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PAULA ZAHN NOW
Safety Concerns Raised Over America's Top Dog Treat; Port Security Deal on Hold; Female Athletes and Eating Disorders
Aired February 24, 2006 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Appreciate your all being with us.
Tonight, yet new questions about a growing controversy and a familiar old phrase: Follow the money.
ZAHN (voice-over): On the CNN "Security Watch" -- the harbor deal is treading water.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: We are announcing bipartisan legislation that would put the deal on hold.
More twists, more turns, and more questions -- did a $100 million gift help ease the way?
"Mysteries of the Mind" -- why are young women at the top of their game..
KIMIKO SOLDATI, 2002 U.S. NATIONAL DIVING CHAMPION: Here I was. I was this amazing athlete.
ZAHN: ... tormented by a disturbing secret?
SOLDATI: And it's so not spoke about, but, yet, everybody knows it is going on.
ZAHN: What drives so many gifted athletes toward a dangerous disorder?
And the "Eye Opener" -- the hard facts about Greenies, a CNN investigation into the country's most popular dog treat.
MIKE EASTWOOD, PLAINTIFF IN LAWSUIT: I'm mad that their packaging states that the product is 100 percent edible.
ZAHN: So, what is the company doing about that?
ZAHN: We start with the CNN "Security Watch" and the story that has exploded into the national consciousness this week. It is still lighting up phone lines, fueling angry talk on radio stations, and forging rather unusual alliances between Democrats and Republicans. So, what is causing all this passion? Well, the prospect of a company -- that is, a company from the United Arab Emirates buying operations at six major U.S. ports, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, and New Orleans. The sale is supposed to be final next week.
Well, tonight, the company's offer to delay its takeover hasn't eased the security concerns, and a major showdown may be just a weekend away.
Here is senior national correspondent John Roberts.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Goodbye, Dubai. Goodbye, Dubai.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Delay or no delay, there was no question how union members in Boston feel about the deal. And, from members of Congress, the reaction isn't much different.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: The bottom line is simple. From one end of this country to the other, average citizens are scratching their heads in wonderment: How could such a deal be put forward, secretly, in the dark of night, without a full investigation, after 9/11?
ROBERTS: The White House had hoped a slowdown of the ports deal would be just the political relief it needed. In fact, rather than calming the waters, the delay only stirred even members of the president's own party to make sure that, during this pause, the White House undertakes a thorough security review of Dubai Ports World.
Senator Susan Collins is the latest Republican to sign on to legislation making that demand.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I have a lot of trust in this president and in this White House. But this is a case where I really think they have missed the boat.
ROBERTS: Administration officials, though, seem certain they can use this time to erase any doubts.
JOHN SNOW, TREASURY SECRETARY: It will give -- give the administration and give D.P. World an opportunity to better inform the Congress and the public about this -- about this -- this transaction.
ROBERTS: The White House is so confident because its relations with the United Arab Emirates, which owns Dubai Ports World, are especially close. Just this week, the Pentagon praised strong economic and military ties and the UAE's generous donation to Hurricane Katrina relief.
GENERAL PETER PACE, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: One hundred million dollars is what they offered to Katrina victims. ROBERTS: That donation, the White House noted, is four times all the other foreign gifts to hurricane relief combined. The fact it was made just weeks before the ports acquisition became public has some Democrats suspicious.
But, across the administration, officials dismiss any notion of a quid pro quo. Congressman Peter King, a prominent critic of the ports deal, doesn't see how there could be a connection.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: If there was any quid pro quo, I think the Cabinet secretaries would have known about it, the president would have known about it. And, by all accounts, neither Don Rumsfeld or Mike Chertoff or Condoleezza Rice, or even John Snow or the president, knew anything about this transaction until the whole process was completed.
ZAHN: So, John, we have heard some Republicans, like Peter King, and administration officials denying any -- any quid pro quo. What are the Democrats saying tonight? Are they buying this?
ROBERTS: The Democrats are trying to leave this alone, as much as possible. You really have to kind of prod them to say, how do you feel about the whole thing? And what they will say is, we're suspicious.
But you notice, though, that in both giving the -- the White House and the administration a pass on this idea of a quid pro quo, Representative Peter King also kind of slammed them to say, well, they couldn't have had a quid pro quo, because nobody in charge in the administration had heard about this deal until it was all over.
ZAHN: Sort of an unusual line of reasoning we hadn't heard up until today.
Let's talk about the company that wants to take over this business. Have they denied this quid pro quo?
ROBERTS: We haven't had an opportunity to ask them about that.
But I'm certain that they would probably deny it. The -- the fact is, Paula, really, that the United Arab Emirates is a very generous country. It -- it likes to wield a lot of influence. It wants to see itself as the center of the Middle East in the Gulf region. And it -- it freely gives very large gifts to a number of different countries, not just the United States.
