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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Health Care Reform Compromise; Self-Help Guru's Deadly Ceremony; Deadly School Brawl; Paradise Lost?
Aired December 14, 2009 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Tonight, we got breaking news. A possible deal in the behind-the-scenes struggle over health care -- and what a struggle it is. But to get the last votes needed, have the Democrats done away with real reform? This on a day when President Obama met with bankers. We bailed them out but what did we get in return?
We're "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, and David Gergen joins us for an insider's briefing.
Also ahead, a 360 follow. We have been investigating self-help salesman James Arthur Ray. That's him there. The sweat lodge ceremony ended up with three people dead.
Well, tonight, for the first time, a former senior employee of James Arthur Ray is speaking out to us. She was at the sweat lodge ceremony and what she has to say is simply stunning.
We begin, though, with the breaking news in the health care battle. Now, we're getting late word that Senate Democrats are close to dropping a key compromise that was hammered out just last week. The part being dropped would have allowed 55 to 64-year-old Americans to buy into health care. The reason that compromise was there in the first place was a tradeoff for dropping a public option earlier from the bill.
But the compromise hit a major snag when Senator Joe Lieberman said this weekend that he was against expanding Medicare and wouldn't support health care reform that included it. So, Senate Democrats held an emergency meeting just tonight. Senator Lieberman of Connecticut, independent, is one of the essential votes, basically, one of the 60 votes that they need.
Dana Bash joins me live with the latest.
Dana, what do we know? Is this thing dead or not?
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it looks, according to Democrat sources, it looks like they are poised to drop this idea, and for one reason. You said it, it is because of Joe Lieberman and his opposition, and the fact that they realize -- with coaxing from the White House -- that they simply can't pass health care without Joe Lieberman, especially not on the timetable they're looking for, and that is by Christmas.
And, you know, we talked about last week and you just mentioned, part of the idea here was to appease liberals who really had been... COOPER: Right.
BASH: ... demanding a public option. Well, guess what, Anderson? We talked to many of those liberal Democrats, senators, tonight and they suggested they are not happy with dropping the Medicare buy-in idea but they may have to live with it.
I just want to tell you one quick story. I just bumped into the Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, he was on his way out of the capital. I asked him about our reporting and the fact that we are hearing he is going to drop this Medicare buy-in idea. He didn't directly confirm it, but he widely complimented our reporting track record and they got in the car.
COOPER: So, what I don't get and what, frankly, a lot of Democrats don't seem to get about Senator Lieberman is, didn't he support the idea of expanding Medicaid just -- I mean, like three months ago? There's this video from three months ago about him talking about why he supported it. I want to show this to our viewers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT: My proposals were to basically expand the existing successful public health insurance programs, Medicare and Medicaid. When it came to Medicare, I was very focused on a group post-50, maybe post -- more like post-55, people who have retired early or have unfortunately been laid off early who lose their health insurance and they're too young to qualify for Medicare. What I was proposing was that they have an option to buy in to Medicare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: OK. So that was three months ago. Why the flip-flop?
BASH: That's right. Lieberman was talking three months ago about the fact that, in the past, he has supported it. He campaigned, Anderson, with Al Gore, remember when he was a Democrat, the V.P. candidate with Al Gore, on this issue. And in the years following that, he still supported this. He was explaining there why.
His office admits -- they have no choice -- they admit he has changed his position. The reason they give is because they say that deficits have skyrocketed since then. He's worried about adding to that, and he also sees that the Medicare program has much more strain than it had in the past.
And, I'll tell you, his spokesman gave me a quote, he said if anyone believes a situation has not changed, they also believe that Tiger Woods is not a controversial figure at this moment.
COOPER: All right. Dana, appreciate the latest.
We're going to have an insider's report on health care with David Gergen in a moment.
But first, I got to tell you about the president and his meeting with bankers today. It's no secret -- I mean, we all know that Wall Street and big banks are going back to business as usual, big bonuses and all. Today, we have more evidence of that -- Wells Fargo became the fourth bank to announce it's going to repay in full the bailout money it received this year, that's $25 billion. Citigroup meantime said it's going to return nearly half of the $50 billion that they got from taxpayers.
And, of course, banks once they give back the money, they are then free to award big bonuses as they like. Now, President Obama told "60 Minutes" last night that bankers still don't get it. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of, you know, fat cat bankers on Wall Street. The only ones that are going to be paying out these fat bonuses are the ones that have now paid back that TARP money and...
STEVE KROFT, "60 MINUTES": Do you think that's why they paid it back so quickly?
OBAMA: I think, in some cases, that was the motivation. Which I think tells me that the people on Wall Street still don't get it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, what exactly doesn't Wall Street get? Well, I just want to show you some numbers over here at the wall. These numbers since last year, taxpayers have laid out through a variety of programs an awful lot of money. Take a look.
