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Paula Zahn Now

Is U.S. Troop Surge in Iraq Working?; California Banning Kittens?; "The Simpson's" Movie; Credit Card Debt; Mandatory Pet Sterilization; CNN Hero

Aired July 10, 2007 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Glad to have you with us tonight.
A passionate debate -- six months into the troop surge, is it working or is it time for the U.S. to get out of Iraq?

Check out what's happening to some 7-Elevens across the country. When real life starts imitating "The Simpsons," is it real fun or Kwik-E racism?

And should puppies and kittens be against the law? We will explain why that could happen in one state.

But we begin with a critical milestone tonight. Six months ago tonight, on January 10, President Bush told the country he was ordering nearly 30,000 U.S. troops into Iraq as part of a controversial new strategy to end bloody chaos.

Well, since that speech, the war has cost another $60 billion and cost about 600 U.S. lives. The latest military death was announced just hours ago.

As you probably know, public support for the war is at an all- time low. Even the president's fellow Republicans are starting to desert him.

And, tonight, there is a brand-new revolt on Capitol Hill aimed at bringing all the troops home.

With that as the backdrop, we are going to take a very hard look tonight: Is the troop surge working?

Here's White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Despite Democrats' calls to bring American troops home and Republican pleas to change strategy, right now, President Bush is refusing to do either.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, we can accomplish and win this fight in Iraq.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Bush used a town-hall meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, to defend his Iraq strategy, which keeps the current level of U.S. troops in Iraq until his top general there, David Petraeus, instructs him otherwise.

BUSH: And that's the way I'm going to play it as the commander in chief.

MALVEAUX: But the commander in chief is facing mounting political pressure to show progress in Iraq now.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: The surge is not working. No matter how many different ways you explain it, it hasn't worked -- six months, 600 dead Americans, $60 billion.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Bush will deliver within days an Iraq progress report expected to show that the Iraqi government has failed to meet nearly all of the benchmarks set by Congress. Democratic lawmakers eager to cut war funding and Republicans frustrated with the execution of the war are running out of patience.

BUSH: General Petraeus, we welcome you here.

MALVEAUX: Mr. Bush pleaded with them to give him until September, when General Petraeus will come back with another progress report.

BUSH: And I believe Congress ought to wait for General Petraeus to come back and give his assessment of the strategy that he's putting in place before they make any decisions.

MALVEAUX: But Mr. Bush's effort to buy more time may no longer work with the American people, analysts say.

JON ALTERMAN, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: What time gets you is time lets you keep placing bets. But time doesn't mean that the bets pay off. And what you're seeing in Congress and among the American public is the sense, I'm tired of placing these bets.


ZAHN: Suzanne, I guess we have to admit here tonight, in the interest of full disclosure, the reporting is all over the place on this report that we haven't gotten our hands on yet. So, some people are saying that virtually none of the benchmarks have been met, others saying that is simply not true.

Can you shed some more light on that for us tonight?

MALVEAUX: Sure, Paula.

I have talked to several sources who have actually seen this report, the report that one person said was being written earlier today. And what they're saying here is that it's going to be delivered on Monday morning to members of Congress. And they say about half of those goals, those benchmarks, they say, there is some progress that has been made, the other half that they have not made. It's either going to be a category of unsatisfactory or satisfactory. Some of the things that they have not accomplished that the report is going to talk about is bringing those Saddam loyalists into the fold in the government, also oil sharing revenue. They are going to talk, however, about some successes -- Paula.

ZAHN: Suzanne Malveaux, thanks for setting the record straight there tonight.

Our next stop is Iraq, where questions about the troop surge and whether or not it's working are matters of life and death every day, including today, when another service member died in a mortar attack on Baghdad's Green Zone.

Just a short while ago, our Michael Ware joined me from Baghdad.


ZAHN: So, Michael, as you are well aware, this report apparently says that the Iraqi government has missed some major benchmarks, but some progress is being made.

What do you see on the ground from there?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, in terms of the sectarian violence and the attacks on coalition and Iraqi security forces, they certainly continue with a pace.

Have they been dampened 20 degree here in the capital, Baghdad, alone? Perhaps. Nonetheless, the body counts keep rising -- more than 500 executed bodies found on the streets of Baghdad alone. That's just one form of the violence. And, across the country, so far, we are seeing, on average, three Americans being killed every day.

So, there may be some marginal impact, and there may be some improvements in some areas, but, by and large, no, this is still wreaked by violence and defined by bloodshed -- Paula.

ZAHN: The president, nevertheless, today fiercely defending the war, saying it is winnable, and telling those who are criticizing this stage of the campaign to wait until September, until another report comes out. What could possibly change between now and September?

WARE: Well, to be honest, not a great deal.

