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Virginia Tech Students Return to Class; Arming Students; Lonely World; Iraqis Protest Baghdad Walls

Aired April 23, 2007 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everybody. Thank you so much for dropping by here tonight.
Here are some of the stories we're bringing out in the open tonight.

Would colleges and universities be safer if students actually carried guns? We're going to take you to one state that thinks so, and it is not Virginia.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama condemns the black community for degrading women, just like Don Imus? What is that all about?

And you're not going to believe how many people are so desperately lonely. They will call a total stranger who put his phone number on YouTube. He says he just happens to be a good listener. We are going to talk to him live. And he's going to bring his phone along with him as well.

It, of course, has been only a week since the Virginia Tech massacre, but so much seems to have changed. For one thing, the gun debate is back out in the open. People are now arguing whether the only way to stop would-be mass killers is to let college students carry guns.

Believe it or not, that is already allowed, but only in one state. And we are going to take you there.

But, first, I want to start at Virginia Tech, where it's been anything but a normal back-to-school Monday.

Jim Acosta spent the day there, and we asked him to show us the mood on campus.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One week later, at nearly the exact minute when so many lives were lost, a sea of students was suddenly calm as a bell rang 32 times, once for each fallen classmate, each fallen professor. Thirty-two white balloons drifted into the Virginia sky.

Then, in a show of unity, the sky turned maroon and orange. The students, shielding their eyes from the sun, looked as if they were saluting. Some couldn't stop watching. Others couldn't stop crying.


ACOSTA: The silence broken by other shows of school spirit.




ACOSTA: Erin Cowan and Jordan Dave had friends wounded in the massacre. Those white balloons underscored the massive loss here.

ERIN COWAN, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: I looked up there, and they had all of the white balloons, and it just seemed like there were still more and more and more to be let go.

JORDAN DAVE, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: It just kind of made your whole body kind of numb, watching it.

ACOSTA: When the commemoration ended, people went back to class for the first time in a week.

Nikolas Macko survived the rampage at Norris Hall, when he and others in his classroom barricaded their door.


ACOSTA (on camera): In your classroom?

MACKO: Yes. And we won't forget what happened. There's not a chance. No one in that room will be able to.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Nikolas and his friends were relieved to see their campus back.

MACKO: We could sit around and not have class. But, from a standpoint of getting back to normal, it's good for those -- I'm graduating, and it's good for me to say, OK, here, I'm ending college in just a regular, normal way.

ACOSTA: It sounds like the lesson plan for today was healing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, very much.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The healing will take time, not just for students, but also for parents.

(on camera): I get the sense, Cindy, that you don't want to let him go here.

CINDY WRENN, MOTHER OF VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: No, I don't. But I have to. So, I -- I can do it.


WRENN: We will be OK.

ACOSTA: The university is already notifying students there will be commencement for its graduates in a few weeks, and summer classes will be held as scheduled.

They are just two reminders that, as difficult as the present may seem now, life does go on.

(voice-over): Across campus, grief counselors could be identified by the armbands on their sleeves. Harvey Barker was one of them.

(on camera): These kids going to be OK?

HARVEY BARKER, DIRECTOR, ACCESS: Absolutely. Absolutely. The kids are going to -- there will be a time in the very near future where this campus will get back to normal. It will be changed forever, but they -- they will get back to normal.

ACOSTA (voice-over): For some, normal means graduation. For others, it means simply stopping to look at the rolling hills surrounding this campus. And nearly everyone here found comfort in those white balloons floating overhead.

COWAN: We all want to be here, no matter how hard it is. Like, we love the school, and...

ACOSTA: It was not a bad place to start.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Blacksburg, Virginia.


ZAHN: And, tonight, the barrage of gunfire on the Virginia Tech campus is a call to action for those who want to protect students by arming them.

And you may be shocked to hear that hundreds of students are already carrying loaded guns into the classroom.

Thelma Gutierrez takes us to Salt Lake City, where that's perfectly legal.


THELMA GUTIERREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dawn breaks over the University of Utah. Students pack their books for class.

Jared Sano, a computer science major, packs his .45, a Heckler & Koch, discretely hidden under his jacket.

Thomas McCrory is studying accounting. He never leaves his dorm without his .40-caliber SIG-Sauer gun strapped to his side.

THOMAS MCCRORY, UNIVERSITY OF UTAH STUDENT & GUN OWNER: I do make an easy target, being in a wheelchair. GUTIERREZ: Everywhere that Jared goes, so does his .45. Here in Utah, if you have a permit, it's legal for anyone over 21 to carry concealed weapons on campus.

(on camera): Do you really think that you need to carry a gun on campus?

JARED SANO, UNIVERSITY OF UTAH STUDENT & GUN OWNER: I think I do. I think I have the need to carry a gun whenever I go, just for the sheer fact of self-defense.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Thomas applied for his permit last fall, when the state made it legal to carry weapons on campus -- the only requirement, a background check and a four-hour class.

BARBARA NASH, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF UTAH: In fact, I think it's outrageous.

GUTIERREZ: Professor Barbara Nash says a school campus is no place for guns. Last fall, the Utah Supreme Court ruled otherwise, saying state law trumps university policy.

