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CNN CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT

America Ready to Face Suicide Bombers?; Vaccinations Contributing to Rise in Autism?

Aired November 20, 2002 - 20:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAUL ZAHN, HOST: Welcome. I'm Paula Zahn, filling in for Connie Chung.
Tonight: Terrorists in America, they're living among us, but are we ready if they strike?

ANNOUNCER: Homeland in security: How safe is the U.S. from terror?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need to try to secure our homeland to the maximum extent possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, an up-close look at the threat from suicide bombers. Would you have a fighting chance if you came face-to-face with a terrorist?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ITAY GIL, SELF-DEFENSE INSTRUCTOR: You're in the kill zone, you are going to be killed or take action. That's it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Plus: Zacarias Moussaoui linked to the 9/11 attacks by another alleged terrorist.

Captured: an escaped convict on the loose after a high-speed car chase now under arrest, ending a crosscountry crime spree. Now the search is on to find a woman. Was she kidnapped?

Children at risk: Is autism on the rise?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK ROLLINS, FATHER OF AUTISTIC CHILD: It's a living hell.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Are vaccinations doing more harm than good? Tonight: how to protect your children. What's going on with Michael Jackson, from this to this? And remember this? Is this the end of the line for the king of pop?

This is CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT. From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, sitting in for Connie Chung; Paula Zahn.

ZAHN: Good evening. Thanks again for joining us tonight.

Tonight: a hard look at the war on terror, not just in Afghanistan or in Iraq, but right here in the cities and towns we call home. We're on the story with several developments tonight.

Now that the Senate has passed the historic Homeland Security Bill, the daunting task will be to pull 22 federal agencies together into one massive department, with the primary purpose of protecting Americans on U.S. soil.

Today, sources say a senior al Qaeda member in U.S. custody claims accused September 11 planner Zacarias Moussaoui was in direct contact with the attack's mastermind. We're going to get details on that in just a moment.

And then a warning that terror training camps abroad are sending recruits to the United States, this from Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Senator Bob Graham, who also says there is a potential threat of sleeper cells already in the U.S.

Here's what Graham told us earlier today on "AMERICAN MORNING."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: We've learned that these international terrorists who are sleeping among us get their financial support, their logistical support, they get their ultimate command to take action from abroad from the headquarters. Also, new recruits come through these training camps and some of them end up in the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: Now, the immediate question raised by the threat terrorists here on U.S. soil is, what can you do about it?

Well, in the skies over Shanksville and on the flight targeted by shoe bomber Richard Reid, America's front-line defenders were people just like you and me. In other words, any of us might some day have to confront a suicidal terrorist, a possibility Israelis have faced for many years.

As CNN's Matthew Chance reports, what you do in that crucial moment is a question many Israelis are seeking answers for.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Outside the bars and cafes of Jerusalem, guards watch for the next suicide attack. Every customer is a suspect.

But should this security fail, it falls to others to prevent catastrophe. Israelis are now increasingly preparing to act. No ordinary fight club, members of this Jerusalem academy are training to take down suicide bombers. The idea is to act quickly and with force, overpowering the attacker before he or she can detonate. The trick, they're told, is to isolate the hands, even break the attacker's arms, so the bomb's trigger can't be pulled.

GIL: If there's no way out, when you're in the kill zone, you are going to be killed or take action. That's it. You see, there's only black and white in this situation. If you have identified him and he's close to you and he is going to detonate, you have a very few seconds to make a critical decision.

CHANCE: Facing determined suicide bombers alone may require the most drastic action. Perhaps a savage bite to the neck like this will help. Trainees are told it should take no more than a few minutes for the would-be bomber to bleed to death.

So great is the fear of suicide attacks, people here willingly learn how to do this. But lethal violence may not be the only way. Shlomi Harel confronted a suicide bomber at the Jerusalem cafe where he works as a waiter. There was no struggle. He told me his barrage of questions were enough to make the bomber hesitate.

(on camera): So this suicide bomber actually allowed you to go up to him, to talk to him, to ask questions?

SHLOMI HAREL, CAFE WAITER: He didn't struggle with me.

CHANCE: Why do you think that is?

HAREL: I think he was a bit nervous. And maybe I shocked him, jumped on him that fast and started asking a lot of questions in Arabic, in Hebrew, in every language. I don't think he was ready for it.

