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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Hostage Standoff; Fatal Crash; School Bus Safety; Suing Over Spying; Thin Green Line?; Life on the Streets; My Life as a Man; Return to Toxic Town; Warmest Year Ever

Aired January 25, 2006 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ANNOUNCER: And killing for the thrill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was a bunch of kids with a pipe and a baseball bat.

ANNOUNCER: Beating the desperate, hungry and lonely. Shocking brutality more common each day. 360 spends the night on the new streets of fear.

From across the U.S. and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360. Live from the CNN studios in New York, filling in for Anderson, John King.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And we'll begin this hour with breaking news out of Exeter, California, not far from Fresno, involving a bank robbery and a hostage situation.

(BEGIN BREAKING NEWS)

KING: There are reports tonight that five people are being held inside the Bank of America by at least one armed suspect. It started around 5:00 p.m. local time. We're told that all of the hostages are bank employees. Here's what an affiliate reported on the standoff just a moment ago, from KSEE.

LIZ GONZALES, KSEE-TV CORRESPONDENT: -- being asked to move from this location. Again, that this situation remains the same. We've got five hostages. Now behind me I do see representatives here from the Bank of America. I haven't had a chance to speak to them, but they just arrived her on the scene.

Again, at this point the five hostages have been confirmed as employees of Bank of America, according to the gentleman you were speaking with earlier, as well as members of the Tulare County Sheriff's Department.

Again, just to reiterate, they did allow -- the suspect did allow a mother and a child to be released, as well as a couple that were inside the bank. We assume that that may have been Mr. Real (ph), who we spoke with earlier and Joel Real (ph), who spoke to us a minute ago.

Now again, at this point they've got officers out here. Farmersville P.D., Exeter P.D., as well as Tulare County Sheriff's Department.

As you can see, the crowd is continuing to grow out here. At one point it seemed to go down once they asked them to move out of the way, but at this point again, the crowd keeps growing. I would guess, more or less, that there's about 200 people out here looking on, people for the most part curious. We haven't really run into too many who say that they've either got friends.

It's a small community, as you can imagine, Exeter. A lot of these people don't necessarily know those inside the bank, but they do know someone that either knows that person inside the bank or is related to a person that's working in the bank.

Again, at this point, five hostages inside; one armed suspect. We did get confirmation, as you guys have been reporting, that the suspect inside the bank has made a demand for a vehicle. The officer that I spoke with a couple of minutes ago mentioned that they told the suspect that that is not likely going to be happening. We don't know exactly what his reaction was to that, but they have informed him that that will likely not happen.

So just to reiterate, five hostages inside, one armed suspect and officers outside trying to negotiate the release of those five.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: That report from our affiliate, KSEE. Since it was filed just moments ago, CNN has been told that one of the five hostages has been released from the bank. As we watch the situation unfold tonight, police on the scene of a Bank of America branch; again, in Exeter, California. Now one armed suspect, it is believed, inside that bank and now four hostages being held. This hostage standoff, during an apparent robbery. We will continue to follow this story as it develops tonight. Four hostages still in that bank in Exeter, California. A standoff. Police have that bank surrounded.

(END BREAKING NEWS)

KING: For now, though, on to Florida, and a deadly crash involving a car, a semi and school bus. The details are sketchy tonight, but what we do know is chilling. Inside the car were seven children, all related, but no adults. The youngest was a toddler. A 15-year-old was driving. All of the children perished. There were injuries aboard the school bus as well.

And joining me now on the phone from the scene of the scene of the accident, is Lt. Mike Burroughs, of the Florida Highway Patrol.

Lt. Burroughs, let's start with the basic details. How did this car get trapped between the bus and the tractor trailer?

LT. MIKE BURROUGHS, FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL: Sure. This car was basically stopped behind the stopped school bus. The school bus had just finished unloading two children. As those children got off the bus, they actually waved at the 15-year-old girl driving the car. And then they looked up and seen the tractor trailer barreling down on them. They tried to wave at the children inside the car, but I don't think that they knew what they were trying to wave them down for, but it was too late.

The tractor trailer was barreling down on them, smashed into the back of the Pontiac Bonneville that they were driving and crushed them between the tractor trailer and the school bus. The car at that point caught on fire and all of the children were basically trapped in that mangled wreckage. The fiery mangled wreckage at the scene and there was no way that they could escape.

The school bus was actually knocked about 150 feet north of the scene, rotated backwards twice. Three of the children on the bus were actually thrown off the bus and they received serious injuries. The school bus driver, we think too, was also ejected at the time.

The driver of the tractor trailer received only miner injuries.

KING: Has he been charged, sir, in this crash? The driver of the tractor trailer?

BURROUGHS: There were no criminal violations present at the scene, so what we will do now is conduct a very thorough type investigation. We want to know what he was doing at the time of this crash.

We're going to look at cell phone records. We're going to look at how much sleep he's had. Was he tired? Was he distracted inside the truck or car? We're doing a blood alcohol test and also a drug screen. We'll find out for sure just what he was doing and what caused this crash.

