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PAULA ZAHN NOW
U.S. and Iraqi Forces Launch Airstrike Against Insurgents; Investigation Under Way Into Possible Marine Misconduct in Iraq; Women and Gambling
Aired March 16, 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. And thank you all for joining us tonight.
As the Iraq War nears its third anniversary, a new military offensive and a potential explosive investigation.
ZAHN (voice-over): Operation Swarmer: a major airborne attack by U.S. and Iraqi troops to round up insurgents. Will it help turn the tide in an increasingly unpopular war?
And the military starts a criminal investigation. Are U.S. Marines to blame for the deaths of 15 Iraqi civilians?
"Mysteries of the Mind" -- why are more women than ever becoming addicted to gambling?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just thought I had gone crazy.
ZAHN: Risking all they have, desperate when lady luck fails them.
"KAREN," FORMER COMPULSIVE GAMBLER: I know people who have committed suicide. I know people who have ended up in jail.
ZAHN: And the "Eye Opener" -- oh, baby. She paid hundreds of dollars to learn if she would have a boy or a girl.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Blue, blue. You were ready for a boy.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
ZAHN: Imagine her outrage when a foolproof test failed. We investigate the baby gender test.
ZAHN: We begin in Iraq tonight, where we have a pair of developing stories. The most disturbing one surfaced late this afternoon.
The U.S. military has opened a criminal investigation into the deaths of more than a dozen Iraqi civilians. The deaths were first reported to be the result of one of those countless roadside bombings last November, in a place called Haditha. But now there are questions being raised about possible misconduct by some U.S. Marines.
Let's turn to Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr. She broke the story for CNN. She has been working her sources right up until right now.
Barbara, what have you learned?
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Hello to you, Paula.
This story is very unsettling, very few details -- none of them being officially made public by the military. But we can tell you tonight that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, after returning from an early trip to Capitol Hill today, has now been fully briefed here at the Pentagon, late in the day, about this unfolding criminal investigation into potential misconduct by Marines in Iraq last November.
The place, as you say, is a place called Haditha. November 19, 2005, Marines were in a convoy riding through Haditha when they were struck by a roadside bomb blast. Then there was very quickly a follow-up burst of insurgent gunfire.
By all accounts, the Marines returned fire, said they killed some insurgents, and also announced that 15 civilians were killed in the roadside blast. You see some video here from Haditha Hospital just about that time. We don't know if this was exactly the people that died, but there was a lot of activity at the hospital on that day.
But now, months later, a tip came in that maybe -- just maybe -- these civilians were not killed in a roadside blast, as the Marines said. There was an initial investigation conducted, Paula. And whatever was found, they found enough information now to proceed to that criminal investigation.
So, we learned late today, a criminal investigation has been opened. The question on the table, what happened there? Were these civilians possibly human shields used by the insurgents? Were they caught in the crossfire? Or is this criminal investigation looking at misconduct by Marines, did they indiscriminately, without appropriate military discipline, shoot these civilians in this incident in Haditha?
We don't know where this investigation is headed tonight, Paula.
ZAHN: A lot of critical answers to find out.
Barbara Starr, thank you for that update now.
There is another developing story out of Iraq, where a new U.S. offensive is just entering its second day. It is being called Operation Swarmer. And the military calls it the largest air assault since the war started. But, by other measures, there have been larger military operations since the war. And all of them set out to stop Iraq's lawlessness and mayhem.
Well, how is this new effort going? We have a report that just came in a short time ago from senior international correspondent Nic Robertson.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): Iraqi and U.S. assault troops aboard a helicopter fly toward what the 101st Airborne describe as the biggest air assault since the invasion of Iraq three years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: Go, go, go!
ROBERTSON: Operation Swarmer began at dawn Thursday, more than 1,500 troops, over 200 tactical vehicles, and more than 50 aircraft, some landing near Samarra, about 50 miles north of Baghdad.
MAJOR TOM BRYANT, U.S. ARMY: This is a possible suspected insurgent operating in the area. And -- and the Iraqi security forces are out front and -- and drove this operation.
ROBERTSON: All the video and pictures provided by the Department of Defense -- Iraqis living nearby describe the area as sympathetic to insurgents and say they have seen foreign fighters.
HOSHYAR ZEBARI, IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER: The insurgents and the terrorists have been assembling themselves there, trying to create another Fallujah.
