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Was Recent Bloodbath in Florida Over an Xbox? Are Helicopters Weapons of Choice for al Qaeda?

Aired August 9, 2004 - 19:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Horror and heartbreak in a faraway land.
360 starts now.

A million homeless, tens of thousands dead. Tonight, Christiane Amanpour takes you to the front lines of the crisis in Sudan.

Does al Qaeda have a new weapon of choice? Why helicopters are under suspicion in New York.

U.S. Marines take charge in the fight against Muqtada al-Sadr. The renegade cleric vows a fight to the death.

Bloodbath over an X-Box? Six bashed to death over a stolen games console. The accused make their first appearance in court.

Scott Peterson's Amber alert. Prosecution star witness Amber Frey prepares to take the stand. Will she make or break the case?

And how can this happen? A surgical towel left inside a patient. The shocking truth about medical mistakes. They're much more common than you think.

ANNOUNCER: Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360.

COOPER: Good evening.

For months now, the world has watched as terror and tragedy touched down in Sudan. The numbers of dead and homeless and hungry so large, the place so far away, it's been a story hard to comprehend. Or perhaps that is simply an excuse.

In Sudan's Darfur region, tens of thousands of people, refugees from their homes, families fleeing attacks by the Sudanese government and brutal militias, are dead. Two million are sick or starving.

Today the World Health Organization reported an outbreak of hepatitis E, a viral liver infection with no vaccine. It is now believed 300,000 people to 1 million people there will die by the end of this year.

It is easy to turn a blind eye. It is easy to plead ignorance, perhaps a little bit less so tonight. CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, is there.


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here at the Riyadh camp outside El Geneina, the capital of western Darfur.

And what you can see is people living in basic structures. You can't even call these huts, because they're just a bunch of twigs and straw matting that people have had to put up. They don't even have plastic shelter, and that's going to be a big, big problem, because the rainy season has just started. Sometimes it comes down in sheets like, as one person described, sheets of glass. And this is what's going to inundate them. So they're desperate for some kind of permanent structures.

Now, it smells a bit of sewage because there is no proper drainage, and it's a little rancid, as well. Here we are, this is what a lot of these people have got to eat. Those who can afford it get to eat some of this meat that's actually been out here for hours and hours in the blazing heat. But this is, in fact, the pitiful fact of what these people have to go through.

There simply isn't enough food out here yet. When there's malnutrition amongst any of these people who you see here, people who don't have enough to eat, and particularly the vulnerable, the women and the children, when they don't have enough to eat, that's when they become the most susceptible to disease.

There's already diarrhea, there are respiratory diseases, there's septicemia, there are all sorts of things, including the possibility of a malaria outbreak at the end of the rainy season at the end of September that could cause mass death.

In all, about 2 million people are at risk. They need help, and they need it quickly.

For 360, I'm Christiane Amanpour in the Riyadh camp, El Geneina, in Darfur.


COOPER: Well, today's buzz question is this. Should the United States do more to resolve the crisis in Sudan? Log on to Cast your vote. Results at the end of the program.

Back here on the campaign trail, a challenge given, a challenge taken. Today, John Kerry decided he could no longer avoid the second- guessing game. President Bush had been pressing him for an answer to a political question, and Senator Kerry responded from the edge of a very big cliff, literally.

CNN's senior White House correspondent John King reports.


JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the edge of the Grand Canyon, the Democratic nominee finally answered the president's challenge. Knowing what he knows now, would he still have backed giving the Bush administration the authority to wage war in Iraq?

SEN. JOHN KERRY, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it is the right authority for a president to have. But I would have used that authority, as I have said throughout this campaign, effectively. I would have done this very differently from the way President Bush has.

KING: Then Senator Kerry tried to turn the tables, posing a leadership question of his own for the president.

KERRY: Why did he rush to war without a plan to win the peace?

KING: This was to have been a day of sightseeing after a 3,000- mile campaign journey from his convention in Boston to the rim of the Grand Canyon here in Arizona. But after avoiding questions for days, Senator Kerry answered one posed by Mr. Bush, first last week and then again on Monday in Virginia.

The president says he believes the war in Iraq was right, even though no weapons of mass destruction have been found.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And by the way, I think the candidates for president must say yes or no, whether or not they would have made the same decision.

KING: By forcing Senator Kerry to defend his vote for the war, the White House hopes to dampen enthusiasm among anti-war Democratic voters.

But Senator Kerry says the issue is how he would have used that power, and he promised to restore alliances strained by Mr. Bush and to have a goal of reducing troop levels in Iraq within six months of taking office.

KERRY: It is an appropriate goal to have, and I'm going to try to achieve it.

