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Whale Beached in Florida Dies; Passenger on Stranded Flight Speaks Out; Discussion Over Health Care Heats Up Around the Country; Did White House Makes Deal with PhRMA?; Coroner's Report on Michael Jackson Completed Not Being Released; Are Americans Overmedicated and Turning to Illegal Substances To Satisfy Addiction?
Aired August 10, 2009 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICK SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: That's nine. No way out. Their story.
Was he trying to avoid this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It reads like something that was thought up in the early 1930s in Germany.
SANCHEZ: Did the president cut a deal with pharmaceutical companies?
By the way, just how hooked are Americans on pharmaceuticals? So hooked, it may be leading some to worse drugs, like heroin -- a CNN exclusive.
And ready, aim, shoot, real pics of U.S. fighters taking out the Taliban, on your national conversation for Monday, August 10, 2009.
SANCHEZ: And hello again, everybody. I'm Rick Sanchez with the next generation of news, because we do a conversation, not a speech. And it's always your turn to get involved.
Look at these live pictures we're following. This is such a curious story. That is a beaked whale. They're kind of rare. Everything we have read about them indicates that they usually don't show themselves, but in this case, not only is this whale showing itself; it's in trouble, big trouble.
They can't seem to be able to make it budge from this beach. That's a serious problem because -- not only for itself, by the way, but it also has its baby not far from it. And it's safe because it's being held by someone. But the whale itself, a large whale, this Baird's beaked whale is what it's called, is now not just on the part where the surf is, but for the most part, on the beach part as well.
All these people have come together. Isn't it always curious how people who oftentimes would just mind their own business throughout the course of the day and not get involved in anyone else's business, when it comes to an animal that needs rescue or a beached whale like this, will all huddle together to try and see if they can somehow save its life?
That's what they have been trying to do. But, unfortunately, they have had no luck thus far. At times, it seems like they have been close to pushing it back out into the water, but, right now, it still seems to be sitting there, beached.
And the longer it takes, the more difficult it will get for the whale. We are going to be on this story. Obviously, as it changes, we will from time to time show you what is going on.
Meanwhile, there's another story that I want to tell you about. I want to put you on a plane right now, if we possibly can. It's 9:30 at night. You have just landed in Rochester, Minnesota, because of bad weather at the destination where your plane was originally going. It's midnight. You're still stuck on the tarmac. Is it a big plane, so you could be comfortable?
Nope. It's just a 50-seater. And the plane is packed with passengers. Now, a half-hour later, it's half past midnight and you're still there, babies are crying. Now it's 1:30 in the morning, there's no leg room, and it's all but impossible to get comfortable. Now it's 2:30 in the morning. Toilets are starting to overflow on the plane. And you know how smelly that can get.
Surely, they're going to let you and the 46 other people who are on the plane off at this point, right? No. It's 3:30 in the morning, 4:30 in the morning, 5:30 in the morning. Finally, at 6:30, they let you off the plane.
Listen to what a passenger wrote in to "The Minneapolis Star- Tribune." I was a passenger on Flight 2816. I now know hell. Being stuck on that plane for 9.5 hours, seven hours on the ground, was no picnic.
I asked the pilot if there was a bus, and she picked up the intercom and announced to the plane there is no bus.
Joining us now is another passenger.
This is Link Christin.
Link, thanks so much for being with us.
LINK CHRISTIN, PASSENGER ON STRANDED PLANE: My pleasure.
SANCHEZ: Why in the world didn't they let you guys off that plane at some point in the middle of that night?
CHRISTIN: I have no idea. And they never offered us an explanation. At some point, it looked to me like the terminal itself was closed, and that it wasn't attended by people inside. So, I don't know if part of it was that they didn't call people into the terminal to come back and open it up and that sort of thing.
SANCHEZ: Well, surely, you must have been angry enough to ask, right? You and maybe the 46 other people on that plane must have said why can't you guys do something about this? Why can't you let us inside? And I imagine the people that had babies must have been furious.
CHRISTIN: Well, you know, I think everybody afterwards had the reaction that, why didn't I do that? But I'm not sure anybody did. And I know I didn't.
I think we were so much caught up in the moment. Everybody's half-exhausted. Nobody's had any food. Nobody's had anything to drink. Everybody's in and out of sleep. And I think everybody's in a state of almost shock.
And what they do, just like you just described, is, every hour, they're telling us, oh, we have got a bus now that we're going to bus you down to the Twin Cities. And, oh, it's another hour for the bus. So, they always put something in front of us that let us, you know, feel like we were going to get out of the plane pretty soon.
