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Soldiers Recount Recent Afghanistan Attack; Gas Station Owners Accuse Credit Card Companies of Adding to Costs; Batman is Blockbuster; Was Ledger's Joker the Reason for Viewing?

Aired July 19, 2008 - 17:00   ET

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


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Does the path to the White House require a stop in the war zone and a couple of three-pointers? That's Barack Obama doing it up in a war zone. McCain's done it. Obama is doing it. Does he do it well enough? I guess that's the question, isn't it?
Hello again everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez. The top story tonight, a potential make or break political gambit for the White House hopeful Barack Obama. The likely Democratic presidential nominee on the political high wire of international relations performing without a safety net below him to catch him if he falls. Or if he pulls it off, looking presidential. It certainly beefs up his comparatively thin foreign policy credentials, opposing Senator John McCain at this point. If he fails or fumbles on the world stage, it will only add to the doubts of his electability here at home.

Then there's the other part. The fact that he could end up looking like he does belong. Looking like he's extremely presidential. Looking comfortable when he's around troops. Like when he was introduced. Watch this. I'm going to let you hear it. This is the reaction the moment he stepped into the gym. Now watch a little bit of this. This is Barack Obama, moments before this he had just taken a shot. I don't know if you go that or not, but I think our viewers would be interested in seeing this. It would be great if we could actually see some of this for itself. If we could just see and hear the video. There it is. Watch.

Again, this is some of the first video that we've been getting in today from Barack Obama going overseas, meeting with the troops. The reception obviously was extremely warm. You heard the ovation when he was called into the room. And then one young lady he's taking a picture here with him, says hey, I dare you to try and do that again. I dare you to go over there and try to hit another three-pointer. In fact, I'll have a contest with you. See that's the girl there. He goes over there. Swish. Nothing but net. Then she steps up to try and match him. So Barack Obama obviously not seemingly nervous on this trip. At least not too nervous to be able to hit a three- pointer. Something most guys aren't able to do under that kind of pressure. Mingling with the troops over there, being received by the troops seemingly well. So far so good most would say. Is it the orchestrated photo op as critics allege, or in the international fact finding mission as it's officially billed? Either way, Senator Barack Obama is on the ground in Afghanistan this hour. And CNN's Reza Sayah has the very latest from the Afghan capital.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For the first time ever, U.S. presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama comes to Afghanistan. The senator arrived late Saturday morning Kabul time along with a congressional delegation after a brief visit to Bagram air base just north of Kabul. It was off to Jalabad air base in eastern Afghanistan, that's where the congressional delegation sat down and met with U.S. troops from their states and Senator Barack Obama met with the provincial governor of Nangahar Province, his first meeting this weekend with an Afghan official. Senator Obama's visit shrouded in secrecy because of security concerns. But on Saturday we did observe in the skies of Kabul, two Chinook helicopters escorted by two Blackhawk choppers and two apache choppers, a clear indication that a VIP was in town. Senator Obama with plans to stay until Sunday according to a U.S. government official in Kabul, also planning to visit Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday. In recent weeks Obama describing Afghanistan as the central front in the war on terror, many analysts agree he could ill afford not to visit Afghanistan right before the elections. And many say this was crucial in changing the perception back in the states that Barack Obama is weak on national security, weak on foreign policy. Reza Sayah, CNN, Kabul.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Don't expect Senator John McCain to be overly impressed with Senator Barack Obama's foreign travel schedule. In fact it's the been there, done that kind of sentiment from McCain. He's also quick to point out that he's been to Afghanistan numerous times before and based his foreign policy platforms after visiting the nations impression. McCain earlier wondered aloud how Obama formulated his Afghan policy prior to his visit.

I want to point out something that I've noticed over the last several weeks. Is a shift in geography it seems. We keep hearing how we're now winning the war in Iraq. But take a look at what's happening in Afghanistan. For two months running now there have been more U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan than in Iraq. In fact, this year in Afghanistan has been the bloodiest overall since the war began. We have fewer troops stationed there. 36,000 in Afghanistan compared to 140,000 based in Iraq. The White House, though, focused on this story. According to a German magazine, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki wants to see Obama in the White House. That's Maliki who wants to see Obama in the White House. Would it be a slap in the face to George Bush? Maliki is supposedly impressed with Obama's troop withdrawal plan up to now. Well it looks like the White House is well aware of this article because -- are you ready for this? It e-mailed accidentally this article about Maliki's support of Obama's plan to the news media. Oops! A spokesperson at the White House tonight is saying it was simply a mistake.