NASH: The idea is, somehow, that, if you have more guns in the hands of more people in more places, we're going to have a safer society. And, you know, that's really sort of stupid. It's also a dangerous point of view.

MCCRORY: I'm a responsible gun owner. I lock up my gun when I'm not using it. I'm not some trigger-happy redneck, you know, that is going to whip out his piece if there's a disagreement in class.

GUTIERREZ (on camera): According to the Utah Shooting Sports Council, more than 500 students on this university campus alone carry concealed firearms to class.

NASH: It distresses me to know that there are that many students that have guns on campus. And I think it is a serious problem.

MCCRORY: The school can have the greatest security policy in the world, but they're not going to do you a dang bit of good if some guy walks into your classroom with a shotgun.

GUTIERREZ: In class, Jared is not required to inform his professor or classmates.

(on camera): Did you have any idea that he actually was carrying a weapon?

RANDALL BOYLE, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF UTAH: I had no idea that he was carrying a weapon at all.

GUTIERREZ: It doesn't bother you?

BOYLE: It really -- it really makes me feel a little safer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just think that we should have a university-wide rule just banning guns on campus.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): Jared and Thomas say it's their constitutional right to bear arms, and wonder if it would have made a difference if students at Virginia Tech had had the same opportunity.

Thelma Gutierrez, CNN, Salt Lake City, Utah.


ZAHN: Joining me now, two people on opposite sides of the debate over guns, Suzanna Hupp, a former Texas state lawmaker and advocate of concealed weapons. She watched her parents as they were gunned down in the massacre at Luby's cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, 16 years ago -- and Jackie Kuhls, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.

Welcome to both of you.


SUZANNA HUPP, CONCEALED WEAPONS ADVOCATE: Thank you very much for having us.

ZAHN: My pleasure.

Unlike in Utah, we know that Virginia Tech really argued against students being allowed to have concealed weapons on campus. They prevailed. But, in Virginia, you can have guns in movie theaters. You can have concealed weapons in the state capitol. So, why not at a state-run university?

KUHLS: Well, I would have a problem with having guns freely available to people such as the shooter in this case, who should not have been allowed to have a weapon.

The fact that Virginia has such loose gun laws and that, instead of a licensing process, where a government entity decides that this person is eligible to have a gun, in Virginia, it's only the store who's deciding that. And there's somebody with an incentive to sell a gun.

So, I would maintain that it's the prevalence and the availability of guns that is the problem here.

ZAHN: Do you concede that at all, Suzanna, that they're...

HUPP: No, ma'am, not at all.

ZAHN: ... they're just too easily available, and, then, when you go through the process, in many states, you just aren't screened as effectively as you should be?

HUPP: Paula, you can't get more restrictive than having a gun- free zone. And, if you stop and look at it, all of those dreadful mass shootings that we have had over the last 20 years have occurred in these so-called gun-free zones.

I think what the legislators have done is create a victim-rich environment. They have actually created shopping lists for madmen. These things simply don't happen where there are a lot of guns. You don't see these things happening at gun shows or skeet and trap shoots or NRA conventions. All those laws did was prevent good law-abiding people from protecting themselves.

ZAHN: All right. But are you going to tell me tonight that Cho should have been allowed to get his hands on a gun and -- and, somehow...


ZAHN: ... if another student in the classroom had a concealed weapon on him, that would have stopped this massacre? And start with the first part.

HUPP: Well, what I...

ZAHN: Who can defend Cho's being able to get a gun so freely in Virginia and on the Internet?

HUPP: Well, I don't -- I don't think anybody can defend that. The guy was clearly messed up. And you're right. The law should be fixed, so that there's better coordination between those agencies.

But I think that's a good point. I don't think you can ever prevent people, crazy people, from being able to get their hands on some type of weapon, whether it was a gun or a chain saw. What you can do is allow good people to protect themselves.

You're not going to prevent...

ZAHN: All right.

HUPP: ... those first couple of shootings, but it sure wouldn't have been 32 people.

ZAHN: Come back...

KUHLS: Well...

ZAHN: ... to the very narrow issue of students being allowed to conceal weapons.

KUHLS: Mm-hmm. Well...

ZAHN: We heard these students say that they actively train, they shoot well, and it's their constitutional right to have a gun at school.

KUHLS: Well, the truth is that even trained law enforcement officers only have a hit rate of about 20 percent. And, when you take a case where it's you are encountered by surprise with somebody with a gun, it's very hard to react appropriately and quickly.

And there was a case in Washington, D.C., about 10 years ago where an FBI office was ambushed by a gunman. And several FBI agents were gunned down. Those are trained law enforcement officers. And that element of surprise, the adrenalin, unfortunately, many times, it just ends in tragedy. And I do...

ZAHN: So, you're basically saying, if law enforcement can't accurately shoot, how could you ever trust a student? That's your bottom-line...


KUHLS: Exactly. Exactly.

HUPP: Excuse me, but I'm pretty sure there were, what, two people killed, two FBI officers killed?

ZAHN: That's not the point.


HUPP: Not 32.


HUPP: Oh, that is the point.

ZAHN: But let's -- no, but let's talk about...

HUPP: You're talking about the difference between two or 32.