SANCHEZ: That's interesting.
So, it was your own expectation of what they had promised that seemed to keep you tranquil for awhile. We're getting a statement from not Continental, but this is a flight that was actually being handled by ExpressJet, even though it was a Continental flight.
And they're saying we were just following federal regulations. We weren't allowed to do this. They say their priorities were ensuring customer safety during severe weather and following all federal regulations at the airport facility. Essentially, federal regulations is what they told us today when we called them.
And, apparently, according to federal regulations, they say they couldn't let you back into the airport because some TSA people were gone and they didn't feel comfortable doing so.
What do you make of that?
CHRISTIN: As -- I happen to be a lawyer, but I'm certainly not a lawyer in this area. But I have never had to go into an airport from an airplane and change planes, for example, in my whole life and go through security again. So, this notion that we had to somehow to go through security at 2:00 in the morning...
CHRISTIN: ... makes no sense to me. And it strikes me as a pretext.
SANCHEZ: Like somebody wasn't doing their homework or someone just wasn't using common sense. And you would think in that situation it's the pilot that has to take control of that ship and decide for the well-being of the passengers that they're going to let them off.
Let me read you what the airport manager says. You know, given what we just read to you from ExpressJet, we called the airport manager and said, is this true? Did you have nobody there? Would you not have been able to deal with these people?
He says, absolutely false. In fact, I'm going to read you the statement.
SANCHEZ: I have it right here. Here we go. Put it up, if we got it.
Airport manager says: "I would like to take this opportunity to stress that airport staff and the main terminal with vending machines and bathrooms were all available for the passengers on board Flight 2816 to deplane. It is irrelevant that the TSA security screeners were not in the terminal that evening, as the passengers would have been able to deplane and remain on the secure side of the terminal. All decisions made to keep the passengers enplaned were made by the Continental dispatch at MSP."
It sounds to me like the folks at the airport are saying, don't put this on us, right?
CHRISTIN: It does sound like that.
And I appreciate there's a hearsay element to it, but a reporter told me this morning that there was a Northwest plane there at the same time that did deplane, and that their crew offered the crew of the Continental flight assistance in deplaning, because we didn't even have a step ladder or anything. There's no way you could have gotten out of the plane.
And they -- the Continental folks, according to what at least the reporter told me, refused the help of the Northwest crew. And so...
CHRISTIN: ... we simply, we just sat there until the airport, you know, officially opened with other flights coming in 6:30 in the morning.
SANCHEZ: It just seems like a monumental screw-up that could have been avoided by just using common sense. That's what it seems like. And maybe we don't have all the information, but, by golly, we have spent the whole day trying to get that information.
It seems to me there's a hundred ways they could have solved the problem and there's only one thing they could have done wrong, and they did the one thing that was wrong.
SANCHEZ: Link Christin, my thanks to you for taking us through this experience. Good luck flying the next time.
Let's take you back to the developing story we told you about at the beginning of this newscast. Those are pictures now from WPLG, that station in Miami for many years that has followed these types of stories. There's that beaked whale we have been showing you.
Now, the problem with these beaked whales is, once they're beached for a long period of time, its own weight -- remember, this whale is designed so that it can be in the ocean, swimming and floating, which essentially doesn't put a lot of pressure on its internal organs.
When a whale is beached for long periods of time like this, it actually is squeezing its own organs because of its own weight. It usually doesn't last a long period of time in that environment, not to mention the fact that it becomes -- oxygen is depleted.
But here's what we're being told now. Chris, tell me again in my ear. All right. Here's what we heard right now, that this whale is deceased, that the mama whale is dead, has passed away. These folks here did everything they possibly could to try and rescue it, but apparently it wasn't enough.
And the baby, we're told, is in critical condition. Now, you will see the baby from time to time. It was swimming just a little while ago not too far from its mama. And somebody was holding it because it had a tendency to want to come near it.
But this looks to be the mama whale right there that has, according to sources in South Florida, just passed away, despite the best efforts of all of these people here who had been trying to rescue it, oh, over the last hour or so. Anyway, we will keep checking on this for you as we can.
I understand we have got a reporter at WSVN or WPLG in South Florida, one of our affiliates, who is going to be joining us to let us know what's going on.
Meantime, here's what else we're following for you. The president of the United States cuts a deal with pharmaceuticals? And not even all the Democrats are happy about this one. How's that related to a story I have got coming up about prescription drug users turning to heroin as a cheaper alternative? We will be telling you about that.