KING (on camera): Senator Kerry did not answer directly when pressed as to whether he had received any personal assurances of more international troop help in Iraq. But he said Democratic Senate colleagues who have traveled abroad recently have told him they believe a change in administrations would bring more international help.

John King, CNN, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.


COOPER: And we'll talk to the "CROSSFIRE" guys, James Carville and Bob Novak, a little bit later on 360 about what happened on the campaign trail today.

In Iraq, the killing in the holy city of Najaf is now street to street, in some cases hand to hand. U.S. Marines are fighting, as one described it, quote, "at a range when you can smell a man." After a brief lull so the wounded could be evacuated, fighting resumed between U.S. Marines and the militia, Muqtada al-Sadr, who has vowed a fight to the death.

CNN's Matthew Chance is in Iraq.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The holy city of Najaf, now Iraq's worst battleground. In five days, U.S. forces, backed by Iraqis, say they've killed more than 360 Mehdi Army fighters here. They're loyal to radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, now publicly rejecting any negotiation while U.S. troops remain.

MUQTADA AL-SADR (through translator): I will continue with resistance, and I will remain in Najaf. I will not leave. I will continue to defend Najaf, as it is the holiest place. I will remain in the city until the last drop of my blood has been spilled.

CHANCE: In Baghdad too, the Mehdi Army is taking a stand. In Sadr City, there have been terrible clashes with U.S. forces, but here the militias hijack a police station. Not a shot was fired.

Inside the barracks, they rifle through cabinets for useful equipment, body armor meant to protect the police is stolen.

Still, the interim Iraqi government says it's keen to get this militia and its leader to join a political process they've so far rejected.

But there's another way too, fight to the end. And U.S. troops now massed in Baghdad and with full authority in Najaf may be poised to finish it.

(on camera): But this confrontation has potentially explosive consequences in Iraq. Reports from Najaf say the fighting is now concentrated around the Imam Ali Mosque, one of the holiest shrines in Shi'a Islam, now said to be surrounded by U.S. troops.

(voice-over): And a wrong step could unleash among Iraq's majority Shi'a a ferocious backlash.


CHANCE: Well, a great deal of violence here across Iraq. Also today, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), there was another car bomb in Baqubah, a town to the north of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. At least six people killed in that attack. That follows a similar attack there where 70 were killed less than two weeks ago.

So widespread violence across the country, but this test in Najaf is becoming a central one here. COOPER: An important test indeed. Matthew Chance, thanks, thanks very much, live from Baghdad.

Also in Iraq tonight, a dramatic turn of events for the man who once dreamed of being Iraq's ruler, Ahmed Chalabi. Today, Iraqi authorities issued an arrest warrant for him. Chalabi is accused of counterfeiting. His nephew, Salem Chalabi, the man spearheading the prosecution of Saddam Hussein, was also named in an arrest warrant, wanted in connection with a murder.

CNN senior international correspondent Walter Rodgers talked with Salem Chalabi today. He joins us now with his exclusive interview. Walter?

WALTER RODGERS, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it's extremely bizarre. Salem Chalabi is the lawyer responsible for organizing the war crimes trial against Saddam Hussein. He's 41 years old, a graduate of Yale, has a degree from Columbia, a law degree from Northwestern University, and he's a wanted man, wanted for murder.


SALEM CHALABI, DIRECTOR, IRAQI SPECIAL TRIBUNAL: It was a surprise to me. It -- I know that I have a lot of enemies in Iraq, because people just don't want this tribunal to succeed. And I just feel that, I mean, it's surreal that suddenly, you know, some people kind of trump up some weird allegations, and there's a judge who's willing to take those on and issue an arrest warrant for me, without even checking with me or my lawyers or anything like that.

And then releasing that, you know, that the investigations are supposed to be secret in Iraq under the Iraqi criminal procedural, to leak it to the media clearly has the goal of discrediting me, more than, you know, something to do with the charges themselves.


RODGERS: The young Mr. Chalabi is wanted to answer questions about the murder of a finance official in Iraq last April. He says he's eager to clear his name, but getting close to him, talking to him off-camera today, you got the impression he isn't all that eager to go back to Iraq, principally because he's afraid for his life, Anderson.

COOPER: He's in London right now?

RODGERS: He is indeed in London. He has a lovely house in a very expensive area of London. I spent at least half an hour with him today. He's an extraordinarily well educated, very soft-spoken. But when I look at him, I said to him, You don't, I said, if someone said to me, you're wanted for murder, I'd be a lot more upset than you are. He was very placid about it. I couldn't get a read on him very well at all, except he of course declares he is innocent.

He says he'd like to clear his name but he is not eager to go back to Iraq unless there's some guarantee for his safety, and there really isn't any guarantee for anybody's safety in that country.