ZAHN: John Roberts, thanks so much for the update. Appreciate it.
It is pretty clear that the guys at the White House blinked first in this battle. But the decision by the Dubai Ports World to delay its takeover is exactly the exit strategy the White House wanted in the first place. We're told it was a result of a quiet, but urgent effort to put the brakes on what has become a political nightmare. For a closer look now, White House correspondent Dana Bash takes us "Beyond the Headlines."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... United States.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The delay to buy more time, informed sources tell CNN, came after private White House appeals to allies like former Congressman Vin Weber, a lobbyist who represents the United Arab Emirates.
It delays a remarkable political confrontation, with ramifications well beyond the ports controversy -- a Republican president threatening a veto, if the Republican leadership in Congress tried to block the port deal.
STEPHEN L. HADLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The president believes that additional time, which would allow the company and the administration to explain this, and provide more information to the Congress, is a good thing.
BASH: But a senior administration official admits, they are not out of the woods yet. Sources involved in talks with the White House and the companies tell CNN, Mr. Bush may have no choice but to accept a longer government review of whether the deal poses security risks.
So far, the administration is digging in, saying it will try to convince Congress, the 14-agency panel that approved the deal did extensive vetting.
FRANCES FRAGOS TOWNSEND, WHITE HOUSE HOMELAND SECURITY ADVISER: There was no need for an additional 45 days or an investigation.
BASH: But that won't fly with key members of Congress, who say the White House broke the law. An attorney who helped write the statute agrees.
PATRICK MULLOY, INTERNATIONAL TRADE LAW EXPERT, GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY: If it's a government-owned corporation which is doing the acquisition of the American company, the law says that there's a mandatory investigation.
BASH: Bush officials recognize, they're up against something else: raw emotion, especially from their own.
SCOTT REED, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: This is going to have some ramifications, not only nationally, but also on the local level, now in each one of these port towns. The politics has gotten almost out of control.
BASH: The president is suddenly the bad guy of talk radio.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why should we have a Middle Eastern dictatorship, or company associated with a dictatorship, controlling our ports?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's going to quite possibly -- quite possibly -- and maybe even probably -- cost the Republicans the next election.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BASH: That is exactly why you saw what amounted to a Republican stampede to break with a president they see as weak and on the wrong side of what was their winning issue, security.
And, privately, congressional Republican sources say many are reveling in the split, because it was a long time coming, the result of years of what some called Bush arrogance and neglect.
REED: The problem is, a lot of this administration has taken congressional relations to be an oxymoron.
ZAHN: So, Dana, we have heard what the administration has said publicly about wanting this deal, ultimately, to go through. But what are officials telling you privately?
BASH: Well, there are two ways to look at this.
Politically, you can bet they want this -- this whole issue to just end, frankly, probably, when you look at it through the political lens, whether it's going through or just ending, and not happening at all. But I can tell you that they really do, I -- I believe, believe the idea that it is important, in terms of policy, to get this through, both from an economic point of view.
This very much falls in line with what the president believes, in terms of a -- a free market, and, also, in terms of foreign policy. The president said it many times. And, when you talk to people who are sort of in the foreign policy realm and pushing this, they say it is really essential, from their point of view, to get this through, and not alienate the UAE, and not do this at this time.
It is really pretty much the last thing that they want to happen, especially when you look at what -- what is going on in the Middle East and the U.S. image there.
ZAHN: It's going to be fascinating to watch this play out.
Dana Bash, thanks so much.
And, as we saw a little earlier on, the takeover battle even spilled into the streets today. Protests around the country were peaceful, but they were also loud.
From Miami, Susan Candiotti has more on the driving force behind the demonstrations.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Miami...
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Secure our ports.
CANDIOTTI: ... in Boston...
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Goodbye, Dubai. Goodbye, Dubai.
CANDIOTTI: ... and outside nearly 20 ports from coast to coast, it was the Teamsters' turn to protest against the deal to operate six major U.S. port terminals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got the port here. And now they're going to take it away from us. Boy, I will tell you, what a sad deal Bush is.
(TRUCK HORNS BLARING)
CANDIOTTI: Truckers who carry cargo to and from ports complain that security in the nation's harbors is already weak, with less than 10 percent of all containers currently being opened and inspected.
So, these Teamsters aren't taking much comfort in reassurances that the Homeland Security Department would still control port security after Dubai Ports World takes over.
RONALD P. CARVER, STRATEGIC CAMPAIGNS COORDINATOR, INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS: ... have no confidence in this administration telling us that they're on top of security, because they're not on top of it today.
