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CNN Wolf Blitzer Reports
Al Qaeda Threatens U.S.; Congresswoman Wants Justice Department Investigation of Inglewood Police; Ted Williams' Family Fights Over Body
Aired July 09, 2002 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Now on WOLF BLITZER REPORTS, al Qaeda says its members just can't wait to carry out more suicide attacks. I'll ask Senate Intelligence Chairman Bob Graham about this chilling new threat.
President Bush vows to throw the book at those who cook the books.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Business pages of American newspapers should not read like a scandal sheet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: No free speech for a member of the president's Cabinet -- why they booed in Barcelona.
Caught on tape, does anything justify this type of action?
The freezing of a Hall of Famer, I'll talk baseball and more with Pat O'Brien, and I'll speak with someone who freezes people for a living.
It's Tuesday, July 9th, 2002. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
Let's get right to the latest on the U.S. war on terror. There is word today of a new threat, indications al Qaeda is itching to go back on the offensive. From the top ranks of al Qaeda, menacing words and promises of more attacks against America.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti national who has acted as the principal spokesman for Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, is quoted this week in the Algerian newspaper "El Youm".
"Our military and intelligence networks are assessing and monitoring new U.S. targets that we will strike in a period of time which is not long". He goes on to say, "Our suicide militants are ready and impatient to carry out attacks against U.S. and Jewish targets inside America and abroad." These words, similar to recent warnings from Abu Ghaith, that al Qaeda would hit Americans where they wouldn't expect it.
Reuters reports he told the Algerian paper that America's war on terrorism has not affected al Qaeda's military and intelligence capabilities, and he indicated that bin Laden is still alive and running the network. On Monday President Bush acknowledged the U.S. doesn't know whether bin Laden is alive or dead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: He may be alive. If he is, we'll get him. If he's not alive, we got him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: There is also new information that al Qaeda has previously tried to establish a base outside Afghanistan. Intelligence officials in southeast Asia tell CNN's Maria Ressa that two years ago bin Laden's top aides went to a remote hard-line Muslim province in Indonesia. Those aides included al Qaeda's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammed Atef, bin Laden's military chief who is believed to have been killed during the U.S. bombing in Afghanistan.
According to the intelligence report obtained by CNN - quote -- "both of them were impressed by the lack of security, the support and the extent of the Muslim population. This visit was part of a wider strategy of shifting the base of Osama bin Laden's terrorist operations from the subcontinent to southeast Asia". Nothing reportedly developed from that visit, but investigators hope details of the trip could give them more information about what al Qaeda is currently up to in southeast Asia.
So, al Qaeda's insisting it has not been badly hurt by the U.S. war on terrorism and is now threatening yet more attacks. Is it bluffing? Joining me now from Capitol Hill, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham of Florida. Senator Graham, what's the answer? Is al Qaeda bluffing? Should we take these threats seriously?
SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL), INTELLIGENCE CHAIRMAN: We should take the threats seriously. There's no question that al Qaeda has been hurt by what's happened since October. Their command and control structure inside Afghanistan has been substantially disrupted. They have not had the capability of recruiting and training the next class of terrorists. But there is also disturbing information over the last few weeks that al Qaeda is starting to regenerate.
They carried out a successful attack against a synagogue in Tunisia. They have been making threats to attack inside the United States. I was in Hamburg, Germany recently where I was told that al Qaeda cell there, the one from which several of the September 11th hijackers came, was starting to be more visible and active. BLITZER: So what, if anything else, can the U.S., should the U.S. be doing to deal with this al Qaeda threat?
GRAHAM: We should be doing several things, in my opinion. One is -- one of the major mistakes that the United States made in the 1990s was letting these training camps continue to flourish and be the place from which a new generation of terrorists was produced. I believe that we ought to be taking on those training camps, which are in the Middle East and according to your latest report, maybe now in Indonesia so that they are denied the ability to prepare and give operational skills to another group of terrorists.
Number two is we need to keep our eye on the ball on the war on terrorism. Our goal, as the president said in September, is the elimination of international terrorist groups. We've been in Afghanistan since October.
In the last few months I heard that operation described -- it's not a war, but a manhunt. I think we need to finish in Afghanistan and move to other places where al Qaeda and even more lethal terrorist organizations have their capacity to act, including to plan operations inside the United States.
BLITZER: Well, let's be precise about step one. Those training camps in Lebanon, for example, Hezbollah camps, Islamic Jihad camps, are you suggesting that U.S. air power go in and destroy those camps?
