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PAULA ZAHN NOW

President Bush Urges Quick U.N. Action to End Mideast Fighting; On Patrol With the Israeli Defense Forces; Interview With Israeli Ambassador to United Nations Dan Gillerman; Madonna Offends Christians

Aired August 7, 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: Hi, everybody. Thank you all for joining us.
Tonight's "Top Story": no letup in the fighting and dying in Lebanon and Israel, even as diplomats work as fast as they can to stop it.

Our in-depth coverage starts with the latest "War Bulletins."

For the first time, Israel hits the edge of Beirut's Christian district, killing at least 15 people, wounding 65. Now, that attack comes only hours after Lebanon's prime minister chokes back tears while describing the suffering and casualties to a meeting of the Arab League. Lebanon and the Arab countries say a possible U.N. resolution to stop the war is still tilted too much toward Israel.

Interrupting his vacation in Texas to speak with reporters, President Bush says he wants a U.N. resolution passed as quickly as possible. But it now looks like the Security Council won't even act on a Mideast resolution until Wednesday, at the very earliest.

Israel is threatening to expand its ground offensive, if diplomacy fails. As we speak, it has imposed a curfew in south Lebanon, ordering civilians to stay off the roads while it's dark.

And, in an indication that things may get a whole lot more dangerous, Israel says, for the first time in this war, it has shot down an unmanned Hezbollah drone that may have been carrying explosives.

We have crews standing by, both in Beirut and on the Israeli side of the border.

We get started in Lebanon, where Israeli airstrikes once again took a very heavy toll today.

Joining us live from Beirut right now, Jim Clancy, with all the latest details -- Jim.

JIM CLANCY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, as we speak, an Arab League delegation is on its way to New York, trying to change the draft cease-fire resolution to be considered by the Security Council -- at the same time, reservists being called up here in Lebanon, a bold move to put 15,000 troops near the border, but all of it overshadowed by a deadly Israeli airstrike just in the evening hours on Monday that hit a crowded neighborhood.

According to Lebanese security sources, 15 people were killed, 65 others wounded.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CLANCY (voice-over): Civilians and rescue workers dug with their bare hands through the rubble, trying to save trapped survivors of the Israeli strike, one of more than a dozen that started before dawn. There was no heavy equipment to help the rescue effort.

The Shia neighborhood was crowded at around 8:00 p.m. local time, when the bombs hit. The neighborhood, with its mix of Muslims and Christians, had not been a target in the past. It was apparent some of the survivors were badly injured. It is believed only about 100 of the more than 700 killed in the conflict have been Hezbollah fighters. Israel insists, Hezbollah uses civilians as human shields.

Already worn out from weeks of such strikes, Lebanese held out faint hope that a proposed U.N. cease-fire resolution would come to their rescue. Prime Minister Fuad Siniora appealed to the world for help on behalf of his battered nation.

"I trust you to respond to my plea," said the prime minister, as he choked back tears, "the sorrow and pain of the mothers who have lost their sons, and the dead children, and those who have been displaced and injured, and all of the suffering that has put our country back decades."

At an emergency meeting in Beirut, the Arab League decided to send a delegation to New York, hoping to convince the U.S. and France to change the draft U.N. resolution and guarantee, Israeli troops would pull back across the border.

To bolster their position, the Lebanese cabinet voted to call up reservists and send 15,000 troops to the south to take control, along with existing U.N. forces. But that hinges on a complete Israeli troop withdrawal.

MARWAN HAMADE, LEBANESE MINISTER OF COMMUNICATIONS: It's a direct message to the United Nations and to the big powers, stating that Lebanon is ready to deploy 15,000 troops south of the Litani River, as soon as Israel -- or when Israel withdraws from the south.

CLANCY: That is a major question mark. The draft cease-fire would allow Israel to remain entrenched in its positions until a new U.N. peacekeeping force arrives.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CLANCY: Lebanese all across the country tonight are waiting and watching, putting a lot of hope on what comes out of the cease-fire. The politicians are pushing it hard, but the truth is, no one knows how long this is go -- going to go on, Paula, or just how bad it's going to get -- back to you. ZAHN: And, of course, Jim, what you have described as the Lebanese plan is so different than what the -- France and U.S. are pushing for. Do the Lebanese really think their plan has a shot, that the Israelis have already said is completely unacceptable?

CLANCY: They're looking at it, Paula.

Here's the situation, as they see it. And it's a realistic one. Consider this. They know that, if the Israelis stay in south Lebanon, Hezbollah isn't going to give up the fight. The Iranians are going to continue to support them. Syrians are going to continue to use that as a lever to try to get talks going on Golan Heights.

