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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Wicked Weather; Deadly Landing in Chicago, 6-year Old Dies; Room to Stop; Katrina Clashes in the Schools; Mortgage Nightmares; Those With Mental Illnesses At High Risk When Traveling By Air; Cockfighting In Southeast Asia Harbors Avian Flu; Avian Flu Puts Cockfighting In America; Do Gorillas Give "King Kong" Movie A Thumbs Up?
Aired December 9, 2005 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Said the United States was quote, "Taking bin Laden's threat very seriously."
At a fund raiser in Minneapolis today, President Bush forcefully rejected a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. Mr. Bush said, quote, "A fixed timetable of withdrawal would involve the enemy, would confuse the Iraqis and would send the wrong signal to our young men and women in uniform."
Condemnation today from the United Nations Security Council for remarks by Iran's president, denying the holocaust and suggesting that Israel should be moved to Europe. A statement issued by the 15-member council reminded the organization that, quote, "All members have undertaken to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state."
And we begin with the weather. If there's any indication of what's ahead for winter, we're in for some serious trouble. CNN Meteorologist Rob Marciano is in Boston with more -- Rob.
KING: As we said earlier, the storm was pounding Chicago last night when Southwest Airlines Flight 1248 touched down at Midway Airport. Just 32 seconds later, it was off the snowy runway, through a fence, onto a city street and on top of a car. In the back seat, a little boy, who later died of his injuries -- 6-year old Joshua Woods. Seconds earlier, he had been singing a Christmas song.
Tonight, the investigation is underway and the 737 is still there, not far from where CNN's Brian Todd is standing -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, in a little more than 24 hours since this incident occurred, we've been getting some critical information about conditions in the plane and on the ground as that Southwest Airlines flight was approaching Midway Airport. First, we're going to take you -- just take a little bit closer look here at the plane itself.
I'm going to ask my camera man, Bruce, to zoom in on the aircraft. You can see it there. Still covered in snow -- at least partially, with the nose cone touching the ground. That is the corner of 55th Street and Central Avenue here in Chicago. That plane stopped just short of hitting a light pole. And they say they're going to move this plane probably tomorrow or Sunday.
Now back to conditions in the plane and on the ground. We asked an NTSB investigator earlier today about the cockpit voice recorder. They're getting a little bit of information from that. She had some light to shed on exactly what the conversations were like in the cockpit as the plane approached Midway Airport. Here's what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELLEN ENGLEMAN CONNERS, NTSB: There were normal conversations and their approach was normal. The crew did not mention problems with the airplane.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Throughout the rollout, any?
CONNERS: Again, this is the information that we're willing to give you now based on the initial interpretation and review of the cockpit voice recorder.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: There's still a great deal of information to be gleaned, though, on conditions on the ground. there are several factors that investigators are looking at. One is visibility. We are told that it was about a quarter to a half mile of visibility through very heavy snow as the plane approached last night.
The runway conditions are also a factor that investigators are going to be looking at. How much snow in fact was on the ground on the runways? There was seven inches of snow on the ground in the Chicago area and right around the airport, but we are told that when the plane touched, there was less than a 16th of an inch of snow. But one witness on board the plane said he could not tell the difference between the runway and the grass. He said there was a lot snow on the runway. So, a little bit of conflict there.
Also, the runway length is going to be a key factor in this investigation. The runway here at Midway, 6500 feet. That's one of the shortest runways in the country and has no overrun protections. If a plane is skidding off the runway, there's very little to stop it.
Now earlier tonight, we did get some information as John mentioned a moment ago about the little boy killed -- 6-year old Joshua Woods from Leroy, Indiana. Earlier tonight, CNN spoke to the attorney for the Woods family. And he spoke very candidly about what the family was going through, what they were doing in the car as this incident occurred.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD STEARNEY, ATTORNEY FOR FAMILY OF JOSHUA WOODS: This is a typical American family. In fact, as they were driving up the street, the father is a fan of Bruce Springsteen, and they were listening to "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" and little Joshua was singing along when the car got hit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Joshua Woods has two younger siblings. They were in the car with him when this occurred. One of them is an infant. His parents were also in the car. Two out of those four people are in serious condition tonight -- John.
KING: Brian Todd, for us tonight, live in Chicago. Brian, thank you very much.
And Mike Abate had an aisle seat to the drama. He spoke with us a bit earlier tonight from Milwaukee.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
KING: At what point as you hit the ground and were breaking -- at what point did you know that you had a problem?