ROBERTSON: Troops fanned out to cordon a 10-square-mile area, hunting for insurgents, until the sun went down.
In this potentially lethal environment, so far, no shoot-outs and no casualties, and no reports of insurgents captured yet, the main goal of the operation. But some roadside bombs or improvised explosive devices found in the operation that is expected to last several days.
(on camera): Operation Swarmer is being touted as a successful Iraqi-led operation, at least so far. But with so many U.S. air assets, helicopters, and aircraft, that may be pushing the definition a little far. That more than half the troops involved are Iraqis does show that the Iraqi army is becoming more involved.
Nic Robertson, CNN, Baghdad.
ZAHN: And we're going switch gears now. Do you have any money riding on the college basketball playoffs? Well, these days, people are betting on anything you can name. That seems to be turning into a very special problem for women.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ed Lavandera in the Texas Panhandle. Wildfires didn't just scorch land and burn down homes here. It has threatened a way of life for cattle ranchers. I will have their story -- when PAULA ZAHN NOW continues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ZAHN: Also, will you be having a girl or a boy? A so-called foolproof pregnancy test claims it can tell you with 99.9 percent accuracy. So, why are so many new moms getting a big surprise? Pretty darn outraged about it, too.
Let's move on now to our countdown of the top-10 most popular stories on CNN.com, about 18 million of you logging on today.
At number 10, a very important story -- the U.S. says it will not rule out meeting with Iranian officials about Iraq. Earlier today, Iran says it is willing to discuss U.S. accusations about Iranian fighters being sent to Iraq.
Number nine, today, the Senate voted to allow the national debt to swell to nearly $9 trillion. The bill now goes on to the president for his signature -- numbers eight and seven next.
ZAHN: All right, be honest. Would you like to know where your favorite movie star is having coffee or shopping right now? Well, they may not like it at all. But we know how you can find out. It is pretty darn scary out there in cyber-land tonight. We will show you.
But, right now, we talk about rain, and how a rainy weekend could be the absolutely best thing that could happen in Texas right now. It has been an especially brutal wildfire season.
Just look at these flames in Roberts County. That's in the Texas Panhandle, where firefighters have been working day and night, as winds push the fires toward the Oklahoma line. So, far more than 863,000 acres in Texas have been turned to soot. The wildfires have rolled across ranches, destroyed buildings and the very livelihood of families in the area: livestock.
I want to warn you that some of the pictures you're about to see in Ed Lavandera's report from Gray County, Texas, are very graphic, but they happen to be a very important part of taking you "Beyond the Headlines."
LANE THOMPSON, CATTLE RANCHER: These are the calves that their mothers were -- were killed in the fire.
LAVANDERA (voice-over): These are the calves in Lane Thompson's herd orphaned by Sunday's wildfire.
THOMPSON: He's the worst. And I don't know if he will make it.
LAVANDERA: Thompson and his wife are nursing the newborns in their backyard on land his family has worked for generations.
THOMPSON: The cows, they provide us are -- they're our livelihood. We -- we -- if we don't take care of them, we don't exist.
Some of these, when their hooves come off...
LAVANDERA: But Thompson couldn't save most of his cows from the fires that scorched his 12,000-acre ranch, 250 cattle and 300 calves burned, more than half his herd. Some, he had to kill himself.
THOMPSON: It was very emotional. I mean, I -- I ain't (INAUDIBLE) I was crying. I mean, it was -- it was rough, putting all those animals down. But you had to. There was -- they were suffering.
LAVANDERA: The dead cattle are now being piled up. Crews are digging massive graves to bury the cows.
(on camera): It is believed that this week's wildfires have killed as many as 10,000 head of cattle across the Texas Panhandle. The loss threatens to put many ranchers out of business.
(voice-over): Lane Thompson wonders if his cattle-ranching days are over. He has estimated his losses at $250,000. It will be at least a year before cattle can graze on his ranch. The fires turned fertile, grass-covered land to something resembling the dusty, barren surface of the moon.
THOMPSON: Just overwhelming. You think about the country, you know, and stuff lost, and then your friends and neighbors, they're -- everybody's lives, whether they stay here or not, have just changed dramatically.
LAVANDERA: Along country roads, you find scenes like this, the cattle that couldn't outrun the wildfire. It makes tough, weathered cowboys, like Tony Smitherman, emotional.
(on camera): Does this kind of get you, too? Or...