Also, Senator Claire McCaskill is just moments away from taking the stage for a health care town hall. Well, we can't guarantee fireworks, but we certainly have seen a lot of that in previous town hall meetings. We have got a camera there. We're following it for you.
And then of course don't forget, we're going to have an after- show today. That comes on right at 4:00 on CNN.com/live. Stay with us. A lot going on. We will be right back.
SANCHEZ: And we welcome you back here to the world headquarters of CNN. I'm Rick Sanchez, trying to check on this story that we told you about moments ago about this whale. Let me do this. Let me show you some of the pictures. This was taken about, oh, 15, 20 minutes ago, when the whale, when it -- it almost looked like they were going to be able to get the whale back in the water. They were pushing and pushing and pushing this rare Baird's beaked whale, which is normally found, interestingly enough, in the North Pacific, not in the Atlantic Ocean.
But here it is off the coast of Miami, off the coast of Hollywood Beach. These are pictures from our affiliate WSVN, my old haunting grounds. As you see the whale being taken -- now, if you stay with the picture, you will actually see that it actually starts to flap around and it looks like it's going to be a good ending.
Joining us now is Dianne Fernandez. She's a correspondent there at WSVN.
I understand now what they're saying is that the whale has, in fact, passed away. What about the calf that we saw in that same shot as well, Dianne?
DIANNE FERNANDEZ, WSVN REPORTER: Good afternoon, Rick.
Yes, it seems unfortunately that the prognosis for the calf is not good. And, simply put, it's because it's been orphaned now. There are no whales like this, like this beaked whale in captivity. They simply do not survive in captivity.
Certainly, this whale is too far away for anyone to get it close to any other pods. So, unfortunately, we're being told at this point by officials here on Hollywood Beach this afternoon that the most humane thing would be to euthanize this baby whale at this point. It's a heartbreaking situation out here.
SANCHEZ: That seems so curious, Dianne. All right, there's -- is that the baby whale we're looking at there? There's the baby whale now wanting to get back to its mother. And they're trying to -- some of the rescue folks there...
FERNANDEZ: ... can't see what you're talking about, but I presume it's when volunteers and rescue workers were physically trying to reunite mother and calf.
They simply were doing that, we're told, obviously because it would calm the mother's distress. You simply then start seeing this giant 16-foot mammal start thrashing. And many presumed that it was out of excitement. Unfortunately, experts say that she was going into what they call the death thrash. And, moments later, she was pronounced dead. SANCHEZ: It's curious to me, knowing South Florida as I do, that someone at the Rosenstiel School of Marine biology over Rickenbacker Causeway or someone maybe over at the Seaquarium couldn't come in and somehow extract the calf. Maybe it's just -- we always want a good ending in these things.
SANCHEZ: And take it over to one of the centers and either treat it, work on it or rescue it. But you're telling us that ain't going to happen, huh?
FERNANDEZ: Well, it just doesn't work that way.
They brought the calf out of the water at this point. They have a veterinarian certainly looking it over. And they would certainly love to do that. Unfortunately, they know that, historically, these whales just simply do not survive in captivity. And they also know that whales, beached whales simply tend to suffer.
Now, we know that this calf likely followed its mother ashore. The mother is of advanced age. We don't know exactly how old she was, but she was scarred up pretty badly, so they do presume mom was pretty old and simply sick.
What she died from, there's no way of knowing. We certainly saw hundreds of people nosediving into the water to try to help these two whales. And while well-intentioned, we certainly want to take this opportunity to let people know that that's certainly what you do not want to do.
If anything, you let them beach themselves, and you maybe hydrate it, but you certainly do not start trying to push it back out into open water. You certainly -- you just try to hydrate the mammal as best you can, we're told, and simply wait for the experts to arrive.
And certainly there was a lot of well-intentioned beachgoers out here trying to do the best they could, but, unfortunately, they could not reverse what Mother Nature was already doing.
SANCHEZ: Dianne, you have done a fine job taking us through this. Great reporting, as usual, at my old haunting grounds there at WSVN in South Florida.
Let's go to Richard Dodge now. He's at Nova University. In fact, he was on this scene and he's able to bring us up to date now on what's going on.
Professor, you there?
RICHARD DODGE, NOVA SOUTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY OCEANOGRAPHIC CENTER: Yes, I am, Rick. SANCHEZ: I understand there are some different prevailing theories about why an animal would do something like this. I know they say it can perhaps follow its calf into shallow waters and then maybe with the sandbar, get trapped. And some people go as far as saying that the animal is just sick and ready to die, and that's where it goes to do so.
Of which theory are you a believer?