GRAHAM: I think what we ought to do first is have a serious discussion with the Syrians, because they effectively control the camps that are inside Syria or they have the opportunity to control them, and the areas in Lebanon where the camps are located are the areas that are currently occupied by the Syrian army.
We should indicate to the Syrians, as I did when I met with President Assad last week, that we are very concerned about the continued existence of these camps, and we're asking them to take steps to see that they are not allowed to continue to operate. If the host country refuses to take that action, then I think the international community led by the United States has a priority to do so.
BLITZER: Based on what you know right now, and I want to get you on the record, you obviously know a lot about this issue. The whole notion of smallpox vaccines, giving a half a million, a million, maybe a million-and-a-half first responders, healthcare workers that vaccine, is that based on any real evidence of a threat involving smallpox or is it just as an abundance of caution?
GRAHAM: I have heard smallpox described as the single greatest terrorist threat. That if you wanted to kill hundreds of thousands of people rapidly and with almost no capacity to retard that mass homicide, the way to do it would be to put 100 people in the United States who have been infected with smallpox and in a matter of days there would be thousands and thousands of deaths.
BLITZER: Senator Bob Graham, as usual, thanks for helping us understand these important issues, appreciate it very much.
GRAHAM: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Welcome back from the Middle East.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
BLITZER: Now let's move on to some other news right now. Reacting to a growing series of business scandals, President Bush is calling for a new era of integrity in corporate America. Today he proposed several steps aimed at preventing financial abuses.
Our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is standing by live. She has details -- Suzanne.
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the president earlier today was really in the heart of the symbol of corporate America on Wall Street. That is where he was calling for a domestic war on corporate corruption.
It really is the administration's challenge now to convince the American people to again believe in the stock market as well as the strength of the economy. The president's initiative was broad and twofold.
It concentrated first of all greater accountability to CEOs for their own behavior, as well as a greater ability for the government to regulate and enforce tighter restrictions, tighter rules. Some of those guidelines including increasing prison time for corporate leaders who are guilty of fraud, also stressing penalties for document shredding.
The president asking for 20 million additional dollars from Congress to the Securities and Exchange Commission to hire another 100 additional investigators. All of this, the president emphasizing earlier today on Wall Street.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Tougher laws and stricter requirements will help, it'll help. Yet ultimately the ethics of American business depend on the conscience of America's business leaders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: The president asking for bipartisan support for legislation to push forward his proposal. It did not take anytime at all, Wolf, for Democrats to criticize the president saying he has no credibility in lecturing Wall Street, saying that his own dealings as director of Harken Energy Group some 12 years ago when he filed late a disclosure form as well as was investigated by the SEC for insider training - rather trading, but he was cleared of any wrongdoing when it comes to those allegations.
But the Democrats still also complaining that this plan, this proposal did not go far enough. They want to push forward their own version coming out of the Senate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: The string of recent disclosures undermines investor confidence, scares off foreign investment and slows an already shaky recovery. That's why I'm hopeful that today's speech by the president will endorse what the Senate Democrats have already passed out of committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: Now his aides know that this could be politically damaging if he doesn't act right away. There's an incredible amount of pressure on Congress as well as the administration to get the American people to earn their confidence and to change this economy around and to do it quickly -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Suzanne Malveaux at the White House. Thank you very much. And here's your chance to weigh in on this story. Our "Web Question Of The Day" is this. Should CEOs convicted of making misleading financial statements face jail time?
Go to my Web page, cnn.com/Wolf. That's where you can vote. While you're there, let me know what you're thinking. Send me your comments. I'll try to read some of them on the air each day at the end of this program. That's also where you can read my daily on-line column, cnn.com/Wolf.
In Spain today the United States is voicing support for a global Aids fund. Problem is protesters are not letting Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson get his message out.
Our medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is in Barcelona.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: More than 100 Aids activists from around the world took over the meeting on Tuesday when Secretary Tommy Thompson rose to speak.
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
GUPTA: At issue, the amount of money the United States government is giving a new, independent fund to set up after the United Nations meeting on Aids just last year.
TOMMY THOMPSON, HHS SECRETARY: And they can shout, but that doesn't deter me or the president ...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need action from governments, especially the U.S. government. We need leadership and not empty promises. We need Tommy Thompson's actions to match his words, and what we're demanding is billions for the global fund to fight Aids, tuberculosis, and malaria.
GUPTA: To date, the United States has pledged $500 million to the fund. Activists say that's not enough. Thompson says the activists have their guns pointed in the wrong direction.