SMITHERMAN: Oh, yes. Every time I go by it, I cry.
SMITHERMAN: Yes. It is hard for me to talk about it without crying, but...
LAVANDERA (voice-over): Lane Thompson's future is uncertain. But he likes to say that, if these tough calves can survive the fire, so can he.
Ed Lavandera, CNN, Gray County, Texas.
ZAHN: Oh, that's terrible. We're going to move on now to a completely different subject. And it is an important one for any of you that have kids out there. Teenagers can find any number of ways to get into trouble. So, what is it that they can do with compressed air that we use to clean computer keyboards? And did you know it could be deadly? We have that report you need to see.
But, right now, at 15 minutes after the hour, almost -- I cheated by a minute there, 8:14:12 -- let's turn to Erica Hill at Headline News to update the hour's top stories.
So, take that extra 30 seconds, Erica.
ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: All right, Paula.
ZAHN: Run with it.
HILL: If you insist, I will run away. Nice to see you tonight.
Despite fears about the ballooning deficit, the House voting 348- 71 today to give President Bush $92 billion more for Iraq and for Gulf Coast hurricane relief.
In San Diego this afternoon, a security scare at the first-round NCAA men's tournament game between Alabama and Marquette. Now, the Cox Arena was temporarily evacuated after bomb-sniffing dogs detected something on a food vendor's cart two hours before tipoff.
Just last week, you may recall, the FBI issued an alert about possible terror attacks at college basketball arenas.
And the president has nominated Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne to be the nation's next interior secretary. If confirmed, Kempthorne will replace Gale Norton, who, last week, announced plans to step down from that post -- Paula.
ZAHN: Erica Hill, thanks so much. See you at the back end of the hour.
Now, if you or someone you know has a baby on the way, would you like to find out if she's having a boy or girl? Well, we found a test that is supposed to be foolproof. So, why are we also finding some very surprised moms? We launch an investigation tonight.
And why do so many women gamble? In fact, an increasing number of women do. Do casinos hold a special danger for them that isn't the same for men? We will try to answer that question tonight.
Number eight on our CNN.com countdown -- the probe into yesterday's fatal shooting at a California Denny's. Police are looking through the gunman's possessions, in search of a motive. They say he killed two people, before committing suicide.
Number seven -- a former member of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang testified today that its leader once ordered a killing, at the request of late mafia boss John Gotti. The murder apparently never took place. Sixteen of the gang members are on trial for conspiracy charges -- numbers six and five straight out of this break.
ZAHN: As most of you sports fans know out there, that the NCAA playoffs are now under way. And you know there is a whole lot of gambling going on. With an exploding number of casinos, and now even Internet gambling, well, the odds are pretty good someone is always willing to take your bet.
And it seems that more and more women are making those bets these days. Today, we learned the wife of hockey great Wayne Gretzky will be subpoenaed to testify in a high-stakes gambling probe. There are allegations that Janet Jones placed large bets with a ring under investigation in New Jersey.
Of course, it shouldn't be a surprise that more and more women are running risk of becoming problem gamblers.
Adaora Udoji looked into it and found some startling differences in the way women are drawn into gambling, one of the "Mysteries of the Mind."
ADAORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The lure of fast money, the lights and the glamour simply can be irresistible.
"KAREN," FORMER COMPULSIVE GAMBLER: The very first time I stepped foot in a casino, I knew that it was just the most exciting thing I had ever done.
UDOJI: For most women who gamble, it is good old fun. But, for a growing number, it a fast ticket to the misery of compulsive gambling.
KAREN: I know people who have committed suicide. I know people who have ended up in jail, educated people from upper-class families who have done horrible things to fund their gambling.
UDOJI: We will call her Karen, a young professional who has survived the round-the-clock desperation. For fear of being judged, she has asked CNN to conceal her identity. She was only 16 on her first trip to the casino, and she was hooked.
KAREN: The lights and just the sounds, just everything just drew me in.
UDOJI: Karen lives in New York City. At her worst, she spent night after night, up to 15 hours at a time, in Atlantic City casinos, 115 miles away from home. She was in her mid-20s, playing blackjack, and racking up tens of thousands of dollars in debt. She would then try to go to work.
But, too often, she wouldn't make it. And she switched jobs five times in two years. Nothing else mattered, not her career, not a boyfriend, not her girlfriends, only gambling. KAREN: It was a lot of covering up, a lot of lying, a lot of half-truths. And had I...
