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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

Iraq: Three Years Later; Tropical Cyclone Larry Slams Into Australia; Biological Fathers and Adoption

Aired March 20, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone.
It has been three years since the war in Iraq began, three years, 2,316 Americans and 30,000 Iraqis killed, more than a quarter-trillion dollars spent, one brutal dictator toppled, one presidency on the rocks.

And, with all that on the table, the president today went on the road.

Reporting for us tonight, here's CNN's Elaine Quijano.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the Iraq war now entering its fourth year and polls showing low public support for his handling of the situation, President Bush acknowledged both the continued sectarian violence in Iraq and Americans' unease.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The situation on the ground remains tense. And, in the face of continued reports about killings and reprisals, I understand how some Americans have had their confidence shaken.

QUIJANO: Speaking in Cleveland, the president again defended his Iraq strategy. This time, he zeroed in on the story of Tal Afar, a city in northern Iraq, citing it as an example of how he says Iraqi forces are playing an increasing role...

BUSH: Many Iraqi units conducted their own anti-terrorist operations and controlled their own battle space.

QUIJANO: ... how the U.S. learned from previous mistakes...

BUSH: It came only after much trial and error.

QUIJANO: ... and why insurgents and terrorists are losing their grip on the country's civilian population.

BUSH: The people of Tal Afar have shown that Iraqis do want peace and freedom. And no one should underestimate them.

QUIJANO: The president also addressed the Iraqis themselves, reiterating his position that U.S. forces will not leave prematurely.

BUSH: The United States will not abandon Iraq. We will not leave that country to the terrorists who attacked America and want to attack us again.

QUIJANO: As he has done recently in other appearances, the president took questions. For nearly an hour, audience members invited by the City Club of Cleveland questioned the president, some pointedly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, with the war in Iraq costing $19,600 per U.S. household, how do you expect a generation of young people, such as ourselves, to afford college at a time like this, when we're paying for a war in Iraq?

QUIJANO: Others, not so pointedly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My basic question is how can we help you? From the grassroots level...

BUSH: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... how can we help you promote the cause of freedom and liberty for all peoples throughout the world...


BUSH: I appreciate that.

QUIJANO: As for the big picture on Iraq, one analyst says, daunting challenges remain.

MICHAEL O'HANLON, SENIOR FELLOW IN FOREIGN POLICY STUDIES, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: A flat economy, a robust insurgency, and a stagnant political process -- and unless that latter reality, in particular, changes fast, I am afraid this is not going to look like it's headed in a very good direction, no matter what Mr. Bush says in his speeches.

QUIJANO (on camera): The president today also took a question...


COOPER: Elaine, it might surprise some people to learn that the president doesn't always take unscripted questions. Why is the White House now allowing him to? Is that a sign of -- of confidence or desperation?

QUIJANO: Well, it certainly depends on where you're sitting from on this issue, where you fall on this issue. What the president clearly has been trying to do in recent months -- we should point out, this, obviously, is not the first time that he started to take questions about Iraq -- is to show that he is in touch with how the American people are feeling about the Iraq war.

And that includes having some of these give-and-take sessions with members of the public. That's something that he has been criticized for in the past, is not engaging in that -- now, clearly, the president wanting to show, Anderson, that he is not afraid to take on this issue with members of the public. COOPER: Elaine Quijano from the White House, thanks.

The president's somewhat conciliatory tone today in Cleveland notwithstanding, the administration has generally been quick to criticize the media for focusing mainly on the bad news, on the bombs going off, to the exclusion of the rest of the story. That is what they often say.

Tonight, as complete a picture as we know how to bring you, from the ground, three years into the war, from CNN's Nic Robertson.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Power stations have been built, water plants repaired, and Saddam's iron-will dictatorship has been replaced with freely-elected politicians -- the roots of democracy getting stronger.

But none of the improvements operate in the open. Instead, most sit inside guarded fortresses. Concrete barriers have grown higher, bigger, longer, security tighter. Progress is being walled in. Innocent Iraqis are being killed by insurgents, religious death squads, and some accidentally by the U.S. troops who liberated them from Saddam Hussein.

We have been invited to visit a middle-class family. Like so many here, they support democracy, but are trying to understand what's happening in Iraq. This father of five, who doesn't want to be identified, explains.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I wish that we go back to the old days, in regards to security. People didn't have any mental stress. Now we are living in turbulence. We don't know what could happen tomorrow.

ROBERTSON: By one estimate, 30,000 Iraqis civilians have been killed in the last three years. And, today, they live in fear of insurgents. But they also live with anger. The sister blames U.S. soldiers for killing her brother.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Of course the situation got worse. We lost many people that are dear to us. One of them is my brother. We are losing many people, paying a high price, and for what?