THOMPSON: And I understand that people want to yell and scream. They would serve their cause much better if they would try and get other countries to contribute to the global fund like the United States has.
GUPTA: Equally contentious, another $500 million recently announced by President Bush to focus on preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission in Africa and the Caribbean. Activists think the money should also be used to treat the parents of those children.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: If you can't get something comprehensive now and from an infrastructure standpoint, you can't -- what can you do right now?
GUPTA: The activists are also bitter about the lack of funding for needle exchange programs in the United States. Studies have shown that these programs providing clean needles to drug addicts do reduce HIV infections. Last year the United States gave almost $2 billion to Aids programs worldwide. Thompson says that since this global fund is barely a year old, they want to see that it's working well before contributing any more money.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Barcelona, Spain.
BLITZER: And we have this just in, the governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura, is in a hospital in Minnesota. He checked himself in earlier complaining of chest pain, we're told. He's in good condition. We do have some word on his condition. Let's listen to what we have.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor Ventura was admitted to North Memorial Medical Center for evaluation and treatment of chest pains related to a recurrent blood clot in his lung. He is stable, in good spirits and undergoing treatment with blood thinners.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That just in, Governor Ventura announcing only within the past several days he would not be seeking reelection as governor of Minnesota. Now he's in the hospital described, as you just heard, as being in stable condition, in good spirits, complaining of chest pain from a blood clot in his lung. We're going to continue to monitor this story. We get some more information during the course of this hour, we'll go to Minnesota live. Governor Jesse Ventura in a local hospital in Minnesota, but he's OK.
Now a story that could have millions of women questioning how they take care of their bodies. Scientists are pulling the plug on a major hormone study. CNN medical correspondent Rea Blakey has more.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well I kind of figured I was ...
REA BLAKEY, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Geraldine Boggs is thrilled. By participating in a clinical study for the women's health initiative, she helped answer a nagging question. What are the risks and benefits of taking a combination hormone therapy?
GERALDINE BOGGS, STUDY PARTICIPANT: I think if you let women know what the risks are, then they can make an intelligent decision.
BLAKEY: Sixteen thousand women were followed for the study at 40 centers around the country including Washington's MedStar Research Institute.
DR. ROBERT RAINER, WASHINGTON HOSPITAL CENTER: we've been dealing too long with supposition or what people expected THE hormones to do. now we know that there is a greater risk to taking oral hormone replacement therapy for the postmenopausal woman than not taking the hormones.
BLAKEY: The study, pitting the hormones estrogen and progestin against a placebo was so dramatic the research was halted years early.
DR. JACQUES ROSSOUW, WOMEN HEALTH INITIATIVE STUDY: And the results show both adverse effects and benefits from estrogen plus progestin. Crucially, however, if you put the results together, the adverse effects outweigh and outnumber the beneficial effects.
BLAKEY: The risks include an increase of breast cancer, heart disease and stroke. Six million U.S. women currently use the combination hormone therapy of estrogen and progestin. Approximately 40 percent of those women use the drugs to manage hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. Now despite stopping the estrogen/progestin study, the Women's Health Initiative says it's reasonable that some of those women should continue taking the combination therapy, but only for the short term, for relief of menopausal symptoms.
DR. MARCIA STEFANICK, WOMEN'S HEALTH INITIATIVE: We do know that some of these risks appear within the first year, and we can't discount them -- the risk of heart attacks and blood clots. And so each woman should have a very serious discussion now with her health care provider.
BLAKEY: That's because the therapy does provide some health benefits, including a decreased risk of colon cancer, hip fractures and total fractures. The Women's Health Initiative is continuing a separate trial on hormone replacement therapy to determine the risks and benefits of using estrogen alone.
Rea Blakey, CNN, Washington.
BLITZER: A beating caught on videotape, now the fallout, allegations of police brutality and new calls for action. A closer look at the tape that's shaking up the Los Angeles area and much of the nation.
Also, two pastors on the run, accused of beating a boy in a bible school.
Plus, Ted Williams in a deep freeze. His son wants to put him on ice. The daughter says no way. The custody battle over a baseball legend, but first our news quiz.
Cryonics is the use of very low temperatures to preserve a body with the hope that it can be revived later. Which of the following people have been frozen? Walt Disney? Elvis Presley? Marilyn Monroe? None of the above? All of the above? The answer coming up.
BLITZER: Welcome back. The mayor of Inglewood, California is reacting as investigators review a videotape and allegations of racially-motivated police brutality.