They've laid out more than $450 billion in bailout money to banks. Now, that money was supposed to help melt the credit freeze, right? It was supposed to get banks loaning again. But take a look at this -- banks have actually slashed business lending by about 15 percent.
Now, these are some of the banks the president was talking about: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase.
Now, in addition to paying themselves those monster bonuses this year, which we're going to show you in a second, the banks were also spending money. And guess what they spent an awful lot of money on, even when they were supposedly in such financial trouble? They spend it on lobbying -- lobbying against financial regulation, reform that would put tighter control on banks and protect consumers.
So, how much did they spend on lobbying? Look at this -- Goldman Sachs spent more than $2.1 million on lobbying. Morgan Stanley, more than $3 million. JPMorgan, well, they spent $4.3 million. In fact, all told, commercial banks have spent more than $36 million this year in lobbying.
So, that's $36 million -- a huge amount of money, right? But it's nothing compared to what they gave themselves in bonuses.
Take a look at this: Banks gave nearly $30 billion in bonuses. And that's just for the three banks: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase. Now, all of this while the American people are hurting.
And the number most Americans are dealing with and facing every day is this number: 10 percent. That's the national unemployment rate. For a lot of people, these numbers just do not add up.
So, are the banks bilking us? And for all this tough talk on "60 Minutes," is President Obama really doing anything about it?
Ed Henry tonight is "Keeping Them Honest."
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What's interesting, as you noted, the real reason why the president let the bankers have it today is the fact they were bailed out by the taxpayers. Now, they're healthy again. They're handing out bonuses but they're not handing out a lot of loans. The president last night using tough language, calling them "fat cats."
Today was a bit more diplomatic here at the White House. But he still let them have it. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: My main message in today's message was very simple, that America's banks received extraordinary assistance from American taxpayers to rebuild their industry and now that they're back on their feet, we expect an extraordinary commitment from them to help rebuild our economy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: What's happening behind the scenes is that Democrats close to this White House say part of the reason the president is expressing so much outrage is there's real fear within the party that heading into a midterm election year, some of the populist outrage could be turned against the president. Literally from day one, since he was sworn into office, he's been expressing outrage about the bonuses. He's been demanding that the banks lend more money. And there has been very little action. And that's why there's concern at this White House that unless they get ahead of it, it could be turned around against them, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes, I mean, the more you're seeing just expressing outrage and stamping your feet, but do not actually doing anything about it, the more powerless you start to look. What are -- I mean, from the bankers' perspective, and it's important to get their perspective, what are they saying? I mean, the president's, you know, called them out before.
HENRY: It was really interesting. I was waiting out at the cameras here, outside the West Wing of the White House, a few of the bankers came out. You know, I was stunned to hear some of them saying that, "Look, this is really an optics problem." They've actually been lending a lot in the last year but their story hasn't gotten out. They got to do a better job in 2010 of telling it. And then Richard Davis of U.S. Bancorp was basically saying, the meeting went really well with the president. We're all in agreement. We're going to lend even more money in 2010.
So, I pressed him. I said, "Look, if you're all in agreement, you're singing kumbaya, why has there not been more lending? Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD DAVIS, CEO, US BANCORP: Well, we do agree. But there's also a time and a place for lending to be a risk-reward measurement, right? So, at the end of a recession, the qualifications of most borrowers are lower than they were at the beginning. And the banks right now, more than ever, you don't want us to make loans that are not strong and well-suited for the consumer or for the small business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, disagreed with that today, saying basically, the president is not talking about going back to the crisis and basically lending money to people who can't afford it and cooking the books. Instead, he's talking about lending money to people who are just trying to refinance their homes, take advantage of these historically low interest rates. They have the money to do it but they're tied up in regulations right now. There's a real disconnect there.
That's what the president is pushing on. So far, he's gotten little action.
But what the White House is pointing to tonight is the fact that, as you mentioned, Wells Fargo now giving back some bailout money. Citigroup also today gave back some bailout money. They think slowly but surely the banks are getting the message. But "slowly" is the key word there.
COOPER: Yes. I mean, see those mortgage rate, it's 4.8 percent. You think, you know, wow, I want to refinance my mortgage. But it's not that easy. It's -- they're holding on to the money.
Ed, appreciate the reporting.
Let us know what you think. Join the live chat right at AC360.com.
Ahead on the program tonight: what all this means for President Obama's ambitious promises on health care and Wall Street reform -- are these just bumps in the road or has he lost control of his agenda? If you look at his poll numbers, they are way, way down. We're going to get an insider's briefing from David Gergen in a moment.
