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CNN NEWSROOM

Protestors Gather at the Pentagon; Brutal Northeast Weather

Aired March 17, 2007 - 17:00   ET

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


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: All right, much more of THE NEWSROOM.
I'm Fredericka Whitfield.

Rick Sanchez right over there.

RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: I like the way you handled that.

WHITFIELD: Just for you, my friend.

SANCHEZ: I appreciate that. And look at all of those other things going on there.

Well, she stole the show on Capitol Hill yesterday. Not, not Valerie Plame Wilson. I'm going to be talking to the protester in the pink behind her. That's right.

See her right there? See the little circle in the background?

That's what so many people were watching yesterday and trying to figure out what that was all about. We're going to tell you. We're going to let you meet her.

Also, is the U.S. going broke?

You're going to want to hear what the government's chief accountant is saying. This may be the most important story of the week, if not the month, if not more.

Also, it looks gross, tastes awful, but is this the drink that is the new miracle cure for AIDS or is this just a sick joke?

You are in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Hello again, everybody.

I'm Rick Sanchez.

Let's start with this. We've got some pictures we want to show you of what would probably best be described as frayed nerves at airports all over the country. And we want to thank you through perhaps a bevy of these pics just to give you a feeling of what's going on, with thousands of travelers that are stranded for the second day in a row.

And this is because of the brutal winter storm in the Northeast. It's caused some massive delays and some cancellations, according to airlines.

U.S. Airways is one of those that's involved in this situation. These are not happy campers, folks. U.S. Airways has canceled some 500 flights today -- 500 -- 5-0-0. The airline says it hopes to get back to normal and on schedule some time tomorrow.

Now, there may be more to this than just the weather and we're going to be looking Atlanta angle, as well.

But before we go anywhere else, let's go to Jacqui and try and get a sense of what the weather has been around the country that has likely caused at least the precipitant to this problem -- Jacqui, take it away.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's been really incredible, Rick, the last day-and-a-half or so.

(WEATHER REPORT)

SANCHEZ: Now, to the nation's capital. That's where demonstrators are taking to the streets to mark the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War. And we're hearing reports that unlike other protests, this one has been a bit more tense, with some quasi clashes, you might say, between the pro-war and the anti-war factions.

Here's CNN's Gary Nurenberg.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

GARY NURENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 2007 march on the Pentagon began the Vietnam War Memorial, near the step-off point for the 1967 march on the Pentagon that helped galvanize opposition to the Vietnam War. Saturday's 30 degree temperatures were a long way from the heat of Iraq for Reserve Army sniper Garrett Rappenhager. He took part in nearly 200 missions in and near Baquba. He worries about friends still serving and wants them home now.

GARRETT RAPPENHAGER, IRAQ WAR VET: I feel that the military was hijacked by this administration and used immorally in a war of aggression.

NURENBERG: Counter-demonstrators confronted marchers as they passed the Lincoln Memorial. They, too, felt it important to be here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is my country and I love it. And I thank god for the president and all the president that really stands for freedom. That's what it's all about, freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I respect their point of view, but, you know, we're going to continue to represent the majority of America.

NURENBERG: Among speakers at the Pentagon rally, Seaman Jonathan Hutto, active duty, opposed to the war.

JONATHAN HUTTO, ANTI-WAR PROTESTER: Tell your Congressperson to get a backbone, go get a spine and to stand up on the mandate that the American people gave them last November.

NURENBERG: Demonstrators hope their actions here will make a difference.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But even if it doesn't, you know, just for one's own integrity, we have to come out with one's body to protest.

NURENBERG: What one Brooklyn man called an American tradition.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that's the history of this country, that when you see it you have to come out and say it loudly.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

NURENBERG: Loudly or quietly, some demonstrations plan to stay in Washington to lobby Congress, which next week considers funding for the war -- Mr. Sanchez.

SANCHEZ: They're kind of nasty with each other, but it's not like there have been any fist fights or anything like that, right, Gary?

NURENBERG: Pretty common. You know, when there are demonstrations on either side, there are usually counter-demonstrators or police. And, actually, the demonstrators themselves have learned to deal with them.

SANCHEZ: Yes, they know the rules and they play by them.

Thanks so much.

Gary Nurenberg reporting to us there from Washington.

Let's take you to New York now, where sealed indictments holding the fate of three police officers are going to be opened Monday. Each was involved in the shooting death of Sean Bell. That's the young groom killed on his wedding day. A huge story up in the Northeast. Obviously big with the tabloids up there in New York.

