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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Health Care Heat Level; Fight for Afghanistan; Radicals on the Rise; Serial Killer on the Loose?

Aired August 12, 2009 - 23:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Remember Sarah Palin's allegation that health care reform would lead to government death panels with the power to euthanize the disabled or the elderly? Well, if you thought that claim was outlandish and discredited, think again.

Today, a key voice in the debate; a key Republican Senator said you should worry about the government pulling the plug on grandma. And it wasn't just Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley pushing the "death panel" fear today.

So did the chairman of the Republican Party, Michael Steele.

We'll get reaction from another key senator in just a moment and check the facts with our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

But, first, Candy Crowley has the "Raw Politics."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY, (R) IOWA: Well, if it's OK with you, I'll get started.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Winterset, Iowa, Senator Chuck Grassley holds his seventy-second town hall meeting of the year. What a year.

GRASSLEY: We're here at a time when I sense that people are scared for our country.

CROWLEY: His town halls have been twice -- sometimes three times as big as he's had in previous years. So many hands in the air, so many crosscurrents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I need to know what are you doing to these insurance companies that are putting everything in their pocket and just laughing at everybody else.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Simple math, even for this southern Iowa redneck, shows that we can do -- we can cover the people who want coverage with a private policy, cheaper.

CROWLEY: Making his way through the questions festering in the Iowa countryside, Grassley is really in a mine field.

Why does he support cuts in Medicare? He doesn't. Will he support a plan with a government insurance option? No.

And about those so-called "death panels," a term critics used to argue against a provision they say will put the federal government in a euthanasia business.

GRASSLEY: You brought out one point up here...

CROWLEY: Grassley, a man with encyclopedic knowledge of many issues stepped where he probably should not.

GRASSLEY: I don't have any problem with things like living wills, but they ought to be done within the family. We should not have -- we should not have a government program that determines you're going to pull the plug on grandma.

CROWLEY: Put him down is not on target, the program inserted in the House bill would allow federal reimbursement to doctors who give end-of-life counseling to Medicare patients who want it. Critics say the counseling may become coercive.

Grassley has a reputation as a seasoned and reasoned conservative. He works now with a small group of Senate Republicans and Democrats trying to come up with a middle ground bill.

A Capitol Hill lawmaker for 35 years, he is up for re-election next year, about which he is reminded daily.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Democrat or Republican, for whoever Senator or a Congressman, vote for this bill, we will vote you out.

CROWLEY: The senator threads his way between his core constituents, angry that he's trying...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is nothing and no one that I would agree to and we have to stop giving ground.

CROWLEY: And others who have voted for him for three decades angry he's not trying hard enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to ask you why you won't use your strong Republican voice to clarify the outright lies that are out there about the programs that are being proposed.

CROWLEY: At days end Grassley was in an open air park in a Dale, Iowa for his 75th Town hall meeting of the year.

GRASSLEY: Oh, I've got 16 more town meetings. So I don't want to draw a conclusion from four town meetings.

CROWLEY: August may not be the coolest month but it's going to seem like the longest one.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So, Candy, is he standing by those comments about you know, the government program possibly pulling the plug on grandma? CROWLEY: He softened just a little when he talked with reporters and said listen, "Do I think this provision will do what some fear it will do? Not necessarily, no I don't. But I think it's incumbent that we look at it."

That he doesn't believe that there should be a program that pays for this. That the federal government should not pay for this kind of counseling.

I should tell you though I also talked to a couple of doctors and some nurses who said well, Medicare pays for office visit. So they weren't really sure why there had to be a separate program for this. So that also raised their suspicions.

But certainly, Senator Grassley backed off a little but he didn't back off what he said was the central fear of people that this would become some sort of euthanasia panel.

COOPER: All right, Candy Crowley. Candy thanks.

Senator Grassley may have fueled the death panel fear today.

On the other hand, Alaskan Republican Lisa Murkowski, who strongly opposes the Democratic bill, said today there's no reason for opponents to make things up.

Other lawmakers in both parties have tried to tamp down the anger. Missouri Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill has tried with some success to acknowledge the concerns of critics while gently arguing for civility. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL, (D) MISSOURI: I don't understand this rudeness, what is this? I don't get it, I honestly don't get it. Do you all think that you're persuading people when you shout out like that?

You don't trust me? Ok, I don't know what else I can do. I don't know what else I can do. If you want me to go home...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Senator McCaskill joins us now. Thanks very much for being with us.

MCCASKILL: Sure.

COOPER: I want to take your take on what Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said. He essentially is supporting what governor or former Governor Palin said about these "death panels."