And then a 360 follow. A former employee of this guy, James Arthur Ray, is speaking out about what she saw during that sweat lodge ceremony. Remember, he's that self-help salesman -- self-style guru who supposedly helps people, had a sweat lodge ceremony that left three people dead. An insider is talking to us, tonight.
Three people dead. An insider is talking to us, tonight.
HENRY: Cracking down on Wall Street and passing health care reform are two key promises President Obama made while campaigning. But tonight, as we said, big banks are poised to pay out huge bonuses once again despite slashing their lending and Senator Joe Lieberman is threatening to derail the Senate health care bill -- it's fair to ask what all of this means for the president's agenda and whether he's lost control of it, frankly.
Many of our regular guests have unique access and inside knowledge stories of the day, starting tonight with senior political analyst David Gergen. We're going to be turning to them for an insider's briefing.
So, David, dropping the Medicare buy-in, could we be seeing, I mean, a liberal revolt in the wake of this? Because -- I mean, a lot of people haven't been following the minutia of this, but basically, that idea of expanding Medicare to 55 and above, that was all for liberals who were angered over the public option being dropped out.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. Let's put this in the larger context, first, Anderson, for a president who's had more, you know, trials than anybody I can remember in a long time, "Perils of Pauline" all year.
This has become a climactic week for his presidency in this first year. You know, he has to deal with the bankers. He's got -- he's desperately trying now to rescue health care and save that, and he's going to Copenhagen at the end of the week. And that potential treaty is also going south. He's got to rescue that.
Now, on this issue of health care, there's no question that the liberal part of the Democratic Party is increasingly frustrated, angry -- angry at the process because they thought they were going to get a public option. That was -- it became central to them, and never central to Barack Obama, central to them.
The moderates and centrists said, "We don't want to buy into this." So, the Senate came up and said, "OK, instead of doing that, let's have this Medicare buy-in. Look at Joe Lieberman -- he even supported it some time ago." Lieberman turns against it over the weekend, very firmly.
They're short of the 60 votes. And tonight, they're doing anything they can at the White House to salvage this and the reports are they've been pushing Harry Reid to accept Lieberman's change of heart, drop Medicare. There's no sign, there's nobody in the liberal ranks yet who has said he will break ranks like a Russ Feingold but that is potential.
And, Anderson, there's also a potential here that the liberals are going to get angry at the president and the White House for not fighting harder to keep people corralled and get more of their views through. COOPER: But -- I mean, so, if he gets Lieberman on board by dropping this expansion of Medicare, they still need, what, Ben Nelson and they need to figure out some language on abortion that Ben Nelson will support.
GERGEN: That's right. They conceivably -- if they drop Medicare -- can pick up support from Olympia Snowe.
GERGEN: She's been troubled by this Medicare proposal. And maybe they can get Ben Nelson.
But, Anderson, there's one more step in this. The liberals may have to accept in the Senate some form of the Stupak anti-abortion amendment before this is over, in order to keep the House on board. So, there's a -- there are a lot of moving parts on this though, but it's clear the White House is desperate to get to 60 votes this weekend. They are willing to drop darn near anything and move this bill to the right and strip it down of what it will take...
COOPER: And that's because...
GERGEN: ... in order to get the 60.
COOPER: That's because it's so essential now for the president to be able to say, "I got health care reform," whether or not, almost no matter what it looks like at this point?
GERGEN: That's exactly right.
Now, in fairness to the White House, when they started this process, they never thought public option was very important. It's not been part of the debate frankly.
The White House has been for universal access and people are losing sight of it. This bill does provide near universal access -- no president, seven presidents have tried this, none has succeeded, Barack Obama may succeed -- insurance reform, some other important reforms.
But to the left, the public option and indeed the Medicare buy-in was a dramatic step toward a single-payer system which has been -- you know, is very much an iconic proposal...
GERGEN: ... for a lot on the left.
So, this is -- the White House, you know, is sort of like trying to get a balloon up in the air and just throwing things over the side until you get a little height on it.
COOPER: I want to play something that President Obama said to Oprah Winfrey last night in that special that aired last night. Let's watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, TV TALK SHOW HOST: What grade would you give yourself for this year?
OBAMA: Good solid B-plus.
WINFREY: A B-plus?
OBAMA: Yes. I mean, I think that we have inherited the biggest set of challenges of any president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So, he gives himself a B-plus. His approval ratings are hitting a new low. I mean, is he trying to put a game face on a bad situation? Or, I mean, does the White House perceive that there are successes on the brink?
GERGEN: They perceive that they've done better than the public thinks. You remember with CNN, we had a big national vote here earlier this year and people gave him less than a B-plus.