MIKE ABATE, PASSENGER ON SOUTHWEST FLIGHT: It was basically the third time he tried to pump the brakes. You know, a typical standard landing, you know, you pump them a couple times shortly after you drop and typically your third time is, you know, the kind of alert you for time for those that have flown quite a bit.
That third pump, that more, you know, pressured pump, was the one that in my mind I realized something was wrong because we were -- you could feel kind of the equivalent of what you would in a vehicle's fishtailing. And we were going way too fast at this point. And then looking to my right, the terminal had disappeared.
KING: One of the questions for investigator will be when did that nose gear collapse. If you look at the pictures of the plane now, obviously crushing the vehicle in front of it, killing that young boy. The question is, did you have any sense -- did the plane list? Did it fall forward upon impact? Do you think it was the barrier? Do you think it was the car? Do you have any idea?
ABATE: Yes. I think it happened before the first barrier, but not upon landing. Somewhere between the first barrier and when we first impacted. Because -- the reason I say that is because we had a pretty clear view of what was going on outside as we were trying to slow down.
And then within a second or two after he had, you know, tried to (INAUDIBLE), you know, that pump the brake and it was at that point where you realized the snow had just all of a sudden engulfed the wing and the side of the window. So at that point I'm guessing that's when we lost the front end of the -- I mean, at least the landing gear and the nose.
KING: And one of the questions will be did weather have anything to do with it? You're a passenger on the plane, but you're looking out the window. What were the conditions that you could see as you were landing and trying to break on the runway? ABATE: I mean, I've traveled quite a bit in rough weather before. I mean, I've seen rough weather, snowy weather, you know, typically visibility is still pretty decent in the sense that you can see city lights, street lights, you know, at least two minutes prior to actually landing on the runway.
In this case here, it was nothing but white outside our window, literally, until about the last 10, 12, 15 seconds prior to touchdown on the runway. So this was probably by far the poorest visibility that I remember. It was not a windy situation. We weren't fighting any wind, but it was more of just flat out very, very poor visibility.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
KING: Until O'Hare came long, Chicago's Midway Airport was known as the busiest square mile on earth. They built O'Hare because of the square mile in question simply ran up against the south side of Chicago. Less than one city block separates the end of Runway 31C from Central Avenue. And it's not much better at Lindbergh Field in San Diego, or LaGuardia here in New York, or perhaps at an airport near you -- very near you. Here's CNN's Kathleen Koch.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The FAA now requires runways to have 1,000 foot buffer zone to keep planes safe. But 38 percent of runways, all at older airports built before the rule still don't meet the standard.
JOHN GOGLIA, FORMER MEMBER, NTSB: I wouldn't say that it's safe at all. I mean, if the risk is there, then we need to do what we can to mitigate that risk.
KOCH: The Federal Aviation Administration says it's not easy to get those buffer zones built.
MARION BLAKEY, FAA ADMINISTRATOR: Now we'd love to wave a wand and have overnight every airport have the safety buffer zone completely installed. Again, this is something that takes time. It obviously requires resources and money. Sometimes there's land acquisition involved.
KOCH: The newest solution relies less on land and more on a system of crushable concrete blocks.
KENT THOMPSON, ENGINEERED ARRESTING SYSTEMS CORP.: Perhaps 3,000 or 4,000 of these blocks are assembled like a jigsaw puzzle at the end of the runway; and if an aircraft should run off the runway, it crushes the material and brings the aircraft to a stop.
KOCH: But the engineered material arresting system, EMAS for short, is in place at just 14 airports. New York's JFK had a buffer of only 550 feet before it put in the country's first EMAS system in 1996. Since then, EMAS has stopped three aircraft there. And local officials insist putting it in more airports is a no-brainer. CHARLES GARGANO, VICE CHAIRMAN, PORT AUTHORITY OF NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY: Look, we've the incidents where passengers could have been badly injured or even lost their lives. And when you think about that, you don't think about the dollars involved. We all have to put our head together and say, we're going to do this.
KOCH: Kathleen Koch, CNN, Washington.
KING: It's never easy to be the new kid in class. And in Houston, it's gotten a lot harder. Tensions between Katrina evacuees and local students are boiling over. Fights like this one, breaking out at more than a half dozen schools. What's causing the trouble?
