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CNN Live Today

Family Members Face Serial Killer Charles Cullen; Indian And United States Reach Nuclear Deal; Some Say Hollywood Movies Out Of Touch With Mainstream America

Aired March 02, 2006 - 11:30   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: It's half past this hour and I'm Carol Lin, in for Daryn Kagan and here's what's happening now in the news.

A major Israeli shipping company has jumped into the port security controversy. The CEO of Zim Integrated Shipping Services is endorsing a bid by Dubai Ports World to take over six major U.S. ports.

Our Wolf Blitzer broke the story on CNN just a short time ago. Now, the Israeli endorsement comes amid a political firestorm that sparked a new national security investigation into the deal.

Two of the nation's largest airlines could face a pilot strike. Delta and Northwest have failed to reach new contract terms with their pilots after marathon negotiations. In each case, the airlines may be allowed to throw out pilot contracts and impose terms. The carriers say they need long-term pay cuts to get out of bankruptcy.

There's a major traffic accident outside the nation's capital right now. Authorities say one person was killed and several others injured when a tractor trailer overturned on an overpass, spilling its load of lumber on to the interstate below. Police say it could take hours to clean up the debris.

And you'll soon start seeing new, more colorful $10 bills. Today the Federal Reserve started shipping the redesigned 10s to banks across the country. The new bill has shades of orange, yellow and red, like the new versions of the 20 and $50 notes. Of course, your old bill -- well, you can still spend them just like you used to.

In the meantime, let's go to a New Jersey courtroom where family members are lashing out this morning at serial killer Charles Cullen. He is facing life in prison for 29 murders he committed while working as a nurse. CNN's Adaora Udoji is covering the sentencing in Somerville, New Jersey. Adaora, those families, they want answers.

ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely, Carol. It's been an incredibly tough day for the family members of Charles Cullen's victims. Now, Cullen is called one of New Jersey's -- or New Jersey's greatest mass murderer in the state's history.

The former nurse has pled guilty to killing 22 people here in New Jersey and seven people in Pennsylvania, but today the family members of New Jersey victims finally had their opportunity to confront him.

You can see pictures of him just a few minutes earlier, looking very stoic, no emotion whatsoever, and his eyes turned downward not looking up at all and that incensed many of the family members.

We heard from roughly 16 people. There were lots of rage. They wanted to know why Charles Cullen decided that their family member should die, why he decided that he could play God.

Many of them spoke about -- the family members on how much it has affected their families and how devastated they have been in the year since their loved ones have died. But again, many were just incensed by Cullen's complete lack of any visible reaction. Here's what some of them said to him.


MELISSA MARIE STRENKO, VICTIM'S SISTER: A registered nurse who is supposed to be a caretaker took the life of my brother for his own personal, selfish and twisted game. Charles Cullen, you are a coward. I am very brave for standing here today, but you yet cannot even look me in the eye and face me.



MELISSA HARGROVE, VICTIM'S DAUGHTER: I lost my father, Christopher Hargrove, August 11th of 2003. He was taken in the gravest way. He was murdered by Charles Cullen.


UDOJI: It was just very, very tough, Carol. As you can see, there were a small handful who said that they wished that Charles Cullen would get the death penalty, but that's not going happen because he made a plea agreement with prosecutors a couple of years ago where in return for getting a life in prison sentence, he would identify all of the victims, all of those individuals that he had killed in his years, Carol, when he was a nurse -- Carol.

LIN: Adaora, I heard something really bizarre. Is it true that Cullen is going to be a kidney donor? I mean, he killed people and yet he's willing to save the life of another?

UDOJI: Yes. Cullen's lawyers petitioned the court to allow him to give one of his kidneys to, apparently, a relative of a former girlfriend. That person has not been identified but he wanted to do this, Cullen wanted to do this before he would face sentencing and face the family members of his victims.

