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Violence in Syria; 9/11 Cancer Link?

Aired September 1, 2011 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It is 10:00 p.m. here on the East Coast.

We begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with a man who has says he has done enough lying for a brutal dictator. For months, we have been showing video -- some of it, we should warn you, is incredibly tough to watch -- of Syrian forces killing ordinary Syrians and hearing first-hand accounts from the people being shot at.

We have shown you photos, many photos of children slaughtered in the streets by the Assad regime or taken, tortured and killed, their bodies mutilated almost beyond recognition. I know it's all difficult to look at, but it is what's happening in Syria. It is the truth.

Now, all the while, in spite of all these videos and all the evidence, members of that regime all the way up to the top, to Bashar al-Assad, the dictator himself, they have been telling us that what is tragically, brutally, murderously plain to see isn't really happening at all or isn't what it seems. The denial is systematic and it is staggering.

But, tonight, for one member of the Assad regime, the denial is over.


ADNAN MOHAMMED AL BAKKOUR, FORMER SYRIAN ATTORNEY GENERAL (through translator): I, the attorney general of Hama, Adnan Mohammed Al Bakkour, announce my resignation from my position in the state that is shadowed by Assad and his gangs.


COOPER: Adnan Al Bakkour, his whereabouts now unknown. His videotaped resignation surfacing on YouTube. He says he could no longer stomach the regime's brutal treatment of protesters in Hama and refused to lie about what he himself has seen.


AL BAKKOUR (through translator): I summarize the causes of my resignation by the following, one, the killing of the prisoners in the central prison of Hama on Sunday, July 31, 2011. Their number is 72 prisoners of the peaceful demonstrators and political activists. They have been buried in mass graves near the village of Al-Halanea (ph) beside the military security branch in Hama. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, this, by the way, is video from Hama on the 31st. As you can see, the killing is going on outside the prison walls as well.

How many times have we seen this? Protesters shot dead or wounded in the streets, and then those who try to rescue them get shot as well. This is a video of mass graves near Hama. This is apparently what Attorney General Bakkour is talking about. It's by no means the only mass grave we seen.

This is one in Daraa, where the uprising began. A family is buried in this one, we're told, and there are many more across Syria. Now, the former attorney general details the killing and mass burial of 72 prisoners and 420 others in Hama.

In his resignation tape, he explicitly names 14 officials, military commanders and service members for their role in the slaughter of unarmed civilians. He also makes it perfectly clear that he was told to lie about what he saw.


AL BAKKOUR (through translator): I was asked to present a report declaring that these victims were killed by the hand of armed gangs.


COOPER: Now, armed gangs -- now, armed gangs, if that term sounds familiar to you, it's because armed gangs are part of the official cover story which comes from the very top. Just about every one of these officials, these slick-suited officials, from the dictator, Syria's dictator, Bashar al-Assad, to the ambassador to the U.N. who we spoke with on this program, all of them speak about the uprising as being from armed gangs, the uprising to students at Damascus university.

At Damascus University, he blamed it on outsiders, agitators, armed gangs of roving criminals. He was very, very specific, the dictator was.


BASHAR AL-ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA: What is their number? Personally, I was surprised by this number. I thought they were a couple of thousands in the past. The number in the beginning of this crisis was 64,400. Imagine that number of wanted people in different legal cases whose sentencing ranges from a couple months to execution, and they have escaped justice.


COOPER: He claims 64,400 armed -- members of armed gangs, terrorists, thugs, eluding capture in a totalitarian police state. It's absurd on the face of it, yet it is the official party line in Syria.

And for the first time that we know of, a party member and top law enforcement official has refused to toe that line, refused to lie anymore. Faced with that defiance, the regime of course is fighting back. Syrian state TV reporting he'd been kidnapped, forced at gunpoint to make a statement. Then another tape surfaced.


AL BAKKOUR (through translator): I am Judge Adnan Mohammed Al Bakkour, the former Hama attorney general. I resigned from my position in I resigned from my position in protest to the brutal practices of the regime against the peaceful protesters.

And what the Syrian TV has aired, that I had been kidnapped by armed groups, is untrue. I am now protected by the oppositions. And I am in good health. Today is Wednesday, August 31. The secret security tried to kidnap me today, but they failed to do so. And I will make live statements as soon as I leave Syria soon.


COOPER: So, tonight, the Assad regime can no longer lie with quite the same impunity, confident that everyone is on the same page. As of tonight everyone is not on the same page.

There is now a crack in the wall of lies. And there's new evidence tonight of the regime's brutality. Amnesty International now reporting what it calls a significant escalation in the number of people who died in the hands of authorities. Judging by some of the video we have seen, including protesters beaten and stuffed in car trunks, you can see why. Amnesty says that in a typical year five Syrians die in custody. Currently that figure is 88, 88 dead, and that's not for the entire year, either.