Another Katrina nightmare. They've lost their jobs. Their houses are unlivable. But their mortgage payments are now due. How will they pay?
Plus, a blood sport that could prove deadly for humans, by spreading bird flu. How big a threat is cockfighting to public health? How dangerous to your health?
All that, up next on 360.
KING: While snow is complicating life for Midwesterners and New Englanders tonight, people from New Orleans, of course, are still coping with the aftermath of the hurricane that decimated their city.
Emotions have been running high. And for some of the kids, that has led to trouble at school. CNN's Susan Roesgen reports from Houston, Texas.
SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A report of a fight in the school cafeteria between hometown students and New Orleans evacuees send an army of police to Houston's Westbury High School. And as the officers arrived, the fighting went on. Watch what happens as students start to run outside, chasing each other across the track field.
Half a dozen boys go at it, wailing away at each other. One boy even loses his shirt before a school coach rushes in to break it up. But it didn't stop there. Less than a minute later, more running, more trouble, and then the police tackled at least one student and handcuffed several more, including one girl who didn't go quietly. Eventually some of the students were carted off to jail.
TERRY ABBOTT, SCHOOL SPOKESMAN: One child got a laceration under the eye, and I'm not aware of any other injuries at this point. There will be a number of kids arrested.
ROESGEN: The police arrested 27 students, 15 from New Orleans. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every day, it's something at Westbury High School. Every day it's something. It's -- if there's an argument, a rumor, it's something -- a fight, it's something.
ROESGEN: Trouble between New Orleans' students and Houston's students has been going on for weeks. The billboard says, welcome to Westbury High School, but graffiti near the doors says, New Orleans girls are trash.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So the girl pushed me. And I'm like, I'm not just going to let you push me like this. So you know what I'm saying?
ROESGEN: Three hundred of the school's 2,500 students are New Orleans' evacuees. New Orleans kids complain the Houston kids pick on them. While the Houston kids say the New Orleans kids don't fit in. And it isn't just here. School officials say the fighting at Westbury was one of about a dozen clashes at Houston schools since about 5,000 New Orleans students started enrolling in September.
In other cities, people who initially welcomed New Orleans' evacuees now blame them for everything from more traffic to more crime.
Robin Smith, a New Orleans mother, says no one should blame the children.
ROBIN SMITH, NEW ORLEANS MOTHER: Every other day is something with New Orleans. These children is not bad children. They didn't ask to come here, you know what I'm saying.
ROESGEN: More difficulties for some New Orleans evacuees and for those who once welcomed them.
ROESGEN: Now tonight those students should be studying for final exams. The exams are next week and then the Christmas break starts on Thursday. And judging by what's been happening Houston lately, the students need some time to cool off.
Officially, a school spokeswoman told me that the cause of that fight at Westbury High School is under investigation. But the students there and at other schools where there've been trouble before, say it's pretty typical teenage friction. The New Orleans students are in one clique, the Houston students are in another, with each group trying to assert itself. And for the time being, John, the New Orleans students don't really have any other place to go.
KING: Well, Susan, that begs the question -- one potential solution, of course, would be for them to come home. Any sense at all of when that might be?
ROESGEN: Not really, John. Only a handful of public schools in New Orleans are open. The state has taken over almost all of the rest of them, to turn them into charter schools. And it's unclear yet how that will actually work. But the big problem is the parents of those students. Many of them don't have homes to go home to. So, they may remain in Houston for a while.
KING: A story that will be with us for some time. Susan Roesgen, tonight for us in New Orleans. Thank you.
The Federal Housing Administration has offered to pay mortgages for as many as 20,000 victims of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma for up to a year. But across the Gulf Coast, that represents only a fraction of the people hit by Katrina alone. Here's CNN's Keith Oppenheim.
KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Leona Grandison walks into the home she bought four years ago in a neighborhood devastated by flooding. Now, mold is everywhere.
(on camera) Can you get this stuff off? Can you get rid of it?
LEONA GRANDISON, NEW ORLEANS HOMEOWNER: No. You have to take that whole wall out here, up to about at least here.
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): The cost of fixing the damage, she estimates would be at least $20,000. Leona's mortgage lender gave her a break on payments for a couple of months. But any time now, she says, she may have to resume making payments on a home she can't live in yet.
GRANDISON: You have to pay the mortgage payments whether you're living in it or not.