UDOJI (on camera): It must have been a terrible burden.
KAREN: It was. It was a terrible burden. And it was emotionally taking a toll on me, to the point, like I said before, that I just -- I thought the only way out is to commit suicide.
UDOJI: It is a vicious cycle for thousands of women across the country, who head into casinos, like these here in New Jersey every day. No one knows exactly how many are battling an addiction to gambling, but experts say, more women than ever before are seeking help.
(voice-over): Some say because access has never been easier. Gambling is everywhere, from celebrity games on television to thousands of Web sites online promising big jackpots.
KAREN: It is an emotional roller coaster. It is -- the highs were the highest highs I have ever felt, and the lows were so low.
UDOJI: Psychotherapist Joanna Franklin has been treating gamblers for 25 years. She says women are not always taken seriously. Most people think only men become compulsive gamblers.
JOANNA FRANKLIN, INSTITUTE FOR PROBLEM GAMBLING: One of the important things that I think we have learned along years is that women can most effectively be treated if they're treated differently than the males.
UDOJI: She says that's because men and women generally gamble for different reasons. Most men gamble for the thrills they find inside the casino. Most women gamble to escape their problems outside the casino, problems like depression or sexual abuse or stressful lives.
Carol O'Hare was a poster child for escapist gambling. She was driven to it by stress. She had just moved to Las Vegas with her three children and was trying to deal with a divorce. Then she discovered video poker.
CAROL O'HARE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NEVADA COUNCIL ON PROBLEM GAMBLING: Putting that first quarter in was like launching the vacation ship. My brain was able to just go away. I -- I went to a quieter, calmer, more peaceful, more wonderful place in my head.
UDOJI: She quickly lost control. The lies, the debts, they piled up fast. She borrowed money from friends and family. She couldn't keep a job. She says she was a terrible mother to her sons.
Caught in a frenzied cycle of guilt and shame and gambling, she came to think that suicide was the only way out. O'HARE: There certainly wasn't much of anything being said about women and gambling. And, so, for me, I didn't know that my problem was related to gambling. I just thought I had gone crazy. So, in the end, I really believed that, if I swallowed a bottle of pills, at least I would stop the pain.
UDOJI: She asked a friend for sleeping pills. Instead, he suggested Gamblers Anonymous.
Slowly and painfully, she has learned to cope with life's ups and downs. With help, she paid her debts. She says she hasn't gambled in 15 years.
O'HARE: Problem gamblers are part of the story. The rest of the story...
UDOJI: Now she helps others confront their addiction.
Karen also turned to Gamblers Anonymous. She hasn't gambled in six years. She has paid off more than $100,000 in debts, and she has a steady job. But they both know, relapse rates are high. Nearly 90 percent of problem gamblers fall off the wagon.
FRANKLIN: They can feel so isolated, you know, so alone, like there -- there is nobody out there that has ever done what I have done.
UDOJI: That's why Karen still goes to G.A. meetings once a week.
KAREN: By helping other people and sharing my story, which is why I agreed to do this interview, maybe I can help someone.
UDOJI: She wants women who are addicted to gambling to know, there is hope, if they just ask for help.
Adaora Udoji, CNN, New York.
ZAHN: Another interesting thing we have learned is, the latest studies seem to show that an addiction to gambling has a very similar effect on the brain as drug addiction.
You probably have something in your home right now that seems completely harmless. What could be wrong with a can of compressed air? Why could it even be deadly?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Deborah Feyerick in Lowell, Massachusetts. What is going on in this industrial park that has women across the country scared to give birth? That's coming up on PAULA ZAHN NOW.
(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAHN: And is one of your favorite stars hanging out at a store near you? Well, a lot of potential gawkers know how to find out. Is that safe?
Now we move on to number six in our CNN.com countdown. The White House today released its national security strategy, reaffirming its policy of preemptive war, when it comes to dealing with serious threats to the U.S.
Number five -- a car crash in Los Angeles that killed a teacher and left eight of her young students injured. The driver and the passenger in that car have both been arrested -- number four when we come back.
ZAHN: I imagine a lot of you patients out there were just like I was when I found out a baby was on the way. One of our first questions always is, am I having a boy or a girl?
Well, that usually takes a trip or two to the ultrasound clinic. But there is a test that promises to tell you at home with nearly complete accuracy. Well, how accurate is that?