CHANCE (voice-over): Back at the academy, if you believe talking bombers down is an option, notifying the police is the advice of the authorities. Many Israelis here believe they must act whenever they can.

(on camera): This kind of training may be effective in some situations, but there are no guarantees. Everyone here knows that coming face-to-face with a suicide bomber will probably mean death, but they say at least they will have a fighting chance.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And the instructor you just saw in Matthew Chance's report is Itay Gil, who joins me now from Jerusalem.

Welcome. Good to see you, sir. Appreciate you joining us. So, Itay, how many people have gone through your training course?

GIL: Well, up until now, we have about 60, 70 people that are civilians and about another 80 people that work for security companies.

ZAHN: And, Itay, how do you train them to actually spot a potential suicide bomber?

GIL: First of all, I assume, from experience, he is going to be having a 10, 15 kilo on his body, on his waist. And he's going to be trying to disguise himself. And he is not going to be fitting the scenario.

So, he is not going to fit the area or the environment he's going to be in. And, usually, from what I heard from people that I spoke to that witnessed the suicide bombers, they said the eye contact is what made the feeling and it was just the eye contact.

ZAHN: Of the civilians who have come to you, or even the folks who work for security companies, have any of them encountered a suicidal bomber?

GIL: Well, I have one student that came to me after he confronted a suicide bomber inside a coffee shop. And it did go off. What he did, he pushed the guy away and yelled: "Everyone lay down. It's a bomb." And, luckily, he survived, but most of the people standing next to the suicide bomber got all killed.

And he came, after that, to me. And that's where I also got the knowledge, because he said the suicide bomber was looking for him. He was looking to see who was in security.

ZAHN: And, clearly, security people in the past have been successful in disarming some suicide bombers. How do they do it?

GIL: Well, the main idea, most of the detonations are charged by pressing a button next to the abdominal. There are other systems, but that's the most regular, basic one.

It's a battery or a little bit of electrical wires and an electrical switch that's very simple. And it's on the bomb itself, on the stomach. In order to detonate it, he really has to reach and touch. Now, because he's going to be walking very nervous, not to detonate before time, I assume that he's going to be walking very differently.

And once he's identified by people who did this course and are trained -- and they're already in the killing zone, so it doesn't leave them much of a chance -- they will have to take him down to the ground by taking his arms as far away as possible from his body. And if it's necessary, you try to break him. And that's the way to do it.

ZAHN: Itay Gil, thank you very much for your time tonight. And we hope that you and your students never have to use any of these skills you've learned. GIL: Thank you very much.

ZAHN: While the U.S. government gets ready for the possibility of war against Iraq, it turns out that al Qaeda reportedly is back up and running in the old battleground, Afghanistan. That's right. "Newsweek" is reporting that al Qaeda once again is operating training camps, teaching jihad warriors how to kill Americans and America's friends.

Joining me now from Washington is "Newsweek"'s national security correspondent, John Barry.

Good of you to join us, sir.

JOHN BARRY, "NEWSWEEK": Good to be with you.

ZAHN: What is the most troubling thing that you've learned?

BARRY: That they appear to be able to operate these training locations in mountainous areas along the bandit country in Southeast Afghanistan, virtually with impunity, so far as we can tell.

We managed to find three of the alumni or veterans of these training courses. And they had, none of them, reported having been disturbed by U.S. troops or any kind of coalition forces at all.

ZAHN: And isn't it also true these camps are mobile training sites?

BARRY: Yes. Locations is better than camps, I think. Camps implies permanency.

What happens is that these people come in the main from Pakistan, although some are living already inside Afghanistan. And they go through a two-week training course. These training courses seem to have started in the early summer, as far as we can tell. And the first few days of these training courses are in some classroom in a house somewhere. And then they go up into the mountains for practical work on explosives, on how to do ambushes, on how to blow up cars, those sorts of things.

ZAHN: You mentioned explosives, ambushes. What else are they taught to do?

BARRY: Some of them at least go through the training to be suicide bombers. We know that from one of the three training courses we know about in detail.

ZAHN: There isn't as strong of a tradition of suicide bombings in Afghanistan as there is in other places.

BARRY: No.

ZAHN: What is it that you expect to come out of this training?

BARRY: I think it's clear that what's happening is that al Qaeda people based mainly in Karachi, that team in the Pakistani city, which are basically the back-base for this effort, that al Qaeda people are basically trained Afghans and some Arabs, but mainly Afghans, to go work inside Afghanistan.

