Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS



Shooter Kills Two at LAX; Americans Celebrate Fourth; Summer Reading List is Ready

Aired July 4, 2002 - 22:00   ET


AARON BROWN, NEWSNIGHT ANCHOR: Good evening again, I'm Aaron Brown. This being the Fourth of July and all, I thought I might write something about patriotism in these days post September 11th.

Many of us who came of age during Vietnam have thought a good deal of what that word means, what it means to others, I suppose, and what it means to us, and from time to time when the program has looked at one touchy subject or another, people will call us or the network anti-American, and while we think that is silly, it also hurts some.

So a few thoughts on the subject seemed right for the night, and then boom, we heard about the shooting at LAX and all thoughts that this was going to be a holiday program started to evaporate.

At this point, I think it's fair to say we don't know really what was behind the shooting at the El Al counter. What we do know is that anytime something like this happens, no matter how small, our hearts are going to skip a beat or two as we wonder could it be?

It happened when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed. It happened for goodness sakes when a bus was hijacked in Tennessee last fall. It happened this afternoon, and it will probably happen again. No, not probably. Certainly.

September 11th changed us in a thousand ways. To us it seems no way more than this. We live with an uneasy sense of dread, its foundation and the real life tragedy of September 11th. At the slightest hint, many of us go into full terror fear mode. It is a sad reality, an unavoidable one and it is a measure of how much the terrorists took from all of us 10 months ago.

The whip, of course, begins in Los Angeles at the scene of the shooting at LAX. CNN's Charles Feldman is there. Charles, the headline from you at this hour.

CHARLES FELDMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At this hour, Aaron, the could-be question is still on everyone's mind. Could this have been an act of terrorism or was it the act of a lone crazed gunman? We'll have more on that soon -- Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you, Charles. As you can imagine, this incident set off warning lights and ringing bells in Washington. CNN's Patty Davis covering that end of things, Patty from you the headline please.

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: An administration source, as well as the FBI, say they believe the L.A. Airport shooting was an isolated incident. At this point, they do not believe it was the work of terrorists -- Aaron.

BROWN: Thank you, Patty. Also in Washington for us tonight, Kathleen Koch, who's been out on the mall where security is especially tight, the fireworks and all. So, Kathleen the headline from you tonight.

KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Aaron, it has been a capital Fourth of July celebration, notable for its tranquility, for its excessive heat, and for some measure of disappointment that so many people for whatever reason decided to stay away -- Aaron.

BROWN: Back with all of you shortly. Also coming up tonight, a remarkable show of feelings at the wreckage of that midair collision in Germany, family members literally laying hands on a bit of wing or a piece of an engine. The difference in scale between the people and even small parts of the machine makes the picture a bit unnerving, but somehow the human presence also redeems it. We'll update the investigation a little later in the program.

We'll also get an exclusive tour of Washington, D.C.'s command center, where they're monitoring security for the weekend, and especially for the celebrations at the mall tonight. And, of course, we'll show you as many fireworks displays as we can. We'll bring you the big ones just wrapping up on the East Coast, work our way west as the night goes on. If we can't be there, we're at least going to see them on TV.

All that to come but we begin, of course, with the shooting at Los Angeles International Airport. When the shots rang out, some people nearby thought they were fireworks. They weren't. For reasons that still aren't clear to us, a man opened fire at the El Al ticket counter in the International Terminal at LAX. Who he was, why he did it, was this some guy acting alone or the tip of some larger plan, all questions we'd like answers to, but apparently we're going to have to wait a bit for most. Our coverage begins tonight with CNN's Charles Feldman.


FELDMAN (voice over): LAX was already on a heightened state of alert for the July 4th weekend, when the shooting broke out this morning by the ticket counter of Israel's Airline El Al. An alleged lone gunman, who apparently was also armed with at least one knife, opened fire on the El Al ticket line. He allegedly killed two people, wounded at least seven others, before apparently being gunned down by El Al security personnel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was one man. I think he shot four or five times and we just looked around and then we jumped to the floor and we saw another some guys who jumped over the man. He was shooting, and I think some guy from security, he shot the man in the stomach.