Nonetheless, that time, certainly from the military perspective, must be given. I mean, let's be fair to the commanders here who are governing and guiding this war. Their new strategy has only just been put in place. Yes, they have been building up to it, as the 30,000- odd extra troops they needed have arrived. But it's only been a matter of weeks that they have all been in place.

Now, what great impact they're going to have, honestly, it's easy to be skeptical about that. Nonetheless, they at least deserve the chance to be given a few months before anyone makes any cataclysmic decisions about the progress of the war.

ZAHN: Of course, administration watching very carefully what Senator John McCain is saying -- he, of course, just back from a trip from Iraq. And he says he thinks this troop surge will eventually work.

What evidence have you seen of that?

WARE: Well, to be honest, not a great deal.

I wish I had Senator McCain's optimism. However, unfortunately, I don't. Like we said, among the indicators of violence, the different measures that the coalition uses to take the tempo of the war, they are being kept close to the chest of the generals. They don't want to reveal what they're using as the litmus for the success of the mission right now, because they don't want the enemy, al Qaeda, the nationalist insurgents and the Iranian-backed militias, to go out there and purposely attack these indicators, and skew the figures to distort them.

However, we're already seeing that going on, as the second most powerful American general in the country said, our enemies are surging even as we are.

ZAHN: Michael Ware, got to leave it there tonight. Thanks so much for the update. Appreciate it.


ZAHN: Time to bring in our panel right now, Republican strategist Robert Traynham, Democratic strategist Julie Roginsky, and Air America radio host Laura Flanders.

Good to have all of you with us tonight.

So, Laura, the president has made it very clear he doesn't want any change of course in the action at all until we see another report in September.

But take a look at these numbers that show us just how unpopular this war is; 71 percent of Americans think most troops should get home by next April.

Is the president running out of time?

LAURA FLANDERS, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think he is. I think he has run out of time a long time ago; 71 percent of the American public, not just Democrats, not just independents, but a growing number of Republicans, including people like Senator Snow, Olympia Snowe of Maine, other senators, prominent Republicans, saying that we have simply run out of time.

This is plan B. But the president said six months ago that there was no plan C. It sounds to me like they're working on plan C. If we keep this up, there is going to be plan D and a plan Z. It's time to get out of Iraq. It's time to let the Iraqis take responsibility for their own behavior.

ZAHN: You have got Robert rolling his eyes over here.



ROBERT TRAYNHAM, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, Paula, I love this armchair quarterbacking 3,000 miles away.

The fact of the matter is, is there's two clocks. There is the Washington clock and there is the Baghdad clock. The Baghdad clock is saying, slow down. Let's wait. Let's listen to the generals on the ground, and let's in fact see if the surge thing is going to work.

ZAHN: All right.

TRAYNHAM: And the Washington clock is saying, oh, no, we have got to bring the troops home now.


ZAHN: But let's talk about the American clock.

TRAYNHAM: Sure. Absolutely.

ZAHN: You have got the American taxpayers are saying that, over the last six months, you have spent $60 billion on the war, and take a look at how many American lives have been lost.

TRAYNHAM: And the American people have every right to hold the generals, as well as the president, accountable.

And, look, the president said, we want results, too. I want results, too.

But let's not armchair quarterback, Paula. Let's make sure that the troops are doing exactly what we have asked them to do. Keep in mind, we just asked the troops for this whole troop surge about three months ago. Let's give it time.


FLANDERS: No. He wanted time in the beginning to reach certain benchmarks.

He has had six months. He's not met a single one of them.


FLANDERS: ... bombings. There isn't more confidence in the government.

You have got the biggest Sunni portion of the government in Iraq now wanting to have a vote of no confidence. You have got more violent -- the most violent weekend we ever had. You're right. It's the American clock we have got to be talking about, human lives, Iraqi lives, also. You have got hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead. And the answer is not to give more time. We have reached the cataclysmic point here. We have got to get out.


ZAHN: You just said that no benchmarks have been met. And I think, admittedly, everybody will say that some key benchmarks have not been met.

But Suzanne Malveaux just updating her report from earlier in the day, saying her sources now telling her that perhaps 50 percent of them have been met.


JULIE ROGINSKY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Can I also just add that, you know, I keep hearing this Republican spin constantly about how we have to listen to the generals on the ground.

General Shinseki, back when we began this war over four years ago, said, we're going in here on the cheap. We need a lot more military to go in here. And the president replaced him with people who were yes-men. He did not listen to generals on the ground.

And, ultimately, now he's -- and now he's saying, we have got to listen to generals. He's the commander in chief. It's time to get out.


FLANDERS: Too many Democrats have said yes as well. I mean, we need to hear the American people, who said troops out and troops out now, and all the troops, not all leaving the hundreds of thousands that an awful lot of people are talking about now.


