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Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto Takes a New Tough Stance; A Barrage of Bullets; Bird Flu in Britain; O.J. Simpson Back in Court
Aired November 13, 2007 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: You're with CNN, you're informed. Hi, everybody, I'm Heidi Collins. Developments keep coming into the NEWSROOM on Tuesday, the 13th day of November and here's what's on the rundown.
Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto takes a new tough stance. She says President Musharraf has to go.
A barrage of bullet. New York police opens fire on a teenager. Did a hairbrush cost a young man his life?
Keeping them honest. This man says the U.S. has sentenced him to Syria for torture; he's waiting for an apology in the NEWSROOM.
Want to get directly to London this morning. Our Phil Black is standing by to tell us a little bit more about this potential case of deadly bird flu. This is the same strain, Phil, that was found in Asia.
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Heidi, that's right. A Bird Flu here in an area of Britain known as (INAUDIBLE) and test has confirmed where health authorities and bird farmers have most feared. It is the H5N1 strain of the disease. It is what scientist called highly pathogenic. It can spread very quickly through bird populations and it has the potential to jump from birds to humans.
Now, it is being found on what is a relatively small farm about 6,000 birds, turkeys, ducks and geese. But the concern is very real. Because it is in region where there are millions of birds being found, being reared particularly in the lead-up to the busy Christmas period and there are fears, also, that this disease has the potential to jump not just from bird to bird but also as we have seen around the world often with fatal consequences from bird to human, also.
It's not the first time Britain has faced this disease this year. It's developing a little bit of experience here and around February; a particular turkey farm was found to have an outbreak. They culled some 130,000 birds at that time and the disease was contained then, Heidi.
COLLINS: All right, Phil. We know you will stay on top of this one for us. Thanks so much.
Word of a deadly blast in the Philippines this morning. It happened outside of parliament in the capital. It is reported a driver of a lawmaker was killed in the explosion. Nine people were injured including three lawmakers. Police have cordoned off the area now and an investigation is under way. We're going to keep you updated on that story.
Also, Pakistan, a critical U.S. ally. Today, it's future and its democracy uncertain. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto is under house arrest now but she is on the attack and reaching out to CNN. CNN Zain Verjee is in Lahore. She is joining us now by phone. Hi, Zain, what is the latest?
VOICE OF ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, Benazir Bhutto's rally was pretty much a bust. I mean, it really felt flat. There were no masses out on the streets protesting in support of her. There were some minor clashes between some of her supporters and police that happened in Lahore and on the outskirts of Karachi.
But really, it was nothing major. Benazir Bhutto as you said is under house arrest. The order is for seven days. She was barricaded with barbwire barriers and hundreds of armed security forces but the atmosphere was pretty relaxed. There wasn't really a tense standoff. It really had a feel of a state (INAUDIBLE) -- Heidi?
COLLINS: So, I mean, this was supposed to be a very large protest, Zain and now that it has not happened, what does that mean sort of in the big scheme of things.
VERJEE: One of the most significant things that happened today was that Benazir Bhutto basically said that she was not going to work after all with General Musharraf in any kind of government. She said explicitly that he has got to go. He has to leave both as president as well as army chief. And that hardening of the rhetoric is pretty significant.
A lot of analysts here is saying that she's not going to have any kind of deal with Musharraf and a split is inevitable. And that could be more dangerous to Pakistan's stability. The U.S. was hoping that there would be some kind of power sharing arrangement but it doesn't seem to be going that way.
COLLINS: Yes, exactly. We thought that maybe they could work together. At least, when she first arrived in the country. CNN's Zain Verjee coming to us by telephone in Lahore, Pakistan. Zain, thank you.
An unarmed teen gunned down by police. Witnesses say all he had on him was a hairbrush. So, how are police explaining the shooting scene? Alina Cho is in Brooklyn this morning. Alina, an awful lot of question on this story.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right at this hour, just 16 hours after the shooting, Heidi. Safe to say more questions than answers but having said that here is what CNN has confirmed by police at this hour. Just after 7:00 last night, police say they responded to a 911 call that was made by the victim's mother. On that 911 call police say you can hear a man in the background yelling, I've got a gun, I've got a gun. Police say he was saying this repeatedly. They then responded to the scene. At some point, the young man, remember, just 18 years old, climbed out of the first floor apartment window and crossed the sidewalk toward police. Police say at that point he was carrying some sort of black object underneath his shirt. Police then fired 20 shots in all and when all was said and done, it turned out he was not carrying a weapon but a hairbrush.