Just last weekend we reported nine Americans died in Afghanistan. Paratroopers from the 173rd. They were outnumbered, took heavy fire from the enemy. Now we're hearing from two of their comrades who survived the attack. It's a battlefield account that you'll want to hear and we're going to bring it to you, in their words in just about a half hour. An apparent about face from the Bush administration on Iran by the way. The U.S. has consistently refused to hold unconditional direct talks with Tehran on its nuclear program. You might remember that there was a suggestion made that anyone who did talk to Iran might be appeasing. All that changed today when undersecretary of state William Burns took at a seat at the negotiation table in Switzerland. The U.S. and the European Union are trying to get Iran, talking to Iran, to agree to a compromise proposal and are now awaiting a response, we're told. This is going on as we speak. Under this deal Iran would agree to cut back their uranium enrichment and avoid any new U.N. sanctions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAVIER SOLANA, EU FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF: I'm not look for a perfect adjective to (INAUDIBLE). Let me put it that way, it was constructive but didn't get us still the answer we're looking for.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: While they did not get a yes from Iran up to now, they also didn't get a no. European negotiators say Iran now has two weeks to try and respond to this latest proposal. We're going to be following it up and we'll let you know.

Meanwhile, Condoleezza Rice on Iran, Iraq and much more. You're going to be able to see an exclusive interview with the secretary of state tomorrow on CNN's "Late Edition" at 1100 a.m. eastern, 8:00 pacific. Asking the questions that we were just raising about whether talking to Iran or not talking to Iran is the right thing to do.

Tropical storm Cristobal is picking up steam off the coast of Carolina right now. Now we're already seeing some wet and windy weather. The worst may still be to come. We're going to be following this one for you.

Also, a woman, a newborn, and a dead body. This has the makings of a murder mystery in Pennsylvania. Police just giving an update on this very disturbing case. We're all over it, stay with us, we'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) . SANCHEZ: Something like it is going on out there right now. Take a look at this. Look at this picture. Look a little ominous to you? This is Charleston, South Carolina. Waiting to feel the effects from tropical storm. See, where I was born, we would say, Cristobal. But most people here would say Cristobal just like a lot of people pronounce my name "Sanchez." It's brewing about 100 miles off the coast right now. Thanks to our Charleston affiliate WCBD for that shot. That some of us around here like to call a t-shot. As in a tower cam shot. We told you about Cristobal. There's also a hurricane out there, but at this point and the reason I'm smiling is most of these things look like they're going to be affecting mostly shipping lanes. Fingers crossed while I say that to Jacqui Jeras.

(WEATHER REPORT)

SANCHEZ: Producers here are really excited about this story and they want me to talk about it. I am a huge "kung fu panda" movie fan because I think it's one of the greatest movies I've ever seen and I love Jack Black. But I understand that everyone else around here is really big on "The Dark Knight" phenomenon. What do you have to say about this?

JACQUI JERAS: Well it's the big premier this weekend. I'm media (INAUDIBLE), I like Heath Ledger. So I would like to see his last work, even though it kind of has that creepy thing. But my husband, as we speak, is at this movie right now.

SANCHEZ: I'll tell you, it's already doing, I've got some notes here. $66.4 million just on opening day. Can you believe that?

JERAS: Wow! I would like to make that in a lifetime.

SANCHEZ: Yeah.

People are really all excited and jazzed about this thing. Thanks Jacqui, come back to you in a bit. More on "The Dark Knight" and Obama's trip overseas. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back everybody, I'm Rick Sanchez. Tonight we are following a just bizarre and gruesome story out of Pennsylvania. You may have heard about it. The latest. Police are investigating whether this woman killed a pregnant woman by cutting her baby out of her stomach, leaving her for dead, and then passing the baby off as her own. Our affiliate WTAE talked to a neighbor who says she did suspect something.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I went to her baby shower, her wedding. I had no idea something like this could happen. I'm totally shocked. She was so nice and kind. It's just unbelievable. I don't even know what else to say.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Ok, I apologize. The neighbor did not suspect anything. Jerome Sherman is on the phone with us now. He reports for "The Pittsburgh Post Gazette." Jerome, police we understand just wrapped up a news conference. Any new information that you can share with us?