OPPENHEIM: In a different New Orleans neighborhood, wealthier, but just as devastated, City Councilman Jay Batt is facing a similar problem.
(on camera): Is this the way in, Jay?
JAY BATT, NEW ORLEANS CITY COUNCILMAN: This is the way in. This is my door.
OPPENHEIM: This is your door.
BATT: Come on in.
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): His home is also in the process of being gutted. And like Leona, he's got financial pressures. Jay resumed making monthly house payments.
(on camera): Is it fair to say that over the next year you would spend somewhere between say $20-30,000 in mortgage payments for a home you can't live in?
BATT: That's correct. That's correct. And that's difficult and while paying for an apartment.
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Moments after that interview, we went upstairs. BATT: Kids' playroom. Oh good. I've been looted.
OPPENHEIM (on camera): You just, sir, are realizing that the TV is gone?
BATT: Yes. I've been looted. The TV is gone.
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Jay Batt knows he is in better shape than folks like Leona Grandison. He has income from a franchise of clothing stores.
GRANDISON: Basically, this is everything I had.
OPPENHEIM: She has really lost everything. Her business, the Candlelight Lounge in the city's historic Tramay (ph) neighborhood has been looted by thieves and ravaged by floodwater. Leona has mortgage payments coming due here as well. By the end of the month she may have to pay a hefty sum between her two properties.
GRANDISON: Almost $2,000 --
OPPENHEIM (on camera): $2,000 a month, basically.
OPPENHEIM: And you don't have income?
GRANDISON: No income.
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): It is hard to pinpoint an exact figure for how many people are in the kind of financial fix Leona is in. One estimate from Louisiana State University says there are about 60,000 homeowners in the New Orleans area alone whose mortgage payments were deferred. And that doesn't count thousands of others along the Gulf Coast.
(on camera): The Federal Housing Administration is offering assistance to as many as 20,000 homeowners from Florida to Texas. Mostly first-time homebuyers whose mortgages were already insured by the FHA. Experts here say that will make a difference, but that there are tens of thousands of homeowners who don't qualify and won't get that kind of help to make their mortgage payments.
(voice-over): As a city councilman, Jay Batt is calling on the government to extend bridge loans so that small business owners can rebuild.
BATT: You know, we're not looking for ridiculous handouts or anything, but just an opportunity to put our lives back together.
OPPENHEIM: Leona Grandison, now staying at the home of a friend, simply doesn't know how she'll put her life back together.
GRANDISON: But you got to keep the faith and be strong, or else you won't survive.
OPPENHEIM: And she is optimistic -- even as she faces big bills and has no way to pay them. Keith Oppenheim, CNN, New Orleans.
KING: After nearly 1,000 days in Iraq, we take a look at the rebuilding effort in just a moment.
But first, Sophia Choi from "HEADLINE NEWS" joins us with some of the other stories we're following tonight. Hi Sophia.
SOPHIA CHOI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, John.
Six alleged radical environmentalists are in prison tonight. They've been charged with destroying power facilities and torching offices at a tree farm in Oregon and in Washington. The arson attacks carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court has supported a decision to suspend a high school quarterback for kicking another player in the head. The ruling had put the state's playoffs on hold and means Shawnee High School Quarterback Tucker Brown won't be able to play in them.
And the woman who had the world's first partial face transplant signed a lucrative movie deal before the experimental procedure. The patient, 38-year old Isabelle Dinoir, her doctors and a British documentary film maker signed a deal three months ago. Some medical ethicists say that the payment could have induced her to undertake this risky procedure -- John.
KING: Sophia, thank you very much. Have a great weekend.
CHOI: Hey, you too.
KING: Sudden outburst at the airport. After watching our report on the recent Miami airplane shooting, a woman tells us how her husband's illness led to a violent mood swing that almost ended in tragedy.
Also, the blood sport of cockfighting and the spread of the bird flu. By combining the two, has people nervous.
KING: Monday, here in the United States, Tuesday in Iraq, marks the 1,000th day since the U.S. invasion. The conflict has killed more than 2,000 American servicemen and women. President Bush even acknowledged this week there have been setbacks, but Mr. Bush said there's been progress as well and that America would not run. "CNN PRESENTS" will run a one-hour special, "1,000 Days in Iraq," this Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern. Here's a short preview.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: When you get the chance to go out and really see Iraqis as they live their lives, it's always an incredible opportunity. There was a week in September where seven teachers were executed, essentially, by insurgents; six of them in this one village if Mwelha (ph). So we decided to go to Museva (ph) Elementary School, a school that's in the capital, to try and gauge from the teachers how this was impacting them. And the first thing you notice is that they're setting up barricades on the street in front of the school.