Deborah Feyerick did some investigating. And what she discovered is a real "Eye Opener."
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a happy time waiting to give birth, wondering will it be a boy or a girl.
When Raylene Lewis discovered she was pregnant, she was so curious to find out, rather than wait the standard three months for an ultrasound, she went online and bought a home test -- one that guarantees to find out a baby's sex only five weeks after conception.
The baby gender mentor kit a non-invasive DNA blood test that costs $275. It promises 99.9 percent accuracy and comes with a double your money back guarantee.
(on camera): With that kind of advertising, what did you think?
RAYLENE LEWIS, TOOK BABY GENDER TEST: I thought it was -- it couldn't be wrong, couldn't be beat. There was a -- no way to lose.
FEYERICK: The test came out last summer and was an instant hit. The "Today Show" ran a segment, now prominently posted on the distributor's Web site.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now a new company is offering a test that claims...
FEYERICK: So did CNN.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN ANCHOR: A groundbreaking new test can now tell parents-to-be whether they're having a boy or a girl.
FEYERICK: We've interviewed Sherry Bonelli, the president of PregnancyStore.com, the exclusive online distributor.
SHERRY BONELLI, OWNER, PREGNANCY STORE: So this is really the safest, non-invasive, most accurate way to determine the gender. She would go ahead and prick her finger and put -- fill the circles with blood.
FEYERICK: It's as easy as one, two, three drops of blood, put on a special card, then sent Federal Express to a company called Acu-Gen Biolab in Lowell, Massachusetts. The mother's blood is screened for the presence of male or female chromosomes released by the fetus.
After seeing the test on TV, Melissa Russell and Laila Willingham also ordered the kit.
MELISSA RUSSELL, TOOK BABY GENDER TEST: Seeing the 99.9 and the fact that it is a DNA test, it sold me for that reason.
FEYERICK: All three were told they were having a boy. They picked names, prepared the nursery, and bought clothes.
(on camera): Blue, blue, blue. You were ready for a boy.
LEWIS: Right. Right.
FEYERICK: And everything about what you were doing was because you were having a boy.
FEYERICK: Then, week later, they each went for their ultrasounds.
LAILA WILLINGHAM, TOOK BABY GENDER TEST: I was telling the ultrasound technician, she didn't have to tell me the sex of the baby, I already know.
RUSSELL: And they said, you are definitely having a girl. And I said, is there any way possible it could be wrong? And she said absolutely not.
LEWIS: And then that baby is gone all of a sudden. So there is this sense of loss that is very, very hard to understand.
FEYERICK: The test that claimed to be "the gold standard" and "infallibly accurate" 99.9 percent of the time was actually wrong. Melissa and Laila both gave birth to healthy girls. Raylene had independent genetics tests confirming her unborn baby due in April is also a female. When she called Acu-Gen to complain, the company president, Chang Wang, told her his test was fine.
(on camera): You confronted him and said you were wrong.
LEWIS: Right. FEYERICK: And what did he say to you?
LEWIS: He said he was not wrong. He said he was 100 percent sure he was correct, and that his answer was God's answer, and was the only true answer.
FEYERICK: Melissa Russell had her doctor call, and Wang apparently offered up this diagnosis.
RUSSELL: He told my doctor that it was ambiguous genitalia, that genetically I would be having a baby boy, regardless of what we see on the outside.
FEYERICK: So what happened? Could it be possible that these three women were a statistical fluke?
LEWIS: You see my belly. I'm like nearly popped out here on the bellybutton.
FEYERICK: They met here on the Web site in gender.com, where some 90 women say their tests were also wrong.
Attorney Barry Gainey have filed a lawsuit on behalf of 16 women. He says 60 more from across the country could join if it become a class action.
BARRY GAINEY, ATTORNEY: When you sell a product, you've got to stand by what you say and it's got to be accurate. And if you know it is wrong, then you've got to be held accountable.
FEYERICK: We went to Lowell, Massachusetts looking for answers. We found an industrial park with an office bearing the name of another company owned by Wang, Biotronics, described by one business report as dealing with biological research and airplane parts.
Wang declined our request for an interview. The lawyer who represents his company says Acu-Gen has never and would never tell an expected mother there was a problem with her baby. In February, a reporter from CNN affiliate WFTS in Tampa asked Wang about the inaccuracies.