And the goals are threefold: to kill President Karzai and bring down Karzai's government; to kill as many Americans as they can and persuade Americans to leave Afghanistan; and then to reestablish, they hope, a Taliban regime inside Afghanistan, so that once again al Qaeda can have Afghanistan as a safe haven for training and refuge.

ZAHN: But how good are these guys? Because I know one trainee told your correspondent -- quote -- "We will kill Americans the way we Afghans chop onions." And yet we hear these reports from al Qaeda members that the local talent isn't necessarily up to speed.

BARRY: No. I think it's clear when one talks to U.S. officials here -- and we obviously ran the story by them before we printed it -- U.S. officials say, first of all, that they suspect that the numbers of people going through these training camps -- and they acknowledge there are training camps -- they suspect the numbers are smaller than the 300 or so that we reckon from our sources.

But they also say that, so far, no, they don't appear to be particularly technically skilled. And it's clear that the war in Afghanistan and the war to clear out al Qaeda has destroyed an awful lot of the expertise. The problem, I think, is not the existing capabilities of these people, but what they could grow into.

ZAHN: And, as Americans continue to wrestle with the state of alert we seemed to be forced to be living in, and as they listen to the story, they are going to be pretty spooked by it. How concerned should they be that some of these graduates might come here?

BARRY: At the moment, it looks pretty clear that the priority one for these people in these training courses is Afghanistan and to reconstitute Afghanistan as a safe haven for al Qaeda. We don't have any evidence as yet that the graduates are fanning out.

ZAHN: Well, your "Newsweek" piece in this week's edition is absolutely fascinating. We appreciate you dropping by to share a little bit of it with us this evening.

BARRY: Good to be with you.

ZAHN: John Barry, thanks for your time.

Still ahead: An al Qaeda member in U.S. custody, Zacarias Moussaoui, accused September 11 plotter, now another al Qaeda member in custody is reportedly ratting him out.

We'll have that story right out of this break.

ANNOUNCER: Still ahead: The crosscountry manhunt ends with the capture of an escaped prisoner. Now the search is on for a missing woman.

CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT is coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: The war on terror took an intriguing turn today with reports that one al Qaeda leader is giving up information about another al Qaeda member who is an accused September 11 plotter.

Our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, has been following the story for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sources say that accused terrorist, Zacarias Moussaoui, was originally meant to be part of the September 11 attacks, according to senior al Qaeda operative, Ramzi Binalshibh. But those sources say Binalshibh told interrogators the terror organization lost confidence in Moussaoui. One legal expert says that the government, through links, is trying to establish a stronger link through Moussaoui and the attacks.

WILLIAM MOFFITT, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's gotten in the press the idea that there is a connection, which is something that the government has not been able to establish in the working papers, so the indictment did not establish.

ARENA: According to sources, Binalshibh, a self-proclaimed organizer of the 9/11 attacks, who was arrested in September, told U.S. officials that Moussaoui met with Khalid Sheikh Mohammad back in the winter of 2000 in Afghanistan. Government sources say Mohammad is believed to be a mastermind of the attacks.

According to those sources, Binalshibh says Mohammad gave Moussaoui contact names in the United States and that Moussaoui was sent money at least twice. The news comes in the wake of public suggestions the government's case against Moussaoui is not very strong, and that the White House is considering a military tribunal rather than a civilian trial, a move justice officials are adamantly against.

JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The Department of Justice is prepared to move forward with the prosecution.

ARENA: But sources also say that Binalshibh told them that Mohammad thought Moussaoui was not discrete enough, and so it was decided not to use him in the September 11 attacks or provide him with any details unless it was absolutely necessary. Some actually suggest that actually works in Moussaoui's favor by proving he was not intimately involved in the plot.

Moussaoui, who is representing himself, has requested access to Binalshibh. The government has objected in the name of national security.

JIM ROBINSON, FORMER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: He's obviously provided useful information that allowed the government to anticipate and to interfere with other terrorist attacks. And that's the number one priority for the use of him at the moment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ARENA: Moussaoui's standby counsel refused to comment on the developments. And it's unclear whether Moussaoui himself is aware of the news reports -- Paula.

ZAHN: Kelli, I think you've always explained to us how skeptical officials often are when they get information out of interrogations. How seriously are they taking what Binalshibh is saying this time?