ROBERTSON: Later, she told me, financially, the family is now better off.

Billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars, financing, rebuilding and security projects have helped boost the economy. Earnings are up, but so, too, is the cost of living -- tea, 500 dinars before the war, 3,000 now, up sixfold, milk the same, sugar up four times its pre-war costs.

Staggeringly, for a country rich in oil, it's petroleum products that have suffered the biggest hikes -- cooking fuel, 500 dinars before the war, 15,000 now, up 30 times, and gas for cars up more than tenfold, and still in short supply.

(on camera): Three years ago, this is where I was, on the roof of the Ministry of Information. After the war, it was looted and burnt out. Now it's still a gutted shell.

And, just across the road, over here, is where the government supermarket was. It was also looted, burnt out, reduced to rubble.

Indeed, this downtown neighborhood of Baghdad looks the worst I have seen it in the 15 years I have been coming to Iraq.

(voice-over): The whole city is far shabbier. Trash piles go uncollected. And three-year-old bullet holes and bomb craters from the original air assault three years ago still scar the city.

Hope of a better future is what Iraqis were dreaming of three years ago. So far, hope is proving only a limited defense against the forces that would drag the country into chaos.


COOPER: Nic joins us now from Baghdad.

Nic, as you well know, this administration continues to say, look, it is the U.S. media who is basically spinning the story negatively. They say, you guys, anyone over there in Baghdad, is paying too much attention to the bomb blasts and -- and to the death toll. Is that a fair critique?

ROBERTSON: Anderson, I do think we get to the good stories, if you will. The first picture in that last story we looked at was a power plant being built, $200 million, electricity for a million people in Baghdad.

That was a story we did last year, a water treatment plant being rebuilt, again, a story we did that was a good story, something for the Iraqi people.

As I think back to last week, Wednesday, we were covering the -- the democratic developments here, the parliament meeting for the first time, by anybody's estimation, a good step in Iraq -- the following day, Operation Swarmer, an operation, by the Pentagon's own account, that was highlighting just how well the Iraqi military were doing here.

But, yes, there are a lot of very bad things happening in Iraq. They do make headlines. They are pertinent to the bigger issues of what's happening in Iraq. And to ignore what the insurgents are doing, to ignore what the -- the people trying to stir up sectarian violence are doing, would be to mislead people about where Iraq is going and what's happening in Iraq.

But we do get to the -- I -- I believe we do get to the -- do get to the good stories, do get to all the big issues we can that are relevant to the future of this country, and relevant for people to understand about what's happening here -- Anderson.

COOPER: Nic Robertson from Baghdad -- thanks, Nic.

Earlier today, in Cleveland, a reporter asked a man on the street if he expected things in Iraq would get better.

"Yes," he said, "eventually, but I won't be around to see it. That's how long it will take," he said. The man was in his 60s. And, relatively speaking, he may be an optimist.

A narrow majority of Americans believe Iraq is headed for civil war. And a larger majority have little or no confidence in the president.

Here to talk about it, former presidential adviser to Republicans and Democrats, David Gergen.

David, thanks for being with us.

It seems to me, this president walks a very thin line when talking about Iraq. If he seems too optimistic, he comes off seeming out of touch. Now, it seems, he's being a little bit more candid, or critical, in -- at least in his speech today. What are his options?


And -- and I think the president -- we should be appreciative of the fact the president is now taking tough questions from unscripted audience members. You know, there was a time I think he was legitimately being criticized for appearing only before very friendly audiences, with canned questions.

Now, at least, he's out there. So, I think that's progress. I wish we were making more progress in Iraq to match the rhetorical progress.

COOPER: The -- the White House will -- will tell you that they are ahead of the American people on this, that they're looking at the long term, they're looking at history. You heard Vice President Cheney over the weekend talking about, you know, 10 years down the road. Who's ahead of whom, do you think, the White House ahead of the American public, or the American...


COOPER: ... public ahead of the White House?

GERGEN: Well, I think the -- one thing that we do know is that, while the media has often shown the negative, the American media is not alone in -- in -- in being skeptical now about the direction this has taken.

After all, conservative Bill Buckley has basically called this a failed effort. George Will has been -- a conservative columnist -- had been seriously questioning it. Bill Kristol, a conservative leader in the media, has been basically -- and basically calling for Donald Rumsfeld to resign.

Chuck Hagel, conservative Republican senator, has basically said -- said yesterday that we're no better off today -- in fact, we're worse off today than we were three years ago.