ZAHN: But let's talk about the very narrow issue that she was talking about.

HUPP: But that is the point.

ZAHN: And that is, if law enforcement can't effectively shoot -- and just answer this -- how can you expect that a college student in a situation, with a lot of adrenalin, would get it right and -- and shoot the right person, or be able to stop what happened last week at Virginia Tech?

HUPP: Are you asking me at this point?

ZAHN: Yes, Suzanna.

HUPP: OK, well, I can answer that in a couple of -- or in a couple of ways.

Number one, I think just allowing it is a huge deterrent. I have got to tell you again, these things -- name one time when these things have happened in a place where guns -- where people were allowed to carry guns. They don't happen, because people like this want easy targets.

They want to go after people like fish in a barrel. So, they don't even go for places that have or allow people to defend themselves.


ZAHN: Jackie, you get the last word. It's got to be a brief one.


The fact is that we have over 200 million guns in this country. There are many guns out there. And these things do happen, and that states with weak gun laws have more gun deaths. That is just a fact.

ZAHN: All right. You two, got to leave it there.

Suzanna Hupp, Jackie Kuhls, thank you so much for your time.

HUPP: Thank you, Paula.

KUHLS: Thank you.

ZAHN: Our next stop is a place where everyone agrees that valence is out of control. But get at load of this. Are walls the only way to stop the people of Baghdad from killing each other?

And, then, a little bit later on: a 20-year-old man who put his phone number on YouTube and discovered a world of lonely people out there. Would you call him? You're going to meet him when we come back.


ZAHN: Out in the open tonight: Who's telling people, if they smoke in their own homes, that they will be evicted? We will keep that one on the back burner until a little bit later on.

But, first, the Virginia Tech massacre may have pushed Iraq out of the headlines, but there's been no letup in the violence. Just today, attacks around the country left as many as 51 civilians dead, 96 wounded. The U.S. is trying something new to stop that cycle of death and retaliation in Baghdad, but, as you will see now, it has made thousands -- in fact 90 percent of the population of Iraq -- furious.


ZAHN (voice-over): You're looking at Baghdad's newest change of scenery; 12-foot sections of concrete now separate some of the city's Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods.

The new U.S. security plan calls for such barriers all over Baghdad. American officials think that will slow down sectarian violence between Baghdad's Sunni and Shiite populations. But many Iraqis are outraged at what they believe is an attempt to establish ghettos; 7,000 angry demonstrators marched through the Iraqi capital today, demanding that the walls come down now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): It is a step we think that is not for the good of the people.

ZAHN: Much of the outrage is focused on plans for a three-mile- long barrier around Baghdad's Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyah. It was intensely loyal to Saddam Hussein. His last public appearance just hours before his regime collapsed in 2003 was in Adhamiyah. More recently, it's become an insurgent hotbed.

MAJOR GENERAL DONALD SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: This is, based upon intelligence, a move to wall off an area that's been a particular problem, where attacks have been launched against the Shia, and the Shia have retaliated.

ZAHN: Adhamiyah residents complain, the wall is meant to isolate them permanently and will just create even more tension. They point to examples like the Berlin Wall during the Cold War or Israel's security wall on the West Bank to keep Palestinians out of Israeli- controlled territory.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki now says he's ordered construction of the Adhamiyah wall to stop. And U.S. officials seem to be reconsidering.

RYAN CROCKER, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: Obviously, we will respect the wishes of the government and the prime minister.

ZAHN: The U.S. military says the barriers were always meant to be temporary. The question is, just how temporary?


ZAHN: So joining me now, "TIME" magazine's Baghdad correspondent, Bobby Ghosh.

Good to see you.


ZAHN: So, did the U.S. government completely blow it here...


ZAHN: ... if they're put in the position now where the prime minister and the president saying this wall has got to go; you have got to stop construction?

GHOSH: Yes. I think -- I think they made a huge political miscalculation here. Four years of telling Iraqis that they are now free, and they're now free to roam as they please, that they're no longer hemmed in by their government, building a wall around a neighborhood is politically, and, from a P.R. point of view, a terrible, terrible thing to do. ZAHN: That may be true, but the U.S. still argues that they strongly believe that it will decrease the sectarian violence.

GHOSH: Well...


ZAHN: Why don't Iraqis believe that?

GHOSH: Well, they didn't consult the Iraqis. They didn't approve this with the Iraqis.

And the Iraqis are right to be skeptical. After all, the Green Zone, which is the most heavily-fortified piece of turf in Baghdad, has been so for four years, and, yet, a suicide bomber is able not only to get into the Green Zone, but into the parliament of Iraq, probably the most heavily-defended place in the world, and blow himself up there.

So, if you are living in Adhamiyah, and they're building a wall around your neighborhood, you're not -- you're not necessarily convinced that that's going to secure you. It feels like a prison.

ZAHN: Well, what are you convinced of? Do you think it could potentially decrease the violence?

GHOSH: No, I'm not sure of that at all.

I think there are many ways in which those who want to bring violence on to the people of Adhamiyah can do so. The most common way to do is -- is to use mortars and rockets, which they do all the time. A wall is not going to stop mortars and rockets.