COOPER: We'll see what happens to him if he does, in fact, go back. Walter Rodgers, thanks.

Here in the U.S., Mark Hacking is charged with murder and obstruction of justice. That story tops our look at what's going on cross-country today.

Hacking will make his first court appearance tomorrow morning in Salt Lake City, Utah. He allegedly confessed to killing his wife, Lori, you also see there in that video, whose body has not yet been found. Police and cadaver dogs have been searching a landfill for her body. It is gruesome work, and they are still at it. We'll have more on the case later on 360.

McAlister, Oklahoma, now, Terry Nichols expresses sorrow over the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Nichols was sentenced today in state court to 161 consecutive life sentences without parole. Reading a statement in court, he said his heart, quote, "truly goes out to all the victims and survivors." Nichols is already serving a life sentence on federal charges.

Los Angeles, California, now, Rick James's cause of death uncertain. An autopsy is inconclusive. Toxicology test results, expected in several weeks, could provide some answers, though. The 56-year-old funk singer died in his sleep Friday. Funeral plans are set for later this week.

And Atlanta, Georgia, cash flow turbulence at Delta Airlines. In a filing with the FCC today, America's number three airline warned if it doesn't cut costs, it will have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

That's a quick look at stories cross-country for you tonight.

360 next, helicopters as weapons? Find out how al Qaeda is keeping an eye on the sky.

Plus, a gruesome mass murder, six people dead. Find out why police say the alleged ringleader should never have been walking free in the first place.

Also tonight, a medical mistake that is almost impossible to believe. Find out how doctors left a towel inside a woman for seven years.

All that ahead. First, let's take a look at your picks, the most popular stories on right now.


COOPER: Well, tourists boarded helicopters for sightseeing tours of New York City today, despite a warning that al Qaeda has considered using those choppers in a terrorist attack. And there are new questions tonight about exactly what led to that warning.

CNN's Deborah Feyerick reports.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): High above Manhattan, a tourist helicopter circles the most populated city in America, everything laid out in remarkable detail, the bridges and tunnels, the skyscrapers and rail yards. Riders can take as many pictures as they like.

And it appears al Qaeda operatives did just that, law enforcement sources telling CNN along with photos of Citigroup, Prudential, and the New York Stock Exchange, al Qaeda operatives were also scouting New York heliports.

Surveillance photos show heliport doorlocks along with helicopter hatches and luggage doors, one source saying, "They were testing security. There was a discussion about the relative ease in which weapons could be smuggled on board helicopters."

A recent FBI bulletin warns that helicopters could be used to attack people at "parades and sporting events with explosives carried on board to increase the destructive effects," or that they could be used to introduce chemical or biological weapons into high-rise building ventilation systems.

Those scenarios are theoretical, not based on intelligence.

Helicopter expert Steve Masi.

STEVE MASI, HELICOPTER EXPERT: If you crash, a lot of times there's a fire, and then fire will burn up any chemical agent.

FEYERICK: CNN has learned security directors at some of the high-risk buildings were asked by federal officials whether a helicopter was capable of landing on the building.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (R), NEW YORK CITY: Using an aircraft as a weapon, whether it is a fixed wing or a rotary aircraft, is nothing new. We learnt that lesson on 9/11 at enormous cost.


FEYERICK: The FBI bulletin is based on information found in recently seized al Qaeda computers. Officials stress there's no credible or specific evidence supporting a helicopter attack. CNN has learned that for the first time ever, federal aviation safety officials will begin screening passengers and their bags at all New York City heliports, Anderson.

COOPER: Very scary. Deborah Feyerick, thanks very much.

According to police in Florida, the victims, all six of them, never had a chance. They didn't put up a fight. Some may have even been sleeping. The crime, which the sheriff calls the worst he has seen, just didn't make sense. And after you hear what the motive could be, it may never make sense. National correspondent Susan Candiotti has the latest, including why the people in charge of keeping an eye on the lead suspect have been fired.



SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One by one, each of the four accused murderers stood before a judge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you Mr. Victorino?

CANDIOTTI: Including alleged ringleader Troy Victorino, at 27, almost a decade older than his 18-year-old suspected partners in crime.

Authorities now question whether Victorino should have been out of jail in the first place after violating probation for a savage beating in 1996.

Four probation supervisors have now been fired for failing to flag Victorino's violent history when he was arrested on a battery charge a week before the murders.

Florida's top corrections official says if Victorino had been arrested for a probation violation, six lives might have been saved.

JAMES CROSBY, FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: If they had went ahead with a warrantless arrest and put him in jail and kept him there, yes.

CANDIOTTI: The next day, police say Victorino and three other suspects used aluminum bats and knives to batter and slash six sleeping victims and kill a dog.