MCCASKILL: Well, the irony is that his colleagues Republican Senator Isakson from Georgia actually wrote the provision that went into the Senate bill and it is about an end of life directive and so the patient and their family are in charge. It has nothing to do with the government having any control. It's the opposite. It's about the government reimbursing doctors for taking the time to explain the different procedures, to help with any kind of directive. Not to take over.

So it is so ironic that Senator Grassley has got that part confused because it's his fellow Republicans from Georgia who put it in the bill on the Senate side.

COOPER: Do you think he really is confused or is something else at work here?

MCCASKILL: I -- you know, listen. I think that there are many provisions of this bill and I think everyone needs to slow down and take time to study it carefully. Because if you do, so much of the misinformation goes away; and this is a big, giant piece of misinformation.

COOPER: I assume it's fair to say you've never seen this kind of level of what you called rudeness of, I guess, anger in a public forum like this.

And I want to read you what Paul Krugman wrote. He said that what some are reacting to his more about -- about President Obama than really about what's in these -- in these various health care plans.

And he said, and I quote, "The driving force behind the town hall mobs" -- his words -- "is probably the same cultural and racial anxiety that's behind the "birther" movement, which denies Mr. Obama citizenship."

Does race play a role in this? There was a person at one of your Town halls, at a Rosa Parks poster. Apparently a person angry in the crowd ripped it up. A scuffle ensued. They were all taken out.

Is race involved in this?

MCCASKILL: I don't know. I think there are certain folks in Missouri that don't trust government and they haven't trusted government for a long time. And I think we've done a lot of big, bold things in the last six months at a time of uncertainty.

People are confused.

What's the difference between the stimulus and omnibus and a TARP. And I think all of that rolled-up in addition to having a new president that they did not support; I think has lead to a heightened sense of passion and fervor.

But I think it's all within the confines of our democracy and we may be exercising our muscles of democracy in Missouri. But that's ok. That's what this is all about is people being able to express their opinions.

COOPER: Congressman David Scott of Georgia, an African-American man says that racism is involved, that it's sort of the subtext to this debate. Just for the record, do you see any indication of that?

MCCASKILL: I think that's irresponsible to say also. I -- there may be individual instances of that but there are a whole lot of people who are frustrated and cynical and angry. And I'm not sure that if it would be accurate to make that about race.

The disagreement yesterday was more because somebody did -- broke the rules and brought in a sign when nobody else was allowed to bring in a sign. And they were flaunting it and it angered people and passions got out of control.

There was certainly a little bit of wrongdoing on the part of these women who had the signs, if they knew they weren't supposed to have them. And they were certainly wrongdoing on the part of the gentlemen who ripped it out of her hands.

COOPER: So on your -- for your take is, there's no indication of the fact there was Rosa Parks on the posters...

MCCASKILL: Oh no.

COOPER: ... it was the presence of the posters?

MCCASKILL: Oh now, I'm not even sure -- I don't think that had anything to do with what was on the poster. It had to do with everyone -- we had 2,500 people there and they all were instructed with great big signage -- you can't bring signs in. And there at a very end of the meeting in walks these women with signs unfurled and of course it agitated the crowd.

COOPER: I'm glad you pointed that out because that is certainly something that's being played on liberal blogs that it was a Rosa Parks poster and that there was significance in that. You see no was significance?

MCCASKILL: I don't think that was the problem. I think the problem was somebody violated the rules about bringing in signs and it made somebody angry and things got a little out of control.

But we went for two hours and there was just that little incident. There was some rudeness but by and large we got through it and we were able to exchange a lot of ideas. And I think it was terrific.

COOPER: Senator McCaskill, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

MCCASKILL: OK, thank you.

COOPER: Well, no shortage of the debate online right now at AC360.com. You could join the live chat, I just logged in myself.

Also tonight: getting beyond the sound and fury; talking with protestors about their legitimate concerns and the lawmakers trying sometimes in vain to answer them. We'll talk to both sides.

Later, chilling new figures on the rise of hate-fueled militias in America: taking your questions tonight for Mark Potok, whose group The Southern Poverty Law Center authored this new report. You can text your questions to AC360 or 22360 and remember standard rates apply. Again, that's 22360.

We're back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well the anger and distrust expressed at many of these town hall meetings is obviously very real.

And here's what happened to Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat at a town hall meeting today. Watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your government has lost the faith and trust of the American people.

SEN. BEN CARDIN, (D) MARYLAND: I think that the Obama administration has already started to restore trust in health care...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And a moment ago, Senator Claire McCaskill said she doesn't doubt the motives of her critics attending her town hall meetings.

Plenty of other Democrats seem to. They say a lot of the anger is being stoked by right-wing radio and the protesters mobilized by the Republican Party.