It's 88 dead between April and mid-August. Those are the people they know about. A researcher on Syria for Amnesty saying -- quote -- "The accounts of torture we have received are horrific. We believe the Syrian government to be systematically, systematically persecuting its own people on a vast scale."

Joining us now are Fouad Ajami of Stanford University's Hoover Institution, on the phone, "New York Times" Beirut bureau chief Anthony Shadid, one oft few outside reports to actually spend in Syria.

Fouad, what do you make of this apparent defection?

FOUAD AJAMI, PROFESSOR OF MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Well, I like the way you put it. I think it sums it up. There is a crack in the wall of lies.

Here is a man who is a man of the Syrian state. And I listened to his tape. I listened to him speaking in Arabic, clear prose, precision, the precision of an attorney general. He named names. He gave facts. He gave numbers. And we have been looking for defections. The opposition in Syria has been waiting for defections. We now have one from within the inner circle of the regime. It is not easy. It's not minor league being the attorney general for Hama. Hama has always been if you will a contested city and a difficult city for the regime. So to have a man whom was sent to Hama to break with the regime, it is no small thing.

COOPER: Anthony, you actually snuck into Hama, reported from there earlier this summer. What is the situation there? How do you think people there are reacting to this tape, to this news?

ANTHONY SHADID, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think it's still unclear why he defected, how he defected and who helped him defect.

But what you hear from his statements is that he's speaking in some ways as a Hama resident. And we have to remember this is a city that bears the trauma of what happened in 1982, the crackdown in 1982, in which at least 10,000 died and perhaps many more.

As you listen to him speak, he's speaking as a resident there, as someone who remembers the crimes that were committed back in 1982, who understood what has happened since the uprising began.

And I think that's remarkable. I think they're going to welcome that. They welcome his statements obviously in Hama. Remarkably, in some ways, as both of you all mentioned, there's a crack within the regime. But we're also hearing stuff from him that we hadn't heard before, this idea of mass graves, of 10,000 arrests. These are numbers that even go beyond the opposition narrative on what has transpired in the city over the past couple of months.

COOPER: Anthony, I had the Syrian ambassador to the United Nations on this program a couple weeks ago. And he insists that journalists are free, that they invite journalists into Syria, that they're free to travel around, they can go wherever they want, talk to whomever they want without any interference. Is that your experience there?

SHADID: No, that's ridiculous. I think visas are very, very scarce to go into Syria. And once they're given and once they're granted, you're under very specific restrictions on what you can and what you can't do.

That's what kind of motivated us to try to get in there a different way is simply we wanted to find out what was going on in both not only Hama, but Homs as well.

COOPER: Why does a regime, Fouad, like this just lie about things which are clearly, demonstrably -- which are things which you can clearly demonstrate as being untrue, the lie about journalists? I was there years ago and had a minder following my every move and that was in a time there wasn't an uprising.

AJAMI: Well, the question you ask really is asked about all regimes that manufacture truth. Do the men of the regime, the people of the regime, do they really believe?

COOPER: Right. I wounded that talking to the ambassador. He's in this slick suit. He's clearly an intelligent guy. Does he actually believe the lies that are coming out of his mouth?

AJAMI: I don't think -- I think there comes a time when the dividing line between invention and if you will inventing things and really believing them really vanishes.

These people, the men of the regime are stuck in this regime. They can't abandon it. They don't know how to get out of it. And I think we have to understand something now about Syria today. The month of Ramadan was a very, very difficult month for the people facing the regime. And the month ended, and we now still are in this cul-de-sac in Syria and it still remains an irresistible force, which is the people of Syria, and an immovable object, which is this terrible regime.

And they haven't yet figured out how to push it over the edge.

COOPER: Anthony, in this Sunday's "New York Times" magazine, you write about the time you spent in Syria seriously. What did you come away with? What should people watching know about what's going on right now?

SHADID: Well, I think -- I have to say I actually think there are a lot of people who still believe what the government is saying. I think there are two narratives out there.


COOPER: Do you believe government officials believe it or Syrian people?

SHADID: I think there's a lot of fear in Syria still. I think among minorities and among other sectors of the country, there is fear that what's happening right now is an Islamist opposition that's going to imperil their status in the country.

So I don't want to be dismissive of people -- that their government is still having some support there. I think that is clear. But what struck me I think and what I tried to write about in "The Times" magazine is that the opposition, the uprising, the people who are fighting the government are simply not going to give up. There's no way.

They have passed the point of no return. And this is going to last I think probably until the fall of the government. How long that takes, what shape it takes, how it's brought about are still obviously very important questions. But it's clear to me that this uprising is not going to be repressed.