And Mr. -- you know, and -- and -- and Mr. Allawi yesterday saying, from Iraq, that this is a -- we're in a civil war. So, I -- I think it's wrong to sort of paint this, well, the darn media, you know, if they would only get this right.

There are a lot of significant voices now who are questioning where this is going. So, I think it's incumbent on the president to -- to go and ask -- answer the tough questions, to be as frank as possible. That's the only way he's going to retain public support.

I do think, Anderson, there's one other development here. Jim Hoagland had a really interesting column in "The Washington Post" today, a foreign affairs columnist. And that is that there is a quietly now -- there are quietly emerging signs that the administration is planning a -- in effect, an internal withdrawal in Iraq, to get American troops out of the cities, off the streets, by the end of the year, move them back into safe camps, let the Iraqis take -- take hold.

If that's their strategy, they really ought to go public in a big, big way, and tell us about it, because that, at least, sounds like a more plausible way out.

COOPER: It -- it also, I suppose, gets to a point you raised last week about not wanting to appear to take sides if civil war is increasing.

GERGEN: Absolutely. And -- and, you know, this -- this -- this -- this sweep we had last week did look and -- and -- and our ambassador is making it look as if we're taking a -- where -- you know, the ambassador makes it looks like we are -- we are trying to get the Sunnis in the government. And the sweep last week, it looked like they were going after the insurgents, who are allied with the Sunnis.

So, I -- I think that the idea of pulling back from the cities and from the streets, and leaving this much more up to the Iraqis, and making it very plain to the world that's what we're doing, could persuade a lot of Americans, well, that's a sensible way to start treating this. They really ought to take more responsibility, and let's not take sides, if this really -- if this, look, is, in fact, what many people think it is, and that is the early stages of a civil war.

COOPER: I was thinking about this today.

And -- and, you know, you -- you hear the administration's critique. And I take that seriously. And I always look at our own coverage and my coverage of this.

GERGEN: Right. COOPER: You know, they're saying we're too negative. You look, then, reporters on the ground are saying, look, we are telling you what we are seeing.

And maybe this is a situation where both sides are actually right. I mean, is this just operating war in this modern information age? I mean, you look at the battle of D-Day, some 50,000 -- or, excuse me -- 10,000 Allied troops got killed in that battle. You know, battle of Gettysburg, 50,000 Americans got killed in that battle.

And yet, you know, if -- if there had been 24-hour coverage back then, would any of those wars have been able to be fought?

GERGEN: Well, you know, Anderson, there's one difference.

We won the battle of D-Day. And it was a decisive victory. At Gettysburg, the Union troops won. And -- and Lee got whipped. And -- and he retreated. And -- and it was turning point of the war.

There is no clear demarcation of any battle here. This is sort of a twilight struggle. And you can't tell who's winning and who's losing. Remember, early on in the war, Don -- Donald Rumsfeld was asking tough questions of his own people, sent out that memo, said: I can't tell who's winning and who's losing.

Guess what? The American people can't tell it either. It has gone on for such a long time, we have seen so much carnage, though, people are saying: Wait a minute. You guys told us this was going to be a cakewalk. You told -- the guys told us, we would be in here -- I think the one thing we do know is -- whether it's getting better or getting worse -- and that's in the eyes of the beholder -- it is falling darn short of what the administration thought it was going to be, where we thought we were going to be, three years on.

We thought this was going to be a much better situation than it is. So, it's extreme disappointment to find ourselves in this situation three years in.

COOPER: Yes, even, it seems, like one year ago -- you look at some of the statements from a year ago.

GERGEN: Absolutely.

COOPER: It seems like people thought we would have been in a better spot.

David Gergen, thanks for being on.

GERGEN: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, three years later in Iraq, U.S. troops still in the thick of battle, and the president's popularity sinking -- is it time for him to change course? And what if he doesn't? -- a lot more on Iraq ahead. Plus, men who desperately want to be fathers, but are losing their children to strangers. Should biological dads have rights when it comes to adoption?

And, tonight, they're called Generation M, M for multitasking. Their lives are filled with gadgets. But could all the distractions have a downside? We will look into that -- coming up on 360.


COOPER: Well, in the last week, the U.S. military has moved hundreds of Americans troops from Kuwait, where they were on standby, into Iraq to provide extra security.

It's not hard to see why. Today in Baghdad alone, explosions killed at least 13 people, wounded 34 others. Police also discovered nine more bodies. Each had been shot in the head. And, in the last eight days, 186 corpses have been found.

Now, whether you believe this adds up to a civil war or not -- and, as David Gergen just noted, it's fair to say this isn't the picture the White House painted when it made its case for war three years ago -- patience wasn't part of the sales pitch. And neither was doubt.