KING: And Lieutenant, a 15-year-old driving the car in which the seven children, all related, were killed. You can have a learner's permit in Florida at that age, but you cannot be driving without an adult present. Has his parents been contacted? Do we know more about why that young boy was driving that car?

BURROUGHS: Actually, it was a girl. It was a her that was driving the car, 15 years of age. And this is what the parents are telling us, that that was who was driving. They can't explain why they were driving. There was no excuse why an unlicensed driver was driving a car without an adult being in the car with them. And then to have children that small in the car with an unlicensed driver is something that they're going to have to explain as well.

It is a sad occasion all the way around to see this many people perish in a crash. And for this county, Union County, this is probably the worst crash on record for them.

KING: Lt. Mike Burroughs, of the Florida Highway Patrol. Thank you, sir, for the information tonight on this tragic event and we will check back with you in the hours and days ahead for more of the details as the investigation unfolds.

Now, we're not sure whether the school bus involved in today's crash was equipped with seatbelts. There's no federal law requiring it. If that surprises you, it also angers many parents. But not all parents across the country. It's an issue under debates. CNN's Ed Lavandera reports from Missouri.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The get well wishes kept coming to the Wansing's home in Liberty, Missouri, the day after then 7-year-old Michael was recovering from a concussion he suffered in a school bus crash. He struggled with the lingering effects for months.

LINDA WANSING, MICHAEL'S MOTHER: Last night he kind of had some emotional issues when he was trying to go to sleep, thinking he was back on the bus.

LAVANDERA: Michael was sitting in the middle of the bus as it careened through this busy intersection.

L. WANSING: One of the other children seemed to think that he might have, you know, flown to the other side, straight across into that seat.

LAVANDERA: The impact was so severe, Michael came out of his shoe.

L. WANSING: And when I found him, he had one shoe on and one shoe off. So I have no clue where the other shoe is at.

LAVANDERA: But despite the accident, Michael's parents aren't convinced seatbelts would have helped and they're not ready to demand that the Liberty School District put seatbelts in its buses.

CRAIG WANSING, MICHAEL'S FATHER: You know, I believe that -- and I still do -- I mean, yesterday didn't change my belief. I mean, the bus system here in Liberty is as safe as I've known it to be and expect it to be. I mean, we've never had a problem with it.

LAVANDERA: But Liberty's superintendent said after the accident the district would look at outfitting its buses with seatbelts.

SCOTT TAVEAU, LIBERTY SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT: We will do everything that we can do for student safety. And if the consensus of the experts says that seatbelts on school buses is the best way to go, then we'll do everything that we can do to make that come about.

LAVANDERA: Around the country, some school districts have gone through the expense of equipping buses with safety belts. Opponents say it's too expensive to equip buses that are already considered to be safe and that in some cases belts could cause more severe injuries.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says school buses are the safest way for kids to get to school. In 2004 they say five children died in school bus accidents, compared to 800 who were killed walking by feet or riding in a car with their own parents.

The Wansings say they're doing their own research, but so far haven't seen anything to change their minds.

C. WANSING: It's got to be cost-warranted. I mean, if I only gain, you know, one percent more safety and it costs me, you know, a ton of bucks on my tax dollars in order to make that happen, you know, then maybe it's not worth that cost benefit.

L. WANSING: You got what you want? Okay, let's go out to the car.

LAVANDERA: Michael Wansing is on his way to the doctor's office for a checkup, but he knows very soon he'll be on a bus, headed back to school.

Ed Lavandera, CNN, Liberty, Missouri.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And since Ed Lavandera first reported that story for us last May, the debate over seatbelts in Missouri has continued. In October the governor proposed equipping all new school buses with lap and shoulder belts at an estimated cost of $80 million. Lawmakers will consider that proposal this year.

Now, a look at some of the other stories we're following at this moment.

In Washington, reaction to the Palestinian elections. An exit poll shows Fatah, the ruling party, is short of the majority; and the militant group Hamas, received 39 percent of the votes, giving it a major political voice.

Today, the White House said it will not deal with Hamas, calling it a terrorist organization.

In Iraq, five women held by the U.S. military are expected to be released tomorrow. That's according to a military official. But this official insists their freedom has nothing to do with Jill Carroll, an American journalist held hostage in Iraq. Her captors threatened to kill Carroll by last Friday if all the female prisoners held by the United States in Iraq were not let go.

And in New Orleans, a grand jury will look into allegations police officers shot and killed two suspected snipers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The panel is also reviewing allegations of officers stealing Cadillacs from a car dealer.

It's a life none of us envy, but many of us don't realize just how dangerous it really is. What's it like being a homeless person? We'll take you to the streets and alleyways of America, where people hungry and lonely are beaten and abused.

Plus, two wars and recruitment failures. Are they taking a toll on the mighty U.S. military? An alarming new report when 360 continues.

(BEGIN GRAPHIC) 2005 Army Recruitment.

Goal for U.S. active army: 80,000.

Actual amount recruited: 73,373.

