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Interview with Michael Ware; Ukrainian Parliament Votes Election Invalid; Retailers Hope Weekend Will Kick Off Holiday Season Profits

Aired November 27, 2004 - 16:00   ET


ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN ANCHOR: Shoppers rush stores the day after Thanksgiving in a search for bargains. Are they taking a break today, or is there even more mall madness?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you coming?


KOPPEL: Moviemakers hope so. From trains to planes, the search for a National Treasure, and a true Greek tragedy. A look at what films are worth your time and money this holiday season.

And it's the Super Bowl of academics. The quiz show that students long to compete on sets a mark.

Hello and welcome to CNN LIVE SATURDAY. I'm Andrea Koppel in today for Fredericka Whitfield. Those stories are coming up.

But first, here's a look at the headlines.

Was President Bush's life in danger during a trip to Colombia just days ago? Colombian officials say Marxist rebels were targeting Mr. Bush for assassination. Security during that trip was understandably tight, and no incidents occurred. Colombian officials say rebel targets -- rebels target so many visiting international leaders, such plots are routine.

After 4 decades in North Korea and less than a month in the brig, a U.S. army deserter is now free. U.S. Army sergeant Charles Jenkins was released today for good behavior. Earlier this month, he was sentenced to 30 days for abandoning his squadron back in 1965 and defecting to North Korea.

A new hitch today over a proposed deal to freeze Iran's nuclear program. Iran's foreign minister is rejecting the latest draft despite recent changes. European diplomats who have been hammering out the plans say the last-minute glitch could jeopardize the whole deal.

We begin with an alleged plot targeting Mr. Bush. Monday marked the 41st anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination. Now Colombia's defense secretary says there was a plan by Marxist rebels to kill Mr. Bush when he visited Colombia on that same day. Let's get more details on the story from Toby Muse, who is a journalist in Colombia, and joins us now on the phone from Bogata.

So Toby, I understand that reporters were really following up with the secretary of defense there based on a Washington Times report here in the United States.

TOBY MUSE, JOURNALIST: Yes, that's correct. The Colombia's defense minister, as you mentioned, Jorge Alberto Uribe (ph), had said that informants warned authorities that the supreme command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia known as the FARC, had ordered its unit to assassinate President Bush as he visited Colombia last Monday.

The Washington Times story also added that they thought some of the information on the alleged plot against George Bush had come from U.S. intelligence. The U.S. is deeply involved in Colombia's four decades civil war, providing huge amounts of intelligence expertise, satellites that track rebels and the truck-trafficking industry here. So it's natural they would obviously share such information with Washington's closest ally in all of South America.

KOPPEL: Sure. Now, the FARC, obviously, have been trying to overthrow the government of Colombia over the last four decades. Why do you think they wanted to target President Bush?

MUSE: Well, President Bush has been a very vocal supporter of the current Colombian administration headed by the President Alvaro Uribe. This government is hated by the Marxist rebels, because the government has really gone on the offensive against the Marxist rebels. And the U.S. is their principal backer of this government.

Colombia receives more aid from the U.S. than any other country outside of the Middle East. We're fast approaching $4 billion in the past four years. So any backer of this despised Colombian government in the eyes of the Marxist revolutionaries here is their enemy as well.

KOPPEL: Did Defense Secretary Uribe give journalists any sense as to how far along this plot was to assassinate President Bush? Did they get much heads up before the president arrived in Colombia?

MUSE: No. The details have been extremely sketchy that the government has shared with us. We don't know what the alleged method of assassination was going to be.

As you said, there were no incidents. And further, there have been no arrests. So that suggests that the Colombian authorities haven't got a good grip on who was behind it, or what particular individuals or how they were going to do it.

I would also add, there was a huge security in advance of President Bush's arrival here in Colombia. And he did visit a city known to be relatively safe, Cartagena, a tourist destination. But even in that city, there were 15,000 Colombian troops patrolling the city, aerial overflights. And the city was effectively locked down for the four hours George Bush was there.

KOPPEL: Toby Muse, a journalist in Bogata, Colombia, joining us by phone. Thank you.

The U.S. death toll in Iraq continues to climb. A roadside bomb north of Baghdad targeted a U.S. patrol today, killing a 1st Infantry Division soldier. There were other deadly attacks in the Iraqi capital. Two were killed, and more than a dozen injured in a bombing near the Iraqi Central Bank. A bomb damaged two U.S. military vehicles on the road to Baghdad International Airport. An al Qaeda- affiliated group claimed responsibility.