Here's CNN's John King.


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Absolute certainty was the administration's pre-war trademark.

Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a grave threat.


BUSH: It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.


KING: The intelligence, a slam-dunk.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.


KING: The Iraqi people desperately wanted the dictator gone.


RICHARD B. CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And they will welcome as liberators the United States, when we come to do that.


KING: And Iraq's oil production would quickly thrive, paying the cost of the war and its aftermath.


PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon.


KING: Three difficult years later, that pre-war certainty is a major reason the president's stay-the-course optimism is such a tough sale.

BUSH: Americans have never retreated in the face of thugs and assassins, and we will not begin now.

PETER HART, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: This is a pivot point for the president. If he refuses to make a change or an adjustment, he will pay a tremendous price. The public has reached a firm, fixed, final opinion that it is time to find a way out of Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Support our troops! Bring them home!

KING: That view has been hardening over the past year, as the U.S. death toll climbed past 2,300, the cost to U.S. taxpayers eclipsed $250 billion, and optimism following Iraqi elections has given way, repeatedly, to insurgent and sectarian violence.

SHIBLEY TELHAMI, ANWAR SADAT PROFESSOR FOR PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: The notion that Iraq was going to become an inspiring place for much of the region that will gain America credit and create positive change elsewhere, I think, is dead for now. It is possible that we might have a success in Iraq. But, if I were betting, the odds are against it.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: This is a tinderbox of difficulty.

KING: Leading congressional voices say, most difficulties now are born of pre-war calculations, from how many troops would be needed, to how difficult it would be to keep religious and ethnic tensions in check.

LUGAR: That was the -- the largest deficiency. We have been struggling ever since. These are all situations that could have been predicted and that should have been met early on.

KING: Mr. Bush concedes the intelligence failures and problems training Iraqi forces. But, for the most part, this is a no-apologies White House. CHENEY: Now, you can go down and argue about various aspects, tactics and so forth. But I think the -- on the big issues, we got it right.

KING: But 60 percent of Americans in the latest CNN polling say the war was not worth it, leaving Mr. Bush at a second-term crossroads.

HART: What you're looking at here is whether he will be the Lyndon Johnson of this century, where he didn't read -- they moved right, and he didn't read the political and military situation right. His failure to do that will cost him not only politically, but in -- in terms of his standing in history.

BUSH: Freedom will prevail in Iraq. Freedom will prevail in the Middle East.

KING: The president knows he is out of step with the prevailing mood here at home, but is betting history, in time, sees things his way.


COOPER: John King joins us now.

John, you know, when 60 percent of the American public says it wasn't worth it, does the White House think that speeches, like today's, really can help turn things around?

KING: Not one speech, Anderson, and no speech will turn anything around substantially.

They know that events on the ground must turn things around, a reduction in the violence principally in the short term. They want the Iraqis to come together on this unity government. But what these speeches are designed to do, most of all, is to stop the hemorrhaging, if you will.

Opposition to the war has not only been growing in the past year. It has been hardening significantly. And more and more Republicans are casting doubt. In this election year, that is one trend the president must stop.

John King, thanks.

A different type of battle now in Australia won by Mother Nature -- Cyclone Larry, with winds of up to 185 miles an hour, leaves a path of destruction. That story is coming up.

First, Erica Hill from Headline News has some of the top stories we are following tonight -- Erica.


And we start off in Branson, Missouri -- a fiery and deadly plane crash there. A twin-engine Piper Seneca went down in rain and fog, slamming into a storage building. Luckily, no one on the ground was hurt. All four people on the plane, however, were killed.

And tragedy strikes at the Los Angeles Marathon, not once, but twice. Two runners died of heart attacks during Sunday's race. Both men were veterans. Fifty-three-year-old L.A. Police Detective Paul (sic) Reyna on the left -- who you will see on the left -- there he is -- collapsed just three miles into the race. Sixty-year-old Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy James Leone was less than three miles from the finish line.

In New Orleans, Mayor Ray Nagin's Commission on Rebuilding issues its final report, backing a proposal that would allow residents to rebuild anywhere. But he warns, some would be doing it at their own risk. And, at tonight's meeting, several residents vented their anger at the mayor.

We are going to be bring you a little bit more of that, coming up on 360.

And, in Malaysia, a very gutsy man, or maybe just a little cuckoo -- you decide. According to media reports, this man has set a new world record by kissing a poisonous cobra 51 times in just over three minutes.

It's an interesting little dance he's got going on for the kiss, Anderson.


COOPER: And, like -- like, there was a record that existed of that?

HILL: There was.


COOPER: ... kissed a...


