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Heroes and Cowards in War; Investor Crisis of Confidence; May- December Romances Growing In Popularity

Aired November 6, 2003 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: "In Focus" tonight: heroes and cowards. In times of war, are heroes made on the battlefield or in the minds of the public?
A confidence crisis for personal investments. We'll show you how to protect your money.

And tadpoles. Older women and younger men, it's a trend that started in Hollywood. Is it catching on in the rest of the country?

Good evening. Welcome. Glad to have you with us tonight.

Also ahead: testimony from Rosie O'Donnell as she takes the stand in the lawsuit over "Rosie" magazine.

And some say there is a rush to judgment against the New Jersey parents whose sons who found nearly starved to death. We'll hear why as Congress steps into the case.

Plus, the crisis in nursing. A new report blames overwork, lack of training, and piles of paperwork, for deadly medical mistakes.

Also, in a city of 10 million, where do you go when you need space? Martin Savidge reports on how people in Seoul solve that privacy problem.

First, though, here are some of the headlines you need to know right now. Two more federal judges have blocked the new ban on one kind of late-term abortion. The rulings in New York and California, plus one yesterday in Nebraska, will allow a majority of the nation's abortion providers to continue using the procedure, which its opponents call partial-birth abortion.

At the D.C. area sniper trial, a weapons expert linked the rifle found in defendant John Allen Muhammad's car to the shootings. The jury also saw a demonstration of how the trunk of Muhammad's car could have been used as a shooting platform.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has announced plans to actually cut the number of U.S. forces in Iraq. He says 130,000 will be rotated out between January and April of next year. Fewer fresh troops will be sent in to replace them, which could mean the number of troops in Iraq would drop to 105,000.

Heroism and cowardice, both are in the headlines tonight. In the case of heroism, it is the story of Private Jessica Lynch and her ordeal as a POW; on the other side, an Army investigator who was accused of cowardice until the Army dismissed that charge tonight. Sergeant Georg-Andreas Pogany now faces a charge of dereliction of duty, a less serious charge than cowardice, which carried a penalty of up to death.

While he was in Iraq, Pogany saw an Iraqi soldier cut in half by machine gun fire. He says he was so shaken, he sought help from his superiors. So what makes a hero a hero and a coward a coward? That is "In Focus" tonight.

National correspondent Bruce Morton reports.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Ernest Hemingway defined courage as grace under pressure. Hard to imagine grace in combat. Maybe it's just telling yourself, I have to do this, and then doing it.

Extraordinary acts sometimes: Neil Armstrong stepping onto the moon, something no human soul had ever done. Would the suit work? Would the boots? Sometimes, the heroes are less spectacular: New York's firefighters on September 11 doing, in extreme danger, what they knew they had to do; 343 of them died. And they knew they risked dying, and they went to work anyway.

War, someone said, is long periods of intense boredom punctuated by short periods of intense fear. What helps you get through the fear is concentrating on what you have to do, fire a weapon, deploy a squad, whatever.

Was Jessica Lynch a hero? Some reports say she doesn't remember what she did, so she and we may never know. Cowardice, that would be not doing what you're supposed to do. But it isn't that easy. "The New York Times" quotes a retired Army colonel saying the first Iraq war was 100 hours and there wasn't enough time to be scared. But now the guys have enough time to dwell on their mortality.

And that's part of it. You don't want, in combat, to contemplate mortality. You want to have something to do. Most of us have probably had moments when we were scared of something. The question may be, what did you do then, hide, or, like the guys on 9/11, go on about your very dangerous job?

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


ZAHN: And we're going to talk more about this.

Charles Sheehan-Miles is a Gulf War veteran who is now the executive director of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute. He joins us from Washington tonight. And Dr. Paul Ragan is a military psychiatrist. He joins us from Nashville.

Welcome, gentlemen. DR. PAUL RAGAN, MILITARY PSYCHIATRIST: Good evening.


ZAHN: Good evening.

Doctor, I'm going to start with you this evening.

In your judgment, what is a heroic action?

RAGAN: Heroic action is one in which, through great bravery and courage, an individual performs one or more acts, most often with their own life at stake, and that often benefits countless others and often can save lives, despite the danger to themselves.

ZAHN: And given that definition you have just given us, Doctor, how do you view Sergeant Pogany, who we just talked about at the top of the show, who now faces a dereliction of duty charge?

RAGAN: As far as...

ZAHN: Is he a coward?

RAGAN: Is he a coward?

I think that the -- literally, the jury is still out on that. I think that the fact that he was diagnosed with acute stress or a combat stress reaction, the fact that he reports, to my understanding, that he may have had a panic attack during the time when he was supposed to be doing the interrogations, I don't think necessarily he was a coward. I think it's very, very possible that this was not an act of cowardice.