And Lebanon, once again, is really going to be, once again, a regional area, where conflicts are settled. They don't want that. They want to put an end to it. They would like to see Hezbollah disarm for good.

The only way they see forward, put the Lebanese army there and get a lot of international help. That's what they're going to try to do, and convince everybody else it's the right move.

ZAHN: Diplomacy flying at this hour.

Jim Clancy, thanks so much for the update.

Now, tomorrow, we can expect more debate at the United Nations over that U.S. proposal to end the fighting in Lebanon. But, as you just heard from Jim, Lebanon's government will be pushing its own plan that it approved just this evening. And Jim also went through some of the details.

But, just as a reminder, the new plan includes moving some 15,000 Lebanese troops in to south Lebanon, with support from U.N. peacekeepers, but only after Israel withdraws its troops.

Now, just a bit earlier, I spoke with Dr. Mohamad Chatah, a senior adviser to Lebanon's prime minister. And he told me that Hezbollah has agreed to this plan, which means the guerrillas would give up military authority to the Lebanese government in southern Lebanon.

Still, it is at striking odds with one of Israel's key demands from the get-go.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: As you know, Dr. Chatah, Israel will not agree to your plan. They will not remove any of their ground troops until a legitimate international force, they say, is brought in to get Hezbollah out of the area.

DR. MOHAMAD CHATAH, SENIOR ADVISER TO LEBANESE PRIME MINISTER: Getting a force to get Hezbollah out of the area means a very, very long war, and a morally outrageous rampage that has already killed more than 1,000 people in Lebanon, and many, many people in Israel as well.

What we're saying is, there's a way other than that. There is a way that starts with a cease-fire, with Israel withdrawing to the border, with Lebanese army, the -- the government army, moving into the south, helped by the existing U.N. force there, augmented by additional troops from countries that can bring troops quickly.

We have a plan that can work. And that's what we're going to the Security Council with.

ZAHN: But, sir, you still haven't answered the question. There is no way Israel is going to agree to that plan. And they have made that quite clear.

CHATAH: Well, I mean, we cannot force the Israeli army, if it decides to continue this war forever.

We have a plan that centers around the Lebanese government forces, assisted by the international community, going into the south, and becoming the only -- the only -- force with weapons.

ZAHN: But, Dr. Chatah, what I'm still having trouble understanding is this newfound sense of control you say the Lebanese government would have over Hezbollah, when, for the last two years, it hasn't done anything or been capable of disarming Hezbollah.

What has changed? What is different?

CHATAH: There has been a national debate, an open and transparent debate -- debate, including all factions, all political parties, including Hezbollah.

And the -- the -- the debate was about this, about how to protect our southern border, given the conflict with Israel. Some people in this country -- I would say a minority view -- was that Hezbollah still had a function to -- to play in protecting the southern border from Israel.

There was a majority that was saying, well, we have problems with Israel, border problems, but we need to reestablish control by the Lebanese army only.

This debate was still going on in an open and democratic way when the war broke. So, what we're saying is, this government, which includes everyone, has now decided on a vision, on a plan, that is now put out to the international community, and to our own people, that says, yes, we want to move from this terrible war to a cease-fire and to a situation where the Lebanese government, its institutions, its army, is the only force in charge.

ZAHN: Do you trust Hezbollah to live up to this agreement?

CHATAH: We are hopeful. We are confident that what this unanimity in the cabinet shows is a -- is a qualitative change in the way everyone in this country looks toward -- at the future. Nobody, nobody in this country wants this war to continue. There is a national will to get out of this. And Hezbollah, I'm confident, is not outside this national will.

Dr. Mohamad Chatah, we really appreciate your time tonight. Thanks so much for joining us.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: And, a little bit later on, I will ask Israel's U.N. ambassador what he thinks of the Lebanese proposal.

But, for now, our "Top Story" coverage moves to Israel's continuing air and ground assault on Lebanon tonight.

Joining me from the Israeli-Lebanese border, John Roberts.

John, what's the latest from there?

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Paula.

In the last 48 hours, on both sides of the border, in southern Lebanon, where I spent the last two days, and here in northern Israel, there has been a real sense of intensification of the ground campaign and the counterattacks from Hezbollah.

Up until now, there were just small pockets of activity by the Israeli army in various towns and villages along the border. But, now, Paula, all the way from the Mediterranean coast, straight along the border, all the way up into the northeastern tip to the Galilee Panhandle, in the town of Metulla, where we are, there is intense activity at literally every point, every town and village in southern Lebanon, as the Israeli army tries to push its campaign further north, tries to push Hezbollah out of the area.