ARENA: Well, Paula, according to our sources, he has provided various bits of information. Obviously, investigators try to corroborate that information that they get from him, and other detainees, for that matter.

The sources that we spoke to have a good deal of confidence that this information is accurate. They have relied on not only corroboration, but also their own investigation in terms of placing people at specific places at specific times. So, it all seems to gel. And everyone has at least expressed a great deal of confidence that this, at least this part of it is true.

ZAHN: It's all fascinating. Keep us posted.

ARENA: We will.

ZAHN: Kelli Arena, thanks, our justice correspondent in Washington.

Still ahead: The second escaped convict is finally captured, but what happened to the woman he is accused of kidnapping?

Stay with us.

ANNOUNCER: Coming up: a field day for the tabloids, a shocker for his fans. What's going on with Michael Jackson?

When CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Welcome back.

The apparent end to an unbelievable drama today, as the second of two escaped convicts was caught after almost a week of an alleged crime spree that included two kidnappings, a bank robbery, a shoot-out and a whole lot more.

Charles Molineaux has details on the spree and today's dramatic capture during a bank robbery attempt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHARLES MOLINEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Police have launched an intense new search for the missing Alice Donovan with helicopters and ground crews combing the North Carolina/South Carolina state line, this after the second man accused of kidnapping her has been caught but she's still missing.

Twenty-five-year-old Chadrick Fulks was arrested after he allegedly tried to rob a bank in Middlebury, Indiana. Monday night, the FBI says Fulks got away from police in a high-speed chase in Marion, Ohio at speeds of up to 130 miles an hour.

Fulks alleged accomplice, 21-year-old Branden Basham was caught in Ashland, Kentucky on Sunday. He's accused of attempting a carjacking there and shooting it out with police before he finally surrendered. Police say Fulks and Basham broke out of a jail in Hopkins County, Kentucky two weeks ago. Investigators say that fact alone made them dangerous.

CLYDE MERRYMAN, FBI: They're desperate once they've escaped. They know there going to be the subject of a manhunt. They do something. They commit a crime and it's a natural tendency unfortunately for the nature of the crimes to escalate and the violence to escalate. And that's what we're seeing.

MOLINEAUX: Fulks and Basham's trail took them from Kentucky, where police say they carjacked a man, to Indiana where they allegedly left him tied to a tree, to South Carolina where they're accused of shooting at a man who caught them robbing a house and where they're suspected of carjacking 44-year-old Alice Donovan.

The FBI says she was kidnapped and her BMW was taken from a Wal- Mart parking lot in Conway, South Carolina. That was last Thursday and she hasn't been seen since. The latest clues in the case have brought out helicopter and ground search teams in Brunswick County, North Carolina and Horry County, South Carolina along U.S. Highway 17 where police say Fulks and Basham came through and where they now think the two left Alice Donovan somewhere.

RONALD HEWITT, BRUNSWICK COUNTY SHERIFF: Somebody along U.S. 17, I believe saw something. I believe they might have saw that BMW pull over. Anybody who saw any vehicle matching this description needs to immediately, immediately call 911 and give us a location.

MOLINEAUX (on camera): The epicenter of the new search is this gas station in Shallotte, North Carolina, where police think Fulks and Basham gassed up the BMW and still had Alice Donovan with them. Searchers have been combing the surrounding countryside in what police are calling a rescue mission, as well as a race against the clock.

Charles Molineaux, CNN, Brunswick County, North Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And when we come back: What's a parent to do? Vaccinations: why some people say they could do more harm than good.

Stay with us.

ANNOUNCER: Later: the bizarre courtroom appearance and now this, new meaning to the word thriller -- when CONNIE CHUNG TONIGHT returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Is autism on the rise and are childhood vaccination to blame? As for the first question, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest autism is on the rise. California reported a 273 percent increase in diagnosed cases over a recent 10-year period. But are vaccinations to blame for that?

We asked Rusty Dornin to tackle the controversy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Picture perfect, a happy, healthy baby. Then at 15 months, just like every other baby, Russell Rollins got his measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination.

ROLLINS: He has a very physical reaction to those vaccines including a high-pitch scream and days of high-pitched crying and listlessness.

DORNIN: Ten years later, those problems continue. Russell Rollins is autistic. How do you describe what you go through as a parent of an autistic child?