We've been following it, as well.

Senior correspondent Alan Chernoff has the latest on this case.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

ALLAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT:

(voice-over): A city that was on edge as the grand jury deliberated this week in the Sean Bell shooting case was relatively calm Saturday. Only a few dozen people showed at a rally to protest the fact that just three of the five officers who shot at the groom's car were indicted.

Monday morning, three police detectives who say they've done nothing wrong are to appear at this Queens courthouse to be arrested and fingerprinted. Detective Michael Oliver, who fired 31 shots at the car; undercover Detective Gescard Isnora, who fired first and shot 11 bullets; and Detective Marc Cooper, who fired four times.

Queens D.A. Richard Brown will reveal the grand jury's criminal charges.

The detectives were part of an undercover narcotics operation November 25th at the Kalua strip club in Jamaica, Queens, where Sean Bell was celebrating his bachelor's party. The NYPD says undercover Detective Isnora approached Bell's Nissan Ultima. Bell's car bumped the detective, then hit an undercover police minivan twice.

Five officers fired a total of 50 bullets at the car, killing Bell and wounding his friends, Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield. The victims were all unarmed.

Defense attorneys tell CNN they're disappointed, but not shocked that the grand jury chose to indicate three of the officers.

PHILIP KARASYK, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Consider it like a -- a two foot hurdle. To convict is like a 10 foot hurdle -- beyond a reasonable doubt. So there is a long way to go between an indictment and a conviction at trial.

CHERNOFF: Indeed, defense attorneys and the detectives' union chief predict the officers will be cleared of criminal charges at trial.

MICHAEL PALLADINO, DETECTIVES ENDOWMENT ASSOCIATION: These officers, as all of law enforcement officers do throughout the country, they get up every morning and they humbly go to work and acting in good faith, they try and protect the public. In this particular situation, that's what our detectives did.

CHERNOFF: Police officers were acquitted of murder charges in the 1999 case of Amadou Diallo, who was shot 41 times in his Bronx apartment building. That sparked widespread protests in New York and black activists warned it could happen again.

REV. Al SHARPTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We're going to fight until the end, until we get justice.

CHERNOFF: Alan Chernoff, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SANCHEZ: And there's this story. Tonight, our nation's capital still abuzz about Valerie Plame. CIA officials made it official yesterday that she was a covert operative who worked on secret missions overseas and that her being exposed did plenty of damage.

Well, that's what the CIA director had shared with the Congressional panel before the actual hearing.

As for Valerie Plame himself and what she said when she took the stand, here's CNN's Brian Todd.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE) BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Valerie Plame Wilson blames the White House for blowing her CIA cover.

VALERIA PLAME WILSON, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: My name and identity were carelessly and recklessly abused by senior government officials in both the White House and the State Department. All of them understood that I worked for the CIA.

TODD: But did anyone know she was covert or was blowing her cover just the accidental side-effect of a spin war?

REP. TOM DAVIS (R), VIRGINIA: Because there's no evidence here that anyone out there had any idea that it was an undercover agent.

TODD: A special prosecutor did not charge any administration officials for knowingly leaking classified information and the leakers themselves did not testify today.

But two White House security officials did.

REP. HARRY WAXMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Because the president said he was investigating this matter and was going to get to the bottom of it.

You don't -- you're not familiar that any -- you're not aware that any investigation took place?

JAMES KNODELL, WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF SECURITY: Not within my office, sir.

TODD: That does not sit well with Valerie Plame Wilson.

PLAME WILSON: Karl Rove clearly was involved in the leaking of my name and he still carries a security clearance to this day, despite the president's words to the contrary, that he would immediately dismiss anyone who had anything to do with this.

TODD: In an interview with CNN in 2004, Rove denied that he leaked her name. But columnist Robert Novak testified in the "Scooter" Libby trial that Rove was one of his sources for Plame Wilson's identity.

What's the point of her testimony now?

JIM VANDEHEI, POLITICO.COM: What Democrats want to do is put a human face on what's been a very long and complicated scandal. They want people to know that this wasn't just an abstract case about nothing. It was about somebody whose identity was blown and whose -- and whose career was essentially ruined.

TODD: we contacted the White House about Plame Wilson's remark that the administration did nothing to discipline Karl Rove for his alleged involvement in leaking her identity. A spokesman there would not comment.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEO TAPE)

SANCHEZ: And there's a lot of people talking about the protester in pink.

See here there at the top or your screen, left?