Of course the liberal group's unions are also trying to get people to attend these town halls. So we want to try to get beyond the finger-pointing and the shouting and actually just try to listen to the very real concerns of people on both sides of the debate.

Tom Foreman tonight takes us "Up Close."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Another day, another angry public meeting; this one at a community college in Hagerstown, Maryland.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This government is out of control.

FOREMAN: Democratic Senator Ben Cardin is intent on pushing forward with health care reform

CARDIN: I can assure you that I'm not going to vote for any bill that will cut-off care to someone who is in need of care.

FOREMAN: And in the audience, Mark Kreslins is just as intent on pushing back. MARK KRESLINS: How are you going to look at my children in their eyes and tell them they're going to have a better future? If $99 trillion...

FOREMAN: Kreslins runs a small health services business from his home. He calls himself an independent who votes mostly Republican. He organized one of those anti-tax Tea Parties. He questions the constitutional right of Congress to enact such a reform but mainly he worries that it will mean massive tax bills for middle-class families for decades.

KRESLINS: It's disappointing to me that I'm being characterized -- I'm just an average guy.

If we just let it go the way it's going to go, the way it's going now, I've heard estimates with a trillion dollars for this health care legislation; it's not really going to be a trillion dollars. It's going to be a lot more than that.

CARDIN: I'm not going to support a bill that's not totally paid for.

FOREMAN: Back in the meeting, Senator Cardin presses on. Even to all the older voters who showed up -- people who polls say are most against this reform he says have faith.

CARDIN: I think that the Obama administration has already started to restore trust in the health care system by the...

FOREMAN: Afterwards, he's not sure the meeting changed any minds.

CARDIN: I think it can alleviate some of the concerns and there will be a more open mind in considering the legislation.

FOREMAN: But Mark Kreslins doubts that and just about everything else he is hearing on this subject.

KRESLINS: I don't believe much of what comes out of Congress these days.

FOREMAN: What about the president?

KRESLINS: I don't believe most of the presidents, what they say. I think they're politicians fundamentally and I think this is what all my friends are thinking, too.

FOREMAN: So the meeting came and went and for Mark Kreslins health care reform remains a dangerous gamble. While for Ben Cardin, it remains the best bet.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Hagerstown, Maryland.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, once again tonight we're looking at all the players in the debate and keeping their claims and "Keeping them Honest."

Up next: are there going to be "death panels" who can pull the plug on grandma? 360 MD Sanjay Gupta separates the fact from the fiction.

Later, we'll take you to the state where a serial killer could be at work; show you who has fallen victim and what authorities are doing about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: So each day the debate over health care reform seems to get louder with insults and anger often drowning out reasoned debate.

Here at 360 we're committed to try kind to cut through the noise and sorting facts from fiction.

We're "Keeping them Honest" again tonight with help from 360 MD Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, let's start with one of the most inflammatory charges we've been hearing from critics of the House bill provision that would pay for end-of-life counseling, the bill calls it an advanced consultation, critics calling it a "death panel".

You heard Senator Grassley earlier, a ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee appearing to endorse that deal although Candy Crowley says he was back pedaling a bit.

What about it? What's the real deal on this alleged "death panel." What does the House provision actually spell out?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm probably going to get e-mails about this. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say "death panel" just as a term is probably a hyperbole. I just think that it's so far out of left field, I'm not sure quite how to contextualize it or what the House bill really says.

Now, I think it's important to look at the specific language, and Candy did a great job with this. But they are specifically looking at this idea of a medical professional and a senior sitting down and talking about all sorts of things: living wills, different provisions. They want certain measures taken near the time of death.

All these sorts of things, which sometimes happen in doctor's offices during routine office visits but sometimes don't. Sometimes they are misunderstood and sometimes they are not acted upon. So I think that's sort of what they're talking about here.

Having said that, Anderson, we've been doing a lot of research in this particular issue. One thing that sort of comes out -- and this came out of an article in the journal in the American Medical Association -- what is the impact of having this discussion? I'm a physician sitting down and having a discussion with a senior and saying here are the various options near the end of your life. What this article concluded was that people who have a discussion like that do tend to be less aggressive about their care after a physician sort of spells all the different options. So that may be where this idea of "death panel" -- again I find it a hyperbole -- sort of is coming from, Anderson.

COOPER: It's interesting though, hearing the criticism that people are concerned about that. But I mean -- the idea of insurance companies make life or death decisions determining who gets cares and who doesn't all the time.