FELDMAN: Three law enforcement sources have told CNN the alleged gunman appears to be an Arab male, but the FBI investigator in charge says appearances can be deceptive.

RICHARD GARCIA, FBI: Appearances don't necessarily mean the same thing. There's a lot of times that people could be passed as Arab males who turn out to be Hispanic. It's hard to say just by appearances.

FELDMAN: The big question all day, whether the shooting was state or organizational sponsored terrorism, or the act of a crazed gunman. On that issue, conflicting views.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have no information that indicates that this incident is connected to any terrorist event or anything else, but the matter is under investigation right now and will continue to be so under FBI.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have to admit that it seems like terrorism. It looks like terrorism. The way it was conducted is very much similar to previous attacks.


FELDMAN (on camera): Now, Aaron, several sources have now told me that there is a tentative identification of the alleged gunman. I say tentative because they want to make sure they have the name right. There's a possibility the person may have been carrying some sort of false I.D. but they are confident that at least they have some sort of an I.D. And yes you asked me a couple hours ago about age and, in fact, they're saying they believe he is 52 years old, if the I.D. that they have on him is correct. Aaron.

BROWN: OK. Just because a couple of people have asked about this, let's explain physically where this happened. This happened outside the security perimeter, correct?

FELDMAN: That's right, before you go through the metal detectors at the point of the airport where you do not need to have tickets. You do not need to go through any security. It is an area open to the general public.

BROWN: And, as we speak right now, is that area still open to the general public?

FELDMAN: Only parts of it. A lot of the International Terminal, that's the Bradley Building, is now open and operational. The area where the actual shooting took place is still closed until the investigation tonight runs its course.

BROWN: I know you and your colleagues have been talking to as many people out there as you can. Were there words exchanged from what you've been told between the gunman and either the specific victims or people generally?

FELDMAN: As far as we could tell, no, but everything about what led up to the shooting is still, even hours later, rather murky. We don't even know whether or not the people being shot were known to the gunman or whether they were selected purely at random.

BROWN: And let me ask you one that will just get you in trouble, OK. Is it your feeling, because it's mine, that both the FBI and LAPD are at this point playing their cards pretty close to the vest?

FELDMAN: Yes, they are, because they're concerned on the one hand about terrorism. On the other hand, I think that they've been saying all throughout the day that there's no evidence to link it to terrorism, so everybody is keeping it close to the vest and nobody wants to end up being wrong, so they're being very careful what they say.

BROWN: Charles, you got some daylight still to do some work in. We'll let you go back and do some reporting. Thank you. Charles Feldman in Los Angeles who's been covering the shooting all afternoon and evening for us.

We've gotten so many warnings over the last few weeks about the threats, possible threats of the Fourth of July, that security could not possibly have been higher, you would think. Nevertheless, the events in Los Angeles certainly raised concerns about whether it is the beginning of something bigger or, as Charles said, just an isolated action. Back now to CNN's Patty Davis, who has been following the security machine as it worked today, Patty, good evening to you.

DAVIS: Good evening, Aaron. An administration source says there is no intelligence to suggest at this point that the L.A. airport shooting was the work of a broader terrorist plot. Now both my source and the FBI say that it looks like an isolated incident at this point.

As for whether the gunman is Arab or not, there's caution to let the investigation play out, and the incident has spurred calls for increased security at airports in the ticket counter area. The Transportation Security Administration says that is already in the works as part of its takeover of airport security across the country now underway. There will be more uniformed and undercover officers in all areas of the airport and that includes that ticket counter area.

The FAA, meanwhile, says there were no significant delays created by the incident at LAX. Domestic flights at the airport were operating normally. Now, international flights are getting back to normal as well. Aaron.