Well, she made a loud statement without ever saying a single word. Her name is Midge Potts and she's going to tell us why she was there, live, in about five minutes.

Inevitably, you're going to be partly to blame for the impending doom, as predicted by the government's financial experts.

Why doesn't someone grab the bull by the horns when it comes to our nation's economy and impending problems?

CNN's Jeff Greenfield -- he's going to coral a few answers from that rodeo of politics for us.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

JEFF KOINANGE, AFRICA CORRESPONDENT: Three-year-old Suleiman (ph) is getting his daily dose of a concoction of herbs and roots.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SANCHEZ: And a self-professed African healer says that he has the cure for AIDS.

Is he a shaman or a sham?

That and more ahead in THE NEWSROOM.

This is CNN. We're the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: And we welcome you back to the CNN NEWSROOM.

I'm Rick Sanchez.

Happy to have you back.

There is a lot going on.

And let's get to this story now. We told you about it when I was talking to Fred -- Fredericka -- earlier. It's Code Pink. It's a peace and social justice movement, primarily for women, by the way. It's committed to ending the war in Iraq through creative activism. That's what they say.

And one of its members certainly caught the national attention yesterday. During Valerie Plame Wilson's Congressional hearing, she was right there in the background. You've seen her in a lot of these videos, right? Well, her name is Midge Potts.

And she's good enough to join us now from Washington.

You know, we saw you and we were curious what your message was, so here you have an opportunity to share it with us.

why were you there? what were you trying to say?

MIDGE POTTS, CODE PINK: Well, I think it was plainly stated on my shirt that I was saying impeach Bush now. I was also saying that Americans should not be afraid to speak their views in that we live in a country where our government is supposed to be of the people and we need to remind our representatives of that.

SANCHEZ: Well, why hasn't it been of the people? Where's the problem here?

We've got a working democracy, people are making decisions. Some of them are saying they're against the war and they're trying to work their way out of it. Others are saying no, I'm for it, and they're trying to work their way through it.

So isn't that democracy?

POTTS: Is that democracy?

Well, the American people voted in November overwhelmingly, I believe, a mandate to bring the troops home from Iraq. And I think that our representatives aren't listening to the American people as much as they are listening to lobbyists and their corporate contributors, who have an interest in the war.

Many of these representatives have an interest in the war. They get donations from Raytheon, Halliburton, Exxon Mobil and any number of corporations.

SANCHEZ: So what do you want them to do, Midge?

POTTS: Put the...

SANCHEZ: What do you want those officials that you saw there and stood before in Washington -- although you didn't get a chance to talk to them -- if you had had a chance to talk to them, to that Congressional hearing that you were before yesterday, what would you have said to them?

POTTS: Well, I have talked to quite a few representatives and senators over the last several weeks. I have lobbied, talked to my own senator, Claire McCaskill; talked to an aide of Kit Bond and asked them to stop funding the war.

So short of that, I think impeachment is the only answer to stop Bush from his single-minded...

SANCHEZ: So you want them to stop funding the war, A, and you want them to impeach George Bush, B? That's -- that's the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?

POTTS: Sure. I switched it to the impeach during the Valerie Plame hearing mainly because it seems like that the Democrats or -- are going to push the supplemental through. At the appropriations hearing on Thursday, they would not let the public into the hearing. And as the public was outside yelling, "Let us in!" about 30 or 40 people, three people were arrested and police brutality, basically, resigned the day on Wednesday afternoon.

SANCHEZ: Is this just about the war for you, or are there other causes, as well, that you and or organization have taken on?

POTTS: Well, sure. It's primarily about the war because the war is costing us -- has cost us hundreds of billions of dollars, trillions of dollars, even, if you throw in the regular military budget. And other issues, other things that need to be -- other policies...

SANCHEZ: Like what? Like what?

Share with us what.

POTTS: Like health care, education, decent schools, the ability for people to get education and have career opportunities besides the military. I really believe that a lot of students -- a lot of people are being -- are joining the military because they really have no other career options right now.

SANCHEZ: Midge Potts, we thank you so much for joining us.

And we thank you for sharing your perspective with us on this, one that a lot of people saw yesterday, but didn't get a chance to hear.

POTTS: OK, thank you very much.

Dontbuybushswar.org.

SANCHEZ: All right.

We thank you for your comments once again.

Social Security, Medicare, massive strains on the federal budget.

Has the government just promised too much?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID WALKER, U.S. COMPTROLLER GENERAL: Our long range problem is much worse and it's very close to becoming a reality because boomers start retiring next year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: Coming up from the NEWSROOM, a warning from out of Washington's top bean counters. What he says?