ZAHN: So, what does this say about U.S. policy in Iraq? I know some people have accused the U.S. government of being incredibly desperate with this move. What's your analysis?

GHOSH: I -- that -- that is my analysis. I think this is an act of desperation.

The surge -- the policy of the U.S. military, of the government has, gotten some rewards. But there's been a string of suicide bombings in Baghdad. That looks terrible. That gives a bad name to the military operation.

I think trying to wall off a neighborhood is an act of desperation, an act of trying to show that, well, we're doing something.

ZAHN: Well, does the U.S. government get any credit for that?

GHOSH: Not from the Iraqi people.

ZAHN: Because they obviously wouldn't have spent all this money building these walls unless they believe that, in some way, it was going to make a difference. GHOSH: Well, it's not -- they're not going to get any credit from the Iraqi people. They are certainly not going to get credit from the people of Adhamiyah.

I spoke to a friend who lives there earlier today. And he was pro-U.S. until very recently. And now he's -- he's tilting the other way. And I -- I think he's not alone.

ZAHN: Does the wall eventually -- or the walls all over the place eventually come down?

GHOSH: Well, four years ago, when they first built the walls around the Green Zone, they said this was temporary. It's been four years.

ZAHN: Bobby Ghosh, thank you for updating us on what is going on...


ZAHN: ... in Adhamiyah.

So, we have been asking a lot of questions lately about hip-hop and who's talking about the use of degrading language to describe black women.

Take a look.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We were just talking in the back about what happened in terms of Don Imus and the nonsense that had been spoken on the radio.


ZAHN: Wait until you hear what Barack Obama's message is for the black community. We are going to share it with you in a moment.

And I will ask my panel, will it make any difference at all?

Then, a little bit later on, I am going to be joined by one of the most popular guys on the Internet. You are not going to believe how many lonely people are calling him just to talk. He gave out his phone number on YouTube, and that phone has not stopped ringing.

We will be right back.


ZAHN: Out in the open now: the hateful language some black Americans use to describe each other.

It has been less than two weeks since radio host Don Imus was fired for using degrading words to describe the Rutgers women's basketball team. And, just yesterday, Barack Obama stepped right into the controversy, pretty much attacking a black audience for tearing themselves down with the same kind of language Imus used.


OBAMA: I have heard those words around the kitchen table in some homes. I hear them in the barbershop. I hear them on the basketball court. We all know that all of us have been complicit in diminishing ourselves and engaging in the kind of self-hatred that keeps our young women and our young men down.


ZAHN: So, the question tonight is, should black Americans be held accountable for the racist and sexist language Imus used?

Let's go back to tonight's "Out in the Open" panel, Lauren Lake, Joel Mowbray, and Niger Innis.

There he is, joining us from San Francisco tonight.

Welcome, all.


ZAHN: So, Lauren, to what extent should society blame blacks for the kind of self-hatred Barack Obama is talking about?

LAUREN LAKE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, it's nothing to blame us for, first of all, because you would have to see where the self-hatred stemmed from...

ZAHN: But I'm talking about the language.

LAKE: ... from 400 years -- right -- of racial oppression.

So, although we do have these issues, and Barack Obama is correct in the sense that many of us have engaged in this language, let's be clear. Just because we may have cultural issues that -- that operate inside our own race, it doesn't mean we have to allow Don Imus or anyone else to degrade us.

So, I think people, as we begin to point fingers and try to shift the focus of where the language is used and where it can't be used, we need to make it clear that we do have the right to say we will not subsidize you offending us, and, at the same time, work on the problems that's going on in our own community.

ZAHN: All right.

So, Niger, if, as Barack Obama says, blacks freely use this kind of derogatory language around the table, then why should a white guy like Don Imus get in so much trouble?

INNIS: Well, you know, it's so funny, Paula. I'm terribly disappointed in Barack Obama.

He has a unique opportunity to truly address this. I mean, we talk about Don Imus. Barack is talking about the black community. And, in the midst of this, the multibillion-dollar industry that is making millions of dollars by pumping in this cultural crack into the minds of our youth, images -- projecting images of blacks that are -- have the most vicious stereotypes, worse than "mammy" and "sambo," and Barack Obama is blaming the black community?

Give me a break. Eighty percent of the people that purchase this vicious gangster rap are whites from the suburbs. The people making profits are indeed black executives, white executives within the entertainment industry and as part of the entertainment industrial complex.

ZAHN: All right.

So, Niger, are you going to tell me tonight Barack Obama is not going to take on the producers of this stuff, because...

INNIS: He is not...

ZAHN: ... ultimately, he's -- his campaign and Hillary Clinton's campaign is going to tap that kind of money? Is that what I am to see as I read between the lines here?



INNIS: Bingo. Absolutely. That is the bottom line.

ZAHN: Do you have proof of that?

INNIS: Hillary -- Hillary and Barack -- well, look, the three musketeers of the entertainment community, Geffen, Spielberg, and Katzenberg, did a fund-raiser, and beat the drums to do a fund-raiser for Barack Obama.

ZAHN: Yes.

INNIS: Barack Obama invited Ludacris, the rapper, to his Chicago office last year to discuss youth and discuss shining a bright light for America's youth. This is outrageous.