CNN's Thelma Gutierrez has the latest. She is joining us now live -- Thelma.
THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, here in the city of Inglewood the mayor, the police department, even the district attorney's office have all pledged to investigate this case.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: No justice, no peace. No justice, no peace. No justice, no ...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUTIERREZ: This morning 30 protesters gathered in front of city hall here in Inglewood. They vocally, but peacefully called for justice. There were four Inglewood police officers and two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies involved in the incident.
It happened on Saturday at a gas station in Inglewood. In the amateur video you see officer Jeremy Morse, a three-year veteran of the force, slam 16-year-old Donovan Chavis on a car and then strike his face. A few seconds later Inglewood police say there was some sort of altercation that took place before the incident.
Now in fact you can see that on the tape Officer Morse is bleeding on the video. Police say that he did sustain cuts and bruises from the altercation, but the mayor of Inglewood said today there is no excuse for what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR ROOSEVELT DORN, INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA: As far as I am concerned, there is nothing that could have occurred prior to the videotape being turned on that would justify ... (CROSSTALK)
DORN: ... that would justify the ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would be in jail right now ...
DORN: ... that would justify the conduct that I observed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUTIERREZ: Officer Jeremy Morse was placed on paid administrative leave and there is a second tape, Wolf, apparently shot from a surveillance camera at a gas station and the sheriff's department wouldn't tell us exactly what the contents of the tape is, only to say that it is germane to the case. Wolf, back to you.
BLITZER: Thank you very much. Thelma Gutierrez on the scene for us. And U.S. Representative Maxine Waters is asking the Justice Department to conduct a civil rights investigation into the arrest of Donovan Chavis. She joins us now live from Capitol Hill.
Don't you trust local authorities in Inglewood, Congresswoman? Why do you need the Justice Department ...
MAXINE WATERS, (D), CALIFORNIA: Well ...
BLITZER: ... involved now?
WATERS: ... in addition to what they may do in Inglewood, I think it's very important for the Justice Department to get involved to see if the civil rights of this young man and his father have been violated. As you know, that's their responsibility, to enforce those laws to insure that people's civil rights are not violated. So in addition to any criminal charges that may be appropriate in this case, I think we have a civil rights issue here also.
BLITZER: You probably noticed on the videotape, and we're showing it to our viewers yet once again, there was at least one black officer, one Hispanic officer involved in this altercation with this young 16-year-old. What does that say to you, if anything?
WATERS: Well it says to me that a white police officer picked him up and slammed his head into the car and I saw I think another white police officer punch him in the face and the others were standing there, I suppose, watching.
BLITZER: The fact that a black officer, police officer, standing right there watching all of this, does that not mean that it just so happens the individual, the 16-year-old, was black? It could have been a white kid too.
WATERS: I have not seen any pictures of white children's heads being slammed in police cars. I've not seen any real pictures of white kids being brutally beaten or harassed by police officers. So I don't know what the point is except to say this seems to always happen to blacks, young black males, black kids now.
This young man is 16 years old. He's a special education student. He has a hearing problem. He has a speech problem and he's frail, he's slight. I don't know what he could have done that would cause the police officer to treat him this way.
BLITZER: Have you gotten any indication from the Justice Department that they're going to heed your recommendation?
WATERS: I am asking the attorney general to investigate it. I have not heard what they're going to do. I have not talked to John Ashcroft. I've got calls into him. My letter has gone to him. I await his response.
BLITZER: You notice also that the mayor of Inglewood is an African American. Do you have confidence in his ability to conduct a thorough investigation?
WATERS: The mayor just called and the district attorney. Not only is the mayor asking that the police officer be put off and not allowed to work, but he wants him to also take away his pay while he's on leave and he's also asking the district attorney to file criminal charges. So I think what he's doing really speaks for itself. He's serious about getting justice in this case.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Maxine Waters, thanks for joining us, always good to have you on the program.
WATERS: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you very much and comparisons, of course, are already being made between the Inglewood case and the 1991 Los Angeles police beating of Rodney King. Ira Reiner served as the Los Angeles County district attorney between 1984 and 1992.
He's kind enough to join us right now. What do you make of this particular case? You've seen the videotape as all of us have Mr. Reiner?
IRA REINER, FMR. L.A. DISTRICT ATTY: Well Wolf, force is to be used to restrain. It is not to be used for punishment. Now, whatever may have preceded the very end of that tape, the fact is you do see a police officer strike with a closed fist a suspect who is handcuffed.
