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Murdered & Missing: Soldiers' Stories; Is Wolfowitz Out?; Gun Dealer Raid: Will it Cut Crime in New Orleans?

Aired May 17, 2007 - 08:00   ET


KIRAN CHETRY, CNN ANCHOR: To Iraq now, and two developing stories involving U.S. soldiers. Two military officers have now been relieved of duty in the wake of last year's gruesome kidnap and murder plot by insurgents that left three soldiers dead. Meanwhile, there are new developments in the search for three soldiers still missing this morning after another ambush.
CNN's Barbara Starr is at the Pentagon with the latest on the investigation into the murdered troops.

We also have Arwa Damon on the phone embedded with troops who are looking for the soldiers that are missing now.

We begin though with Barbara.

What's the latest on this investigation, Barbara?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to you, Kiran.

This is all the result of an incident that happened last June in Yusufiyah, not all that far from the so-called Triangle of Death where U.S. troops are now still searching for those three missing soldiers. But last June three U.S. soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division were basically murdered. That is the only way to put it.

They were at an observation post at the end of a bridge, they came under attack. Two of the soldiers were kidnapped, taken away, found later murdered and mutilated. So that was an incident of major concern.

The investigation now over. And here is what they found.

The observation post where this incident happened, where the soldiers were kidnapped, staffed by only the three soldiers. There were just too few soldiers there. That these soldiers were at the observation post too long to remain alert.

Their force protection measures were inadequate. No immediate fire support available. And any potential rescue forces were more than 15 minutes away.

The investigation also found that this unit of the 101st airborne division had really suffered a significant number of combat losses, and that led to some of the poor performance by the unit, and to the ultimate tragedy, these soldiers coming under attack. One murdered at the scene, and again, something that sounds just very eerie right now given the current circumstances. Two of those soldiers taken away, found later murdered and mutilated -- Kiran.

CHETRY: And any criminal punishments at this point?

STARR: No criminal punishment. What they found said -- led them to believe there didn't need to be criminal punishment, but the platoon leader and the company commander, they were relieved of duty. That is the only punishment so far that has been given.

The bottom line in this whole incident, Kiran, the military found that their mission that night was inadequately planned, executed, and they were poorly trained for it -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Barbara, thank you.

And now we want to get to CNN's Arwa Damon. She is embedded with troops in Iraq. They are now on the hunt for those three missing soldiers.

You just got back from yet another one of these searches, Arwa. What is the latest?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kiran, the search does continue. And they are really looking for just about any lead that they possibly can.

In fact, a unit just went out to try to follow up on one of those leads, get any further information that they can. But as if this couldn't get any worse, it is actually raining right now, although many of the soldiers will welcome that, as opposed to the heat.

But this is quite the intense search. And in some degrees, it is very frustrating because they do keep following up on these leads. Some of them credible intelligence, but they are still coming up dry.

Truth be told, the commanders here are saying that they really don't know where their men are. The only thing they can do is to continue acting upon this intelligence.

And the unit that I'm with right now, these were actually the men -- the company, Delta Company, and that is where the kidnapped and killed soldiers were from. We're about right now, I'd say, less than a mile from the site where the attack took place. These men obviously taking this very hard, but still determined to press on -- Kiran.

CHETRY: And what's it like when you're out there? How dangerous? What are the conditions like?

DAMON: Well, to give you an idea, before we set out we were briefed. And the briefing was something along the lines, when you exit the vehicle, stay on the pavement. When we move into the fields and farmlands, run. Look at what you are stepping on, every single foot you put down.

That's how dangerous this area is, that's how deadly the roadside bombs are here. In fact, just about every soldier I spoke to was talking about either having a close call with a roadside bomb or actually being hit by a roadside bomb.

Now, the other thing in this area, too, is that the vegetation is very dense, it's very thick. It's right along the Euphrates River valley, and at times when you're moving through this area you actually can't even see in front of you. And we did drive past the site where Saturday's attack took place, and the entire road line right next to it is filled with this thick vegetation. That is what they believe gave the insurgents the cover to be able to carry out this attack -- Kiran.

CHETRY: And just one other quick thing. Have you gotten any sense from the troops that you're with there, embedded, the more days that go on that we don't hear anything, good news or bad news?

DAMON: Well, Kiran, obviously everyone is very aware that time is important. And in some sense, it's bad news that they haven't heard anything. But on the other hand, given that they still haven't seen any insurgent video, they view that as being an element of good news.

But I have to say, the men here are clinging on to the hope that they will find their comrades alive. And everyone is really vowing that no matter what happens, they will retrieve their missing men and there really is -- and these are young men for the most part.

Some are just 19, 20, 21. And some of the things that they have seen are really quite atrocious. And you see it bearing on their faces. But at the same time, you see this complete and total utter determination to get the job done. A certain level of maturity that really does exist out here -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Arwa Damon reporting, embedded with that -- with the group of soldiers now on the search for their missing men.