And Hezbollah continues to respond. One hundred and forty-one Katyusha rockets landed in northern Israel today. There were no deaths, as there were yesterday, when those 12 reserve soldiers were killed by a single missile hit -- about 15 injuries today, Paula, but clear that, despite the fact that the Israeli army continues to try to pound those Hezbollah positions, Hezbollah still has every opportunity possible to fire those rockets into -- into Israel, by the dozens.

ZAHN: So, John, why don't you describe to us what has happened over the last 48 hours, when you joined the IDF, as it moved north into Lebanon?

ROBERTS: It -- it was a real extraordinary opportunity, Paula, and, in this conflict, at least, the first time that a foreign journalist has got such extraordinary access with an elite team right on the very front lines. Here's a look at what we saw and lived over the past 48 hours.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ROBERTS (voice-over): Under cover of night, an elite army reserve unit prepares to strike out across the border. Their faces painted black, briefed on the battle plan, they put boots on the ground -- destination, a hot zone some seven miles inside southern Lebanon.

(on camera): We have been walking for a couple of miles now. We're going to just stop to drink a little bit of water. The going has been hard, up one hill, down another -- very, very dusty.

But it's an amazingly clear night here in south Lebanon. The moon was up a little while ago. Now the moon is down. It's much darker than it was before. But it's just a sky full of stars, somewhat at odds with the action on the ground, this peaceful night.

(voice-over): Before daybreak, the unit enters an abandoned house near the Lebanese town of Rajamin, their base of operations for the next 24 hours.

Richard -- last name withheld -- is one of the senior officers.

CAPTAIN RICHARD, ISRAELI DEFENSE FORCES: We're using all the forces available to us, army, tanks, and our air force, to fight these Islamist fundamentalist terrorists.

ROBERTS: The mission is to identify and suppress possible Hezbollah positions.

They scout the hills with powerful binoculars and cameras that can bring far-off villages into sharp focus, then dispatch patrols to probe nearby ground and buildings.

Abi (ph) is the fire control officer. He doesn't like this terrain. Hezbollah guerrillas, he says, could hide there. So, he calls in artillery. Within moments, the hill is ablaze with incoming fire and smoke.

The company is under constant threat from Hezbollah missiles and snipers. So, the unit's own sharpshooters keep a hair-trigger alert.

(on camera): It had been a fairly quiet day in this position. The soldiers were getting some rest. They were waiting for some resupply. But, just moments ago, some intelligence came in that this location may be targeted by Hezbollah.

We heard the tanks start opening fire a couple of seconds ago. And now these soldiers have taken a very aggressive defensive posture.

(voice-over): Commanders evacuate another platoon from the building next door. Not long after, mortars hit close by.

The stress of battle weighs on these civilian soldiers. Oded Norman (ph) is an attorney by trade.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't avoid being a soldier in Israel.

ROBERTS: Tomer Cohen (ph) was to have graduated acting school on this day. Instead, he is in the theater of war.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lebanon is a cursed country, you know, for us.

ROBERTS: Conditions here are extreme. Everyone succumbs to exhaustion. And the mission to rout Hezbollah fighters is frustrating.

A volley of Katyushas that fly right overhead is proof of that. The soldiers move constantly. Staying too long in one place invites attacks. They find a new position and fire rockets into the building to make sure it's clear.

As diplomacy moves forward, the mission to degrade Hezbollah's potency becomes more urgent. There is little faith among these soldiers that an expanded U.N. force could provide a barrier to the attacks. And they fear they may be in Lebanon for a long time to come.

RICHARD: The reality is that the only force that Israel can rely on to protect the citizens of Israel is the Israel Defense Forces. There has not been a great track record of other people protecting the Jewish people and the people of Israel.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROBERTS: That 48 hours gave us a real sense of what it's like on the front lines and how difficult this battle is. It's a battle that would appear that it can't be won, in terms of the traditional sense of state vs. state, military vs. military.

And there's a real question, Paula, as to whether there can ever be peace between these two sides -- Paula.

ZAHN: What an incredible view of what these troops are up against, particularly the unforgiving terrain, which we could hear in all your footsteps, as you climbed the hills with those troops.

John Roberts, thank you very much.

Coming up, we have got more top stories we're following tonight, including the increasingly difficult battle deep in the heart of Lebanon.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN (voice-over): An inside look at the Hezbollah stronghold. The Israelis hit it from the air and from the ground. But the guerrillas tell us they can fight on forever.

And, if you think gas prices are bad now, they're about to get a whole lot worse. Could any of these products bring you relief at the pump? We put them to the test. And we're going to show you what works and what doesn't -- the surprising results and much more just ahead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Our "Top Story" coverage continues.

Before the break, a top Lebanese official told me his government is offering to send 15,000 troops to southern Lebanon once Israel withdrawals.