We're going broke, and if we don't stop now, it's going to be out of control.

Also ahead, Americans losing patience with the war in Iraq, nearly four years old with no end in sight.

They're there. We are, too. Our cameras on both sides of that issue.

And then from the West African nation of Gambia, claims of a miracle cure for AIDS?

We'll question it.

We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Welcome back.

We've moved over to the control. This is where we basically make the news happen for you. This is also where we tend to follow a lot of the videos that have been coming in on many of these matters that you see behind me.

As a matter of fact, White House hopeful John McCain is in some of those. He just couldn't pass up stumping on St. Patrick's Day.

And what luck could be gained in doing that, you ask?

Well, the Republican senator from Arizona today returned to New Hampshire after yesterday's snowstorms prompted a few canceled appearances.

Joining McCain on the Granite State campaign trail, Connecticut Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, as well as Delaware Senator Joseph Biden.

And we're going to be following all of those.

Well, whoever wins the 2008 presidential election is going to have to deal with the financial realities of a nation that's growing older, termed in "impending doom" by one such expert. That's the word he used -- "impending doom," something a lot of the candidates aren't talking about or paying enough attention to.

So says the person you are about to meet, who's brought to you by CNN's senior analyst, Jeff Greenfield.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT:

(voice-over): As long as this presidential campaign has begun months earlier than in times past, maybe the candidates could put some of this time to good use. No, not by running from New York to sunny California in search of campaign cash and not with carefully managed Internet chats. Maybe they could spend some of this time talking very clearly and specifically about their plans to keep America from going broke.

WALKER: Very busy.

GREENFIELD: That's the goal of this man, David Walker, the comptroller general of the United States. That's the government's accountant in chief.

WALKER: Daunting fiscal realities...

GREENFIELD: In the last few years, has been going around the country telling anyone who will listen that we're headed for an economic train wreck of catastrophic proportions. It's a message millions of Americans heard a week or so ago on "60 Minutes."

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "60 MINUTES," COURTESY CBS NEWS)

WALKER: Serious adverse consequences...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GREENFIELD: A message Walker is happy -- maybe happy is not quite the right word -- to deliver to us, as well -- that we're spending way more than we're taking in.

WALKER: And, really, tough choices are going to have to be made to reform Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, to reform our tax system and to re-engineer spending.

GREENFIELD: The problem is you, if you're one of the 78 million baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964. The oldest of you will start hitting the Social Security rolls next year. By 2011, you'll start being eligible for Medicare. And that's where the real trouble begins.

There just isn't enough money, Walker says, to cover what the government has promised to do.

Now, back in the 1980s, Republican President Reagan and the Democratic House hammered out a fix on Social Security, at a time when that system was perilously close to a disaster.

WALKER: We were within weeks of the checks not going out on time.

GREENFIELD: And now?

WALKER: Our long range problem is much worse and it's very close to becoming a reality because boomers start retiring next year.

GREENFIELD: And that means some very tough choices, like trimming benefits or having seniors pay more of their health costs or raising taxes. But most Democrats want more benefits and for most Republicans, tax cuts, not tax hikes, are the first, second, third and fourth commandments. Which is why Walker is, in effect, campaigning with experts from the left, right and center.

His purpose?

WALKER: Try to make sure that any serious candidate for the president, and, most importantly, the two nominees for the major parties, that they make fiscal responsibility one of their top three priorities. If they don't, they don't deserve to be president. And if they don't, we're in trouble.

GREENFIELD (on camera): And what are the odds that a credible presidential candidate will face these tough choices head-on?

About the same odds that you'll be seeing snow on this California landscape any time soon.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

SANCHEZ: Well, I'm going to be sharing something with you now, because it's a very important day in our nation's capital.

There are protesters who come back from the war -- I mean active duty soldiers, in many cases, who are protesting the war and many who are saying I'm for the war -- two positions, two controversial positions, depending on how you look at it.

There they are right there. Against the war, you see the gentleman right there in the black t-shirt.

You see the gentleman to the right with the patriotic tie?

He's going to be telling us that he is for the war.

I'm going to ask them four sets of questions -- the same questions to all four -- so we can contrast their points of view. Stay with us. It's going to be interesting. We're going to sharing that with you in just a little bit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can swear 100 percent that this medical -- this herbal medication his Excellency is using is working.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: And then, miracle cure or pointless potion?