Thank you.

ROBERTS: Hamas is threatening this morning to renew its suicide bombing campaign against Israel. The threat is in response to this morning's Israeli air strike in Gaza.

These new pictures just in to CNN.

A large explosion struck a Hamas compound in central Gaza City today, wounding at least five people, Palestinian witnesses and medical officials said. The air strike is in retaliation for Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli towns outside of Gaza. And then, of course, there's all that fighting between Hamas and Fatah going on there as well.

The White House is said to be brokering a deal that would get Paul Wolfowitz out as president of the World Bank.

CNN's Zain Verjee is following the story. She joins us now.

So, what do you think, is he going to cut this deal? Is he going to leave?

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN STATE DEPT. CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's the big question. Right now there is a deadlock between the two sides. Paul Wolfowitz and the U.S. on the one side, the World Bank board on the other. Both sides staring each other down, waiting to see who's going to blink first.

Now, administration sources are telling us that negotiations are under way, and what they are really looking for is a face-saving way out. The proposal on the table is this: Paul Wolfowitz resigns, and the World Bank accepts some sort of responsibility or some sort of culpability for handling the transfer of pay raise and promotion of Wolfowitz's companion, Shaha Riza.

The deliberations are going to continue today. Administration sources have also said a decision is going to come soon. Wolfowitz's lawyer, Robert Bennett, has said he's just not going to resign under any cloud, so that kind of leaves the door open for a resignation, without Wolfowitz taking full blame.

ROBERTS: We saw the statements from the White House a couple of days ago that "all options are on the table." Have they pretty much resigned themselves to the fact that he's going?

VERJEE: Yes. Our sources there say pretty much, yes. You know, the situation, they say, is really grim, and they pretty much concluded that he can't stay.

One holdout is Vice President Cheney, who's still in Wolfowitz' corner, trying to make that happen and have him stay. One administration official put it this way, telling Ed Henry, "We want it over one way or another, but if you can't win you can't win."

ROBERTS: So what happens if these negotiations break down and they can't come to an agreement? Could the World Bank board just hit the eject button and send him out the front door?

VERJEE: That's one of their options. They could just say, you know what? We're going to fire you. But a lot of people are saying that that's just unlikely. They wouldn't want to isolate the U.S. on the board that way and create a situation of rupture between transatlantic relations, where the Europeans and the U.S. really poisoned the whole atmosphere over this.

They have got to work together. The G-8 is coming up, they are dealing with Iran and sanctions. They have various trade and economic ties. So, they are really pretty much looking for a face-saving way out.


VERJEE: And getting Wolfowitz out.

ROBERTS: And do you think it could come by the end of the day, or pushing this?

VERJEE: It could come pretty quickly.

ROBERTS: All right.

Zain, thanks very much -- Kiran.

CHETRY: It was one of the busiest gun shops in the U.S., and the feds say that a top seller of guns that ended up later being used in violent crimes. A Louisiana weapons dealer is out of business this morning after a sweeping raid by federal agents. So, will this help turn around a wave of violent crime in New Orleans?

AMERICAN MORNING'S Sean Callebs is live in Jefferson Parish, just outside of New Orleans

And Sean, what are investigators saying about this shop and also the crimes which we have heard have really gone up around New Orleans?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kiran, what we are hearing from the ATF, who is leading this investigation, this has basically been a way to funnel illegal guns on to the streets, leading to the spike in crime. Look at these numbers. Simply staggering numbers.

They say this investigation led to some 2.300 guns that had been used in crimes in the New Orleans area over the past five years. A hundred and twenty-five of those linked to murders. Five hundred of those, Kiran, linked to drug-related crimes.

They say a big problem, something called straw purchases.

Here's how the ATF explains that.


DAVID HARPER, ATF SPEC. AGENT IN CHARGE: We feel that a significant amount of the crime guns being recovered on the streets of New Orleans are being diverted into the illegal market through straw purchasing. Straw purchasing is a method by which a non-prohibited person fills out the paperwork and buys a firearm that is actually intended for a prohibited person.


CALLEBS: Boy, and the way the ATF explains that, Kiran, simply frightening. A blatant disregard for the law and the safety of this area. Someone who's not qualified to buy a gun simply walks in, someone who is buys the gun, and then sells or gives the gun to that individual -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Yes. And you said it's a 15-month long investigation. Why did they decide to launch that sting yesterday?

CALLEBS: It's interesting. The ATF says they're simply a danger to the public. They thought at this point it was the time. They had enough information, so it was time to move on this case. There's been a tremendous spike in the number of murders here in New Orleans, in Jefferson Parish, throughout the area, as well as these drug-related crimes -- Kiran.

CHETRY: Sean, thanks a lot.