BROWN: Is there any talk there about somehow pushing the security perimeter itself farther back to an area outside the airport? I suppose you could push it, you know, you could endlessly push it back. You have to draw the line somewhere, but clearly you can walk into an airport and carry a weapon.

DAVIS: You clearly can. That was proven by today's incident and another incident a month or so ago at the New Orleans Airport. But the Transportation Security Administration says that the public should be reassured as it moves to take over the airport. It's federalizing these airports. It's federalizing security. It's moving these officers in. That's not necessarily pushing that perimeter out but it will be safer at U.S. airports across the country. Aaron.

BROWN: All right, let me ask you to change gears just a little bit. As I was heading back east the other day, I heard a report that some American pilots, that is United States citizen pilots, which may also be American Airline pilots in this case, were growing concerned that they, when they were overseas were under surveillance by people that made them quite nervous. What do you know to be able to confirm any of that?

DAVIS: Well, airline pilots for U.S. airlines, specifically American and United, have reported feeling that they're being watched or followed while in Europe by people with possible bad intentions. These anecdotes, though, are unsubstantiated but they have been reported to authorities and they reportedly took place in London and Amsterdam.

One union chapter representing Northwest pilots issued a security alert to its pilots and it says that flight crews for other airlines have reported being the subject of obvious surveillance by Mideastern looking men and women, apparently paying special attention to their luggage and their conversation, and the Airline Pilots Association says that crews, especially international crews, really need to be vigilant. Aaron.

BROWN: Patty, thank you. I know it's been a long day for you as well, Patty Davis in Washington. Patty covers airline matters for us and w2as working today.

El Al, the Israeli airline is rare, perhaps unique, in the lengths it goes for security and, in fact, in the way it conducts security. Their planes park away from the terminals. Passengers are profiled, patted down, watched every step of the way.

Unlike most airlines, El Al considers each step from ticket counter to plane to be part of the security perimeter, and unlike most airlines, El Al security agents do carry guns. We're joined now by Issy Boim, a former director of security for El Al. It's nice to talk to you, sir. The kind of incident that happened today is in some sense unstoppable, isn't it?


BROWN: Right. I mean and I understand the distinction you're drawing. On the one hand, someone can walk in to an airport with a gun and do some damage. How much damage he's able to do is dependent on the kind of security that's in place to take him out.

BOIM: Because you know, you cannot stop these things. There is a certain place that everybody can go in. You have to take it into consideration when you build the security layers and say what I'm going to do if somebody would be able to open fire? In this regard, they have to put here a security agent that will be able to respond immediately in order to stop it.

BROWN: Would it be helpful to move the security perimeter to, let's say, the entrance of the airport itself?

BOIM: Look, the security measures are supposed to be done and not to be discussed in public and you know we can not take note of the fact that we are going to bring all the passengers through the checkpoints and through the metal detectors and all the electronic devices.

However, what we do on top of it, it should be completely confidentially and nothing to be discussed in public, you see, and that's most likely that the terrorists should understand if he gets in and he's trying to actually to open fire, he would not be able to be alive, and most likely not going to succeed.

BROWN: Well, that's an interesting point you make because as someone who spends a fair amount of time in airports, it seems to me what we see here in the United States, and I'm interested in your opinion on this, is a lot of visible security but I'm not always certain how effective it is. How effective do you think these security measures at U.S. airports are these days?

BOIM: Look, if we are talking about deterrence, we need to prove, as we are doing now, that everybody sees that security is being taken in control. But the deterrence are not all the security measures. There are security measures, as in other places in the world, that shouldn't be discussed. The public should actually rely and be very confident with what authorities are taking measures, and that's the way this system should be laid out.

BROWN: Well, that may be the way the system should be laid out. I think my question is, sir, is that the way the system is laid out? Are you -

BOIM: Unfortunately, I can not be very happy with the way that the system is laid out because the level that is making the decisions, the level that need to have the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they like to have the support of the public opinion, the media, and so on and so. So how you get this support if you discuss these issues in public?