VOICE OF JEROME SHERMAN, "PITTSBURGH POST GAZETTE": They're still trying to identify the woman who was found in the apartment of Andrea Curry-Demus, who was arrested after she brought in a baby that wasn't her own and said it was her own. They are trying to track down dental records for this woman. They have definitely confirmed that she gave birth and they found a placenta at the scene. And her hands had been fastened behind her back with duct tape. Her feet had been fastened. Her mouth had been fastened. And they found some types of drugs on the scene. They couldn't identify the drugs but they suspected that the woman had been sedated in some way.

SANCHEZ: So is the allegation then, I mean the elephant in the room here is that she cut, allegedly, this baby from this woman's womb and then took it to a hospital and says it's mine. Which, I mean, how hard would it be for hospital officials to figure out it's not hers? I mean you could tell if she just delivered a baby or not. But is that what we're dealing with here because you didn't put those two together for us yet?

SHERMAN: Well, the police are still trying to determine the identification and then they say that's the first step, then they can move to the next step of filing more charges. It's definitely a homicide. She was found in the apartment of the woman who tried to pass the baby off as her own. So as you put two and two together, it seems very obvious here but they want to make sure they have the identification. They say they've narrowed it down to just several women.

SANCHEZ: Does this, yeah, I mean you'd love to think, I mean I'm sure they're going to do DNA tests to find out if that baby actually came from the woman. By the way, the baby is fine, right?

SHERMAN: The baby is fine. I think he's still at the local Pittsburgh hospital, had some problems with the heart rate and temperature when he first came in. Once he was in the care of the hospital he recovered quickly and I think the baby is doing fine.

SANCHEZ: What a crazy story. I guess the most important question now is this, who is this woman and does she have any kind of past or any kind of history that would lead us to believe that she would be capable of doing something like this?

SHERMAN: She does, actually. She was arrested about 18 years ago for a very similar case. She tried to stab a woman who was pregnant and was arrested for that and charged and spent time in jail. According to friends or people in the neighborhood who knew her, she had desperately wanted to have a baby. So she does have a history.

SANCHEZ: Unbelievable, Jerome thanks so much for bringing us up to date on this information. It's certainly a story that we're all going to keep following. Certainly big news there as well. Thanks so much.

Saving cash by not buying gas. One man is leading a crusade to charge the market on electric cars.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: America's love affair with gas guzzling SUVs is on the rocks. People are looking for another way to get around in the face of record gas prices. Aren't we all. CNN's Mile's O'Brien caught up with a San Francisco man who says electric is the way to roll.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I forget if it's started. MILES O'BRIEN, CNN SPACE CORRESPONDENT: Once you get Marc Geller started on the subject of electric cars, there's no stopping him. So it really doesn't inconvenience you?

MARC GELLER, ELECTRIC CAR OWNER: There's definitely no inconvenience. There's a tremendous amount of pleasure in passing gas stations and watching the price rise.

O'BRIEN: Marc's been breezing by gas pumps in San Francisco for seven years. This is his second all electric car. A used plug-in Toyota Rav four. Used because right now there isn't a new practical electric car on the U.S. market.

Is it frustrating?

GELLER: It's incredibly frustrating. It's frustrating because everyday I meet people who would like to be driving this car.

O'BRIEN: Ten years ago Detroit, seemed positively plugged in. General Motors built and leased about a thousand of the fabled EV1's after a California law mandated sales of zero emission vehicles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's the future. I'm happy.

O'BRIEN: By 2003 California backed down. GM repoed the EV1s and destroyed them, amid protests. Marc was among the protesters. Why does he think Detroit pulled the plug?

GELLER: I would say because they are fearful of how disruptive plug in cars will be and how unattractive their old product line will appear.

O'BRIEN: Marc says a fully charged battery takes him 120 miles. Normally a charge overnight at home is more than enough to get him through the day. Here's the kicker. Marc works for a solar power company. His whole roof is covered with solar cells.

GELLER: As soon as I got the car I realized now I understand why this makes sense. I can create my own electricity.

O'BRIEN: For Marc, solar power and plug in cars are what this country currently need.

Would you call yourself an electric car zealot?