GUPTA: Yes and I mean and that sort of to gets this idea of that issue and rationing sort of overall. And people always say, "Is there going to be rationed care?" And I can tell you as a practicing physician, as someone who deals with this on a daily basis, rationing does occur all the time.

I mean, I was in the clinic this past week and at the end of the clinic I get all of this paperwork that basically says, justify why you're doing such and such procedure and justify why you're ordering such and such test.

And if the justification is inadequate, the answer comes back, that's not going to be covered which basically is saying that the patients is going to have to pay for it on their own which is in essence is what rationing is in so many ways. So it does occur, much to your point, Anderson.

COOPER: I want to play something that President Obama said yesterday in New Hampshire that's caused a lot of controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Another myth that we've been hearing about is this notion that somehow we're going to be cutting your Medicare benefits. We are not. The AARP would not be endorsing a bill if it was undermining Medicare. Ok, so I just want seniors to be clear about this.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: And what the President said is not correct -- AARP is not endorsing this bill. And they put out a statement saying, "Indications that we've endorsed any of the major health care reform bills currently under consideration in Congress are inaccurate."

Robert Gibbs, the Press Secretary of the White House he was asked about it today. He said essentially the President misspoke.

So if AARP isn't endorsing the legislation, why not? I mean, do they endorse legislation on other issues?

GUPTA: We've investigated this I think pretty fully, Anderson. Let me try and break it down as simply as possible. What they'll say is they want health care reform. They do believe that a guaranteed access of health care insurance should be made available to everybody. Their big issue, I think more than anything else. Remember who their constituency is here, Anderson, elderly people. It has to do around the issue of generic versus brand-named drugs. Their big concern is that there's not enough in this legislation, in this House bill specifically.

Remember, the Senate bill is still being debated. There's not enough in this House bill specifically to bring brand-named drugs to generic quickly enough. I mean, brand-named drugs are at certain price generics are often much cheaper. They think that process should take place a lot faster.

And they think if there is specific legislation around that, then this is probably going to get their endorsement. It's not there yet, at least not to their satisfaction.

COOPER: All right, Sanjay, "Keeping them Honest" tonight. I appreciate it.

We'll bring you back and a lot to talk about; a lot of questions out there.

Still ahead, the return of right-wing militias: a new report says militant anti-government groups are on the rise and angrier than ever. We'll have that report ahead.

But first, Erica Hill has a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, at the White House today, President Obama bestowing the country's highest civilian honor on 15 men and women. Among those receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom today, Billie Jean King, Sandra Day O'Connor, Sidney Poitier and Senator Ted Kennedy -- his daughter accepted on his behalf.

In Nigeria, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appearing at a town hall meeting today to stress the importance of democracy insisting free and fair elections are the best defense against the government corruption. She admitted even established democracies can struggle to get it right.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Now, our democracy is still evolving. We had all kinds of problems in some of our past elections, as you might remember. In 2000, our presidential election came down to one state where the brother of the man running for president was the governor of the state. So we have our problems, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Those comments getting a lot of attention tonight.

And in London, police today announcing an arrest in last week's $65 million jewelry heist -- remember, we showed you the video -- where a 50-year-old man arrested on Monday has already been released pending further investigation. It is unclear whether he's one of the two robbers who were described as armed and dangerous shown fleeing the scene in those surveillance photos which were released yesterday -- Anderson.

COOPER: That's -- I was away on a shoot, I haven't seen that video. It's amazing.

HILL: Crazy and $65 million worth.

COOPER: It's just unbelievable they got away.

All right, next, the fight for Afghanistan and insurgents attack on the rise as more Marines pour into the country ahead of the presidential election there. We'll talk to Michael Ware and national security analyst Peter Bergen about what's at stake.

Also militias in America is a seriously growing danger according to a new report; Internet recruiting videos on the rise. We'll tell you why and where the threat exists.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In Afghanistan today, furious fighting erupted in the southern Taliban stronghold as hundreds of U.S. and Afghan forces moved in to protect voters. In a week from tomorrow Afghans go to the poll to choose their president; only the second election since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.

But insurgents have vowed to disrupt the vote and attacks are on the rise.

Let's dig deeper now with Michael Ware and national security analyst Peter Bergen.

So Michael, July the deadliest month for U.S. and for NATO troops?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes indeed; 70- odd troop deaths.

COOPER: How tough is this going to be just to pull off these elections?

WARE: Well, I think elections will take place. As President Obama's special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, there's going to be problems. You've got the security issue, you've got corruption.

You've already had election observers or election workers killed. I think there's nine who have been killed already. There's going to be area where essentially people will not be able to vote. So there may be a degree of disenchantment or disenfranchising in some of the Pashtun areas.