COOPER: Fouad and Anthony, just stay right there, if you would. I want to turn to Libya and I want to get your thoughts on it.

Today, Syrian television aired what it called a message from Moammar Gadhafi. On it, the voice declares that Libya's capital has been moved from Tripoli to Gadhafi's hometown, Sirte. The voice also called on Libyans to rise up against the West.


MOAMMAR GADHAFI, LIBYAN LEADER (through translator): The imperialists will not be able to fight through a long war, and they will retreat day-by-day, and their resistance will diminish day-by- day. Begin for a guerrilla warfare and fight an inside-city warfare and be like a bee and sting and fly and fight across Libya, the whole area.


COOPER: It would be comic if it weren't so tragic. He's practically telling Libyans to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Somewhere tonight, Muhammad Ali is probably throwing up.

Today, by the way, is the 42nd anniversary of the coup that put Gadhafi in power.

What do you think of the fact that Gadhafi is still able to make these speeches, still able to get word out?

AJAMI: Anderson, preparing for this segment with you, I listened both Adnan Al Bakkour, the Syrian attorney general from Hama, and, of course, to Moammar Gadhafi.

I was shocked by Gadhafi. I mean, it was another reminder of the cruelty of the man, of the illiteracy of the man. I had never really focused on how ignorant he is and how uneducated Gadhafi is. It really was almost like a werewolf baying at the moon and calling on Libyan people to join him in a revolution against NATO, in a revolution against colonialism.

There is something about Gadhafi. It's really this incredible moment of unbelievable incoherence. And, you know, he's going to make these tapes. And thanks to the Syrians, he's going to send them, although no one will believe him, no one will listen to him.

COOPER: Anthony, pro-Gadhafi loyalists have been given yet another extension on the deadline to surrender. Gadhafi is promising a fierce fight.

Is that all just talk? Does he have enough force in his few remaining strongholds to actually make good on that promise?

SHADID: I don't think he himself has enough strength to do anything. I think he wants to impose himself as some kind of insurgent leader as the months go on. And I think that's not going to happen.

But I think the unresolved questions in the country are, what share is everyone going to get as the pie is divvied up in Libya going forward? And I think that's a question to ask about Sirte. Can Sirte negotiate its participation in the new order and what way -- or what shape will that participation take? I think those questions that aren't resolved yet.

The Transitional Council right now is at a very delicate point. Not only does it have to deal with this idea of a new order emerging across the country. It also has to deal with a more mundane task of bringing water back to Tripoli, of bringing electricity back there, medical supplies to hospitals. It's got a very significant or very formidable challenge ahead of it.

COOPER: Fouad Ajami, I appreciate your time tonight.

Anthony Shadid, very much appreciate you being on the show again. Thank you.

Let me know what you think. We're on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will try to tweet over the hour tonight.

Up next: breaking news, results of a new study -- this is pretty shocking -- big stuff -- a new study on possible links between the dust down at Ground Zero 10 years ago on 9/11 and cases of cancer in firefighters since then. It could make a big difference for first- responders who are currently not covered for cancer under a recent federal law based on older research. Sanjay Gupta joins us for that.

And later, our continuing series "Ungodly Discipline." We're looking into a network of Christian reform schools for so-called troubled teens. They're facing accusations tonight of abuse for allegedly taking discipline way too far.

Let's check in with Isha -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, There are new developments in Hurricane Irene's aftermath, and amazing stories emerging tonight. We will take you inside the rescue and recovery effort in one flooded community and speak with a volunteer firefighter who's been helping out -- that and much more when 360 continues.


COOPER: Breaking news tonight that might mean the world to the men and women who rushed the World Trade Center, watched it collapse all around them, and kept right on working in a toxic cloud of dust and rubble.

A lot of those early responders, mainly firefighters, have started falling ill, some with cancer. Right now they're not eligible for benefits under a recent federal law because the measure doesn't recognize a link between cancer and the 9/11 dust.

Now, earlier tonight, the medical journal "Lancet" released a new study just a few hours ago suggesting that firefighters are at a greater risk of cancer, the firefighters who responded to 9/11. The lead author of the study is the New York Fire Department's chief medical officer.

CNN's Sanjay Gupta joins us now with details. So, Sanjay, the study suggests that the dust produced by the collapse of the Twin Towers is making the first-responders sick, right?


And I think what is different here is that the idea that it would cause some sort of illness, primary respiratory problems, I think that has been pretty well established. What's been at odds and a bit controversial frankly for some time is the possible relationship between the dust and cancer.

There have been some studies that have shown no links, some studies that have shown a very small link. This one is a much more significant study. It's a 10-year study now, Anderson, looking back over the last 10 years. They followed these firefighters all along this time. And what they basically concluded was that there was an association, a 19 percent increased risk of developing cancer for fire workers who were first-responders who worked on the pile at 9/11.