That's Gambia's president. He claims to have discovered a cure for AIDS. We use the word claim there for a very specific reason.

We did mention he's got no formal medical training, didn't we?

Well, if we didn't, we need to.

Stay with CNN for more on this controversy.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: Remember we told you at the beginning of the newscast about what's going on in airports all over the country?

Huge delays. Really, you don't see a lot of smiles there, do you?

Those are people who are really stuck at airports. They're unhappy about it, but apparently -- we're trying to get more information on this. Obviously it's affected by the weather and not just the weather today, but the weather over the last couple of days.

These are the pictures of the stranded, delayed travelers, I believe. This is Charlotte, North Carolina that we're looking at right there. What we're hearing from some of the airlines is that not only are they backed up because of some of the weather today, but that as a result, a lot of the flights had been pushed back, different planes out of position. So now many of the airlines are in a situation where they're literally trying to play catch-up in places like Charlotte, Baltimore, Washington, and also in New York. It's a brutal winter storm in the northeast. It's caused massive delays and cancellations there.

The big question is U.S. Airways though. They alone of all the airlines have cancelled the most flights, 500 at last check. We put in calls to them to try and find out exactly what's going on, to try and get more information from them. We're hoping to hear from them. If we do we'll certainly share that information with you.

Now, back to the other story that we're following during this newscast. Anti-war and pro-war demonstrators are telling their stories in our nation's capital today. This on the four-year anniversary of the Iraq war. Here are thousands of critics that took to the streets today in our nation's capital. There you see the video, coming in to us all day long.

Today's weather by the way in Washington served as a bit of an appropriate background. Somewhat blustery there. Those are the ones who are against the war. Now let's show the other ones, these are the protesters, I guess the demonstrators might be a better word, that are for the war, they're countering the other protest. They were organized presumably to diminish the anti-war message and their sentiment. And we've heard that there have been some minor skirmishes back and forth but nothing physical.

All right let's start here, navy veteran Charlie Anderson, he served in the Iraq war, he retired just a couple of years ago. And his stance on the war, totally against it. He was there, he has the right to speak out as does any American, so we begin with you, Charlie. What is your opinion of the war?

CHARLIE ANDERSON, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Well, we were lied into the war to begin with. When we choose to -- we being the military, when we choose to serve there is an inherent trust there between us and our government that we're not going to be used or misused --

SANCHEZ: Why do you think we went to this war? Why do you think we're there?

ANDERSON: You know I don't know why we went to this war. Because that mission has always been changing and I'm not really going to speculate on that. The issue -- the issue here at this point, Rick, is that we have 160,000 people in harm's way right now that aren't getting the proper equipment, aren't getting the proper training, and have a mission that's ever-changing, and they're stuck in the middle of a foreign civil war. The only way to really support them is to end that conflict.

SANCHEZ: Has this war, do you think, improved our nation -- speaking as a soldier, you were over there -- has this war improved our standing as a nation internationally? Or conversely hurt it?

ANDERSON: It's hurt our standing in the nation. This war totally squandered all of the good will that we had in the international community after 9/11. We have further bogged down and taken our military pretty much to the breaking point. And then when we come home, as we've seen the last couple of weeks, the military healthcare system, the Veterans Administration, is not set up to handle the casualties and results of that war.

SANCHEZ: Final question, what does the other side not get? Those who in some cases go to extremes and would call someone like you unpatriotic? What don't they get about this war and your understanding of it?

ANDERSON: Well, that actually did happen to me this morning when I got to the protest late, and because of the way that security was structured, my traveling companion and I had to walk through the pro- war demonstrators who called me a traitor, they called her a whore, they spit on me and called me a bunch of other names that I'm not going to repeat. What they don't get is that we are -- we're people. And that we're Americans. And we know that what this war is costing us is the lives of our generation. My brothers and sisters. And we are weakening the United States. We're not strengthening it by going against the international community. And going into unilateral wars that have no purpose.

SANCHEZ: Charlie Anderson, we thank you for being on and sharing your perspective. You certainly have the right to say what you think as an American, but most importantly in your case, as a veteran, as someone who's actually seen it first up. We thank you, my friend.

Also the other side of the coin now. Joe Johnson, like Charlie, he served in the Iraq war as well. Joe's youngest son, Justin, also went to fight in Iraq. Sadly enough, he died. Despite that, Joe still supports the war. Joe, I'm going to ask you the same questions that I asked Charlie. First of all, start us off. Your opinion of the war?