CANDIOTTI: In Charleston, South Carolina, more Teamster protesters. The union says, the United Arab Emirates recognized the Taliban in Afghanistan before 9/11, had ties to the 9/11 hijackers, and cannot be trusted.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: You won't sell a -- a chicken farm to a wolf. We just think that this is a bad idea. This is a bad idea all the way around. I don't care if you're a -- you're a Republican, you're a Democrat. This is just not good for America.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: Homeland Security is in trouble.
CANDIOTTI: With the operating contract on temporary hold, the union suggests reopening the port bidding to American-owned companies.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTER: This Third World company -- company is just coming in. They purchase it outright. They -- they haven't given anybody in the -- America the opportunity to bid on it.
CANDIOTTI: Teamsters say they're just getting started, and that they will keep on protesting Dubai's control of the port terminals, until it is abandoned entirely. Susan Candiotti, CNN, Miami.
ZAHN: And, when we come back, we change our focus to athletes -- always looking for an edge over the competition. But, in their quest to win, why do so many young people risk losing their lives? We are going to meet a former Olympian and explore a "Mystery of the Mind."
Also, the CNN investigation into safety questions about the country's most popular dog treat. Why are a bunch of pet owners going to court?
But, first, more than 18 million of you checked out CNN.com today.
Our countdown of the top 10 most popular stories on our Web site begins with the Philippines, which remains in a state of emergency tonight, after yesterday's discovery of a plot to overthrow the government.
Number nine -- the first Mardi Gras weekend since Katrina is now under way in New Orleans.
Stay with us -- numbers seven and 8 still ahead.
ZAHN: They made it all the way from Cuba to a broken bridge. What's the reason they were sent back? Should they have been allowed to stay?
On to our next story now -- it's enough to endure the loss of a loved one, but how would you endure the insult of having protesters shouting at the funeral? Well, last night, we told you about the growing number of protests, like this one, at funerals of Americans killed in Iraq. They're not demonstrating against the war, but against homosexuality in American society.
So, today, we sent Ed Lavandera to speak with one widow who suffered the loss of her husband and the pain of the protest at his funeral. It has a story that has a lot of us asking, "What Were They Thinking?"
BRANDY SACCO, WIDOW OF KILLED U.S. SOLDIER: I get this before I bury my husband.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Just a few days after sergeant Nick Sacco was killed in Iraq, his 24-year-old wife received this e-mail.
SACCO: "Your husband is in hell. We can see what a man your husband was. He left his family in -- in the lurch, so he could go play war games to make him feel manly." LAVANDERA: The e-mail was signed "Margie Phelps," and came in response to an e-mail Brandy Sacco sent when she heard the Phelps family might protest her husband's funeral.
SACCO: I think it is pure evil. I mean, that's just so much hatred.
LAVANDERA: Margie Phelps could not be reached for comment. She's the daughter of Fred Phelps, the pastor of a Kansas-church that blames homosexuality for destroying American society. He and members of his family are now unleashing their hate-filled protests at military funerals across the country.
UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS (singing): God bless America...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every dead soldier coming home is a punishment from the lord, your God.
LAVANDERA: Brandy Sacco experienced this ordeal last December.
SACCO: It was overwhelming. It was so overwhelming. All I could do was cry.
This is awesome. Thank you.
But, with any death, anybody wants to just be alone, you know, and mourn with family members, or mourn with friends. But they didn't allow that.
LAVANDERA: But, in Brandy's defense, several hundred members of the Patriot Guard Riders, a motorcycle group opposed to the Phelps, showed up to make sure the protests could not be heard.
SACCO: They saved me that day from doing something that I probably would be regretting right now.
LAVANDERA: Brandy Sacco is returning the favor. She's joined the Patriot Guard, and now this widowed mother of two children is doing something she never imagined, lobbying her state legislators to pass a law that would restrict funeral protests.
SACCO: Protesting funerals, which are and should always be a private family matter, should not be protected by the law, but by -- but punishable by the law.
LAVANDERA: This victim of hate has turned advocate, and she won't stop fighting, until military families can grieve in peace.
SACCO: I do it for my husband. I mean, it is all for my husband and -- and my children. I -- I don't want my children to think that I just stood back, and -- and didn't say anything, and didn't stick up for my husband.
LAVANDERA (on camera): More than a dozen states are considering passing laws that would restrict protesting at funerals. Brandy Sacco is working on some of that legislation here at the Kansas State Capitol. But many legal experts worry that some of these laws will violate the First Amendment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You crossed the line! Now God is your enemy!
LAVANDERA (voice-over): But several members of the Phelps family are attorneys, and they vow to fight any law that restricts their ability to shout their messages to families entering a funeral.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are going to put the cup of the fury and wrath of God to your lips, and we are going to make you drink it.
LAVANDERA: Almost three months after her husband's death, Brandy Sacco is on a mission.
SACCO: I want them to just disappear. I want them to stop going to soldiers' funerals.