Now, within the past hour, a New York City councilman came here to the area and talked with residence. Here's what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES BARRON, NYC COUNCIL MEMBER: How many times are they going to come on the scene and it leads to an unnecessary killing. This young man should still be alive today. His mother should be able to call the police department and get protection, not like she is dialing "m" for murder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHO: Now police say they cannot officially confirm this but they say they do believe, some point earlier in the day, the boy's mother tried to get her son committed to a psychiatric hospital. Obviously, that didn't happen. There are some reports that say the 18-year-old had a history of mental problems but people who live around here, Heidi, say they don't care about that. They say 20 shots, equals excessive force.
And in fact, the reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network has opened its own investigation into the shooting. The Reverend Al Sharpton will not be here but representatives will be holding a news conference not far from where I'm standing later this afternoon -- Heidi?
COLLINS: Hey Alina, a couple of quick questions for you. You may not know the answers but in some of the witnesses, it sound like that we have been hearing here. They said that this young man was actually put into handcuffs and loaded into the police car. But obviously we know, he was mortally wounded in all of this. Any idea why that would have happened in that manner?
CHO: Well, according to most reports, Heidi, the young man was handcuffed after he was shot. He was then taken to the hospital and that is where he was pronounced dead. So that is a bit of an explainer on that. But one thing to keep in mind going forward is that what will be critical in this investigation, as police look into exactly what happened is that 911 tape. If the mother did in fact mention a gun, if the young man was heard in the background saying I have a gun. I have a gun. That will provide a lot of insight into the officer's frame of mind as they rushed to the scene.
COLLINS: Yes, again, I'm not sure you'll be able to verify this or not. But apparently, the 911 operator actually asked the mother whether or not the young man had a gun and she said, you heard it from his mouth. CHO: That's absolutely right. That is according to the New York City deputy police commissioner. Not sure, also, if police will be talking further about this today but what we're hearing is that it will come at the highest levels. Either from the deputy police commissioner or from the commissioner himself, Ray Kelly.
COLLINS: Clearly a very bad situation all around. All right, CNN's Alina Cho. Great job. Thanks, Alina. Live from Brooklyn this morning.
New developments and new insights into that embarrassing gaff on Hillary Clinton's campaign trail. Her presidential campaign taking flack for apparently having a college student ask her a scripted question. CNN talked to the 19-year-old who is a sophomore Grinnell College in Iowa, in an exclusive taped interview. The student said the question was clutched from a page of prepared question. She says she now sees that practice as dishonest and says it has soured her outlook on politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MURIEL GALLO-CHASANOFF: It's possible that all campaigns do these kind of tactics. I don't know. But personally, I want to know I have someone who is honest. Representing me and I think the question and answer sessions are especially in Iowa are really important. That's where the voters get to have a real genuine conversation with this politician who can be representing them and they get to voice the concerns. And something when you're planning the questions in advance that just takes that whole conversation out of it. Takes it out of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Clinton's campaign says the senator was unaware of the so-called plant and the incident will not happen again. If you would like to read more CNN's exclusive interview with the student who says she asked Clinton the question, just go to cnnpolitics.com.
The democratic presidential candidates are hitting the strip. Next week. All bets are off as the democrats clash again in Las Vegas with CNN's Wolf Blitzer and "The Best Political Team" on television that's Thursday, November 15th 8:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.
O.J. Simpson back in court this hour. Will a judge order him to stand trial on robbery and kidnapping charges? Want to go live now to CNN's Dan Simon. He was following the action outside the courthouse in Las Vegas. Dan, we just saw a moment ago O.J. Simpson arriving.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Heidi. All the players are now inside the courtroom. Things should get under way here within the next few minutes. This should be a better day for the prosecution. I think it's fair to say that last week, not so good for the prosecution. Two witnesses expected to take the stand today, Michael McClinton and Walter Alexander.
They are expected to bolster the prosecution's contention that O.J. Simpson really pulled all the strings with respect to this alleged robbery. That he told the participants, the co-defendants to bring weapons into that hotel room. Two people as we've heard in previous testimony, apparently had weapons with them. This being the third day of this preliminary hearing.