The road is considered one of the most dangerous routes in Iraq, and it's been a week of grisly discoveries in Mosul. The U.S. military says 17 more bodies were found across the city yesterday. 57 bodies have been found in the area in the last eight days.

Leading political parties are calling for a delay. Sunni Clerics are calling for a boycott and insurgents are trying to derail them with violence. Yet Iraq's interim government says the process for the country's elections is on track. CNN's Karl Penhaul reports.



KARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): My details are correct and I'm ready for the election, says the man in the TV ad telling Iraqis how to register for January 30th elections. Campaign posters are popping up around Baghdad. A reminder this will be the first free vote in more than 50 years. But not everybody has election fever.

Adnan Pachachi, a former coalition ally and ex-president of the Iraqi Governing Council wants to postpone the ballot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First of all, it's to insure a wider participation possible so that no part of Iraq, no area of Iraq, would be left out from the political process. And the second one is to give a chance for an improvement in the security situation.

PENHAUL (on camera): At a meeting Friday 15 major religious and secular political organizations backed his stance including the two main Kurdish parties. Any delay could prove tricky. The United Nations Security Council resolution set the deadline for a vote no later than January 31st. And leaders of Iraq's Shia Muslim majority has been pushing for elections at the earliest opportunity. At a weekend press conference officials seemed determined to proceed as planned.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't want to get involved with this issue because it's not my field. But up until now there are discussions going on and the prime minister, he want to have the election at the same time. He doesn't want to postpone it.

PENHAUL (voice-over): Violence has spiked in parts of Iraq since the start of November. But the Independent Electoral Commission believes the January timetable is still realistic.

"There are some areas in the country with security problems, " he says, "but there are 72 days left until the elections. And with the continuing effort to improve security, most of the country should be able to take part."

Aside calls for a postponement, some Sunni Muslim parties and clerics are urging their supporters to boycott the poll, together, until coalition armies leave Iraq for good.

Insurgent gunmen seem to be backing that demand with firepower. Karl Penhaul, CNN, Baghdad.


KOPPEL: It's difficult to understand the situation in Iraq unless you've seen it for yourself. Michael Ware has been reporting on the war for "Time" magazine and has seen both sides of the conflict. He gained exclusive access to the insurgents and spent months with them. He also was embedded with the U.S. Army during the battle of Falluja. And he recently spoke do CNN's Aaron Brown.


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: You've been in and out of there for two years. You'll be back in there probably sooner than you want. Do you have a sense that, on the military side, progress is being made?

MICHAEL WARE, TIME: To put it simply, no. No, I don't. I mean, I don't have any sense of victory or a sense that the coalition, the West is winning right now. I mean, it seems to me we're losing ground figuratively and literally.

Just from my own example. Nine months ago, I could travel the breadth of Iraq. Sure, it was dangerous, it was risky, but it was calculated. Then that ceased. And I was restricted to Baghdad itself. And the only way I could leave Baghdad was if the insurgents took me and guaranteed my safety. Now I can't believe my compound. Kidnap teams circle my house. And even in my compound, they mortar -- drop bombs on our house. And in parts of Baghdad itself, the U.S. military has lost control.

The terrorists of Abu Musab al Zarqawi control entire quarters or suburbs. One of them Haifa Street, the most famous, is within mortar range of the U.S. Embassy itself.

And every day we're creating more recruits for the insurgents. And every day more young men from outside Iraq, from the Muslim world, the grieved and disenfranchised, are rising up and coming to join the fight, to blood themselves. Right now, we are the midwives of the next generation of jihad, of the next al Qaeda.

So the very thing that the administration says it went there to prevent, it is creating. And despite the honor and the bravery and the uncommon valor that I see among the American boys there in uniform who are fighting this grinding war day to day, when I see them dying in front of me, I can't help but think that perhaps they're dying in vain. Because we're making the nightmare that we're trying to prevent.