CHETRY: A lot of bills, but still no dollar bills. Two amendments, one from Republicans and one from Democrats, both shot down in the Senate yesterday as the Iraq war-funding fight continues. So when will Congress get a passable bill to the president?

Well, Republican John Boehner is the House minority leader. He joins me this morning from Capitol Hill.

Good to see you, Congressman.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: Kiran, good morning.

CHETRY: Well, the Democrats say that they are getting closer to their goal. They want to put this benchmark language into the Collins-Warner bill.

When do you think Congress is going to have a passable bill that the president can sign?

BOEHNER: Well, Kiran, we shouldn't go home for the Memorial Day recess until Congress does its work. It's been 101 days now since the president asked the Congress to fund the war in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and to get the troops the resources they need to win.

And two weeks ago yesterday, the president had vetoed the first attempt at this bill. Democrat leaders and Republican leaders sat at the White House with the president and came to an agreement that we would work together to resolve our differences.

It was a good meeting. There was a lot of honest conversation. But here it is, it's been 15 days, and not one substantive conversation about trying to resolve the differences and to get the resources that our troops need if they're going to win in Iraq.

CHETRY: How do you resolve the differences, though, when there are two completely divergent opinions? The Democrats basically say they have a mandate from their constituents to do all they can to get us out of Iraq. The Republicans say, hold on a second, let's give General Petraeus a chance, at least until September, to do his job.

BOEHNER: Well, I think you've accurately put the case out there. The fact is, is that Petraeus was approved by the Senate 84-0. His plan was in full display. And we ought to give this plan a chance.

All the troops needed for these reinforcements won't be there until June. And we'll know over the next three or four months how it's going.

CHETRY: There are...

BOEHNER: But the fact is, is that the Democrats here in Congress know that the president will not sign a bill that ties the hands of our generals and puts this slow bleed strategy into place. And so I think there's some conversation we can have about benchmarks, but the fact is we cannot leave here before Memorial Day without having a clean bill on the president's desk that he can sign.

CHETRY: There are some questions about the effectiveness of the Iraq government itself. General Petraeus can do a bang-up job, and if he's not getting help with them, how far can it happen?

Let's hear what your fellow Republican and Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, said when he described the Iraqi government.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: The Iraqi government is a big disappointment. They have not yet done anything that we've asked them to do on important domestic issues in Iraq. They are running out of time to get their part of the job done.


CHETRY: Are they running out of time?

BOEHNER: Well, there's no question that for General Petraeus' plan to work, the Iraqi government needs to do its work. They need to put their debaathification law into effect. They need to work on unification. They need to figure out how they're going to distribute the oil revenue from their oil wells around to citizens.

Now, these are important steps that the Iraqis have to take. And our goal here is to help calm the violence in Baghdad, to give this government a time to do its work.


CHETRY: Yet, they've missed benchmark after benchmark, the president's State of the Union Address. They haven't met any of it.

BOEHNER: They are working towards those. And there has been some progress, but not nearly enough.

CHETRY: Let me ask you one other quick question, because it's on the minds of a lot of people. Gas prices, I know there was some hearings going on into the possibility that maybe the oil companies are gouging consumers.

Is there anything that you guys can do in Congress to make it -- make the pain a little less right now as we head into the busy summer season?

BOEHNER: Well, I think it's pretty clear that next week the House will take up a bill to make sure that there is not price gouging. I'm not sure that it's going to have much effect.

If we want to hold down energy prices and have more national security, we have got to find a way to get to energy independence. That means we need to conserve, that means we need alternative fuels, and it means we need more domestic production. And our friends across the aisle want to conserve everything, but you can't conserve much if you are operating on an empty gas tank.

We need more production in America.

CHETRY: All right. Republican John Boehner, House minority leader.

Thanks for your time.

BOEHNER: Thank you.

ROBERTS: Coming up, Hillary Clinton wants your help with her campaign. We'll tell you how she's using YouTube's spotlight.

And Paris Hilton won't be going to prison for another couple of weeks, but she has already gotten time off for good behavior. We'll tell you why.

Stay us with on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: Animal rescuers will try their best this morning to help save two humpback whales who made their way up river 70 miles inland near Sacramento, California. They're going to be playing whale sounds under water, hoping to be able to lure a mother and her calf, both of them injured, back towards San Francisco Bay, where they can heal in the saltwater.

We talked with a marine biologist on the scene earlier on AMERICAN MORNING, and she said that the whales may have been injured by a ship's propeller.


DR. FRANCES GULLAND, MARINE MAMMAL CENTER: We are very concerned about the animals, and especially the young calf with his injury. At this point, we really hope everything goes well. But we are really concerned about that, their health as well.


CHETRY: Dr. Gulland says that it will take quite an effort to be able to coax them back into the sea. She thinks that they can at least live for three weeks. That's how long another whale was trapped and was able to get back into the saltwater and survive.