GELLER: Zealot might be a little strong. But I truly believe this is an option consumers would like to be able to purchase.

O'BRIEN: Miles O'Brien, CNN, San Francisco.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Put away the credit card and pull out the cash. The steps some convenience store owners are taking to save you money at the pump.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: New interviews with two U.S. soldiers who survived an attack in Afghanistan that killed nine fellow troops. This is a battlefield account told by them through their eyes, their words. It's one you'll want to hear.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: We have just received some interviews. Words told by soldiers, U.S. troops who survived Sunday's battle in Afghanistan that killed nine U.S. troops. So they were there. They saw how this happened, this sabotage. This is from a website of the Stars and Stripes newspaper. We have been taken aback by it and we thought you would, too. So here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- we're trying to suppress them so we were almost (INAUDIBLE) ourselves. With everything they're just continuous and everything. We're trying to overcome, overpower them with our fire superior or at least I had gone through 600 rounds. I had gone down behind a wall and I switched drums (INAUDIBLE), I was like hey, looks like we're getting shot southwest, something like that, I said I'll get that direction. This one somehow snuck trough into our position and got me in the wrist, I went straight to the ground. I had never been shot, never broken a bone before in my life. I'm one of the luckier ones. I can't (INAUDIBLE). Sure I was wounded and I got my purple heart but there's these guys like Stafford and some of these guys, those are the ones that have been really hold down the position.

SPC. TYLER STAFFORD: Blown out of that little bunker and I know Sergeant Pitts was in there, I got blown out.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SGT. JACOB WALKER, U.S. SOLDIER: I just hope these guys' wives and their children understand how courageous their husbands and dads were. The fought like crazy."

SPC. TYLER STAFFORD, U.S. SOLDIER: Got blown out of that bunker. And I know Sergeant Pitts was in their. I got blown out. I thought I was on fire. I rolled around a bit before I came to. I looked for a second. I was seeing Zwelling. He was sitting there. He had a stunned look. That's when a grenade hit right beside me. They hit us from lots of positions. They had us suppressed good right from the start.

Swilling had a grenade and said he looked at me and was like, yeah, I'm going to help you. I'm going to kill these guys. He pulled the pin on the grenade and right as he threw it, an RPG came in and either hit the sandbag wall -- because he as real close to it. He was sitting on his knees, kind of hunkered over. It hit right beside him or behind him. I just saw the explosion. I ducked my head and the tail of the RPG came and smacked me in the helmet. I looked up and as the dust cleared, I could see Phillips was slumped over. His chest was on his knees, and his hands by his side. I called out to him three or four times. He didn't respond, he didn't move.

But I remember hearing the P.L.'s voice. I remember there was a bunch of gunfire. I remember Rainey yelling out, he's right behind the sandbag. Then the P.L. was yelling at him too. Then there was a bunch of gunfire. I can see this. Sgt. Hovater fired off a couple of rounds. A couple of seconds, he poked his head back up. He came down and was like, they're dead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Once again, we wanted to dip into that and let you take a listen for yourself. Taped interviews with two survivors of Sunday's battle in Afghanistan that killed nine U.S. soldiers. The voices we were hearing there were those of Sergeant Jacob Walker and Specialist Tyler Stafford. The interviews are posted to the website of "Stars and Stripes" newspaper, by the way, so you can take a listen for yourself.

The military is investigating that firefight that those troops were talking about. Last Sunday's Taliban attack was the deadliest for U.S. forces there during the past three years.

But the families, this is a time to remember the fallen.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, tells us just how close some of those families were to seeing their loved ones again.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BARBARA STARR, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They were just weeks away of coming home after 15 months fighting in Afghanistan.

Sergeant Israel Garcia's wife learned of his death just hours before she was due to fly to Italy to meet him. Garcia's little brother is devastated.

RAMSSES GARCIA, BROTHER OF FALLEN SOLDIER: He's not going to see my kids. He won't be at my wedding or graduation.

STARR: Nine young men of the 173rd Airborne brigade combat team, some just a few years out of high school, killed in fire fight with 200 insurgents near the Pakistan border. It was to be one of their last missions on this tour of duty

Corporal Gunnar Zwelling's uncle says Zwelling's father has already suffered greatly.