Let's see how that offer will play with Israel.

Joining me now, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Dan Gillerman.

Welcome back.

DAN GILLERMAN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Is that deal acceptable?

GILLERMAN: Well, we're very skeptical about that.

ZAHN: Why?

GILLERMAN: Because, as you know, the Lebanese government has had at least six years to deploy its forces in the south. It didn't do it.

It didn't do it when it had the power and the authority to do it. To expect them to do it now, when they have no power, no authority, after they have relinquished their sovereignty to the Hezbollah and let themselves and the whole country be held hostage by the Hezbollah, seems to me very, very unrealistic and...

ZAHN: But that's...

GILLERMAN: ... and very ambitious.

ZAHN: ... not what the Lebanese officials are saying tonight.

They are saying, in a meeting of cabinet ministers, including members of Hezbollah, Hezbollah made a tacit agreement to disarm itself and -- and turn authority of the military completely over to the Lebanese army. And they said they were not in a position to do that before.

You just don't buy that at all?

GILLERMAN: Well, I -- I'm very, very skeptical. I mean, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

This is actually something we have asked for, and the international community has asked for, for many, many years. This is specifically what U.N. Resolution 1559 demanded -- and that is, the Lebanese army deploys its forces in the south. If they're going to do it, and if, indeed, the Hezbollah is going to disarm, this is going to be great news. But allow me, for the time being, knowing the region we live in and the very tough neighborhood we operate in, to be very skeptical about it.

ZAHN: So, if you feel that strongly, help us understand how there is any shot at a compromise here.

I know the Arab League will be making its case tomorrow at the U.N.

GILLERMAN: Right.

ZAHN: Is there any hope for getting closer together here?

GILLERMAN: I think there is. I think...

ZAHN: Where?

GILLERMAN: ... there is.

ZAHN: Where do you see it?

GILLERMAN: Well, I hope that, once a viable, robust, professional international force is in place, and once we have successfully degraded the capability of the Hezbollah, to a point where they can longer terrorize us, or Lebanon, for that matter, and that international force acts both as a buffer and monitors the border with Syria to stop any armed shipments from Iran and Syria to the Hezbollah, I think we could be on the road to a new reality...

ZAHN: But...

GILLERMAN: ... in the region.

ZAHN: ... the Lebanese say they support that idea, up to numbers of 15,000, perhaps, of their own, buttressed by these international troops. But you guys got to quit firing in -- in Lebanon, and turn around and go back.

GILLERMAN: Well, you know, we never wanted to re-occupy Lebanon. We never wanted to invade Lebanon.

We left Lebanon six years ago. And, believe me, we, our government and our boys, there will be nobody happier when we can leave Lebanon. But we will not allow this horrible wound to fester in this cesspool of terror. So, what has to happen is that there has to be a viable, robust, professional force there -- call it what you may -- made up of countries who know their business.

Once they're in place, we will be the first to cease all activity and to return to Israel. But we cannot leave a vacuum. We cannot leave a void there, which will be once again filled by the Hezbollah, which has really terror -- I mean, the Hez -- this is not just a fight against Hezbollah. This is a fight against Iran, against Syria, the sponsor of the Hezbollah. Hezbollah is fighting by proxy for those two countries. This must end. And, only when we have made sure that there is, indeed, someone who can fill that void, somebody who can monitor it, and make sure that this doesn't happen, we will leave, and we will leave happily, because we did not want to go into Lebanon. And we don't want to stay there one second more than is absolutely necessary.

ZAHN: We will be keeping a very close eye on what you're doing at the U.N. over the next couple days.

GILLERMAN: Thank you very much, Paula.

ZAHN: Ambassador, as always, thanks for...

GILLERMAN: Thank you.

ZAHN: ... joining us.

Now, if Lebanon's proposal did go into effect, Hezbollah would be pushed north to Lebanon's Bekaa Valley. And that could be the new front line. It is already a very dangerous area. You could call it Hezbollah's heartland.

And, tonight, Michael Ware is in Beirut, just back from a trip to the Bekaa Valley, where he has seen firsthand what a well-organized military machine Hezbollah has built up there.

And he joins us now with the details -- Michael.

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula.

Yes, what we saw in the Bekaa Valley brings into question one of the central planks of the Israeli Defense Force campaign. Despite the intensive bombardment, and despite the deep-strike commando raid by the Israeli forces, there is very clear signs that Hezbollah's military apparatus not only remains in place, but is still effectively functioning.

What we saw is that, where a bridge was destroyed, very quickly, another bridge was thrown up. Where a road was cratered one day, the next, it was filled back in. In other places, where bombs had made obstacles in roadways, very rapidly, people found detours, even as the dust was still settling.