KOPPEL: Now to another global hot spot. Ukraine's parliament weighed in today on the presidential election that's plunged the country into turmoil. Meanwhile, the growing dissent over the disputed result continues to play out in the streets. CNN's Jill Dougherty is in Kiev.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It may be symbolic, but there were two major steps by the parliament today that have really lifted the spirits of the opposition. The parliament, in a special session, voting to anull the results of that election that took place on Sunday of this past week. And because it does not reflect the rule of the Ukranian people.

And another vote, also important for the opposition, and that is to dissolve the Central Election Commission and start up a new one, a vote of no confidence, in the Central Election Commission, which is the commission that named the government-backed candidate as the official winner of this election.

In and of themselves, these 2 steps don't have any legal force, but they have a lot of political force, opposing symbol for the opposition. Here is how the parliamentary speaker explained why they took those steps.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The most logical political decision taking into account the claims of massive violations is to pronounce the elections invalid in the sense of trying to determine the real will of the people.

DOUGHERTY: This was another sign of the growing strength of the opposition. Because after all, two days ago, they had tried to get a similar vote, vote of no confidence, in the Central Election Commission, and had failed. At that point, they didn't have enough support. And the Communists weren't saying who they would support. Now they're getting movement for the Communists, their way.

And as the ball keeps rolling, they will now move on to the courts. Monday, the Supreme Court will look at their complaints about voting irregularities.

And then finally, continuing people power in the streets. Large numbers showing up again in Independence Square and also outside of the parliament where they followed what the parliament was doing on large TV screens. Thinking, once again, that they may be moving in some positive direction for the opposition. Jill Dougherty, CNN, Kiev, Ukraine.

(END VIDEOTAPE) KOPPEL: You may be wondering why there is so much concern expressed by the Kremlin and the White House over disputed election thousands of miles away. But there is a lot at stake in the outcome of the crisis in Ukraine. As CNN's Tim Lister reports.


TIM LISTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The protests on the freezing streets of Kiev mark a crucial moment for a country that straddles a political fault line. Will Ukraine emerge from this election facing west toward free markets, membership in the European Union and even NATO, or North toward Russia, which has dominated life here for so long? Or will it emerge badly split? A fresh source of instability in an already volatile region?

13 years ago, Ukranians poured on to the streets to demand independents as the Soviet Union imploded. Next to Russia, this country of nearly 50 million has the greatest economic potential of the former Soviet States. It is rich in resources, with huge coal fields and agricultural land that provided much of the Soviet Union's grain. And it enjoys a vital strategic position, sitting aside the route from energy rich central Asia to Europe.

In the Soviet era, the Black Sea fleet was based in Ukranian ports, and nuclear missile silos dotted its landscape. Those are gone now. The United States has provided nearly $700 millions to helped dismantle ten years ago which was the world's third largest nuclear arsenal.

But there's plenty of nuclear experience here. Chernobyl, the site of the worst accident in 1986 is on Ukranian soil. Today, the Ukrainians are looking to expand their nuclear power program.

There's also a long history of building weapons in Ukraine. Two years ago, Washington accused the current president Leonid Kuchma of involvement in a plan to sell advanced radar to Iraq. Kuchma denied it.

Ukraine's position and potential make it Russia's most important neighbor after China. And Moscow still sees the country as very much within its sphere of influence.

President Putin has openly backed the government's candidate, Viktor Yanukovych, who's proposed making Russian an official language. President Bush's enjoy monitoring the elections, Senator Richard Lugar, has said that with Democratic forces in Russia and neighboring Belarus, this vote marks a true turning point for the entire region. To some political analysts, the crisis could even tear the country apart.

DMITRI TRENIN, CARNEGIE MOSCOW CENTER: I think that this is the first day when the political leaders, political forces in the Ukraine and outside of Ukraine who have been very actively involved in this election are putting the country toward the brink of a real split which will serve no one's interest. LISTER: As one official in Washington puts it, I don't think there's any doubt this is going to be a big test for us and the Russians.


KOPPEL: That was CNN's Tim Lister reporting.

Thousands of trucks enter the U.S. every day by way of this span. It's critical to the economy, but is enough being done to protect this bridge from would-be terrorists? That's ahead on CNN LIVE SATURDAY.

Also, was one day enough, or are shoppers back for more? We'll see how much consumers are spending as they search for holiday bargains.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I keep thinking a live little, date a clown, it will be a good story.


KOPPEL: And it may sound like a night at the comedy club, but these participants are vying for more than just laughs.