We're expecting to hear from four witnesses today. Again, Michael McClinton and Walter Alexander. Alexander, he has described himself as a former golfing buddy of O.J. Simpson. Somebody who is friends with him. You have to wonder what the relationship is like now after he took his plea deal in exchange for his testimony. An interesting side note to all this, Heidi. Michael McClinton, one of the men who again is expected to testify today. He's expected in another courtroom to plead guilty with respect to his involvement in this case. He's pleading guilty to robbery and conspiracy. So, another wrinkle in all of this. Again, Heidi, testimony expected in the next couple of minutes.
Back to you.
COLLINS: Hey, Dan, any chance that we will learn whether or not, I know a lot of the testimony is going to be about whether or not O.J. Simpson actually said that he wanted guns involved in this incident that happened in Vegas. Is it likely that we'll learn whether or not that was the case?
SIMON: Well, Walter Alexander is expected to testify that O.J. Simpson told him to bring a gun into the hotel room and, also, said something to the effect of when you walk in there; I want you to look tough. So, from that perspective, it could be damaging to the defense. In the sense that here you have a guy who says O.J. Simpson told him in advance, have a gun. And McClinton is expected to basically say the same thing.
COLLINS: All right. CNN's Dan Simon watching the action in Vegas for us today. And you can see the O.J. Simpson hearing live if you'd like to. It is streaming all day on cnn.com.
New questions surround the sudden death of Donda West this morning. She's the mother of hip hop mogul Kanye West. An official from the LA County Sheriff Coroner's office says there are initial indications Donda West may have died because of complications from surgery. No word on what kind of surgery but a plastic surgeon who claims to have operated on West, told the celebrity Web site, TMZ, he did nothing wrong and says her death could have been caused by other medical problems. An autopsy will be done tomorrow. Donda West died Saturday at age 58.
Just in time for your holiday trip gas prices predicted to climb again. How much? You might not want to know but it could be a new record.
COLLINS: You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Heidi Collins. It was her birthday but U.S. Troops got the gift.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALI HILBERT, SENT GIFTS TO TROOPS: I felt like just so happy that they really like what I did for them and they were just happy about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Oh, I love her. You'll meet the little girl with a very big heart.
COLLINS: Unfortunately, it may cost a lot more to visit mom this Thanksgiving. The government's top energy forecaster predicts gas prices will rise another 20 cents over the next two or three weeks. Right now, prices are already above $3 a gallon in some places. If we see this price jump in the pump though, we could break the all-time high of $3.22. So, big thanks in part to record oil prices near the $100 mark a barrel.
Headed home, the Pentagon drawing down forces from the so-called surge in Iraq. The first to leave a combat brigade from Fort Hood, Texas. The Pentagon says surge in attacks and sectarian violence are down and if it stays that way more troops could be heading home. And the number of troops in Iraq will be back to where it was before the increase.
Santa's helpers hurry up if you've got a family member serving in Iraq or Afghanistan you're going to want to get to the post office. Today is the last day. You can send packages or parcel post with delivery for Christmas. The next cut off for shipping November 27th that's for space available mail and of course if you're willing to pay a lot more, you can wait until December 4th. That is the deadline for priority and first class mail.
And speaking of toothpaste, socks, and snacks that's all a Pennsylvania girl wanted for her tenth birthday but the gift were not for her. Karin Mallet of WFMZ explains.
KARIN MALLET, WFMZ AFFILIATE: Giggling in grass skirts. Friends relishing the last few lazy days of summer. Memories of Ali Hilbert's 10th birthday, only one thing was missing.
ALI HILBERT, SENT GIFTS TO TROOPS: I just didn't really want anything for my birthday.
MALLET: Instead of gifts...
VERONICA HILBERT, MOTHER: She said, how about if we donate to the soldiers? And I said OK, but you know, you're not going to get anything then. You know, I mean, if you tell people to bring things, then she said that's OK. So, that's what we did.
MALLET: In lieu of presents, Ali requested her birthday guests to bring toothpaste and toothpicks, socks and snacks to be packaged up and sent to the troops.
A. HILBERT: I thought that they deserve to have some presents for my birthday.
MALLET: With 30 care packages ready to send, Ali and her family turned to the Internet and found this Web site soldiersangels.com. The founder provided Ali with an address. The packages reached Afghanistan and an Air Force Battalion who had recently lost a few of its airmen. Letters came back to Ali with thanks from a far away land.