And, Anderson, it's really striking that last week when he went to Oslo to receive the most prestigious prize in the world, the Nobel Peace Prize, at that very moment, his Gallup Poll was at the lowest level of any president since Harry Truman at that time in office.
So, you know, he's got this odd paradoxical situation where he's pulling off a Nobel Prize but his ratings are real low. But here's the deal: because this week is so climactic, if he can pull off health care and if he can pull off Copenhagen at the end of the week, then the belief in the White House is with unemployment already peaking that he'll be on the comeback trail, and the B-plus maybe or a even A- minus will be merited.
But, if either one of those, or both fall apart, and he can't get them, then B-plus is going to be way too generous.
COOPER: Well, for me, that's the takeaway for this interview. This is a climactic week for the president on those three fronts...
COOPER: ... with the banks...
COOPER: ... with health care and with Copenhagen.
David Gergen, we'll continue to watch it -- thanks.
Tomorrow on the program, is it Groundhog Day on Capitol Hill? Or perhaps, it's just almost Christmas? Congress just passed a huge spending bill loaded up with -- get this -- 5,000 earmarks worth almost $4 billion of your money. It comes at a time when Congress is about to raise the debt limits so the government can borrow even more.
So, what happened to the Obama administration's promise to end this kind of spending, this kind of earmarks? We're "Keeping Them Honest" tomorrow night.
And next, a 360 follow. A former employee of self-help salesman, James Arthur Ray -- now, this is a guy we have been following for months now since those three people died in that sweat lodge. A former employee tonight -- for the first time and only here on 360 -- is speaking out about what she saw during that sweat lodge ceremony that killed three people. Details ahead.
COOPER: Hey, welcome back.
You know, we've been following the case now of James Arthur Ray for weeks. Take a look at -- I want to show you his picture. It's important you know who this guy is.
This is Ray. He styles himself a self-help guru. He gives big seminars across the country for years. He made a lot of money from people who are looking for something, looking for motivation, looking for success, looking for a whole host of things in their lives.
Well, you'll remember, three people died after taking part in a sweat lodge ceremony Mr. Ray was in charge of. And he hasn't cooperated with police, nor have his employees.
But tonight, in extraordinary detail, a former high-level employee is going to describe what happened during that sweat lodge ceremony. Instead of helping the victims, Ray allegedly ignored their cries for help, did nothing as they were dying.
Now, all the information you're going to hear tonight is new. Gary Tuchman spoke to the former senior employee. He joins us now -- Gary.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, Melinda Martin is the first person who worked for James Arthur Ray the day of the sweat lodge tragedy to speak out against him. And what she tells us is chilling and sickening.
Melinda was Ray's event coordinator. She helped plan the sweat lodge event at Sedona, Arizona. People were overcome by the oppressive heat and three people, James Shore, Liz Neuman and Kirby Brown died.
Melinda was outside the tent that the sick came out with many collapsing, while she says Ray continued to lead the ceremony inside the tent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELINDA MARTIN, FMR. JAMES RAY INTERNATIONAL EMPLOYEE: It was like an absolute MASH unit. Helicopters are coming down. You know, well, when he came out, the helicopters weren't there. But at that time, still bodies everywhere, passed out. I mean -- and then he walked out of there looking like a million bucks.
TUCHMAN: What was James Ray doing during this time?
MARTIN: Watching -- standing above and watching. They hosed him down and he said, "Oh, thank you." And, you know, and then he walked past the guy who was screaming, saying he was earlier saying he didn't want to die, and "please don't let me die." When James walked by him, this guy went to -- said to James from his sitting down position, he goes, "I died. I literally died and I came back to life."
And James was like, "Hey, all right, man," gave him high five. You know, it was like fantastic. James, I think, was completely oblivious to the pandemonium that was taking place around that sweat lodge.
TUCHMAN: What happened during the worst point of all this, the most horrifying point?
MARTIN: My worst point, or my most horrifying point, was when the ambulances arrived and the helicopters arrived and the paramedics came and they surveyed Kirby Brown and they put her in an ambulance instead of a helicopter. And that was the worst moment for me.
TUCHMAN: Because you knew it was too late for her?
MARTIN: Yes. And after me, giving her mouth to mouth, I would breathe into her mouth, her stomach would go up and when it would go back down again, she'd vomit into my mouth. And this happened four times. And I really thought I was going to bring her back. I really thought that she was going to survive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I mean, it's stunning that James Arthur Ray left it to his employees to be giving mouth-to-mouth while he's just standing there being hosed down and giving people high-fives.
You also did another story recently. You tracked down another woman who had died, committed suicide, apparently, during another James Arthur Ray seminar.
TUCHMAN: Right. And that event, Anderson, it was in San Diego. James Ray told participants to not carry I.D.s or cell phones and pretending they were homeless for a few hours in the downtown area. It was supposedly a self-sufficiency exercise.