ZAHN: Well, let's look at the numbers that substantiate what you're just having to say about the troop surge.

You have got only 22 percent of the American public who think the surge has helped. So, clearly, the president at some point has got to make some kind of political calculation.

What is he going to convince the rest of the American public about this ongoing campaign? What is he going to say that is going to change their minds?


TRAYNHAM: Well, let's use his words. His words say, let's wait until September. If in fact the Iraqi government has not held itself accountable, in terms of certain benchmarks, then we need to pull back. (CROSSTALK)

FLANDERS: ... will blame the Iraqis. And we will say in September -- of the U.S. debate, we will say it's all about partisan politics. We will say it's all election politics.

Now is the time to talk, while we have the calm of the summer. Come September, everything is going to be cast as political theater. We can't wait. We can't afford...


ZAHN: I want to know what is going to happen in the next two months.

ROGINSKY: Nothing.

TRAYNHAM: I think General Petraeus is going to address the American people and say, look, the Iraqi people are doing X, Y and Z, or the Iraqi government is not doing X, Y and Z. And then that's when he's going to say to the American people and the president is going to say, you know what? You had your chance, Iraqi government, but it's time for us to come home.

You get the final word, Julie.

ROGINSKY: I will take it, but I somehow think that, in September, when it comes around, the president is going to say, OK, here's plan C. We have got to keep going to plan D. He's going to run down the clock and pass this mess on to the next administration. And that's sad. It's a dereliction of responsibility. And I'm sick of it. And so are the American people.


ZAHN: Is that where you see it going? Quick final answer.

FLANDERS: What Iraqi government? There isn't one now. There's not going to be one in six months.

TRAYNHAM: Armchair quarterbacking.


FLANDERS: ... is not going to help.

ZAHN: All right, team, we have got to leave it there.

We have a lot more to talk with you tonight.

We're going to move along now to Washington's different kind of scandal. This one involves sex. A U.S. senator admits his phone number is in the so-called D.C. madam's little black book. Now a New Orleans madam claims he visited her brothel, too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have people who are of Indian-American descent being asked to mock their own ethnicity in real life.


ZAHN: Is a 7/Eleven tie-in to the upcoming "Simpsons" movie really racist? Or are some people just overreacting?

And a little later on, why is California trying to force pet owners to neuter their dogs and cats? What kind of fines are we talking about if this bill passes? You will see when we come back.


ZAHN: Out in the open tonight: a Republican senator from Louisiana who is trying to explain himself, after his phone record turned up in the records of an alleged prostitution ring in Washington.

The case of the so-called D.C. madam has been all over the headlines in Washington for months now. Everybody, of course, has been waiting to get a peek inside her little black book. But, this week, names are finally beginning to emerge, because she posted her phone records online.

One of the numbers belongs to Republican Senator David Vitter. And just this afternoon, a former New Orleans madam claimed that Vitter was a client at her brothel in the 1990s.

More tonight from Sean Callebs in New Orleans.


SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Recently, Senator David Vitter was out stumping for Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani.

But, as soon as Vitter admitted ties to alleged D.C. madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the staunch conservative was nowhere to be seen on Capitol Hill. He skipped hearings and stayed away from his office.

The 46-year-old father of four issued a statement, saying: "This was a very serious sin in my past, for which I am, of course, completely responsible. Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and from my wife in confession and marriage counseling."

The editor of an alternative New Orleans newspaper, Clancy DuBos, says there is too much at stake for this issue to die easily.

CLANCY DUBOS, EDITOR, "GAMBIT WEEKLY": We have a woman on trial for racketeering in Washington. She's about to go to jail for a long time for a series of transactions, one or more of which was with David Vitter.

CALLEBS: Federal prosecutors say this woman, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, ran a prostitution ring under the auspices of an escort service, and that she made more than $2 million dating back to 1993.

Palfrey says, nonsense. It was a legitimate business.

Vitter's apology may have come from the heart, but Palfrey's lawyer says it was prompted by a question from "Hustler" magazine about phone records allegedly linking him to the escort service.

Attorney Montgomery Sibley says "Hustler" contacted Vitter's office. Hours later, Vitter issued his statement. Vitter has made traditional family values the cornerstone of his political career. Some of his constituents are shocked and saddened.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a shame that it happened. I'm very sad for his family, but his family has dealt with it.

CALLEBS: Active in his Catholic church, Vitter's strong social conservative statements have raised ire in the past. Last summer, as New Orleans struggled to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina and the war in Iraq raged, Vitter told the "Times Picayune" newspaper that gay marriage, which he strongly opposes, was the most important issue facing America, and that infidelity, divorce, and deadbeat dads are contributing to the breakdown of traditional families.

Constituent Silas Lee says, Vitter drew a line in the sand.