ROLLINS: It's a living hell. It's a living hell for everyone involved. It's a living hell for my son who suffers terribly from this disorder.

DORNIN: And it's a struggle that most autistic kids go through in the classroom. We're at the ABC School for Autistic Children, classes are full. Are you seeing bigger numbers, more kids knocking at the door to get in places like this?

ROLLINS: Yes, both in our school and in our in-home services, even in comparison to last year. We probably have 15 more kids than we had the year previous.

DORNIN: And parents are asking questions. No one knows what causes the brain development disorder but Rick Rollins who has become an activist for autism thinks the vaccine is connected.

ROLLINS: Thirty-three percent of new families with children of autism believe that vaccines played a role in the development of their child's autism.

DORNIN: But a recent, well-respected Danish study found no link between vaccinations and autism. Epidemiologist and pediatrician Robert Byrd doesn't believe the measles vaccine is a problem but he says concern about what's in some vaccinations is justified. Byrd applauds the removal last year of a small amount of mercury used as a preservative in some vaccines.

DR. ROBERT BYRD, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: To have anything that's potentially harmful packaged with something that's supposed to be entirely good is a bad package. DORNIN: Byrd authored a recent study that ruled out better testing and population increases as possible causes for California's dramatic increase. He believes what's happening here is probably happening nationwide. California has the only system for registering autistic children.

There is no biological test for autism. Some researchers believe there could be connection between genetics and the environment, but Rollins says he knows vaccines are only one possibility. Do you believe there could be other factor as well?

BYRD: Absolutely. You know I don't think anyone in any area of research in autism believe there's one single cause. We worry day and night about his future and who's going to take care of him when we're gone.

Give me a kiss.

DORNIN: Rusty Dornin CNN, Sacramento, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And joining us now is Bernard Rimland, head of the Autism Research Institute in San Diego. He believes childhood vaccinations may be the culprit.

Good of you to join us. Welcome, sir.

Why do you think vaccinations may be part of this equation?

BERNARD RIMLAND, AUTISM RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Well, I've been studying this matter for some 35, 40 years.

Way back in the '60s, I began collecting information from parents about the possible causes of autism in their kids. Even back then, there were a number of parents who said their kid was quite normal until they got vaccinated. Nowadays, of course, the evidence is very, very convincing that the autism has extremely accelerated in its prevalence.

The California study is one of many which shows this huge increase. The evidence that vaccines are a major cause of the increase comes from a number of directions. One direction that's been largely ignored are the laboratory studies. There are at least seven laboratory studies, clinical studies, of blood, cerebral, spinal fluid, biopsies of autistic children which show huge differences between autistic children and normal children in terms of the presence of things like measles vaccine virus in their intestinal tract, for example, or their neurons. So, there's one line of evidence.

Another, of course, is that we have data from thousands of parents who testify, often with videotapes and photographs and eyewitness reports, that their kid was perfectly normal. And they can demonstrate it, as I say, very conclusively with tapes until after the vaccine. The kid retreated into autism. There's just converging evidence from many, many directions. ZAHN: But, Doctor, it's also true that not every child who gets vaccinations ends up with autism. And there are some scientists who believe that there is a preexisting genetic weakness that makes them almost predisposed to contracting autism. What do you say to those scientists?

RIMLAND: Well, I totally agree with that. As a matter of fact, my autism book, "Infantile Autism," which was published in 1964, established beyond any doubt that there is a strong genetic element in autism.

In the present instance, the genetic element seems, on the basis of a good deal of evidence, that the children have a tremendously difficult time detoxifying heavy metals, including mercury. There's the differences of 10,000 percent in the sensitivity of some individuals vs. others in their sensitivity to mercury. Many of the vaccines that these autistic kids have been given contain huge amounts, very, incredibly large amounts of extremely toxic mercury, which what was put in there as a preservative.

And it's the genetic predisposition, plus the mercury, plus a huge number of increased vaccines that kids are getting which causes the increase. When my son was born -- my autistic son was born in the '50s -- kids were getting three vaccines: DPT, one shot of DPT vaccines before the age of 2.

Now, if the kids get the recommended amounts, they are getting 22 vaccine doses before the age of 2. And, as the number of vaccines the kids are given before the age of 2 has increased, the population of autistic children has concomitantly increased.