GARY ZWELLING, SOLDIER'S UNCLE: He has cancer and his just been so sick. And his wife just passed away last year. It's just been horrible year for him. STARR: Lieutenant Jonathan Bostrum's (ph) biology teacher remembers a great youngster.

MIKE NORMAND, SOLDIER'S TEACHER: Every now and then, there's be another rasp going, you know, making a joke here or there.

STARR: Suzanne Ayres planned to surprise her son, Corporal Jonathan Ayres, the minute he touched down in the U.S.

SUZANNE AYERS, SOLDIER'S MOTHER: He had already had his plane ticket. And I had already bought a ticket to surprise him in Italy, over in New York.

Michael Boggar spoke with a father's pride. His son Jason had served in Iraq in 2003 and wanted to help children in war zones.

MICHAEL BOGGAR, FATHER OF SOLIDER: In my opinion, Jason did in 5 years what it takes most a lifetime to do.

STARR: Corporal Jason Hovator (ph) was all set to go backpacking with his wife Jenna. They had been sweethearts since the age of 14.

JENNA HOVATOR (ph), WIFE OF SOLIDER: I was driving home last night and I saw the prettiest sunset. I think, thank you, Jason. You know, that's him. He's in that.

STARR: Now the planning begins for funerals and remembering young boys who, in war, served as men.

Barbara Starr, CNN, the pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: And as we move forward this late afternoon, the man behind the mask. The villain behind that sinister smile, "The Dark Knight," releases a fresh reign of chaos on screen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HEATH LEDGER, ACTOR: This town deserves a better class of criminal. And I'm going to give it to them. Tell me you'll work for me now.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: This is my city.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Ordinary people that we have found who are having an extraordinary impact on the lives others. We call them heroes. Today we want you to meet another one of them. She changes the lives of autistic children in an unusual way through the magic of dogs.

(CNN HERO)

ANNOUNCER: July is the last month to nominate someone you know as a "CNN Hero" for 2008. Go to cnn.com/heros.

SANCHEZ: All right, let's put up that web site one more time so they can see it. It's cnn.com/hero. Your nominated hero could be seen right here and even honored at an all-star tribute Thanksgiving night that we will have. It will be seen on CNN.

SANCHEZ: President Bush is calling on Congress to help keep mortgage giants Fannie Mae afloat. In his weekly radio address, the president urged lawmakers to approve a plan allowing the government to give unlimited lines of credit to the companies. Wouldn't all Americans like to have that deal? The president's request comes on the heels of the treasury secretary's proposal earlier this week. During his address, the president also called for Congress to take urgent action to open up offshore oil exploration.

Trend or fluke? Oil prices are down. So is gasoline. AAA reports the price of regular unleaded took a tiny step down. It's now $4.09 a gallon. 35 states and D.C. are reporting gas prices at $4 or higher a gallon. The cheapest, in South Carolina, averaged $3.89 a gallon.

Gas station owners across the country are accusing the credit card industry of driving up their fuel costs. As a result, a lot of stations will be giving you a discount if you pay for your gas with cash henceforth.

CNN's Jim Acosta explains.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Better stop at the ATM before pulling into this gas station in New Jersey.

PAUL KELLY, SUNOCO GAS STATION OWNER: What we're trying to do now is give our customers a savings.

ACOSTA: That's because the owner, Paul Kelly, is offering a big 10 cent discount to drivers carrying cash. He says he's tired of being charge ad fee by the credit card companies every time a customer pays with plastic.

KELLY: If we pay 3 percent on average or even a little less than that on a credit card fee at $4 a gallon, and I'm making 12 cents a gallon, that's my entire profit.

ACOSTA: On a gas purchase totaling $100, roughly $3 would go to the credit card company, depending on the card.

SAL RISALVATO, J.J. GAS STATION INDUSTRY SPOKESMAN: The world is fixated on the oil companies, the price of oil, the price of gasoline. While everyone is fixated on that, the credit card companies are quietly laughing all the way to the bank.

ACOSTA: Sal Risalvato, who represents gas stations across New Jersey, says the so-called interchange fees can be crushing.

RISALVATO: Many dealers can't stay in business any longer. ACOSTA (on camera): According to one trade publication, nationwide, nearly 3,000 gas stations have closed in the last year. This one on the Jersey shore won't even reopen. The land is being offered up for townhouses.

(voice-over): The credit card companies response? Don't blame us.

