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CNN NEWSROOM

FDA Warns about Side Effects of Pain Killers; Families Holding out Hope for Missing Hikers; Warring Factions Fight in Palestinian Streets; Pentagon Considers Boosting Troop Levels in Iraq; Train Derails in Chicago; Iranian President's Supporters Lose Elections; Tips On Preventing Skin Cancer

Aired December 19, 2006 - 14:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone, I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm T.J. Holmes.

Dodging bullets on the way home from school. That's no way to grow up, but it's the reality in Gaza.

PHILLIPS: Searching precarious terrain as precious minutes tick by. An update from Mt. Hood where a new storm threatens.

HOLMES: And a white Christmas down south. We're watching the birth of a big storm.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: And we begin with breaking news from our medical department about over the counter pain medicines. CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen here with the details.

And I see you writing down furious notes. This is just coming across.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. This press release just came across. And right now the FDA is having a press conference about this very issue.

You probably have acetaminophen in your medicine cabinet. That's Tylenol. If you don't have that, or even if you do, you might have ibuprofen, Advil and other kinds of things.

Warnings about those two coming across right now, as we speak, from the FDA.

The FDA says that they are proposing a labeling change. What they're proposing to do is to put on the label of acetaminophen, also called Tylenol and other products, warnings about potential liver toxicity.

And they list three specific cases where there is especially a high potential of risk for liver toxicity. The first one would be people who are taking acetaminophen in high doses. The second is where people are taking more than one product containing acetaminophen. Sometimes people will take a capsule of Tylenol and then will also take, say, a cough medicine that has acetaminophen. They don't realize they're taking both at one time.

And also for folks who are taking acetaminophen with moderate amounts of alcohol.

So a warning today -- or a possible warning today for people who are taking acetaminophen.

PHILLIPS: Let's talk about the other pain relievers.

COHEN: Right. The other pain relievers are in a group called NSAIDs, which are non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. And that includes aspirin. That includes ibuprofen, which is also sold as Advil, and other products.

The warning there is about bleeding -- stomach bleeding for persons over 60 and for people who might have other kinds of medical ailments. Apparently, what they've noticed in studies is that sometimes people who are over 60 or have certain medical problems will get stomach bleeding from some of these products.

PHILLIPS: So OK. But that doesn't mean go to your medicine cabinet and throw these all out. I mean, is it check with your doctor and see what your condition is like and what he or she recommends?

COHEN: Right, check with your doctor. That's always the first thing that you have to do. And you shouldn't just stop taking these.

What they're talking about, what they're proposing is a warning. They're saying, look, if you're taking a lot of acetaminophen, you should really be wary and you should talk to your doctor about potential liver problems.

If you're taking more than one product at one time that has acetaminophen, also something you should talk to your doctor about. Or for example, if you drink moderate amounts of alcohol and you take Tylenol, something you should talk to your doctor about. A possible problem for the liver.

PHILLIPS: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, appreciate it.

COHEN: Thanks, Kyra.

HOLMES: Holding out for a miracle on Mt. Hood. The search for two missing climbers presses on, though it's now mostly by air, not by foot.

Rescuers are concerned by what they see in newly discovered photos of the trip, but they say if there's room for doubt, then there's room for hope.

CNN's Rob Marciano is there for us.

Hello, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST/CORRESPONDENT: Hello, T.J.

You're right about that. They are still holding out hope for Brian Hall and Nikko Cooke, the two climbers still up on the mountain.

The search effort has downsized just a little bit in that the Oregon Air National Guard has been told to go home to Salem to regroup and be on standby. So the Chinook helicopters, like the one you see behind me, that were taking rescue teams up to the higher elevations in the mountain the past couple of days are not going to do that today.

There are, however, two fixed wing aircraft that will be flying around the mountain today, looking for spots. We just listened to some two-way radio traffic from the sheriff's department indicating that at 10,000 feet, the temperature is 25 degrees. Winds are fairly light at about 15 an hour, but they have, as of this hour, not spotted anything.

He was on the ground, the sheriff, of the Hood River County Sheriff's Department earlier this morning. And this is what he had to say about today's plan of attack.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF JOE WAMPLER, HOOD COUNTY, OREGON: We're still looking for those little clues. So that we can move ground teams so we can make plans to move ground teams into certain areas if we need to.