And if they included all cancers, including cancers that developed soon after 9/11, the association was even higher, a 32 percent increased risk. The lead author, as you just mentioned, Dr. David Prezant, called this pretty significant to me. I interviewed him about this specifically. Listen to what he had to say.


DR. DAVID PREZANT, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, NEW YORK FIRE DEPARTMENT: As we start seeing cancers, we want to answer their question, is cancer increased?

And I will have to tell you that my initial bias was that for the first 10 or 15 years, we would not see an increase. That's another reason why I think our findings are so strong, because I actually thought we would find the opposite.

GUPTA: You were surprised.

PREZANT: Very much so. Whether we can say that cancer is increased in other responders or area residents, we have no idea. This is a study about firefighters. Their exposure is so unique -- 85 percent of the exposed were present in the first 48 hours of the collapse, when the exposure was massive. That is a very unique exposure.

GUPTA: Now, firefighters watching, they have the lingering question, why did I get this cancer and was it related to the dust?

And you would say what?

PREZANT: For most instances, it was World Trade Center-related.

(END VIDEO CLIP) GUPTA: Pretty remarkable to hear that, Anderson. I mean, again, what he's saying is something that a lot of people haven't been able to definitively say.

Two quick caveats. First of all, as he said, this study was a fire workers specifically. So he's not making generalizations about other people in Lower Manhattan or even other responders. And even though it is 10 years since 9/11, this would still be considered an early study as far as cancer goes.

As we have talked about before, Anderson, you and I, it can take 15, 20, 30 years even sometimes for cancers to develop.

COOPER: What's frustrating obviously for a lot of these first- responders, a lot of the firefighters is that they were just told by the federal government in this new health bill that there's not a link because there's no proof of a link and therefore they won't get covered.

I know you have been studying the contents of the dust from 9/11 for some time now. Is it toxic? How does it actually hurt people who inhaled it?

GUPTA: Yes, it's interesting.

First of all, it's a wholly unique situation, the amalgamation of all these various chemicals that came together, or sort of blown together, benzene, asbestos, all these various things, it was a situation that most toxicologists have never seen before.

And then a lot of these chemicals sort of bound to the dust, so that mist of dust that you saw over the Lower Manhattan area wasn't just a dust. It was this dust contaminated with all these various chemicals.

What we know is that when you breathe in dust like this, it can cause immediate health problems. People referred to it as the World Trade Center cough. But then ultimately as it got further, deeper into the bronchials, it was almost like sandpaper, causing an inflammation that now Dr. Prezant and others believe may have been the genesis of these cancers, this increased rate of cancer that they're seeing.

So respiratory problems, yes, that made sense to everybody. The cancers now, they're starting to develop some ideas as to the mechanism, looking at that dust.

COOPER: And these are folks who rushed down there and worked there for weeks and weeks and months and months, regardless of their own concerns at the time about not having proper equipment or anything. They were there every single day and around the clock.

Based on the results of this new study, I mean, will these people be able to get coverage? GUPTA: You know, Anderson, I can tell you, I think this is going to be one of the more controversial things with regard to health and certainly with regard to health and the pile that you're looking at there.

I mean, it's already been a big source of controversy. What I will say is that we reached out to NIOSH, the National Institute of Occupational Safety Hazard, who oversees this. They say they're going to take this study into account. They haven't changed their recommendations yet since July, which shows no compensation for those with cancer.

But at their next review meeting, which is next year, this study's going to be one of the studies they look at.

COOPER: Next year. I think for a lot of firefighters, hearing that is going to feel like...

GUPTA: It's going to feel like a long time away.

COOPER: Yes, that's a lifetime away.

Sanjay, appreciate it. Thanks very much. I know you have had a busy day.

You can see Sanjay's full investigation of the health fallout from 9/11 and rare never-before-seen footage in his documentary "Terror in the Dust" this Wednesday at 11:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Coming up: the latest in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Irene. And parts of New York and Vermont, they are still dealing with the results of this, with the effects of it. In Prattsville, New York, they say they have never seen anything like this, homes, businesses just completely destroyed. I will get the latest from a volunteer firefighter working right now in Prattsville.

And, later, "Ungodly Discipline," Gary Tuchman reporting on a fundamentalist Baptist boarding school in Indiana and allegations of physical and emotional abuse based on the Bible of its students -- details ahead.


COOPER: Well, the devastation in several Northern states after Hurricane Irene is becoming more evident as the days go by.

In Vermont, FEMA is making federal aid available after President Obama declared disaster in the state. Officials are making progress on fixing roads to some isolated towns. And the National Guard is trying to help bring in supplies.