There is no excuse for striking someone who is handcuffed and who is already restrained by other officers who have swarmed about him with a closed fist. So that act clearly is inappropriate. It may very well be unlawful.
BLITZER: But you did see a cut on the neck of one of the police officers that smashed his head, the kid's head to the car ...
BLITZER: ... hood. While it's not appropriate for a police officer to engage in this kind of restraint, this kind of activity, it might be more of a human response if, in fact, as some of the police are suggesting, the kid did strike out earlier, which we didn't see on tape.
REINER: You know, Wolf, you have touched on what is really the key point in so many of these cases where there is a confrontation or a chase between police officers and the suspect that ultimately ends up with the suspect being restrained and then the officers, having gone through a fight, don't calm down immediately. Now, people normally after a fight are not going to calm down instantly, but police officers have to be professional and they must do so.
It may be understandable in human terms and leave the question of brutality or racism aside, which may or may not be the case here. But even if it isn't, very often you do see cases where police officers are involved in fights and when the fight's over and the suspect is completely restrained, they are not able always to turn it off.
But they must turn it off because they are professionals. They are armed and that's part of their job. Understandable in human terms, but not the least bit understandable in professional terms.
BLITZER: You heard Congresswoman Maxine Waters suggest racism is a problem in these kinds of cases. You don't see videotapes of white kids being smashed around like this and she's calling for a Justice Department civil rights investigation. Is that a good idea?
REINER: No, I do not think that it is. First of all, yes, you do see white suspects that find themselves in the identical situation. I think it is clear that more often you're going to see black suspects than white in this particular case, but it is certainly not exclusive. But there need not be from anything that we know at this moment for a Justice Department investigation.
The mayor of Inglewood, Mr. Dorn, is a former superior court judge. He is going to handle this investigation appropriately. Also the district attorney's office in Los Angeles will be investigating this. You bring in the Justice Department only if there is a breakdown in local authority where you have the local officials who are not interested in conducting an appropriate investigation.
I think that it is clear that they are very much interested in conducting a thorough investigation. It then becomes a local matter. It is not for the Justice Department to step in every time a police officer loses his temper and punches somebody.
BLITZER: I -- very briefly, while I have you, I assume this 16- year-old and his lawyer is going to have a lawsuit on their hands as Rodney King had against the LAPD.
REINER: Yes. Well, there's no doubt about that. That's inevitable.
BLITZER: Ira Reiner, the former district attorney of L.A. County, thanks, as usual, for joining us, appreciate it very much.
And this other story we're following, an 11-year-old boy is in Intensive Care at a Texas hospital. Police say he was beaten as punishment for failing to study his bible.
Arrest warrants are out on two young ministers at this Baptist church in Austin in connection with the beating of an 11-year-old boy into unconsciousness. The child's attorney says they did it because the boy did not take his bible verses seriously enough.
BOBBY TAYLOR, BOY'S ATTORNEY: They took him to this private home, and the person who took him was the -- I won't call him youth minister, but he was a 22-year-old minister, and apparently, he may have been the son of the minister of the church -- cut a branch off a tree, made my client lay on the bed, and then began to beat him, and beat him for almost an hour.
BLITZER: The child is reportedly conscious now, but has been in a local intensive care ward since the middle of last week. The incident allegedly occurred while the boy was attending a religious summer camp at the church, for Spanish-speaking children. But, church officials say that, because this happened at a subchapter for Spanish- speaking members, it's not a church matter, and they won't comment on camera. Still, the head pastor told our local CNN affiliate over the phone he was heartbroken over the incident.
JERALD FINNEY, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Pastor Hank Thompson, the pastor of Capitol City Baptist Church, would not - would never - he's instructed all his personnel not to use corporal punishment against the children of church members.
BLITZER: The child's parents refused to speak on camera, but they said when the young ministers dropped their son off at home, one of them told the parents they should discipline the boy further.
BLITZER: It's an amazing story. And should a baseball legend be frozen to preserve his DNA? We'll talk to the head of the lab that has Ted William's body. Also, can your SUV survive the Big Bang? The best and worst of the high-speed crash tests. In addition, we'll update you on the condition of Governor Jesse Ventura in Minnesota. He's been taken to the hospital.
BLITZER: Earlier we asked, which of the following people have been frozen with the hope of being revived later? The answer, none of the above. More than 100 people have been frozen since the first cryogenic suspension in 1967. Despite popular belief, Walt Disney was cremated after his death in 1966. His ashes rest in the Disney family crypt at Forest Lawn Cemetery in California.