JOEL MOWBRAY, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: And, remember, Ludacris -- Ludacris is the guy who made the argument that ending in an A, vs. ending in an E-R, well, that makes it acceptable, the N-word.

ZAHN: All right.

Let's -- I want you to react to something that hip-hop icon Russell Simmons...


ZAHN: ... had to say.

He released a statement today about the use of degrading and demeaning language in music: "We recommend that the recording and broadcast industries voluntarily remove, bleep, detail (sic) the misogynist words 'bitch' and 'ho' and the racially word, the N-word. Going forward, these three words should be considered with the same objections to obscenity as extreme curse words."


MOWBRAY: Well, extreme curse words are still found in hip-hop.


ZAHN: But why should the music industry obey this sort of voluntary ban, if people freely use these words around the dinner table?

MOWBRAY: Well, again, to the extent they freely use, I -- you know, I have been to a lot of dinner tables in black homes, black families. I haven't heard it nearly as much as the way Obama at least made it seem in his remarks.

Now, certainly, you have a lot of issues with misogyny within the black community. You have a lot of issues -- for example, light- skin/dark-skin divide within the black community.

But there is also something about just, you know, people generally. They like to feel better about themselves by putting down others. You can find anti -- classic anti-Semitic Jewish jokes going on in Israel from Jews about other Jews.


ZAHN: What kind of language, Lauren, have you heard at...


LAKE: I have heard all kinds of language. And it's not just from blacks. It's from whites. It's from all colors. The bottom line...


ZAHN: Would you use these words that they're talking about, ho and...

LAKE: I have used a myriad of words.

But one thing I wouldn't do is the wrong words on radio, where I have sponsors that support my show. People use language in different contexts, but you know when to use language and when not to use language.

INNIS: Lauren...

LAKE: The bottom line is, is that the African-American has an issue with the language we're using is fine.

But to say Barack Obama is somehow blaming the black community, he's not blaming. He was having a relevant discussion. That's not the end-all, be-all to this argument. And to sit up and say that is ridiculous.

INNIS: Lauren, he is apologizing...


ZAHN: Hang on, Niger. Hang on to that thought.

LAKE: That's ridiculous.

ZAHN: We have got a lot more to debate tonight.



ZAHN: Please stay with us.

How many lonely people do you think are out there surfing the Internet right now? Well, one young man decided to find out for himself.


RYAN FITZGERALD, POSTED PHONE NUMBER ON YOUTUBE: Hello, everyone. My name is Ryan. I'm doing a little phone experiment here. I want to see how many people will actually call me.


ZAHN: All right. Take a guess. How many people have called him and what do they want to talk about? He'll be joining us to answer some of those questions.

Then a little bit later on, what would you do if your landlord said, quit smoking or I'm going to throw you out? You're going to get evicted. That story is "Out in the Open" still ahead. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: So the warning is either quit smoking or lose your home. Why are some people facing that choice with something that is perfectly legal? It's one of the stories we're bringing "Out in the Open" in this half hour.

And you're not going to want to miss this either, at the top of the hour, George and Barbara Bush, the former president and first lady are tonight's guests on "LARRY KING LIVE." Tonight, we are bringing "Out in the Open" a story that may make you wonder if the world is filled with nothing but desperately lonely people. The story brings together a young man in Massachusetts, his cell phone and YouTube, the Web site where people can post videos of just about anything.

And as Dan Lothian reports, what this guy did exposes how so many people all over the planet are dying to reach out and connect with anyone.


FITZGERALD: I hold it a lot for the back (INAUDIBLE), I don't do it this up close.

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN BOSTON BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Twenty-year- old Ryan Fitzgerald used his cell phone camera and a bathroom mirror...

FITZGERALD: I have the camera pointing at the mirror.

My number is 774...

LOTHIAN: To shoot this 47-second pitch. Simple and direct.

FITZGERALD: ... give me a call, all right? Bye.

LOTHIAN: He posted it on the popular video-sharing site, YouTube.

FITZGERALD: And I just wanted to see if people would want to call me and they started calling me the first night.

LOTHIAN: Well, that is an understatement. His cell phone was on fire. Fitzgerald, who is unemployed and lives with his father in Massachusetts, says he has received more than 9,000 calls and text messages, working the phones around the clock since Friday.

FITZGERALD: I had people from Cyprus calling me. I had Tokyo. I talk to everybody for an hour, 10 minutes, five minutes, whatever they want to talk about.

LOTHIAN: Some conversations are silly, like the guy that called from McDonald's.

FITZGERALD: I was like, get a cheeseburger, and he was like, well, what do I put on it. I'm like, I don't know, mustard and ketchup. And he's like, all right. I heard him ordering in the background, getting a cheeseburger with mustard and ketchup on it.

LOTHIAN (on camera): And he's getting your advice to order fast food?

(voice-over): Other calls have been more serious. There's the 45-year-old mother. FITZGERALD: Then asked what she could do to make her 22-year-old daughter want to talk to her, because I guess her daughter doesn't like her. And I'm like, I can't believe she's asking me how I...

LOTHIAN (on camera): Yes, you're not a counselor or anything.

FITZGERALD: Yes, that is what I'm saying. I try to help, but it's just a 20-year-old's advice.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): And there's the young girl.