JOE JOHNSON, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: As most people knew, nobody likes war. But sometimes it's unavoidable. 9/11 thrust us into this war that we couldn't really not get out of. President Bush said that it wasn't going to be an easy solution, it wasn't going to be a quick solution. And so we went in there to get the job done. Unfortunately, it's taken longer than he expected. But --

SANCHEZ: Let me stop and ask you and I think you've given me part of the answer already, because a lot of people are still trying to figure out in this country and this is part of the controversy, why do you think we went into Iraq specifically? Don't talk about the war on terror, tell me about Iraq.

JOHNSON: About Iraq?

SANCHEZ: Yes.

JOHNSON: I think mainly to take Saddam out of power. Which we should have done back in '91, I believe it was.

SANCHEZ: Do you believe that Saddam Hussein then and Iraq was tied to the war on terror? Despite evidence that has shown to the contrary?

JOHNSON: Well, I think it was proven that there was some terrorist camps being operated in Iraq. And we took them out. And there was nothing anyone could say that would convince me otherwise, that the world's a safer place without Saddam out of power.

SANCHEZ: Fair enough. Let me go to my next question, the same one that I asked Mr. Anderson. Do you think that this war has improved or hurt our standing in the world?

JOHNSON: I think it has done both. I think -- a lot of countries know that when we say something, especially with President Bush in power, we're going to do it. Unlike other presidents we've had before. And if these other countries need help, we're going to come in and help them.

SANCHEZ: Despite the angry protests and the demonstrations and the burning the American flag?

JOHNSON: That's right.

SANCHEZ: When you see those scenes, what do you think then?

JOHNSON: Well, I think there's a lot of people that really don't have the whole story. My youngest son was killed over there. He volunteered to go. He didn't get stuck in Iraq like John Kerry likes people to think. I did not get stuck in Iraq --

SANCHEZ: Just to be fair to John Kerry, he says that he was not specifically talking about the troops, and he meant it as a joke, and he was criticizing the president, not the troops when he made that comment.

JOHNSON: That was a very bad joke.

SANCHEZ: Ok. Final question, the same one that we asked Charlie Anderson. What does the other side -- people like Charlie -- not get about you, Mr. Johnson? Those people who go to even extremes and would say to someone like you, that you're a war monger. Those kind of labels. What do they not understand about you and your cause?

JOHNSON: I consider myself a patriot. You know, back in the '60s and '70s, the old catch phrase was, make love, not war. Well, you know, I'm all for making love but as I said before, sometimes war is unavoidable. And if our forefathers had have went along with that same way of thinking, we might would be speaking German or Japanese today. So sometimes we have to fight.

SANCHEZ: Joe Johnson, Charlie Anderson, both proud Americans, proud veterans who have served this country honorably, we thank you for both of your opinions on this interesting day in our nation's capital.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: No thank you, sir.

As Iraqi insurgents step up their attacks on U.S. helicopters the army is adapting by incorporating the latest lessons from the battlefield as it trains new chopper pilots for combat as well. And for a lot of that training pilots don't even leave the ground, we now understand. Here's Jamie McIntyre, he's reporting from the army's premiere helicopter flight school, it is interestingly enough in southern Alabama.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Welcome to the unfriendly skies of Fallujah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say we're taking some kind of a large caliber fire, RPG --

MCINTYRE: I'm sitting next to Major Mike Hansen, an instructor pilot as we dodge flack in a Blackhawk over Iraq. Except we're actually in a simulator 7,000 miles away. But it sure feels real.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow, I think we actually pulled some Gs on that turn.

MCINTYRE: Hansen is demonstrating a technique called run and dive, it's the opposite of the old cold war doctrine of holding a position and firing from long range. In Iraq, that could be a fatal mistake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The longer you stay in one general location, the more interest you are going to bring upon yourself.

MCINTYRE: Simulators like this one at the army's aviation war fighting center at Ft. Rucker, Alabama allow pilots in training to fly the same missions they'll fly in combat, without the danger. What kind of feedback do you get from the pilots who go through this training and then actually fly the real mission? MAJ. MIKE HANSEN, APACHE INSTRUCTOR PILOT: As they see it, then they're thinking gosh, you know this is just like what we were flying at Ft. Rucker in the simulation center. Obviously we don't have every single building out here. And a lot of the weather effects may not be the same depending on what time of year they show up.

MCINTYRE: But that's changing too. This next generation, virtual recreation of Fallujah, does have every single building and is constantly updated from satellite images. Brendan Kelly's working on a program that allows pilots to rehearse their mission on a laptop. All of these buildings are exactly where they are?