In a statement, an industry spokeswoman says, "The oil companies restrict what the gas stations can charge. The oil companies are squeezing them."

Still, late last month, Visa announced it was lowering fees on fuel purchases.

(on camera): Every little bit helps these days?

UNIDENTIFIED GAS PURCHASER: You have to save every dime you can.

ACOSTA: (voice-over): Back at that gas station, we found the cash discount got some customers revved up. One man, who didn't read the sign, paid the price, as in the credit price.

(on camera): You're now having to pay 10 cents more a gallon because you swiped your credit card?

UNIDENTIFIED GAS PURCHASER: Yeah, I don't think that's fair.

KELLY: It's a matter of survival for us.

ACOSTA: Last year, convenience stores alone paid $7.6 billion in credit card fees. What's happening at the nation's gas stations may spread to other retailers, putting a whole new premium on plastic.

Jim Acosta, CNN, New Jersey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Turning Batman's joust with the Joker into box office gold, despite the death of Heath Ledger. What type of performance did he turn in? It's what many people all over the country are talking about. And you will be too, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Know your limits, Master Wayne.

CHRISTIAN BALE, ACTOR: Batman has no limits.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, you do, sir.

BALE: Well, can't afford to know.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What's going to happen on the day that you find out? BALE: I know how much you like to say, I told you so.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: On that day, Master Wayne, even I wouldn't want to, probably.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Limits? What limits? The new Batman movie appears to have none, at least not when it comes to ticket sales. "The Dark Knight" comes dressed in box office green. On its first day in theaters it shoveled in $66.4 million, shattering every other opening day record thus far. Theaters are offering overnight showings to accommodate the crowds.

Hasn't this Batman thing been done before? Well, it's a Warner Brothers flick and we should tell you, to be transparent, that we are also Warner Company here, CNN is, that is.

You know, there's so much talk about Heath Ledger's performance in the film, you wonder if that's the reason that some people are going out to see it. The young actor died of an accidental overdose in January. His portrayal of the Joker is as eerie at times, say many movie watchers, as it is unforgettable.

Here's CNN's Kareen Wynter.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEDGER: This town deserves a better class of criminal.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KAREEN WYNTER, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His appearance as the maniacal Joker in "The Dark Knight" has already earned Ledger rave reviews.

MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL, ACTRESS: He did something really remarkable in this movie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wouldn't surprise me if he doesn't get some kind of nod or nominee, post-humorous Oscar nomination.

WYNTER: For those behind the scenes, finishing and promoting the late actor's film was no easy trick.

STEVE ZEITCHICK, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER: Warner Brothers and Chris Menolen (ph), the director, were in a very interesting position. In many ways a difficult position with how to exit the story of the Joker.

WYNTER: Steve Zeitchick is a senior writer for "The Hollywood Reporter."

ZEITCHICK: When walking that line between leaving a door too wide open on the one hand, but on the other hand, being too explicit about what happens to him the end of the film, so I think there was really production and post production issues that both the director and the studio faced.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEDGER: And here we go.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WYNTER: Once completed, deciding how to use Ledger's image and performance to market the film came with its own set of challenges.

ZEITCHICK: If they push Ledger too hard in the marketing campaign, then they risk looking like they're trying to capitalize on the tragedy. If they don't push it hard enough, they're probably vying an opportunity to really capitalize on one of the great performances in terms of these kinds of movies.

WYNTER: Warner Brothers, the studios behind the film, which, like CNN, is owned Time-Warner, declined our request for a statement.

ZEITCHICK: Some people are saying did Warners use him too much? Others are saying, well, did they not use him enough? That's generally a sign when you're hearing the competing voices that the balance was probably struck roughly in the right proportions.

WYNTER: The film is also striking a cord with fans. Fandango.com, the nation's leading movie ticket website, says "The Dark Knight" has sold out theaters from Alaska to Florida, and is on track to break records.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LEDGER: It's not about money. It's about (inaudible).

WYNTER: Kareen Wynter, CNN, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: This is my bias, as a news guy, but with all the

(CROSSTALK)

SANCHEZ: Well, I'm interested. But the thing is, with everything going on in this country, with wars, with all the situations have with the economy, this is what's captivated Americans to the point that we can't even control the volume thereof.