(END GRAPHIC)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN BREAKING NEWS)

KING: Back now for an update on our breaking news tonight. A hostage standoff at a bank in Exeter, California, near Fresno. A gunman is still holding four bank employees hostage. We want to show you some video now and look closely. This video shows one of those hostages being set free.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING (voice-over): Again, this is at a Bank of America branch in Exeter, California, that is south of Fresno to the east of Sequoia National Park. A small town. One suspect, we believe, an armed suspect, holding four bank employees hostage. One of those employees released a short time ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING (on camera): So now four hostages, not five hostages. We will continue to track this development as the night progresses. We are not showing you live pictures all the time, so that we do not reveal any of the tactical moves underway by the police department there.

And we talked to a sheriff's spokesman a short time ago, who told us the suspect inside has spoken to the police, as well as to a police chaplain. Again, more developments on this hostage standoff at a Bank of America branch in Exeter, California, as we get them.

(END BREAKING NEWS)

KING: And now to Washington, where today President Bush made a very public visit to a place that likes to stay secretive. He stopped by the National Security Agency and defended his decision to give it the power to spy on Americans without a warrant.

This visit, the latest move in a campaign style effort to gain support for a highly controversial program.

Though a professor at Stanford University needs more convincing that the NSA is only spying on suspected terrorists. He thinks the agency has spied on him and now he's taking the Bush administration to court. CNN's Peter Viles with that story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LARRY DIAMOND, HOOVER INSTITUTION: To sustain a democracy and...

PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Stanford Professor Larry Diamond, an expert in the spread of democracy, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the conservative think tank inside Stanford's iconic Hoover tower. So why is this man suing the Bush administration? Because he believes the administration is spying on him without a warrant.

DIAMOND: And what I strongly suspect is that some of my email communications in particular, but possibly phone calls as well, have been intercepted -- not because I've been targeted, but because the scope of the program has expanded so much that the sorts of people I communicate with have been sucked up into this widening net.

VILES: His students think it's a scandal. Who would spy on a champion of democracy?

MICHAEL WILKERSON, STANFORD JUNIOR: Well, especially since he's promoting democracy around the world, it seems odd that they would want to, you know, put surveillance on him. I don't think he's going to be talking to anyone that would be planning any sort of attack.

VILES: Diamond says he is certain he's not talking with terrorists. But let's back up for a second. He has no solid evidence the government is monitoring his emails. He suspects that the case based on published reports about the spying program. And the government isn't talking.

The National Security Agency, telling ANDERSON COOPER 360 quote, "We have no information to provide. We do not discuss pending or ongoing litigation." Diamond is suing under the argument that the warrantless spying is unconstitutional. The lawsuit claims that the NSA spies not just on terrorists, but on people in contact with terrorists and on people in contact with those people. In a quote, "Expanding network of people with fewer and fewer links to the original suspects."

DIAMOND: And once you get to two or three or four degrees of separation from the terrorists themselves or people we suspect to be terrorists, you can get to journalists, professors, human rights activists, elected political leaders. Frankly, our friends.

VILES: In defending the program, the administration has portrayed it as much more focused than that.

ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We're talking about communications where one end of the call is outside the United States and where there's a reasonable basis to believe based upon the experience and the qualified foreign intelligence expert that a person on the call is either a member of al Qaeda or a member of an organization that is affiliated with al Qaeda.

VILES: But the "New York Times" has reported the NSA is monitoring some purely domestic conversations. And Diamond believes his pro-democracy contacts in the Middle East will be less likely to speak openly to him if they believe Washington is eavesdropping. He says that would undermine not just his research, but America's credibility.

DIAMOND: We look like hypocrites when we do this. And we give up a lot in terms of our standing in the world and the ability of America to be a beacon of freedom in the world when we trample on principles of liberty in this way.

VILES: But, is the government really monitoring Larry Diamond's calls and emails? That's the mystery inside the Hoover tower.

Peter Viles for CNN, Palo Alto, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: And nor is the warrantless wire tape the only thing for which the Bush administration is taking flack. Criticism is also being directed at the White House in not one, but two reports. One of them commissioned by the Pentagon itself, both warning the U.S. Army is being stretched to the breaking point by the strain of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. CNN's Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The two reports sound a similar alarm, that the constant rotation of battle-weary troops into deadly war zones, combined with the problems attracting new recruits are a recipe for a broken Army that won't be able to respond to future threats.

In one report commissioned by the Pentagon, a chapter entitled, "The Thin Green Line," argues the Army is overstretched and undersized. The author, a retired military officer, concludes the Army is in a race against time and could face a catastrophic decline in recruitment and reenlistment.

A second report released by Democrats on Capitol Hill echoed the theme, noting that every available Army combat brigade has served in Iraq or Afghanistan for at least one one-year tour. And many are on their second or third deployments. Among the co-authors of the Democratic report, Former Defense Secretary William Perry.

WILLIAM PERRY, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: All Americans can be proud of their service and dedication. But the strain, if not relieved, can have highly corrosive and long-term effects on the military.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: I just can't imagine someone looking at the United States Armed Forces today and suggesting that they're close to breaking. That's just not the case.