ROBERTS: Coming up now to 24 minutes after the hour.

YouTube is showing its commitment to politics by giving each presidential candidate a week in the spotlight. This week it's Hillary Clinton's turn.

And our Jacki Schechner shows us how that's turning out.

What are they doing online?

JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: She is actually the first one to be really creative with this. She wants people to help pick her campaign song.

So, her YouTube spotlight video is going to link to her Web site, which has a list of possible songs. And they give you little snippets. You can play them, like "Suddenly I See". It gets into it a little bit. They've got a nice riff right there.

"Right Here, Right Now," Jesus Jones.

There's a whole selection, everything from the Temptations...

ROBERTS: Yes. That one's not bad, the one right now.

SCHECHNER: Yes, it's got a good beat. You can dance to it.

They also want people to submit their suggestions. And what she's done is she's gotten some interesting ones, like "I'm Too Sexy" or M. C. Hammer's "You Can't Touch This".

We wanted to give our own suggestion. We thought that Nora, the piano-playing cat, could perhaps compose an original score. And that would really juice up the campaign. You'd get people to...

ROBERTS: I want to hear the cat sing, too.

SCHECHNER: Well, what's interesting is that Hillary promises that she will not sing, whatever you choose, unless, of course, she wins the election.

ROBERTS: But she has sung in the not too distant past, right? A little off key.

SCHECHNER: That's a screen shot of her doing it there.

ROBERTS: But the "Right Here, Right Now" is pretty good.

SCHECHNER: It's not bad.

ROBERTS: I remember in 2004, I think the Bush campaign was playing "Right Now" by Van Halen.

SCHECHNER: Oh, I love that song.

ROBERTS: That wasn't the official theme song. Brooks & Dunn, "Only in America" was the official theme. But "Right Now" got a lot of play.

SCHECHNER: See, only you would know this. But there's your list of suggestions. ROBERTS: When you hear it 9,000 times in the course of 10 months, it does tend to stick with you.


ROBERTS: Jacki, thanks.

SCHECHNER: Of course.


CHETRY: All right.

Twenty-five after the hour now, and Ali Velshi is "Minding Your Business".



CHETRY: Yes, gold is nice.

VELSHI: All right. I've got the biggest gold coin in the world.

It was in New York, debuted yesterday. The Royal Canadian Mint, a good Canadian coin, has come up with it. It's a 220-pound gold bullion coin. There it is, 220 pounds -- and a Mountie next to it.

That is made from 99.999 percent gold bullion. It is the purest gold in the world.

CHETRY: There's the queen on it, right?

VELSHI: The queen -- like all Canadian coins, it has the queen on one face.

A face value of a million dollars, but it's actually worth a lot more than that because of the price of gold. It's worth $2.3 million.

CHETRY: There's the maple leaves, too. Are they always on the back of every one?

VELSHI: No. You can alternate what you have on the other side, but the queen is always on one side of the coin.

But it is called the -- the Canadian gold coin is called the Gold Maple Leaf. It's the most pure gold coin in the world.

It gained popularity after people stop buying the South African krugerrand during apartheid. And this is -- this became -- I mean, it's 99.999. It's called five (INAUDIBLE), just to talk about how pure it is.

I think we have a picture of it being made. They were only going to make one of them, and they've actually sold six already. So, they're making a lot of money on these things. CHETRY: Wow.

VELSHI: So some -- six people own a fancy, big 220-pound gold coin.

CHETRY: And what's the other point -- 1111111?

VELSHI: Yes, I don't know. That's a good question. You'd think if you could get it that pure you could get the whole thing...

CHETRY: Right. Pretty neat, though.


CHETRY: Good picture.

Thanks, Ali.

VELSHI: All right.

ROBERTS: Coming up, Dr. Sanjay Gupta opens up the mailbag and answers your questions. That's coming up in about 15 minutes' time.

And then you may be dead and not even know it. No, it's not that you're so tired. It's at least as far as your finances are concerned. How a simple mix-up can put you on the dead list.

You are watching AMERICAN MORNING. The most news in the morning is on CNN.


CHETRY: There's another beautiful shot this morning. That one coming to us from New Cork city, of course. I think you can see the Empire State Building right in the right-hand corner.

A little cloudy today. We had a big thunderstorm yesterday in the New York area, Connecticut, Massachusetts even. But hopefully it will be nicer today.

And welcome back. It's Thursday, May 17th.

I'm Kiran Chetry, here in New York.

ROBERTS: And I'm John Roberts, here in Washington.

The storms that rolled through yesterday, even here in Washington, it was cloudy one second, and then intense rain. Then it was clear the next.

A lot of news to get to this morning, we're going to talk with Senator Chuck Schumer, coming up, about the new pressure on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales following the testimony the other day of the former Assistant Attorney General James Comey.