ZAHN: What is your best recommendation to parents? I think of when I had all three of my kids inoculated. When the doctor hands you this horrible pamphlet with all the conceivable things that could happen to your child, most of them bad, and you have to sign on the dotted line that you understand all that, what are you supposed to do?

RIMLAND: Well, there are some really very closely agreed-upon recommendations that the experts make.

One is, make sure the kid does not get a vaccine that contains mercury. Mercury is used in a preservative called thimerosal. And it supposedly was taken off the market. Or at least the vaccines were manufactured starting in '99, I believe, without that mercury in them. But an awful lot of the vaccines still on doctors' shelves in warehouses and in pharmacies still contain the vaccines. So, make absolutely show that there's no mercury in the vaccines given to the kids.

Another extremely important rule is, never have a kid vaccinated when the child is sick or has any sign of immune system dysfunction, a cold or anything of that sort. And still another rule which I really think should be strongly enforced as a policy matter, do not start vaccinating kids as young as they are now vaccinating them. Some kids are given multiple vaccines before they leave the hospital. Some experts say don't vaccinate before the kid is 1-year-old. Others say before the kid is six months old. But delay it as long as possible.

ZAHN: Well, you've certainly given us a lot of information to think about and to debate. Dr. Bernard Rimland of the Autism Research Institute, thank you very much for your time tonight.

RIMLAND: You're most welcome. Thank you for the opportunity.

ZAHN: We also wanted to address this dilemma parents face when they have to decide whether vaccinations are work the risk, or the alleged risk. So we asked our own medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, to give us a hand.

You are by training a neurosurgeon.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right.

ZAHN: And you know what it's like for any parent that sits down with their pediatrician and tries to read through these pamphlets. It is scary. And you ask yourself as a parent: "Do I want my kid to get this dreadful affliction or do I inoculate him or her and live with the possible risk of having autism be contracted?"

GUPTA: Yes. Well, I think Bernard Rimland made some good points. There's no question.

The number of vaccines that a child gets today compared to 20, 30 years ago has almost tripled, if not quadrupled, in some cases, in some of those particular vaccines. And, as a result of that, a lot of those childhood diseases, a lot of those scourges of childhood have been all but eliminated as a result.

When you think about some of the diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, actually being able to get rid of those diseases, that benefit far outweighs any of the possible associations we've seen with...

ZAHN: But you heard the same interview I just did. The doctor said that they found these traces of the measles virus in the neurons.

GUPTA: And they were talking specifically about the polyps within the intestines. And they were saying that it was possibly a way that certain bacteria and viruses could get into the body.

There's a lot of research on this. This is perhaps one of the most researched things in childhood medicine. And a lot of that, you can find papers really on both sides of the aisle. Whether or not some of these vaccines actually led to autism as a result either because of this mercury derivative that we've been hearing so much about or otherwise, has never been proven.

ZAHN: Well, that doesn't make me feel good either that any of us who inoculated our kids pre-1999 shouldn't stop worrying about this stuff. So what is the best advice you can give us tonight? GUPTA: You bring up 1999. And he made a good point there.

In 1999, the CDC, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, a lot of organizations came together and said: "You know what? We're going to get rid of this mercury derivative in the vaccines. It used to be at a certain level. We're going to essentially get rid of it altogether. Why? Because we believe there's enough lack of public confidence now in these vaccines because of all of this that people won't do the right thing, which is get their kids vaccinate."

They never, on the other hand, admitted liability, admitted culpability, or confirmed any association between these vaccines and any of these other things, autism being the most commonly-discussed one now. Thimerosal, the name for the mercury derivative, doesn't exist in those vaccines today. So the best advice is really to continue getting children vaccinated. That association was never proven. And now, with this thimerosal, this mercury derivative being gone, it's even less likely.

ZAHN: Thanks for the house call, Sanjay. It helps.

Coming up, we ask you: What was Michael Jackson thinking?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Michael Jackson's albums include "Bad," "Dangerous," "Thriller," and his very first solo album called, perhaps prophetically, "Off the Wall." So, looking back, we really can't say we weren't warned, can we?

Well, Jackson's latest eyebrow-raiser came yesterday in Berlin when he dangled his infant off a hotel balcony. He later called it a terrible mistake. Good thing he didn't lose his grip.