By the way, it's not going to be a pretty picture but I think it will work its way to some kind of successful outcome. COOPER: Does the election really make much of a difference one way or the other in terms of success on the ground militarily?

WARE: In terms of the war, yes and no -- in a direct way, no; but in a grand way, in terms of the longer strategy, yes. It's about trying to create a government that the Afghans can actually turn to because it's so important in counter-insurgency.

It's instilling a government and forces in place that will provide the security in both in terms of delivering services...

COOPER: And that's a knock on Karzai, that it's obvious that he's just a mayor of Kabul basically.

WARE: And he is. I mean -- and let's not forget. Kabul has always been essentially a foreign country within Afghanistan.

I mean, when I lived Kandahar, I felt like I should have shown my passport to get into Kabul because it's an entirely different place.

And you're right. Karzai lacks the ability to project central power into the regions but then again, it's so difficult to create have a central government -- a real central government in that country.

COOPER: When you lived in Kandahar, could anyone understand what the heck you were saying?

WARE: No, so it's not different to today.

COOPER: The U.S. has -- by the way, we're trying to establish a connection with Peter Bergen. We're having audio problems.

WARE: I wondered why I was getting so much attention.

COOPER: We would be sharing the love here but -- I want to play something that Richard Holbrooke -- as you mentioned, the State Department's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan -- said, he made interesting comments. Here's a little bit about what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, SPECIAL ENVOY TO AFGHANISTAN & PAKISTAN: I would say this about defining success in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the simplest sense, the Supreme Court test for another issue, we will know it when we see it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I think that other test was porn, wasn't it or art? I'm not sure if art or porn...

WARE: I think that's right, yes.

COOPER: But, that aside, it does seem like the Obama administration is trying to change the definition of what success is, trying to kind of drastically scale it down. You don't hear these talks about democracy, about nation-building.

WARE: No.

COOPER: It's -- it's...

WARE: And so they should.

COOPER: It's preventing al Qaeda...

WARE: Right.

And the Bush administration already set us down the track of reassessing the strategic goals.

I mean, as we saw in Iraq -- look, let's face it -- you're not going to have a glimmering model of democracy in South Asia, in Kabul. It's never going to be something perfect.

So -- and we've got to remember, too -- look, this really isn't a humanitarian mission. America did not go to Afghanistan for altruistic reasons. America is there to protect, preserve and advance American national security interests. So that's going to have to be the goal of the campaign.

COOPER: And so how is the fight going? I mean, early on we heard from U.S. commanders on the ground, saying point blank, "Look, there's not enough Afghan troops involved in this."

WARE: There's not. And they're again doubling the size of the Afghan army. And the Afghan army, as I last saw it, was really just a hodge-podge of different foot soldiers from different warlords.

And back then when I last saw them, you know, they might have been wearing an Afghan national army uniform, but their true allegiances lie to the -- the bloke back home.

So this is going to be difficult.

In terms of the fight -- I mean, it's true. The momentum right now is with the Taliban. And in a war like this, if you're not winning, then you're almost losing. America's not going to, like, lose the war in Afghanistan on the ground, but you may not win it.

The true victory won't come with bombs and bullets. It's going to have to come with a political solution and the creation of some kind of a functioning system, probably a decentralized system.

COOPER: Which even, by the way, U.S. military commanders say. There's not a purely military solution to this thing.

WARE: And they're dead right. Sorry about -- pardon the pun, but they are. They're dead right. The solution is not going to be in the trenches. You're going to have to cut deals.

COOPER: A lot of folks working very hard right now fighting in the trenches, though.

WARE: Yes.

COOPER: And they certainly should be applauded.

Michael Ware, appreciate it.

Join the live chat happening now at AC360.com. Talk to other viewers watching the program in America and around the world right now.

Just ahead, a chilling new report showing extreme right-wing militias on the rise, describing as a powder keg in the report; the only thing missing is a spark. We're taking your questions tonight for Mark Potok; his group, the Southern Poverty Law Center, author of the new report.

You can text your questions to AC360 or 22360. Remember, standard rates apply. Again, that's 22360.

Plus, five young women murdered, their bodies found along the same road. Is it the work of a serial killer? Now, three more women are missing. Police are scrambling to solve the case.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Scott Roeder, the man charged with murdering Wichita abortion provider George Tiller, sits in jail tonight, awaiting trial. Federal authorities are trying to figure out whether Roeder acted alone or was part of some sort of larger conspiracy.

Since his arrest, Roeder has had a steady stream of visitors in prison. A list showing who's come by to see him has recently surfaced. It includes a number of extreme right-wing abortion activists.