A. HILBERT: I felt like just so happy that they really liked what I did for them and that they were just happy about that.
MALLET: With gratitude, the troops sent Ali an American flag that flew on an AH-63 Apache helicopter after September 11th.
MICHAEL O'PAKE, PENNSYLVANIA STATE SENATE: You always hear that one person can make a difference and every man should try. This young lady has already made a difference and it's going to grow from there.
MALLET: Ali's gift to the troops and the lesson that what you give comes back ten-fold. In Albany township, Karin Mallet, 69 news.
COLLINS: I really do love that story.
Coming out party for a girl born with eight limbs. A toddler shown to the media just days after a successful surgery. CNN's Liz Neisloss is in Bangalore India now with an update. We like this story an awful lot, too, Liz.
LIZ NEISLOSS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a really amazing story and doctors here, Heidi, are calling the true hero in the story the girl. The girl who underwent more than 27 hours of surgery. More than 30, a staff working to correct this very rare deformity that this child had. She had two extra arms, two extra legs. This was as a result of a twin that had been fused to her body. But doctors are very optimistic that the surgery was a success. They are now just watching to make sure that infection does not set in. And, Heidi, they actually think that in two months she could go home.
COLLINS: Wow, that's absolutely incredible. We love looking at these pictures. Liz Neisloss coming in today from Bangalore, India. Thank you, Liz.
To get your daily dose of health news on line, you can log on to our Web site you'll find the latest medical news. A health library and information on diet and fitness that address cnn.com/health.
Canadian accused of al Qaeda ties sent to Syria where he tells the tale of torture. Still waiting for Washington's apology. We're keeping them honest.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COLLINS: Fred Thompson getting a big endorsement in his run for the White House. Just this morning, the National Right To Life committee threw a support behind the GOP hopeful. The endorsement could energize Thompson's campaign. The poll numbers have dropped in Iowa and other areas in recent weeks.
From typical traveler to suspected terrorist, U.S. officials rerouted a man from home coming in Canada to detention in Syria where he says he was tortured for months. Now years later he is still waiting for Washington's apology and more. CNN's Jason Carroll is keeping them honest.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We now know Washington wanted to keep this story a secret. It was 2002, at JFK airport in New York. Almost exactly one year after the terrorist attack of 9/11. A husband is flying home on American Airlines Flight 65. He has a layover here to change planes and then suddenly he simply disappears. He never gets home to Canada.
MONIA MAZIGH, WIFE: He told me I'll call you as soon as I arrive in Montreal.
CARROLL: Her husband, Maher Arar, was stopped at JFK. U.S. Customs agents told him something he didn't know that he was on the U.S. terror watch list.
MAHER ARAR, ALLEGED TORTURE VICTIM: They told me, you are not a suspect. We are just going to ask you some questions and we'll let you catch the next plane but this did not happen.
CARROLL: No one said why he says but Arar was arrested and soon moved to this detention center in New York. Hours went past then a day, then longer. He was allowed no calls. Arar's wife was in a panic. She called the airline. The Canadian embassy, no one could tell her anything. It was as if he vanished.
MAZIGH: I was just left waiting. And that wait, wait, wait without nothing.
CARROLL: In New York, a federal I.N.S. agent told Arar they suspected he was affiliated with al Qaeda. A charge Arar vehemently denied. The agents said they were flying him to Syria. Arar was stunned. He left there 16 years ago to become a Canadian citizen.
ARAR: I protested. I say if you send me back to Syria, I'll be tortured.
CARROLL: In fact the U.S. State Department own literature says torture is most likely to occur under questioning in Syria. What did they say in response?
ARAR: Well, they just didn't care.
CARROLL: Finally, six days after being taken into U.S. custody, Arar says he was allowed to call. His wife is relieved to hear from him and then horrified.
MAZIGH: He said I'm in New York. I'm in Brooklyn in federal prison bureau, something like that, and I need a lawyer. I might be deported to Syria.
CARROLL: Arar begged the I.N.S. agent not to send him.
ARAR: For me, it was very clear that the message is we don't care. That's why we are sending you to Syria. We're sending you there to be tortured.
CARROLL: I'm just wondering, psychologically, what that must have been like for you at that point.
ARAR: I lost hope. I was disoriented. I just wanted a miracle to happen.
CARROLL: October 8, 12 days after being held in U.S. custody, Arar has flown to Jordan, then Syria.