ZAHN: Charles, what do you think?

CHARLES SHEEHAN-MILES, EXEC. DIRECTOR, NUCLEAR POLICY RESEARCH INSTITUTE: Well, of course, all we have to go on is what we're hearing in the media right now.

But I'm very concerned that, in a time when the Army is going out there and saying, we're trying to make sure that we provide good counseling for the troops, that, when someone has asked for help, they're potentially facing a court-martial. We're talking about a situation where people see hideous, horrible things. And the natural reaction to seeing those kinds of things is panic and fear and rage. And those troops need assistance. They need help. And they need counseling when they return back from the battlefield.

And when somebody went through the chain of command, clearly requesting that help, and now they're facing a court-martial, the Army's got a real problem.

ZAHN: Dr. Ragan, does a panic attack, after seeing what Sergeant Pogany apparently witnessed, sound like anything out of the ordinary to you?

RAGAN: No, not -- in that context, not at all.

I think that he probably had several risk factors for developing a combat stress reaction. He was newly in-country. He didn't come over -- my understanding, he did not come over with his own unit that he had trained with. He was a new person in this unit. I think that, on his second day, witnessing somebody being mowed in half was something that was very shocking. It's very difficult.

And I share the sentiments of my fellow Gulf War veteran. When you fly with jet travel from the comfort of the United States and suddenly find yourself on the desert floor, it's like the far side of the moon over there. And, on your second day, you see someone killed like that. During those interrogations, I assumed those were fairly intense sessions. There may have been threats of violence.

Interrogating prisoners, a large number of prisoners, can be very intense.


RAGAN: And somehow to criminalize this into cowardice, when in fact he may have been having acute stress reaction, I have deep concerns, like my fellow panel member here.

ZAHN: And, finally, Charles, just the symbolic importance of the Jessica Lynch story.

SHEEHAN-MILES: Well, we've got some concerns there, in particular, that I've got a lot of concerns for her and real sympathy for her.

She went through a terrible, terrible situation, terrible experience. And yet what we saw develop after she was captured was almost like an organized P.R. effort on behalf of the Pentagon to publicize it and generate additional support for the war. We haven't heard much from her yet. And I'll be very curious to see what her story is when the book comes out.

ZAHN: Charles Sheehan-Miles, Dr. Paul Ragan, thank you for both of your perspectives this evening.

RAGAN: You're welcome.

ZAHN: And we're going to quickly check in now with "TIME" magazine columnist Joe Klein and former Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke, who are both standing by in Washington tonight side by side.

Good evening, you two.


ZAHN: Victoria, you just heard a little bit of what Charles had to say. And he's very concerned about Jessica Lynch's welfare. But he also said that he objected to the way the Pentagon created a P.R. story around her to build support for the war.

VICTORIA CLARKE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it is just flat not true.

And, as a matter of fact, Knight Ridder did an investigation of the Jessica Lynch story not too ago, and they said the Pentagon went out of its way to downplay the story and correct a lot of the misimpressions that were created by a very extravagant "Washington Post" story way back when.

What's interesting about these stories is that, often, the people who are perceived to be heroes don't think of themselves as heroes. I used to work for John McCain, who was shot down in Vietnam. And if he were here tonight, he would say: I'm no hero. It doesn't take any particular skill or talent to get shot down.

But sometimes, I think there are people out there, especially in the news media, who need heroes. And they create something bigger than it actually was.

ZAHN: All right, Joe, guilty as charged? Did the media make Jessica Lynch a war hero or was that the invention of the Pentagon?

JOE KLEIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think what the Pentagon did do was try to emphasize the heroic nature of the rescue.

That's why they woke up the reporters in Iraq at 4:00 in the morning in Iraq. And the Jessica Lynch story -- I agree with Torie -- proceeded on its own steam thereafter, because look at her. She's young. She's attractive. And most studies that I've seen show that a majority of soldiers in battle never even fire their weapons. She at least tried to fire hers. It jammed. So that means that there was some heroism there.

ZAHN: I want to turn you all to another big story tonight out today, basically a report that Saddam Hussein actually tried to cut a last-minute deal to avoid going to war. Is the Bush administration guilty of missing an opportunity here, Torie?

CLARKE: Oh, I'll tell you, I think there was a lot of drama in that story that isn't supported by the facts. It just doesn't seem plausible to me.

There were so many means of communication for the senior Iraqis, if they had wanted to come forward and say, we don't want to go to war here. And it just doesn't make any sense to me whatsoever. And I think it is just some crazy stuff out there that got blown out of proportion.