As a matter of fact, those issues must not be discussed, but on the other hand, you need to have the media support, so it's how you handle it. It's a very difficult issue.

BROWN: In just 20 seconds or so, final question, do you believe that what happened at Los Angeles today was a terrorist attack?

BOIM: Look, it depends how we define terrorism. If it's a gunman or the terrorist with a motivation of terrorism, doesn't matter. The fact that somebody tried to go and open fire at the airport, this is actually an alarm system to ask to be able to beef up our security system. That should not be able to happen and if God forbid it will happen, at least we will be able to respond like El Al security personnel today.

BROWN: Mr. Boim, thanks for your time today. It's good to talk to you. Thank you.

BOIM: Thank you, and good evening.

BROWN: Thank you, sir. Good evening to you. On we go, and just before we do, we'll keep an eye on events in Los Angeles. There may be, as we go along this evening, more information coming out in one form or another, and as it happens, obviously, we will pass it along to you.

Now another strange one, it may turn out to be any number of things, including nothing much, to be perfectly honest. But when a stepson of Saddam Hussein gets arrested on a visa violation while on his way to flight training in south Florida, it does ring all sorts of bells, doesn't it? Here's CNN's Susan Candiotti.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Two red flags went up when Mohammad Saffi flew to Los Angeles from his home in New Zealand Monday. Besides being a stepson of America's arch enemy Saddam Hussein, investigators discovered Saffi's last trip through the U.S. was four days before September 11th.

On Wednesday, the eve of a huge American holiday, Saffi was heading to a Miami flight school, the same one attended by the September 11th hijacker Ziad Jarrah. Investigators were worried.

JIM GOLDMAN, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, INS, MIAMI: He basically stated that he was coming to this country for the purpose of taking a recertification course, an aviation course here at Miami.

CANDIOTTI: Saffi was accepted for a four-day flight engineer's refresher course at Aero Service Aviation, but INS says Saffi failed to get a student visa first, now required since the September 11th attacks. One of Saffi's friends, a U.S. citizen insists that was news to them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody told us anything about the visa at Aero Service. Nobody told us anything about the visa.

CANDIOTTI: But flight schools are supposed to know. Investigators say this one in Miami in business for more than 25 years, says it was not aware the new rule applied to the kind of course Saffi wanted to take. The school, fully cooperating with the investigation, completed a required Justice Department background check on Saffi and last week called Saffi's friend with the good news.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They said, OK we got the green light from the FBI. He can come over to the training.

CANDIOTTI: According to INS, Saffi, whose mother is Saddam Hussein's second wife, and whose father was an executive with Iraqi Airlines, is estranged from his stepfather Saddam Hussein.

CANDIOTTI (on camera): Saffi, an unemployed flight engineer, remains in INS custody. Officials say so far their investigation has found no evidence of terrorist ties. However, authorities add, failure to disclose he did not have a student visa makes Saffi deportable soon. Susan Candiotti CNN, Miami.


BROWN: In Germany now as investigators try and figure out what led to Monday's midair collision, relatives of the victims made a pilgrimage to the crash site today. These are extraordinary pictures, painful, people being taken right up to pieces of one of the airlines, so they could touch it or leave flowers or cry or say a few words.

Seventy-one people died in the collision of a cargo jet and a Russian airliner. Remains of 68 have been recovered now, many of them children. Most of the bodies are in such bad shape that psychologists have told authorities to turn down requests by the relatives to view the remains.

Also today, German investigators say Swiss air traffic controllers gave the Russian pilot just 44 seconds warning before the two planes collided. Prosecutors in Zurich have now launched a criminal investigation.

That's the top of the news on this Fourth of July, but what we haven't done much of is the Fourth of July and we shall for much of the hour. This is NEWSNIGHT.