KOPPEL: Well, the parking lots are full, and the merchants are hoping the shopping carts are, too, this weekend as holiday shoppers dash out for early bargains. Our Denise Belgrave is in Atlanta where, like elsewhere, merchants are hoping shoppers will keep up the spending. So you survived out there, huh, Denise?

DENISE BELGRAVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I sure did, Andrea. It's actually the biggest retail shopping weekend of the year. More than 130 million Americans are going shopping this weekend. And there's a clear strategy to getting the bargains.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wanted to avoid the crowds yesterday. Thought it would be a little less today.

BELGRAVE: The national retail federation says about 73 million Americans went shopping on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Georgia Target store manager Jim Schaffer says people were lined up, waiting to spend.

JIM SCHAFFER, TARGET STORE MANAGER: Once we opened the doors, they made the bee-lines right toward the specialed.

BELGRAVE: Schaffer says his sales are running about the same as last year.

SCHAFFER: Yesterday was obviously a little busier than today. But today we'll have another great day for us. Not quite -- like I said, not quite as much as yesterday, but all in all, it makes for a great weekend.

BELGRAVE: Since it kicks off the holiday retail season, this weekend's numbers are important. Sales between now and the New Year can account for up to 40 percent of retail sales nationwide. And no matter how big the crowds, there's no stopping some people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We bought a lot. We bought two Yukons, we filled the backs of it. We filled the Yukons up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we emptied them out to start again today.


BELGRAVE: It's interesting that the term Black Friday is used as one of the biggest shopping days of the year. And it's actually an accounting term. What it means is that retailers hope to profit that day, and they hope to be in the black -- Andrea.

KOPPEL: Thanks, Denise. You know, i've always wondered why if it's the busiest shopping day of the year, people actually go out that day.

BELGRAVE: Well, I think it's for the bargains. I think what it is is that people really believe they're going to be able to go into the stores. They're going to see a lot of prices slashed, and it's only going to be that day -- Andrea.

KOPPEL: I tell you, I don't know if it's worth it. I prefer to wait until it's a little slower. Denise Belgrave in Atlanta, thank you so much.


KOPPEL: The Coast Guard is helping with an oil spill in the eastern U.S. And we'll get a progress report coming up.

And what happens when a bridge between friendly countries becomes a security problem? Checkpoints, or the lack thereof on the Ambassador Bridge when we come back.


KOPPEL: Coast Guard teams are trying to assess the environmental damage caused by an oil spill in the Delaware River near Philadelphia. A Cypriot tanker leaked an estimated 30,000 gallons of crude into the waterway last night. It happened as the vessel pulled into a Citgo facility in Paulsborough, New Jersey, just across the river from the port of Philadelphia. Part of the river had to be closed, snarling port traffic. Coast Guard crews had the spill contained by about noon today, but the cause is under investigation.

When U.S. officials survey the list of targets most likely to be hit by terrorists, the nation's bridges pretty much top the list. Although many have been secured against an attack, some remain vulnerable. CNN's Jeanne Meserve looks at one particularly vital bridge that spans the U.S./Canadian border.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A herd of tracter trailers thunders across the Ambassador Bridge. More than 12,000 every day. And none are inspected until after they cross.

THOMAS "SKIP" MCMAHON, AMBASSADOR BRIDGE: We compare it to having your luggage inspected after you get off the airplane.

MESERVE: The Ambassador Bridge is about as critical a piece of infrastructure as exist anywhere. This one bridge spanning the U.S./Canadian border between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario, carries one quarter of the trade between the two countries. It was constructed to last and has for 75 years. Bringing it down would be difficult. But just making it impassable could be economically devastating. The auto industry relies on the bridge to transport parts just in time for use on the production line. And even the heightened security after 9/11 had a profound effect.

MARGARET IRVIN, AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATION: Post September 11th, the economy was almost shut down at the northern border. I know some of the big five auto manufacturers had to shut down lines. Cost them millions of dollars, because trucks couldn't make it over the bridges.

MESERVE: Given the economic stakes and the limited options for rerouting truck traffic, there is widespread agreement that the bridge would be more secure if customs inspections were reversed. The U.S. would check out trucks on the Canadian side before cross the bridge and vice versa.

(on camera): The idea of swapping the customs stations around has been discussed since 9/11, but more than three years later, nothing has been done.