We also have a story for anyone who carries a credit card. Imagine you wake up one morning and you're considered dead. In the world of finance and credit reports it could happen and you might not be aware of it. CNN's Keith Oppenheim has the amazing story of one woman who apparently is one of many Americans on the dead list.


MADELINE COBURN, "DEAD" CONSUMER: What did you do today?

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): For single mom Madeline Coburn, the rather shocking news came in March when her student loans were suddenly cut off.

OPPENHEIM (on camera): So, this is a student loan notice?


OPPENHEIM: What is it telling you?

COBURN: That I'm deceased.

OPPENHEIM (voice over): Deceased, as in six feet under.

(On camera): What was your first reaction when you heard you were dead?

COBURN: Like I'm doing now, I laughed. Because it's like come on, you see me. You know, how could I be dead?

OPPENHEIM (voice over): But it was anything but funny. Madeline's untimely and false death was connected to her very real and very shaky financial situation.

COBURN: Bank accounts frozen, can't do anything.

OPPENHEIM (on camera): It happened after one of her credit card accounts was turned over to a collection agency. The agency then called an old phone number and received some bad information.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone stated that they were your cousin and said that you had passed away on November 26th.

COBURN: Why would your company not verify that I was actually alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are not the client. They're supposed to find it out, not us.

OPPENHEIM (voice over): Madeline's bank, which reported her death to credit agencies, blamed the debt collector.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we get verification from a third party agency, as far as we know, they have verified that, yes, you are deceased.

COBURN: It can happen to anyone. That's what is scary. OPPENHEIM: Madeline's lawyer, Debra Lumpkin, says this case is not easy to fix. Because credit reporting agencies and banks concerned about fraud need verification she's alive.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to have proof of it.

COBURN: OK, you have to have proof that I'm not dead, but you didn't have to have proof to put I'm dead?

OPPENHEIM: Experts tell us embedded electronic data listing Coburn as dead can live for a very long time, haunting her financial future. Keith Oppenheim, CNN, St. Louis.


ROBERTS: We spoke to several credit agencies so far one bank and one credit reporting agency tell us Madeline's problem has been solved. Madeline, though, is still worried because other financial institutions still believe she's dead.

CHETRY: Oh, just listening to those phone calls, doesn't it bring up your blood pressure?

ROBERTS: Yes, you can imagine how frustrated she is. She's being told she's dead. No, I'm right here.

CHETRY: And obviously being listed as deceased when you're not, is a huge and extreme mistake, but credit reporting errors are more common than you think.

CNN's Personal Finance Editor Gerri Willis is here to talk to us about how to correct any errors. And in that woman's case, it's almost laughable, if it wasn't so serious. They're saying your cousin called and said you were dead.

GERRI WILLIS, CNN PERSONAL FINANCE EDITOR: Exactly. It's amazing that that happens. Unfortunately, the credit reporting agencies sometimes don't do a great job of checking out their facts. You have to make sure do you it for them.

You may not have a mistake like the one she had, which is really serious, but you may have something a little less serious. That's right. Almost 80 percent of all credit reports have some kind of error on them.

First move, get your credit report. You are entitled to a free one each year. Go to You can get it there for free. Or can call 877-322-8228.

CHETRY: OK, so that is free. You don't have to pay for that.

WILLIS: Right.

CHETRY: Something free, that's good.

(LAUGHTER) CHETRY: Once you get your hands on that, you look it over. What do you do if you notice there's an error?

WILLIS: Well, you want to fix it. Because look, that error will just be repeated over and over again. You want to write a letter to the credit reporting agencies, address them directly. There are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Call them to find out who to send this letter to. You have to send it by certified mail, so that you get a copy and proof that you sent it. And you want to do it in the most detailed way as possible. Make sure you show them that you have proof of your claims, if their information is in error.

And let me tell you, when you look at that report you're going to find stuff, you're going to think, I don't even remember that. That was so many years ago. Maybe, you know, credit scores that you were unaware of. Certainly credit cards that maybe you forgot about.

CHETRY: Yes, that you signed up for when you were in college.

Now, do you have to contact all three of those ones that we put up?


CHETRY: You have to contact all three?

WILLIS: Yes, the reports are different. The reports are different, so you need to look at all of them.


WILLIS: But you are only writing the letter to the ones having the problem.

CHETRY: I got you. OK, so then, what obligation is the credit bureau under to actually take that information you give them, and correct it?

WILLIS: The law. They have to change it if it's wrong, but you have to prove that it's wrong. So, you have to send them information. They have 30 days to investigate. And if they don't come up with anything, then they have to change it.

But here's the deal. If it comes down to your word against some creditor out there, it's likely they will take the creditor's word. So, you have to do the best job you can proving that the debt is not yours, or that there's something erroneous about the information in the credit report.

But it's going to take you a while to go through them.