SILAS LEE, POLITICAL POLLSTER: And for him to cross that line in the eyes of voters, that is, for some, might be perceived as the height of hypocrisy.

CALLEBS: But history shows voters can have short memories. Vitter was elected to the Senate in 2004, and he has three years to try to put this behind him, before he needs to worry about reelection.


CALLEBS: But this controversy shows no signs of going away any time soon.

Just last month, Larry Flynt, the publisher of "Hustler," offered a million dollars to anyone who could prove that a congressional member or a high-ranking member of U.S. government had intimate relations with a prostitute.

And Flynt is going to hold a news conference tomorrow in Los Angeles allegedly to dish more dirt on Vitter.

And, by the way, Paula, also, over the years, allegations had surfaced that Vitter had been tied to the so-called Canal Street madam. He has always denied those allegations, but, of course, we did not reach him today.

ZAHN: Sean Callebs, appreciate that update.

Sean just mentioned my next guest in his report.

With me now, one of Deborah Jeane Palfrey's attorneys, Montgomery Blair Sibley.

So, we heard what Larry Flynt is going to do tomorrow. He's offering an awful lot of money to anybody who can rat out more politicians.

How many more high-profile names are going to be revealed?

MONTGOMERY BLAIR SIBLEY, ATTORNEY FOR DEBORAH JEANE PALFREY: Well, it's a very good question. And my best estimate is between 12 and 25, I would think.

ZAHN: And these are members of the Senate?

SIBLEY: These are people of prominence inside the beltway here in Washington, D.C., who used the service at some point during its 13- year operational history.

ZAHN: Now is "Hustler" going to get to these names themselves, or are you going to help "Hustler" magazine confirm the identities of these men who have allegedly used this service?


SIBLEY: Paula, let me give you the background, if I could.

Up until last Thursday, we were under a court order not to release the telephone records of the escort service. When that was lifted, we sent out 50 CD-ROMs with the telephone records on them to 50 different people and organizations across the country.

Apparently, Larry Flynt's got one. And they were the quickest to the draw and found the first particular name. Other names are starting to pop today and this afternoon. We have already heard of some more that are coming down.

ZAHN: Can you help us understand tonight why your client is so committed to making these names public? She said earlier, "I sure as heck am not going to be going to federal prison for one day because I'm shy about bringing the deputy secretary of whatever. I will bring every last one of them in, if necessary."

She doesn't feel any guilt about that?


SIBLEY: There's no guilt here. She is charged with a federal offense. The full weight of the U.S. government has come down upon her.

And her defense consists primarily of the customers and escorts of the service to testify what was going on in the room and what Deborah Jeane's role in that relationship was. The only way she can identify her customers at this date is through the telephone records, because there never was a black book, Paula.

ZAHN: All right. And she claims this does not -- shouldn't be a federal racketeering charge, that her business was legitimate.

Can you explain to me and my audience tonight what clients were paying for, if they weren't paying for sex?

SIBLEY: Well, sex is a broad term, and it is defined in the criminal prostitution statutes very specifically. And, given the FCC's recent rulings, I don't think I should be making all the definitions on the national airwaves here.


ZAHN: But are you going to deny that there was any sex that took place between her clients and the politicians that solicited these services?


SIBLEY: Well, in strip clubs, if you will, there is no sex going on. There are women in provocative positions doing provocative things. There's a whole range of adult fantasy role-play that can go on, none of which would violate the prostitution laws, Paula.


ZAHN: And what do you mean by that? What is fantasy role- playing?

SIBLEY: Well, Paula, you look like a grown woman. I don't know -- if you can't figure it out, I guess I could spell it out for you.

ZAHN: Oh, I have -- I have a sense from what we all have read about.


ZAHN: But your client has described what her clients did.

SIBLEY: Well, what my client has done is describe that there were dates set up between escorts and people. And Dick Morris is the one back in '96 who said he liked to suck toes and get on all fours and bark like a dog, if my memory serves me correctly.

And there are kinds of behaviors that are engaged in, short of the sort of illegal stuff that the prostitution statutes cover.

ZAHN: What are the chances that your client is going to beat these charges?

SIBLEY: That she can beat these charges? We're very confident that, if it ultimately goes to a jury, they will understand the charges and that she did nothing wrong here.

ZAHN: Montgomery Blair Sibley, thanks for your time tonight.

SIBLEY: Paula, thank you very much. ZAHN: We are going to move on to another subject now. A movie that hasn't even opened yet has launched a nationwide controversy. Listen to this.


MANISH VIJ, FOUNDER, WWW.ULTRABROWN.COM: This is a very stereotyped, racist caricature of an Indian-American.

ANDY CHAUDHARI, 7-ELEVEN OWNER: It's all fun. It's about fun. It's a cartoon.