ARAR: During the entire trip, frankly, I was constantly thinking about once I am in Syria, how can I avoid torture? That was all I was thinking about.
COLLINS: In fact, he says I just wanted to end my life. Maher Arar talks about the torture he says he endured. Our story continues after this.
COLLINS: Before the break, we told you about a Canadian man arrested at New York's JFK Airport in 2002. He was told he was on a terror watch list and deported to Syria. His former homeland where he knew torture waited for him. Now the rest of our story with our Jason Carroll.
CARROLL (voice-over): Maher Arar, an engineer, husband, and father, accused by U.S. officials of being affiliated with al Qaeda now in a Syrian prison awaiting interrogation.
ARAR: I just wanted to end my life.
CARROLL: So look around in this room for anything at all to kill yourself.
ARAR: I would rather die than face torture.
CARROLL: Day one he says there were threats. Day two the beatings began.
ARAR: He asked me, do you know what this is. I said yes. It's cable. He hit me like crazy. It was so painful the point where I forgot every enjoyable moment in my life.
CARROLL: Interrogators accused him of training at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan. When he denied it. Denied any connection at all they beat him more.
ARAR: They kept tell me go all the time I was lying to them.
CARROLL: Then he says they threatened electric shock.
ARAR: Just to hear the screams of people being tortured. You say to yourself, I'm going to tell them whatever they want me to say.
CARROLL: Back home Arar's wife worked with Canadian officials hoping to find them. Hoping to get him released.
MAZIGH: My daughter was all the time asking me where my dad is coming. I said he will come soon.
CARROLL: Nearly a year would pass before this would end. Arar remembered one especially violent session.
ARAR: Because of fear I cannot control my muscles and nerves anymore. Imagine the clothes that I urinated in. I kept them on for like two months. That alone was like very humiliating.
CARROLL: And while his family had no idea where he was his pain was made worse because he had no idea if anything had also happened to them.
ARAR: That alone was torture in a form. Not knowing, I have, I had all the scary thoughts in my mind. Are my kids being kidnapped like me? Is my wife being kidnapped?
CARROLL: Arar says it interrogators broke his will. He finally sign add confession he received terrorist training in Afghanistan. A country he says he has never been to and that same day he was released and sent back to Canada. Ten months and 10 days since he landed in New York since he had last seen his family.
ARAR: Frankly, given what I had gone through I didn't expect that I would ever be reunited with my family again.
MAZIGH: I felt this is another person, not the person that I married.
CARROLL: Three years later, an independent Canadian commission found the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had given the U.S. inaccurate and inflammatory information about him. Canada paid Arar and his family $11.5 million. The prime minister apologized. And said the U.S. should also clear Arar's name.
STEPHEN HARPER, CANADIAN PRIME MINISTER: The government of Canada has every right to go to bat for one of its citizen when the government believe as Canadian is being unfairly treated by another country. CARROLL: Which brings us to today. More than five years since Arar's terrible ordeal began. The U.S. still has his name on the terror watch list. The Department of Justice says classified information shows he's a threat. So Arar is suing the federal government alleging the U.S. rendered him to Syria to be tortured.
ARAR: If this pillar of the justice system is, if it's totally (ph) diminished. What is the difference then between the United States and other countries?
CARROLL: Keeping them honest we wanted to know why Arar who holds a Canadian passport was sent to Syria. The Justice Department declined an interview. In a statement it said it received assurances from Syria he would not be tortured. And Arar was lawfully deported. During the congressional hearing two weeks ago the secretary of state admitted mistakes were made.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I'm aware of the inquiry we do not think the case was handled as it should have been.
CARROLL: For Arar that's not enough. He wants compensation and an official apology.
(on camera): Do you think you're going to get what you're asking for here?
ARAR: Things take time. Year, two, five years, ten years, but I am hoping that one day the American government will do the right thing.
COLLINS: CNN's Jason Carroll is joining us now live from our New York bureau. Jason, where does Arar's case stand now legally?
CARROLL: Well the Center for Constitutional Rights, that's an organization here in New York, is representing him. And they are pushing his case forward. Basically what happened was in 2006 that case was dismissed.
Basically, the U.S. government cited state secrets privilege arguing that if that's the case was allowed to go forward, Heidi, sensitive information could be revealed so the case was dismissed. They appealed. A new judge is looking at the case at this point and we're waiting to see what that judge will rule in terms of whether or not the case will be allowed to go forward.