And then, you know, also maintain the opportunity for Brian and Nikko to stick their head up out of that hole up there someplace and self-rescue themselves. And we want to be there to see that, if that happens.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARCIANO: That's the best-case scenario. They are also assembling an avalanche team that they hope to send up the mountain as avalanche conditions get a little bit safer.

There is a point -- and the question was asked of the sheriff -- at what stage of the game do you stop the rescue efforts? Because a human can only survive so long at that altitude in these conditions. And he said, "Well, when the risk outweighs the results, we'll make that call."

That conversation has been held with the family members. And this is what Angela Hall, sister of Brian, had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGELA HALL, SISTER OF BRIAN HALL: Our faith in the strength of the minds, bodies, and spirits of Nikko and Brian remain steadfast. We continue to be hopeful as we pray for their safe return. And we ask the thousands of friends, family members and strangers around the world who have been touched by this story to continue to pray for the family of Kelly James, for their continued strength, and to find support in one another and in the now extended family that they have in the immediate families of Nikko and Brian.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MARCIANO: And the body of Kelly James was lifted off the mountain yesterday. With it came some clues. One, an arm injury specifically, a dislocated shoulder, possibly coming from some sort of fall.

And also a camera and some of the pictures being developed from that camera, we are told, describe the notch -- the route they took which was up that Elliot Glacier, up the dangerous gullies, which is a steep part of the mountain to summit. They appeared to have summitted and then ran into trouble.

Those pictures also indicate what kind of equipment they were carrying along with them. And that has rescuers concerned, because they were traveling light in order to go fast, which means they didn't probably have a lot of fuel to melt snow for water and likely not a lot of food, either, to sustain more than seven or ten days.

Weather today again encouraging, although here at about 1,000 feet near the base of the mountain, there are some low clouds, much like yesterday. But above about the 2,000, 2500 foot mark, things do begin to clear out just a little bit. So today with good visibility, they hope to maybe find some more clues before the bad weather comes in.

But at last check via two-way radio, T.J., no clues yet this morning. And you hear behind me that Chinook helicopter beginning to fire up its engines. They're going back home to Salem to stand by until an avalanche team is assembled -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Rob Marciano for us live. Rob, thanks so much.

MARCIANO: You bet.

PHILLIPS: So much for a truce in Gaza. Gun battles and kidnappings may have dealt a death blow to any possible stand down between rival Palestinian factions.

CNN's Ben Wedeman is there -- Ben.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kyra. There is, in fact, a glimmer of hope at the moment. According to reports, there's a meeting at the Egyptian embassy here in Gaza between the warring factions. And they have agreed to pull their men off the streets.

But we were going around Gaza today, and much of what we saw was just sheer pandemonium.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN (voice-over): It's time to run for your life. The cease-fire is collapsing. This gun battle between Palestinian police and the Hamas militia broke out as schoolchildren were out on a lunch break.

Shopkeeper Hadah Elian (ph) is closing up. "I'm going home," he tells me. "I'm afraid. We're done with. It's never been this bad."

Hopes the truce between the Fatah-controlled police and the Hamas militia would hold are fading fast, as gangland-style warfare seems to take hold.

Elsewhere in Gaza City, vendors pack up. Another gun battle brewing just up the street.

As members of Palestinian military intelligence, angry over the killing of a comrade, try but fail to trash a Hamas banner. They were interrupted by more gunfire.

Every new death brings new calls for revenge, a vicious cycle of killing and counter killing no one seems able to stop.

At this funeral for a Fatah member killed in clashes with Hamas, curses for the militant Islamic group. As they head to the graveyard, yet more shooting. We run into the first open door.

(on camera) We've taken cover inside a vegetable store here in Gaza City. There's gunfire going on outside between members of Palestinian security and unknown others somewhere out there.

(voice-over) Gunmen told us if we videotaped any more, they'd shoot us. So all we could do was set the camera on the ground and let it roll, recording as this city descends into chaos.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WEDEMAN: And there's no guarantee at this point, Kyra, that the chaos is going to end. Despite this news from the Egyptian embassy that the forces are going to pull back, we spoke with one Fatah field commander in northern Gaza who told us it doesn't matter what's agreed in the Egyptian embassy. What matters is what's going on in the streets. And they say they're going to keep fighting -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: You mentioned that the prime minister, Ismail Haniyah, held a presser today. What did he have to say?