SHERIFF BEN JOHNSON, VOLUSIA COUNTY, FLORIDA: This was the worst thing I've ever seen in my career, just the brutal force used involved against the victims.

CANDIOTTI: A friend discovered the bodies Friday and called 911.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I come in, and the door's kicked in, and I see blood. That's all I see. Ah, there's four or five people in there, and they're just all laying on the floor. And I yelled and yelled and yelled, and no one answered.


CANDIOTTI (on camera): The case bears striking similarities to the kidnapping and murder of Carlie Brucia earlier this year, but so far, Florida lawmakers have not passed new laws to keep violent probation violators in jail.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Miami.


COOPER: A deadly accident at a nuclear power plant tops our look at what's happened around the world in tonight's uplink.

Mihama, Japan, a bursting steam pipe kills at least four nuclear plans workers and injured seven others. Now, no radiation was released in the accident. The workers died of severe burns. It is Japan's deadliest accident at a nuclear power plant.

Hamburg, Germany, U.S. complicates tomorrow's 9/11 trial. German court officials say the Justice Department has yet to answer a request to allow captured al Qaeda leaders and a former CIA head to testify in the trial of a Moroccan accused in helping the 9/11 plot. Now, there, of course, has been tension between the U.S. and Germany over Washington's refusals to allow the courts to use secret testimony from terror suspects.

Nagasaki, Japan, wreath layings, a bell toll, and a moment of silence to remember the atomic bomb. The U.S. dropped the weapon of mass destruction on the city 59 years ago today to end World War II.

Heinola , Finland, feeling hot, hot, hot. Take a look. A Finnish man and a woman from Belarus are winners of this year's sauna endurance contest. Bikes. The man lasted almost 12 minutes in the sauna's 230-degree heat. The woman stayed in there for about eight minutes. And they both look pretty red.

That's tonight's uplink.

360 next, the other woman and secret tapes. Scott Peterson's lover, Amber Frey, about to take the stand against him. Find out what prosecutors are hoping she's going to say.

Also tonight, John Kerry answers President Bush's ultimatum on the war. But was responding to the president a tactical mistake? James Carville and Bob Novak duke it out in the "CROSSFIRE."

And a little later, breakthrough surgery that changed two kids' lives forever. Here from the first time, hear for the first time from the mother who saw them through it all.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, January 24, 2003)

AMBER FREY: I met Scott Peterson November 20, 2002. I was introduced to him. I was told he was unmarried. Scott told me he was not married. We did have a romantic relationship.


COOPER: Well, that was Amber Frey then, Amber Frey, the star witness in the Scott Peterson murder trial. She's now expected to take the stand tomorrow. Meanwhile, in Utah, another husband accused of killing his wife was formally charged today for her murder. The latest on the Hacking case in just a moment.

But first, Amber Frey getting ready for her closeup in court.

CNN's Ted Rowlands has more.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not going to be giving her...

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The conversations Amber Frey secretly taped with Scott Peterson are expected to be at the heart of her testimony, which is scheduled to begin in the morning.

According to Frey's attorney, Gloria Allred, those audiotapes will have an impact on this case.

GLORIA ALLRED, AMBER FREY'S ATTORNEY: The prosecution can argue that there is a motive for murder, and we will see how Scott Peterson wormed his way into her life and into her heart.

ROWLANDS: Frey, according to a source familiar with the case, has been in Redwood City since Sunday, going over testimony with prosecutors. Her father says she's ready.

RON FREY, AMBER FREY'S FATHER: She's 100 percent prepared, and she'll be able to deal with questions from the defense attorney, Mr. Geragos. Not a problem.

ROWLANDS: Amber Frey started taping conversations with Peterson six days after his wife, Laci, was reported missing. Sources familiar with the recordings say that Peterson told Frey dozens of intricate lies that are captured on tape.

CHUCK SMITH, LEGAL ANALYST: The more bizarre, the more strange his statements to her are, the better it is for the prosecution.

ROWLANDS: Meanwhile, CNN has learned that the focus of what the defense in this case is calling potentially exculpatory evidence revolves around a plastic tarp recovered with Laci Peterson's remains. According to a source close to the case, the first authorities on scene said the tarp smelled like a corpse. The defense is testing that tarp and maintains that if the tarp was used in the crime, it may help to clear Scott Peterson.

(on camera): Amber Frey is scheduled to be the first witness in the morning. It is expected that she will be on the witness stand for more than a week.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Redwood City, California.


COOPER: Well, covering the case for us tonight, Kimberly, 360 legal analyst Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom.

Kimberly, good to see you again.


COOPER: We heard Amber Frey's attorney saying that this could provide motive, Amber Frey. Is that really possible? What would be the possible motive?