HILL: And the record was 11 kisses.

COOPER: Uh-huh.

HILL: And, so, he had to go for 51? How about 12?

COOPER: Wow. There you go.

HILL: Yes.

COOPER: All right, Erica, thanks very much.

Cyclone Larry, it is one for the record books. Folks down under have taken a catastrophic hit. A relentless force, it proved far more powerful, in some ways, than Hurricane Katrina, leaving behind damage Australia has not seen in decades. We will take you there, show you the latest. Plus, have you heard about Generation M? They thrive on a steady diet of multiple sources of media, absorbing the equivalent of roughly 60 hours a week of media. Yikes. Should you be worried? -- when 360 continues.


COOPER: Cyclone Larry, it sounds like the name of a bad sitcom -- if only that were the case. Tonight, a corner of Australia is reeling from this record-setting storm, one more powerful than Katrina, and may be more evidence that we have entered an era of intensely destructive tropical systems, and enormously terrifying, with Larry's winds approaching 200 miles an hour.

Now, if there is a good news about this, is that warnings were taken seriously.

Here's -- here's CNN's Rob Marciano.


ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: (voice-over): When Cyclone Larry slammed into the northeast coast of Australia, it knocked out power for more than 100,000 households and left thousands homeless.

Like Hurricane Katrina, here, residents near the town of Innisfail, where the storm made landfall, had all been warned. And, yet, they said, it was still terrifying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were just really scared for our life, to the stage where, at one stage, we were starting to feel sick, just through the worry of whether we were going to get through the night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And those who went outside, there was just like a noise like a -- a train was coming. And the ocean was roaring. And the wind was just unbelievable.

MARCIANO: No one was killed, and only about 30 were injured, remarkable, considering Larry was stronger than Hurricane Katrina, packing winds of up to 180 miles per hour. That compares to the 125 mile-per-hour gusts during Katrina.

It's likely lives were saved because most residents evacuated. Prime Minister John Howard reassured those in Larry's path that this would not be another New Orleans.

JOHN HOWARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: This is certainly a very fearful and challenging time for the people of far north Queensland. And I want them to know that their fellow Australians are with them, and we will respond in an appropriate fashion to any requests for help.

MARCIANO: Cyclone Larry was the strongest storm to hit Australia in 30 years. Back in 1974, a small, but very intense cyclone named Tracy destroyed the town of Darwin and killed 65. Cleanup costs will easily run into the millions. Along with homes and businesses, sugarcane and banana fields were flattened. Many people returned home to find not only their homes ruined, but their livelihoods gone as well.


MARCIANO: Tropical cyclones in this part of the world are not rare, but to have one this strong hit land does not happen every day.

This is their season. The middle of March is -- is the same pretty much as would be the middle of September in our area. If it looks like a hurricane, well, that's because it pretty much is. The only difference is, in this part of the world, it spins in the opposite direction.

But you can see, it has the same sort of results. South Indian Oceans and the South Pacific Oceans, they call them tropical cyclones. In the Western Pacific, they call them typhoons. In the Eastern Pacific and the Atlantic, where we live, they call them hurricanes, same animal, a different part of the world.

As luck would have it, there's another cyclone taking a very similar path to what Larry took. It's called Tropical -- Tropical Cyclone Wati. It has winds of 65 miles an hour. Expect it to intensify. But it should -- at this point, the forecast is it -- for it -- it to turn away from the same area northeast of Australia that was hit by Larry.

Either way you slice it, though, it's -- it's a stark reminder tonight that you do not have to live in New Orleans, you do not have to live near the Gulf of Mexico to get hit by one of these tropical systems.

The good news, as you mentioned, Anderson, is that this time around they got out of the way. And as of tonight, there are no fatalities reported.

Back to you.

COOPER: And hurricane season starting here the beginning of June.

Rob, thanks.

MARCIANO: You bet.

COOPER: Turning now to a storm of a different kind, a battle over child custody. Are unwed fathers being left out of the decision- making process? Some say yes and they are fighting for the right to keep their kids.

Their story coming up.

And a doctor who lost his license, not that the government knew about it or even the patients. A 360 investigation ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Welcome back to 360.

You know, it happens all too often in this country, a young couple not ready for parenthood suddenly find themselves expecting a baby. Now, when this happens, a woman has several choices. She could have an abortion, put the child up for adoption, or raise the child herself. But the man's choices are not very clear.

Last week we met a man who has filed a lawsuit for the right to decline parenthood. But what if the father wants to keep the baby? What are his options? Well, that can get very complicated.

Take a look.