BROWN: Very cool animation tonight. It's become a bit of a cliche to say a year ago this, a year ago that, but the truth is you can't escape it, and a year ago the big question on the Fourth of July might have been, how do you like your burgers?

Everything feels different now, doesn't it? No matter how many times officials tell us to relax, they always follow up with something new to worry about. So, we'll bring you the fireworks from Washington in a moment, but not before we look into all the new security that has gone along with them. Here again, CNN's Kathleen Koch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All bags on the table.

KOCH (voice over): There were 24 security checkpoints. Everyone and every thing going on to the National Mall was searched.

SERGEANT SCOTT FEAR, PARK POLICE: There's all kinds of security reasons we can't speak about.

KOCH: But high temperatures, not terrorism, proved the greatest threat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is called avoiding heat injury later.

KOCH: Forty-seven were treated for heat exhaustion, 18 hospitalized. Fences designed to hold back crowds instead held up officers. Turn out was down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's empty. You couldn't even see the grass at last year's.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're scared for absolutely no reason at all.

KOCH: Some say the hype over Washington as a tempting target was to blame.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a shame that it's been painted this way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you have to have the confidence that, you know, the law enforcement authority that's down here has everything under control.

KOCH: Still, no one complained about the lack of lines and many insisted there's nowhere else they'd rather be.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We decided that if something was going to happen, that we'd all be down here to watch it happen.

KOCH: What some saw happen, a wedding between a patriotic young Virginia couple.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We thought it would be really special to get married on the Fourth of July in Washington, DC, have the fireworks on our wedding, every anniversary from now until the day we die.


KOCH (on camera): And a final total, just seven arrests today for things like narcotics, disorderly conduct, theft from auto, nothing whatsoever terrorist related. And also, the fireworks show went off without a hitch, all 20,000 pounds of them and the show itself ended with a red, white, and blue tribute to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, back to you Aaron.

BROWN: And everything worked as it should? It wasn't undue delays getting in to see them? It sounded like it was pretty smooth.

KOCH: No delays whatsoever. As a matter of fact, Aaron, when we came in earlier this afternoon at a time it would be rather crowded, there were frankly more officers there to check our bags than there were visitors going in, so not many lines whatsoever.

BROWN: Kathleen, thank you very much.

KOCH: You bet.

BROWN: And we also thank the person behind you, proving again that where there's a TV camera, there's a young kid. Thank you very much. It's just one of those rules of life, ladies and gentlemen.

A little later, we'll take you inside the security compound, I think that's probably the right word, in Washington and give you an idea of how Washington, DC police keep track of you and everything else in the district. It's quite fascinating.

But now on to the fireworks, enough talking about it, we ought to show it. They've been going on all evening. We've been taking in feeds across the country. We've got New York, Boston, Washington, all the biggies. We'll be playing them back, not all of them, but bits and pieces as the night goes on, Atlanta, Houston, Cleveland, St. Louis as well.

The satellite gods willing, we hope they are, and we begin in our nation's capital, where attendance was down but thousands of people nevertheless, as Kathleen said, got through the checkpoints, mingled with the undercover cops, and braved the heat. It has been blistering in the East, and this is what they saw.


BROWN: Washington, DC's Fourth of July fireworks. Why don't all of us, you know, take a minute or so at some point in the day and think about what a remarkable thing happened way back then on the Fourth of July. Still to come on the program, some summer reading suggestions if you're looking for a good book, lots for fireworks. We take you to break with Nashville, Tennessee.


BROWN: We had a chance today to see how Washington, D.C., police are literally keeping an eye on things around the district over this holiday weekend. Judging by the monitors on the wall and the communications gear on hand, you could easily mistake this command post for Mission Control in Houston.

Before September 11, we might have called this Big Brother. Today we call it security. And CNN security analyst Mike Brooks went along on this exclusive tour earlier today.


MIKE BROOKS, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: I'm here at the D.C. Police Department headquarters at the Joint Operations Command Center, which is the nerve center of all law enforcement and governmental operations here in the District of Columbia.