ZAHN: Well, "The Simpsons" may be a cartoon, but is a 7-Eleven tie-in funny or downright racist?

A little bit later on, a proposed law creates quite an uproar in California. Could it actually make some puppies and kittens illegal?


ZAHN: You would think that, after 20 years, "The Simpsons" had run out of ways to offend and outrage. The show, of course, is part of our culture at this point.

But the first "Simpsons" movie is less than three weeks away now, and a promotional tie-in with convenience stores has some people screaming racism.

Allan Chernoff brings the immigrant outrage over "The Simpsons" and 7-Eleven out into the open tonight.



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: The aspirin is $24.95.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Ph.D., the greedy and unethical Kwik-E Mart owner in the "Simpsons" cartoon who would gladly sell you a dirty hot dog off the floor.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Oh, no. It is encrusted with filth. Ah, well, let's sell it anyway.


CHERNOFF: Now Apu is part of a promotional stunt for 7-Eleven. In a tie-in this month with the upcoming "Simpsons" movie, a dozen 7- Elevens have been turned into real-life Kwik-E Marts. Indian-American blogger Manish Vij charges 7-Eleven has created a racial caricature mart. Apu's accent, he complains, is entirely unrealistic, part of a distortion of his ethnicity.

MANISH VIJ, FOUNDER, WWW.ULTRABROWN.COM: This is a very stereotyped, racist caricature of an Indian-American. And, with the 7-Eleven promotion, it is the first time this has jumped into the real world.

CHERNOFF: Indian-American Serge Haitayan, a store owner in California, who declined to appear on camera, writes on the Internet, He's insulted that his own parent company would embrace what he calls a racist portrayal.

"This is an absolute embarrassment for our company," writes Haitayan. "I am not willing to accept to be compared to Apu. I cannot imagine any store willing to re-brand to Kwik-E Mart, even for a day."

Fact is, though, half of the re-branded 7-Elevens are owned by Indian-Americans, like Andy Chaudhari in Manhattan. He and other 7- Eleven franchisees from India say they're fellow immigrants need to lighten up.

ANDY CHAUDHARI, 7-ELEVEN OWNER: It's all fun. It's about fun. It's a cartoon.

CHERNOFF (on camera): So, you don't think this is racial in any way?


CHAUDHARI: No, nothing at all. Nothing at all.

CHERNOFF: There is no debate that the promotion is good for business. Specially-made "Simpsons" foods, like Buzz Cola and Krusty O's cereal are literally flying off the shelf here. In fact, owners of stores that have been converted to Kwik-E Marts say their sales this month are more than double what they were this time last year.

CHAUDHARI: I can't even explain to you how good it is going on. People are -- customers are so happy.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Hundreds of 7-Elevens are owned by Indian-Americans, according to the company, which says they overwhelmingly approved of "The Simpsons" tie-in. And 7-Eleven says, no store was forced to participate.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: How much is your penny candy?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Surprisingly expensive.


CHERNOFF: In "The Simpsons," Apu's Kwik-E Mart overcharges for rotten food. That's OK, says 7-Eleven. We can laugh at ourselves.

MICHAEL JORGENSEN, 7-ELEVEN INC.: I would say it certainly is positive. It is a cartoon. And it is meant to be fun.

CHERNOFF: 7-Eleven is hoping all Americans can laugh along with "The Simpsons" as they snap up Krusty O's and pink movie doughnuts.

Allan Chernoff, CNN, New York.


ZAHN: So, what do we really talking about here, corporate racism, or get over it, get a life?

Let's go back to our panel with those questions, Robert Traynham, Julie Roginsky, and Laura Flanders.

Do you really think that's funny, or were you insulted by that?

ROBERT TRAYNHAM, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, I had mixed emotions. Look, I mean, if everyone is buying into this and it's a good thing, it's a good thing. But, it feels weird though, simply because they're stereotyping and they really are pushing the envelope. And so, having said that, it's one of those things where frankly it just makes me feel uneasy, but I'm not Indian-American.

ZAHN: But the stereotyping is something we should have gotten used to in "The Simpson's." I'm going share with our audience, now, another clip from the TV show where you see Apu in action.


APU, THE SIMPSON'S: Hey, Kearney, this fake I.D., it is truly excellent. Say, if you tell me where you obtained it, I will overlook the ice cream sandwiches concealed in your armpits, eh?


ZAHN: Are you offended by that?

LAURA FLANDERS, AIR AMERICA RADIO HOST: You know, I thought it was a silly story, when I first heard about. I thought if we want to talk about Indians being harassed, let's talk about salvations harassed by homeland security not Homer Simpson. That's been a plague in this community every since 9/11. But then, you know, I started actually researching the story and listening to what the shopkeepers had to say and they said, you know it hard enough in this climate, particularly as an immigrant, to work hard, to make a living, to serve this community, and now to be kind of asked by your corporation that owns the lease, that pays the utilities, that, you know, this isn't entirely free choice, to be asked to participate in this kind of crude ethnic jokery that is making fun of your own ethnicity. I don't think it's so funny.