One of the people who knows Roeder best, his ex-wife, Lindsey Roberts, talked candidly to Gary Tuchman about the man she says changed into someone she no longer recognized.

This is a "360 Follow."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lindsey Roberts married Scott Roeder 23 years ago. They're now divorced but had a child together, so their lives have remained intertwined. But the man she married has long scared her.

(on camera): Did you think, in the years going by, that your ex- husband was capable of murdering a doctor who provided abortions?

LINDSEY ROBERTS ROEDER, EX-WIFE OF SCOTT ROEDER: Yes.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Lindsey Roeder says on the day she got married, she never could have imagined the downward spiral her life would take.

(on camera): Were you in love when you got married?

ROEDER: Yes.

TUCHMAN: Do you still love him?

ROEDER: I love the Scott I married.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): This is the man she divorced. Lindsey did not want to see her ex-husband in person in Wichita. So she watched his preliminary hearing on the Internet with me in the Kansas City area where she lives.

ROEDER: Not a nightmare. It's life. It's true.

TUCHMAN: Over the years Lindsey said she saw her once stable husband become increasingly unglued, fanatical about religion and abortion. She filed for divorce after ten years. They stayed in touch because of their son Nicholas, who is now 22.

Just over a decade ago, when Roeder was stopped with explosives in his car, Lindsey says she warned investigators he was dangerous. So she was horrified but not shocked when her ex-husband was arrested for the murder of Dr. George Tiller.

ROEDER: My heart goes out to the Tiller family.

TUCHMAN: Two weeks after the murder, Lindsey Roeder received this letter from her ex-husband in jail.

ROEDER: "My guess is that I'll never hear back from you, because that would keep in character with being the grown-up spoiled brat that you are.

But my true concern is with our son, Nicholas. I'm afraid he's becoming or already become a spoiled brat such as yourself. If you're an adult, you'll respond. If you're a spoiled brat, you won't."

TUCHMAN: Lindsey, who says she was emotionally abused for years by Scott Roeder, did not respond.

(on camera): There's a good chance that Scott will see this story or hear about this story. What would you say to him?

ROEDER: Scott, you had no right to take another person's life. You're not God. You're not a judge. You're not a jury. You say that you are protecting the unborn, that you did it for the children, that you were justified.

If you did it for the children, why did I have to fight for years to get child support to care for Nicholas? If you did it for the children -- if you did it for the children, why wouldn't you pay for a dentist for Nicholas?

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Hopes and dreams demolished so completely. (END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: That was Gary Tuchman reporting.

So, if Scott Roeder was fueled by rage over a practice deemed legal under the law, as his ex-wife claims, he's certainly not alone. A new report out today from the Southern Poverty Law Center details a sharp rise in anti-government, right-wing militias, with numbers growing rapidly, especially in the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, as well as the Deep South.

According to the report, people drawn to these groups share a hatred of paying taxes, a suspicion of anything the government does, and deep outrage over the election of an African-American man as president.

So let's dig deeper with Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Mark, why do you think there's been this increase in militia activity since the beginning of the year?

MARK POTOK, DIRECTOR, SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER: Well, I think, as you suggest in your intro, it really has a lot to do with the rise of the power of a black man.

You know, for these people, for this movement in general, the primary kind of enemy is the government, the federal government. That was true in the '90s, and it's true today. But the big difference today is that the federal -- the face of the federal government is the face of a black man.

So, you know, I'm not suggesting that all militias or all people involved in this movement or in this ideology, you know, are really Klansmen secretly, but it is a far more racialized movement than what we saw in the '90s.

COOPER: So we did see a rise in the '90s. You're saying race is a much bigger factor this time around? And you're seeing that, what, in the rhetoric that they're using?

POTOK: Yes. In the rhetoric, in the conversation amongst themselves, and the kinds of issues they really take on. You know, it's really quite clear. You know, one thing you hear a lot -- again, not certainly from all people in this movement but for a great many of them -- is a lot of worry and angst over the idea that in 2042, as the Census Bureau has predicted, white Americans will lose their majority in this country.

So that's the, you know, very visible rise of power of Obama, the continuing relatively high rates of non-white immigration into this country, mainly Mexican and Central American. You know, all of those things are a part of this.

Certainly, there are other aspects that are much similar -- much more similar to what happened in the '90s. You know, a real worry about gun control, about sort of the new world order coming in and taking all Americans' freedoms away. You know, and even the kind of wacky stuff you hear from certain commentators about FEMA concentration camps and all the rest of it.

COOPER: We had a question from Text 360 from one of our viewers, Laser Jaymie (ph) in Miami. His question: "What democratic traits -- or excuse me, demographic traits do the militia members share?"