ZAHN: Joe, crazy stuff or is there some truth to the reporting today?

KLEIN: Look, one of the biggest questions of this war was why Saddam went ahead when it seemed he was about to be clobbered.

It seems entirely possible, given the way Arabs do business, that he was trying to use this back channel with some very significant players. Now, Richard Perle, who was the person that the Iraqis contacted, admits there was a contact. And then he says, the CIA discouraged him from going forward. But Richard Perle has also been a guy who has been denigrating the CIA's work in Iraq for the last three years.

So I think that there's something potentially very important here. We don't know enough yet, but I'd like to see it investigated.

ZAHN: Torie, where does it go from here?

CLARKE: Oh, I have no idea. There hasn't been that much of a reaction to the story, I don't think. So I have no idea.

But, again, there were so many routes that the Iraqis could have chosen if they wanted to come forward in very open, very public fashions. We had made it clear for them: There is still time for you to come forward and prevent this war from occurring. And they chose not to do that. And, again, given Richard Perle's alleged relationship or feelings about the CIA, why would he have gone to the CIA to ask permission to meet with these people who claimed to have these connections with the Iraqis?

KLEIN: All the more reason why I think that his story is unlikely to be true.

I think it probably didn't go very much past Richard Perle. And there has been a big reaction to this. And in other situations, like the Cuban Missile Crisis, there have been back channel diplomacy like this that worked and that was part of the process.

ZAHN: All right, we're going to continue to follow this with the both of you. So nice to see you looking so chummy side by side tonight, Torie Clarke, Joe Klein.


KLEIN: We were just duking each other out before.


ZAHN: Yes, you'll go into the commercial break and it's not going to be so pretty in there. Thank you, you two.


CLARKE: I'm kicking him under the table.

ZAHN: Careful. Watch it.

KLEIN: Yes, I'm nervous.

ZAHN: Yes, I could tell.

A couple accused of nearly starving their children to death, why are some in their community actually rallying to their defense?

Also, a thorny day in court for Rosie O'Donnell on the stand in a lawsuit over her magazine. And just trying to get a little personal space in South Korea.


ZAHN: And we're back tonight. Our legal roundup focuses on Rosie O'Donnell's day on the witness stand, as well as about some of the new revelations on the prosecution's case against Scott Peterson.

That's where we're going to start with our own legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, who's back home after being on the road for a little while.

Not a good day for Scott Peterson.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Not a good day. Interesting day, a lot of new evidence talked about and, again, like so much in this case, suggestive of guilt, but not closing the door in terms of the prosecution.

ZAHN: Walk us through what the police detective had to say today who arrived at the Peterson home shortly after Laci was reported missing.

TOOBIN: Physical evidence. This is some of the physical evidence that was found in the course of that detective's investigation.

We had, in his truck -- remember, he said he went fishing on December 24, the day that Laci disappeared -- an unopened box of fishing lures. Why were they unopened, if he went fishing? An expired fishing license. Again, you can -- it should be current if you're fishing.


ZAHN: But people do fish without a current license. OK.

TOOBIN: People do fish without them. That's true.

A .22 caliber handgun, unexplained. A lot of people have handguns.


TOOBIN: But, again, that's the kind of thing in this case. Each piece can maybe be explained. But, cumulatively, it has a big effect.

More physical evidence found -- discussed today. In his boat, a homemade anchor. And this has been sort of the holy grail of the prosecution's -- of the government investigation, because, in the warehouse, there was evidence that other anchors had been made by Scott Peterson, but those other anchors have never been found.

ZAHN: And how many people make homemade anchors?

TOOBIN: Homemade anchors? Very peculiar thing to do. Where are the other anchors? Certainly, that's been something they've been looking for in the bottom of San Francisco Bay. But they've never found it. So, again, suggestive, but not entirely proof of guilt.

ZAHN: We didn't hear from Scott's ex-girlfriend, Amber Frey, today. But, what, the detective who interviewed her and talked with her talked about this on the stand?


TOOBIN: Hearsay is admissible in preliminary hearings. So we heard the detective testify about his conversations with Amber Frey and with Scott Peterson himself. Amber Frey told the detective that, on December 9, Scott told her that he wasn't married because his wife had died. Very peculiar.

ZAHN: So this is several weeks before Laci was found missing.

TOOBIN: Just a few weeks. Said he was a widower.

ZAHN: So what, premeditation


TOOBIN: Premeditation, bizarre, lying, all sorts of things, but, again, not proof of guilt.