There are a number of different agencies that are involved in making this Fourth a safe Fourth of July here in Washington, D.C.

We're pleased to be joined by Chief Charles Ramsey of the Metropolitan Police Department. Chief, thanks for joining us.


BROOKS: So how would you compare the security preparations and what's going on this year, post 9/11, as compared to Fourth of Julys in the past?

RAMSEY: Well, a lot more extensive. For example, here in the Metropolitan Police Department, we changed days off so everybody is working today, even though we're able to kind of keep them at eight- hour shifts. The fact that the whole department is working is a huge change.

The park police has asked for a lot of assistance down on the Mall, in years past maybe a couple of hundred officers, now more than 1,000 we've given them. We've got extra coverage out in our neighborhoods, and even our harbor branch now is working with the Coast Guard, and we've got a little buffer zone set up there along the waterway.

So it is different.

BROOKS: Yes, I see it's about a 150-foot buffer zone off the D.C. shoreline between the 14th Street Bridge and Memorial Bridge.

This command center, which is a state-of-the-art center here in Washington, D.C., can you tell us a little bit about this?

RAMSEY: Well, this is really the nerve center. Whenever there's a major event that takes place, all the local and federal agencies come here, have representatives here. We're able to really coordinate our response to whatever might be taking place.

For example, if along the Mall we see an area where may -- we may need to beef up our presence, we know how many people to send, where to send them, and so forth. It really is invaluable in terms of assisting us to manage large crowds during these kinds of events.

BROOKS: I see you have both law enforcement and military here also, the Coast Guard and the military district of Washington, all playing a role.

RAMSEY: Well, again, I mean, the Washington region is unique, as you well know, so we do...

BROOKS: Absolutely.

RAMSEY: ... work extensively not only with the federal law enforcement agencies but also military and others to safely handle these kinds of events.

Washington, D.C., is our nation's capital, and we have to go to extraordinary lengths to keep it safe.

BROWN: Absolutely. I see the cameras. Can you tell us a little bit about the camera system and how it works in D.C., and how the police department and other agencies use the cameras to their advantage during an event like this?

RAMSEY: Well, we have cameras at different points in the city. Most of them we have mounted to look at areas that we think are terrorist targets potentially, also areas where the parade is taking place, also along the Mall and so forth.

We have a dozen cameras that belong to us, but we're able to tap into other feeds that exist in the area. So it gives us a pretty good view of what's taking place. Other agencies are able to see what's going on. They can certainly control their own assets. We have connectivity to the FBI, the Secret Service, Metro Transit, Capital Police Command Center. So all the different command centers are really linked.


BROWN: A look at the Washington, D.C., command post.

More of our special Fourth of July NEWSNIGHT in just a moment. And here's how special it is. This -- it worked too, son of a gun. Houston, Texas, celebrating the Fourth of July, and I'll bet they do it up big down in Houston. That's a good town.


BROWN: July 4 in Boston has an -- I don't know why I started to laugh at that -- entirely different feel than anyplace else. There's all the history, that's a given. But to Bostonians, the Fourth of July means more than just Independence Day. It's also three days to Chowderfest. Maybe that's why I laughed, I knew what was coming.

So here's the celebration in Boston tonight.

I believe we have a winner. Man, that was a great finish. That was in Boston. We should have been in Boston tonight. That was cool.

Ahead on NEWSNIGHT, some tips for summer reading, and more fireworks from around the country. All that and more.


BROWN: I don't know, maybe it's me. Does this ever happen to you in your house as you're preparing for vacation? You charge up to the attic, drag down the suitcases, you dig through the closets for the snorkels, the tennis rackets, you pile up the clothes, yours, your spouse's, and the kids', and then you spend the next five hours packing everything, only to have to unpack it all because you can't remember if you packed something in the first place.

Only then, when you're finally ready and on your way to go, do you remember that you have nothing to read while you're on vacation. So you wind up either at the airport or at a convenience store looking for something good to read, which may not work out too well.