COOPER (voice over): No one who saw these pictures in 1993 are likely to forget them, 3-year-old Baby Jessica screaming as she's taken from the arms of the Devores (ph), the only parents she had ever known. A Michigan court ordered Jessica returned to her biological parents, to the mother who had given her up for adoption, then changed her mind, and the father who said he never knew the baby existed until the custody battle began.

A year later, another picture, another child, Baby Richard taken from his adopted family in Illinois and returned to the biological father who said he was told his son had died at birth, when he was actually placed for adoption.

OTAKAR KIRCHNER, FATHER OF BABY RICHARD: I couldn't understand why I have to fight. Somebody tried to adopt my son without my signature.

COOPER: Those heart-wrenching pictures caused a public outcry. Both cases shared one thing in common: they were decided on the question of a father's rights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is the father. He has rights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, that's...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And his rights were wrongfully terminated.

COOPER: According to a Brookings Institution study in 1990, there were 1.2 million babies are born out of wedlock. But the question of the father's right to consent to his child's adoption when he wasn't married to the baby's mother was rarely raised. Adoption professionals say the question is being raised more often now.

Even in the '90s, some states already had so-called punitive father registries where men would have to sign up each time they had sex. Then, and only then, were they informed if their partner attempted to put a child up for adoption. The registries were little known, rarely used, and considered impractical, to say the least. It's been nearly 13 years since the Baby Jessica case, and today a University of Missouri law school study says 33 states now have registries. Yet, still, in case after case, fathers are filing for parental rights after children they say they never knew about have been placed with adoptive parents.


COOPER: Joining me now, three people very familiar with this adoption battle. Erik Smith lost his child to adoption but has won the right to visit him.

Adam Pertman, meanwhile, is executive direction of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, a research policy and education firm, and has had written many articles on adoption and family-related issues.

And in Columbia, Missouri, Mary Beck, a professor at the University of Missouri School of Law who believes the father should bear the burden of registering with the state if he wants to keep the child.

Appreciate all of you being on the program.

Adam, let me start off with you. The states -- the states that have punitive father's registries, they're designed to help men discover if their child is being placed for adoption. And you say these registries don't work. Why?

ADAM PERTMAN, EXEC. DIR., EVAN B. DONALDSON ADOPTION INSTITUTE: Well, they don't work for a lot of reasons. One is that most people simply don't know they exist. And that's probably the biggest impediment to their working.

There have been studies on -- actually, the institute that I head is in the midst of a study on birth parents, birth parents' rights, birth parent processes, and putative father registries are one of the things that we've examined. And what we find almost universally, not quite, is that people simply don't know they're there.

So that's a real impediment to their usage.

COOPER: OK. Let me -- let me -- let me just bring in Professor Beck on this point.

You say the registries are the best thing we have to protect fathers' rights. Essentially, they -- the way they work now is, any time a man has sex with a woman, he is supposed to sign up with these registries that he could be a potential father?

PROF. MARY BECK, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI SCHOOL OF LAW: Or check with the woman with whom he's had sex to determine if she's pregnant. And if she is, to file a paternity action to take financial and legal responsibility for the child. If he can't locate her, or if she won't talk to him, then he needs to file with the registry to ensure that he will get noticed. COOPER: Is that really reasonable, that any time a man has sex with a woman that he would sign into a registry?

BECK: Well, it's the best available means to protect his rights. We've tried for decades to do it other ways and it hasn't worked.

Women, if they're charged with the responsibility of protecting a father's rights, we know it doesn't work. It hasn't worked.

One out of four women is abused by her partner. One out of nine college-age women is raped, often while impaired or unconscious. She can't identify her partner.

Many men and women have multiple sexual partners and the women can't identify the father. So the father who relies on the mother to protect his rights have misplaced his reliance.

COOPER: Adam, what about that?

PERTMAN: Well, the fact is that these registries are often used to cut the fathers out of their rights. It's unfortunate but true. There have been...

COOPER: How so?

PERTMAN: Well, there have been cases where a father did indeed take care of his kids, give child support to those kids, and then when the mom decided she wanted to go to court and terminate the father's rights, the judge argued -- the judge ruled, rather, that he never signed up on a registry; therefore, he doesn't have rights, even though he paid child support and, in fact, functioned as a father.


Erik, let me bring you in. Your child was placed for adoption without your consent. There was no registry in Ohio at the time. Would a registry have protected you?

ERIK SMITH, CONTESTED HIS SON'S ADOPTION: Definitely. Well, I mean, like Adam says -- he's exactly right -- if it was -- if it was advertised, if I had known and whatnot, yes, sure it would have.

COOPER: Would you have signed up for -- for the registry?