We found out that this school was set to become a polling station in the October constitutional referendum. And the principal, when we talked to her, she was essentially in an impossible situation. The government was saying we need this school as a polling station, given the geography of where people live. And she said parents are going to stop sending their kinds -- some of them out of fear that attacks will happen. So in the end, it was the kids that lost. The kids that had to stay home.
We've spoken to principal since, and the election went incredibly well. There was no violence and they have drawn an incredible amount of inspiration from that.
We talked to one teacher who lived in Doral (ph), which is an incredibly violent area of Baghdad. And she told me how every day when she drives to work, she's not sure if she's going to make it there alive because of the attacks that happen, the random attacks that happen along the road. But she comes every day.
And I asked her, especially given that seven teachers have been killed the week before, why she does it. And with all the teachers, the answer was so simple. It was as basic as, these kids are the future of the country. And I have to teach in order for the country to have a future.
KING: Sunday night, "CNN PRESENTS" will kick off a full week of reports with Anderson Cooper anchoring 360, live from Baghdad.
The weather is not cooperating -- at least not in the northeast where it's made pretty much a mess of some school systems and highways. Coming up, we'll look at the latest on all that snow.
A Hall of Famer, a Super Bowl hero -- now his size and fame can't protect him from his own illness. And his wife has to worry he might get himself in real trouble just by trying to board a plane.
And cockfighting in Thailand. What's it got to do with the possibility of a worldwide epidemic? More than you might think. We'll explain just ahead on 360.
KING: In a moment a live update on the first major winter storm of the season, and it's not even really the season yet. But first, a look at what's happening at this moment.
Investigators say it might take up to a year to piece together why a Southwest Airlines 737 went off the end of the runway at Chicago's Midway Airport last night, hitting a car and killing a young boy.
A shocker tonight, from a Red Cross poll. Americans are unready for emergencies, whether terrorists attacks or natural disasters. Only 12 percent saying they've done a great deal to prepare, such as learning evacuation routes, or putting together an emergency kit of food and medicine.
And with oceans rising and glacier's sinking, former President Bill Clinton is calling President Bush "flat wrong", his words, on the notion that reducing greenhouse gases will hurt the economy. Mr. Clinton is attending a global summit in Montreal.
When an airline passenger was shot and killed by federal air marshals it brought up a rarely publicized problem. The possibility that for some people with emotional or mental illnesses their behavior can suddenly put our security system on high alert and start a dangerous chain of events. CNN's Tom Foreman brings us the story of how this has happened to a man who once made his living taking on everyone who tried to stop him.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thirty-five years ago John Mackey ran into history, catching a touchdown pass to help the Baltimore Colts win the Super Bowl. He went to the Hall of Fame. And in a condo outside Baltimore he still talks about it.
JOHN MACKEY, FOOTBALL HALL OF FAMER: Well, I went 75 yards.
FOREMAN: Seventy-five yards?
J. MACKEY: I went to the Hall of Fame.
FOREMAN: Problem is, that's all he talks about. Four years ago, Mackey was diagnosed with frontal temporal dementia, a progressive illness that attacks the front of the brain and can cause behavior changes and socially inappropriate actions. It has made John highly protective of his possessions and suspicious of people who try to control him. So airport security is a nightmare, according to his wife, Sylvia, who is herself a flight attendant.
SYLVIA MACKEY, HUSBAND SUFFERS FROM DEMENTIA: The minute John turned that corner and saw those people all in uniform in one line, he was a different person.
FOREMAN: Earlier this year, she says, they were going to an autograph signing when John's football ring set off the metal detector. Guards moved in. He tried to run.
S. MACKEY: They grab him, one on each arm, he elbows the person in the chest. And then two others come out and it takes four people to bring him down to the ground, put his hands behind his back, and handcuff him. I thought, if these four people can't hold him and get him to the ground and he takes off running, they will shoot him dead.
J. MACKEY: No they won't, because this is what they'll get. FOREMAN: At this point, John interrupts, pounding on the wall saying no one will shoot him. One of our assistants leads him away so Sylvia can finish.
(voice-over): So they put John in handcuffs? And you said he was slumped over in the chair? And you thought he was having a heart attack.