Vermont got some of the worst flooding from the storm, as did Upstate New York, where a group of communities 50 miles southwest of Albany has been decimated. Residents of the town of Prattsville say they have had flooding before, but it's never been like this. People are now homeless, family-owned businesses destroyed. Two brothers who have been running a gas station that has been in the family for generations don't -- they don't know what to do next.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have nothing left. There's absolutely nothing there but concrete, a concrete slab.

KORY O'HARA, FLOOD VICTIM: If we want to rebuild, as you can see, the land where we can rebuild is just not there. We have no land to put our business on. It's gone.


COOPER: Well, earlier, I spoke with Matt Cangelosi, a volunteer firefighter from Prattsville who's been helping with the recovery effort.


COOPER: Matt, you say you have never seen destruction like this before.

MATT CANGELOSI, VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTER, PRATTSVILLE, NEW YORK: For my last 23 years of my life that I have lived, I have never seen destruction from Mother Nature one-on-one firsthand like this before.

COOPER: I mean, the pictures that I'm seeing, it looks like a tornado has come through the town.

CANGELOSI: Yes. Yes, it really does. It looks like all the trailers and all the homes were picked up and moved a good 100 yards or more depending on what part of town you're in.

COOPER: And it looks like a lot of homes have just been completely destroyed.

CANGELOSI: Oh, without a doubt.

I mean, all of Main Street, the homes either have moved off their foundations or completely just caved in on itself.

COOPER: And all of that's from water?

CANGELOSI: All that was from water.

I mean, we -- on the news, it shows in Greene County that it dumped about 13.3 inches within just a few hours.

COOPER: Was water coming from other places, or was it just the amount of rainfall in the town?

CANGELOSI: It's because of where we are.

We're in the mountains, so there was a lot of runoff from the mountains that were coming down and -- and through the streams that were running into the main creek, the area creek that runs through our town.

We had another creek that comes from the Windham area down towards Prattsville (ph), and then we also have the creek that comes from Hunter (ph) that comes down to Prattsville (ph). So kind of all bottlenecked right down towards our town.

COOPER: And you're a volunteer firefighter. You must be just now working around the clock. What kind of stuff have you been doing?

CANGELOSI: What we've been doing is trying to get out a lot of supplies, water, food. You know, any type of rations that Red Cross has brought in, National Guard has brought in. And getting the people that can't access the center of town.

We've been taking utility four-wheelers and other vehicles to get through certain areas and to try and cross bridges that they have deemed to be unsafe for vehicles other than emergency vehicles that need to get to the other side.

COOPER: Right now, what are the biggest priorities?

CANGELOSI: We've been going around now, our job's been going around making sure that the houses are safe to get in for people to get their stuff out. The water rose up to the first floor in every house on Main Street. So once you pumped out their basements and everything, now the job is to get all the furniture that was ruined out onto the street or close to the street where we are able to pick it up and put it in containers and get it out of here, so we can start rebuilding again.

COOPER: Wow. Matt Cangelosi, I appreciate you calling in, and good luck to you. And just keep doing what you're doing. Our best to everybody in town.

CANGELOSI: Thank you. Thanks a lot. We really appreciate it

COOPER: Isha Sesay has some of the other stories we're following. She joins us with the "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, forecasters are predicting a low pressure system off Mississippi's coast will become a tropical storm tomorrow and dump up to 15 inches of rain in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

BP and Exxon Mobile are evacuating their rigs in the Gulf and have already shut down the wells.

Meantime, Hurricane Katia has been downgraded to a tropical storm but is expected to strengthen again over the next 24 to 36 hours. Tonight it's less than 1,000 miles east of the Northern Leeward Islands.

President Obama will now unveil his jobs plan before a joint session of Congress on Thursday night at 7 p.m. Eastern. The president's first choice, Wednesday, conflicted with the GOP presidential debate, and House Speaker Boehner objected.

And in Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords's hometown in Arizona the Republican party is defending its upcoming raffle of a Glock handgun. It's the same make that Jared Lee Loughner was charged with using to shoot Giffords in the head as she was meeting with constituents earlier this year. Six people died in the attack.

The head of the county's Democratic Party called the fundraising raffle upsetting.

It's just -- yes. It seems a little odd to me.

COOPER: Well, time now. Let's take a look at "The Shot." We're going to file this under dog days of summer, I guess. We found it on YouTube, a clever puppy staying cool. Take a look.





COOPER: Watch the dog's ears flop all day.

SESAY: He's busy dreaming about -- oh, he's kind of got a good spot there.

COOPER: He's very smart. He's no -- he's no fool.

SESAY: He's no fool. He's adorable. No doubt about that. But of course, he got us thinking about a certain Sharpei and his napping habits.




SESAY: It never gets old.

COOPER: I know. Didn't we just play this the other day?

SESAY: Yes, we did. But we liked it so much we brought it back.