BRENDAN KELLY, SIMULATION PROGRAMMER: Yes, and they are dimensionally and height-wise accurate.

MCINTYRE: And the trees too?

KELLY: Yes, they are all placed based on the imagery.

MCINTYRE: Back in the simulator we've hit a building, encountering the red screen of death.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You fly into something in the virtual environment, you're going to crash as well.

MCINTYRE: Someday, in the not too distant future, the technology may be so good that pilots will fly unmanned aircraft into battle by remote control. But the experience may still have a familiar side effect of flight.

Actually I was getting a little motion sick there. Jamie McIntyre, CNN, Ft. Rucker, Alabama.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: And this story, the cure for AIDS? Namibia's president says he has it. AIDS patients in his country are backing him up. The story behind these shocking claims is just ahead.

And then a cat's rage is all the rage in Youtube. This is a television reporter. She gets a little bit -- say freaked out by a cat. You're going to actually see it happen. Everybody's talking about this. We want you to see it so you can talk about it too. You're in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: We welcome you back. As health officials fret about America's expanding waistline there is a new worry. Getting country's poor access to healthy food. We're going to have a story now for you that's brought by our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. And it looks at so-called food deserts.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When Tisha Temple needs to feed her family, she spends $6 on the bus ride there, another $10 to take a cab back from her nearest grocery store, which is a 45-minute journey.

TISHA TEMPLE: Where there's a car lot at right now, it was a grocery store called Wade's and that was the big grocery store out here for us until they closed down. Other than that we had nothing.

GUPTA: Welcome to what experts call the food desert, where there is little help for residents who may want to buy healthy food but can't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ok, sir, that's nine, eight, nine, ten, ten it's 20. Thank you, have a good day.

GUPTA: Vegetables come in cans sold at corner convenience stores. Meat is one of the fast food varieties and the only fruit is what's in jars sold at liquor stores. Researcher Mary Gallagher measured the distance to every single grocery store and fast food store in Chicago. The results were shocking.

MARY GALLAGHER, RESEARCHER: What we found is that over 500,000 Chicagoans live in what we call a food desert, areas with no or distant grocery stores. But ironically nearby fast food options.

GUTPA: Researchers speculate the reason supermarket chains aren't in these so-called deserts is they don't see these areas as moneymakers. And the study found food deserts aren't just an inconvenience, they have dire health consequences.

GALLAGHER: Areas that have no or distant grocery stores but nearby fast food have a much greater likelihood of their residents suffering from diet related diseases, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke.

GUPTA: The study sparked city leaders' interests. The Chicago City Council says it will try to find ways to encourage grocery stores to move in.

GALLAGHER: The bottom line is you can't choose healthy food if you don't have access to it.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Atlanta.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: That's the crew diligently working there on the 10:00 newscast I'm going to bring you tonight.

But first this, Sub Sahara, Africa is where we're going to be taking you here now. Home to about two-thirds of the world's HIV patients. That man, see him right there, he's a politician, he's not a doctor. He says he can cure AIDS with a homemade concoction. Africa correspondent Jeff Koinange reports from Gambia, it's a small sliver of a country right there on the Atlantic Ocean. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three year old (INAUDIBLE) is getting his daily dose of a concoction of herbs and roots. This bottle that once contained an Aunt Jemima pancake syrup mix, now contains seven herbs and spices. A spoonful a day he's told will make him better. His mother Futuma does the same for herself, as do several dozen other patients here. All guinea pigs in an experiment that's as controversial as it is unconventional. It all started when this man, a 41-year-old former army colonel, now the country's president, announced to foreign diplomats two months ago that he personally would begin treating AIDS patients with a mixture of plants told to him in a dream by his ancestors. The president, who insists on wearing all white robes and always carries a copy of the Koran, has no formal medical training. But he does claim his family has a history of healing people through traditional African medicine. The president says he can only heal AIDS patients on Mondays and Thursdays, while he heals asthma and bronchitis patients only on Wednesdays. Friday is a day of prayer in this mostly Muslim nation of 1.5 million people. Two weeks into her treatment, Fatuma swears she's fast regaining her appetite, feels strong enough to run a mile, and has nothing but good things to say about her healer president. Nothing can convince her that his powers are anything short of supernatural.

FATUMA, AIDS PATIENT: It's incredible she says. I thought I was going to die. Now I feel like I've been reborn.