You see this. These are e-mails by the tons that we have been getting here. Read one of them to the viewers.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT: But people need to escape.

SANCHEZ: That's true. JERAS: With all this stress going on, the housing, the economy, the housing market, everything else, Iraq. Let's go and not think about those things for a minute.

SANCHEZ: Here's their escape. Let's give them a moment of escape.

JERAS: Let's see what all these CNN I-reporters had to say.

Somebody from Minnesota tells us that -- "I have never been to a movie before where people cheered, clapped and laughed so much and so enthusiastically. A warning for those with small children. This is a cinematic piece of art. Please be warned that 'The Dark Knight' truly lives up to its name. It contains graphic and violent scenes that are psychologically powerful and not recommended for young viewers."

SANCHEZ: Wow!

JERAS: They sure seemed to like it.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, it sounds like something...

JERAS: It sounds like a trailer.

SANCHEZ: Is this written by "the New York Times"? No. It's written by a Minnesotan. We know those people.

JERAS: Very literate, very well educated people, don't you know.

SANCHEZ: Tell them about North Carolina.

JERAS: All right. North Carolina, I went to the midnight showing. Didn't get home until 4:30 a.m. I called in sick for work, which of course, CNN does not condone. After watching the movie, I find myself unable to watch any other movie. It was so epic that every other movie is terrible in comparison.

SANCHEZ: And of course I like "Kung-Fu Panda. Your husband's at the movies?

JERAS: My husband is at the movie right now. I'll let you know what he has to say. But they've been planning this for well over a month.

SANCHEZ: A movie that has captivated America. What can we say?

Thanks so much, Jacqui.

We'll be right back. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Dropping 40 pound is no easy task. But for one man, it was less of a struggle than you may think. He decided to share some of his tips with our CNN chief medial correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. This is "Fit Nation."

(FIT NATION) (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: CNN special investigation "Black in America" premieres this Wednesday and Thursday night at 9:00 p.m.

Tonight, our Soledad O'Brien presents "MLK, Eyewitness to Murder." Here now, a preview.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): April 4th, 1968.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We still remember it vividly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were sitting in class and it came over the over the intercom.

INTERCOM VOICE: Martin Luther King 20 minutes ago died.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we remembered how the kids taunted us and teased us in the hallways and said, goodie, goodie, your Jesus is dead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every black kid in class stopped what they were doing. The teacher looked at me and I looked at her, and said, better not say not a word to me. I think I broke a desk getting up out of the class I was in and walked out of school.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe within 20 minutes of his assassination, we met in front of the school. There were white kids hanging all out of the windows up here. And they were pointing and laughing. And they were just having themselves a good time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like somebody stuck a knife in@@ my back through my heart. When I got into the streets, I could feel the front of my shirt is wet because I had been crying and I didn't realize I was crying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all came down these steps, lined up there on the sidewalk. Then we marched from here, approximately a mile to Canaan Baptist Church.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was just an open place where we could go to hear others say the situation was going to be all right, for us not to do anything crazy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were angry in our hearts about his assassination, about his death. But we wanted to make sure we did everything the way Dr. King would want us to do it. We wanted to bring honor to his name.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't go back to school for probably about a week. Some of the kids were talking about when they got back to school, folk saying, what y'all going to do now? What y'all going to do now? Martin Luther King is dead. Here's the black leader that's trying to make thing better for everybody and here he is assassinated. He's dead. He's got a wife. He's got kids, a family. And they laughed.

O'BRIEN: It's still upsetting to you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: In the 40 years since the assassination of Dr. King, these two men have lived in two different black Americas, one of opportunity, the other, an economically deprived landscape where dreams are denied.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: Once again, that's just a taste. We are now just days away from our unparalleled television event, "Black in America." Don't miss this groundbreaking documentary Wednesday and Thursday on CNN.

We've got a couple of special presentations for you tonight that we should tell you about as well from a programming standpoint. First at 8:00 eastern, "CNN Special Investigation's Unit" and "Essence" magazine presents "The Reclaiming the Dream." And then at 9:30, "MLK, Eyewitness to Murder." That's tonight starting at 8:00 only at CNN, as before mentioned.

There is still much more ahead on CNN. We have a special report tonight and a special at 11:30. From Fayetteville, North Carolina, a town with a strong military connection where two female soldiers were found dead.

Let's go check and see what Tom has now.