The court said no. You must first come and hear the victims and be sentenced and then we will allow you to go -- undergo the operation where your kidney will be taken and given to someone else. So, indeed, he has every intention of wanting to give one of his kidneys to someone who apparently is in desperate need -- Carol. LIN: Bizarre. Adaora, thank you.

Well, president Bush says she going push Congress to approve a new nuclear accord with India. He calls this deal historic. The United States and India finalized the agreement today just before Mr. Bush sat down with Indian leaders in New Delhi.

The deal requires India to operate its civilian and military nuclear plants separately. The agreement calls for the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA, to help safeguard those civilian facilities. Now, in return, India will get access to U.S. atomic technology and fuel.

That will help the country meet the electricity needs of its growing population and economy. Finally, it's reported that India will list 14 nuclear reactors as civilian facilities. That means they would be subject to international inspections.

Now, President Bush's visit to India puts India in the spotlight today. The world's largest democracy, a red-hot economy and a nuclear power, but India often gets overshadowed by its bigger neighbor, China. "Newsweek" magazine highlights India's global influence in this week's cover story, "The New India."

So let's talk with Nisid Hajari in New York this morning. He is the managing editor for "Newsweek International." Welcome.


LIN: What's your reaction to this deal? Are you surprised that India came to terms with the United States?

HAJARI: Not really. They've been working towards this for months now. Bush first announced his intention of doing this about a year ago when the Indian prime minister came to Washington and in the last couple of weeks, it sort of became clearer and clearer that they were very close to a deal.

LIN: Well, so what -- I know what India gets. I mean, they get American know how, they get American parts, but what does the United States get out of this deal?

HAJARI: The United States gets -- the fundamental thing they get are closer ties with an important potential superpower in Asia. It's not that the U.S. and India are trying to gang up China, but at the same time, they're both looking towards Beijing, realizing that there's this sort of giant rising in the east and it's better for both of them to kind of be on the same side at a time like that.

LIN: Still India has proven its independence. I mean, it didn't even need international aid to respond to the victims of the tsunami. It is an economic powerhouse. What do you think India sees in its relationship with the United States in the years to come because the U.S. wants India to buy more American products? The trade gap is glaring. HAJARI: Indeed. Well, the first thing to notice is that India actually is very pro-American, especially compared to most other countries in the world. There is a famous Pew study a couple of years ago that showed something like 70 percent of Indians had a favorable view of the United States.

So the society in India is very eager for closer ties. A lot of them have relatives here. A lot of them travel here. A lot of people who have come here for work have gone back to India.

So they see and they also recognize some similar qualities in American democracy as in Indian democracy. So they sort of feel like as a potential, major global player, it's their rightful place to be standing in the same stage as the United States.

LIN: Do you think India can be trusted on the nuclear question?

HAJARI: I think as far as any country could be. Washington's rationale here is that a deal like this is OK for India because they've had a nuclear weapon, whether declared or undeclared, for over 30 years now and they have not leaked nuclear technology to anybody else.

They have not threatened anybody else. Their nuclear deterrent is basically geared towards Pakistan. So they've proved themselves responsible players, as it may be.

LIN: And in terms of what nuclear power brings to India, our Suzanne Malveaux did a story where she profiled this company where, you know, they're part of the booming economy there but, you know, half the time they don't have electricity to even run the lights in the office.

HAJARI: Exactly. Exactly. You still get power outages in major cities like New Delhi now. There's -- demand is just so massive and growing. The thing to remember though is that this nuclear deal is not going to solve that.

Right now, nuclear power makes up about 3 percent of Indian energy demand and, you know, these plants that we're going to help them build will take years to come on line. Oil, and gas and coal are really going to still be the dominant forces in Indian energy for at least a decade.

LIN: Nisid Hajari, a fascinating look at an enormous country that is going to be a player on the world stage. Appreciate it.

HAJARI: Sure. Thank you.

LIN: Still to come, what are going to be doing on Sunday night?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Oscars are for the people in California. I don't think anybody else really cares.