MCINTYRE: At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed the dire warnings as either out of date or misdirected. And while he's never denied the military is stressed, he says the solution is to update the cold war organizational structure he inherited from the Clinton administration. RUMSFELD: I mean, these are the people basically who did that report who were here in the 90s. And what we're doing is trying to adjust what was left us to fit the 21st century.

MCINTYRE: Both reports recommended a permanent increase in the size of the U.S. Army, something the Pentagon insists may not be needed if enough desk jobs can be converted to combat roles.

RUMSFELD: It's magic that somebody outside knows all of that because you can't know it. It's not knowable.

MCINTYRE (on camera): The debate isn't so much over how the Army's doing now. Big bonuses have boosted recruitment and retention's at an all-time high. It's more about whether short-term fixes now will result in a full-blown crisis down the road. Secretary Rumsfeld's candid answer, he doesn't know. Time will tell, he said. Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: We're still following that hostage standoff at a bank in California. A gunman is holding four bank employees, one was let go. We'll have another update coming up.

Also ahead, violence against the homeless. Tonight's headlines, Home Time (ph). But every night there are homeless people fearful they'll be attacked. So we looked to see what their nights are really like.

Plus, her life as a man. A woman journalist disguised herself as a man. Is a man's world all that it's talked up to be?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN BREAKING NEWS)

KING: Back now to our breaking news, a hostage standoff at a bank in Exeter, California, near Fresno, just south of Fresno. A gunman is still holding four bank employees, after letting one go.

One thing we will not show you are any live pictures from the scene because the police have asked us not to during their tactical operations.

We'll bring you those dramatic pictures later, perhaps when all of this is resolved. But again, we want to make clear we will not show you any live pictures or even any tape of the police tactical operations at the request of the police department.

Joining us once again on the phone is Jaime Espinoza. He owns a restaurant just across the street form the bank and he's still on the scene there.

Mr. Espinoza, help us understand, without again disclosing anything you see about police movements, how the scene has changed over the past hour or so. JAIME ESPINOZA, OWNS RESTAURANT ACROSS FROM BANK: The scene itself hasn't changed much. Still the same cars in the same spot. SWAT's still on the scene. They did let one hostage out and everything else remains the same right now.

KING: And in terms of -- we spoke to a police spokeswoman who said that there were conversations between a negotiator and the suspect inside. Do you have any indication or can you see police on the scene talking inside on the phones?

ESPINOZA: Talking? No. There's -- you can't see them from where I'm at. I don't know where the negotiator is (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Describe for us the scene when the one bank employee who was among the hostages was released. Tell us what you saw.

ESPINOZA: She came to the door by herself, opened the door, stepped out very slowly, as she was advised from the cops. She then was led out from view by three SWAT members who then took her from the door away from the building.

KING: Take us back to the beginning of this hostage standoff. You own a restaurant. You've closed it, of course now. But, at the time this unfolded, you told us earlier about 4:50, almost 5:00 o'clock, your time in California. What was the scene just when you first realized there was something happening across the street at the bank?

ESPINOZA: Three or four patrol cars came to the scene. They jumped out of their cars and ran to the doors of the bank with rifles and just kind of surrounded the bank door and that's when we realized there was something going on. And slowly fire department trucks, the sheriff, people from -- other officers from near (INAUDIBLE) started showing up and that takes us to where we're at right now as far as news vans being here and the cops initially thought (INAUDIBLE), been here, would have been before 5:00 o'clock.

KING: Jaime Espinoza, who is in a restaurant across the street from the Bank of America branch where this hostage standoff is unfolding tonight.

Mr. Espinoza, thank you for your time. And we should note, we have been told by local police and our local affiliates in Fresno also reporting, police negotiators are in touch with the suspect, believed to be just one suspect inside that Bank of America branch in Exeter, California. Four hostages still in that bank. One has been released.

(END BREAKING NEWS)

KING: On now to another crime, one that's gaining more attention, violence against the Homeless. Chances are, you remember this recent attack against homeless men in Florida, captured for all to see. Clearly, our society is facing a condition and a crime wave that demands closer attention.

Here is CNN's John Zarrella, who spent the night with some homeless people in Florida, who shared their fears.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Steven Michaud is 43 years old. He's been living on the streets homeless for 15 years. He can't tell you why.

(On camera): How'd it start?

STEVEN MICHAUD, HOMELESS: I have no idea. Loneliness probably.

ZARRELLA: And he can't find his way out of this cycle. Even though he knows there is little safety in the alleyways and on the park benches.

(On camera): And have you been targeted in the past?

MICHAUD: Oh yes, I've got scars all on me now.

ZARRELLA (voice-over): The beatings of three homeless men here in Fort Lauderdale this month, one of whom died, brought renewed attention to the dangerous lives these people live.

Raymond Perez survived the attack on him.

RAYMOND PEREZ, HOMELESS: I was sleeping with my -- my body was covered up with a blanket and they woke me up and hitting with bats and everything.

ZARRELLA: And it doesn't just happen here, but across the country. In California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, HOMELESS: Somebody poured gas on me and just threw a match on me, I guess.

ZARRELLA: In Illinois.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, HOMELESS: That's where they jumped me. And all six of them. They surrounded me.