ZAHN: Julie, let's put up on the screen what one of the south Asian owners of a 7-Eleven franchise had to say. "...accepting our portrayal of Apu is nothing less [than] accepting the images portrayed years ago in the U.S. of black people with very black faces, big lips, and white teeth; that image is considered racist, so does Apu to me."

Would there be more outrage if we were talking about unfair characterizations of blacks?

JULIE ROGINSKY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Guess what "The Simpson's" unfairly characterizes everybody. It's an equal opportunity mocker of, you know, they have a police officer who looks like a pig. They have, you know, a Born Again Christian that they constantly mock. They have women they constantly -- it's a comedy show. You know, it sort of reminds me of "The Sopranos," people were saying it's a anti-Italian stereotype, people are going to think all Italians are mobsters. Well, I think in real life people know that all Italians are mobsters. I think people in real life know that Indians -- South Asians, in general, are extraordinarily accomplished. You know, and it's just an equal opportunity mockery. I mean, look at the cartoon...

FLANDERS: The very person you quote there, his name is Serge, was too afraid to talk to your reporters, your producers for the segment. He's afraid of reprisal. So, that goes beyond just funny.

TRAYNHAM: Well, it does push the envelope. It does push the envelope.


ZAHN: Push the envelope? Do you rember what senator Joe Biden had to say?

TRAYNHAM: Absolutely, about Barack Obama or in reference to 7- Eleven? Of course, absolutely.

ZAHN: Well it's -- and 7-Eleven. Let's listen to what he said many months ago.


SEN JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: In Delaware, the largest growth in population is Indian-Americans moving from India. You cannot go to a 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking.


TRAYNHAM: Well, he's not joking, but it is still very offensive, extremely offensive and shouldn't have said it.


ZAHN: So, if you're offended by that, and I understand Simpson's is a cartoon, I get that -- well, you said you had mixed emotions, Julie doesn't have mixed emotions. She thinks it's funny. ROGINSKY: It's a cartoon. It is silly.

TRAYNHAM: But it's still indicative of a time and place where you don't do things like that, that you shouldn't push the envelope...

FLANDERS: It goes back to when CBS and Don Imus, you got an industry, a company that wants to be amping up its profits, what does it do? It goes to crude ethnic stereotyping.

ROGINSKY: There's actually an episode that I saw Apu, 15 years ago I think, with him, Paul McCartney, teaching one of the main character on "The Simpson's" about vegetarianism and what a lovely way to save animals. So, this is not just a stereotype...

FLANDERS: Well, now I have to be very clear to our listening audience -- our viewing audience, that I'm not related to Ned Flanders.

ZAHN: Oh, thank you for setting the record straight on that.

FLANDERS: This is reality TV confusion.

ROGINSKY: People should calm down.

ZAHN: Julie, will you review the movie for us?

ROGINSKY: I totally will and I'm sure it'll be great.

Robert Traynham, Julie Roginsky, Laura Flanders. Thank you.

We're about to bring a surprising addiction out in the open tonight. Listen to a shopper who was so ashamed he doesn't want his face to be seen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember one time walking into the BMW dealer to buy a pair of gloves. And so I walked out with the gloves and a new BMW.


ZAHN: Coming up next, people who swear that shopping is just as powerful an addiction as drugs or alcohol. Can that be really true or is that a copout?

Then a little bit later on, a story you'll want to see especially if you're a dog or cat owner. Could what is happening in California happen where you live? That's right. Maybe not as many puppies and kittens in days to come. We'll explain when we come back.


ZAHN: Americans are running up credit card bills at the fastest pace in six months. The Federal Reserve reports a 9.8 percent increase in credit card debt in the month of May alone, compared with less than one percent the month before. Now that's the big picture. But what we're bringing out in the open tonight is the secret humiliation of nonstop spending, spending that leads to crushing debt. These people are so ashamed their addiction to spending, they're afraid to even show us their faces.

Deborah Feyerick has tonight's edition of "Debtor Nation."


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is perhaps the one secret few people talk about.

(on camera): How many of you felt some shame that you had let yourself get into this situation?


FEYERICK (voice-over): A secret people keep even from those closest to them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If anyone knew this, they wouldn't think of me as an adult anymore as a responsible person. And it might hurt my business standing, my image, my reputation.

FEYERICK: In an age when sex is spoken about openly, and few subjects are off limits, this one remains taboo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt like a thief.

FEYERICK: which is why these people agreed to speak with us on condition we not show their faces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Jonathan, I'm a debtor.