CHANG WANG, PRESIDENT, ACU-GEN: We don't make mistakes. Period.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've never made a mistake?
WANG: We don't.
FEYERICK: Wang received a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Princeton University. He has yet to publish a paper on his technology or submit his research to the scientific community for review, because he says he has a pending patent.
Farideh Bischoff is a genetics expert at Baylor University. She says she never even heard of Wang until he started using her research to validate his product.
(on camera): When a scientist doesn't put out their research...
FARIDEH BISCHOFF, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: That would lead you to think that perhaps there is something there that cannot be validated or looked at carefully.
FEYERICK (voice-over): The distributor, Sherry Bonelli, of PregnancyStore.com warns customers right on the Web site, the test is, quote, "not intended for diagnostic purposes or for medical counsel."
(on camera): Do you think in your case that Mr. Wang crossed the line?
LEWIS: Yeah. I definitely think he crossed the line. All I wanted to know is if it was a boy or girl. I didn't want to know that he thought there was something wrong with the baby.
FEYERICK (voice-over): In a statement to CNN, Wang's company, Acu-Gen, says it stands behind its product guarantee and refund policy.
Wang's lawyer is planning to ask a judge to dismiss the lawsuit, calling it meritless. Through her attorney, the distributor Sherry Bonelli also declined an interview, but says on her Web site, "The number of women who are stating that their test results are wrong is such a small percentage compared to the incredibly large number of very happy customers."
LEWIS: I want them to stop selling the product.
FEYERICK: Melissa, Raylene and Laila aren't buying it. They want the product off the market.
LEWIS: How dare he put us through all this emotional stress and this turmoil, and make our pregnancies, you know, not what they were supposed to be just because he wants to say that he's right?
RUSSELL: I just have so much anger. I can't -- I can't speak the words that I feel for him and what I would say to him if I saw him face to face.
FEYERICK: Laila did get double her money back. Raylene and Melissa are still waiting.
Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Houston, Texas.
ZAHN: I want to tell you about a letter that was sent to CNN. Acu-Gen's attorney says that since its introduction in the U.S. in June of 2005, that approximately 4,500 baby gender mentor tests have accurately determined the gender of unborn children. But his letter doesn't give the total number of tests that Acu-Gen has sold, making it impossible for CNN to verify the company's guarantee of a 99.9 percent accuracy rate.
So if you want to know where Britney Spears and her baby might be at this moment and who is doing the driving -- sorry about that -- we know a Web site where you might be able to find out. Would it tempt you to become a gawker? Anybody can become a gawker. We'll show you more in a few minutes.
But right now, let's turn to Erica Hill who has the "HEADLINE NEWS" business break.
ZAHN: So, do you all know what dusting is? It isn't just cleaning up. For some teenagers, dusting has a meaning you might not ever have heard before, and our next report could be a life saver.
And later, is a famous celebrity just down the street from you? Well, there is a new Web site that might you -- help you find that out.
Now, on to number four in our cnn.com countdown. We covered at the top of the hour the offensive against insurgents under way in Iraq now. About 1,500 U.S. and Iraqi troops are taking part in Operation Swarmer.
Number three straight out of the break.
ZAHN: Tonight's "Vital Signs" could save your child's life. Today a new government report warned, get this number, that nearly two million kids, some as young as 12-years-old, are getting high, inhaling everyday chemicals you find in every kitchen or basement or garage. And they can be just as addictive and deadly as illegal drugs, as Elizabeth Cohen reports in tonight's "Vital Signs."
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Worried that your young teen is getting into drugs like these? Well there is more news today that it's not necessarily illegal drugs young kids turn to to get high, it's often stuff you'd around the house. Cleaning products, whipped cream cans, paint remover all can give kids a quick, cheap and potentially deadly high just by inhaling them.
DR. NORA VOLKOW, DIRECTOR, NATL. INST. ON DRUG ABUSE: But there is another element that makes these drugs problematic, which is the notion that they are widely accessible. What are they? They are in your bathroom, they are in your kitchen, they are in your studio, they are in your garage. Very, very cheap, very accessible.
COHEN: In fact, government statistics show one out of every 10 eighth graders has tried an inhalant.
CRAIG DANT, FORMER INHALANT ABUSER: It started off I was maybe just doing it once a week or so. But once my addiction got worse, it was every day and every night.