LAVANDERA: And she says, she won't stop until the Phelps are silenced.
Ed Lavandera, CNN, Topeka, Kansas.
ZAHN: And there is one more thing to report. Brandy says she will join the Patriot Guard Riders at funerals where the Phelps family plan to protest. She also urges other military families who have to deal with these protests to simply ignore them.
Now on to number eight on our CNN.com countdown -- 18 million of you logging on to our site today in Oregon.
A 14-year-old boy charged today with attempted murder for allegedly shooting another teen in a schoolyard. That victim is in serious condition tonight.
And, number seven, the mayor of London, England, is suspended from his job for one month for refusing to apologize after he compared a Jewish newspaper reporter to a Nazi prison camp guard.
Numbers five and six are next.
Well, while the Winter Olympics has been quite a disappointment for many U.S. athletes, in a way, the -- lessons to be learned from all of them, but, in pushing to do better, why do some push too hard?
Coming up, what was a former Olympian's dangerous secret?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GREG HUNTER, CNN CONSUMER CORRESPONDENT: I'm Greg Hunter in New York.
Safety concerns raised over America's number-one dog treat -- coming up on PAULA ZAHN NOW.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: We have all been dazzled by two weeks of amazing feats by some of the world's top athletes at the Winter Games. But there happens to be a dark side of dedication for a shocking number of female athletes, a secret battle against eating disorders.
Keith Oppenheim has tonight's "Mysteries of the Mind."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trigger.
KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Kimiko Soldati is going through the motions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Perfect.
OPPENHEIM: At the Purdue University Aquatic Center, the rotations she practices over a trampoline are exactly the same ones she will execute over a pool. Kimiko is the first to say she is a perfectionist.
KIMIKO HIRAI SOLDATI, 2002 U.S. NATIONAL DIVING CHAMPION: My whole life, I have been very intense. Everything I did was extreme.
OPPENHEIM: In 2002, Kimiko was the U.S. national champion on the three-meter springboard. In 2004, she went to the Olympics, but didn't win a medal -- driven to be the best, working hard to please coaches, all attributes that made her a great athlete.
But, in college, the same attributes led to her illness.
SOLDATI: Here I was. I was this amazing athlete, on a scholarship for diving. I'm getting a 4.0. I'm this "perfect" -- quote, unquote -- person. I have everything going for me. Everything is perfect. And, yet, I have this deep, dark secret.
OPPENHEIM: That secret was bulimia, an eating disorder that mostly afflicts young women. Bulimics swing wildly between dieting, binge-eating, and then vomiting.
SOLDATI: During the worst phases of my bulimia, I was purging pretty much everything I ate. I was keeping nothing down.
OPPENHEIM (on camera): After every meal?
SOLDATI: After every meal.
OPPENHEIM (voice-over): When this photograph was taken, Kimiko had lost so much weight, her ribs stuck out. She had gone from her normal weight of 115 pounds to just 95.
SOLDATI: Anything that -- that went in me, I -- you know, I wanted to get rid of. I did not like the feeling of food in my stomach.
OPPENHEIM: She was depressed, exhausted and a statistic.
Research by disorder experts indicates that approximately one- third of female athletes in college sports have some kind of eating disorder, and women in aesthetic sports, like diving, gymnastics, or figure skating, are the most vulnerable.
SOLDATI: A sport like diving is judged on what your body looks like. And you're out there and pretty much almost naked. You're nothing but a swimsuit, nothing but a Speedo, and you have got a billion people watching you. And you're being judged on what your body looks like.
Isn't this awesome?
OPPENHEIM: Kimiko told me, diving coaches would some time warn athletes not get fat, and that women would actually compete with each other over who could eat the least.
SOLDATI: If she refuses to eat, well, then, I'm not going to eat.
And, so, it is this -- this -- this game that -- that constantly going on, that people have no idea. And it is -- it is so unwritten, and it's so not spoke about, but, yet, everybody knows it is going on.
OPPENHEIM: After struggling with bulimia for nearly two years, and after several shoulder injuries, Kimiko began to suspect it was taking a toll on her body.
SOLDATI: Especially in recovery and healing after surgeries. To not nourish my body, I'm -- I'm sure it affected me.
OPPENHEIM: Kimiko got help from Dr. Ron Thompson, a clinical psychologist who specializes in athletes with eating disorders. Thompson says, in these cases, female athletes don't take in enough food to fuel their exercise. As a result, they may stop having their periods, and estrogen levels can get dangerously low.
DR. RON THOMPSON, AUTHOR, "HELPING ATHLETES WITH EATING DISORDERS": And, without estrogen, the body cannot continue to build bone mass. So, the young athlete, rather than -- than building bone at a time when she really needs to be building bone to -- to get to peak bone mass, she's actually losing.