In the middle of it, one of his participants jumped off a balcony and killed herself. For seven hours, she was a Jane Doe in the hospital morgue because she had no I.D. Meanwhile, James Ray employees and participants had no idea why Colleen Conaway didn't leave the event with them. But the medical examiner says he confirmed with the James Ray people that night that it was Colleen who had jumped.
But Melinda says the next day, she had this conversation with Ray.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARTIN: During breakfast, I inquired, I just said, off-handedly, "Hey, any idea how -- you know, where Colleen is, or have you been able to find her?" The staff, they just all looked at me like, you know, like -- you know, deer in a headlight.
And he said, "Well, I've talked to my attorneys and basically it's really important that you're not involved in this. And we have found her and she's fine and she's decided not to return to the event. And if anybody else asks you that, we have found her. She is fine. She has decided not to return to the event."
TUCHMAN: Well, obviously, now, you know, she decided not to return to the event because she was dead.
TUCHMAN: But he told you that she was fine, though, James Arthur Ray.
MARTIN: Right. And I had no reason not to believe him. I thought it was strange that he was kind of angry with me for asking questions. I thought it was an innocent question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Gary, I know you were actually kicked out of a James Arthur Ray meeting when you tried to ask a question. He hasn't been talking to the media. What does he have to say about this?
TUCHMAN: Well, James Ray, Anderson, is not talking to us. But his company has given us a statement which it declares: food, water and hoses to cool people off and staff members with CPR training -- which included Melinda -- were outside the tent. The company says, quote, "No one had any reason to thing that more precautions were required. If Mr. Ray or James Ray International believed anything more was needed, they would have done it."
And they also say, "The moment James Ray learned that sweat lodge participants had become seriously ill, Mr. Ray and his staff members acted immediately."
Now, Ray faces the possibility of serious charges. The investigation continues. The sheriff's office in Sedona is not talking to reporters but is talking to families of the sweat lodge victims. And some of them have told us they are confident -- based on their conversations -- Ray will be charged.
Melinda Martin, who the James Ray Company does acknowledge helped those who were sickened, has also been interviewed by the authorities and tells us she believes Ray and others will be charged.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: What have they told you about that?
MARTIN: I think they told me there might be 10 people indicted. I don't know who those 10 people might be. TUCHMAN: But might we presume there are other employees of James Ray who'd be included in that?
MARTIN: Yes. You know, I hate to speculate. All I could do is speculate and that would look bad.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: Melinda says she has been assured she will not be one of the people indicted. She adds she has regular nightmares about the situation, has visited family members of the victims. And if you're wondering about her employment with Ray, she took a leave of absence before receiving a note from the James Ray Company that her position was being eliminated.
And, Anderson, not a surprise here, but down the road, it's very possible that she could be a very important prosecution witness against James Ray.
COOPER: Right. And I kind of assumed that after all these deaths happened, that James Arthur Ray would, you know, at least cooperate with police. But if not that, then at least have some decency and kind of go into seclusion or cancel seminars. He's still out there making money.
TUCHMAN: Well, here's the latest, OK? You can sign up for James Ray courses next year. So, he can make money in that way. But he has stopped holding these free seminars...
COOPER: Because you went to some seminars right after these things had happened.
TUCHMAN: We went to a seminar. Afterwards, I wasn't allowed in. My producer went in, asked James Ray a question in front of 150 people, "Why are you holding seminars two weeks after three people died?" He said this is not a news conference. My producer got booed out of the room. Few days after that, he decided not to hold the seminars anymore.
COOPER: At least that's one sign. All right. Gary, appreciate it. Thanks.
Still ahead, remember the video of that Chicago teen getting beaten to death? Well, for weeks, police were trying to get anyone with information to talk. Well, tonight, we have one of the kids involved in the brawl, one of the teenagers is speaking us. His brother is charged with murder. What he says about the fight and the honor student who was beaten to death may surprise you.
COOPER: Still ahead: New information about teenagers and drugs. What they're using now and why.
But first, Erica Hill has a 360 news and business bulletin.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: And up to two feet of snow is expected to fall overnight on Oregon's Mount Hood where two hikers are still missing. Anthony Vietti and Katti Nolan have been missing since Friday. The body of a third climber was found on Saturday.
Iran's foreign minister says three American hikers being held there will be put on trial. The hikers were detained on July 31st when, according to their families, they accidentally strayed across an unmarked border into Iran while on a hiking trip in Kurdistan. They are being held on espionage charges.
On Wall Street, stocks hitting 14-month highs today. The Dow Jones ending at 10,501, the highest close since October 1st, 2008. The S&P 500 and the NASDQ also closing at their highest levels in more than a year.