FITZGERALD: She's like, oh, I don't have anybody to talk to, I have no friends really.

LOTHIAN (on camera): What does it say that people will just pick up the phone and call a stranger and talk about anything? I mean, are people lonely out there?

FITZGERALD: There are a lot of -- there are a lot of lonely people. Most people that call are between about 18 and 25. And they are up at 2:00 in the morning.

LOTHIAN (voice-over): We wanted to hear from some of those people, so we walked outside to get a better signal.

FITZGERALD: I usually get service over here.

LOTHIAN: And soon the phone started ringing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just wanted to make sure that you hear us calling from Milwaukee.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm from Minnesota.

FITZGERALD: Minnesota?


FITZGERALD: That's cool.

LOTHIAN (on camera): I'm Dan Lothian with CNN.


LOTHIAN: Hey. Why would you call a stranger who you saw on YouTube just to talk to?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It does seem silly on the outside, doesn't it? But sometimes somebody does something that just moves you so much.

LOTHIAN: During the roughly 20-minute interview that we conducted, about 35 or so calls came in on this phone, people just wanting to talk.

(voice-over): Some just want to say they called the YouTube guy, but apparently there are those lonely souls dialing Fitzgerald's number in search of a stranger's ear.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Keep it up and don't listen to the naysayers.

FITZGERALD: All right. Thank you. Have a good day.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, you, too, Ryan, bye.


LOTHIAN: Dan Lothian, CNN, Southbridge, Massachusetts.


ZAHN: And Ryan Fitzgerald is here with his phone. So what is the strangest call he has gotten and the most disturbing? I'm going to ask him in a minute. Don't go away.


ZAHN: "Out in the Open" tonight, the 20-year-old man from Massachusetts who posted his phone number on YouTube just to see if anybody would call.


FITZGERALD: Hey, everyone, my name is Ryan. I'm doing a little phone experiment here. I want to see how many people will actually call me. Girls, guys, whoever you are, wherever you're from, I'll talk about whatever. If you just want to call and say hi. That's fine.


ZAHN: All right. So how many called? The answer, it turns out, is more like who hasn't called, 9,000 calls and text message have poured in since Friday and the man at the center of all of this attention is Ryan Fitzgerald. He is here with me now. And I can vouch for about the two minutes that he has been sitting -- yes, his phone has not stopped.

I think you've had 10 calls come through just since we sat you down.

FITZGERALD: Yes. I'm going to pick this one up actually. Hello? Hello? See, sometimes -- see, (INAUDIBLE) some people -- oh, I just ended that on accident. But he'll call back.

ZAHN: We'll let you try one more. And then I want to hear more about...

FITZGERALD: Hello? Yes, it's me. Hey, what's up? Dylan (ph), yes, I'm actually on the Paula Zahn show right now. I'm on the set right now live. Just wanted to pick it up to say hey to you. No, I'm on the Paula Zahn show right now on CNN right now. I just picked the phone up just... ZAHN: Tell him we said hello and I said...


FITZGERALD: And they said hello and they are trying to finish the interview. But you can call me later. All right? All right, bye.

ZAHN: All right. Now we're just going to let it ring and not have you answer the phone. I mean, clearly you have no control over who is going to call you. Have you had any unsettling calls, any threatening calls?

FITZGERALD: Yes, I've had a guy from Maine, he in his 40s who told me that he -- we talked for about two hours. Nice guy. He decided to ask me if I was gay. I said no. He said he wanted to come meet he and that he was HIV positive. And I had said, you know, you seem like a nice guy, but I don't want to take it that far.

He actually left me six voicemails after I hung up on him because he tried getting my address. And I told him -- he said in the voicemail, I'm going to find you no matter what. I have to talk to you. I have to see you.

ZAHN: But that is sort of the more unusual side of the calls you've taken.


ZAHN: For the folks who are truly looking for some kind of help, give us an example of what people have asked you.

FITZGERALD: Actually, before I came here, I had a woman who was 45 who asked me how she could help strengthen her bond with her 22- year-old daughter. And I spoke with her for about 25 minutes, trying to tell her, you know, ask her what -- how she approached her. She said she was more the type that punished a lot.

I said, well, if you want a stronger relationship, try to be more of a friend to her versus, you know, a parent figure. So maybe she will look at you in that sense instead of just a woman she has to go behind your back.

ZAHN: You seem to me like a really nice guy, but you're not a trained therapist...


FITZGERALD: No, I'm not. No, I'm not, I'm not, I'm not, no.

ZAHN: ... you're not a sociologist.

FITZGERALD: No. I just tell it from my point of view and my life experience. It's just my point of view.

ZAHN: Are you worried that you could make a mistake in giving advice to somebody that might make them vulnerable...


FITZGERALD: I am. Yes, that is -- exactly. And that's why I -- depending upon the circumstance, I don't want to say too much and I don't want to spend too long on it because I don't want to make people think that my advice is the best advice. Because I'm sure it's not.

Like you said, I'm not a professional. So I don't want people to take everything I say too personal.

ZAHN: We want to make sure people don't think that's the new CNN theme. Ryan's phone, it has not quit ringing since we've been on. And he is disconnecting the call.