S. MACKEY: I screamed, don't kill him! Please don't kill him! And by that, I didn't mean shooting at that time, I just meant don't get him so upset that he'll have a heart attack and die.
FOREMAN: You thought he was going to have a heart attack, you thought he was
S. MACKEY: Right, right.
FOREMAN (voice-over): John was sent to the hospital, not to jail.
S. MACKEY: Don't wave that thing. Difficult! Difficult!
FOREMAN: And he can't remember any of it, but his wife can't forget.
(voice-over): And what did you decide after that day?
S. MACKEY: I decided he will never fly again. That's it.
FOREMAN (voice-over): And after what happened in Miami this week it's the only decision she is convinced she and her husband can live with. Tom Foreman, CNN, Baltimore.
KING: In Asia, where bird flu is spreading in birds, yet another cause for concern. Could the blood sport also help spread that flu to humans? And what about the threat here at home? Cockfighting may be illegal in most states but it still goes on. A rare look at a way of life deadly for birds, perhaps for humans, as well. Coming up next on 360.
KING: Health officials in Thailand have told CNN that a five- year-old boy who died of bird flu this week had been playing with roosters, fighting roosters, in a neighbor's back yard. After the boy fell sick, all the roosters died, too.
The sport of cockfighting is very popular in Southeast Asia. Not only is it brutal but it has also played a role in spreading the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus. Here's CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This match will be just for practice. The birds aren't out to kill. The beaks are muzzled, they're even wearing pads, like little boxing gloves, over those naturally sharp leg spurs.
It's been months since a real fight, since Thailand banned the sport to help contain the spread of the bird flu, the H5N1 virus that has killed at least 69 people in Southeast Asia.
LERT CHINANDOI, OWNS FIGHTING ROOSTERS (through translator): It's the wrong attitude. The government can never understand us.
GUPTA: In Thailand it is estimated that there are 15 million fighting birds, one for every four people. A strong bird, like black- tailed Bruto here, can sell for thousands of dollars.
He says, I treat him better than my own children.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I look after him all day, from dawn to dusk.
GUPTA: But lately the relationship has gone sour.
An hour out of Bangkok, it is almost a routine. Chickens die of H5N1 and then health teams descend to spray disinfectant on everything within a kilometer of where the infected bird was found. Nearly everyone in this neighborhood keeps chickens. But we didn't see a single one. The health team slaughtered the healthy birds two days ago.
One of the bird flu victims in Thailand was a bird handler, like the men here. During a fight his bird had trouble breathing so he sucked the rooster's beak to clear the airway. A week later, the man was dead. To me, as a doctor, it sounded crazy to take that kind of risk, but this owner said he would have done the same thing.
CHINANDOI (through translator): You have to suck the blood from his mouth and nose to clear his throat.
GUPTA: Just last week, Thailand's government announced cockfighting rings will reopen January 1, with new strict health rules. Already every fighting rooster in Thailand carries a passport listing his movements. Now, each bird will need a medical certificate and be inspected monthly.
CHINANDOI (through translator): It's like we are fighting, we are the roosters.
GUPTA: With bird flu the birds aren't the only ones facing danger in the ring. But these men are willing to take that chance.
CHINANDOI (through translator): Mine is a health bird, a strong bird. GUPTA: Healthy and strong, is what these men look for. And to stop the spread of bird flu the world needs those roosters to stay that way.
GUPTA: And we called the ministry of health in Thailand today to find out if this latest death might have an impact on whether or not they reopen the sport. They said, no change. The sport is planning to open again, as planned next month.
KING: Well, Sanjay, let's put you on the spot. It will reopen because of these new safety rules. What does the good doctor think, are those rules adequate?
GUPTA: You know, what's really striking to me, was that it really appears to be just more politics than anything else. This is a huge sport in Thailand, as you might imagine. There are 15 million cockfighting birds in Thailand.
And so a lot of attention on it; there were protests, I mean, tens of thousands of people in the streets, protesting, wanting to get this sport reinstated. I really feel that the safety standards probably have little to do with it and it is more politics than anything else.
KING: And what can you tell us about this latest case? Not enough to stop them from reinstituting cockfighting. What do we know about the case itself?