ZARRELLA: In New Jersey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, HOMELESS: It was mostly kids, with a pipe and a baseball bat.

ZARRELLA: Baseball bats, says the National Coalition for the Homeless, are a preferred weapon. In six years, the coalition says, there have been nearly 400 attacks on the homeless. That's just the ones they know about. More than 150 have resulted in death.

SCOTT RUSSELL, FORT LAUDERDALE POLICE OFFICER: I got a couple questions for you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Uh huh.

RUSSELL: One of which is, are you homeless? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

RUSSELL: You are?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

RUSSELL: Okay. How long you been in town?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Actually, about a year or so probably.

ZARRELLA: Scott Russell and Jamie Costas are Fort Lauderdale police officers. Their job, seek out the homeless and coax them into shelters.

RUSSELL: We try to be those good Samaritans, that pick them up and take them to where they can recapture and regain their lives, recover.

You want an MRE? Would you eat --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's that?

RUSSELL: The meal ready to eat, military version.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Yes.

RUSSELL: All right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There, I saved my dollar.

ZARRELLA: Russell and Costas say, sure, bad things happen to the homeless, and much of it goes unreported.

For the homeless, life on the street is constant risk.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's getting dangerous and I've got to make a decision to go.

ZARRELLA: Attacks by outsiders like teenagers grab the headlines. The National Coalition says numbers to be released next week will show attacks by outsiders are increasing. It's unclear why. In Fort Lauderdale most of the violence is homeless on homeless.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's mostly, you know all of us together that are just robbing each other. You know, I mean, I can't say I ain't never grabbed somebody's bag before sometime in my life.

ZARRELLA: It happened to Timothy Brewster a few days ago in Miami. He was robbed four times. His backpack and all his IDs stolen.

(On camera): You can't trust anybody?

TIMOTHY BREWSTER, HOMELESS: No, they'll cut the bottom of your pockets open when you're asleep. They'll cut the heels off in your sleep. ZARRELLA (voice-over): Tonight, Brewster is sleeping under the lights at the bus station. It's safer.

Michaud is bedding down across the street in the bushes.

MICHAUD: Like it's all blocked of in the alley. I got it blocked off so nobody can come from that way, you know.

ZARRELLA: If they try, Michaud says he'll hear them and have a chance to fight back. He lights one more cigarette before closing his eyes. Another night on the street.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZARRELLA (on camera): Now, this is that street in Fort Lauderdale. Many of the homeless here because as you can see, the bus station behind me there is well lit. It provides them safety. One of the homeless men we introduced you to in that piece, Steven, I ran into him a couple of hours ago. He plans to spend the night again here, right across the street, in those bushes.

Now in Tallahassee today, legislation was introduced and filed to make it a minimum mandatory sentence of three years in prison for anyone convicted of aggravated battery or aggravated assault against the homeless -- John.

KING: John, expand a bit on why it is the Fort Lauderdale police say that homeless on homeless violence is their biggest problem.

ZARRELLA: Well, they say it's because 80 percent or a great percentage of the homeless out here are substance abusers and they are attacking each other for $10, $15, so that they can get money for crack cocaine. In fact, one story they told us was that one homeless man murdered his best friend because his best friend took the larger piece of crack cocaine rock they were sharing -- John.

KING: John Zarrella, for us in Fort Lauderdale tonight. Thank you very much, John.

And coming up, she went under cover -- deep undercover -- to get a story. And what a story it is. For 18 months she lived as a man. What she learned and the price she paid.

Also, a horrible crash. A deadly cloud of chlorine and a lingering mystery. Why are people still getting sick a year later?

And a reminder, Dr. Sanjay Gupta wants to hear from your. Send your medical questions by logging onto cnn.com/360.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Before you judge a man, they saying goes, walk a mile in his shoes. Norah Vincent, a journalist decided to put that advice to the ultimate test. What she discovered may surprise you as much as it surprised her. And she wrote a book about it. Paula Zahn tells her story. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA ZAHN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Men and Women. We live together, work together, interacting on a daily basis. But how much do we really know about how the other half lives, thinks and feels?

Journalist Norah Vincent decided to find out. She put on a disguise, becoming Ned, infiltrating the world totally unknown to most women. In the process, Vincent's assumptions about men and women are turned on their head.

She writes about her experience in her book, "Self-Made Man."

(On camera): What was the most surprising thing you learned about men by being a man for 18 months?

NORAH VINCENT, AUTHOR, "SELF-MADE MAN": That there's a secret life going on there that is -- I talk about it's as if I was hearing sounds that only dogs can hear, you know. It was like I switched the channel and suddenly there was this entirely other world going on that you couldn't tune into or you didn't understand the language as a woman and they wouldn't let you understand it. But once you were a man, suddenly you were privy to it.

ZAHN (voice-over): Vincent knew in order to pull this off, Ned would have to be believable. To make herself appear more masculine, she got expert advice.

VINCENT: I went to Julliard and I had a voice coach talk to me about how to use the lower portions of my register and to stay there, to project an attitude of maleness in the way that I walked, to really kind of work on that, and just the pose of man.