Scott's statements to the detectives also very interesting. He said that Laci was mopping the floor of their house when he left for the day on Christmas Eve.

ZAHN: And yet a maid testified what?

TOOBIN: The day before that she had cleaned the house. Plus, she was seven months pregnant, unlikely to be mopping the floor if they had been just cleaned the day before.

And -- but the mops were wet on Christmas Eve. So the theory is, Scott was covering for the wet mops. Perhaps he was mopping something up. He denied to the detectives he was having an affair. Many men do that. Lied to the detectives about how many cell phones he had, perhaps trying to cover his tracks. Also, two more things that Scott -- that were testified about today, that he had bought the boat on December 9 with 15 $100 bills. A suspicious way of buying something.


ZAHN: And no one in the family was aware of him having bought the boat.

TOOBIN: Having the boat.

And perhaps the most bizarre fact of the day, shortly before his arrest -- that is, after Laci had disappeared -- he bought a car in San Diego with 36 $100 bills and he registered it in the name Jacqueline Peterson, his mother's name. And they said, well, that's a woman's name. And he said, well, "It's a boy named Sue kind of thing," which is


ZAHN: Hearkening a Johnny Cash song.

TOOBIN: Right. Yes.

ZAHN: Before we let you go, Rosie O'Donnell on the stand today. What's the highlight of her testimony?

TOOBIN: Rosie O'Donnell, the highlight of her testimony, she's meeting with Dan Brewster, the CEO of Gruner & Jahr, her adversary in the case.

And she says Brewster asked, jokingly, "Are you going to be a controlling bitch like Martha and Oprah?" And Rosie said, "They're some pretty successful controlling bitch -- I should be so lucky." And, in fact, she should have been so lucky, because the core of her case is that the magazine could have succeeded. But you know what? It didn't succeed. It was a failure, unlike Martha Stewart's magazines, unlike "Oprah" magazine. The magazine just didn't succeed.

ZAHN: So was this a net gain for Rosie today or hard to...

TOOBIN: Very -- it's hard to tell. That case, it's hard to tell who's winning, because both sides are, frankly, pretty unappealing. It's not clear why this should be a lawsuit at all. It was an unsuccessful magazine. Everybody is responsible. There was no great success at the end of the rainbow. It is just dueling egos there.

ZAHN: Well, we love it when you stop by. You clear up all the confusion surrounding these cases.


ZAHN: Jeffrey Toobin, thanks.

Where do you go for some room to unwind in a city of 10 million people? Well, our Martin Savidge finds a place where you can really get a baang for your buck.

And four brothers all weighing less than 50 pounds, are the parents to blame for this now notorious case in New York -- or New Jersey? Excuse me. We're going to hear why some say, no, they're actually coming to the defense of the parents.


ZAHN: And welcome back.

We live in a very crowded world, so much so, that, at times, it seems as if it's impossible to get away from it all and get a little private time. In fact, in some parts of the world, private time is often anything but.

Martin Savidge found that out in Seoul, South Korea. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Over 10 million people live in Seoul. If you include the suburbs, it's over 13 million.

(on camera): And that brings up the obvious problems of space and privacy. The South Koreans have come up with a unique way for dealing with both.

(voice-over): Baang -- spelled B-A-A-N-G -- is Korean for room. Places people go to do things in public, we tend to do in private. This is a P.C. baang. Seoul has 25,000 of them.

If you thought America was online, download this; 50 percent of Koreans have high-speed Internet access, compared to less than 20 percent of Americans. This DVD baang may look familiar, but there's a twist.

(on camera): Right. Now, what I'm doing is not only to paying to rent the movie, I'm renting the room to watch the movie in.


(voice-over): I join these Sun-wang (ph) and Hei-in (ph).

Excuse me. It's like a home theater, only minus the home, big sofa, big sound, little cost, less than $11 for a movie and the room.

(on camera): Do you do this, like, on a date?


SAVIDGE (voice-over): I can take a hint. It's time to go.

Not all baangs are high-tech. This is a comic book baang. Koreans take their funnies very seriously. And this is the place that started it all, the Ping-Pong baang. Koreans don't really call these baangs. I just couldn't resist the rhyme.

Speaking of rhymes, this is a nore (ph) baang, which, translated, means song baang, karaoke practiced in private rooms. Koreans say it's a great stress reliever. And, sure enough, in just minutes, I feel the tension and my journalistic credibility slipping away.

(singing): You are the dancing queen.

(voice-over): With enough baang for my buck, I take a break. At this cafe, your coffee comes with a side of fortune-telling. For about $20, I tell this Niso (ph) when I was born. She consults her crystal calculator to reveal all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): You are very friendly to others. You are also very fashionable.