WEDEMAN: Well, basically he reiterated his call -- or rather statement that the proposed early presidential and parliamentary elections announced by the Palestinian president, his main rival, Mahmoud Abbas, he said those elections are illegal, that Hamas will not recognize them, will not help in any way and will do whatever it can to stop them from happening.

So the -- on the positive side, he did call upon his interior ministry, who is responsible for many of the Hamas forces in the street, to meet with the rival militia commanders to try to come to an agreement to end the fighting.

But right now I just heard a large explosion in the distance. So it doesn't seem, Kyra, like these statements are making much difference.

PHILLIPS: Well, we'll stay up on it with you, Ben. Thanks.

HOLMES: Is a battle brewing between the White House and the Pentagon? "The Washington Post" reports the president is considering sending as many as 30,000 more troops to Iraq for six to eight months. But the joint chiefs of staff said to be unanimously opposed.

According to "The Post", the Pentagon warns that any so-called surge may only set the U.S. up for bigger problems when it ends. Reportedly, the generals fear a short-term mission could give an enormous edge to al Qaeda fighters, Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias.

Its hands are full, its forces stretched, its mission unaccomplished in Iraq. Still there's word the Pentagon may be planning a show of force for Iran.

CNN Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr joins us now with the details -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, military officials are confirming that they are thinking about sending a second aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf Indian Ocean region.

Last week General John Abizaid, the head of the U.S. Central Command, made a request to the Pentagon for that second aircraft carrier group. Defense Secretary Robert Gates now and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Peter Pace, are looking at that request.

It would be very unusual, because through a good deal of this year there's been enough of a problem trying to keep one carrier in the Persian Gulf region. So now they are thinking about sending a second.

And what sources are telling us is, indeed, part of it would be to send a message to Tehran, to send a message to the Iranian government, which has been making an awful lot of noise out in that region, that the U.S. is watching, and the U.S. military is very capable of putting forces in the region -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: So would these ships just be out in the water on standby, or would they actually fly sorties within legal airspace? What exactly would they do?

STARR: Well, for Iran, by all accounts, Kyra, it would, in fact, be a show of force. No one is considering military action. There's no indication that these jets on aircraft carriers would fly into Iranian airspace.

But it would, in fact, give the military additional air capability for any missions over Iraq and Afghanistan from that carrier. So that is something that they would also like to have.

Consider it a sort of a three-prong strategy, a little more for Iraq, a little more for Afghanistan, and a not too subtle message for Iran -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon, thanks.

We're going to have more on Iran just ahead in the NEWSROOM. Voters there send a pointed message to their president, and it's the economy, stupid? More on that election that wasn't exactly a vote of confidence.

HOLMES: We want to turn back and get more on that Chicago train derailment Betty's been keeping an eye on. She has more for us -- Betty.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, we're still watching it and want to bring you live pictures, if we can very quickly, of the "El" train, as they call it in Chicago. It's their commuter train.

This is the Orange Line. You can still see emergency crews working it.

But look at the last two cars in that train there. They have jumped the track. The last one, obviously, looking like it's leaning a little bit sideways. I shouldn't say leaning because there's nothing teetering, there's nothing leaning, anything like that. It's just jumped the tracks.

The good news: they have gotten everyone off of these trains. Twenty-four passengers had been evacuated. Six of them, including two asthma patients, were evaluated by paramedics, but there are no serious injuries from this, although 10 ambulances were sent to the scene just as precaution.

This is a four-car Orange Line train that you're looking at. Now, it travels -- and I don't know if we have a map still up for you -- between downtown and the Midway Airport.

This, though, was not headed to the airport. There's the map. You can see the Orange Line right there. This was going into downtown, that Loop area. And if you look at the bottom portion of the map, the Roosevelt Station, that is about where this train jumped the tracks.

And, again, no serious injuries, which is the good news. But as you can see in the live pictures that we were showing you just minutes ago, one of the cars is sitting crossways on that track. But, again, nothing is dangling; nothing is teetering.

I will tell you, though, that the power has been off for these evacuations. Of course, they don't want any other trains to come near this site as they're trying to get everybody off just as safely as possible. And indeed, they have: 24 passengers have been evacuated.