CHETRY: So you don't contact the actual creditor? You don't call that credit card company, you call the credit bureau?

WILLIS: Well, you know, it could be a credit card company, it could be a collection agency. I would be loathe to suggest people call collection agencies. You just don't want to do that. You have got to the credit reporting bureau.

CHETRY: If you are still not satisfied after all of that?

WILLIS: Call the FTC and complain. You can certainly do that, but you also want to file a statement with the bureau saying, Look, I'm contesting this. Here's why. It's not my debt. They then post it, they keep it with all your information, so that whenever anyone pulls your credit report for any reason, they get the information that you are contesting this.

CHETRY: All right. That sounds good. And it's very interesting.

The woman that we profiled, obviously has an extreme case, but as you said this is a case, in some way, shape or form, for most of us on credit reports.

WILLIS: Exactly. And you want to make sure that you correct those errors because they will just be repeated over and over again.

CHETRY: Gerri Willis thanks so much. By the way, tune in to "Open House" every Saturday morning. Gerri will give you a lot of information on real estate, home issues, some good advice, some tips, "Open House" Saturdays at 9:30 a.m., right here on CNN.

ROBERTS: Now to the pressure on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Another prominent Republican is calling for him to go. Democrats are again challenging the attorney general's truthfulness. Senator Charles Schumer is a member of the Judiciary Committee and joins me now.

You had some extraordinary testimony the other day, from James Comey, he was former deputy attorney general, talking about a late- night run to the hospital where Attorney General John Ashcroft was recovering from surgery. Here's what Comey told you about all that, let me get your reaction.


JAMES COMEY, FMR. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I was very upset. I was angry. I thought I just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general, because they had been transferred to me.


ROBERTS: Talking about there, was the two aides from the White House, Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card, who was then the chief of staff, came over to try to get him to resign the authorization for that surveillance program.

Were you surprised by what Comey told you?

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY), JUDICIARY CMTE.: I was. It came out of a movie. You couldn't make the stuff up. And they had to rush over -- here is a man who is very ill, pancreitis -- I don't know how to say it. ROBERTS: Pancreatitis.

SCHUMER: Pancreatitis, a difficult disease. They are going around the statutory attorney general, who was Comey, to get him to sign something. That the Justice's own law department, the office of legal counsel said was against the law.

It has overtones of what would happen in a third world country. It is appalling. It would make a great movie, but it shouldn't happen in real life.

ROBERTS: So Comey was against the reauthorization of this program, Ashcroft was and apparently lifted his head off of his sickbed pillow to say, I'm against this. How does that square with what Gonzales testified before your committee?

SCHUMER: Well, I had asked Gonzales a year earlier about this. Because we had inklings about it. Clearly, if you read what he said, there was an attempt, it seems pretty clear, to mislead the committee.

He parsed his words carefully. But this is what he always does when he testifies, he tries not to directly lie, but mislead. And it's just shocking to me that this man, who has now been discredited by just about everyone -- two more Republicans yesterday, Chuck Hagel said he should resign. Pat Roberts said he does not see how he could be effective. And only the White House in their bunker, keeps him on.

Now, I understand loyalty, friendship, but there's got to be other ways to reward a friend than have him run a department, which he's clearly incapable of and he's lost the trust of Congress, and even more important the American people.

ROBERTS: Today in "The Washington Post," there's more news about the U.S. attorneys, "The Washington Post" now saying 26 were considered for termination, and removal and replacement, whereas the attorney general said time and time again, it was only eight. So the story changes again.

SCHUMER: You bet. If we had not discovered this, I'm convinced they would have fired more U.S. attorneys. Clearly -- clearer and clearer -- the process they were using was not on how good they were. But on how malleable they were. How somebody in Washington could control what they were doing. It seems pretty clear -- for political, and not legal purposes.

It's just appalling. I just don't understand this is not liberal or conservative. John Ashcroft got out of his sick bed, as you said, to say I won't do this. This is not liberal or conservative, not Democrat or Republican. This is what America is fundamentally about, the rule of law. You had an attempt by the attorney general -- or then counsel -- but now attorney general to actually violate what his own office said was against the law, and get a sick man to sign it?

ROBERTS: Do you think he's going to be able to stay after this latest revelation? SCHUMER: I really don't. I think that, as you know, as embattled as the president and the vice president are, it's impossible to say how they would keep him for very long, both on the grounds of credibility and of competence.

And I'll tell you one other thing, when they appoint deputy attorney general, which they now have to do, it's got to be somebody who is nonpolitical, who appreciates rule of law, and who can run the department, because Alberto Gonzales has none of those things.

ROBERTS: Good luck with that one. Senator Charles Schumer, thank you very much.

SCHUMER: Thank you.