SAVIDGE: This woman is good. But, in Korea, where psychoanalysis isn't embraced, I'm also expected to present Niso with a problem.

(on camera): I'm thinking about quitting my job and becoming a professional singer.

(voice-over): For the answer, I choose three sticks. Her next words will change my life.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): It's a little late, but maybe.

SAVIDGE: Niso was being polite, but I could read between the lines: Don't quit your day job. Quietly, I turned away to once welcoming Seoul's crowded streets.

Martin Savidge, CNN, Seoul.


ZAHN: Martin Savidge, our fashionable, but stellar reporter.

A congressional subcommittee is looking at the case of the four New Jersey children nearly starved to death, allegedly, by their own parents.

Also, charges of corruption in the mutual fund industry -- is your money safe?

And the new May-December romance: older women and much, much younger men.


ZAHN: And we're back. Here are some of the headlines you need to know right now, at the bottom of the hour.

Authorities in Rhode Island have released police transmissions from the horrific nightclub fire that killed 100 people last February. A rock group's pyrotechnics started the fire. There weren't enough exits for the crowd to get out quickly. On the tapes we hear police officers describing the scene, and the horror.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have fully engulfed -- fully engulfed building. We have people on fire inside. Fire apparatus is on scene. We've got a stampede. Send more cars. We have multiple people trapped. We're dragging them out one by one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need more rescuers. We have, least 400 people with severe burns. At least another hundred inside.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need as many personnel as possible down here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Call to headquarters. Also call in the midnight shift.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: C-11, I want all officers to call in. Everybody sound a call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All united accounted for, sir.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Headquarters received. C-11, all united accounted for, sir.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sergeant, the chief wants you to call the M.E.'s office. Advise them that we have a mass casualty incident here. They're going to have to institute some kind of a plan to get down here.






ZAHN: Again, those were audiotapes of emergency crews from last February's deadly fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island. The reference to the M.E.'s office is the medical examiner. The fire killed 100 people.

State and federal investigators have led to a big shakeup at one of the nation's biggest investment firms and the fallout could have an impact on your retirement savings.

CNN contributor and "Fortune" magazine editor-at-large Andy Serwer puts it all into plain English.


ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE (voice-over): Putnam Investments is the nation's fifth-largest mutual fund company with over $270 billion of assets. But more important than that, this is a company that holds retirement accounts and college savings accounts for some 12 million investors.

In late October, regulators charged the Boston company with allowing its own managers to enrich themselves by making improper trades in the shares of the funds they were running. The firm has been subpoenaed, and earlier this week, Putnam CEO Lawrence Lasser resigned. Meanwhile, pension funds from states including Iowa, Pennsylvania, and even Putnam's home state of Massachusetts, have pulled their money from the company.


SERWER: Well,there are also real implications for ordinary Americans, Paula, I should tell you. And also, seven states have pulled their money out of Putnam, Arkansas being the latest one.

ZAHN: So what does this mean to the individual investor who had money in these funds?

SERWER: Well, that's the real question.

First of all, we're in uncharted waters here. There has never been a crisis like this in the mutual fund industry. When it comes to Putnam and those big state pension funds pulling their money out, they have separate accounts from individual investors. So your money's not in the same account, which is a good thing. It's not like a run on the bank.

Having said that, you really should watch this if you have your money at Putnam. And if you don't like the way they've been doing business, you can think about selling out. But you have to take into account there could be tax problems, tax implications. The best thing to do, and I know this sounds kind of silly, but you just really have to follow this and watch it. And if you're uncomfortable in this situation, or if it seems to get worse, then you really want to look to sell out of this.

ZAHN: Do you foresee a scenario, though, where you could have a run on a run on bank kind of situation, where if all these individual investors decided at one time, OK, I have no faith in this, I'm out of here?

SERWER: I mean, anything's possible. But I don't really see that.

I mean, first of all, you know, Putnam's been around for a long time. They're owned by Marsh & McLennan, which is a giant insurance company. The company has said it's going to make and keep investors whole. That's important.

Also, there's a lot of inertia in terms of investors.. A lot of people sit there and they don't pay attention to this. You have to be very tuned into want to actually go and doing something about it. So I really think the CEO of this company's got to get out there and really start jawboning institutions -- Look, we're going to stay the course here. We're going to clean this up.

It's not a huge, tremendous scandal. It's nothing like Enron. It was some traders who decided to make a little bit of extra money in a way that's unethical and probably illegal. You know, it's like they were looting the company or anything like that.

ZAHN: And a final thought on how many people this affects out there.