This is the third busiest mass transit rail system in the U.S. and the second oldest. And just a little bit of history for you, T.J., the "L" got its nickname because a large part of the system is elevated.

And you can see a portion of this part that we're looking at right now is elevated from the ground, because you can see on the left-hand side toward the middle, the ambulances which looks like it is at a bridge-like area underneath it. So this is an elevated portion of what they call the "El" train.

HOLMES: All right. Betty, thank you so much. Keeping an eye on it for us.

Meanwhile, another day, another arrest in Britain's most sensational murder case. And detectives are calling this one significant. We're looking at all the evidence in the so-called Suffolk Stranger (sic) case. That's next in the NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: Missing a friend who's missing on Mt. Hood. Up next, we're going to talk with a man who thinks of Brian hall as a brother. Fred Stephenson says he just had to come to Mt. Hood to wait for his friend.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Iran's president now has something in common with President Bush. Both leaders have now been rebuked in local elections.

CNN's Aneesh Raman reports from Tehran.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Casting his vote, Iran's president knew this election would be seen as a referendum on his hard-line policies. And with results all but official, with record turnout reported, the message is clear. Most Iranians want change.

It's evident in the race for Tehran city council, viewed as a barometer for national trends. There, moderate conservatives, led by Tehran's mayor, are winning a majority of the seats, and reformists are making a big comeback, their voters hopeful both will address growing economic problems at home.

On the streets of moderate north Tehran, the results are being viewed as a political blow for the president. But there is also caution, voiced by those like 19-year-old Sanas (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): The reformist wins make a difference, but not a huge one right now, given their small numbers. Still, it's better than nothing and sends a message.

RAMAN: Nobody expects immediate change. Hard-liners still retain the power nationally in Iran. And to hear their views, it's best to leave the capital. (on camera) We've traveled about 2.5 hours south of Tehran now to the holy city of Gong (ph). Behind me this is one of the most important mosques of all of Iran. And this city is one of the most conservative places in the entire country.

(voice-over) The bus stops are filled with women wears chadores. Mullahs ride motorbikes, and Islamic law dominates every day life. Here Ahmadinejad supporters are expected to do extremely well.

"The west is a culture of war," this man tells me, "and it has been and still is a morally corrupt culture."

Ahmadinejad's defiance of the west keeps the allegiance of his base. And despite the results, the defiance continues.

MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD, PRESIDENT OF IRAN (through translator): If countries insist on preventing Iran from using nuclear technology by importing sanctions, the Iranian nation would consider that as hostility and would change its behavior in return.

RAMAN: An indication that, while hard-line conservatives may have suffered a defeat, Iran's president may see the results as reason to ramp up his nationalist defiance, not soften it, as he tries to win back support that he has clearly lost.

Aneesh Raman, CNN, Tehran.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: A cancer scare for Laura Bush. How her skin cancer was spotted and how you can protect yourself, coming up from the NEWSROOM.

HOLMES: But first, medical researchers are constantly making strides to improve our quality of life. They're working on extending child-bearing age, helping the paralyzed move their limbs and have even found a way to heal cancer as it spreads.

Just what breakthroughs can we expect in the future? We asked forward thinkers to weigh in with their thoughts in today's "Welcome to the Future."

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAUL SAFFO, TECHNOLOGY FORECASTER: The medical space is fascinating, because we're on the edge of a very huge shift into genetics and genomics that, over the next 50 years, will profoundly affect our lives.

RAY KURZWEIL, CEO, KURZWEIL TECHNOLOGIES: We'll have very powerful tools emerging over the next decade to completely simulate the processes that lead to heart disease and cancer and then reprogram them and bring those reprogrammed processes to -- to human beings and really overcome these diseases. So that's one area. This is biotechnology. SAFFO: In the long run, biotechnology will probably eliminate surgery for many treatments. They'll treat cancer with biotech rather than scalpels.

JOEY REIMAN, THINKER & CEO, BRIGHTHOUSE: I think what's most promising is where we've now made inroads to having our bodies talk to prosthetics.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open. Close.

REIMAN: But the largest advance, probably, is the notion of moving from preventative medicine to curative to restorative. And restorative medicine will be the most exciting medicine out there, because rather than extend your life, it will enhance your life.