Well, we're trying to help you out here, so we've asked Steve Wasserman, the literary editor of "The Los Angeles Times" to join us tonight with some suggestions for summer reading.

I appreciate your coming in on the Fourth, Steve, it's nice to see you. Thank you.

STEVE WASSERMAN, LITERARY EDITOR, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Happy to be here, thanks for inviting me.

BROWN: Let me walk through a couple of -- I've been looking down the list. It's a wonderfully eclectic list, lots of different things.

"The Boom and the Bubble: The U.S. and the World Economy." Sounds pretty heavy reading to me.

WASSERMAN: Well, I thought I would propose a group of books that might appeal to many different tastes, and there's no getting around the fact that summer, while we'd like it to banish all our fears, happens to be a time when fear is all around us, as the economy continues to plummet from its historic highs in the '90s.

And here's a book which explains in accessible ways why it has gone so fast and why it seems to be coming down so quickly.

BROWN: And "accessible" is a good word there. It -- I gather these are books that -- obviously not everyone's going to enjoy, but almost anyone could enjoy.

WASSERMAN: Well, I'd like to think that the nonfiction I've recommended on the list has the virtue of not feeling like homework.

BROWN: I like to think the program does.

"A Gift from Zeus."

WASSERMAN: "A Gift from Zeus" is a recent book by one of America's very best children's writers, a man now in his 90s who may be familiar to many viewers for his decades-long work as an illustrator, covers and illustrations inside for the "New Yorker" magazine, but equally renowned for his children's tales.

And that's the famous William Steig, who, along with his wife, Jean, have come up with a marvelous retelling of Greek and Roman myths called "A Gift from Zeus: Sixteen Tales," and they're marvelous.

If you thought lust and bewitchment and transcendence and seduction were only things from the tabloid presses, think again. This book tells those historic and classic tales in ways that will delight children, and they will also bemuse adults.

BROWN: That was my question, would kids enjoy it? And you answered that. Terrific.

I love this title, "Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in 12 Fish." Tell me about it.

WASSERMAN: This is a remarkable second novel by Richard Flanagan, who is a Tasmanian writer who has told a tale set in 19th century Australia, which was, as viewers may recall, the place where the British banished their convicts. It was the gulag of the 19th century.

And this is the tale of William Gould, who finds himself in prison for life on an island in Tasmania, and becomes an expert painter of fish. And in 12 chapters, each of which are printed in a different color derived, apparently, from the ink made from the intestines of fish, he tells a remarkable tale. This book, I should hasten to add to viewers, has about as much resemblance to fish as, say, "Moby-Dick" was a story about a whale. It's much, much more.

BROWN: OK. I often write the program in fish intestinal ink also.

"Hate Fish" -- I'm sorry, "Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship" -- this is dangerous -- "Marriage: Stories." I love the title.

WASSERMAN: Well, it's by Alice Munro, who for years now has been one of the very best writers that Canada or anywhere else, for that matter, has produced. If you like Chekov, you will love Alice Munro.

And please, I urge viewers to think, just don't spend money thinking that a 700-page novel, you really get your money's worth. These nine stories are little dramas. Everyone says that leisure time is, you know, very scarce, as everybody clamors for your attention.

Well, here are nine stories. You can sit down, each of which can be read in about an hour and a half. And I promise you, they will long echo in the mind after you've read them.

BROWN: Got about a minute left. Have included your favorite in this list yet?

WASSERMAN: Well, there are other things on that list. I'm very fond of two debut novels from two first-time novelists, one a woman in New York named Nicole Krauss, who has written fantastic story called "Man Walks into a Room," about an English professor found wandering in the desert outside of Las Vegas.

His wife retrieves him, they discover that he's got a terrible tumor, they operate. The only problem is, he loses 24 hours of his memory and then become subjected to an experiment, back out in Las Vegas, and he finds an encounter with a quite remarkable life.