NEWSOM: Well, I'll tell you what, the one thing this jury needs to hear from this prosecution team is the answer to the question, Why? And Amber Frey provides the fabric for the motive, the groundwork they need to do to make this jury understand why this man would kill his wife and their unborn son.

I think, although she is not the motive in and of itself, I don't believe that it's going to be proved that it was this great love affair. But what it was is, she was a taste of the single life that he wanted to have, and Laci Peterson was the encumbrance to the life he wanted to lead, a life of golfing, country clubs, boating, et cetera.

And that has become very clear so far in the evidence that has been presented. I think she can provide valuable insight into his state of mind before and after his wife's disappearance.

One thing we do know, in those wiretaps is going to be powerful evidence. And it may be, Anderson, the only time that this jury hears from Scott Peterson.

COOPER: Well, couldn't the defense say, Well, look, you know, if he allegedly wanted this single life, why is he dating a woman, Amber Frey, who has a child?

NEWSOM: Well, the response is, maybe he wasn't necessarily going to plan a future with Amber Frey to the exclusion of all the other women out there. We know he had another extramarital affair early on in his marriage to Laci with a woman named Janet. And we know that Scott Peterson, when he's arrested at the time for his wife's murder, has Viagra in his pocket, has dyed hair, an ID, et cetera, et cetera.

What is this jury going to think after Amber takes the stand? They're going to like Scott even less, and they're going to be able to get a little bit of an understanding and insight into how his mind works and see that although he appears to be charming, affable, and a man who could never commit such a horrific crime, he has told one lie after the next after the next, all to cover up what? If he has got nothing to hide, why all the lies?

COOPER: All right, let's go on to the Hacking case. Mark Hacking now charged, not with aggravated murder, was he, as we expected. What do you make of that?

NEWSOM: Well, I'll tell you what. It's a smart move by the D.A., the prosecutors in this case, because they don't need to do that just yet. They needed to file a charge against him. And right now they've charged him with first degree murder. It carries a penalty of five years up to life in prison.

Should they develop additional evidence in this case -- for example, they're able to confirm that she was five weeks' pregnant at the time of her death -- then they could make this a death penalty case and charge him with the aggravated murder. So that is definitely something not out of the question. A lot of evidence coming in.

As it stands, with the confession, the admissions that he's made to family members and the other physical evidence found at the scene that corroborates those statements, this is going to be one uphill battle for the defense. Right now, as it stands, I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't try and work out some kind of plea bargain.

COOPER: And apparently he's already confessed to his brothers, at least, according to his family...

NEWSOM: That's correct.

COOPER: ... so that really doesn't help his case.

Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom, good to talk to you. Thanks.


COOPER: Does al Qaeda have a new weapon of choice? Why helicopters are under suspicion in New York.

And how can this happen? A surgical towel left inside a patient. The shocking truth about medical mistakes. They're much more common than you think.

360 continues.


COOPER: John Kerry answers a question from President Bush on the war. Find out if it's any clearer where he really stands.

James Carville and Bob Novak step in the Crossfire. 360 next.


COOPER: Welcome back to 360. Time for "The Reset." For the first time in U.S. history, a team of international observers will monitor the U.S. November presidential elections. The State Department invited them who's past missions include the election in California last year and Florida's 2002 vote.

In Washington, a federal judge is holding "Time" magazine reporter Matthew Cooper in contempt of court. The judge had required Cooper to appear before a grand jury investigating the identity leak of CIA officer, Valerie Plain. The jury wants to speak to Cooper about an alleged conversation he had with a member of the executive branch, but Cooper is refusing to give up his confidence source.

Across the country, more zoom for your buck. The government says gas prices have fallen for the ninth time in the past 11 weeks after reaching record highs. The average price is buck 88, which still more than 30 cents higher than it was a year ago.

In Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, presidential hopeful John Kerry is sticking to his yes vote to authorize the president to go to war in Iraq, but he says he would have handled the war differently if he were president.

The Bush campaign has challenged him to give a yes or no answer whether he still stood behind his vote on Iraq.

It's a quick look at our top stories tonight.

It might be very cliche to say that every vote counts, but in this election year, cliche is certainly truth. No voter block is too small to pursue. Case in point, today John Kerry invited Native American tribal leader aboard his train to discuss issues for their tribes. Some groups that don't usually get a voice on the national stage, are being heard loud and clear and getting a heaping helping of "Raw Politics."


COOPER (voice-over): They don't have phones or cars or televisions or electricity for that matter, but one thing the Amish have, well apart from a reality series, is the ear of the president. Republicans have been actively courting Amish voters this year. The president himself met with a Amish group during a visit to Pennsylvania last month, asking them to pray for him and vote for him. And while President Bush is after the Amish vote, John Kerry is seeking the support of Native Americans in New Mexico and Arizona.