SERWER: Well, Putnam, for instance, has 12 million customers. And if you think about the mutual fund industry overall, I mean, it's 100 million Americans. You know, it's the biggest way that America's going to invest either directly or through their 401(k)s. So it probably touches almost every American family.

ZAHN: Andy Serwer, thanks for explaining it to us tonight...


ZAHN: plain English.

SERWER: I hope it was.

ZAHN: We always count on you to do that.

Parents accused after their four boys are found nearly starved to death. We're going to find out why some in the community are actually rallying around them saying, There's a rush to judgment, that they're actually very good parents.

And the nursing crisis. Are long hours, mountains of paperwork and lack of training killing people?


ZAHN: A Congressional committee today took up the case of four adopted boys in New Jersey discovered on the verge of starving to death. It is a story that shocked the nation. But the Congressional attention comes as some of the community stand by the boys' parents.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We love you guys.

ZAHN (voice-over): A New Jersey church is rallying around Raymond and Vanessa Jackson, despite the horrifying allegations against them -- that they starved their four boys, ages 9 to 19. State officials say child welfare workers had visited the Jackson home at least 38 times in the last four years. But the Jacksons were only arrested last month, after their oldest son, Bruce, was found sifting through a neighbor's garbage for food. Authorities say none of the boys weighed more than 45 pounds.

Still, some in the community insists the Jacksons are good parents.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ray looked at me, and he said he said -- he said, Pastor, there is no truth to this. He said, I love my kids. My kids eat three meals a day.

ZAHN: Parishioners at the Come Alive New Testament Church helped pay the $200,000 bail to free the Jacksons.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The children have not been abused. The Jacksons are being abused.

ZAHN: And there's even a "Save the Jacksons" Web site.


ZAHN: So are the parents to blame, or is the state acting too quickly?

To discuss that, we are joined from our Washington bureau by a man who says he has seen many cases where innocent parents were wrongly labeled guilty. Richard Wexler is the director of the National Coalition for Child Protection

Here in New York studio, Kevin Ryan, a Jersey child public advocate who testified today in Congress on the Jackson case. Welcome to both of you.

Mr. Wexler, I would like to start with you and get your reaction to something Reverend Harry Thomas said. We were just introduced to him in that setup piece, where he makes it very clear that he sides with Mr. and Mrs. Jackson. Let's listen together.


PASTOR HARRY THOMAS, COME ALIVE NEW TEST, CHURCH: I respectfully would like to suggest that the reason no abuse was noticed was that there was no abuse going on. Ray and Vanessa Jackson have a real love for children. Their children were always clean happy, and well dressed.


ZAHN: Mr. Wexler, you have four kids, all weighing less than 50 pounds. One of those children is 19 years old.

How do you not blame the parents?

RICHARD WEXLER, COAL. FOR CHILD PROT. REFORM: I don't know whether or not the parents ultimately should be blamed for this or not. The primary issue here is whether it was the parents' fault or whether it was some other fault, somebody else's fault. These children were in serious trouble, and nobody noticed. So the real issue is, why didn't that happen, after so many visits. And I think the answer to that is this. Whatever the circumstances may be in this case, there are many, many cases where children are reported to DIFIS (ph) and are needlessly removed solely because the family's poverty has been confuse the with neglect. Those cases overload the caseworkers, so they have time to do little more than what's called drive-by social work, and they don't have any time to check out any case carefully. So children in real danger then are missed.

ZAHN: Mr. Ryan, 38 visits, in four years.

Wouldn't you think the signs would have been pretty obvious in the third or fourth year?

KEVIN RYAN, N.J. PUBLIC CHILD ADVOCATE: Absolutely, Paula. The key here is...

ZAHN: How do you miss that?

RYAN: I have no idea. My investigators right now are combing through 20,000 pages of documents that we demanded from the Department of Human Services. We're subpoenaing up to 20 witnesses to figure out how the public agency, over 38 times, visited that family in four years and didn't realize there was no electricity, and the children were obviously starving. Let me make a quick point about The reverend's advocacy for the parents. I don't begrudge him or supporters of the Jackson family. Their commitment to the Jacksons. Frankly, it's friends standing by friends in a dark time. But it goes way beyond what's decent when the reverend called these children liars, and described them in a dehumanizing way as projects rather than as children. That's despicable, and that's got to stop.

ZAHN: Mr. Wexler, what about that?

Let's listen to the reverend's exact words. When he actually blamed the children at one point for their ill health.


THOMAS: It is my understanding that the three younger boys have fetal alcohol syndrome. The oldest, Bruce, has developed an eating disorder, at age of three. He also had been hospitalized because of abuse at the hands of his birth father.