COHEN: Craig Dant says he started what is called huffing or dusting by inhaling the compressed air from a product that's used to clean computer keyboards.
Many studies show most kids think what they're doing is harmless, but that's just not the case. Teens may believe they're just inhaling air, but compressed air products also contain gases that cause brain, liver and kidney damage.
VOLKOW: A neurological complication from inhalant abuse are far from trivial.
COHEN: In fact, it is estimated that more than 100 kids die every year from inhalants so manufacturers are putting labels on some products warning that abusing inhalants can kill. And the government is urging parents to not only pay closer attention to that what their kids are up to, but to also keep an eye on what they have around the house.
BEVERLY WATTS DAVIS, CENTER FOR SUBSTANCE ABUSE PREVENTION: I had so many mothers say, "You know, we're so excited our children are getting ready to do arts and crafts and they're buying white outs, they're buying the kid of glues and things," thinking that this is their child getting interested in art.
COHEN: All sorts of products that look innocent to you, could look like a great time to your kids. Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.
ZAHN: My next guest is devoting his time and his heart to spreading the word about the dangers of dusting. It has been a year since Jeff Williams' son Kyle died after inhaling Dust-Off. It is a spray cleaner used to blast the dirt out of keyboards. Jeff, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Had you ever seen the stuff before?
JEFF WILLIAMS, SON DIED USING INHALANTS: No. I had no idea that it was being abused. I knew the product existed. But it is just one of over 1,400 products that is being abused by mainly children.
ZAHN: And the numbers are just staggering. There's some two million kids have abused this stuff in the last three years. What happened to your son?
WILLIAMS: Kyle, I had bought a three pack of that and brought it home and was going work on some computers. And a kid up the street had showed him that you can inhale it and get about a 30-second little high from it.
And he thought it was OK, he didn't think it could harm you. And so he went ahead and did that. And when I went to use it, it was gone. And I asked him, and he said, "Oh, I was playing with it."
So I went back and I brought another can and brought that home. And one night I left for work and when my wife went to wake him up, he was sitting up in bed. And so she called to him and left and came back five minutes late and he was still sitting there. And she went to shake him to wake him up and said, "It's time to get up, stop playing," and he was dead. He had died earlier in the night inhaling Dust-Off.
ZAHN: And I guess what is even more heart breaking about this is you're a cop, you're exposed to a lot of bad stuff on the job. But you did not recognize some of the warning signs, even though you had tried this stuff. What is it that parents need to be alerted to?
WILLIAMS: It's about education because these are products that you would normally have in your home. So it's not going to be unusual for your kids to have them in their room.
So you have to be aware of the warning signs and what you're looking for. And you're looking for your kid saying, "Hey, my tongue hurts." And that could be possibly because of frostbite from the product.
You know, you child passes out for no known reason and they can't find a medical reason for it. That's also caused by abusing inhalants. A child throws up, but doesn't appear sick. And that had happened to Kyle also. And I kept him out of school the next day. And this was within a three- week period, he had thrown up, he had mood swings that were just abnormal for him. He complained his tongue hurt. And these were signs that I didn't know.
ZAHN: And most parents don't know these, which is why it's so important that people like you have the strength to go out there and teach us all.
WILLIAMS: Education is the key. Without the knowledge of knowing what these signs are, you can't save your kids.
ZAHN: Well we are so sorry about your loss, but respect what you're trying to, save the rest of us your heart break. Good luck to you, Jeff. Thanks for coming by.
We change our focus again. Do you want a little star-gazing, a little break from all that? Well's gawkers are posting locations of famous people. Do you know where?
Now though, three on our CNN.com countdown. In Georgia, the 37- year-old woman who married the 15-year-old friend of one of her sons has begun serving nine months in jail after pleading guilty to statutory rape. No. 2 straight ahead.
ZAHN: One of the big attractions in New York or Hollywood for that matter is seeing celebrities on the sidewalk doing some pretty ordinary things. Well some people figure, why leave those sightings to chance? So they have just started posting celebrities whereabouts on a Web site that's becoming pretty popular with gawkers. So what do the stars think about this? Brooke Anderson asks them.
BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This latest innovation in celebrity watching is supposed to be fun. But already there are concerns that it threatens the privacy and possibly the safety of celebrities across the nation.