OPPENHEIM (on camera): That can mean osteoporosis, weaker bones, as women age. And experts tell us, what is often extremely difficult in these cases is for women to admit they have a problem and ask for help, because, in sports, they're in a culture where they're supposed to be tough.
(voice-over): Stephanie Harris says, she didn't even know she was bulimic. Stephanie is now a freshman on the tennis team at the University of Tennessee. She says, back in her early teens, she gained some weight just as she was becoming more committed to her sport. Food became the enemy.
STEPHANIE HARRIS, FRESHMAN, UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE: I made an association that thinner is better. And, when I gained that weight, I felt that I needed to lose weight. And, so, that's when my obsession about not just being healthy, but losing weight got worse.
OPPENHEIM: She was lucky. Staff at the University of Tennessee are trained to recognize eating disorders in female athletes. They sent Stephanie to a therapist, Kristen Martin.
KRISTEN MARTIN, EATING DISORDERS COUNSELOR, ENHANCING NUTRITION, HEALTH, ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE, NETWORKING, COMMUNITY, AND EDUCATION PROGRAM: What comes into mind when are you looking at those other players?
HARRIS: Well, I say that they're more fit than me or thinner than I am. And...
MARTIN: So, you're never good enough?
OPPENHEIM: This is part of the University of Tennessee's ENHANCE program, a team of physicians, nutritionists, and counselors helps athletes with eating disorders. They also work to make coaches more aware of the problem.
MARTIN: There is no coach that is not going to go through their coaching career without at least a few athletes having an eating disorder. It is really important to be very gentle to the athlete, but also very serious and make sure that they get help.
SOLDATI: That's my boy.
OPPENHEIM: Kimiko is now a mom who wants to support other female athletes in trouble. On her Web site, women send anonymous messages asking for help.
SOLDATI: I am so proud of the girls who actually do reach out to me, because I -- I think I can give them hope.
OPPENHEIM: In the end, that could be the greatest twist of all for this diver. Kimiko believes that her most significant accomplishments might not come from her strength in diving after all. Her vulnerability and her will to overcome it mean even more to her now.
Keith Oppenheim, CNN, West Lafayette, Indiana.
ZAHN: It's pretty clear she's going have a major impact on a bunch of athletes.
Now on to number six in our CNN.com countdown. In Virginia, the boyfriend of the cell phone bandit is sentenced to a dozen years in prison. He was on the other end of the phone as his girlfriend robbed banks. And he admits driving the getaway car. The bandit herself will be sentenced sometime next week.
And number five in Baghdad, a daytime curfew to curb religious violence continues through Saturday. Some 200 people have been killed since the bombing of a shrine on Wednesday.
Numbers four and three moments away.
Also, a CNN investigation raises some very serious questions about the safety of the country's most popular dog treat. Coming up, what are the maker of Greenies doing now? And why have some dog owners just gone to court?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm John Zarrella in the Florida Keys. For 15 Cuban refugees, the difference between dreams of freedom or a trip back to Cuba was the distance between this bridge and that one. That story coming up later on PAULA ZAHN NOW.
ZAHN: They gave up just about everything to reach for the American dream and came as close as this bridge in the U.S. Why wasn't that close enough? Should they have been sent home?
At then at the top of the hour, "LARRY KING LIVE." Actress Goldie Hawn on being a constant tabloid target.
Well tonight, we have some major news for you about the most popular dog treat in the U.S. I'm talking about Greenies. More than 300 million of them were sold just last year.
And today a class action lawsuit was filed against the company that makes them by consumers who claim the treats have led to the deaths of their pets. And the company has just announced a major change, more on that in just a moment.
But all of this is the result of consumer complaints and a CNN investigation. Here's what consumer correspondent Greg Hunter uncovered about Greenies. It is tonight's "Eye Opener."
GREG HUNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is Tyson, an 8-month-old boxer who before Christmas was happy, healthy and full of life. But not long after these pictures were taken, he suddenly died.
LEAH FALLS, TYSON'S OWNER: I kept waiting for someone to say they had the wrong dog or, you know. It was a shock.
HUNTER: The cause of Tyson's death was a mystery to his owners, Leah Falls and Josh Glass.
JOSH GLASS, TYSON'S OWNER: I couldn't imagine what it could have been.
HUNTER: Doctors couldn't either until they discovered a severe blockage in his intestine.
DR. KEVIN SCHLANGER, BRENT-AIR ANIMAL HOSPITAL: It was very clear that it was something dense and firm that had caused on obstruction.
HUNTER: Here is the object Dr. Kevin Schlanger removed. It is a dog treat called a Greenie. It is the hottest selling dog treat on the market. Shaped look a toothbrush, advertised as edible. It claims to clean dogs' teeth. There are different sizes to match your dog's weight. And many dog owners seem to love them.