COOPER: All right. We're already recycling. That's all right. We'll check in with you, Isha, a little bit later on.

More serious stuff ahead, a 360 investigation called ungodly discipline. Some very disturbing allegations of harsh abuse and brain washing, even, at a fundamentalist Baptist home for so-called troubled teens. Some former residents call it a house of horrors. We'll try to find out the truth. Plus a major development in the case against Joran Van Der Sloot. He was never charged in Natalee Holloway's disappearance, but tonight in Peru he's now officially an accused killer.


COOPER: Welcome back. Up close tonight, our 360 investigation on godly discipline. We've been looking into a network of Christian reform schools that cater to fundamentalist Baptist churches. Now, these group homes for so-called troubled teens can be traced back to Texas radio evangelist Lester Roloff, who founded the Rebekah Home for Girls back in 1967. You may have heard of this. He used a girl's singing group called the Honey Bee Quartet to promote the home.




COOPER: Well, despite the marketing pitch, his homes for girls faced multiple allegations of abuse over the years. And now decades later another home that grew out of that same tradition is facing some similar allegations. Here's Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I'm about to meet a man who I know doesn't want to talk to me.

(on camera) The name's Gary Tuchman of CNN.

(voice-over) We know that because Don Williams and his father Ron had already told us in an e-mail they would not comment about abuse that has allegedly happened for many years on a secluded property in the northern Indiana town of Winona Lake. The Hephzibah House is a self-described fundamentalist Baptist boarding school and church for adolescent girls.

The allegations are so disturbing we felt we needed a face-to- face meeting with the father or the son in charge. We found the son in a parking lot.

(on camera) We've had a lot of people complain they've been physically, emotionally, mentally abused at your house. Can you give us a comment about that?

DON WILLIAMS, RUNS HOUSE: Well, I would rather not.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Our conversation did not end there. But first let us introduce you to Susan Grotte, who is now 45, but spent 2 1/2 years there, starting when she was 15.

SUSAN GROTTE, FORMER HEPHZIBAH HOUSE STUDENT: There was going to be gardening and crafts and singing and just a chance to heal.

TUCHMAN (on camera): So that's what your parents thought this school was going to be?

GROTTE: That's right.

TUCHMAN: And was that in any way correct?

GROTTE: No. No. And I knew that the minute the door shut behind me.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): On her first day in this house, which was the facility used back then, Susan says she was accused of having a bad attitude while cleaning the ceiling. So two staff women grabbed her, and Don Williams' father administered what she said was known as godly discipline.

GROTTE: Just bodily manhandled me to the floor. And he hit me with a board as hard as he could. He's a very big man. And I was shocked. I had been paddled my whole life. I'd never been hit like that.

TUCHMAN: Michelle Dowling is 20 years old. She just got out of Hephzibah House a few years ago. Her parents thought the strict religious curriculum would make her a better Baptist.

MICHELLE DOWLING, FORMER HEPHZIBAH HOUSE STUDENT: They told me that, you know, it would be good for me, and I'd make good, life- changing decisions.

TUCHMAN: Michelle was only 12 and brand-new in the house when she says two staff women told her to take off her clothes and forced her into a closet, where a man would give what Hephzibah House claims is a medical examination.

DOWLING: They held both of my legs and both of my arms down and let him do this to me. Stuck a speculum inside of me. And I was scared. I was screaming. And I didn't want him to touch me. And there was nothing I could do.

TUCHMAN: Both women talk about being forced to eat a lot of food, sometimes not being given any food, being forced to drink a lot of water. Susan says 28 girls shared three bed rooms in the upper floor of this house. There was one toilet. But...

GROTTE: If I stood up to go to the bathroom, oh, no. You can only go to the bathroom when you're told you can go to the bathroom.

TUCHMAN (on camera): This is the girls you were with.

GROTTE: Right..

TUCHMAN: What would happen if you'd go to the bathroom without asking?

GROTTE: You would be padded. Yes.

DOWLING: I wet the bed every single night I was there. They'd make, like, a spectacle of you, like you were this horrible person for doing that. I ended up having to wear pull-ups every night. Would watch me put it on every night, and then they'd make me show it to them when I would take it off in the morning.

TUCHMAN: It's been open a long time. Lots of people have complained about being beaten, emotionally tormented, mentally tormented, all in the name of religion. And there's a lot of us who are very religious who don't believe in hitting people and tormenting them and having them wear diapers and making them drink and making them eat things they don't want to do. And I want to know why you do that.

WILLIAMS: I prefer to decline (Ph), sir.

TUCHMAN: But why can't you comment, if you believe in what you do? This is your chance to tell viewers.

WILLIAMS: I understand that. But I prefer not to.

TUCHMAN: Tell me -- tell me why. I'm just asking you very respectfully why don't you want to tell us?