COLLINS: OK. Well, I know that you'll stay on top of that. We'd be curious to know, of course, how this one ends. Seems like there's a lot of questions to be asked why he was deported to Syria. I know there's a big distinction to be made between rendering and being deported. Usually are you not rendered if you are suspected of terrorism back to the country of origin but deported to the country where you are a citizen?
CARROLL: Right. Get a little confusing. Deported simply means you're here in the United States, and you are deported or kicked out of the country or for a number of reasons. It could be an immigration violation. Under the rendition program don't even necessarily need to be in the united states. You can be in another country, U.S. agents could find you there. Deem you to be a terrorist suspect and take you to another country in some cases your country of origin.
What is interesting about this is that Maher Arar left Syria when he was about 16 or 17 years old. He didn't even have a valid Syrian passport. Their attorneys were questioning fit was simply a question a case of deporting him why didn't you deport him back to Canada?
COLLINS: That is still the question, obviously. All right, CNN's Jason Carroll. Let us know how this one turns out, will you Jason?
COLLINS: OK. Thank you. It's a virtual world but there are some real life concerns. Are pedophiles finding a second life on the Web?
COLLINS: Caught in a cat door. Police now trying to unravel a very unusual death. We'll have that story still ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.
But first time to take a look now at some of the most clicked on videos on cnn.com. The little girl from India who underwent surgery to remove four extra limbs. Twenty seven hours, in fact. Today we got the first look at Lakshmi since that surgery. Very good news.
Questions today about the fatal shooting of a teenager in New York. Police say they were called to the scene during a domestic dispute between the boy and his mother. That investigation, of course, ongoing.
And in Russia, high winds hampered crews struggling to clean up in the wake of a killer storm that split an oil tanker in two.
And the dangers of plastic surgery. Questions arise after the death of rap star Kanye West's mother. A plastic surgeon tell as celebrity Web site tmz.com that he opened on Donda West, but did nothing wrong.
For more of your favorite video you can go to cnn.com/mostpopular. And of course don't forget you can take us anywhere on your iPod with the CNN daily podcast to see some of the stories that will have you talking. CNN NEWSROOM podcast available 24/7 right on your iPod.
Alternate reality meets true crime. A popular role playing game now under scrutiny. Possibly giving pedophiles a "Second Life." CNN's Kristy Lu Stout explains.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KRISTY LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome to "Second Life." A vast virtual world defined by the imagination of its users. The site claims over 10 million what it calls residents. In reality 40,000 people log on at a given time. I logged on last year as Kristy Lasho (ph), my double played tennis at the Australian Open.
In "Second Life" you can be anyone and do almost anything. That is where the virtual world collides with the real world. Britain's Sky TV recently uncovered a sex play ground called Wonderland for users dressed as children offer virtual sex acts. It's a form of age play. Role playing that's been the focus of much debate in "Second Life."
The reports of virtual pedophiles have caused a real-life uproar. British authorities have launched an investigation into the case. Police in Germany have launched a similar probe.
After the reports, I logged on to find Wonderland but it was gone. Linden Labs, the creator of "Second Life" says it was not involved in dismantling the area. The company says, "We have no firm evidence of wrongdoing from our own investigations in Wonderland nor from our abuse report channel." It also says, "Residents are morally, socially and legally responsible for their actions and content in second life. Clearly any illegal activity or content will be investigated and appropriate action will be taken."
But is virtual pedophilia a crime? It depends where you ask. In Germany it's seen as possession of child porn and is punishable by jail time. But in the U.S. the Supreme Court in 2002 struck down part of a law that banned virtual pornography, arguing that no real people are exploited in the creation of digital images. In most of the world including my real home base of Hong Kong it remain as gray area.
JAMERS HUGHES, BIOETHICIST, TRINITY COLLEGE: The principle concern for bioethicists is that actual children be protected from sexual exploitation and abuse. And we want to restrict any one who is involved and to come down very hard on anyone who is involved in any kind of sexual exploitation or abuse. But this is not a situation where there's been any link between age play and virtual environment and any kind of sexual abuse of children.
LU STOUT: Child advocacy groups disagree saying virtual pedophiles will eventually act out the fantasies in the real world applying real law to behavior on sites like "Second Life" will be complex and messy but as virtual worlds multiply it will also be inevitable even if on the Internet it's easy to be someone else.