FEYERICK: That's right. The secret is debt. Americans owe a record $880 billion on credit cards alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I remember one time walking into the BMW dealer to buy a pair of gloves. And so I walked out with the gloves and a new BMW.

FEYERICK: Jonathan owed $225,000 when he attended his first Debtor's Anonymous meeting and discovered he was not alone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You'll have the anxiety about the money. And then you'll manage the anxiety by going and using the credit card and debting more and then it just builds and builds and builds.

FEYERICK: April Lane Benson is the author of the book, "I shop, therefore I am."

(on camera): Is compulsive buying akin to an addiction like alcohol or drugs?

APRIL LANE BENSON, AUTHOR: Very much so. You have to buy more and more to get the same kind of a high. And it gets out of control.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Benson, a psychologist, who treats compulsive shoppers, says there are an estimated 15 million nationwide. More people, she says, than who suffer eating disorders.

(on camera): So, for example this outfit, I will look so perfect that my whole life will come together like, in an instant.

BENSON: Absolutely.

FEYERICK: And they think that was on some level.

BENSON: Mm-hmm.

FEYERICK: Are they filling a need within themselves, an emptiness perhaps.

BENSON: Sometimes it is emptiness.

FEYERICK: Can be anger?

BENSON: It can be anger, it can be boredom, loneliness.

LEIGH ANN FRALEY, DEBTOR: I go shopping to make myself feel better. I was shopping every day. I would have to buy something.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Leigh Ann knew she lost control, from the stacks of unopened credit card bills, to the binge shopping, buying, then returning.

FRALEY: Every time I make more money, I buy more expensive things, you know? I was never where I would actually pay it down or I still living paycheck to paycheck, because the minute you make more money, they'll send you more credit cards, you know.

FEYERICK: Leigh Ann found her road to recovery online with a blog. Writing down every penny she spent and sharing intimate details of her money problems with total strangers.

FRALEY: They're like close, close friends, you know? And because we associate, we found something that we all had in common, you know, that we were in debt.

FEYERICK: Her site Save Leeann started anonymously. Now she's out in the open.

FRALEY: I did it almost every day for a year and got the money paid off in one year and two months.

FEYERICK: Her $20,000 debt is now $3,000 in savings. As for the debtors we met earlier, some paid everything off. Others are still working on it. And all meet regularly to prevent a relapse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God, grant me the serenity...

FEYERICK: Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York. ZAHN: Fascinating.

We're going move on to something else now in California, a proposed law has some pet owners up in arms. Can the state force almost everyone with a dog or a cat to get their pets sterilized? We're going to hear from both sides, next.


ZAHN: What would you think if the state where you lived told you to sterilize your pet or else? Even get a big fat fine? It is a controversy raging this week in California where state lawmakers are debating a bill that would require every pet, cat and dog owner, over six months to be sterilized, if they're not, their owners would be fined $500. There would be an exception for breeders of purebreds.

Supporters say something has to be done because close to a half million dogs and cats are euthanized every year in California at the cost of $300 million.

Now opponents say that's not going to solve the problem. It will just lead to black market breeders.

Join me now, Kelly Moran of PetPac, which lobbies for the rights of pet owners and Judie Mancuso, with the California Healthy Pets Coalition, which is backing the bill. Excuse me. Late summer cold killing me, here.

All right, so Kelly, let's look at the numbers. It costs $259 million a year to house some 841,000 animals in shelters. Why wouldn't it make sense to support this bill? Certainly it would have to cut down on some of the costs and certainly on the number of dogs and cats that are killed every year.

KELLY MORAN, STATE CAMPAIGN DIR, PETPAC: Well, thank you, Paula. We only spend two cents per person on our animal shelters in California. As it is today, we don't spend enough money on our animal shelters in California. And what the supporters of this bill are trying to do is they're trying to cut $200 million out of our animal shelter budgets.

If we do this, the only way we can save $200 million for from our animal shelter budgets is to shut down our shelters and lay off the workers in those shelters. This is the wrong approach for California.

ZAHN: Judy, you hear us right now?


ZAHN: All right, so how forcing pet owners to sterilize their pets really end up saving lives? You heard part of the argument that Kelly made.

MANCUSO: Well, the argument is that if you lower the amount of animals that are coming into the shelters, then obviously less get killed. You try to adopt as many as you can and return them to their owners, but when there is just too many and not enough homes, there is no other choice, right now, but to euthanize. And we need to stop the flow into the front door so that we can stop killing so many animals.

ZAHN: I think we all would agree that that would be an important goal. Kelly, right to decrease the number of animals being euthanize every year. Look at this, in California shelters, and we're going to put this number up on the screen, that have housed nearly nine million cats and dogs, and euthanize or killed more than five million.

I mean, doesn't this bill -- don't you concede that this bill will reduce the number of dogs and cats being killed?