KERRY: It is a sad fact that one-third of the Native Americans have no health insurance at all. It is a sad fact that the life expectancy of Native Americans is less than other Americans.

COOPER: So, why are two groups largely ignored in past elections suddenly grabbing these candidates attention, it could be a question of location. There are more than 150,000 Amish in the United States. And you'll find many in Pennsylvania and Ohio, key battleground states. The problem for John Kerry is even if they vote, they probably won't for him.

Native Americans, on the other hand, could cast their vote for Kerry, who's already made three trips to Arizona, another battleground state. And hoping to hold on to New Mexico, home to the largest Native American population in the southwest. It could also be about the numbers. In this election where according to a recent CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll, only 12 percent of Americans say they could still be persuaded to change their vote, every vote truly does count.

CHIP SMITH, GLOVER PARK GROUP: A very small group of undecided voters out there. So, wherever they can go and expand the potential base of voters, they're going to seek out those people in order to win the election.

COOPER: That means winning over the fringe voted may be a necessary part of "Raw Politics."


COOPER: Well, on the campaign trail, as we mentioned earlier, challenge given, a challenge taken. John Kerry is sticking to his yes vote to authorize the president to go to war in Iraq, but says he would have handled the war differently if he were president. President Bush had been pressing him for an answer to a hot political question. So, was it a politically damaging concession or a shred pragmatic move.

Debate began almost before the words were completely out of John Kerry's mouth.

For some insight, let's go to "CROSSFIRE" guys, Robert Novak and James Carville.


COOPER: James, was it a mistake for John Kerry to responds directly to President Bush's question?

JAMES CARVILLE, "CROSSFIRE": Oh, I don't know. Probably was asked about it, and if he wouldn't respond, he would have looked evasive. (UNINTELLIGIBLE). In the end, I don't think it's going to matter much.

I think that Kerry's point is made in spades. It's one thing to have the authority and actually by giving the president authority to have inspectors in. By the time that this war started, I think the administration, the CIA -- thought maybe there weren't weapons there. And if you look at the horrible, horrible planning of this war and it's aftermath, I don't know if anybody would look back and say that the whole thing was a good idea. But I think what John Kerry said reflects his view.

COOPER: Bob, does what John Kerry, said make sense to you?

ROBERT NOVAK, "CROSSFIRE": No it doesn't. Nothing he has said on this makes a lot of sense. If you take all the things that Senator Kerry has said, going all the way back to 1992 on this war it is -- you know, flip-flopping is a cliche used by the Republicans, but it's true. He's been on all sides of this issue. He varies it from time to time. I think in politics, you can get away with that, Anderson. I think you can -- it's what I said today, isn't what I said a month ago, it isn't what said two months ago.

But you will listen to what he said -- just in the year 2002, and it was as hawkish as George W. Bush.

CARVILLE: I think what you've got here is, you look at what happened with this whole Chalabi fiasco, you can see just how ill prepared -- the horrible planning and execution of this. And look, nobody would have voted for anything had they known how -- what a bunch of incompetent fools that were in charge of this. And I said that advisedly, but that's only conclusion one can draw when you look at what's hands after this war was won.

COOPER: But James, Bob brings up the flip-flopping argument. Has John Kerry been able to defend himself successfully.

CARVILLE: He said he voted for the authority to go to war. He had no idea when he voted for that authority that it would be executed with the incompetence that this has. I don't think that's flip- flopping. He didn't vote to go to war. He voted to give the president authority. As a result of that authority, I could make an argument that we had U.N. inspectors, 236 U.N. inspectors in Iraq for 90 days, that we kicked out to go incompetently execute a policy. And I don't see anything inconsistent in that.

NOVAK: James, if you go back to what he was saying. There's a video out, I'll send it, a copy of it, of all the statements he has made over the last -- over the years, and even over the last two or three years. And it's not just that he said he was giving authority to the president, but not -- not authority to go to war, he was extremely hawkish on this. Now, the thing that -- the biggest mistake I think he made politically, you're the political -- I'm just a humble reporter and you're a political genius.

But I think the biggest mistake he made, and Democrats say it's a huge mistake, is when he said I can't -- I have a plan to get out of Iraq, but I can't tell you what it is. Now, that brings up certain memories of a president who was not very popular with the Democrats, named Richard Nixon.

CARVILLE: Well, look, I mean, one of the things is, he sure would have a better plan -- anybody would have a better plan than this administration has. And again, one thing what people thought in October, and it turned out of course it was wrong, by the time that we went to war, intelligent people all over the world had a pretty good idea there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq because the U.N. inspectors had come in.