FITZGERALD: I just keep hitting "End."

ZAHN: What have you learned about people through this experiment?

FITZGERALD: I've definitely learned that there are a lot more people out there than I thought that like to bring people that are trying to do something good down. I mean, I do get my calls of people that say they want to kill me for absolutely no reason. Three-minute long voicemails just saying they...

ZAHN: That's horrendous. But how about good calls?


FITZGERALD: The good calls. I actually spoke with a guy over in the Middle East who was in the midst of the -- what's going on over there with Pakistan and Iraq, the war. He spoke with me about for two minutes. I couldn't understand really what he was saying. But he was letting me know about -- that he just wanted somebody to talk to because there's so much chaos going on over there right now that he just wanted to talk to somebody for two minutes.

And I did that and I'm sure he said he would call me back. So I'm sure he has been trying, but as you can see, I'm hitting "end"...

ZAHN: You are not going to sleep.

FITZGERALD: Yes. I'm hitting "end" every two seconds here. And that's just the way it is. I mean, it's hard.

ZAHN: Well, OK. Do you want to try one more? You can pick it up.

FITZGERALD: Yes. Hello? Hey. Nothing. I'm on the Paula Zahn show right now on CNN. Yes. You're watching me? That's cool. Will I what?

He said, hello.

ZAHN: Thank him. Hello back. FITZGERALD: She said, hello back.

ZAHN: Tell him I hate to me rude...

FITZGERALD: She hates to be rude, but...

ZAHN: ... but I have to wrap up your conversation.

FITZGERALD: Yes, we are wrapping up the conversation, but you can call me back anytime. All right? Yes, bye.

ZAHN: How long are you going to keep on doing this?

FITZGERALD: It just rang again. I'm going to do it -- I guess T-Mobile might help me out here. That's what I've been being told. So hopefully I can work something out with them. If not, I'm going to keep doing it. I'm not going to stop. I'll find a way to pay the bill. I will.

ZAHN: Well, you certainly are making a human connection with folks out there.

FITZGERALD: Yes, I appreciate it.

ZAHN: Thank you, Ryan, for stopping by.

FITZGERALD: Yes, no problem.

ZAHN: I hear you might become a psychologist down the road?

FITZGERALD: Yes, I'm going to go to school for that.

ZAHN: You've seen how lonely people are. We'll stay in touch.


ZAHN: Now you can really answer and talk with all of your friends there.

FITZGERALD: All right, thanks.


ZAHN: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Halberstam has died in a car crash in Menlo Park, California. His books include in- depth studies of giant media companies and of the decline of the U.S. auto industry. David Halberstam was 73. That is one tremendous lost for any of us that (INAUDIBLE). So sorry to have to report that tonight.

Also "Out in the Open" tonight, rules against smoking in your own home. That phone will not quit ringing. Ryan, poor guy, no one will leave you alone. If you don't quit, you will be evicted. Can people get away with that?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AUDREY SILK, SMOKERS' ADVOCATE: We are on a downward spiral into losing all of our freedoms.


ZAHN: Coming up, a rule change that has some people really smoking mad. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: "Out in the Open" tonight, the astonishing choice some people are facing in Michigan and more and more in other parts of the country, too. Quit smoking or lose your home. We're all familiar with smoking bans in public places, but what would you do if the government said, quit smoking or move out? Allan Chernoff has that story for you tonight.


ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Doris Swackhamer loves her home.

DORIS SWACKHAMER, NON-SMOKING RESIDENT: I've been here in this apartment for 25 years -- or 28 -- yes, 25 years last December.

CHERNOFF: And so does Donna Gray.

DONNA GRAY, SMOKING RESIEDNT: When I moved in here six years ago, I thought I'd be here the rest of my life.

CHERNOFF: Both women rent apartments at Vicksburg Halls (ph) in Marysville, Michigan. And suddenly their public housing complex is a major battlefield in a vicious war over smoking.

This is one of several dozen public housing authorities in a growing number of states that are banning smoking, not just in hallways and lobbies, but also in every room of every apartment because of growing complaints about second-hand smoke.

SWACKHAMER: I go by somebody's apartment and they smoke, I have to hold my breath to go by that apartment.

CHERNOFF: Doris Swackhamer should know. She was a smoker for 49 years and has emphysema. After several family members died of cancer, she quit cold turkey.

SWACKHAMER: So I just took my cigarettes, put them in the drawer and I didn't touch them.

CHERNOFF: About a quarter of Vicksburg Halls residents smoke. They've got 18 months to either quit or move. Doris says that's plenty of time for her neighbors to abide by the new house rule.

SWACKHAMER: Why do they need over a year to make up their mind? Just quit smoking.

GRAY: There's no one in the world more self-righteous or sanctimonious than a former smoker.

CHERNOFF: After smoking for 55 years, Donna says there's no way she's going to give up cigarettes.

GRAY: I don't want to quit. I don't plan to quit. I've told my kids, when you put me in the box to put me in the crematory, make sure I have a cigarette in one hand and a martini in the other.

CHERNOFF: So against her will, Donna is making plans to move. Smokers' rights advocates like Audrey Silk, who rolls her own cigarettes at home, says the controversy should worry all Americans.