And it was evident, from dealing with their militia fighters, some of their commanders, and some of their -- their political people, that their forces still remain, by and large, intact.

Indeed, according to one Hezbollah official that we spoke to, he cautioned that the guerrillas have yet to call up their reserve forces, claiming that, even if the Israeli statements of killing hundreds of Hezbollah fighters is true, that still is only a very small proportion. He suggested 10 percent of their total fighting force -- Paula. ZAHN: So, in your conversations with any of the Hezbollah military leaders you spoke with, they won't even concede they have been degraded at all, whether it comes to supplies or their ability to bring weapons in from Syria?

WARE: Well, clearly, as in all wars, the information campaign is almost as much a part of it as the actual fight on the ground.

The Israeli Defense Forces are very guarded about what they say and their capabilities, as are Hezbollah and its guerrilla forces. Clearly, they're not willing to concede any ground publicly. What we talk is our own observation.

I mean, apart from the fact that well over 100 missiles flew again today south across the border into Israel, we could visibly see their forces in place. We could visibly see the supply routes, though bombed, still open. We could visibly see the wealth of support they had among the community.

So, very much, what we have learned is based upon what was before our eyes -- Paula.

ZAHN: Michael Ware, giving us a -- a really good view of what the Israelis are up against.

And, of course, I guest the most stunning thing to come out of the report is just how well-equipped they are to rebuild, and rebuild so efficiently.

Coming up, our next stop: the ancient city of Tyre -- it may be Israel's next stop, too. That makes it our "Top Story." We are going to take you inside.

Now, the war has helped push gas prices through the war -- roof. But, before you try any gadgets that promise better mileage instantly, see what consumer reporter Greg Hunter and some experts found when they tested them. Buyers, beware. There are some ripoffs out there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: As our top story coverage continues we go to a Lebanese city that's bracing for an Israeli invasion. A mountain ridge in a valley just south of Tyre have been under heavy bombardment since midday Sunday and the main highway north has been cut off by more air strikes and Tyre is now isolated. Many there are wondering whether Israel is trying to soften up Tyre before invading. Carl Penhaul is there and just filed this report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARL PENHAUL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Smoke rises as Israeli war planes and artillery guns pound suspected Hezbollah positions south of Tyre. Airplane gun camera video, released by the Israeli military, shows explosions hitting targets. But that's not enough to stop Hezbollah firing more Katyusha rockets off to Israel. Humanitarian aid workers say they fear a two day Israeli bombardment, six miles, or ten kilometers, south of Tyre may be the prelude to a ground attack on the port city.

(on camera): A Lebanese military intelligence officer has told me that Israeli ground troops did reach the outskirts of a Lebanese village on high ground just south of here but he says they were repelled by Hezbollah fighters.

(voice-over): And to the north bridges along the highway to Beirut have been bombed, destroying the only route in for humanitarian supplies.

ROLAND HUGEUENIN, RED CROSS: The roads from Tyre to Sidon have been damaged by bombing last night. So Tyre is beginning to look like a city under siege.

PENHAUL: No way out either for aid workers to help the thousands of civilians thought to be stranded in outlying villages.

HUGEUENIN: And now for two or three days we are just getting red lights on our security clearances. We aren't able to move out of Tyre.

PENHAUL: In the old quarter the Doctors Without Borders aid group is preparing in case of an all out ground attack on central Tyre.

What we fear over the next few days is that Tyre is a high stake target and this could be the theater of a larger military operation, he says. The deck and his team are rushing to refit this operating theater in Bashur Hospital, that's not been used for the last year. He says a potential Israeli assault could split Tyre in two, cutting off this hospital in the west of the city from three others in the east.

We're preparing for the worse in the event the fighting spreads into downtown Tyre so we can tend to the wounded from street battles, he says. With the bridge on the approach to Tyre blown up Doctors Without Borders volunteers had no choice but to wade in to the Litani River Monday. They say they desperately need these boxes of medical supplies for their clinic.

As they stepped up the humanitarian effort, Israel was ratcheting up the war effort. Planes flattened six apartment blocks in the north of Tyre with bombs and missiles, leaving smoking ruins. Israeli commandos stormed these buildings before dawn Saturday killing a handful of Hezbollah commanders. By late Monday shells were exploding on the city outskirts, but no sign yet of Israeli ground troops at Tyre's gate. Karl Penhaul, CNN, Tyre, south Lebanon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: The fighting in the Middle East has helped push gas prices to record levels, so next a top story about your money. Our consumer reporter Greg Hunter checks out some products that promise dramatic improvements in your gas mileage. Are the promises too good to be true? How many of them really are rip-offs?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Our top story tonight is about your money, incredibly high gas prices, where they're going, well, we're pretty sure they're going to get worse and whether some people are using them as an excuse to rip you off or not is something we have to be aware of.