And Ashley Dupre, the former Manhattan call girl who was linked to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, is now an advice columnist for "The New Post." Her column, "Ask Ashley" debuts in Sunday's paper. "The Post" says she'll offer no nonsense advice about sex, love and relationships.
COOPER: Wow. Relationships? OK.
COOPER: Why not.
It's the story behind this disturbing video. Tonight, one of the teenagers involved is speaking out. Why he says the four teens charged with beating an honor student to death should be set free -- coming up.
COOPER: Tonight, "Crime & Punishment," the video that shocked the country. A brawl between two rival gangs at a Chicago high school in September. Some of the teens brought makeshift weapons. One young man ended up dead. Sixteen-year-old honor student, Derrion Albert was hit in the head with a wooden plank and killed.
Four other teenagers are charged in the crime. One of them is Eugene Riley. Now, his brother, Vashion Bullock was also involved in the fight. He sat down with CNN's T.J. Holmes and what he says about the fight and the death of Derrion Albert may surprise you. Listen.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Let me get to this point about Derrion. Did you know him beforehand?
VASHION BULLOCK, FOUGHT IN BRAWL: Yes.
HOLMES: How well did you know him?
BULLOCK: I didn't know him like that. All I know is he used to come sit in the back of the lunchroom and come sit with us.
HOLMES: What happened that day that had you end up in the middle of all that?
BULLOCK: One of the kids had thrown a rock at my brother's car. So, I approached the boys, like, why y'all -- why y'all throwing rocks and stuff at the car and stuff? They picked up them house bricks and brought them. They picked up them bottles and brought them. They ripped the railroad tracks up just to fight.
HOLMES (voice-over): The video shows a shirtless Vashion with his brother, Eugene Riley, standing next to him. Both empty-handed as another teen whacks Vashion with a wooden plank.
When the brothers appear again, they're holding planks.
(on camera): So your brother comes over and does what?
BULLOCK: Swung on one of them with me. He was fighting with me. He had to protect himself and me, because I am his little brother.
HOLMES: You're telling me you just -- your brother was simply defending himself and defending you?
BULLOCK: Yes. Because they threw it -- come on, I got hit in the back of my head. He got hit in the back of his head with a stick.
HOLMES: Now, did Derrion, as far as you know, did he ever -- was he ever part of the group that was jumping you?
BULLOCK: I ain't going to say he was fighting me because I couldn't tell.
HOLMES: So, you assume he was over there trying to swing on you?
BULLOCK: No, I ain't assuming. I know for a fact.
HOLMES (voice-over): But authorities have repeatedly said Derrion was nothing more than an innocent bystander, on his way home from school, caught between two rival groups. Derrion was still on the ground when Vashion's brother, Eugene, delivered a final blow.
(on camera): I know it's your brother and I know you love him. But did you think it was necessary to take it that far, to hit this kid with, what you call it, a weapon?
BULLOCK: They brought those weapons to the fight. That's what people not understanding.
HOLMES: But, if Derrion was down, if he was clearly being jumped, why did your brother -- why do you think your brother had to go after and hit this kid who clearly wasn't a threat anymore at least?
BULLOCK: A threat anymore -- he was a threat there. He was another body -- another body with two hands that could have been swinging on anybody.
HOLMES: What did you think when he heard that Derrion had been killed?
BULLOCK: I was like, that was sad. Ain't no -- ain't nobody meant to take his life.
HOLMES (voice-over): After video of the brawl was released, Vashion's brother, Eugene, was taken into custody, one of the four teens charged in the killing of Derrion Albert.
(on camera): Do you think your brother should be in jail right now?
HOLMES: Why not?
BULLOCK: Because it was a fight. Fight happens daily; people die daily.
HOLMES: But, you know, for the police and for our justice system that ain't good enough. Your brother picked up something, hit a kid and the kid died.
BULLOCK: What about the other people that picked up the weapons and hit me, where they at?
HOLMES: Don't you think somebody should be held accountable for Derrion's death?
BULLOCK: No, not accountable for the whole thing because it was a mistake. Ain't nobody wanted him to die and nobody meant him to die. We just was afraid. Fights get broke, took out of hand. Not intentionally, just because.
COOPER: That was T.J. Holmes reporting.
Let's "Dig Deeper" now with CNN education contributor, Steve Perry.
You know, it's so disturbing when you see this. I mean, this young man doesn't want anybody held accountable. Clearly, you know, he doesn't want his brother held accountable. But it just, sort of, seems that there's this acceptance of, like, you know what, it's just a fight and these things happen.