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF, MEDIA THEORIST: Really, the race against death will be fought with your money. If you've managed to save $300,000 for hormone replacement therapy when you're 70, then you may get to 85.

DR. JAMES CANTON, AUTHOR, "THE EXTREME FUTURE": You're going to hear a lot more about disease management in the very near future, particularly as we unlock the human genome.

So personalized medicine, this fusion of combining biotechnology with healthcare, will make for a very different kind of healthcare that will be more precise, more cost effective and ultimately is going to help people live longer.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Straight to the newsroom. Betty Nguyen working details on a story out of New York.

NGUYEN: Yes, a white powder incident at the "New York Daily News" building on West 33rd and 9th Avenue.

Just some information coming in, not a whole lot, but here's what we know, is a white powder was found on the 15th floor. About four people came in contact with it. And they're self-decontaminating. Now that's a fancy word that we're learning from the New York Fire Department that essentially means they are cleaning themselves up.

Now, no one in the building has been evacuated, although portions of that 15th floor have been closed.

Emergency crews from the fire department and the police department are on the scene.

And that's essentially what we know at this point. This is still new information coming into CNN. But what we do know is that a white powder incident has been found on the 15th floor of "The New York Daily News" building, and that is at West 33rd and 9th Avenue. And as soon as we get more information on this, we'll bring it straight to you -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. Thanks, Betty.

HOLMES: Well, got some new developments now on the possible takeover of Delta Airlines. And Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange now to tell us why the carrier insists on flying solo.

Hello, Susan.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, T.J.

Well, you know, Delta's been stating it for the last few weeks, but now it is a formal rejection of U.S. Airways' $8.4 billion bid.

Delta even holding a rally today to publicize its opposition. Top executives and pilots lined up to sign their names on a petition against the proposed merger.

The airline says a takeover would result in less competition. It says that would lead to higher fares, and Delta says that's why regulators would likely oppose the deal, as well.

Delta also says that, if the two were to combine, it would take longer to emerge from bankruptcy. Right now Delta plans to emerge from bankruptcy protection in the spring as an independent carrier. A few months off yet, though -- T.J.

HOLMES: All right. Delta has spoken. Sounds like pretty definite there. Is this over or is U.S. Airways going to keep pushing?

LISOVICZ: Well, U.S. Airways sees it differently and it had a response as well today, T.J. It says it's not giving up. The carrier says it's not dropping its bid for Delta, but Delta may be looking to see if U.S. Airways is willing to up the ante. In its restructuring plan, Delta says it expects the value of the airline to reach up to $12 billion, well above the $8.4 billion U.S. Airways is offering.

(MARKET REPORT)

PHILLIPS: Another desperate search, another desolate mountain range. Two American climbers lost in a remote corner of China. What's being done to find them? We'll have that story in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Hello there, everybody. I'm T.J. Holmes at the CNN World headquarters in Atlanta.

PHILLIPS: And I'm Kyra Phillips. Their friendship is more like a brotherhood. Now with Brian Hall still somewhere on Mt. Hood, Fred Stevenson comes to the mountain and counts on seeing his buddy again. We're going to talk with him straight ahead from the NEWSROOM.

Here's what we know in that ever-more desperate search for the two missing climbers on Mt. Hood. The county sheriff says the big search is probably over. Still considered a rescue effort, not a recovery operation, though it's been greatly scaled back. And more bad weather is coming.

We also know that Kelly James, the climber found dead on Sunday apparently had a dislocated shoulder. Rescuers are pouring over photos that he took, photos indicating he and his companions were traveling light. That only adds to the fears about how long the other men could last.

Now the climbers shared a passion for adventure. Friends say they planned the trip to Mt. Hood for months. Brian Hall and Kelly James were long-time climbing companions. Jerry Cooke met the pair earlier this year. A friend of Hall's talks about his zest for people in life.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FREDERICK STEPHENSON, FRIEND AND BRIAN HALL: Brian has -- he's really infectious. He has an energy, I think, that is unmatched by anyone. I mean, he's the kind of guy who he hugs you, you know that he's leaving a part of himself behind. It's up to you to either, you know, repay it, pass it on, or just say thank you. And I know if Jerry is with him, he has to be that same type of guy also.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: You'll hear more from Fred next hour. He's going to join us live in the NEWSROOM.