GUPTA: Yes, you know, it's a sad case, John. It was a five- year-old boy. He was actually playing with some of the roosters in his neighbor's yard. He got sick and he subsequently died and a couple of days later all of the roosters died as well. You know, it was sort of -- he clearly got bird flu, but they didn't have a clue because the roosters were still healthy at the time they transmitted the virus to him.
Just to give you a sense, as well, John, they killed roosters in a 10 kilometer sort of circumference around those roosters as well, just to make sure the virus didn't get spread any further than that.
KING: Doctor Sanjay Gupta, for us tonight, in Atlanta.
GUPTA: Thank you very much.
KING: Thank you.
And Sanjay will host an hour-long prime-time special this Sunday, reporting from Thailand and Indonesia on the latest in the battle against the bird flu. It is an in-depth look at the efforts doctors and scientists are making to stop the virus before it spreads around the world. That's the premier of "Killer Flu: A Breath Away", Sunday December 11, at 10 p.m. Eastern.
Here at home cockfighting may not pose a threat where bird flu is concerned but that doesn't make it any easier for these roosters. An ancient blood sport still going on here in America, 360 next.
KING: Before the break we heard about how the avian flu is a major threat to cockfighting and bird handlers in Southeast Asia. That got us thinking about cockfighting here in the United States. It's pretty popular here, too, but illegal in almost every state. CNN's Rick Sanchez recently went to some of the secret places where cockfighting thrives in America.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What you are looking at it illegal, secretly recorded by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation; it's a cockfight. Not uncommon in the U.S., where despite laws against it, enthusiasts seem unable to control the urge, as it is on this night.
In this particular town, nestled in the corner of Georgia, where more than 300 people are congregated around a fighting pit, ready to watch, gamble, or both. For them and thousands of others cockfighting has become a complex of game of hide and seek. Played out in cities all over the country by police and cockers, as they're called.
(on camera): So what is it then that makes this bust, here in the mountains of northeast Georgia, different from any of those others? The answer, one man.
And here he is, on tape, the man entrusted by the citizens of Blue Ridge to uphold the law, is according to GBI, showing little regard for the laws pertaining to gambling and cockfighting. We called the mayor for comment, but he chose not to talk to us.
But in Louisiana we found a mayor who would talk. Danny Lubiere (ph) is not only a mayor but a prosecutor as well. As a Cajun he's right at home here in the Bayou country, where the alligators, the crawfish, and the etouffee are always fresh. It's also a place where fighting roosters is a much a part of the tradition as the Cajun cooking.
WAYNE PACELLE, HUMANE SOCIETY (SIC): To those people who say that this is heinous thing and this is not the thing to be doing, I would simply say look in your own backyard first before you come look in our backyard.
SANCHEZ (on camera): Right about now, you may be asking yourself why it is the mayor in northeast Georgia won't talk to us, but the mayor in Louisiana will? Why one mayor appears in a police raid, while the other talks openly with his police officers about cockfighting?
Here's why. Here in Louisiana, cockfighting is legal.
(on camera): So who are these men and woman who spend up to $15,000 a year in feed and up to $25,000 a year to fight roosters? Here, is how their action is characterized by animal rights activists. PACELLE: By society's standards, does this measure up? Is this conduct that we think is civil and decent and humane? And I don't think by any test you could say that these actions are appropriate.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They don't understand it. We're basically sportsman. People are urbanized today, and they don't where their eggs come from. They don't know where their meat comes from. They think it comes out of a machine.
SANCHEZ (on camera): Do you love animals? Do you love animals?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
SANCHEZ: You love animals, then why do you let them fight to the death.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's their heritage.
SANCHEZ: That's -- their what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Their heritage, that's all they know to do.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): In fact, these men are so convinced what they do is natural, God's way, as they like to say, they willingly demonstrate what they call the animals' combative nature.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we're going to do now is just turn them loose and show everybody that you don't make them fight, we only let them fight.
So, I'll show you what they'll do. We just show them each other. This will continue until one is dead.
SANCHEZ: Is it natural? Are the men right to say they're just watching something that would happen anyway? We asked the game foul industry's most prominent critic animal rights activist Wayne Pacelle.
PACELLE: Yes, they're fighting on their own at some level, but they've been placed in a circumstances, in a situation and they've been bred for specific aggression.
SANCHEZ (on camera): People would say you're engaging them to kill themselves or to kill each other. Is that what they'd say?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, they'd say a lot worse than that. They'd call me a blood-thirsty, drug dealing -- I mean, we've been called all kinds of names.