Kristy Lu Stout, CNN, Hong Kong.
COLLINS: Dunk and cover.
Wow. A big bang jolt as basketball game. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
COLLINS: Well, it looks like we're all making more money but the new study shows the gap between African American and Caucasian families getting wider. Breaking down the numbers for you, the study finds this. The income for Caucasian women increased more than fivefold. Income for Caucasian men relatively stagnant while income for black men actually declined but it was offset by gains among black women. The study tracked more than 2,000 families for more than 30 years.
Holiday travel could be a headache this thanksgiving. Actually more of a headache, we should say, whether are driving or flying. Stephanie Elam is at the New York Stock Exchange now with details on this. Hi there, Stephanie. Not probably a huge surprise.
STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. You're right, Heidi. Because everyone knows traveling around Thanksgiving is just a pain often. And it looks like going over the river and through the woods is going to get a more expensive hit for many travelers. The Energy Department's top forecasters say gas prices could climb an additional 20 cents a gallon by December. That's assuming OPEC doesn't boost production but there are signs OPEC is considering a production boost.
So today, oil prices are sharply lower. Last time I looked we were down to $91 for a barrel. So that's obviously good news. Not just gas prices are on the horizon for what we're looking at now. Right now AAA says it average price for a gallon of regular is $3.10. But many experts believe the recent surge in oil prices is not fully reflected at the pump because refiners haven't fully passed on the increase to consumers.
A 20 cent rise would lift gas prices to record levels, Heidi.
COLLINS: Oh, terrific. We can't wait.
ELAM: I know, exactly.
COLLINS: So what does it mean fur planning to fly, though, for Thanksgiving?
ELAM: The news isn't too good there, either. If you look at this news you're not going to be like, oh yeah, flying is better than driving. The airline industry is warning Thanksgiving travelers to leave early and plan for extra long lines at the airport. The industry says there has been an unexpected four percent jump in the number of passengers booked this year over last year's holiday.
So that means planes, they are going to be about 90 percent full over the 12-day holiday period with the Sunday after Thanksgiving being the busiest day. The day after will be the next busiest followed by the Wednesday before Thanksgiving which is always a nightmare in the New York area. I can tell you for sure.
The best advice, check in on line and arrive at the airport two hours before your domestic flight and the other thing do a little rain dance and hope there won't be any. Of course, I know you guys down there actually do need some rain.
COLLINS: But still, it does make travel tougher.
ELAM: It does, yeah.
COLLINS: We shall see.
ELAM: We shall see. But let me just tell you that right now before we go we have some green on Wall Street. Stocks are flying high after strong earnings from Wal-Mart. The world's largest retailer says profits rose nearly eight percent in the third quarter and it raised its outlook for 2008.
So right now Wal-Mart is helping to lead the Dow up 171 points, 13,157. All three of the major averages are up over one percent. In fact, the NASDAQ up close to two percent. So obviously some good news there, Heidi.
COLLINS: Very good news and we will take it. Stephanie Elam, thank you.
ELAM: Take care.
COLLINS: Caught in a cat door and police now are trying to unravel a very unusual death.
COLLINS: Want to get to this happening right now live here in Atlanta. You're looking at Governor Sonny Purdue there at the podium. Actually calling on a higher power. The Georgia governor joining lawmakers and ministers to pray for rain during this very severe drought that we are experiencing here. It has actually led to consumers cutting back in the Atlanta area.
Now, I was also just listening in to the governor talking about conserving water. Trying to urge people to do more of that and also admitting that managing those resources has been a very difficult task. In fact I want to take a moment to bring in Jacqui Jeras in the Weather Center now. We have been talking about this so long it seems, Jacqui. How much inches. I don't even remember how low we actually are.
JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Extremely low. In fact we're 18 inches down. That's the deficit in Atlanta just itself. But just because we're down 18 inches doesn't mean it's going to only take 18 inches to make up the drought. Because the ground is so very, very dry we're going to need to see some higher numbers than that. So desperate times call for desperate measures. And we have been monitoring it this morning. And there are a lot of people there out there supporting this. And we really need that rain, unfortunately, the situation is really looking quite dire.
Let's go ahead and show you what is going on the national scene starting out here. Red basically means bad. We have got some very extreme drought conditions into the southwest but it's right here in the Southeast where we have what we call exceptional drought. We'll zoom into the area. There you can see it.