But, as CNN's Anne McDermott reports, sometimes it seems as though he is losing his grip.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANNE MCDERMOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He calls himself the king of pop, but some days, Michael Jackson is the joker. Watch him dangle his baby over a balcony in Berlin, shocking his fans. Later, he said he was sorry. And earlier this year, he turned on friends at his record company, accusing them of racism.

MICHAEL JACKSON, SINGER: Racism is bad.

MCDERMOTT: And there's his penchant for masks. He wore this one into a courtroom, where it became hard to pay attention to the promoter's lawsuit against Jackson because of that face. It horrified this entertainment journalist.

GAIL MURPHY, ENTERTAINMENT JOURNALIST: I know that, if I had so much work done, I would try and find a surgeon who wouldn't make it quite so obvious. MCDERMOTT: What else? Well, was there his marriage to Elvis' daughter, a union considered so weird that it was asked on national if he and the Mrs. ever had sex.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LISA MARIE PRESLEY, WIFE OF MICHAEL JACKSON: Yes! Yes! Yes!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCDERMOTT: OK. OK. But it didn't last, nor did his marriage to Debbie Rowe. But he did get two children out of it. No one is sure where the dangled one came from. His name is Prince Michael. Oh, and his brother's name is Prince Michael.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THRILLER")

JACKSON: I have something I want to tell you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, Michael?

JACKSON: I'm not like other guys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCDERMOTT: That's Jackson in his "Thriller" video. And he's right. He's not like other guys. That's him as boy superstar with the Jackson 5. There was a time that they appeared on every variety show on TV, selling millions of records.

Then, once Jackson went solo, he sold millions and millions more and began changing his face. Now photographers make a point of zooming in at his appearances. They want to see what's new.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael, straight ahead, please.

MCDERMOTT: And they want to see what's next, like what happened at the MTV Awards in August.

JACKSON: If someone had told me that one day I would be getting, as a musician, the artist of the millennium award, I wouldn't have believed it.

MCDERMOTT: Well, good, because there is no such award. MTV had him come out simply to give him a birthday cake.

But despite some slumping sales in recent years, he still has a lots fans around the world and sells lots of records. And maybe, just maybe, this guy, for all his weirdness, really is the artist of the millennium.

Anne McDermott, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: For reaction to all of this, let's turn Court TV's celebrity justice correspondent, Pat LaLama, who joins us from Los Angeles. She covered Jackson's breach-of-contract trial -- and "TIME" magazine senior editor Christopher John Farley.

Welcome to you both. Glad to see you.

Pat, I want to start with you tonight.

It would seem to me that fans who have tracked Jackson's career have had varying levels of tolerance for some of the stunts he's pulled along the way.

But let's look at this video together tonight. I don't know how anybody out there watching this, looking at this carefully, would not say this guy has crossed the line. What did you think when you saw this?

PAT LALAMA, COURT TV: You know, Paula, as parents, you can't help but gasp. I mean, in our newsroom at "Celebrity Justice," there was a collective gasp.

And then you ask yourself: "All right, am I overreacting? If it were my best friend doing the same thing, would I call children's services?" So what I did, to try to be fair, was to call people who are in authoritative positions regarding the health and welfare of children.

If it were in fact deemed a criminal situation, it would have been up to the German authorities to do something. It's not our jurisdiction. But what I'm told is that it is exactly appropriate behavior, that it's very, very bad judgment. It doesn't appear he looks to or wants to harm the child. But it's such bad judgment.

And what needs to be done is that someone needs to file a complaint. And what I'm told by authorities here in California is that probably someone will file a complaint. It could be any one of us, by the way. It could be the average citizen. It could be a law enforcement person. It could be anyone who watches this tape. And then they will investigate it.

But you know what? He's a star. And you have to ask yourself: Will that play into it? Will anything truly be done?

ZAHN: Well, what about that, Christopher? It's kind of hard to nail someone, right, and have them serve any prison time for using excessively bad judgment.

CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY, "TIME": Well, I think, in this particular case, it's not much a court of law as the court of public opinion that really comes into play here.

I think that, when Michael Jackson dangled that baby four stories above the earth there, I think a lot of his fans maybe did a double take about: What is this guy doing? I think we care about him because he has been such a great artist over the years. He has produced so many great songs. But, lately, he hasn't been churning out the hits. He has been under pressure. His last album only sold about two million copes, far below his expectations and our expectations of what he usually does. And now we are being treated to more and stranger and stranger incidents that seem to endanger other people.