ZAHN: She went to the gym to bulk up her body and created a beard by attaching pieces of crepe hair to her face. It took her up to two hours in the morning just to get dressed.

(On camera): How long did it take you to nail men?

VINCENT: I would say it took me a couple of months. The first few months I made a lot of mistakes. I had to learn to just stop reacting as spontaneously as I might as a woman to what might be going on around me because my voice would rise in excitement.

And guys have sort of had that bread out of them and so what you see is that there's a lot of silence. There are many fewer words and yet there is so much being said in those silences.

ZAHN: You talk about how empowering it was to simply wear a square shouldered suit.

VINCENT: It really -- a signifier of maleness and interestingly, people in restaurants and so on, they treat you more deferentially when you're wearing a suit as a man. You'll say things that -- coming from a woman, would sound really impolite, to say the least. You know, you just say, yes, give me that. You know, when you're ordering something. Yes, I'll have the steak, thanks -- not even say thanks. It's just expected. That's how guys talk. Whereas, as a woman, I would say, I'm really sorry, would you mind getting us some water when you have a chance, you know, something like that.

ZAHN (voice-over): Vincent, as Ned, worked as a door-to-door salesman, went to strip clubs, spent time with monks at a monastery and for eight months, played on an all-male bowling team, where she got a lesson on male bonding.

VINCENT: They didn't know me from Adam. I walked in the door and they welcomed me like an old friend.

ZAHN: Why were you so successful at being part of their gang?

VINCENT: One of them had a son who was about, I think 12 at the time, and I remember thinking that I was learning things at about the same pace that he was. Manhood is something you emulate by watching. I learned what was acceptable to say and do and I just started to mimic them.

ZAHN (on camera): You actually developed some pretty nice friendships with a couple of men, and one man in particular, whose wife had suffered from cancer.

VINCENT: Yes. These guys talked about it. He said a few words, okay, you know, I had to go to the hospital, she's not doing well, I'm feeling pretty bad. And that was it. And there wasn't much that we could really do. That wasn't acceptable for us to jump in. I wanted to, of course. As a woman, I wanted to put my arms around him and so on. It's not okay to reach over -- and sometimes men, what I learned is they don't want that. It's smothering to them.

ZAHN (voice-over): Ned's next stop was more provocative.

You spent some time in strip clubs with men.

VINCENT: In my opinion, I don't think it's pleasurable. You know, there's a lot of bluster about well, you know, I can get a woman or I want to see a woman for her parts and disembody her and I don't think that deep down it feels very good.

I saw a lot of pain in those places and I didn't expect that. I thought that they would be sort of, you know, a lot of jeering going on or a lot of laughing. I didn't see very much laughing. I saw a lot of pain.

ZAHN: Surprising to Vincent, some of her most revealing insights about men she gained when Ned went on dates with women.

VINCENT: I just felt as if they always assumed that I was a cad until I, you know, proved otherwise.

ZAHN (on camera): And you describe one woman in particular as being bitter and being angry and that you actually felt like you were being attacked. How surreal was that for you? VINCENT: Well, in a way it was funny because some of the things she said, I just thought, you know, if you only knew who you were talking to. She was giving me this sort of feminist rant and I thought, you know, honey, I've been there, you know, I'm past that, you know.

ZAHN (voice-over): Even more surprising to Vincent is what happened when she eventually revealed her true identity to some of these women.

VINCENT: I had a rule that there were three dates and then I would tell them. But interestingly, several of the women wanted to keep seeing me, even romantically, even after they knew I was a woman. And these were heterosexual women. Whereas, you know, if you did it the other way around, you can imagine you would have gotten beaten up if you'd been in a man in a woman's disguise and then told a guy that you were actually a guy and forget it.

ZAHN (on camera): What is it, do you think, that women don't get about men?

VINCENT: I think women don't understand maybe how much power we have over them. I mean, they need us and not just sexually, but just they need our esteem. Their definition of their manhood is part of being admired by women.

ZAHN: Norah, in the book you're very candid about the fact that you're a lesbian.

VINCENT: Yes.

ZAHN: Do you come out of this process with less respect for women?

VINCENT: Yes. Oddly enough, in a way I do. Or --

ZAHN: Is that troubling to you?

VINCENT: No, because I think I went into it prejudicially, thinking, expecting more of women. I had that sort of we're more evolved kind of prejudice.

ZAHN (voice-over): As much as Vincent learned about men by being Ned, eventually the deception took its toll. She had a nervous breakdown.

VINCENT: It was extremely hard. It was a very heavy burden. I'm just not a very good liar and I felt extremely guilty about the continued deception.

ZAHN: Vincent recovered. Most of the men she encountered eventually learned Ned was in fact a woman and were accepting of her.

Norah, how much of Ned has rubbed off on you?

VINCENT: The best part, which I think is the part that's thinking makes it so that if I'm afraid of something, I just buck myself up and I say do it. Believe it. Do it now. And then it just -- it's an amazingly powerful thing, that projection of confidence, the denial of fear. I'm going to do it and you do miraculously do it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Paula Zahn, reporting there on Norah Vincent, a self-made man.