WILLIAMS: Well, I'm just respectfully declining.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): Don Williams is also the pastor at the church on the Hephzibah House grounds. A former churchgoer gave CNN a CD sold by the church in which Williams is apparently preaching his views about who's to blame when a male whistles at a female.

WILLIAMS: If you girls are walking down the sidewalk, and some fellows drive by and they whistle, you better stop and think about that. What drew that whistle? Was it the way I was walking? Or maybe the way I was dressed or whatever? Did I do something to defraud those men?

TUCHMAN: Hephzibah's Web site features innocuous pictures of girls who have attended and claims there are no spankings or any out- of-the-ordinary punishments.

(on camera) This facility has been around for four decades. It seems to be a thriving enterprise. As you can see, the people in charge don't particularly want to answer my questions. But we're not alone. They don't really answer to the government, either.

(voice-over) In Indiana, group homes operated by churches and religious ministries are exempt from licensure. So nobody in the government even knows what's going on behind the closed doors. The women say their parents also had no idea what was going on there.

(on camera) In the 15 months that you were in this house, how many times did you leave the grounds?

DOWLING: Never. Never.


DOWLING: Zero. TUCHMAN (voice-over): The Indiana governor's office says there's nothing it can do. The attorney general's office says it doesn't have jurisdiction. The same thing with the Indiana Department of Education.

(on camera) Notably, though, the Indiana Department of Child Services says it could investigate, providing there was a current complaint and not from someone who already walked out the door. But we've talked to more than a dozen women who say they were victimized at Hephzibah House, and they say they could never make any private phone calls or send uncensored letters while on the inside.

(voice-over) Hephzibah House is not the only facility of its kind. Across the country, victim advocates say there are unknown but large number of similar programs.

DOWLING: I have nightmares about it all the time. Like very vivid dreams like I'm trapped inside of this house again, and I can't get out. And it's like the only thing I want is to run out a door, and for some reason I can't.

GROTTE: I think I fantasized -- fantasized about suicide those first years out.

TUCHMAN: We wanted to give Williams one last chance to answer the allegations.

(on camera) Is it true or is it not? It's either a yes or no question.

WILLIAMS: It's not true.

TUCHMAN: So they're lying to us?

WILLIAMS: See, that's where you're trying to get me backed into a corner. It's their word against mine.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): We were not permitted to take video at Hephzibah House property. But we did walk up the front steps and ring the bell. We saw a girl hustled back inside the home. We saw girls through the windows. But nobody would answer the door.


COOPER: Well, are officials in Indiana really powerless to at least investigate or stop by?

TUCHMAN: No. The governor today or the governor 40 years ago wanted to lobby the legislature, the attorney general. They absolutely could do so, but they've chosen not to, despite the fact that we've talked to more than a dozen women ages 18 to 50, different generations who all say they've experienced the same thing.

COOPER: Can the federal government do anything?

TUCHMAN: Yes. Congress is considering passing legislation to help stop child abuse in boarding school facilities. It passed the house. This was three years ago. But it died in the Senate committee, and it's never been reintroduced.

COOPER: Gary, appreciate the reporting. Thanks very much.

Tomorrow Gary's going to have much more on this story in a special hour-long report, "Ungodly Discipline: Collision of Faith and Family and the Law." It's tomorrow at 8 and 10 p.m. Eastern

Up next, Joran Van Der Sloot charged with murder in Peru, accused of killing a young woman in a hotel. What prosecutors want as his punishment, ahead.

And plus massive waves hitting people who are brave or crazy enough to gather to watch them. We'll tell you where and why this happened

And later, T-shirt trouble for JCPenney. Message on a girl -- on a shirt for girls, "I'm too pretty to do homework," is drawing fire and landing on our "RidicuList."


SESAY: Hi. I'm Isha Sesay. Anderson is back with "The RidicuList" in just a moment. First, a "360 News & Business Bulletin."

Peruvian authorities have formally charged Joran Van Der Sloot with the murder of a young woman in a Lima hotel in May 2010 more than a year after he was arrested as a suspect in the case. Prosecutors are asking for a 30-year prison sentence and demanding he pay $73,000 in restitution to the family of Stephany Flores, the victim.

Van Der Sloot was once the prime suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway in Aruba, but he was never charged in that case

Prison officials say polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs is out of intensive care and in a general hospital bed. The convicted child rapist fell ill early this week while fasting behind bars. Prison officials expect him to make a full recovery

A deal to shore up the finances of the struggling New York Mets has fallen apart. Hedge fund manager David Einhorn has pulled out of his plan to invest $200 million in the baseball team. According to the Mets spokesman, they weren't able to reach an agreement, and the team's ownership has decided to explore other options

Among the money worries from Mets owners, a lawsuit for profiting off Bernie Madoff's massive scheme. They invested in his firm.