(voice-over): There has been and continues to be a lot of talk between U.S. and Canadian officials.

ROY CULLEN, PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY: This is not, you know, all straight head stuff. There are some complex issues there.

MESERVE: U.S. custom officers have greater powers to search, inspect, and arrest than their Canadian counter parts and the Americans carry gun. If they were to operate on Canadian soil, they would have adhere to Canadian law, potentially weakening their authority.

One example.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you had someone who you identified as a suspicious terrorist, that would come into the reverse inspection area and you identified them for arrest and they say, we change our mind and we want to turn around and leave, U.S. authorities would not have the capability to hold them at that point.

MESERVE: Officials of the U.S. and Canada say they are in serious negotiations with synchronizing laws or even swapping small pieces of territory on either side of the bridge. But supporters of reverse inspections point to the tunnel where the French and British currently perform reverse inspections and to some Canadian airports where U.S. customs already pre-clears passengers. And they suggest if there was a truly political will, a way already would have been found.

SHELBY SLATER, DETROIT HOMELAND SECURITY: It hasn't happened. And that's the bottom line. It just hasn't happened.

MESERVE: And no one on the U.S. or Canadian side can say when or if it will. So the trucks keep rolling across the bridge uninspected.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, on the U.S./Canadian border.


KOPPEL: Well, from Canada to Egypt. Is the movie Alexander truly great? And what about National Treasure? Is that a treasure? Well see movies worth seeing and some not worth seeing a little later in the show.

Stay with us.


ANDREA KOPPEL: On the battlefield, he was invincible. In the history books, he's an enigma. Now a new movie about Alexander the Great is focusing a lot of attention on the mysterious young leader who seemingly lived life in mythic proportions. But is it accurate? Our Beth Nissen reports.


BETH NISSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): His is one of the most famous lives in all history, yet there is no full account of it. Of the 20 books on Alexander written by his contemporaries, not one survives.

ROBIN LANE FOX, AUTHOR, "ALEXANDER THE GREAT": What we have for Alexander is a framework of dates, where he went, whom he conquered, what he has said to have said and his relations with others.

NISSEN: Oxford University scholar Robin Lane Fox is author of the closest thing there is to a biography of Alexander. He was chief historical consultant on the new film.

FOX: Great pains were taken to make it an epic drama with unusual reference to history.

NISSEN: Example -- the battle of Galgamila (ph) fought in 331 B.C. near what is now the city of Mosul in Iraq. The battle was a turning point in the young Alexander's campaign to conquer Persia, the greatest empire in the world at the time. FOX: Alexander, age 25, would knock it out in one fantastic victory.

NISSEN: His tactic -- a draw play that pulled thousands of Persian forces to one side of the battlefield.

FOX: A gap opens in the center. And this is genius. He concentrates his force, swings the horses 'round, very difficult to do, and leads them back in a cutting move into the Persian center. It is supreme boldness, brilliant horsemanship, and he had a nerve of steel.

NISSEN: No enemy weapon could stymie Alexander, not the war elephants in India, not the Persians dreaded five chariots which could cut the legs off cavalry and infantry alike.

FOX: Troops part ranks and let the chariots come blinding through, kill the drivers with javelins. It worked.

NISSEN: It is harder to reveal the man behind the shield, although Fox says the film tries.


KOPPEL: Critics have panned the movie about Alexander as being anything but great. It's not the only film vying for moviegoers' dollars of course this weekend. What's hot and what's not and what film could be courting the Oscar? Those are the questions for Tom O'Neil in New York. He's the author of "Movie Awards," and the host of I think a lot of people are going to be disappointed about "Alexander," Tom.

TOM O'NEIL, HOST, WWW.GOLDDERBY.COM: Yeah, big time because we had huge expectations for this. This looks like "Gladiator." It looks like that big epic movie Oscar voters would love, too, but it's a truly disaster movie.

KOPPEL: What happened?

O'NEIL: Well, they forgot the through line. "Gladiator" was driven full where dramatically by this man's need for revenge. What Alexander's driven by is just what, land lust, body lust? The full depths of his personality were never etched here.

KOPPEL: It really feels -- Colin Farrell of course, who we're looking at right there, plays the lead and Angelina Jolie is the other top name getting billing in that movie. It just seems, from what the critics are saying, that the actors don't get it, the direction doesn't get it and it's going to be a big flop.