In one American town, a cloud of death hovered. One year later, the chlorine that killed is gone, but why are people still getting sick?

And the year of the sizzle. Why 2005 was so hot. And why 2006 may be even hotter, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tonight, we're adding something new to 360. "Off the Radar." It's about stories that grabbed our attention, only to be forgotten. We think that's a mistake. We think they deserve another look.

Tonight, "Off the Radar," gives you an update on a train crash that sent a toxic cloud over a town in South Carolina. The accident took a deadly toll. Officials say the danger is gone. But the residents don't believe it. Here's CNN's David Mattingly.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Freight trains rumbling through the heart of town are again a frequent sight in Graniteville, South Carolina. But every loud whistle and every lumbering chemical tanker conjures memories of fear.

PHIL NAPIER, CHIEF, GRANITEVILLE VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT: I have honestly seen people, when a train is coming through, pull up in the parking lot and sit and wait until the train went by.

MATTINGLY: The trains and what they carry are a daily topic of conversation at Phil Napier's hardware store. He is Graniteville's volunteer fire chief and a first-responder from the night of January 6, 2005, when a Norfolk Southern train crashed into another, spewing chlorine gas and killing nine people.

NAPIER: It's still fresh on people's mind, what happened. And it could happen again.

ROBIN ANDERSON, GRANITEVILLE RESIDENT: Sinus, headache, coughing. Recently I have started to cough to the point where every once in a while I may throw up a little bit.

MATTINGLY: Robin Anderson lives just a few blocks from the crash site and is among those who claim to have continuing health problems after exposure to the chlorine spill. And she says there's property damage as well. ANDERSON: When you press one of the buttons, it would change -- the volume button, it would change the channel or vice versa.

MATTINGLY: Anderson says almost all her home electronics have developed problems after chlorine invaded her home. And she says her roof also corroded, she believes, by chlorine, led to leaks down her kitchen wall.

Some residents say after a rain, there is a faint smell in the air similar to bleach.

Studies by the South Carolina Department of Health, however, determined there was no long-term chlorine contamination in the water, the soil, or the air. At the height of the disaster, most of this town of 5,000 was evacuated. In addition to the nine killed, 500 sought medical attention and 76 were hospitalized for severe breathing problems.

The accident happened after Norfolk Southern employees mistakenly left a switch open, causing a train that should have rolled through town without incident to crash into another train parked on a spur.

Since the accident, the Norfolk Southern Railroad says it has settled 4,600 claims against the company so far.

(on camera): And was it right in here?

STEPHEN FELKER, JR., AVONDALE MILLS SPOKESMAN: It happened right here, off of this spur.

MATTINGLY, (voice-over): A spokesman for the town's biggest employer, the Avondale Textile Mills, says the company is a victim as well.

(On camera): We walk to the now empty parking lot on Mill property, where train cars piled up like toys and a long trail of death began.

(Voice-over): The gas was heavier than air, so it stayed very close to the ground. This building was quickly engulfed. The gas was actually pouring down the storm drain like water. It tumbled down the hill and within minutes, hit the plant below. Three people in this one building died as the gas blinded them and burned their lungs. The cloud then followed a creek to another large building, where it killed two more.

And today the tragedy lives on. In October, 350 of the Mills' 2,500 employees were laid off, as the company struggles with clean up costs. And equipment replacement, it says, exceeds $50 million.

FELKER: For seemingly unexplainable reasons, there will be a failure. It may have operated for six months or even a year. We still to this date have failures that once you get into it and begin to investigate, you find the effects of the chlorides.

NAPIER: You can see what it did to the wiring. See the green on the wiring?

MATTINGLY: A few corroded electrical wires are about all that remain of the once extensive damage to the Graniteville Fire Station. New fire engines replaced the old ones that were destroyed by the gas. But Chief Phil Napier says it's the damage he can't see that he wonders about most.

NAPIER: People have no idea of what the community and the fire department has gone through as far as the long-lasting effects, emotionally and otherwise, that this train wreck has caused.

MATTINGLY: Eight hundred people have signed up for a proposed state study, looking for any long-term health effects. Unlike the chlorine cloud that has long since dissipated, some questions in Graniteville will not go away. Nor will the knowledge that the disaster should have been prevented.

David Mattingly, CNN, Graniteville, South Carolina.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(BEGIN BREAKING NEWS)

KING: And back now to our breaking news. The hostage standoff at a bank in Exeter, California, that's near Fresno. Joining us now live from the scene, Liz Gonzalez, from our affiliate, KSEE -- Liz.

GONAZALES: Well, John, this can be described as a very tense situation of a small community dealing with a very big nightmare. Four women remain hostage inside the Bank of America branch here in Exeter, California, dab smack in the middle of Tulare County in the central California, central valley, if you will.

All this ordeal started around 5:00 o'clock this afternoon when one armed suspect stormed into the bank. He allowed a woman and her child, as well as a couple, to leave; kept five of the workers there at the bank. Around 8:00 o'clock he did release one of the hostages in the bank, bringing the number of people inside now to four workers, along with the one suspect that this time.