ZAHN: What are the chances that their medical history did play a role in this?

WEXLER: Again, I am not a doctor. I don't know that situation. As far as the things the reverend has been saying, there are plenty of things he said that have appalled me, too. He has been throwing slime not only at the birth parents in this case, but at all birth parents in general. Stereotyping them all as brutally abusive or hopelessly addicted. That simply isn't true. As I said, there are many cases, not necessarily this one by any means, in which children are taken simply because a family's poverty is confused with neglect. There is a DIFUS (ph) caseworker, an ex-caseworker suing DIFUS right now because he refused to take away children under those circumstances and was fired.

ZAHN: But, Mr. Ryan, your argument tonight is that the children are the ones getting used.

RYAN: They are. It's no mystery to me why child abuse is rampant in the United States. When today before the United States Congress these lies were told about these children, which perpetuates that abuse. Here's the bottom line, there were four boys found on October 10. None of them weighed more than 45 pounds. The oldest, 19 years old, weighed 49 pounds when he was adopted in 1995. He weighed 45 pounds eight years later, a month ago. Today he's 64 pounds. When we represented to the Congress today that those boys had grown, the reverend suggested that perhaps they were wearing sneakers on the scale. Or perhaps there was something special put in their water. This is ludicrous. This isn't about little boys telling lies. This is about children who were tortured and starved.

ZAHN: Mr. Wexler, you have the last word but it has to be a brief one.

WEXLER: To fix the problems are the safe, proven programs to keep families together. They've slashed foster care populations. They're getting better safety outcomes. If I was Mr. Ryan, the first thing I would do is get on a plane and take look at Pittsburgh in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Or better yet screen the tape that "NEWS NIGHT" with Aaron Brown did show what a model system they've become by emphasize family preservation.

ZAHN: Mr. Ryan, I guess you don't want to be preached to this evening, but you heard what...

RYAN: It wouldn't be the first time.

ZAHN: All right. Thank you, gentlemen, both. Mr. Wexler for your point of view and Mr. Ryan yours as well.

They are the front lines of medical care, but are nurses in a crisis so overworked that patients are dying?

And they have been called tadpoles. Younger men in relationships with older women. Can love bridge the generation gap?


ZAHN: Doctors, hospitals and nurses agree that the nursing profession is in crisis. According to a new report by the Institute of Medicine, many nurses are insufficiently trained, overloaded with paperwork and exhausted to the point that deadly mistakes happen.

Barbara Weintraub, joins me from Chicago. She is a registered nurse and coordinator of pediatric emergency services at Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Good to have you with us tonight. Welcome.


ZAHN: You're in the trenches every day. Walk us through a typical day for an average nurse in America. How many hours she or he working?

WEINTRAUB: The averaged scheduled shift is still eight hours. But because there aren't enough nurse and there are not enough nurses to fill in if someone is sick, frequently you are asked to stay late or to come in on an extra shift. So an eight hour shift can turn into a 10 hour shift or a 12 hour shift or 16 hour shift.

ZAHN: So what would be considered an average work week, 60 to 80 hours a week? WEINTRAUB: Probably not for the average nurse, but there are certainly nurses out there that are working extra, especially as there husbands are unemployed they're working the extra hours to make ends meet.

ZAHN: And let's share with our audience what some people saying the implications of these long hours might mean. This from the Institute of Medicine. "Long work hours pose some of the most serious threats to patient safety, because fatigue slows reaction time, decreases energy, diminishes attention to detail, and otherwise contributes to errors."

How many folks do you think are dying in America because nurses are so just stressed out?

WEINTRAUB: I wouldn't want to think that anyone is dying because we're stressed out. One of the...

ZAHN: Maybe a better word is overworked, fatigued?

WEINTRAUB: Well, we're certainly overworked and we're certainly fatigued. I think by the end of the day, especially after you've worked 12-hour shifts, or you've worked 16-hour shifts, or you've worked two, three, four days in a row, it's not as easy to pick up on the subtle clues that are the whole basis for the nursing profession being at the patient's bedside.

That's what we do is look for subtle clues, those changes in patients' conditions. And it's not as easy to pick those up when you're overworked and extremely tired.

ZAHN: What are some of the frightening scenarios you've witnessed when there are too few nurses working in the emergency room?

WEINTRAUB: I think one of the saddest things is at the end of a shift, when you think, I'm not sure that I know all of the patients that I've taken care of. And I hope that there's nobody that I haven't seen. And you go home and you cry on the way home, because you know that you didn't give the nursing care that each of those patients deserves, because you can't.

ZAHN: So what advice can you give to patients' families tonight, particularly those who know a family might be in the hospital for the long haul?