Welcome back. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Coming up, the battle over Ted Williams' DNA. We'll talk to the director of the lab that has the baseball legend's body, but first, a look at some other stories making news right now. The U.S. Senate is expected to decide in the coming minutes, once and for all, if tons of nuclear waste should be buried in the Nevada desert, 90 miles outside Las Vegas. Senior Republican aides think the measure will indeed pass today. If it does, the nuclear waste depository would be scheduled to open in 2010 and hold up to 70,000 tons of radioactive material. The Bush administration says studies have found then Nevada site is safe and sound.
Minnesota's outspoken governor, Jesse Ventura, is in the hospital right now. He entered a Minnesota hospital today to check on what he described as discomfort in his lung. His condition is being evaluated. A pulmonary specialist says Ventura is receiving treatment for a recurring blood clot in his lung. He's being treated with blood thinners among other things. Ventura is in stable condition right now and is in good spirits. As you know, he's a former professional wrestler, announcing only within the past few weeks, he would not be seeking re-election.
He was a baseball legend, a larger-than-life figure, who played with pride and dignity. Now, in death, Ted Williams is seemingly being stripped of his dignity as relatives battle over his body.
BLITZER (voice-over): Could a baseball immortal become literally immortal? The sports world is buzzing at the news that Ted Williams' body may actually be frozen. Just days after his death, members of the Hall of Famer's family are fighting each other in court. On one side, Williams' only son, John Henry Williams, who may have already moved his father's body to a so-called cryonics facility in Arizona. Family members say John Henry wants to freeze the body.
BOBBY-JO FERRELL, TED WILLIAMS' DAUGHTER: He said, "Well, you know, we can sell dad's DNA and people will buy that because they'd love to have a little Ted Williams.
BLITZER: On the other side, Bobby Jo Ferrell. She's John Henry Williams' half sister, Ted Williams' daughter from another marriage. She vows, as she says, to rescue her father's body from John Henry's alleged scheme.
FERRELL: This is not even a science. This is insane. Stephen King would love to write about this.
BLITZER: Ferrell and some of Ted Williams' friends and former teammates say Williams wanted to be cremated and have his ashes spread over the Florida Keys, where he liked to fish.
We tried to get John Henry Williams' side of the story. We contacted his manager with a minor league Gulf Coast Red Sox, made calls to The Ted Williams Museum in Hernando, Florida and called Ted Williams' Family Enterprises. No one at those organizations would comment on the case and John Henry never returned our calls.
Cryonics involves suspending or freezing the body in liquid nitrogen with the idea of either reviving the body or using its DNA. An official of the facility believed to be housing Ted Williams' body would not comment on the Williams case, but he did defend cryonics this morning on CNN.
DR. JERRY LEMLER, ALCOR LIFE EXTENSION FOUNDATION: It's certainly one big hope and actually, the science is catching up with the fantasy in the sense that there have been so many marvelous medical breakthroughs.
BLITZER: But members of the medical establishment say cryonics is a sham and the process has been openly spoofed in the mass media as in this scene in the original "Austin Powers" movie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You've been cryogenically frozen for 30 years.
BLITZER: Fans and associates of Ted Williams aren't amused. Most observers believe, however this turns out, it's an ugly end to a heroic life.
TOM VERDUCCI, "SPORTS ILLUSTRATED": It's just terrible that the family has to be arguing over something like this. I mean, obviously, this reminds a lot of people -- get things in order before your loved ones are passed away.
BLITZER: Ted Williams' body is thought to be at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, which bills itself as "the world's largest provider of cryonics services." To discuss how and why people are frozen, I am joined now from Mountain View, California, by Ralph Merkle. He's director of the Alcor Foundation.
Well, first of all, tell us what you can - I know you're limited in certain of your responses -- about Ted Williams and the freezing of his body.
RALPH MERKLE, DIRECTOR, ALCOR FOUNDATION: Well, I can't comment in any way on whether or not there have or have not been arrangements with any specific individual. That's Alcor policy.
BLITZER: Well, what -- tell us what you would be doing if in fact his body were there right now, which we believe, of course, to be the case.
MERKLE: Well, I can discuss cryonics in general, and in general, cryonics consists of two phases. In the first phase, a field washout. You replace the blood with a solution, which is commonly -- actually used in transplant surgery when you have a donor organ from one city. It's usually washed out with a solution very similar to the one we use.