Just last year Greenies sold 325 million treats worldwide. Nearly tripling the sales of its nearest competitor, Milk Bone. The credit goes to this man, Joe Roetheli of Kansas City, Missouri, the founder of S & M Nutec, the company that makes Greenies.
JOE ROETHELI, OWNER OF "GREENIES": Dogs really love the product. They do a very effective job of cleaning teeth and freshening breath.
HUNTER (on-camera): But along with skyrocketing sales across the country, CNN has learned about dozens of cases where Greenies have caused life threatening obstructions in dogs, raising safety questions.
(voice over): Recently in New York, Mike Eastwood and his wife Jennie Reiff filed a lawsuit asking for $5 million in damages. They claim the product is defective and blamed Greenies for the intestinal blockage that caused the slow painful death of their dog Bert.
JENNY REIFF, FILED LAWSUIT: I miss him and think about him every single day.
MIKE EASTWOOD, FILED LAWSUIT: I'm mad that there are packaging states that the product is 100 percent edible, highly digestible, veterinary approved, yet our dog died from it.
HUNTER: The company won't comment on the case. But in court papers, it denied the allegations.
(on-camera): Is your product defective?
ROETHELI: Our product is safe. It is used every day by thousands of dogs, millions a week, and it is basically a very safe product.
HUNTER (voice over): Still, local television and newspapers across the country have reported case after case of Greenies getting stuck in dog's throats or intestines causing severe problems including death.
(on-camera): So Greenies can cause a significant health risk to a dog?
DR. MICHAEL LEIB, VIRGINIA TECH VET: Absolutely.
HUNTER (voice over): Dr. Michael Leib is a Virginia Tech professor and veterinarian gastroenterologist. He showed us the problem on videotape of a 2004 surgery he performed.
LEIB: We're looking inside the esophagus now, about halfway towards the stomach.
HUNTER: Dr. Leib says this is a piece of Greenie stuck deep inside a dog's throat. After two days, he says, it was still solid. Even though the surgery was difficult, he successfully removed it.
(on-camera): You saved a dog?
LEIB: In this case we did.
HUNTER (voice over): Dr. Brendan McKiernan is a Denver veterinarian.
In little more than two years, his clinic has seen at least seven dogs with solid pieces of Greenies stuck inside them. Those cases prompted McKiernan to start studying obstructions from treats like Greenies. He says his research shows compressed vegetable chew treats like Greenies are now the third biggest cause of throat obstructions in dogs behind bones and fish hooks.
DR. BRENDAN MCKIERNAN, WHEAT RIDGE VETERINARY SPECIALISTS: They don't break down.
HUNTER (on-camera): When you say don't break down. What does that mean?
MCKIERNAN: Well, they're still solid. They take them out and these things are still hard when you tap on them. They're not like a Cheerio that breaks down and dissolves in your mouth. This a product that doesn't seem to do that.
HUNTER (voice over): But the manufacturer says in most cases Greenies do break down, and they urge dog owners to pick the right size treat for their dog.
(on-camera): So just what is in a Greenie? Things like wheat glue and fiber. Experts tell us nothing all that unusual. But the process used to form a Greenie makes it really hard. And the company says it has to be that way in order to clean a dog's teeth when it is chewed.
(voice over): On each package, there is also a warning. The fine print says, monitor your dog to ensure the treat is adequately chewed. Gulping any item can be harmful or even fatal to a dog.
This group of Denver dog owners all insist they followed package instructions and still their dogs got sick. Some say they fed their dog Greenies for a year or more before they had a problem. And others, all it took was one.
PAULA MATSUMOTO, DOG HAD SURGERY: It got stuck in his esophagus. It didn't go up. It didn't go down. And it almost killed him.
LAURIE GAYNOR, DOG CHOKED: She's not going to gulp this any more than she gulps her food or any other treat and nothing else has choked her nearly death.
HUNTER: Ruthie Shimabukoro's dog, a Samoan, died after being sick for a week. A Greenie got stuck in its intestine.
RUTHIE SHIMABUKURO, DOG DIED: She was suffering a great deal. I feel so bad that she had to suffer so much.
HUNTER: And these dog owners are not alone. Our CNN investigation discovered 40 cases since 2003 where a veterinarian extracted a Greenie from a dog. The average weight of the dogs was about 40 pounds. In 13 cases, the pet died like Fern Finer's dog Twiggy in Los Angeles.
FERN FINER, TWIGGY'S OWNER: I was hysterical crying because it is like this is my baby. This was part of my life. You know, she was everything to me.
HUNTER (on-camera): How many deaths, injuries, complaints have you had?
ROETHELI: It is a very, very, very low number.
HUNTER (voice over): Roetheli and his company vet Dr. Brad Quest say the focus should instead be on dental benefits. For instance, they say Greenies are much safer than putting a dog under anesthesia to clean teeth.