HOLMES: If nothing else in that search, those searchers on Mt. Hood, at least know which mountain they're searching. That's not the case in southwest China where two Americans have been out of sight for a month and a half.

Christine Boskoff and her boyfriend, Charlie Fowler, were last heard from in an e-mail that said they planned to climb two remote mountains, but didn't say which ones.

CNN's Anderson Cooper has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Christine Boskoff is known among the world's top mountain climbers as a star, even though she didn't start until her late 20s.

DAVID C. JONES, FRIEND OF LOST CLIMBERS: Christine was unique in that she got started in climbing pretty late in life. But she picked it up with an extraordinary passion and started climbing peaks that few people ever make it to.

COOPER: She made it up Mt. Everest not once, but twice. She's tackled six of the 14 highest peaks in the world, peaks over 20,000 feet high, making her one of the top female mountaineers in the world. SHANNON CALLIES, FRIEND AND FELLOW CLIMBER: Christine is just a phenomenal climber. She's so strong. She's got a lot of passion for the sport.

COOPER: So no one was surprised or worried when Boskoff announced her next adventure, a trip this fall to the peaks of China's Sichuan Province. She planned the trip with boyfriend, Charlie Fowler, a top mountaineer in his own right, with long experience climbing in China.

GINNY HICKS, SISTER OF CHARLIE FOWLER: Charlie's always had a fascination and love of big mountains and climbing and he's pursued his passion throughout his life.

COOPER: Friends say it was the challenge of climbing sensational peaks that no one in the world had tried that drew them to southwest China.

MARK GUNLOGSON, CLIMBED WITH BOSKOFF: And the peaks there, often you'd look on a map, they'd have no names, no elevations. And you can walk into these remote areas and pick a peak and climb it.

COOPER: On November 7, Boskoff sent an upbeat e-mail to other climbers. "I'm having a great time," she wrote, "and love the country and mountains and people here."

On November 8, she sent another e-mail, outlining their next climb. "Anyway, we have one last 2-week peak bagging excursion to the Genyen area," she wrote, "I'll be in Internet contact after that and headed back to the U.S."

But no emails came two weeks later on the eve of Thanksgiving. And friends and family began to worry when the couple missed their December 4 flight home.

JONES: The area is remote enough that it could be avalanche, it could be injury, it could be crevasse.

COOPER: Whatever happened, David Jones, a fellow climber and colleague of Boskoff's is determined to find out. He set up a makeshift search and rescue center at his office, filled with maps of the region, lists of contacts and Tibetan prayer flags for good luck.

He's reached out to the American embassy and the Chinese authorities for help, and joint rescue teams have been searching for about a week. But these are some of the toughest climbs in the world. And so far, no sign of the American couple.

The biggest obstacle, no one knows where the couple even began their climb.

JONES: We've got conflicting information. We're trying to reconcile those differences.

COOPER: Unlike Christine's last e-mail, pointing to the Genyen Massif, Charlie's last e-mail said, "Now off to one more different area to try a 6,000 peak." That area may be south of the Genyen Massif, in Nuyen (ph) Province.

As the search continues, friends and family stay hopeful.

JONES: I am hopeful with all my heart and prayers that she is still alive.

HICKS: If anybody can make it out of there, Christine and Charlie can.

COOPER: Anderson Cooper, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HOLMES: And you can get a fresh perspective on the day's top stories from Anderson Cooper. You can join "A.C. 360" weeknights at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

And get ready to welcome winter now with some snow and some ice.

Our Jacqui Jeras is dreaming of a white Christmas -- Jacqui.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HOLMES: All right, Jacqui, thank you so much, ma'am.

PHILLIPS: A cancer scare for Laura Bush. How her skin cancer was spotted and how you can protect yourself. We'll have more coming up from the CNN NEWSROOM.

And a programming note, it will all be out in the open at a town hall meeting set for 8:00 Eastern tonight. Paula Zahn hosting another honest discussion about racism in America. Stay with CNN for that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: A patient's right to privacy or the public's right to know? The health of Laura Bush came up at the White House briefing today after word that Mrs. Bush had a skin cancer removed from her right shin more than a month ago. Diagnosis and treatment were only revealed after a reporter asked about a bandage on the first lady's leg.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: She's doing fine. And she said, quote, "It's no big deal." And we knew it was no big deal at the time. Frankly, I don't think anybody thought it was the sort of thing that occasioned a need for a public disclosure.