The person is then taken to the Alcor facility where a second phase takes place. You replace the fluid with cryoprotectants and ice blockers, an antifreeze, if you will. And once you've done that, you cushion the tissues against cooling. You can now cool them to the temperature of liquid nitrogen. And with the new ice blockers and cryoprotectants we are using, we have eliminated, actually, ice formation. We're very pleased about that, which is, of course, reducing the damage that occurs during the process.
BLITZER: Well, what's the point of all of this? What do you hope to achieve?
MERKLE: Well, the purpose of cryonics is very simple. We want to save human lives and we're doing that by giving people access to future medical technology by preserving the physical structure of the body as best we can until spectacular advances in future medical capabilities let us restore the person to good health.
BLITZER: As you know that most experts right now think it's a sham. It's phony. It's just a waste of money and it's not going to do anything for anyone.
MERKLE: Well, think about trying to explain open-heart surgery to someone from 1800. The idea of taking someone's healthy heart from a donor who's been declared brain dead -- taking that heart in an ice chest, catching a flight, an airplane flight -- good luck explaining that to someone from 1800 -- and then taking that heart, opening the recipient's chest, removing their heart, stitching in the donor heart, stitching the person up and having them be healthy. Today, this is a life saving procedure. In 1800, oh, it would have been viewed very skeptically.
MERKLE: Had we...
BLITZER: How many bodies currently are at your facility?
MERKLE: About 50.
BLITZER: And people paid what to get that service?
MERKLE: Well, it's $120,000 for whole body or $50,000 for preserving the head and both of those are usually paid for with life insurance.
BLITZER: If people who just want the DNA though -- this is not necessary -- they could just scrape some DNA from inside the mouth or get some skin and that would suffice, right?
MERKLE: Well, cryonic suspension would be a very expensive way of preserving DNA. There are much less expensive ways of doing that. And also when you sign up with Alcor, you give Alcor the legal rights to your body so tat Alcor can both keep you in cryogenic suspension and have the authority to use whatever future medical technologies are required to restore you to good health.
And of course, we have no interest in cloning. Our purpose is to save human lives, not clone them.
BLITZER: Ralph Merkle, thanks so much for joining us. Thank you. America's pastime hits a major slump and now, possibly faces a strike. My good friend, Pat O'Brien, joins us live with the inside scoop on the boys of summer.
And life imitates art imitates life - Janet Reno runs with a good thing. Stay with us.
BLITZER: As Major League Baseball breaks for tonight's all-star game, there's still, of course, a lot of talk about Ted Williams' body and a possible players' strike, to say nothing of the controversy over steroids. Joining me now from Los Angeles, the longtime sportscaster and the current anchor of "Access Hollywood," my good friend, former classmate, Pat O'Brien.
The -- baseball would seriously be in trouble if there's another players strike, wouldn't it?
PAT O'BRIEN, "ACCESS HOLLYWOOD": Well, I mean I think - hi, Wolf, how are you? Nice to see you again or hear you anyway. I think that the hardcore fans would come back - they'll always come back because they love the game. But what happens on these strikes and the work stoppages is that you lose generations of fans. I think baseball lost an entire generation of fans with night baseball because kids couldn't stay up late to see ball games. They had school the next day, that sort of thing. I think in a couple of these strikes, they lost another generation.
And I think over the nine work stoppages they've had -- it's my opinion that dads don't want to get their kids involved in baseball anymore because you get your kid involved in a team and get him all hyped up and he's got posters on his wall. Suddenly, that player's gone. He's got to switch teams. He doesn't know where the player is anymore. So it's just not like - and I hate to sound like a fuddy daddy - but it's not like it used to be. And so, there's really - it's hard to have a heritage in the game anymore.
And now on baseball's - supposedly, it's one of its greatest days - we have all this talk about work stoppages and steroids and Ted Williams. And it's kind of sad when you look at the whole picture.
BLITZER: Well, you know, they did a poll on steroids among Major League Baseball players. Would you accept steroid drug testing? They say 79 percent almost 80 percent say, "yes." Seventeen percent say, "no." So why aren't they getting tested?
O'BRIEN: Well, I mean I think there's some civil rights issues there, and some personal issues there, constitutional rights issues there rather. And I think also, that it's going to be a team decision, a union decision. So that conversation has to be done during the bargaining talks.
But who knows? People have thrown out 90 percent of the players, which is ludicrous. People have thrown out 25 percent. The bottom line is -- if you watched that home run contest last night, I'm not so sure a lot of people weren't looking at those players and looking at their arms and seeing how big they might be, comparing them with last year, because of this conversation as opposed to watching the ball soar out of the ballpark.