NOVAK: Kerry's position is very hard to parse on this situation. Now, the question is, what he's betting on is that the people are going to be so upset with this war and so unhappy with the war, it doesn't matter what he says.

COOPER: James Carville, Bob Novak, thanks.

CARVILLE: Appreciate it.

NOVAK: Thank you.

COOPER: Imagine an operation where the doctor accidentally leaves a piece of equipment inside you. Next on 360, the disturbing case of how a towel used during surgery was left inside a woman's body.

Also tonight, living separate lives. Two boys formerly conjoined now part, and their mother can't wait to hold them. An update ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Unbelievable number. Surgery, of course, is meant to help the sick, not make matters worse. But doctors do make mistakes when patients go under the knife, perhaps more frequently than you'd expect. Things are often left behind. Patients have been sewn up with sponges, forceps and even a foot-long metal instrument inside them. In Ohio, the family of one woman is suing, claiming she died because of a medical mistake, a mistake she unknowingly kept within her body for years. CNN's Adaora Udoji reports.


ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bonnie Valle, 53 and suffering from emphysema, turned to lung reduction surgery for help. Her family is now accusing surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic of leaving a surgical towel like this one behind in her lungs.

For seven years, they say she complained about pain in her chest, and that her doctors never identified the problem.

Valle died in 2002. The towel allegedly found after her body was donated to a local medical college.

In response, Cleveland Clinic released a statement saying, they are "thoroughly investigating this matter. Patient safety is our highest priority."

It's not clear what happened in that case, but a new study by Health Grades, a consulting company, estimates an average 195,000 people died annually from 2000 to 2002 because of potentially preventable medical mistakes. Dr. Kenneth Kizer, a health care advocate, questions the study's methodology, but agrees there's a major problem.

DR. KENNETH KIZER, CEO, NATIONAL QUALITY FORUM: The death count from medical errors is anywhere from the low of maybe the eighth leading cause of death to perhaps as high as the third leading cause of death in this country.

UDOJI: Kizer argues health care is one of the most complex, high risk, error prone activities that just like aviation or nuclear power plants should also come with complex checks and balances.

KIZER: They range the gamut from a simple thing like repeating back verbal orders, standardizing abbreviations, to more complicated things like using computerized prescribed order entry.

UDOJI: In Bonnie Valle's case, her family wants accountability for a mistake they say that should never have been made.

Adaora Udoji, CNN, New York.


COOPER: It is hard to believe. Joining me now to discuss Bonnie Valle's case is her daughter, Jeanne Clark, and her attorney, Mark Okey. Jeanne, thanks very much for being with us. Mark as well. I'm sorry for your loss.


COOPER: Jeanne, when the doctor called and told you what they had found inside your mom's body, what did you think? What went through your head?

JEANNE CLARK, TOWEL LEFT INSIDE MOTHER: Oh, it was like reliving her death all over again. I just totally just started crying. I lost it. It was horrible.

COOPER: Mark, I understand you have an item similar to the item that was found in her body. Can you show us what it is, and I mean, how did this get left inside her?

OKEY: Well, the surgery was in October of 1995. And it was a lung reduction surgery. And the towel was rolled up and placed behind the left lung. And it was mistakenly just left in her body at the time of the surgery.

COOPER: And Jeanne, I know your mom had a lot of X-rays after the surgery, and she often complained that she felt like there was something inside her, didn't she?

CLARK: Yes, she did. She felt that there was something in there that she felt -- kept saying, there's something -- something moved in my chest. I feel like I'm being suffocated, like someone's sitting on my chest. She couldn't breathe. She suffered a lot.

COOPER: Now, we got a statement -- a letter from your mom's doctor, Jeffrey Miller, who cared for her after the surgery. I'm going to put it on the screen, what he says. He says, quote, "I do not think this affected her duration or quality of life. She lived seven years later, which is certainly as well as one would have expected her to survive given her severe emphysema and poor pulmonary function and overall condition." Jeanne, what do you think of that?

CLARK: If that towel wasn't there, she wouldn't -- she was -- after the surgery, she was on her oxygen. If that towel wasn't in there, she would have been off her oxygen for a while. I would -- I wouldn't know how long, but I feel that she would have lived a more healthier, happier life. She was sick constantly.

COOPER: And Mark, you're suing now Dr. Miller, as well as the hospital. What are you alleging?

OKEY: Well, we're alleging that Dr. Miller should have discovered the towel. And that in fact, Dr. Miller's own records indicate that four years after the surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, that this towel or one like it had already started to compress the left lung as well as inflame the left lung, and all that had a very negative effect on her physical health.

COOPER: Well, it's just a horrible story. And Jeanne, I know it's just a terrible loss for you. We appreciate you being with us, Jeanne Clark and Mark Okey, thanks very much. CLARK: Sure, thank you.