LIN: OK, so maybe he won't be watching the Academy Awards, but millions will you will be, or has Hollywood really missed the mark? A closer look just ahead.


LIN: Hollywood is getting ready for its big night. The Academy Awards are just three days away, but some say Hollywood and its movies are out of touch with mainstream America.

Brooke Anderson outside the Kodak Theater out there in Hollywood.

Do you think that's true, Brooke?


This is a year when smaller, more independent films are being recognized in a big way, films with controversial theme, political themes, gay or transgender themes, but outside of Hollywood are the Oscars and the films that are honoring. Are they relevant to middle America? Well, I took a trip to Kansas to find out.


ANDERSON (voice-over): Far from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood lies Lebanon, Kansas, population 250 people, median age 52. A place where three houses recently sold for a grand total of $11,000 on eBay.

Many have asked the question, is Hollywood out of touch with middle America? What better place to find out than the middle of America. This is the geographic center of the continental United States in Lebanon, Kansas.

RANDY MAUS, LEBANON RESIDENT: Out here, at least in rural America where you could say it's the Bible belt, we're still looking for movies that have creative substance and a storyline.

ANDERSON: Randy Maus is a Lebanon transplant from the Boston area. He, along with other Lebanon residence, including the ladies in the Methodist Church bell choir, aren't exactly thrilled with the films the Oscars are honoring.

Has anybody seen "Brokeback Mountain?"


ANDERSON: Anybody want to see it?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're just not interested in all the sex and skin.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just not my style of life.

ANDERSON: What kind of movies do you want Hollywood to make?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What about "The Sound of Music" and some of those?

LADIES: Right. Right.

ANDERSON: We stopped by the Lebanon hotspot, Ladow's Market, where one local told us Hollywood just can't relate to a farming way of life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've never been back in here to know what it's like to actually have to make a living doing this.

ANDERSON: The closest theater is 12 miles away in Smith Center, Kansas. One movie theater, one film shown per week, and none of the movies nominated for best picture have played here.

MIKE HUGHES, CENTER THEATER: We have a large senior citizen base, so we gear a lot of our movies towards that and our children's pictures do real well.

ANDERSON: So say you put "Brokeback Mountain" on the screen?

HUGHES: I feel it would not play very well. It wouldn't be profitable for us.

ANDERSON: Dave Karger, a senior writer for "Entertainment Weekly," says profits aren't the driving force behind the Academy Awards.

DAVE KARGER, "ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY": They're about recognizing the five best movies of the year, not the five most profitable movies of the year.

ANDERSON: Here in the middle of America, in Lebanon, the Oscars are as far from their minds as they seem to be from the minds of those in Hollywood.


ANDERSON: And in addition to "Brokeback Mountain," many of the residents hadn't even heard of the other best picture nominees, "Capote," "Crash," "Munich," "Good Night and Good Luck," and if they had, many of them weren't interested in seeing them. You can bet millions of people will be watching the Oscars, but most likely the viewer numbers will be very, very low in Lebanon, Kansas.

LIN: But "Big Momma" was plague at the theater, and I don't think that one's nominated is it, Brooke?

ANDERSON: "Big Momma's House 2," no it is not nominated this year. I think "Pink Panther" is on its way to that theater as well.

LIN: Excellent. All right, we all are for the arts. Thanks, Brooke.

Well, our coverage of Hollywood's big night begins with a special edition of "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" on CNN Headline News. That's on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. Eastern, and then tune in to Hollywood's gold rush at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.

You're going to find a gallery of all of the Oscar nominees on our Web site, and you can pick the winners in our online contest. Just log on to and click on inside the envelope. The grand prize winner will receive a home theater system.

We're going to have a check of the weather and business up next.




LIN: I'm Carol Lin in for Daryn Kagan. International news is up next. Stay tuned for "YOUR WORLD TODAY." And I'll be back with the latest headlines from the United States in about 20 minutes.