STEVE PERRY, CNN EDUCATION CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there's a desensitization to violence to this community. When you think about it for a second, since that weekend in which Derrion was just one of six teenagers that idea, 85 -- over 85 people have been murdered in Chicago. In the same time period, just over 85 have been murdered in Afghanistan.
This is an entire country versus a community. These children are desensitized to the point they don't even see what it is they're doing to contribute to it, because they've been practicing this for so long, this back and forth. He said people die every day.
I was in Chicago a couple weeks ago and I asked a young man, "Does any of this surprise you anymore?" He said, "No." I said, "Even when kids get killed?" "Nope."
We have given up on these children. We haven't given them access to quality education. I'm always surprised...
COOPER: So, you point to education system?
PERRY: It's one of the places. It's one of the places. It's a very important place. The elephant in the room says, we listen to this young man, we could tell he's clearly inarticulate. Let's just be honest. He's clearly inarticulate.
COOPER: Right. I mean, his ability to speak his thoughts is limited.
PERRY: Right. He wasn't born that way, presumably. He had access to a school system that did not educate him.
When we don't educate young people we make them dangerous individuals. Educated people are usually safe to be around; uneducated people, not so much.
Take it one step further. I'm always surprised in the drive-through community, especially the one we're talking about, when I see church after church after church. I see all these churches. With so many churches in a community, how could there be so much strife? How could there be so much danger?
At some point, this community has to begin to accept full responsibility. The mayor has been the mayor for the entire life of most of the children who have been in the school system.
COOPER: Right. And we were there -- I mean, right after this happened.
COOPER: The mayor gave a press conference and, you know, the Department of Education, the head of education was there, the attorney general was there, and they were saying, "Look, enough is enough."
But, you know, you saw the mayor saying that and you're like, how many press conferences has this mayor given saying that exact same thing and nothing changes.
PERRY: And the president is from there, Arne Duncan is from there. Yet we're sending money overseas to fight a war, when the most dangerous of the two places in the United States, right there in Chicago, USA. COOPER: So, for you, it's two-pronged. It's communities taking responsibility -- parents, families, churches and the education system.
I don't understand how teachers and principals can comfortably take their salaries when they know they're not educating children. I don't think understand how preachers can comfortably take their 10 percent on the weekend when they know that their community is not being safe. Likewise, I don't understand how Americans can feel comfortable running for office again when he's now heading up one of the poorest communities in the country and one of the lowest performing school systems in the country.
At some point, we have to start holding some people accountable. This is not about making friends. This is about changing the circumstances. These children deserve access to a quality American life. They're born in America. This child is just one example.
Seven people were murdered this past weekend. Almost 25 have been murdered in December. At some point, something has to jar us into understanding what we are creating killers.
COOPER: Right. And it doesn't, frankly, truth be told, it doesn't even make national headlines anymore.
COOPER: It's maybe some local headlines, if that.
PERRY: If that.
PERRY: I mean, there are a number of sites that are dedicated to the murder rate in Chicago.
PERRY: You can go on the Internet and just do "murder in Chicago" and there are a number of sites that come up and they have little dots on them, little pins on them for the number of murders in each community, and there are different colors for different months as if they're counting the national debt.
COOPER: Right. It's remarkable. Steve, appreciate your voice. Thanks.
PERRY: Thank you.
COOPER: Steve Perry.
How long -- how big a problem is youth violence? Go to AC360.com for some raw data on that. Up next: the fight to save paradise, threatened by war and thousands of animals caught in the cross fire. Tonight, "One Simple Thing" report.
Plus, a bloody beating -- an update on the Italian prime minister's condition, ahead.
COOPER: The Serengeti, the Masai Mara, Kruger National Park are all famous wildlife areas in Africa. But it's time to add another place to the list, southern Sudan. Sudan's animals survived decades of civil war but are now under an even greater threat.
In tonight's "One Simple Thing" report, CNN's David McKenzie has an exclusive look at what could become a paradise lost.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Paul Elkin (ph) prepares for a wildlife survey, it takes a bit of effort. First, he takes the doors off.
PAUL ELKIN (ph), WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY: It makes it much more complicated.
MCKENZIE: As a director of the Wildlife Conservation Society in southern Sudan, Paul spends a lot of time flying Betty, his Cessna 206.
ELKIN: A group of colored elephants out here.
MCKENZIE: Today, we're looking for elephants.
Just a few years ago, scientists said it was impossible that elephants could survive Sudan's long civil war. Soldiers from both sides killed them for their meat and ivory. But the scientists were wrong.
Less than 50 miles outside of Southern Sudan's capital, we spot a small herd. These are the first TV images of wild elephants in Sudan. Against all odds, several thousand survived the conflict, escaping tanks and guns, and disappearing into the vast expanses of bush.