DODGE: Well, you know these theories are just theories until they can be tested with fact. And so I think the jury's still out. They are probably going to have to do an autopsy on the mother and find out what, if any (INAUDIBLE) was the cause of death.
Could it be that the mother was sick and the mother beached itself and the calf followed it in or vice versa or none of those? So, I think you will just have to wait and get us more good hard data to find out what's going on.
SANCHEZ: There's that thrashing we were describing a little while ago. It looks like it's either very healthy or, as Dianne Fernandez said, it's either getting ready to die in that death thrash that she described to us. Could you take us through that explanation?
DODGE: Well, I'm not -- I don't think there's any -- I have not heard any -- any death thrash, like a death rattle for a marine mammal, so I'm not sure of that.
SANCHEZ: Look at the -- I'm going to interrupt you just for a moment, because as I'm looking at these pictures that came in just a little while ago, you can see that the baby, the calf, is right next to the mother and it looks like that's what's causing the reaction, right? Maternal.
DODGE: Well, I'm sure the baby wanted to be near its mother, not knowing what's going on, and the mother was in stress from whatever course.
And so there's a complex interaction there, Rick. I'm not sure we are ever going to know the answer to that. It's just a sad, sad situation.
SANCHEZ: That is so amazing, as just -- you can't -- your human instincts are to want and try and see if there's anything you can do, especially such a huge, and rare, and magnificent animal as this.
We're told it's a beaked whale. But, apparently, there's are all kinds of beaked whales, right? There's one that's in the North Atlantic, and then there are some species or varieties in -- pardon me -- in the North Pacific and there's some species in the Atlantic as well.
Can you tell us anything about this particular whale?
DODGE: I really can't, Rick.
This is a seasonal migration of this type of whale. And it's not uncommon in this -- in this environment. But what is uncommon is the beaching of it, of course. And we need to get more information on its exact species. I'm not sure they're even positive on what the species is. And we can tell more about its biogeography and points of origin and the tracking.
SANCHEZ: Yes. Well, I can certainly tell you that that's too big to be just a regular bottle-nosed dolphin, though. That's certainly...
DODGE: Oh, yes, it's not a dolphin. No question. It's a whale.
SANCHEZ: Yes. It's one of those -- it's a type of porpoise, but maybe a whale.
Professor, you have been very helpful. Thanks so much for being with us. It is a sad story. And all we can do is watch it.
These are pictures taken about 20 minutes ago, the last pictures.
In fact, let's switch over to the live picture we have right now. And you will see that -- oh, we don't have that picture? That they're saying the mother whale, the mother beaked whale, has expired, but the baby is still there in critical condition, but Dianne Fernandez of WSVN told us moments ago they don't think the baby's going to survive this, the calf is going to survive this, either. We will be on top of it for you, nonetheless.
All right, now the latest on another breaking story that we're following for you. We have just been told, I was just told by my producer in my ear as I was wrapping up that story that they have, in fact, found part of the plane that had gone down in the Hudson over the weekend, causing the deaths of six people.
It was a midair collision. That is the live picture that you're looking at there. There are several divers now in the water. And I understand they have just come up with something, and they have finally identified what is left of the wreckage of the plane itself. I think many of you have seen some of these pictures where we have actually shown the plane in one case after the collision missing a wing, after crashing with the helicopter.
The plane has -- and the helicopter both went into the water. hand now we're told that part of the plane has been recovered. We're hoping to be able to go into that, go perhaps even go a little tighter, and then be able to show you what they have recovered. So stay with us as this story develops now. We will bring you the latest on it.
I'm Rick Sanchez. We're live here in the CNN NEWSROOM. That and a lot more news, including what may be a raucous town hall coming up in just a little bit.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SANCHEZ: All right, there's that picture we have been showing you for some time. We expect that there may be some developing information on this story.
We were just told moments ago that the wreckage of the plane has been discovered by some divers. As I had mentioned moments ago, six people had died in that helicopter. Three others died on the plane, making a total of nine people.
They think they have found, as I understand it, the debris that they have now found, and we haven't seen it ourselves yet, the debris that they have found is that of the plane, not the helicopter. But we're not certain.
There is a very important development in this story that's about to come in. I'm being told that could happen within the next half- hour, and you will see that here as it plays out. So, stay with us, by the way.
And now this story that we have been telling you about since the very beginning of this newscast. As a young reporter on the crime beat in Miami, I watched as crooks would hit tourists. There's -- here's how they would normally do it. One crook would make a screaming noise. And then, when tourists would look up, another crook would swoop in and grab their bag or their suitcase. Voila. It seemed to work every time, until police officers sat and watched them and then grabbed them as they took the suitcase.