(on-camera): You're saying that the good Greenies do taking care of teeth far outweighs any deaths or injuries on the other end?
ROETHELI: There is a very, very low downside risk with them. There is a huge benefit that many, many dogs have been saved in effect by having Greenies versus not having any care or using a different type of oral care treatment.
HUNTER: But vets say the big problem with Greenies is if they're swallowed in chunks, they won't break down.
DR. BRAD QUEST, S & M QUEST: And most of the veterans we have contact with are very supportive and have absolutely no issues with the Greenies.
HUNTER: But the ones that we have talked to have. I mean, they've taken them out of dogs, still in tact. Doesn't that concern you guys?
ROETHELI: Certainly it concerns us. And we look at it and try to do the best that we possibly can to deal with issues like that. Try to learn from them, and it is why we're working with FDA closely, voluntarily, to get to the bottom of what the cause is.
HUNTER (voice over): The Food and Drug Administration says it is looking into eight complaints but has not formally launched an investigation.
CNN also spoke with several vets who recommend the product.
QUEST: At the end of the day, literally, millions of Greenies are enjoyed by dogs on a weekly basis with absolutely no incidence.
SCHLANGER: This is Tyson right here.
HUNTER: Unfortunately, that wasn't the case for Tyson who died in December.
FALLS: Our vet said he probably felt like he was very, very sick, which in my head was just a nice way of saying he suffered. You know, he was in pain.
HUNTER: Greg Hunter, CNN, New York.
ZAHN: And just today we learned that the maker of Greenies plans to change its labeling. It will enlarge and expand the wording that instructs dog owners to actually watch their pets while they eat Greenies and to make sure they use the right size treat. The company may also end up removing the claim that the treats are fully edible.
As for the class action lawsuit filed today, the company's co- founder Joe Roetheli gave us this statement today, "We haven't yet seen the lawsuit, but these kinds of actions occur every day in our litigious society. We in the Greenies family would caution against jumping to conclusions based on an action that is clearly aimed at creating headlines. We must let the legal system do its work."
Now in about 15 minutes, before the hour, let's check in with "LARRY KING LIVE" who is back on the show after a couple of nights off.
KING: Thank you. Thank you, darling.
Tonight, Goldie Hawn is our special guest. We'll also talk with the grandmother of the 15-year-old boy who was married to a 37-year- old woman who has been charged with child molesting. The grandmother will be on with us. Most of the hour will be spent with Goldie Hawn.
But I want to take this moment, this very special moment, to wish you a happy birthday.
ZAHN: Thank you, Larry. How nice of you.
KING: So thrilled for you. Another year, but you never show it.
ZAHN: You're very kind. And how kind of you not to reveal the real age.
KING: You're kidding? ZAHN: It is the new 20, really.
KING: I would never have guessed it.
ZAHN: Well, I'm actually happy to be here and feeling healthy so thanks for joining me in the celebration.
KING: Happy birthday.
ZAHN: By the way, did you get my valentine's gift?
KING: I sure did. The cupcake and the...
ZAHN: I had breakfast delivered to him.
KING: It was fantastic.
ZAHN: Well, good. So good to see you back. See you next week on the air. Have a good show. And tell Goldie I said hello. Thanks again.
KING: I will.
ZAHN: And once again, Larry has all the tough duty. He is going to be spending a lot of time with Goldie Hawn coming up at the top of the hour. She's going to talk about coping with her insecurities and dealing with tabloids who seem to subject her to a tremendous amount of scrutiny.
But at just about 14 minutes before the hour, let's check in with Erica Hill who has the "Headline News Business Break" -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, a mixed session to round out the week. The Dow losing seven points today, basically flat. The Nasdaq gained, however. The S&P also slightly higher.
Mauritania began pumping its first crude today becoming the world's newest oil power. The West-African nation where most people live on just $1 a day could stand to earn hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
Meantime here in the U.S., January factory orders fell by the largest amount in more than five years, as demand lessened for computers, cars and aircraft.
Home builders have said they have seen a significant number of cancellations for new homes and that could mean more people who buy a home then flip it for profit may now be having second thoughts, we're told.
Also a little heads up for you, you want to be sure to tune in to Andy Serwer's interview with Intel Chairman Craig Barrett tomorrow. That's on CNN's "IN THE MONEY." It kicks off at 1:00 Eastern. Of course, Intel, a chip giant and really an important stock to watch when you're looking at the tech sector and actually the rest of the market, Paula. Have a great weekend.
ZAHN: You too, Erica. Thanks so much.
A Cuban family risked everything to come to the U.S. They made it as far as a Florida bridge. Next, why wasn't that far enough? And was sending them back to Cuba the right thing?