So first our "Crude Awakenings" shows the latest gas prices all over the country. The states with today's highest prices are in red, the lowest in green. The average today for unleaded regular, a record $3.03 a gallon. Now, fighting in the Mideast, of course, has helped push prices up in the last few weeks, and we're told it will probably get worse as you see that trend upwards because of a corroded oil pipeline in Alaska costing the country some 400,000 barrels of oil every day. That could take months to replace and already today oil prices were up more than $2 a barrel because of it.

Gasoline will be going up, too, which could make you a prime target for ingenious scams that could cost you even more money. Our consumer correspondent Greg Hunter has spent some weeks investigating some of those products that promise to dramatically increase your gas mileage. You're going to be pretty surprised I think and maybe even angry when you see what he discovered.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GREG HUNTER, CNN CONSUMER CORRESPONDENT: This summer the traditional American road trip can be a more expensive ordeal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just bought this car and it's a gas guzzler, $50, please, regular. I'm spending a lot more on gas.

HUNTER: With gas prices near record levels some people are desperate to save money.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think anything that helps me with the price of gas these days would be something that I'd willing to look into.

HUNTER: It's also a season of promises.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With patented slotted fins.

HUNTER: Lots of gadgets, promising to help consumers save on gas, magnets, cyclones, tornadoes, fuel additives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They call it the little green magic pill.

HUNTER: Liz and Rocky Rothwell, a retired couple from Florida, thought they'd found something revolutionary.

ROCKY ROTHWELL, RETIRED FLORIDA RESIDENT: It is supposed to increase the mileage in your car from anywhere from 25 percent to 30 percent.

HUNTER: The Rothwells had such high hopes for the product, BioPerformance, that they went to a company presentation and signed on as distributors in a multilevel marketing plan. ROTHWELL: It's supposed to clean all the bad deposits that have gathered in the engine over the years, supposed to clean it out, increase in power, increase in mileage, and it says you'll have like what you consider a brand new car. It was like a magic pill. And...

HUNTER: ... Was it?

ROTHWELL: Well, to them, it was, to whoever made the money off it, sure, it was.

HUNTER: Was the so called magic pill too good to be true? And what about other products? We teamed up with "Popular Mechanics" magazine experts and auto mechanics from the Universal Technical Institute in Houston to help us find out. First we set up base line tests and ran our car without any of the products installed. Mike Allen, an automotive guru and senior writer with "Popular Mechanics" magazine installs a set of magnets that are supposed to align the molecules in the fuel so it burns more efficiently.

MIKE ALLEN, SENIOR WRITER, POPULAR MECHANICS: This is one of the more elaborate fuel line magnets that I've seen. It's got three really powerful bar magnets here. And we're just going to slide this over this fuel line.

HUNTER: So they claim that this gives you better mileage.

ALLEN: Correct.

HUNTER: We'll see.

ALLEN: We'll see.

HUNTER: We waited until the truck ran out of fuel and measured again. Without the magnets?

ALLEN: About 22.8.

HUNTER: Miles per gallon.

ALLEN: Yes, sir.

HUNTER: What do the magnets get?

ALLEN: 20.6. So about a 10 percent decrease in fuel economy with the magnets installed.

HUNTER: Why is that? Are the magnets so strong they could be interfering?

ALLEN: We're theorizing that the magnetic field is so powerful it's interfering with the wiring in the fuel injectors.

HUNTER: So you actually get worse fuel mileage?

ALLEN: Yes, by about 10 percent with the magnets installed.

HUNTER: With a few hundred and $30 magnets.

ALLEN: Yes. Is this a great country or what?

HUNTER: The company that makes the magnets told us their product works. It has been tested, quote, "with positive results. We are dismayed that your mechanics did not have the proper training for placement and testing of our magnetic device."

Next was the Tornado. Its manufacturer also claims it will make gas burn more efficiently.

ALLEN: The theory is that the air past this as it comes between the air cleaner and the throttle body turns into a vortex, a little mini tornado, hence the name.

HUNTER: Let's put it to the test. The Tornado.

ALLEN: The tornado, recently removed from this Lincoln Navigator. This Navigator on our base line run delivered 18.4 miles per gallon.

HUNTER: Nothing on it.

ALLEN: Nothing on it, just the way Lincoln wanted it. We installed this in the intake track and it got 17.5 miles per gallon, not quite one mile per gallon poorer fuel economy than without this.

HUNTER: More power?

ALLEN: Just about the same actually.