ROBERTS: When we come back, we are paging Doctor Sanjay Gupta, he's answering your e-mail questions about some medical news we cover everyday. Next on AMERICAN MORNING, the most news in the morning is on CNN.


CHETRY: It's time now for "Ask AM".

We have been reporting that shutdowns and damage to oil refineries are part of the problem behind the rising price of gas.

Arnie from Boynton Beach, Florida wrote in with this question: "When I fly from Palm Beach, Florida to Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas, I fly over what I have been told is the largest oil refinery in the Western Hemisphere. Is this true? And, why is it never in operation?

Well, we can't be exactly sure what you're seeing, but there is a moth-balled refinery -- when they call it moth-balled, they don't use it anymore -- on Grand Bahama Island. It is out of service. It is own actually by Venezuela state-run oil company. And it was at one time the fourth-largest refinery in the world.

Chevron opened it back in 1970. Then Venezuela acquired it when it bought the Bahamas Oil Refining Company back in 1990. That's what you are seeing. No, it's not being used. It's moth-balled, as they call it, out of service.

Hope we answered your question, Arnie. If you guys have an e-mail question for us, send it to us. We will try to get the answers for you.

ROBERTS: We are going to dig into Doctor Sanjay Gupta's mailbag now. As we do every Thursday. You have been e-mailing us your questions. He's standing by.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Some of my favorite segment for sure.

CHETRY: Our first one is about mammograms. It's one that even got the attention of the first lady, of course. This is what is asked by Dr. David O'Rourke. A doctor is asking you this question, Doctor Gupta. That should put the pressure on a little.

"Is there a direct connection between the decline in mammograms and the lack of insurance by about 40 percent of our population?"

GUPTA: Well, Doctor O'Rourke -- maybe this is a new way we will start doing rounds, doctor to doctor, via satellite on television.

Interesting, first of all there are about 47 million people that are uninsured in this country. So, insurance could be a factor. Dr. O'Rourke is talking about the fact that the number of mammograms actually went down. What we found, though, is that the decline was also pronounced in affluent insured women. So it's hard to say that insurance was a huge factor here.

The American Cancer Society, we talked to them, specifically, they stand by the guidelines for the time being saying that when you hit the age of 40, still get a mammogram every year. And women younger than that, between 20 and 39 should have a breast exam every three years.

It was interesting, this story broke when I was actually interviewing Laura Bush. She reminded me that both her mother, and grandmother, had breast cancer and survived it because of early detection via mammograms. So a bit of good news for them, as well.

ROBERTS: Our second question, Sanjay, deals with that outbreak of shigellosis caused by the shigello bacteria, that was in all of those day cares in the St. Louis area.

Michael from Kansas asks, quote, "For those children with shigellosis, do you recommend giving them an electrolyte enhanced drink?"

GUPTA: The answer seems to be, yes. There's lots of electrolyte enhanced drinks. One of the most common is something known as Pedialyte. Which basically replaces some of the electrolytes. Oftentimes juice or water will work as well, unless the kid is profoundly ill.

A couple things to keep in mind, though, for the most part, shigellosis, there have been over 500 cases over the eight months, does not need an antibiotic. It will just clear up on its own. That's good for a lot of parents to know.

Also anti-diarrheal medication, such as Imodium, probably not a good idea. You kind of want to let the pathogens just pass through the system. That's how you clear it up.

ROBERTS: Hey, Sanjay, can't certain juices, though, wash other electrolytes out of your body? If you take too much orange juice, can that wash out potassium?

GUPTA: Yes, that's a good point. In fact, if you already, if your potassium levels are little bit low, you're right, high concentrations of juice could be a problem there. But in kids who are just a bit ill, they will probably not get electrolyte abnormalities. CHETRY: Dr. Gupta, we get lot of questions about women and hormones, what the recommendations are in terms of taking hormone replacement therapy. Danielle from Missouri asks, "Is it safe for women to say on birth control pills until they are 60, to combat the symptoms of menopause?"

GUPTA: This is an interesting question, Danielle. One thing to point out, it might be obvious, but certainly being on birth control pills is not going to stop or slow down the advancement of menopause. I think most people understand that, but just to clear that up.

There's been a lot of research and discussion about hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills for women going through menopause. The Mayo Clinic, we talk to doctors at the Mayo Clinic about this all the time. They say that they advise women to stop birth control pills after age 50. If they need to, then to be on some sort of lower dose hormone replacement therapy.

The concern, though is, that hormone replacement therapy could possibly in higher doses, increase the likelihood of breast cancer, even heart disease without giving you some other benefits. So you can take the smallest amount -- smallest dose for the shortest time possible, but probably come off the birth control pills and go to a lower dose HRT.

ROBERTS: All good information, Sanjay. Good tips. Thank you very much for opening our mailbag.

GUPTA: Any time. Thank you.