We understand he carried a briefcase. Don't know if he had a note or anything, but he did ask them to put money in bags, according to one of the witnesses that was released from inside the bank.

The suspect has also made one demand to the officers out here at the scene. Officers from different agencies, at least two different police departments and a sheriff's department are out here with the Tulare County Sheriff's Department. The suspect asked for a vehicle to flee the area. He said he would also take some of the hostages with him there as well.

Again, at this point, four people remain hostage inside the Bank of America, here in Exeter, California. The suspect remains inside. Again, he's got them armed and he's -- actually he is armed, I should say. And at this point officers are simply trying to negotiate to get those hostages released. In Exeter, Liz Gonzales. Back to you now -- John.

KING: Liz, thank you very much.

That live report from the scene of that hostage standoff in California. We will continue to follow that tonight.

For now, though, let's go to Erica Hill at "HEADLINE NEWS." She joins us with some of the other stories we're following. Hi Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi again, John.

Near Atlanta, a couple who fled Hurricane Katrina are dead, following an apparent murder-suicide. Police believe the husband shot his wife to death, then shot their 4-year-old son before allegedly turning the gun on himself. The child is in stable condition.

In Maryland tomorrow, sentencing for a woman who locked three children in the trunk of her car. Lenora Lucas (ph) faces up to 15 years in prison, but the prosecutor says he'll ask for probation. The incident was caught on tape in June. The children were not injured.

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, today, a teen accused of killing his girlfriend's parents pleaded not guilty to murder charges. Authorities believe 18-year-old David Ludwig shot the couple to death, then led police on a high speed chase. His trial is set for September.

And in Bahrain, a little quiz to round out the night, John. Any idea who this could possibly being black there? Tough to tell, isn't it? But it's Michael Jackson. Shopping in traditional robes, traditional robes that women traditionally wear; also a veil covering his face. Jackson is of course spending time in Bahrain as a guest of the royal family.

Not sure whether or not he knew that that was technically an outfit for women, so.

KING: Erica Hill, thanks very much. Certainly begs the question why, to the royal family. We'll try to ask that one tomorrow.

Erica, thank you very much.

It seems to be happening faster than ever. Global warming. Many scientists believe it's real. Now official records for 2005 strengthen the case. The world is heating up. We'll look at the implications on 360 next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: If you follow the issue of global warming, then this next report is must viewing. If you need persuading, try this nugget. 2005 is now officially the warmest year on record, but what's surprising is how fast the temperature is rising. Here's CNN's Rob Marciano.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST (voice-over): Last summer it was hot. And if you thought it was hotter than normal, you were right. NASA and a new climate report officially named 2005 as the hottest year on record.

It was a little more than one degree warmer last year than it was in 1975. That may not seem like much, but even small increases can mean big, big changes are coming.

EUGENE LINDEN, AUTHOR, "THE WINDS OF CHANGE": Late forming hurricanes, more frequent hurricanes or more intense hurricanes, with lightning strikes more frequently with droughts. And then the side effects of droughts, where you get beetle infestations in southern California and wild fires as a result of the dying trees. And you get all these things coming at once.

MARCIANO: Eugene Linden has been monitoring and writing about climate change for many years. He thinks NASA's latest report is strong confirmation that global warming is real and not going away.

LINDEN: You pass these thresholds, these tipping points and all of a sudden the damage is catastrophic. And that's what we face. I think Katrina was an eye opener to the kind of destruction that weather can bring with it when it changes.

MARCIANO: Linden thinks we can see more intense hurricanes and storms as a result of global warming. He and climatologists think the NASA report was especially notable because there was no El Nino event in 2005. When El Ninos occur they tend to boost the global temperature. The last significant El Nino was in 1998, which was also the previous warmest year.

The NASA report says we only have ourselves to blame for the rising temperatures. Recent warming coincides with rapid growth of human-made greenhouse gases. Eugene Linden thinks that if we don't stop polluting, the consequences could be life threatening.

LINDEN: Essentially, we've put a gun to our head by loading the atmosphere with these heat trapping gases. We could put down that gun, which would be a smart thing to do. Instead, we're squeezing the trigger.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROB MARCIANO (on camera): Not a very good outlook there. Of course, there is a chance that the earth's trend could switch to a cooling one. That would certainly knock down the ocean temperatures and help our little hurricane situation. But, you know, barring that miracle, some scientists think it's almost too late. There's not a whole lot we can do.

I mean, look at this chart that highlights the global's average temperature since 1880. It's only come up, you know, less than two degrees, but that's a lot climate wise. But note the last 30 years, since the 70s, the uptick in temperatures, how rapidly we've increased.

I talked to one scientist today that said if that trend continues over the next 50 to 100 years, we'll see another global temperature rise of four to five degrees and that could melt the entire ice cap of Greenland and that would lift the sea level 12 feet or more. Which means that if you live near the coast now, your children or grandchildren may not be able to live there by the end of the century.

Some startling news -- John.

KING: Sobering. Sobering.

Rob Marciano, thank you very much, Rob.

And more of 360 in a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: I'm John King in New York. Thanks for watching 360 tonight. Anderson will be back tomorrow. Larry King is next.

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