit of Daniel in terms of spreading friendship and love of music and understanding among various cultures.

VELSHI: Pearl is semi-retired from his work as a professor at UCLA due to the time he spends on the foundation's programs, touring the world to host town hall meetings on issues that divide Jews and Muslims and planning the Daniel Pearl World Music Day, a series of global concerts.

PEARL: It's the same message that I hear from Danny every day when he talks to me. To the Muslim people, the message is, we are not your enemy. We have a common enemy that we must fight together. And to the western world, the message is, the world expects us to delivers hopes, humanity, pluralism, understanding. And we will.

VELSHI: Ali Velshi, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: What a loving father.

Coming up next, we're going to go back to Alabama for the very latest on the aftermath of those killer tornadoes. A lot of new pictures are coming in. You're not going to believe just how devastating this tornado was.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: We quickly go back to tonight's breaking news and some amazing new video of this very powerful tornado that hit Alabama this afternoon. Eighteen people dead tonight because of this storm. Fifteen of those deaths were at a high school in the town of Enterprise.

It's not until we saw these pictures that we really gained an understanding of just how wide a swathe this storm cut.

Let's turn to Jamie McIntyre, who has been in Enterprise all day long surveying the damage.

How bad is it, Jamie?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: It is pretty bad, Paula. And, of course, now the wind and the rain are picking up as well.

Just a short time ago, a very somber mayor of Enterprise said that he doesn't believe the town has ever been hit by anything -- any kind of a tornado this powerful. And just looking at all the twisted wreckage, the bent steel, the rubble, the cars turned upside down, you can see how this had the force to kill 15 people at this high school in Enterprise and two people elsewhere, and another across the state of Alabama.

They're just really reeling from this, and they're still doing house-to-house searches, trying to make sure that everybody is accounted for as darkness closes in on this disaster site behind me -- Paula.

ZAHN: Do they think everybody is accounted for? It's just very hard to know because of how hard it is to get into some of these areas where roofs are collapsed?

MCINTYRE: Well, they hope everybody is accounted for. But at this point, they really don't know.

I mean, there are a lot of people, there was a lot of confusion. They're trying to sort it out.

ZAHN: Jamie McIntyre, a heartbreaker to see all those pictures. Thank you so much for the update.

That wraps it up for all of us here at CNN. We' will stay with the coverage of the situation in Alabama all night long.

Thank you so much for joining us tonight.

Good night.

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