Furthermore, she has got the same right to medical privacy that you do. She's a private citizen, she's not an elected official, and so for that reason, she didn't disclose it, but she's doing fine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: The first lady's cancer was the second most common type and almost always curable if caught early.

Let's more insight and advice from CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

So how dangerous is this form of cancer?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It is not as dangerous as something like, let's say, melanoma. We've all heard of melanoma, that's something that John McCain and others have had. That is a truly serious condition, skin cancer that can spread to other parts of the body. That doesn't usually happen with this type of cancer.

Let's take a look at the numbers. Between 100,000 and 200,000 -- I'm sorry. Between 200,000 and 300,000 people are diagnosed with this kind of cancer every year, squamous cell skin cancer, and about 1,000 to 2,000 people die.

The reason that number's so small, thankfully, is that most of the people who die are elderly people where it is caught very late and it's had a chance to advance, or people who have certain kind of immune deficiencies. So that's very important to remember when it comes to this kind of cancer. It usually stays on your skin. It usually does not go anywhere.

PHILLIPS: Is she in the clear? Can it come back?

COHEN: It can come back. People who have squamous cell cancer or basal cell carcinoma or melanoma have a higher chance of getting that form of cancer or another form of cancer again. And so people like her definitely need to be on the lookout.

Let's take a look at who is at highest risk for having these skin cancers happen. As we said, people with a previous skin cancer, also people who are just out in the sun too much. We all know that that's not a good thing. People with fair skin and men, and the reason for that is that men simply spend more time out in the sun than women do.

PHILLIPS: How about warning signs?

COHEN: There are some things that you should look for, and dermatologists have developed a nice acronym, ABCD. So let's take a look at the four things that you're supposed to look for. Asymmetry, when you have a mole or a growth that's asymmetrical, as you see in there, it's kind of darker and bigger on one side than the other. That's a bad sign. You need to talk to your doctor.

Also, an irregular border, an uneven border like you see to the right, that's also something that you need to bring to the attention of your doctor.

C is color. When you see one like the one on the left that has varying colors all within one mole or one big freckle.

Another warning sign that something's gone wrong, diameter. These cancer growths grow faster than an ordinary mole. And Kyra, what you really want to be looking for is things that are changing. That's very important. If you had a mole that you've had for years and years and it's not changing, probably not going to be a problem. If you have a mole that's getting bigger and bigger or a new mole, that's something that needs to be checked out.

PHILLIPS: All right, so I know what you're going to say, because I'm going to ask you, how do we protect ourselves from all of this? You're going to say sunscreen, of course.

COHEN: That's right. Sunscreen, of course, or you know what? Just cover up. Wear clothes, light clothes, obviously, when it's hot outside. Just cover up. So use sunscreen, cover up, stay in the shade. Those are three things that can you do. And go to your doctor. They can check your skin, check your moles. I've had it done.

PHILLIPS: Yes, get check out.

(CROSSTALK)

COHEN: Very quick. They just look at them and they say, you know what? There's a mole here. That's fine. Don't worry about it unless it changes or hey, you know, this is something we want to look at.

PHILLIPS: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, thanks.

COHEN: Thanks, Kyra.

HOLMES: Heading home for the holidays. Space Shuttle Discovery is packed up and ready to undock from the International Space Station. That should happen around 5:00 Eastern time. And it has been a historic mission, four spacewalks including one NASA had not planned on yesterday to get a stuck solar wing folded up nice and neat.

The astronauts should land Friday afternoon in Florida. But before they do, they'll talk to us here in the NEWSROOM. That's coming up Thursday afternoon.

We now want to get straight ahead to the entertainment news with Sibila Vargas of "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT."

Sibila, I can probably guess what you're going to be talking about today.

SIBILA VARGAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: You got it. Miss USA, right?

HOLMES: Of course.

VARGAS: You knew that. Well, despite allegations of misbehavior, Tara Conner gets to keep her sash. We'll tell you why Donald Trump is coming to her defense. All ahead from the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HOLMES: Bright lights, big city. A small-town girl and a tarnished tiara. It all adds up to a near-miss for Miss USA.

CNN entertainment correspondent Sibila Vargas joins us now from Hollywood with details on this one.