SMITH: It depends on what the registry would have said. If it -- you know, I knew about the pregnancy. I had known about that. And so I guess in a sense that, if I had to claim paternity, yes, I would have signed up for that. I would have signed, had I known yes.

COOPER: Adam, you say these things basically don't work. Do you have a better solution?

PERTMAN: Well, I think the solution is complicated. Doing it -- for starters, if we publicize that they existed, if we put money behind promotion, if we allowed registries to go across state lines -- because they can't work if somebody's moved because a father might register in one state but the mother's in another state.

COOPER: Which is basically what Senator Mary Landrieu is proposing, if I'm not mistaken. She wants a national registry. She wants all the states to advertise it.

Is that correct?

PERTMAN: Right. She would -- she wants it advertised. And they certainly work better if they are advertised. I have to say that I think the thing we need most of all is more -- is real research on what works and what doesn't.

COOPER: Mary...

PERTMAN: And if we do that, we might be able to form better policies.

COOPER: Mary, do you agree with that?

BECK: Yes. I think that Senator Landrieu's bill would get all participating states to have a media campaign -- it's required -- and she would link all the states in a national registry which would protect a father no matter where he was and where the mother was.

COOPER: Erik, I think just a final thought to you, I do think it would shock a lot of people, that notion that all of a sudden you realize you have a child out there who's been put up for adoption that you didn't even know about. What is that like?

SMITH: Well, first of all, I didn't lose my son to adoption. What happened is I got my rights back. Fraud was found and my rights were reinstated. And after about a year and a half I made a good -- you know, an agreement with the prospective adoptive parents.

So my rights were never really terminated. I didn't lose my son in the way you said.

What's the question?

COOPER: Well, I mean, I think a lot of people would find it shocking that that situation, your situation can even occur in this day and age.

SMITH: Well...

COOPER: Were you aware this could have happened?

SMITH: Was I aware that what could have happened?

COOPER: Well, that you -- I mean, when you found yourself in this situation where your rights...

SMITH: Oh, OK. Yes, I mean -- no. At that time I knew nothing about the law and it came as a total shock to me that the law did not recognize me as a father until I actually claimed it in a document or a court or something like that. Yes, it shocked me. COOPER: What do you -- what do you want people out there to know?

SMITH: I want people out there to know that the adoption attorneys are the ones who draft these statues. They're out to get rid of fathers. What we need to do is we need to -- we need to look at putative father registries and what they actually require.

Some require paternity claim requirements and make them synonymous with registration like Florida and Utah. And that's why we're having all of these cases down in Florida and Utah right now, because a guy cannot swear to knowledge that he does not have.

They also passed laws in Utah and Florida typically where the mother has absolutely no duty to the father. She can defraud, she can lie and everything. They say it right in their statutes.

What we really need is really good advertisement. Adam is exactly correct, we need good advertisement. And we also need to get rid of the paternity claim requirement on the forms. Like -- I think Ohio is a good model, actually.

COOPER: Appreciate all of you joining us.

Erik Smith, Mary Beck and Adam Pertman, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

SMITH: Thanks -- sure.

COOPER: Coming up just ahead, real fine mess. Billions of dollar in fines going uncollected. Corporations getting away with. It's costing you money, taxpayers.

We're keeping them honest tonight.

And next, how can you tell your kids are growing up? When they begin sprouting wires and keypads and iPods, maybe, and start using them all at once. What's wrong with that? A new look at kids and multitasking when 360 continues.


COOPER: So ask a mom about multitasking and she'll tell you she does it all the time. It's called being a mom, and it's been that way since moms started having kids and cooking and hunting and working as well. Well, lately, though, multitasking is all about being a kid, and surfing and phoning and texting and gaming. Literally front-page news.

The question right there on this week's "TIME" magazine, "Are Kids Too Wired for Their Own Good?" What science tells us about the pluses and minuses of doing everything at once.

Our story tonight from CNN's Heidi Collins.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) HEIDI COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It's dinnertime at the Cox family home, but no one is rushing to the table. Fourteen- year-old Bronte is busy at the computer, IMing, checking, listening to music and talking on the phone, all at the same time.

Her twin brother Piers is doing his own juggling act. He's watching "South Park," playing a computer video game and IMing with friends.

GEORGINA COX, MOTHER OF BRONTE & PIERS: They're in their own little worlds and it's so hard to get through to them.

COLLINS: For mom and dad, dinner seems like a nightly battle.

STEPHEN COX, FATHER OF BRONTE & PIERS: It is intensely hard to pry them away. You just get use to the this insane lack of real attention.

COLLINS: It's always been tough to get teens to turn off the TV or computer, but kids like Bronte and Piers present a new challenge. They are part of what some call Generation M, teens whose like media multitasking.