HUNTER: About the same.

ALLEN: Of course they claim that it improves power, but it doesn't seem to.

HUNTER: The manufacturer stands behind its product and says, "we have more than 100,000 satisfied customers. Our product works." We checked with the Environmental Protection Agency. They never tested our magnets or Tornado, but they've been running tests for decades on products that promise to save gas.

STEPHEN JOHNSON, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: We've tested approximately a hundred over the past 30 years, and of all the ones we've tested, none work.

HUNTER: You haven't seen one additive or gas saving device that works at the EPA?

JOHNSON: We've not seen one additive or gas saving device that works.

HUNTER: It's a scam?

JOHNSON: It's a scam. HUNTER: Now remember those BioPerformance magic pills? Our testers didn't even want to try them in our car because they were worried about damaging the engine. But the Texas attorney general did test the magic pill and he says it was just a scam. He shut down BioPerformance and its owners for allegedly running a scam that cost victims like the Rothwells thousands of dollars.

The lawsuit says the owners pocketed millions by making false and misleading claims and recruiting thousands of people to market the magic pill. It turns out the magic pill is basically just naphthalene, the same stuff that used to go into moth balls. BioPerformance wouldn't return our repeated calls so we stopped by their office. A man who first told us he didn't know anything about the company turned out to be Gustavo Romero, one of its cofounders.

(on camera): The Texas attorney general says your product does not work.

GUSTAVO ROMERO, COFOUNDER, BIOPERFORMANCE: I cannot discuss it, I'm sorry. We're in trial in the court.

HUNTER: The attorney general of Texas says you made millions of dollars with a product -- you made millions of dollars with a product that doesn't work.

ROMERO: We'll discuss it in court.

HUNTER (voice-over): Later Gustavo Romero's lawyer sent us a letter saying "it's our expectation that additional scientific testing will answer the issue once and for all."

BioPerformance doesn't say when those additional tests will be done. But its court case is scheduled for September. So is there any product out there that will help consumers save on gas? The Federal Trade Commission suggests using common sense.

LAURA BEMARTINO, FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION: Consumers should be extremely skeptical of dramatic gas saving claims. Remember, your mother's advice is still the best advice. If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.

HUNTER: Our experts suggest that just making sure your tires are inflated to the right air pressure can do wonders, and it costs a whole lot less. Greg Hunter, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: Got that right, Greg. One more thing the government says another way to get more miles per gallon is to slow down, another logical thing. Gas mileage declines when you drive faster than 55.

Where Madonna goes, controversy usually follows, and that's made her a very rich woman, hasn't it? But what she has done this time is a top story and it has the Vatican absolutely outraged. Should she have gotten up on a cross like that with the Vatican just next door? What do you think? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: Well, the headlines in Rome are calling her revered and reviled. Our top story in entertainment tonight, Madonna drawing a huge crowd to the Olympic stadium in Rome to see her mix music with religious symbols and pictures of Pope Benedict, Hitler and Osama bin Laden, classic Madonna stuff. But this time the concert turned out to be a shocker for another reason. More on Madonna's outrageous performance and the explosive reaction from entertainment correspondent Brooke Anderson.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Madonna has managed to do what seemed impossible, unite Catholics, Muslims, and Jews. Leaders of those faiths in Italy all condemned her concert in Rome, not for moves like this. But for this image, Madonna crucified on the cross.

REV. DON DE MARCO, CHURCH OF SAN LORENZO IN LUCINA: It's a lack of respect for all Christians.

ANDERSON: As she has on earlier stops on her confessions tour, Madonna strapped herself to a cross during a performance of the song "Live to Tell," wearing a crown of thorns. But it was the geography that the church found most offensive this time. Last night's concert held in a stadium in the shadow of the Vatican.

One Vatican official, a cardinal, labelled it a blasphemous publicity stunt and an open act of hostility toward the church. A local priest accused Madonna of toying with a sacred symbol.

DE MARCO (through translator): For we believers, we Christians, the cross represents the meaning of all meanings, that is the most absolute, profound value of the love of god.

ANDERSON: The head of Italy's Muslim World League, likewise, called the mock crucifixion an act of bad taste and a spokesman for Rome's Jewish community expressed solidarity with the Vatican, calling Madonna's performance disrespectful. The controversy didn't stop tens of thousands of fans from crowding Olympic Stadium. Many said Madonna was just expressing her artistic freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think it's a sign of no respect for the Christian church, but I think it's just a symbolic vision of life.

ANDERSON: Madonna's publicist told CNN the singer's mock crucifixion which is accompanied by a video montage of children in Africa is meant to dramatize the plight of children suffering around the world. She added, Madonna has said I don't think Jesus would be mad at me.