WEINTRAUB: I would say that, no matter where you are, when you're in the hands of a nurse, you're in good hands. Nurses work incredibly hard to make sure that each patient has what they need. Nurses work through their breaks. They work without lunch. Frequently they work without taking a bathroom break for an entire 8, 10 or 12-hour shift.

So they're working as hard as they can to make sure that your loved one gets the care they need. But will they get all the little comfort extras? Probably not. Will they get their medication exactly on time? They may not. It's a crisis situation when you have more patients than you can take care of. And you have to attend to the sickest patient of the highest priority need. And sometimes your loved one isn't going to be that.

So if you have a loved one who is in the hospital, a lot of people feel that having family at the bedside just to be an advocate for the patient is very helpful.

ZAHN: Sounds like good advice. This report calling for sweeping changes in the way the profession is managed. I think you've given us a good idea of what we sure concerned about. Barbara Wientraup, good luck to you. And thank you for joining us.

And we're going move on to another story now. New options for love and romance, older women, much younger men, passion, affection and devotion across the ages.


ZAHN: May-December romances have always been hot gossip in Hollywood, but more and more women are becoming the older partner in the relationship. Look at Hollywood's hottest couple, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher. There's also Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake. And don't forget Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins. Of course, they've been together a lot longer than the other two couples.

And the phenomenon is the topic of a book, "Older Women, Younger Men: New Options For Love And Romance." Susan Winter is the co-author of the book. She joins us tonight. I'm also joined by Francis and Douglas Nelson. 58-year-old Francis and 35-year-old Douglas got married 60 -- oh my gosh, 60 -- six years ago. I had you married a long time! Welcome to all of you. Is the age difference a big deal?

FRANCIS NELSON, MARRIED YOUNGER MAN: More to other people than to us. It doesn't seem to be a big deal of that to us.

ZAHN: Douglas, was it an issue to you, because of the way society reacts to age differences?

DOUGLAS NELSON, MARRIED OLDER WOMAN: Not really. Our family was concerned. We addressed legitimate concerns and got through it. That's about it.

ZAHN: What is it that Douglas offers you perhaps someone your own age didn't? What is it, besides the obvious physical attractiveness of him.

F. NELSON: I wasn't looking for a younger man. I told him when he first wanted to date me, you've got to be kidding. Do you know how old I am? And I thought he was just a nice guy. I thought he was a good catch for my niece. And I was going to set them up. But that didn't obviously work out too well.

ZAHN: And were you intimidated by the situation?

D. NELSON: No. Not at all. I just thought she was beautiful and the more I got to know her, I really liked her.

ZAHN: And as you study these relationships, what is the degree of success?

SUSAN WINTER, "OLDER WOMAN/YOUNGER MEN": They really do work in the real world. This is the real world. We're not in Hollywood right now. It really does happen. And I've got couples that have been together, probably at this point now 30 years. It can and it does work.

And it's about resonance. These two are connected on a level that goes beyond the exterior. They're very close. We've been talking in the green room, they've got a lot of common interests. So it's about people connecting from the heart, from the soul. It's about love.

ZAHN: And yet there is still the societal pressure, is there not? For people to couple in their own age group.

WINTER: There's also our internal dialogue, which is always going on about our own youth and beauty. There can be a society that doesn't understand, in the time that I did it, I was not met with any kind of support system. And times are changing. It's getting better now. We live in a more inclusive time period where people can simply love whom they choose to love. No matter what color, what race. This is just another example.

ZAHN: On to the obvious issue of sex. A lot of questions raised about this. About, well, let's just talk about it for a second. Did you have any concerns about the age difference when it came to your sexuality?

F. NELSON: I had more concerns probably about my body, because my body was not that -- he was 28 when we first met. He was 29 when we got married. And I thought, oh, you know, the body is going to get way.

And I am aging faster. I mean, I'm not aging faster through the years, but in no time at all I'm going to be 70 years old. And so that had me worried at first. But actually, it's more about him. I was thinking as I was coming over here, the difference between him and anybody else is the difference between an individual and another individual.

ZAHN: You look like a happy guy, Douglas.

N. NELSON: Yes. I'm aging faster than she is. By the time she's 70 I'll be 68. I'm catching up. Doing a good job at it, too. The whole physical thing, it's fine.

ZAHN: You know what. We've got to leave it there, because we got to get "LARRY KING LIVE" on the air. Douglas, Francis, thanks for you time. Susan as well. Appreciate you sharing your stories with us tonight.

That wraps it up for all of us here. Good night. Hope you'll be back with us tomorrow.



May-December Romances Growing In Popularity>

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