The other book is called "The Lovely Bones," and it too is a first-time novel by a writer named Alice Sebold. And it's a posthumous story told in the voice of a 14-year-old girl who unfortunately was murdered, and she tells the tale from heaven, sentence by sentence, a marvelous debut.

BROWN: Steven, nicely done tonight. I hope these are on your Web site. If not, we'll put them on ours. It's a terrific list, and you did a great job of summarizing them. Thanks a lot, come back.

WASSERMAN: Well, thanks very much.

BROWN: Thank you.

Steve Wasserman, pretty good job, the literary critic of the "L.A. Times."

Still ahead, New York City fireworks on this Fourth of July. This is NEWSNIGHT.

And this is St. Louis. But you knew that from the arches, didn't you? Right on the Mississippi there. Is it Mississippi or Missouri where the arches go?


BROWN: Got one more dandy fireworks display to show you.

Before we do, we have a late development coming out of the LAX, Los Angeles Airport story. We go back to Charles Feldman, who joins us by phone. What you're looking at is microphones that aren't being manned, and there's a reason for it.

Charles, explain what's going on.

FELDMAN (on phone): Aaron, what's going on is senior law enforcement officials told me that they believe they have found a vehicle belonging to the alleged shooter here at LAX, the vehicle apparently being found inside that five-story parking structure that's adjacent to the Bradley International Terminal and behind that area where the press used to be set up.

They started moving us back about 25 minutes ago. They wouldn't give us any information. Still aren't, officially. So there was some speculation that perhaps there was a bomb threat, but it turns out that's not the case, although they keep moving us farther and farther back. The reason appears to be that they believe they have found a vehicle that the alleged gunman drove to the airport. Aaron?

BROWN: And do you have any idea what they were going to say at this press conference? Were they telegraphing at all where they were headed here?

FELDMAN: Yes, I was told that this was going to be a more definitive news conference than we've had throughout the day. I mentioned earlier that they do have a tentative identification of the shooter. I think that they were hoping to maybe nail that down in time for a news conference, and they were hoping to sort of fill in some more of the blanks.

But that news conference is, of course, now indefinitely postponed until they take care of the matter of the vehicle.

BROWN: And just again, the airport continues to function through all of this, correct?

FELDMAN: It most certainly does, especially, I took a walk down to some of the other terminals, and they're just operating fine.

BROWN: It is a giant airport, for those of you who haven't been there, spread out, kind of in a U-shape. It's a busy place, and it is working. Charles, you're working too. Charles Feldman in Los Angeles tonight. They have found, they believe, the suspect is now dead in this L.A. shooting, and we should learn more as the night goes on. Thank you, sir.

FELDMAN: Thank you.

BROWN: Finally from us on the Fourth of July, New York City. It's easy to say that things feel different here since September 11, but tonight's fireworks were in fact different, because for a moment of silence right in the middle of the event, and former mayor Rudolph Giuliani's narration of it all.

But set that aside and ignore the heightened security, and the 20,000 fireworks shells can almost make you think that this Fourth of July was just like any other. Here is how they did it in New York City.


RUDOLPH GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: In the famous photo of last September, three firemen gathered in the debris of what had been the World Trade Center and hoisted the American flag up a tilted pole. Someone took a picture, and that picture went around the world, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) with the flag itself, winding up for a while on a United States aircraft carrier.

There the men carried the ripped and damaged flag, holding it as if it were made of precious gold. They wanted to give proof through the night that our flag was still there.

That day, in a very personal way, as they firemen picked the flag from the debris, they were showing as they held it that we hold these truths.

CHORUS (singing): Oh, beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties, above the fruited plain. America, America, God shed His grace on thee, and crowned thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.


BROWN: Ah, great shot to end on. Glad you were with us on this Fourth of July. Nice to be with you too. We'll see you tomorrow night. Good night from all of us, across the country.


Summer Reading List is Ready>



Back to the top