And it extends really from the Carolinas into parts of Virginia or Tennessee, rather, all the way down into Georgia and into Alabama, that's the worst of the worst conditions. And this has been a very persistent drought. What can we expect? Is there any kind of relief in the future? Well, you know those storms that have been slamming the Pacific Northwest and the ones that are lined up out there. This is our best chance to get any kind of measurable rain.
What is going on here is that we have a northern track of our jet stream which brings in storm systems. High pressure has been dominating our weather but occasionally we'll get a front coming in. Weaken it out a little bit and bring in some light rain but overall these storms are moving too fast. They are not picking up very much moisture overall. That's exactly what is going on right now with our weather pattern and our forecast map for tomorrow shows you that wicked front makes its way towards it east and brings in a chance of some showers and thunderstorms.
Now thunderstorms are good in the sense that they can bring in more rain than just one of those overcast kind of steady rain days. We could see maybe an inch, possibly even as much as two inches in some of these isolated thunderstorms are going to be coming on through. However there's no guarantee in this type of a situation that everybody is going to get in on any of that action.
This pattern is also very indicative of what we call a la Nina kind of year. When the waters in the equatorial Pacific get cool, it brings in a northerly track for our storms. We tend to see very wet weather in the Pacific Northwest just like what we have been seeing, dry in the Southwest and unfortunately a very dry into the Southeast. It's going to take Lake Lanier which is the main water source for much of the Atlanta metro area, it would take four inches of rain in 24 hours just to get the soil moist enough to start getting any runoff into that reservoir or we would need a good four to five solid days of steady rain.
So Heidi, we mention that 18 inch deficit overall for the year. We would probably need, you know, 25 plus inches or so in order to saturate the ground and get the soil moist so everything can run off and go back into the reservoir and get things back to normal. Unfortunately with the winter of la Nina that's just not going to happen.
COLLINS: Yeah. And we're going to be talking about it for a lot longer, I think. Jacqui, thanks so much.
And as you did just hear Jacqui referring to those Pacific storms rolling off the ocean and plowing into the Northwest. Wind gusts reached hurricane strength in parts of Oregon and Washington State. Downed trees and power lines left some 125,000 homes and businesses without electricity. The weather will be much better today. As people are working to clean up the mess. But they need to hurry more bad weather is moving in tomorrow.
A bizarre death in Florida has friends scratching their heads. A 32-year-old man found dead. Stuck in a cat door at his girlfriend's house. Police are trying to figure out how Charles Tucker got wedged in the door and how exactly he died.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's a big guy. I don't even know how he could fit through there. Probably get in to unlock the door. He had one arm through there and his head was caught in there like he was trying to reach up and unlock the door. Because there is no way he could fit through there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Police are waiting for the autopsy results. But it is believed he may have suffocated. Tucker was briefly hospitalized just one day before when police found him slumped over in his car.
Big blast court side, look at this. An explosion went off during an Israeli basketball game. Wow, a team manager lost three fingers and dust and smoke filled the crowded arena. It's believed the blast was caused by a firecracker. A team official says if one of their fans is responsible he'll quit.
A planned explosion in Las Vegas. Take a look at this now. Listen as the giant plunger comes down. I don't know why that is always so fun to look at but it. In fact let's see it again and again. That's the new Frontier Casino and Hotel coming down. The Frontier was a fixture on the Strip for more than 50 years. It actually featured acts like Wayne Newton, Siegfried and Roy and even Ronald Reagan. Elvis in fact made his first Vegas appearance there. And in true Las Vegas style, a new mega resort will be put up in its place.
Also want to show you these pictures now. O.J. Simpson in court today. This is actually an evidentiary hearing at the regional justice center there. It's third day that this has been going on. Expected four witnesses will testify. Two of them, co-defendants Charles Cashmore (ph) and Michael McClinton are expected to testify that Simpson asked that a gun be taken into that hotel room where they were trying to get a hold of some old sports memorabilia. You remember the story. We will follow it for you. Our Dan Simon is there and will get you the very latest.
It's also streaming all day on cnn.com if you'd like to check that out.
Meanwhile, CNN NEWSROOM continues just one hour from now. Big stories developing today. YOUR WORLD TODAY, though, is next, with news happening across the globe and right here at home.
I'm Heidi Collins. We'll see you tomorrow.
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