O'NEIL: Well, certainly the casting director didn't get this scene. Angelina Jolie is supposed to be Colin's mother, Andrea. There's only five years' age difference between those actors in real life. That's preposterous.

KOPPEL: I mean, she might be taller, perhaps, I don't know. I'm talking -- I have no clue about that. But let's talk about "Aviator." Does this movie have what it takes to win a Golden Globe or Oscar?

O'NEIL: Nobody thought so at first because just two years ago, director Marty Scorsese disappointed everybody with "Gangs of New York." And everyone was predicting disaster for this, because Leo DiCapprio as Howard Hughes? Kate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn? Who's going to buy that? But this is fantastic. It is the official front- runner for the academy award for best picture. Leo's probably ahead for best actor. What does, my website, I we are right now spying on the voters for the Oscars and the Golden Globes and the Guild Awards as they watch these movies. This week, Globe voters saw and the Directors Guild voters saw it. They loved it. They went crazy.

KOPPEL: "Finding Neverland." Now, has it found the magic necessary to charm viewers?

O'NEIL: Oscar voters certainly think so. They saw this about a month ago and were dazzled by it. This movie wins over the critics who give it one of the highest percentage marks of critical ratings of any movies this year. And those exit polls of audiences who see it, give it one of the highest scores, too. It's absolutely enchanting. The story of JN Barrie who adopts a family of four fatherless boys and so inspired by their friendship that he writes "Peter Pan." Johnny Depp is utterly winning as Barrie. It's terrific.

KOPPEL: Now, of course, "National Treasure," you've got Nicolas Cage and Jerry Bruckheimer. Did they strike gold?

O'NEIL: No Oscar gold, but they sure have been striking box office gold. This is a real shock because Nic Cage hasn't had a hit movie in a million years. He's a little old for action flicks and the storyline of this. Come on, a guy who is looking for an old treasure left by the founding fathers in American history, doesn't seem like Indiana Jones, which is how they were trying to market this movie. But for two weeks in a row, it has dominated the box office, surprisingly despite mediocre reviews.

KOPPEL: And why do you think that is?

O'NEIL: I think it's because it's the only action movie out there right now. There are a lot of kids' movies and family movies. But, you know, the guys want to see a real butt-kicking flick sometimes, too. This is the only one that's out there.

KOPPEL: What about "Polar Express"?

O'NEIL: Well, it's not having a very merry Christmas, unfortunately. The marketing of this movie was really mishandled. It opened just a few days after "The Incredibles," which also appealed to kids. And while this movie cost more than $200 million to make, it's only earned back about $70 million so far. But if Roger Ebert is right, film critic, he says it's a movie that will live for the ages. So long term, it can earn its money back.

KOPPEL: And what's if about, Tom? O'NEIL: It's a sweet story about a boy who doesn't believe in Santa and ends up taking a ride on the polar express train driven by Tom Hanks to the North Pole and that's one of the problems of the marketing of the movie. They play up Tom Hanks too much instead of the little boy. This is a kids' movie.

KOPPEL: Tom O'Neil, who is the author of "Movie Awards" and the host of If you have any questions about what's going to be in contention for the golden globes, check out that website. Thanks very much, Tom.

O'NEIL: Thanks, Andrea.

KOPPEL: Well, quiz shows have been popular for decades, and though several have been around for years, only one now is a world record holder.

And we've all heard about the winter blahs. Turns out the cold, dark weather really can affect our physical and mental health. We'll talk to the doctor after the break.


KOPPEL: Here's a question for you. What is the longest running quiz show on television? If you're thinking THE PRICE IS RIGHT, you're wrong. JEOPARDY? No way. CNN's Elaine Quijano has the correct answer.


ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A few years before JEOPARDY hit the airwaves, high school students were already cramming their craniums with facts. For a Washington, D.C.,-based show called IT'S ACADEMIC. The program, which pits high school academic teams against each other, was Sophie Altman's (ph) brain child.

SOPHIE ALTMAN: Everybody likes a quiz show.

QUIJANO: Altman has been at the helm since the first show aired in 1961 and has presided over the creation of similar shows nationwide.

ALTMAN: A quiz show interests a lot of people. You have nine bright students every week who are displaying their knowledge, very impressive, darling students.