ROBERTS: Next Thursday we will again turn again to Doctor Gupta's mailbag for your questions about the medical stories that we cover. Got to Just follow the links. Give us your question, Sanjay will answer them every Thursday here on AMERICAN MORNING

CNN "Newsroom" just minutes away. Tony Harris is at the CNN Center for a look at what's ahead.

Hey, Tony, what you got for us this morning?

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR, CNN NEWSROOM: Hey, John. Good morning to you.

We have these stories on the "Newsroom" rundown. Cheerio, ol' chap, the British prime minister in a farewell visit to the White House. Tony Blair and President Bush greet reporters this morning. See their news conference live, right here in the "Newsroom".

And day six, U.S. troops searching for three soldiers missing in Iraq, a briefing from the soldiers home base, Fort Drum, New York. Live this morning.

And they say they're winners. The state of Florida says, no, they're not. The big beef over a half million-dollar lottery ticket.

Heidi is with me in the "Newsroom". We get you started at the top of the hour, right here on CNN.

John, back to you.

ROBERTS: See you then. About ten minutes from now, Tony.

Coming up, Paris Hilton gets her jail sentence cut almost in half. We'll tell you why. Plus, "American Idol" headed into its finale with just two contestants left now. We will tell you the surprising vote that sent one contestant home slightly disappointed. Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.


CHETRY: All year long CNN is highlighting people who can see a better world and are doing something to get there. Today's CNN Hero is a teenager who says that the change in your pocket can actually make a world of difference. Zack Hunter is today's CNN Hero.


ZACK HUNTER, FOUNDER, LOOSE CHANGES TO LOOSEN CHANGE: I think the most important thing people should know about this issue is that slavery is still going on. Many people don't know that. Even though it's illegal everywhere, it goes on everywhere, too.

This is a pair of shackles they would use on modern-day slave today. If your little brother or sister was wearing these, and rolling cigarettes all day, you would want somebody to free them. That's what we are trying to do.

I'm Zack Hunter and I'm a modern-day abolitionist. I've always sort of had a strong sense of justice. You know, if I saw somebody pushed down on playground or something I wanted to go help them. I first heard about modern-day slavery three years ago, when I was learning about Frederick Douglass, Doctor Martin Luther King. Then when I found out that slavery still existed, I felt like I had to do something.

Everybody in this room has benefited from slavery in one way or another. That's not good.

When I was 12 years old I started Loose Change to Loosen Chains. It's entirely student-led and is about raising loose change to free slaves.

The loose change that we raise goes directly to the organizations so they can actually raid the places and get the slaves out. There's more than $10.5 billion in loose change in American households. So, I decided to take something as underestimated as loose change and as underestimated as the teenage years and put them together.

This is a really good issue for people my age. It's something we can really get dirty and do something about. The main plan is to abolish slavery within my lifetime. I really believe that that can happen. This Loose Change to Loosen Chains campaign really is my heart. It's something I'm passionate about. People my age can really change things. It's sort of my dream, for my generation.


ROBERTS: It's 55 minutes after the hour. Here's a quick look at what CNN NEWSROOM is working on for the top of the hour.

HARRIS: See these stories in the CNN NEWSROOM. Record gas prices, but a new survey this morning says they won't keep travelers at home this Memorial Day Weekend.

Tony Blair, his farewell visit to the White House as British prime minister. His news conference with President Bush live this morning.

Rain, helping New Jersey crews reign in a big wildfire.

And no Chicken Little here; a 300-pound slab of marble falls off a high rise. NEWSROOM at the top of the hour on CNN.


ROBERTS: A couple of quick hits for you now to round out the hour.

Paris Hilton is already getting a break even before going to jail. She only has to serve 23 of her 45-day sentence. Getting time off for good conduct, for showing up to her latest court appearance. Paris will also serve in a special needs housing unit for high-profile inmates, when she reports to jail on June 5. What do you think some of those special needs are? Cristal?

CHETRY: Among many, I mean, you know, you need to keep the hair. You need to keep the roots in line. You have to tan. You need your big sunglasses. Extra closet for all the clothes. I mean, I could go on.

ROBERTS: Prison should be prison.

CHETRY: That's right, and what are you going to do with Tinker Bell, the Chihuahua.

Well, meantime, a big surprise on "American Idol". It really was a big surprise if you follow the show. Blake versus Jordin, now because Melinda Dolittle, the one who all the judges said was the best singer -- voted off by the viewers last night. Even though the judges said, you know what, she really has the best voice out of all of them.

So, who is left? Blake Lewis, he battles Jordin Sparks. She's only 17 years old. And if I was taking bets, if I could see into future, I think it is going to be Blake.

ROBERTS: Their ratings are apparently down a little bit, so I wonder if people just aren't interested in the final two contestants? CHETRY: Ever since they voted off Sinjanai (ph), it has been down from there.

Well, that's all for us here on AMERICAN MORNING.


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