POTOK: Well, I think that militia members in the '90s were quite clearly from all classes of people. There were a number of academic studies that showed that pretty plainly. You know, it was not thick with lawyers and doctors and so on, but really, you had people from each kind of demographic.

I think that's probably less true today. I think that it is a more working-class phenomenon. But that is really only a sense. It's hard to say, you know, without doing a detailed study.

But you know, one thing I think that is clearly true is that we're talking, basically, about the rural population. We don't find these kinds of groups, with very few exceptions in urban areas and cities.

COOPER: And we're seeing more YouTube videos made by some of these groups.

POTOK: That's right. And the YouTube, of course, reflects the power of the Internet for these groups. And that is another piece of it. You know, while we look at this movement and we see, you know, a pretty disorganized movement of a lot of little different groups.

You know, the fact is that they are able to communicate, to sort of transmit ideology and, in fact, to make plans in terms of simply meetings and rallies and other events very easily. So that has been a great boost to them.

COOPER: And how many of these groups are just, you know, talkers? People who, you know, talk big, you know, love running around in forests dressed up in paramilitary gear, but ultimately, they don't amount to much?

POTOK: Well, I think that a lot of them are essentially just talkers, but talk is not always completely benign. I mean, I think we're seeing that right now in the town-hall meetings and so on.

And I think it is especially un-benign -- if that's a word -- malignant, you know, when the talk is coming from what I think are those really mainstream aiders and abettors; in other words, politicians and commentators who really reiterate and give some authority to the completely false ideas and propaganda theories of these groups.

So you know, what I'm saying is that there's a kind of poisoning of the mainstream political discourse. You know, instead of talking about health care, we're talking about death panels and that kind of thing. COOPER: Mark Potok, I appreciate it. It's an interesting report today out. Thanks very much.

POTOK: Thank you.

COOPER: You can go to AC360.com for the full report on the rise of militias, including a fascinating, if twisted, list of plots, conspiracies, and racist rampages in America since the Oklahoma City bombing.

Coming up next, a serial killer on the loose? Police in North Carolina think someone is getting away with murder, brazenly targeting women along one quiet road.

What's taking so long to catch the killer? It's tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report.

And rescuers being rescued -- powerful floodwaters making it almost impossible to reach typhoon victims. We'll show you the harrowing video.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight a grisly story out of North Carolina: The remains of five women found in less than five years, all along a backwoods byway known as Seven Bridges Road. Police believe their murders may be related.

What's even more frightening is three other women are now missing; authorities scrambling for clues. Some fear the murders could be the work of a serial killer.

David Mattingly has the latest in tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If someone were looking for a place to get away with murder in North Carolina, Edgecombe County's Seven Bridges Road might be the place to go.

(on camera): Nothing. Nothing but trees and pastures.

(voice-over): Since 2005, the remains of five women, all African American and suspected prostitutes, have been found here, among miles of woods and crops.

(on camera): There are any number of places you could pull off here. Like this spot right here. You could just drive off and disappear into the woods in a matter of seconds.

Sadly, that's what's been happening to these women. They disappear, never be seen alive again.

Is this the work of a serial killer? MICHAEL TEAGUE, FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGIST: Yes, I believe it is. Yes, I think the fact that the bodies have been found close together really would argue for a serial killer.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Michael Teague was once the state's top forensic psychologist and believes the killer is someone who could have a lot in common with his victims.

TEAGUE: Their economic level, their background, again the same race. So I think it's a person that would fit very easily within the environment.

MATTINGLY: All of the victims were last seen in the town of Rocky Mountain. We went to where they came from, an area where prostitutes work neighborhood streets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Typically this is the area.

MATTINGLY: But we found the streets deserted, cleared by fear. Prostitutes are easy targets for killers, living fragile lives on society's fringes. Still, Councilman Andre Knight says it shouldn't have taken years for the town to take notice.

(on camera): Is it just a matter of race? Or is it possible because of what they do for a living?

ANDRE KNIGHT, ROCKY MOUNTAIN CITY COUNCIL: I think it's a combination of both. Because even what a person does, they still have human rights.

TUCHMAN: A turning point in public awareness and the investigation itself was the fifth victim, Jarniece Hargrove, known to her friends as Sunshine. Friends and family publicly demanded justice. Local authorities asked the FBI to assist.

Like the other victims, she disappeared from Rocky Mount. Her body was found in June off Seven Bridges Road.

(on camera): From the streets of Rocky Mount, it's only about a 15-minute drive to get to places just like this. For all practical purposes, it's the middle of nowhere and this is where investigators say that the victims are being killed. They won't give us a lot of detail about what they're finding, but they do tell us that two of the victims were strangled; one was stabbed and beaten.