QUIJANO: some of those students have since risen to high-profile positions. That's Senator Hillary Clinton, then Hillary Rodham, who was her team's alternate at Main South in suburban Chicago. And here's high school student George Stephanopolous (ph) who appeared on a version of the show in Cleveland. He now hosts ABC's "THIS WEEK." The longevity of IT'S ACADEMIC has earned it a spot in the Guinness book of world records. Host Mac Magerry (ph) was there for the show's debut and still hosts today. MAC MAGERRY: It started in 1961 when John F. Kennedy was president and now the students who were with us in that first year, '61-'62 are 60 years old. Oh!

QUIJANO: Over the years, IT'S ACADEMIC has changed with the times. While it's not exactly a homecoming football game, it does have the trappings of a sporting event. Cheerleaders cheer, marching bands play, the teams have coaches and practices and the pace has picked up.

As for the future, creator Sophie Altman predicts IT'S ACADEMIC will continue to appeal to audiences.

ALTMAN: As long as you have the community that supports us, yes, I think the show will go on.

QUIJANO: And while hairstyles and fashion have changed over the show's 44-year run, what remains is the students' enthusiasm for the game. Elaine Quijano, CNN, Washington.


KOPPEL: Their enthusiasm and the fact that they're all really smart.

Speaking of smart, Carol Lin is here with a preview of what's ahead on CNN LIVE SATURDAY. No quiz show guests I guess.

CAROL LIN: No, no quiz show guests. Great to see you, Andrea.

Coming up at 6:00, we all would love to have that great idea and whether you agree with the war in Iraq or disagree with it, one man came up with an idea on how to show his support for the troops and this idea is taking off like crazy. So stay tuned at 6:00 for that.

Also, you know, we've been talking a lot about bargain hunting when it comes to shopping, now that Thanksgiving is over. Well, what about the people who don't care about bargains? The billionaires? Our Miguel Marquez actually went out to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills and Adrea, guess who we bumped into?


LIN: None other than Roseanne Barr and this woman wants something that she's been trying to get for a really long time. So that's my tease for the 6:00 show.

KOPPEL: And are you saying she was out the day after Thanksgiving when all the bargains were there?

LIN: She was. She was. I don't think there were very many bargains on Rodeo Drive.

KOPPEL: Probably. Well, her show was canceled.

LIN: Yeah. So maybe she needs a discount these days and a new agent, for that matter.

KOPPEL: I'm sure people will be interested to see what Roseanne wants to buy. Thanks, Carol.

LIN: Thanks.

KOPPEL: And up next here, under the spotlight on stage they may look like comedians, but it's not laughs that these performers are after. All they want to do is tell a winning story.


KOPPEL: Back before television, radio and computer games, if you can remember back that far, people actually knew how to entertain themselves. (INAUDIBLE) one way was to sit around the parlor or on the porch and just tell stories. CNN's Alina Cho has found folks trying to preserve this bygone heartland tradition in of all places, the heart of New York City.


ALINO CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Something very personal is about to happen on this stage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And she said, what's your name? And I just blurted out "Bernie!"

CHO: These men and women are not only performers, they're competitors, vying for the title best storyteller.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like I'm cheating on my platonic relationship.

CHO: They have just five minutes to wow the crowd with tonight's theme, "out on a limb."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But I keep thinking a little, live a little, date a clown, it will be a good story.

CHO: The contest is sponsored by a group called The Moth, the brainchild of novelist George Green (ph) who fondly remembers exchanging stories on a friend's porch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And these moths would come flying in all night, because we had the porch light on. So we started calling ourselves the moths. So I thought if I had a venue where people could just relax and tell stories, that we could make fascinating evenings and we did.

CHO: Though The Moth has drawn celebrities like Ethan Hawke and Rosie O'Donnell, most of the contestants are not famous. Take Harry Fidelson (ph) who moonlights as a storyteller --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What I discovered was the ability to keep pushing the envelope.

CHO: But makes his living selling auto parts.


CHO: Harry's been doing this for as long as he can remember.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For some of us, we wake up one day, and there's two kids, and in my case, an ex-wife, and you kind of wonder what happened to all of those things that you thought you were going to try --

CHO: The dreams?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your dreams, yeah.

CHO: But tonight's winner is lawyer Joe Limone (ph).