OKEY: Thank you.

COOPER: Well, for the first time in their lives, two boys are living apart. Next on 360, a happier medical story. Formerly conjoined brothers after a marathon operation appear stable and strong. Tonight, their mother speaks out. An update ahead.


COOPER: Well, Arlene Aguirre, the mother of twin boys, has always had a simple wish. She wanted to hug her kids separately, one by one. Mrs. Aguirre never had a chance to do that because her little boys were conjoined at the head. Her wish can now come true. The kids were separated last week. For an update, here's CNN senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SR. MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When doctors rolled Carl Aguirre down the hall for a CAT scan on Sunday, it was the first time he had ever gone anywhere without his brother. Their mother, Arlene, speaking to the press for the first time on the separation, has only known Carl and Clarence as one. She's still getting used to the idea of two separate boys.

ARLENE AGUIRRE, TWINS' MOTHER: I can see them alive and lying on the bed with, you know, two separate beds. And it's really unbelievable.

GUPTA: Unbelievable. And unusual.

DR. DAVID STAFTENBERG, PEDIATRIC PLASTIC SURGEON: Their recovery has been, I think, beyond our best expectations.

DR. JAMES GOODRICH, PEDIATRIC NEUROSURGEON: Exactly astonished not to see any of the problems that we expected -- the swelling of the brain, the venous infarction. And these are all things that we were concerned about.

GUPTA: Almost all previous conjoined twins had problems immediately after the operation. When Los Dos Marias, the two Marias from Guatemala, were separated two years ago, Maria Teresa suffered a life-threatening infection. She is now deaf. The Bijani twins from Iran both died after a 52-hour operation.

With Carl and Clarence, Dr. Goodrich operated in stages, performing four operations over 10 months instead of one mammoth one.

That led to less blood loss, less anesthesia at any given time, and hopefully a faster recovery.

GOODRICH: Taking them through a stage procedure like this made all the difference in the world. GUPTA: Still, they're not nearly out of the woods yet. Doctors need to see the effects of disconnecting two brains that were fused together and communicating. It will take weeks before they're out of critical condition, and a year before they have their skulls completely replaced.

They are separate for sure. And Arlene also wants them to be independent. For now, they're just getting to know each other for the very first time.

AGUIRRE: One thing more, I want them first to see what the reaction, if they really see each other.


GUPTA: A really amazing operation, Anderson. I think it's worth pointing out that this is one of those operations where the rubber really hits the road for neurosurgeons. It is likely, statistically, that one of them is still going to have some problems. As successful as the operation has been already, statistically, one of them may have some minor setbacks. It's going to be at least a year still, probably in and out of the hospital, getting a lot of that bone replaced on the back of their head, as well. So lots more to go, not out of the woods, but pretty successful so far, Anderson.

COOPER: A lot of people around the world pulling for them and for the doctors, as well. All right, Sanjay Gupta, thanks very much.

GUPTA: Thank you.

COOPER: 360 next. Remembering Red Adair. One of the originals. A superhero -- excuse me, a superhero not afraid of fire.

Plus, tomorrow for the first time, TV cameras go behind closed doors and give you an inside look at what happens inside jury deliberations.

First, today's "Buzz." Should the United States do more to resolve the crisis in Sudan? Log on to Cast your vote now. Results when we come back.


COOPER: Time now for the "Buzz." Earlier we asked you, should the United States do more to resolve the crisis in Sudan? More than 16,000 of you voted. Fifty-seven percent of you said yes, 43 percent no. Not a scientific poll, but it is your buzz, and we appreciate you voting.

Tonight, taking a surprise ending to "The Nth Degree."

Of all the ways that Red Adair might have died, Red Adair who for many decades did about the most dangerous thing a man can do on Earth, fought oil well fires. Of all the deaths he might have faced, the one that actually befell him over the weekend seems the least likely.

He died of natural causes at a hospital near his home in Houston, at the age of 89.

Here's a guy who inspired a movie, a John Wayne movie, no less. Who in the Sahara, in Kuwait, all over the world, faced 100- and 200- foot high plumes of flame, spouting out of the Earth as if directly from hell. Who rigged explosives to choke those awful spurting jets, then smothered them with concrete and mud, who spent a lifetime running toward a sight others ran from and double quick.

And after such a career as that, as holocaust tamer, he makes his exit peacefully in his old age. It is a wonder, really, things being what they are in the world right now, with conflagrations always in the offing, we can only hope we'll never have fresh reasons to wish the old inferno master was still among us.

I'm Anderson Cooper. Thanks for watching. Coming up next, "PAULA ZAHN NOW."


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