KOINANGE: (INAUDIBLE) says he's been HIV positive since 1996, and had been taking antiretrovirals for the last four years. Until he volunteered for this program. Four weeks later he says he's gained 30 pounds and feels like a new person.

OUSMAN SOW, AIDS PATIENT: I am cured at this moment..

KOINANGE: What you don't have any HIV symptoms?

SOW: No, I don't. I can honestly tell you that I am ceased to have any HIV symptoms.

KOINANGE: It's the same reaction we get with patient after patient here. None of them appear as if they've been coached or coaxed into telling us how they feel.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm jumping, running, eat fine, I drink water plenty, I'm happy now.

SOW: I give 100 percent credit to this treatment.

KOINANGE: It's difficult to verify the authenticity of their testimony. Though the government has said it has scientific evidence, it did not provide any to CNN.

(on camera): We came to the Gambia at the specific request of the office of the president. We figured he was ready to tell his story to the world. We've been here five days now and every time we make an attempt to call the president's office, we're given one excuse or another. Then we tried the next best thing -- trying to get medical records of the so-called AIDS patients to prove they are indeed on the mend. That too has not been forthcoming.

(voice-over): One man who's willing to put his medical license on the line in defense of his president's so-called herbal cure, he is not surprisingly the country's health minister. A trained physician, (INAUDIBLE) boasts degrees from medical universities in Ireland and the Ukraine.

DR. TAMSIR MBOWE, GAMBIAN HEALTH MINISTER: I can swear 100 percent that this medical -- this herbal medication his Excellency is using is working. It has the potential to treat and cure patients infected with the HIV virus.

KOINANGE: There are people who are going to watch this interview and say, come on, man, you guys must be kidding. What do you tell them?

MBOWE: I will tell them that as a western medical trained doctor, I've seen his Excellency, my leader, coming up with medical herbal medications that are able to treat and cure patients infected with HIV virus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it makes you wonder, what motivates such people?

KOINANGE: Not everyone's convinced a medicine man with a bunch of plants has been able to find a cure for a disease that's wiped out entire generations across Africa. In fact, some like Professor Jerry Covardia of the University of (INAUDIBLE) in South Africa, insists what the Gambian president is doing is both misleading and damaging. To not only the patients but the health profession as well.

DR. JERRY COOVADIA, SOUTH AFRICA MEDICAL COUNCIL: When someone like the president of a country in Africa comes up publicly with a suggestion which is certainly not rooted in any credible experiments or any credible proof, then one is especially worried.

KOINANGE: Gambia's health minister welcomes any and all so- called doubters.

MBOWE: I am a scientist and a professor and a medical doctor who wants to verify whether the treatment is effective or not, you are welcome.

KOINANGE: A spokeswoman for the United Nations based in the Gambia who spoke out against the president's so-called cure found herself in deep trouble. Kicked out of the country within 48 hours. No one around here dares question a man whose face appears just about everywhere in this tiny nation. A nation so impoverished and underdeveloped it's been ranked among the world's poorest. Experts say it's in places like the Gambia that the poor and desperate will latch on to anything resembling hope. In this case, hope provided by a man who claims he has healing powers. Jeff Koinange, CNN, Banjul in the Gambia. (END OF VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: We want to come back here now to show you some video that we want to point out for you because just about everybody's talking about it. We're behind B control and this is those box monitors that we get. You've probably seen me do as many strange live shots or reports as anybody here or just about any network. I've been shocked, I've been underwater where I've had to try to get out of a car. But I've never seen anything like this. It's the story of a cat and a reporter that didn't get or didn't expect that the cat would be this ornery. Here it is Roger.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi Bill and Stacy. Well the couple is accused of throwing two cats like this one here out of their car and killing them. This little guy's having fun but now as part of their sentence the couple is going to have to come right -- oh!

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

SANCHEZ: No, the little guy is not having fun. He's not having fun. Drop him, let him go. Oh my goodness. Never share the stage with kids or animals or so the saying goes. Reporter Kathleen Cochran she found out the hard way. Boy I'll tell you, she's a trooper though. She came back later on and finished her report, she was practically in tears because of the pain but said to be ok. She was doing a live shot by the way for WJW in Cleveland, Ohio, when the cat that she was holding, well, held her, got a hold of her. The embarrassing moment was not only seen by viewers, it's made itself infamous now in cyberspace, the video is on Youtube. Over and over again. That's it for us for this hour. There's still much more ahead though right here. A check of the headlines is coming up in just a little bit and then Lou Dobbs this week. And I'll be back with your top stories in just three minutes.

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