Here is how it works. If you're out and about and see, say, George Clooney at Starbucks, e-mail his location to gawker.com and immediately it is posted online, even with a map. Within hours after Gawker Stalker launched earlier this week, the famous and those who represent them cried foul, worried it gives dangerous stalkers, dangerous information.
HOWARD BRAGMAN, FOUNDER, FIFTEENMINUTES. COM: It's of real concern. We look at what happened to John Lennon. We're not talking about, you know, hypothetical here. We're talking about real.
ANDERSON: Gawker.com maintains the celebrity's information is already out there and they're not to blame.
JESSICA COEN, CO-EDITOR, GAWKER.COM: If you found out George Clooney were getting a cup of Starbucks, had the time to click your Web site, run downstairs, get to that Starbucks and inflict bodily harm, I think that's something that not any single Web site can take the blame for.
ANDERSON: Tell that to actress Jane Seymour. There she is, posted on Gawker Stalker Tuesday after being spotted at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
JANE SEYMOUR, ACTRESS: Very, very, very creepy. I mean there I was at MOMA, yes. I went there. I went to see the Munchs. But that's scary. That's very scary. And I've had death threats, you know, a long time ago. It's -- this is not a small thing. You know, this -- there are crazies out there. And crazy stuff does happen. And this whole real time thing is -- something bad will happen.
ANDERSON (on camera): What if something bad did happen? Many are concerned that Gawker.com could give stalkers the information they need in real time to go after celebrities. If that happened, could Gawker be responsible?
SHERWIN SIY, ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER: It doesn't seem like it. First of all, they're reporting truthful information. so there's no -- no defamation case there. And what they're reporting isn't an incitement to violence. They're basically doing what tabloids have done for centuries.
ANDERSON (voice-over): Except that now everyone can be a paparazzi. Real people have just joined the race for the latest celebrity scoop. Brooke Anderson, CNN, New York.
ZAHN: Well in response to complaints, the folks at Gawker.com. now say they will wait at least 15 minutes to post information about someone's location. A statement says that that grace period, quote, "provides an ample window for celebrities to move about before facing certain death exacted by their violently obsessive fans."
Probably not one of the more serious kind of reactions that you'd expect after all those complaints, but you heard it here.
We're always on the lookout for inspiring stories about people who have outgrown their current careers and discovered that the sky's the limit. That's literally true in the case we're about to see. Jennifer Westhoven has tonight's "Life After Work."
JENNIFER WESTHOVEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hanging from a kite 3,000 feet above a mountain might scare most people, but not Tosh Hopkins.
TOSH HOPKINS, HANG GLIDER: To me, it's very peaceful up there, just floating about with the birds. To some people it is exhilarating, but to me it's peaceful.
WESTHOVEN: Tosh Hopkins and her husband Bruce retired to Georgia's Lookout Mountain last year. There, the Hopkins found a community of hang gliders and a home right on the landing field that lets them fly as often as they want. Bruce Hopkins pilots an ultra- light plane and tows his wife's glider up to 2,000 feet.
HOPKINS: The airplane will roll down the field there. It is the wind's this way, and you'll see there's another gazebo at the other end and we can go the other way. And as you can see, it's quite a large field so if there is a cross wind, you can actually come in and land cross wind in your glider.
So it's a wonderful place to take off and to land. I think it is magic because according to the laws of science, you can't take more energy out of something than you put into it. But with hang gliding, you get a lot more energy out than you put into it.
BRUCE HOPKINS, HANG GLIDER: This is a lovely part of the country and we have everything that we like to do here, so it's turning out to be a very nice -- ideal retirement location for us.
WESTHOVEN: Jennifer Westhoven, CNN.
ZAHN: Looks scary to me. At the top of the hour, "LARRY KING LIVE," former child star Macaulay Culkin on growing up famous, marrying young, divorcing young -- well his parents did -- and the future.
First though No. 2 on our countdown. Oscar-winner George Clooney says he didn't write an anti-Iraq war blog posted Monday on commentator Arianna Huffington's Web site. He says he only gave her permission to print some of his previous critiques, not present his answers in sort of a sermonette. No. 1 is next.
ZAHN: No. 1 on our countdown tonight, Jessica Simpson dissing the president. Her decision to turn down the GOP's invitation to join him at a fund raiser tonight in Washington. She says she'd love to meet him, but she'd rather not do it in fund raiser. That wraps it up for all of us here. Thanks so much for joining us. Have a good rest of the night. We'll be back tomorrow night.
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