SANCHEZ: How's it make you feel?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not good. Because it's a lie.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): Dale, who prefers we don't use his last name, says his birds are actually pampered.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's got a little bit of applesauce on his mouth here.
SANCHEZ: You feed him applesauce?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, I -- yes, I grind apples for him.
SANCHEZ: What makes Dale unique is he's raised both game fowl for fighting and poultry for restaurants. He says there's no comparison as to which bird he'd rather be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to live for 42 days in a crowded house, where if anything goes wrong, a spot of blood, you know, those chickens are cannibalized in those houses. All kinds of things that go on in chicken houses that don't go on in game fowl ranches.
SANCHEZ: We check with USDA and Agriculture officials. And found his statement to be accurate. Chickens raised for fast-food consumption are often slaughtered after just six weeks. And their short lives are lived in conditions so cramped many actually cannibalize each other.
Butch Lawson, who manages the pit considered the Kentucky Derby of cockfighting says it's an honest business.
SANCHEZ (on camera): How does it work? People pay to get in?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
SANCHEZ: So, you have to pay for admission.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pay -- you pay for your seat admission and the contestants, they put up pot money that they participate for. The pit has nothing to do with anything other than the seat concession.
SANCHEZ (voice-over): And as for the people who would like to put him out of business?
(on camera): They love animals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They do.
SANCHEZ: And they don't want to see animals get hurt.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And so do I.
SANCHEZ: Rick Sanchez, CNN, Lafayette, Louisiana.
KING: From fighting birds, to the king of the jungle, how's that for a segue? The return of "King Kong." The reviews are coming in, even from a most unlikely audience, 360 next.
KING: "King Kong" opens nationwide next Wednesday. It's got a big buzz, a bigger budget, and perhaps the biggest star around. But what do the real kings of the jungle think about it. CNN's Jeanne Moos found out.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORESPONDENT (voice-over): These days, King Kong can do no wrong. There is the remake. The video game, the Lotto named after him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The King Kong Millions Jackpot --
MOOS: There is the King Kong costume, that even dogs like. The giant ape's popularity has rubbed off on chimps. Sharper Image is selling a $150 interactive chimp. But it's the movie that is generating the buzz. Who better to review it?
(on camera): Come on, movie time, "King Kong."
(voice-over): Who better than the Siskel & Ebert of gorillas -- well, Siskel may be gone, but Layla and Kiosha are alive and well thanks to the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo.
King Kong seemed to be a real nail biter, though it's tough to trust movie critics that seem to enjoy the film just as much in rewind. Since there was no concession stand, they made do with regurgitating and re-eating past meals.
(on camera): Not exactly popcorn.
JASON ROWE, SR. KEEPER, BRONX ZOO: Bringing it back to enjoy it all over again.
MOOS (voice-over): What does it mean when your movie critic starts licking the glass during pivotal scenes?
Our visit coincided with one by the actor who played King Kong, sort of. Andy Serkis also did expressions in motion capture for Gollum in "Lord of the Rings."
For Kong, Serkis studied the gorillas at the London Zoo. One female got so attached to him that when Serkis' real wife showed up the jealous ape tossed a plastic bottle.
LORRAINE ASHBOURNE, ANDY SERKIS' WIFE: She just leapt and went, and squished all this juice all over us.
MOOS: No wonder the ape fell for him, listen to how he speaks.
(on camera): It's in gorilla, though.
ANDY SERKIS, ACTOR: In gorilla, yes.
MOOS: How's it go?
SERKIS: It goes, haa! Like that.
MOOS: He's a beast.
(voice-over): Our critic's interest in "King Kong" tended to wander.
(on camera): And what do gestures like this mean? Yoo-hoo? Thumbs up, thumbs down? Thumbs up, thumbs down?
(voice-over): Was Layla literally trying to knock the film?
These aren't the first apes to watch videos. Casey at the New Orleans Zoo is famous for watching gorilla porn. The inexperience bachelor was shown tapes of gorilla courtship and mating in hopes he catch on. Zoo if officials don't know if it helped. After watching the tapes over and over for a couple of weeks, Casey got bored.
As for "King Kong", maybe it didn't get two thumbs up or four stars, but it did get four licks.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
KING: That's 360 on a Friday. I'm John King. Thanks for watching. And this reminder Anderson will be live from Iraq on Monday and there all week. Have a great and a safe weekend. Larry King is next.
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