(voice-over): Three other Rocky Mount women who police say are not prostitutes are currently missing. The sheriff of Edgecombe County calls this a critical time in the investigation, leading many to hope that this lonely country road will soon lead to a killer.

David Mattingly, CNN, Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Scary stuff.

Still ahead: a no-holds-barred battle for TV ratings. What police say a Brazilian crime-show host did to win his time slot.

Also, another Michael Jackson tribute: this one apparently going global. Details when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Now for some of the other stories we're following tonight. Erica Hill has a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.

HILL: Anderson, a rescuer nearly swept to his death in the video we're about to show you, in the raging waters following a massive typhoon in Taiwan. There's that video.

He was actually trying to cross the river to get to the remains of a temple on the other side. Luckily, he was pulled to safety. Hundreds more were also rescued, but hundreds are still believed to be trapped in some villages in Taiwan and more than 100 people are confirmed dead.

New CNN polling tonight on former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin; her approval numbers now at 39 percent. That's down seven points from May. We should point out that poll was taken before Palin's recent comments claiming provisions of health-care reform would result in a so-called death panel.

Another tribute in the works for Michael Jackson: the concert is scheduled for the end of the month in Vienna, Austria, on the grounds of a 17th century palace. No word, though, on who's going to perform.

And murder for ratings -- that's what the cops allege. The host of a Brazilian crime show, who's also an elected legislator, in under suspicion of commissioning at least five murders to boost ratings. Police also accused Wallace Souza (ph) of drug trafficking. His attorney has said in a number of interviews that there is no evidence to prove this.

COOPER: Wow. That'll be crazy.

HILL: It's a crazy story. His son is part of it, according to the police.

COOPER: Wow.

HILL: You can't make it up.

COOPER: All right. Still ahead, everyone's favorite Atlanta housewife and mine, Nene; apparently, she stopped by CNN today and had a message or two. I'm not sure what she said. I'm eager to see. Erica has tonight's "Shot."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HILL: As Anderson mentioned before the break, I'm going to take over the "Shot" tonight because, frankly, AC...

COOPER: Yes. HILL: When you were gone, there were a number of stories.

COOPER: By the way, thank you for -- for so eagerly filling in for me.

HILL: Well, thanks for letting me do it.

COOPER: Yes.

HILL: It was my pleasure.

COOPER: Did you keep the room as icy cold as I keep it?

HILL: No, I didn't. In fact, that was one of the first things I said to your clerk (ph) was, "Hey, let's turn up the heat." But I digress.

So while you were gone, there were all these "Shots" and stories that would come up, and we'd say, "Oh, this would be great, but Anderson's not here. It's just not going to be the same."

So we thought that maybe we'd choose one of the staff favorites to share with you. We found this little ditty on "Entertainment Weekly's" "Pop Watch" block. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NENE LEAKES, "REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ATLANTA": I do watch Anderson Cooper. I love him a lot. He's very, you know, handsome and all that stuff. And sometimes I listen to the news, and sometimes I'm just looking at him, child.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He loves you, too. He...

LEAKES: Yes. I heard that he loves me, and I love him. So Anderson, if you're looking, muah -- let's do it one more time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: Well, we know that Nene can't get enough of her boo, AC. Donovan still better watch out.

The lovefest continued today at the mother ship, CNN's Atlanta headquarters. Nene stopped by CNN.com. Apparently, she's got a new book. She was there to talk about it, but she also had to take a little quiz.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bradley Cooper or Anderson Cooper?

LEAKES: Hey, Boo-boo -- Anderson Cooper. That's my baby. How did you know that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said it before. He's on record as saying that he's a fan of the housewives, particularly "The Atlanta Housewives," particularly Nene Leakes.

Have you actually had a conversation with him yet? Have you had a meal? Have you sat down at Starbucks?

LEAKES: We have not sat down at Starbucks. And he was supposed to call in on the Andy Cullen show. But he was away swimming with the sharks, so Gayle King called in instead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was that a good substitute?

LEAKES: Yes, Gayle's a huge fan of the "Housewives."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: He was swimming with sharks instead. How about that, Reggie O'Keefe (ph), throwing you under the bus there.

COOPER: Yes. Oh, well. Well, maybe, you know -- maybe we shall meet one day. Who knows?

Anything else? Is that it? Are we done?

HILL: That's all I've got for now. But you know, the week is young.

COOPER: Whew. I was afraid there was some big surprise.

You can see all the most recent "Shots," at AC360.com. Hey, that does it for "360." thanks for watching.

"LARRY KING" starts right now. See you tomorrow night.

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