ZAHN: So what you're saying, then, fans are not going to cut him much more slack?

FARLEY: Well, seemingly, they haven't at record stores, because his sales have been way down in recent years. And they don't seem to be rebounding. And the music industry in general is down by about 12 percent this year. So their prospects for a comeback for him seem to be getting longer and longer.

ZAHN: Pat, from the buzz you hear out there, what would it take for him to try to rehabilitate his career, particularly after this Berlin incident?

LALAMA: I don't know. You know, I would hate to say he's doomed. He's an incredibly talented person. But we're really looking at the health and welfare of a little tiny baby.

Now, having said that, there are some other issues to consider. He is right now embroiled in a $21 million civil suit, where people that he has worked with in the past claim he was a no-show on some major concerts. He's late for court. He shows up four hours late or he didn't show up at all. And he's wearing a mask or he's not wearing a mask. And he stops to sign autographs.

And now you can't help but believe that some of the jurors, whether they're supposed to pay attention to the media or not, are going to see this image and wonder: Has he really lost it? And is he truly flaky? And is he really not showing up for concerts?

And I have to tell you, I just hope he has a good support system around him, people who are talking to him about appropriate behavior. I really think that someone is going to investigate who's around him and who's taking care of those children.

ZAHN: Christopher, you do a lot of stories, or have over the years, about this guy. You study this industry extensively. Is there any evidence to suggest those kind of people are around him right now?

FARLEY: Well, here's the thing.

Rock stars get in trouble all the time. Rap stars get in trouble all the time. Pop stars get in trouble all the time. The difference with this incident is, it involved a small child. And that's something that I think makes it distinct from other forms of bad behavior we've seen with pop stars. I think that's why I think it might affect his record sales more than, say, if it was some sort of problem with a groupie or some sort of problem with a firearm or something of that sort.

So, certainly, I think he's going to have problems. Whether or not the people around him are giving him a support structure or not, that's really not so much the problem, so much as this particular incident. He said it was a mistake. But a mistake is like sending an e-mail to the wrong person. This seems more like a character flaw.

LALAMA: If I could interject.

ZAHN: What about that, Pat?

LALAMA: Well, I was just going to say -- excuse me for interrupting -- that, as sort of trying to unring the bell, today, we're told he's taken two of his kids to the zoo in Germany and he's going to be at a homeless shelter for children soon.

But I don't know how that resurrects the image of seeing someone dangle their own flesh and blood -- or even not their flesh and blood -- over a balcony. It just makes you wonder what kind of emotional trouble, perhaps, he might be in.

ZAHN: Pat, there seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding who this baby actually is. What can you tell us?

LALAMA: Well, our -- not investigation -- but the reports that we've looked into say that it is in fact his youngest child, his third child, Michael II.

Now, we don't know a whole lot about the mother of this child. We've heard reports that it is not an adopted child. You'll recall, he has two other children with the woman he was once married to, named Deborah Rowe. And so it's the two older children he took to the zoo today, we are told. And the youngest one, the mother we can't identify. But, yes, it was Prince Michael II.

ZAHN: Final thought on where Michael Jackson can even hope to go from here career-wise?

FARLEY: Well, I think he needs to -- well, he needs to focus on the music. He needs to put out an album that has great songs on it. He's done it in the past. He hasn't done it lately. The last big musical event from him was that tribute to himself he staged at Madison Square Garden. He really needs to start thinking more about the fans and less about himself and less about these strange kinds of stunts.

ZAHN: But he has to earn back the respect of the public once again. This one is going to hurt him dearly.

FARLEY: This one definitely will hurt him. I think it doesn't make him look good. It doesn't make you want to run out and listen to a Michael Jackson album.

ZAHN: I think you got that right.

Pat LaLama, Christopher John Farley, thank you for joining us tonight and trying to get inside Michael Jackson's head.

LALAMA: Thank you. ZAHN: Still ahead: a quick note about tomorrow.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Tomorrow: a national exclusive from behind bars in a maximum security facility, a look inside the cell holding accused sniper John Lee Malvo.

Coming up next on "LARRY KING LIVE": Liza Minnelli and her husband, David Gest. Did they blow a shot at becoming the next Osbournes? We'll find out.

Thanks for watching. Have a good night.

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Contributing to Rise in Autism?>

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