So that's one of the - besides steroids being bad for you - that's one of the dangers of that whole steroid talk because the people are starting to look at the game a little differently.
BLITZER: And this fight over Ted Williams's body between two of his kids and cryonics. That's got to be upsetting to a lot of his fans and friends and family members.
O'BRIEN: Well, think about how - what Ted Williams must be thinking or would have thought of this because he wasn't all that great about the fans, didn't like the press all that much, was a very personal man, got better in his older days. But here he is being honored tonight with the most valuable player award, being named after him and all this swirling around him.
And I -- you know, I -- this whole idea bringing someone back - and it would 100 to 200 years, we're told, for this to happen if it did happen. And I can just imagine, he comes back 200 years from now as left-hander and Jesse Orasco is still pitching.
BLITZER: Pat O'Brien, it would not like the - the game is not like it was when we were kids growing up. Thanks for spending some time with us.
O'BRIEN: Thanks, Wolf. Nice to talk to you.
BLITZER: All right, good work.
And get this -- it looks like Janet Reno may get the last laugh. When "The Janet Reno Dance Party" aired on NBC's "Saturday Night Live," it was just a comedy sketch. Now, the former attorney general really will have a dance party as a fund-raiser for her Florida gubernatorial campaign. It's scheduled for later this month in Miami. Several celebrities are expected, but there's no word on whether they'll include comedian Will Ferrell, who spoofed Reno in the "Saturday Night Live" sketches.
They once spoofed me on one of those Janet Reno dance parties as well.
Are you really protected on the road? Your SUV may have been put to the test. The results, when we come back.
SOS on the high seas. It wasn't just the waves putting this crew in danger.
BLITZER: Now checking these stories on today's "Newswire." It's a first; the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety ran four small sport utility vehicles through a high-speed crash test. Three earned the Institute's highest rating. The 2002 Honda CR-V, 2003 Subaru Forester and the 2002 Saturn View all did well when slamming into a barrier at 40 miles an hour. The 2002 Land Rover Freelander was given an "acceptable" rating.
A spectacular rescue at sea off the coast of Taiwan. Helicopters airlifted 133 Chinese fishermen to safety after their boat caught fire. One man is still missing. Rescuers say he jumped in the ocean before help arrived.
Let's go to New York now and get a preview of "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE." That, of course, begins right at the top of the hour - Lou.
LOU DOBBS, HOST, "MONEYLINE": Wolf, thank you. As you know, the presidential focus turned to scandals in corporate America today. The president delivered a much-anticipated speech on corporate reform. We'll have the political and corporate and market reaction. Tonight, I'll be joined by Senator Paul Sarbanes, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, the former SEC chairman Richard Breeden and David Ruder will also be my guest here. We'll have a special report for you on the pressure to meet earnings targets in corporate America. Tonight, we report on the media's complicity and the great expectations gained. And we'll have a rare interview with the CEO of Goldman Sachs, Henry Paulson, on corporate reform. All of that and a great deal more ahead at the top of the hour. Please join us. Now back to Wolf Blitzer - Wolf.
BLITZER: We certainly will, Lou and a very important day on Wall Street. Our viewers want to get updated on that.
What happens when a president tries to honor a comedian? Coming up, comic relief and the results of our web "Question of The Day."
BLITZER: Those numbers not a surprise. Let's take a look at our "Picture of The Day." Comedian Bill Cosby found another audience today, as he was one of a dozen people receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their contributions to society. When his name was called, Cosby, who lived up to his reputation, jumping up and calling out, "Present." Among the others present, television's Mr. Rogers, home run king, Hank Aaron and Nancy Reagan. Colin Powell also received that distinguished award.
Time now to hear directly from you. Our segment with Dr. Robert Atkins yesterday prompted many of you to share your success stories. Jim wrote us this - "Love your show and your style. I just saw Dr. Atkins on your show this afternoon. I've been using his diet for two years now. After the first six months, I lost the 20 pounds I wanted to lose. My cholesterol went from 223 to 190 and my triglycerides went down from 330 to 30. My own doctor was amazed."
Joann wrote this - "I have lost weight on Dr. Atkins' diet and my doctor has a record of my blood work before and during. My cholesterol level was my main concern. I lost 20 pounds and my cholesterol returned to a healthy level."
Good for both of you.
That's all the time we have today. I'll be back tomorrow at 5:00 p.m. Eastern. Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. "LOU DOBBS MONEYLINE" begins right now.
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