This is not the first time Madonna has offended religious leaders. Her 1989 video for the song Like A Prayer, which showed her caressing a black Jesus earned similar condemnation, 17 years later the Catholic Church says it's the same old song. Brooke Anderson, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ZAHN: All right. You can get set for some pretty strong opinions on all this. Our top story panel is all wound up, aren't you, gang, and ready to take on Madonna's performance. Joining me here image consultant, Marven Britto of the Britto Agency, President of the Catholic League Bill Donahue, and in Los Angeles nationally syndicated progressive talk radio host Stephanie Miller. Great to see all of you. You've heard Bill what Madonna said, this is all about raising awareness of AIDS and poverty in America to an audience that hasn't been exposed to it and Jesus wouldn't be upset by this.

BILL DONOHUE, PRES. THE CATHOLIC LEAGUE: And she couldn't do it without insulting Christians. You know, it's amazing how anyone's going to believe this, last week Mel Gibson made a tremendous mistake. He has this anti-semitic rant. He says it in private when he's drunk. Now the same people are going to give her a pass. This is calculated. She does it when she's sober. She's been doing this since the 1980s. This is a woman who has obviously crossed the line. Had she pulled the concert off in Venice on Saturday night, it might have been one thing, she went to Rome on Sunday. We know what she's doing.

ZAHN: She has a perfect right to do this, right Stephanie Miller?

STEPHANIE MILLER, TALK SHOW HOST: You know Paula, what I'm shocked about is that anyone can still be shocked about Madonna. I'm shocked about that. And I think that a lot of our friends on the religious right are playing missing the point entirely. I think what she's talking about is what religion is supposed to be about and Jesus talked a lot about helping the poor and helping the needy and he said nothing about homosexuality. A lot of these gay-bashers on the right and people that are defending Mel Gibson's anti-semitic rant, it's kind of ironic that they're outraged by a Madonna show, that's covered by the first amendment.

DONOHUE: She's going to get some high points for this. Let me ask you something, lady, if she does a song called "The Holocaust is a Hoax" and she jumps out of a big oven are you going to consider that to be art as well?

MILLER: Is that in the next show?

DONOHUE: You can't answer my question, can you? You want to start again on that?

MILLER: How can someone say Jews start all the worlds in the world and not be a bigot.

ZAHN: Let's come back to the issue, and the point Bill was making, that you can basically take anything out of any religion and insult people and if that kind of imagery was used about the Holocaust, would you use the same argument here?

MILLER: Well, my point, Paula, is just that, you know, if you watch what she's doing, she's trying to make a statement about the fact that, you know, this is true, that some of the policies of the Catholic Church do result in 12 million orphans from AIDs in Africa, you know and I mean why aren't the Catholic Church as outraged about priests molesting little children.

DONOHUE: That's the real issue, thank you.

ZAHN: Let's come back to the issue. You're an image consultant. And you've represented a lot of high powered music talent, some would call divas along the way. This obviously wouldn't be maybe what you'd select to make them relevant, but it works. Look at her concert. This is a $200 million tour. She's bringing in more money than any female artist ever.

MARVET BRITTO, IMAGE CONSULTANT: Absolutely. And Madonna's a 47-year-old artist who has to compete with talent half her age, so, you know, she's clever in trying to think of any way she can bring controversy and attention to her tours, and she does it in the most brilliant way. She packs them in, people are interested in her because remember Madonna has to keep reinventing herself. She's two decades in the business. She started in the '80s. It's now 2000. So in order to keep herself relevant, she has to think of clever media ways to garner attention.

ZAHN: And of course Bill Donohue has been over this for years. We know you don't like the messenger. We know you don't like the message, but what about the people who are paying $300 a ticket to go to a concert? Are they bad Catholics?

DONOHUE: Not at all. But I'll tell you this much --

ZAHN: Wait a minute. Where's the contradiction here.

DONOHUE: If you took this act out of hers, the mock-crucifixion out, people would still go to see it because she's a phenomenal entertainer. That's what's even more disturbing. This is gratuitous. She always chooses my religion. We thought we got rid of her. If she chose Muslims she might lose her head.

MILLER: Bill, you don't have to go see her show if you don't want to.

DONOHUE: No, that's not the question. Don't tell me that she's standing up for poverty and AIDs and insulting my religion. Try again, Stephanie. Try again.

MILLER: Bill, this is exactly why Democrats are reclaiming moral values.

ZAHN: I've got to cut you all off. Appreciate all of your opinions. Madonna, can you hear us? We're going to take a short break. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: And that's it for all of us tonight. Thanks so much for being with us. We'll be back same time, same place, tomorrow night. Good night.

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