DON ROBERTS, STANFORD UNIV.: More and more today, kids are spending more and more time using two and three and possibly even four media simultaneously.

COLLINS: It's the art of juggling between video games, instant messaging and Google searches. And a 2005 Kaiser Family Foundation study says half of all 8 to 18-year-olds use more than one media tool most of the time.

(on camera): It's not that kids are spending more time using electronic media. That number actually stayed the same, at six hours and 20 minutes every day. But by playing with more gadgets at once, it's closer to taking in 8.5 hours of media time every day.

(voice over): Piers prides himself on being a better multitasker than his dad.

PIERS COX, MEDIA MULTITASKER: He might have music playing and also e-mail and typing. That's all he can pretty much do. I can watch DVDs, IM, play games, do it all at the same time.

COLLINS: But experts warn that multitasking, even when you're young, has its liabilities.

DAVID MEYER, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN: Given what we know about the nature of human mental processes and the wiring in the brain, it's pretty clear that they, as well as adults and most everybody else, suffers in terms of efficiency of performance when they try to multitask.

COLLINS: Steven and Georgina worry that their kids' schoolwork is suffering, too. S. COX: There isn't enough passionate time or focus time spent on things. For example, if you're studying history and IMing and on the phone and doodling here, you're not really immersing yourself in the whole story of a history story. You're just glancing over it.

ROBERTS: On one hand, the kids are processing more information. The question is, are they processing it at the same depth?

COLLINS: Right now there is no evidence that kids who spend a lot of time multitasking do worse in school or that it affects their comprehension. But research in this area has just begun.

For the Coxes, the first priority is to get everyone around the dinner table every night.

S. COX: There's too much time spent on some of these gadgets, and we're taking steps to limit that time.

COLLINS: Heidi Collins, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Sorry.

It's a case that boggles the mind, a doctor who lost his license but remained on a government list of recommended doctors, a list that led to thousands of bogus exams and bogus vaccinations. How many people might have been harmed?

A 360 investigation ahead.

Also, cutting-edge technology that tells tired drivers when they should pull over. Technology that could save lives in a sleep- deprived nation.

That's coming up on 360.


COOPER: Much more ahead on Iraq, including the war strategy that Democrats are laying out for the upcoming midterm elections. Should Republicans be worried? We'll take a look at that.

First, Erica Hill from HEADLINE NEWS joins us with some of the top business stories -- Erica.



COOPER: Erica, thanks.

I want to thank our international viewers as well for watching.

We have a lot more coming up, though, on 360, including a doctor, in name only. He had no license, but that didn't stop this guy from treating patients and making big bucks. Could some of his patients now have reason to live in fear? We'll take a look at that.

Also, a 360 viewer sees the plight of a Katrina victim. A light bulb goes off, and we have a happy ending to report tonight.

And keeping them honest, why criminal companies are skipping out on billions of dollars in fines and why we're paying the bills and the government is letting them get away with it.

Tonight, we're keeping them honest.


COOPER: And good evening again.

The story that will not go away, the story that was supposed to end long before this, long before the death toll topped 2,000.


ANNOUNCER: Three years of war and no end in site.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fighting has been tough. The enemy we face has proved to be brutal and relentless.

ANNOUNCER: The president sees victory, but most Americans want troops out now. So why can't Democrats capitalize on the growing opposition?

And, could a lack of sleep make you a killer on the road? Tonight, 360 investigates, going for a drive when you should be going to bed.

Tainted food, faulty consumer products, gasoline spills, all offenses companies were supposed to pay $35 billion for. So why isn't Uncle Sam collecting? We're keeping them honest.


ANNOUNCER: From across the U.S. and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

COOPER: And good evening again.

Three years ago tonight, U.S. troops on the ground had just begun their long advance on Baghdad. It will be three weeks until they took the city and nearly nine months before they captured Saddam Hussein.

All that has happened since the war began has inevitably been seen through a political prism. That much hasn't changed.

Today, President Bush was in Cleveland trying to prop up public support for the war. For those who missed his speech, here it is.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My question is, how do we restore confidence...

BUSH: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... that Americans may have in their leaders and to be sure that the information they're getting now is correct?

BUSH: That's a great question. First, just if I might correct a misperception, I don't think we ever said -- at least I know I didn't say that there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein. And so there's a -- there was a reform process we went through, a full analysis of what --of the -- of how the operations worked. And out of that home came the NDI, John Negroponte and Mike Hayden. And their job is to better collate and make sure that the intelligence gathering is seamless across a variety of gatherers and people that analyze.