First, though, numbers four and three on our CNN.com countdown.
ZAHN: This next story is about a family who risked its life to come to the United States and try to live the American dream only to be turned back when they thought they had it within their grasp.
Now, no matter how you feel about the issue of immigration and refugees from Cuba, it is absolutely heart breaking to see just how close this family came to freedom.
Here is John Zarrella.
ZARRELLA: Junior Blanco Medeo still has the key to the house in Matanzas on the northern coast of Cuba. But he and his family can no longer call it home. The family says Cuban authorities told them it is no longer theirs. Not since they tried to flee Castro's communist country in a rickety boat, only to be picked up by a U.S. Coast Guard cutter and returned to Cuba.
JUNIOR BLANCO MEDEO, REPATRIATED CUBAN: I think it is an injustice what happened to us, that we were returned after we went through so much to get there.
ZARRELLA: Until now, and out of fear, they have not spoken of their ordeal. But now they hope that publicity can help their cause. Junior, his wife Elizabeth, two-year-old Michael and Junior's nephew Alexis were among 15 Cubans found last month by the Coast Guard clinging to this old bridge in the Florida Keys.
ALEXIS GONZALEZ BLANCO, REPATRIATED CUBAN: We were told we were on American territory. We were free. And they said get on the boat, you'll drink beer, study English.
ZARRELLA: But instead of freedom, they got sent back to Cuba. Under the U.S.' so-called wet-foot dry-foot policy, the Cubans could have stayed if they had touched dry land. But the Coast Guard says that the bridge they were on while fully within U.S. borders was not U.S. soil.
(on-camera): So why isn't it part of the United States? Well, just take a look. The section of the bridge that connects to the mainland right ends there. The section of the bridge the refugees made it to right over there isn't connected to land on either end. (voice over): Junior, Elizabeth, Alexis and the others were taken back to Cuba before attorneys could try to stop it. The incident was loudly condemned in Miami's Cuban-American community.
Ramon Saul Sanchez, a leading activist, staged a hunger strike calling the interpretation of the law absurd.
RAMON SAUL SANCHEZ, CUBAN-AMERICAN ACTIVIST: What we say to them is if that bridge is not part of the United States, then the statue of liberty isn't either.
ZARRELLA: Others argue the law is clear.
DAVID ABRAHAM, IMMIGRATION LAW EXPERT: The law is not horseshoes. Close only counts in horseshoes. If you have not reached the land you have not reached the land. And it is the job of the Coast Guard to prevent you from doing so.
ZARRELLA: Ironically none of this might have happened had the 15 Cubans stopped at the newer seven-mile bridge.
BLANCO: We passed under the seven-mile bridge and thought about climbing it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was very tall.
BLANCO: We had kids with us and couldn't leave them behind alone.
ZARRELLA: So they continued on about 200 yards to the old shorter bridge where the Coast Guard found them. Relatives here filed suit in federal court asking that the 15 Cubans be allowed to seek asylum. If they lose, attorneys say life in Cuba for Junior and his family and the others will be hard.
WILLIAM SANCHEZ, ATTY. FOR REPATRIATED CUBANS: They put them in a very tough spot. They have sent them back essentially to the lion's den in Cuba.
ZARRELLA: Back in Matanzas, Junior and his family now live with his father. They still look with amazement at pictures of their rickety boat.
BLANCO: It is incredible to have made it all that way in such a bad boat. We stepped on American ground. If I'm on that wall, I am dry foot. I am not in the water.
ZARRELLA: In their minds, they will always believe they made it.
John Zarrella, CNN, in the Florida Keys.
ZAHN: John has also learned that a Miami judge is expected to rule by the end of next week on whether to grant the Cubans' request for Visas to come to the U.S., and if he rules in their favor, the Cubans would still need permission from the Cuban government before they could leave the island.
Coming up at the top of the hour, how does Goldie Hawn look the way she does? She's tonight's guest on "LARRY KING LIVE." She is going to talk about a lot of different things including being under the scrutiny of much tabloid attention.
First, though, onto number two on our CNN.com countdown. Al Qaeda on a web site is now claiming responsibility for an attempted strike on the world's largest oil processing center in Saudi Arabia. Guards stopped it. But news of the attempts and oil prices higher.
Number one when we come back.
ZAHN: And in New Orleans tonight, as I speak it is a much different kind of tone that it has been in recent months since Katrina. It is time to celebrate with the floats, the parades and the good times of Mardi Gras season, as they roll down Bourbon Street. Tuesday is a big day. Ironically, Tuesday is also exactly six months since Hurricane Katrina hit the city.
And next week CNN's "AMERICA MORNING" and Anderson Cooper will be there live from New Orleans.
That's it for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for joining us. We hope you will have a really, really good weekend. We'll be back same time, same place Monday night.
"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.
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