Now to China's Dinjong (ph) province, where massive waves, some nearly 60 feet high, crashed ashore. The waves slammed into spectators, who gathered to get a look at the annual phenomenon known as astronomical tide. The waves this year were larger due to a typhoon. When they hit land they caused panic and flooding. And in southern Florida, a 90-year-old woman had to get her leg amputated after an 8-foot-long alligator attacked her and tried to drag her into a canal. She was saved by a man who was driving by the canal and saw what was happening. He shot the alligator between the eyes, and it crawled back into the water. Authorities don't know if it's alive or dead.

COOPER: That's crazy.

SESAY: Absolutely insane! Apparently, it came out of the water three times to pull this woman back in.



COOPER: And they move really fast.

SESAY: They move really, really fast. And did you know that there -- there are more reports of this kind of activity at this time of year? Did you know that?

COOPER: Really? Like alligator attacks increase, really?

SESAY: Yes. They say that, according to the spokeswoman of the state's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, she says alligators are most active at this time of year while water levels are high.

COOPER: Are you talking to an alligator? Are you looking down at an alligator?

SESAY: Yes. I'm looking at a little alligator right here. It's telling me all this stuff.

COOPER: The T-shirt that dares to ask the question, can a girl be too pretty to do homework? Outrage over this shirt comes in one size only. Extra large. "The RidicuList" is next.


COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight we're adding JCPenney.

Now you may have heard the store was selling a T-shirt for girls just in time for back to school emblazed in with this pithy proclamation: "I'm too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me." The shirt was for sale in the JCPenney Web site, and the description said, quote, "Who has time for homework when there's a new Justin Bieber album out? She'll love this T that's just as cute and sassy as she is."

That's right, JC. Let's pretend it's 1971, and all the little ladies are cute and sassy.

No surprise, these shirts caused some moral outrage. A lot of moral outrage, more than you would probably think possible from a comfy jersey made of washable imported cotton. People were not at all comfy with its message. There was an online petition, Twitter almost imploded, and JCPenney caved quickly.

Here's the statement, quote, "We agree that the 'too pretty' T- shirt does not deliver an appropriate message, and we immediately discontinued its sale. We would like to apologize to our customers and are taking action to ensure that we continue to uphold the integrity of our merchandise that they have come to expect."

Now this debate comes down to two factions, basically. The vast majority of people who say the T-shirt is a hideous message for girls. Of course, there are the few people who say, let's bring the shirt back and make all the girls wear it, you know, like a school uniform. Make all the boys where an "I'm with stupid" T-shirt with the arrow pointing at the girls, throw maybe some "No Fat Chicks" T-shirts on all the teachers, and call it a day.

Granted, thankfully, that's a very, very small amount of people.

Now, the same people who see some of the shenanigans on "Toddlers & Tiaras" probably as a how-to video about instilling values in 4- year-olds.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This goes like that.


When she wears the fake boobs and the fake butt, it's just like -- it's an added, you know, extra bonus. And it's really funny. When she comes out on stage, everybody thinks it's hysterical.


COOPER: Yes. Fake boobs on a 4-year-old. Hysterical.

Girls need to know that life is not all about beauty. And brains are important, too. Because you can't make it to the Miss Teen USA pageant without education -- and maps.


CAITLIN UPTON, FORMER MISS SOUTH CAROLINA TEEN USA: Some people out there in our nation don't have maps. And I believe that our education, like such as in South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere like such as, I believe that they should -- our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., or should help South Africa and should help Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future.


COOPER: Overtime. So people are calling the "I'm too pretty" T- shirt -- "I'm too pretty to do homework" T-shirt the worst T-shirt in the world. I assume that's including South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere like such as.

But now that the offending T-shirt has been yanked from the shelves, girls are going to have to make do with the other shirts that JCPenney sells. And don't worry. They have a lot of them. Like the "My best subjects: boys, shopping, music, dancing" shirt. There's also the "I love bling" shirt for girls. And "What I love: cupcake, puppies, shopping, peace, my BFF."

To those who think these shirts are not great for girls' self- esteem people, well, the boys don't have it any easier. Here's what they're stuck with. "Winning isn't everything. It's just what I do," "I'm the rock star of this family," "Coolest kid ever."

Do you know what kind of pressure that is, living up to the title "Coolest kid ever," while simultaneously pursuing your career in the music industry? Really.

Now let me get this straight. The boys have to do homework, be winners while the girls get to go shopping with their BFFs and sit around fawning over puppies and cupcakes. Is that fair, JCPenney? Not fair at all.

Nonetheless, congratulations on becoming the official T-shirt supplier of "The RidicuList."

That does it for 360. Thanks for watching. "JOHN KING USA" starts now. See you tomorrow.