(on camera): Is this really a smoker's rights issue here?

SILK: When they come into your private home to tell you what legal behavior you can and cannot do there, we are on a downward spiral into losing all of our freedoms. It's almost not about smoking anymore.

CHERNOFF (voice-over): Those pushing landlords to make their rental apartments smoke-free insist that it is all about smoking.

JIM BERGMAN, SMOKE-FREE ENVIRON. LAW PROJ.: Smokers are not so- called protected class like race or gender or religion are being protected classes. Smokers don't have a constitutional right to smoke.

CHERNOFF: So under these new rules, there might not be any smoke, but there is a growing amount of heat.

SWACKHAMER: We're the ones that should be shunning them because they smoke, you know? They're doing it to us.

GRAY: And the meanness and the hatefulness and the vindictiveness that is being displayed here really upsets me.

CHERNOFF: And some tenants will be moving away for good.

Allan Chernoff, CNN, New York.


ZAHN: Right now we're going to go straight back to our "Out in the Open" panel. Joel Mowbray, Lauren Lake, and Niger Innis.

Welcome back. So what obligation does the government have to protect the health of other people living in this building?

MOWBRAY: You know, I'm not sure. I guess at this point if you're talking about a fact-based discussion of how much smoke actually seeps out into the hallways or the other apartments, clearly the government has the right to do this because smokers are not a protected class. It's not something that is a constitutional protection in order to smoke.

But, you know, you do have to wonder where the government is going as far as nanny and big government. I'm not particularly concerned about this. I'm not a smoker, but I wonder where this is going to go next.

ZAHN: Yes, but would you want your kids living in an apartment building when they would be...


MOWBRAY: Oh, God no. By the way, I think family court judges are well within their right when they order parents not to smoke around children. That I have no problem with.

ZAHN: All right. Niger and Lauren, I want you to look at some of these statistics, because when these smokers say it is a violation of their freedoms, check out these numbers. According to the surgeon general, non-smokers who are exposed to second-hand smoke at home or work increase their heart disease risk by 25 to 30 percent and their lung cancer risk by 20 to 30 percent as well.

Don't non-smokers, Niger, have the right to breathe non-smoke- filled air?

INNIS: They do. And I suppose that you can -- the government officials that regulate this can be creative about creating vehicles that minimize second-hand smoke use, but, I mean, are we in Soviet Russia? Are we in Kim Jong-Il's North Korea? I mean, the nerve.

To go into someone's apartment and tell them they can't do something that is legal. I mean, can you imagine a government official going into Donald Trump's mansion or apartment on 5th Avenue and saying, Mr. Trump, we're getting complaints about second-hand smoke so you can't smoke?


LAKE: Well, the argument is that Donald Trump owns his apartment, or either whoever is living there is renting their apartment. These people are receiving public assistance. However, I must agree...

MOWBRAY: But -- so they should be second-class citizens?

LAKE: ... even as a non-smoker, this is a tad bit too problematic to throw people out or evict people based upon a legal act that they're doing in their home. And now the government has got to choose.

Now you want to be cool with the tobacco companies, but now you want to throw people out of their houses for smoking. It doesn't work both ways.


MOWBRAY: You know, there is also enforceability question. I remember the first apartment I lived here in Manhattan. Each time I walked into the hallway, it was smoke but it wasn't cigarette smoke or cigar smoke if you catch my drift.


LAKE: You didn't inhale, did you?


LAKE: Oh he did, he did.

MOWBRAY: I want to run for president some day. So I did not inhale. But I mean...


MOWBRAY: ... it is an enforceability question here. How would they even know? Do they have a sniff person with a large nose going, sniff, sniff, sniff, I think smoke was in here?

LAKE: They can't believe that...

INNIS: It is a dangerous, dangerous precedent.

LAKE: And you go to court with those three elderly women, talking about, we're going to kick them out of their house because they were smoking. Absolutely not. It's not going to work.


MOWBRAY: ... a voice box installed in their throat.

LAKE: It's not going to work. They need to do a non-smoking floor or a smoking floor and then have other areas for non-smokers.

ZAHN: Niger, jump in here.


INNIS: That's the creative solutions that need to be explored. But it is a dangerous, slippery slope when the government can go into public housing. And I don't believe that just because you reside in public housing that you should be considered a second-class citizen and be deprived of freedoms and legal freedoms.

And it's a dangerous slippery slope when the government can go and determine that you can and cannot do certain things that are legal to do.

ZAHN: OK, team. Got to leave it there. Joel Mowbray, Lauren Lake, Niger Innis, thank you all.

We've got some breaking news coming out of Iraq. The details coming at you in just a minute or two.

Plus, later, a very emotional hour on "LARRY KING LIVE." Larry welcomes former President Bush and his wife Barbara, speaking about the personal tragedy that inspired their fight to cure cancer. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: We have just enough time for some breaking news out of Iraq. We just got word that nine American soldiers were killed today in a suicide car bombing at a patrol base in Diyala province. The U.S. military says 20 other soldiers and an Iraqi civilian were also wounded.

Hate to end on that note, but we wrap it up here tonight. Thanks so much for joining us. Please join us again tomorrow night.


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