CHO: Who, in high school went out on a limb to help a classmate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So what I do is I actually take my entire exam and hand it to him. You should have saw the look on his face!

CHO: Years later, the friend returned the favor, putting a lucky nail in Fenway Park to help out Joe, a lifelong Red Sox fan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he's, like, aghast. He goes, that's too much to ask for the nail! We're talking about the curse!

CHO: The Red Sox won the World Series, Limone won the contest with a little humor, a little emotion --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lou, I love you, too.

CHO: And a story that wowed the crowd. Alina Cho, CNN, New York.


KOPPEL: Somebody in Boston must have gotten a hold of that lucky nail. We'll be right back with more after this break. Stay with us.


KOPPEL: Besides the dropping temperatures, have you noticed how short the days have become? It can have an impact on your outlook. Health experts say compared to other seasons, winter can endanger both your good health and your healthy attitude. This week on "living well," Dr. Bill Lloyd joins us some chilling facts about staying fit this time of year. Doctor, nice to see you.


KOPPEL: So aside from the cold, snowy weather, why is winter so difficult for so many people? LLOYD: Well, Andrea, here in central California, it's a cold, raw wet day, like much of the country. And days like this drive people indoors. They're less prone to exercise. They lose their workout schedule and they quickly gain weight. Also, of course, we've got the holidays coming. It's loaded with stress and loaded with calories. And there's another special problem with the winter weather. It can make a lot of people very sad.

KOPPEL: That's right. And I think there is a term for it called seasonal affective disorder. What can you tell us about that? Who is most susceptible and what can people do to beat the winter blues?

LLOYD: Andrea, it's a real problem. It affects about one in four people. They just can't handle the absence of the nice sun when there's cloudy, foggy weather around day after day after day. One out of four people are affected and the symptoms include loss of energy, loss of libido, interest in new activities. They can become socially withdrawn as well. There's kind of a controversy between doctors as to what's causing this. Some researchers say the brain is making too much melatonin. Others say not enough serotonin. And you can get more serotonin by getting light.

I think this is the reason why TV news anchors are so joyful because they're surrounded by bright lights all the time. You can have light therapy, hopefully get outside and get a little fresh sunshine, or maybe even take a vacation and get away from the snowy, cold, gray weather and this will greatly influence and improve your attitude.

LLOYD: I don't know if all TV news anchors are cheerful, but certainly, I guess, many of them are. But let's say that you are able to sort of maintain your weight and you're a naturally kind of cheerful, upbeat person. You also believe that there are other winter hazards.

LLOYD: Oh, there certainly are. Every organ is the body is affected by cold winter weather. Here's a tip a dermatologist told me about using plenty of skin moisturizers during cold winter weather, but apply it to moist skin. Don't pat down with a towel, apply it when your skin is still wet and it will work much longer and much better. This is a great weekend to change out the filters in your house, because we're trapped indoors. There can be a lot of indoor allergies.

Vacuum off your mattresses and get rid of those dust mites as well. And you've got to be careful. Winter, there's a 50 percent chance of heart attack, greater than the rest of the year. That means when you're indoors all winter, make sure you're taking your medication for high blood pressure, try to get some exercise and keep a positive attitude.

KOPPEL: If you are somebody who believes that they might be suffering from this seasonal affective disorder, should you seek medical attention?

LLOYD: Oh, that's a very important question, Andrea. Six percent of people in the population, 6 percent of adults, have a genuine problem with S.A.D. and they certainly need medical intervention. The rest of us can help ourselves with bright lights. Now, the trick is, how do you know if you need help? You need help if there's a change, a change in your eating habits, a change in your sleeping habits, or a change in the way you relate to other people. If it's more than just the blues, you ought to see a doctor. He may prescribe light therapy, medical therapy, group therapy, or perhaps a combination to help you overcome the seasonal blues that comes with a long, cold winter.

KOPPEL: Dr. Bill Lloyd, who is a professor at the University of California Davis Medical Center, where I think it is often very sunny out there, and hopefully you guys don't suffer from the winter blues too frequently. Thank you so much, doctor, for joining us.

LLOYD: It was a pleasure being here. We'll talk again soon.

KOPPEL: Look forward to it.

And that is all the time we have for now, but stay tuned with CNN. Up next, we have PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. But first, here's a check of the day's headlines.



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