MORAN: I can't see the screen that you're talking about, Paula. But, let me tell you that what this bill does, first of all, I'm a pet owner myself. And there is nobody that are more responsible pet owners than the people that oppose this bill. We love our pets. But the problem is that while we support spay and neutering, mandatory spay and neuter ends up causing exactly the opposite effect of what the supporters are going to claim.

We're going have more problems. What they want to do is they want to create a huge government bureaucracy that's going to be overreaching and invasive and going to be impossible to administer and impossible to enforce. It's absolutely guaranteed to fail.

ZAHN: That's my question for Judie.

Judie, how would you enforce this? Are you going to have animal shelter people going block to block checking to see which animals are neutered?

MANCUSO: No, but I do want to say this is a tried and true approach. I mean, Kelly is acting as if we're trying it for first time. This is happening all over as far as city and county ordinances, the state of Rhode island passed a bill, so this is not something that, you know, we just thought of this is something that is proven.

And the way that we're going to enforce it is the animal control officers, their day is complaint driven as far as where they go and what they do all day. So, they'll incorporate this right into their job. And as far as what he was just claiming, for the cities and counties that have done this, euthanasias absolutely goes down and licensing goes up. And we see big improvements in the communities, plus the shelter workers, their morale goes up as well.

ZAHN: All right, we got to leave it there, Judie and Kelly, hopefully people are seeing pictures of the cute puppies in animal shelters (INAUDIBLE) to adopt. Goit to move on.

But thank you both for coming in.

MORAN: I want to tell you, Lassie is opposing the bill today, Paula.

ZAHN: Oh, really? MORAN: Lassie came to the capital to oppose the bill because what we found out is that actually Lassie will become extinct, the national treasurer will become extinct if this bill passes...

ZAHN: I got to move on because we got filmmaker Michael Moore waiting in the wings. He was lashing out -- thank you two -- at CNN and our Dr. Sanjay Gupta. You may have seen some of Moore's heated interview with own Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. And we probably should get ourselves prepared for more with LARRY KING LIVE. And Larry is here with a preview.

So, what do you expect to happen tonight -- Larry.

LARRY KING; LARRY KING LIVE: I never expect anything, Paula because I take everything as it comes. But I'll do the best I can. We're going to have Michael Moore and CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, both here to go over what got Moore so angry on CNN yesterday. And to give the state of American healthcare an intense examination.

ZAHN: You know what I expect, Larry?

KING: Yeah.

ZAHN: I am coming into your show with some expectation. Some fire. We'll be watching.

KING: Well, I hope -- what I hope for sy learn more than I knew bring started. And I hope things go swimmingly and that we increase the knowledge of the public watching about healthcare, and all those things, but if I expect them, then I always have reduced expectations.

ZAHN: Point well taken, but heat in light coming your way nine minutes from now. Thanks, Larry.

All right, coming up next, a woman whose story is absolutely incredible. She escaped from the life of forced prostitution, now risking everything to help free other women who are sex slaves. A CNN Heroine in her own words.


ZAHN: All year long we have been introducing you to ordinary people determined to bring about change for the better. We call them "CNN Heroes." tonight we honor a victim of human trafficking who reclaimed her life and is now saving other women's lives.


SOMALY MAM, CNN HERO: But right now, you can see everywhere we have the prostitute. Because of the corruption.

The bothered owners, they force them to have sex. They hit them. They receive a lot of violence.

I remember when I was young. I was sold into the brothel. I was forced to have sex and it was rape. When I need the people to help me the people would hit me.

My name is Somaly Mam and my missions to help the victims to take them out from the brothel. And many of them they have HIV/AIDS. Sometimes they cut themselves, sometimes they try suicide. I just say to them you have your pain full everybody treats you so bad, why you treat yourself so bad? It's not your fault.

My world's so dangerous. You face the police who are corrupted. You go into courts, sometimes they are so corrupted.

I have a lot of people trying to destroy me everywhere. They are trying, trying, but I just want to say to them, no way.

My organization, we have the counseling (INAUDIBLE) and then give them opportunity to work and then reintegrate them into society.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel like I have a new life. I was so upset before. It seems like everything was destroyed. Now I feel like I have a new life.

MAM: I just want to give them love, for real. It's what I needed.


ZAHN: And if you want to find out more about our heroine tonight and her bravery, please go to We need more fighters out there like that.

Just minutes away from LARRY KING LIVE. You won't want to miss both filmmaker Michael Moore and our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta are among the guests on LARRY KING LIVE.


ZAHN: That wraps it up for all of us here tonight. We hope you'll join us same time, same place tomorrow night as the debate rages on about the war in Iraq and when U.S. troops should come home. Have a great night, everybody. Again, thanks for join us tonight.