Boy, this is a good story here, Sibila.

VARGAS: It really is. And we all expected -- I don't know about you, but definitely me -- Donald Trump to utter those famous words: "You're fired."

But that wasn't the case. Miss USA, Tara Conner dodged a bullet today, keeping her crown despite some misbehaving.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, CO-OWNER, MISS USA UNIVERSE ORG.: I've always been a believer in second chances. I've always been. Tara is a good person. Tara has tried hard. Tara is going to be given a second chance.

VARGAS (voice-over): Tara Conner and Donald Trump spoke this morning prior to the press conference in New York City. And the two agreed on continuing their partnership.

TARA CONNER< MISS USA: I've had a very big blessing bestowed upon me. And you'll never know how much I appreciate Mr. Trump for saving me on this one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: OK.

VARGAS (on camera): Very emotional.

HOLMES: Yes, very emotional, but this is a pretty nice Donald here, not used to seeing this guy, actually.

VARGAS: Right.

HOLMES: So what's the -- I mean, it's nice...

VARGAS: Certainly not the Donald that we have seen on "The Apprentice", right?

HOLMES: Yes. So why?

VARGAS: Well, you know, there was one interesting part in the news conference where Trump actually paused and asked the media if they ever made a mistake, would they want a second chance? So I think that's pretty much why he did that. And I think it was so unexpected and refreshing.

Now, Conner was very tearful. And you saw her given her second chance. The Kentucky native says that she got caught up in the excitement of the Big Apple and engaged in underage drinking. Now, she just celebrated her 21st birthday yesterday.

Conner has agreed, though, to go to rehab to work through her problems. Here's what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CONNER: I wouldn't say that I'm an alcoholic. I think that that would be pushing the envelope just a little. But I'm willing -- I mean, anytime that anyone gives you free anything, let's talk about therapy. Or let's talk about any kind of rehab. We all have personal demons that we have to face at some point or another.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VARGAS: The beauty queen received her sash on April 21st this year and has several months left to prove herself as a role model for young girls.

Well, later we have a "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT" exclusive. Former Miss USA Shanna Moakler and Miss USA Kelly McCartney react to the saving of Tara Conner, Donald Trump's startling decision not to fire Miss USA.

Plus, Tara Conner in her own words, her dramatic and tearful appearance with Donald Trump shown in its entirety only on TV's most provocative entertainment news show, "SHOWBIZ TONIGHT", 11:00 p.m. Eastern on HEADLINE PRIME.

Back to you.

HOLMES: All right.

VARGAS: The saga continues, T.J.

HOLMES: It continues. But still, I have to say, I was kind of a big fan of the runner-up, Tamico Nash. I wouldn't have minded if she got that crown, but...

VARGAS: Very pretty girl and...

HOLMES: Yes.

Thank you, Sibila.

VARGAS: T.J. loves the pretty girls.

Yes, he does.

HOLMES: But Miss California she was -- she deserved it as well.

PHILLIPS: You've got to watch the rest of that interview, Sibila. You know, she's talking about her personal demons, next thing you know, Donald Trump is jumping in and cutting her off. She started having a real moment and he jumps up and goes, that's enough of the personal demon talk. You're going to be just fine. Didn't want to give too much away, right?

VARGAS: Exactly.

HOLMES: Yes.

(CROSSTALK)

VARGAS: We've all been there.

PHILLIPS: No details. We all got those personal demons. All right.

HOLMES: We're following that story on CNN.com. A lot more. You can see that whole interview, I believe. The whole press conference on CNN.com. So by all means, click away.

PHILLIPS: Straight ahead, how to steal almost a million. Thieves dressed up in military uniforms to pull off a heist outside a Baghdad bank. We'll have details on the lucrative caper straight ahead from the NEWSROOM.

HOLMES: And another day, other arrest in Britain's most sensational murder case. Detectives are calling this one significant. We're looking at all the evidence in the so-called Suffolk Strangler case. That's next in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey babe, it's Lance Corporal Timothy Kretchman (ph) from Al Assad, Iraq. I'd like to give a south-out to my girlfriend, Brittany Richardson (ph) in Greenville, North Carolina. I miss you and love you babe so very much. And can't wait to be with you. Go, Pirates. And I'll see you soon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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