Elkin will never forget the moment he and his colleagues rediscovered the elephants.
ELKIN: We were ecstatic and moved, really. Surprising, people have been saying elephants are finished in southern Sudan. So, initially, it's just people cheering, yelling, everybody in the plane, a bunch of scientists normally focused people. Everybody just whooping and hollering, can you believe there's elephants here.
MACKENZIE: And it's not just elephants. Southern Sudan boasts the largest savanna in Africa, immense fresh water, wet lands, soaring plateaus and a million strong antelope migration that survived the war. But many animals did not.
(on camera): Thirty years ago, this area was thickly populated with wildlife. At the time, they found 30,000 zebra. Now, they've counted only seven.
(voice-over): In peace, they face an even bigger threat. Nomadic tribes are pushing into the wildlife zones, bringing in their cattle and d their weapons. In the past, they use bows and arrows to hunt. Now they have ak-47s.
They also have competitors for the land, investors eager to tap into the oil and mineral deposits in the wildlife zones. To protect those zones, the soldiers and militias who killed wildlife during the war are turned into rangers.
Faz (ph) was protecting the land and stopping poachers. But they're usually outmanned and outgunned. These are some of the poorest people in the world, and protecting wildlife comes a distant second to survival.
"I have question for you," says Nanu (ph). "You say we must not kill the wildlife because otherwise they'll be finished. Now, I have to slaughter one of my cows. So, in a few years, I'll have no cows. So, you want me to kill all my cows and have nothing?"
Conservationists say that without the wildlife they will have nothing.
ELKIN: They will be much more poorer if they don't have a wildlife resource base. The poorest people of the world are those who have -- or live in environmentally-degraded places.
MCKENZIE: In Southern Sudan, they have a chance to save one of Africa's true wildernesses and its animals. But this could also become a paradise lost.
David McKenzie, CNN, in Walgak (ph), Sudan.
Coming up next, serious news for parents. Teens are less afraid of certainly drugs than they ever have been before. We'll tell you which drugs are on the rise and why.
Plus, the Italian prime minister, did you see him, getting attacked this weekend. He's in the hospital after the attack. We'll have the latest on Berlusconi's condition.
COOPER: A couple other important items to cover. Erica Hill has the "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.
HILL: Anderson, more American teens are smoking pot, that's according to an annual survey of 47,000 eighth, 10th and 12th graders. Researchers say the national debate over medical marijuana makes the drug seem safer to teens. The research also shows fewer teens view prescription drugs and ecstasy as being dangerous.
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that will determine just how much of your messaging your employer can see. At issue here is whether a California police department violated an officer's privacy rights by looking at his text messages that were sent on a device the department issued. The messages were sexually explicit.
We've seen that bloody attack. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi remains hospitalized after a man...
HILL: ... threw a statute -- yes -- threw a statue in his face over the weekend, breaking his nose and two teeth. A suspect is in custody.
And yikes for this guy. A deer in Colorado springs -- look. He got a little too close to the lights.
COOPER: Oh, or he really likes Christmas.
HILL: I think he does. He's got the spirit with him at all times.
The festive deer has been spotted in the area for, like, about two weeks now. Some residents actually tried to corner it so they can help get the lights off. No luck there. The division of wildlife says as long as the lights are not covering the mouth or feet, they're going to leave him alone noting that his antlers will actually fall off in the winter.
COOPER: He might be one of those deer that hates Christmas and he's trying to destroy it.
HILL: Perhaps, Mr. Grinch. I don't know.
COOPER: I'm trying to figure out what the deer is thinking. Well, I hope he gets those lights off at some point. You'd think they would come off at some point.
HILL: I think they're really wound on there pretty tight.
COOPER: When he sheds his antlers. That's right. Thank you, Charlie Moore.
HILL: There you. As I just said, I'm glad you were listening.
COOPER: Did you just say that?
HILL: I did.
COOPER: You did? HILL: OK.
COOPER: I'm sorry.
HILL: We got Charlie for backup.
COOPER: Well, yes, Charlie is the hunter. So...
HILL: Charlie loves it with we say his name on TV.
COOPER: For tonight's shot, showing some skills with the ukulele. This kid is so cute. Check this out. Here's his rendition of the song "I'm Yours."
HILL: I love it.
COOPER: It's great. Jason Mraz, the guy sings "I'm Yours" calls the boy a little genius and said he has an extraordinary grasp on music.
HILL: Is he opening for Jason Mraz?
COOPER: He should.
HILL: He should.
COOPER: How cool would that be?
HILL: College fan...
COOPER: Can we play more of this, or are we out of time? Let's play it.
COOPER: Yes. He's great.
Hey, that's it for 360. Thanks for watching.
"LARRY KING" starts right now.