I wonder if something similar to that may be going on right now as all of us have our attention, all Americans watch all the screaming noise that's going on with these town hall meetings. Think about that.
I'm going to tell you in a minute about a particular backroom deal that you need to know about as an American and whether you like it or don't. It's up to you.
But, first, the noise.
Here now on that, CNN's Elaine Quijano.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It reads like something that was bought up in the early 1930s in Germany...
ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With lawmakers back home, anger is boiling over. Democratic Senator Tom Harkin got shouted down at this health care meeting in Iowa.
In Georgia, signs the debate is taking a toll.
REP. DAVID SCOTT, (D) GEORGIA: Those of you who are here who have taken and came and hijacked this event that we're dealing with here.
QUIJANO: Democratic Congressman David Scott, lashed out after a doctor from his district asked...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why are you voting for a health care plan that is shown not to work in Massachusetts? And why are you going to institute that in the state -- in a nationwide...
QUIJANO: At first Scott said he wasn't sure how he would vote then he let loose.
SCOTT: Don't come and take advantage of what these individuals have done. You want a meeting with me on health care, I will give it to you.
QUIJANO: In Texas for Republican Congressman Michael Burgess.
REP. MICHAEL BURGESS, (R) TEXAS: This doesn't look like a mob. This looks like home.
QUIJANO: The crowd stayed calm. But some of the questions pointed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When the Republicans controlled Congress and the Senate, why didn't you introduce and pass health care reform?
QUIJANO: In Austin, supporters of health care reform are getting fired up. This crowd booed as John Cornyn tried leaving after touring a community health clinic.
And more fuel to stilt the fighting.
On her Facebook page Friday, Republican Sarah Palin wrote, "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's death panel so his bureaucrats can decide whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is down right evil."
In his weekly address, President Obama fired back at opponents.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, let me start by dispelling the outlandish rumors that reform will promote euthanasia or cut Medicaid or bring about a government takeover of health care. That's simply not true.
QUIJANO (on camera): This week the president heads to New Hampshire for a town hall meeting on health care. Later, he'll visit Montana, home state of Max Baucus, a key Democrat trying to negotiate a deal on health care reform.
Elaine Quijano, CNN, the White House.
SANCHEZ: All right, we do have a camera at a town hall in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, that we're monitoring with Senator Claire McCaskill trying to reach out to her constituents.
Is this one going to be peaceful or is this one going to be out of control, like some have been in the past? Look, we have got a camera there. We are going to watch it for you. We are not going to just give you clips. We are going to let you see some of it for yourself.
Meanwhile, now back to what some may call a backroom deal that you frankly just need to know about as an American citizen. Has the president of the United States cut a deal with the pharmaceutical companies that is good for them, but maybe not so good for you as a taxpayer? And will Congress challenge that deal?
What is it? Well, it seems to be the type of deal that this president railed against, ironically enough, when he was campaigning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THEN- SENATOR BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the Medicare prescription drug bill, for example, the Congress specifically exempted Medicare from being able to negotiate for the cheapest available price. And -- and that was a profound mistake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: All right, so here's what happened now. The White House needs an industry friend to help it pass health care reform. Most who follow that would say, that's fair.
It got in touch with PhRMA, which is the lobbying arm of the drug manufacturers, and, by the way, the biggest donor of campaign cash in all of American politics.
PhRMA, by the way, is run by this guy. That's Billy Tauzin. He's the well-connected former member of Congress who left politics for lobbying, the same Billy Tauzin singled out in this ad by, yes, presidential candidate Barack Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The pharmaceutical industry wrote into the prescription drug plan that Medicare could not negotiate with drug companies. And you know what, the chairman of the committee who pushed the law through went to work for the pharmaceutical industry making $2 million a year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Imagine that.
OBAMA: Imagine that. That's an example of the same old game playing in Washington.
I don't want to learn how to play the game better. I want to put an end to the game plan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Who was the presidential candidate speaking to there? Billy Tauzin, the man candidate Obama was just talking about.
He gets invited to the White House recently. He agrees last month to $80 billion in drug cost savings over the next ten years, $80 billion. Sounds pretty good, right? But guess what? Congressional estimates show that savings on drugs could be twice that much.
And the deal Tauzin got precludes further cuts down the road. In other words, it's locked in. You get it? So, really you could argue that you and me as taxpayers are going to be out the other half, $80 billion, right? Because the White House needs a powerful industry ally to help it pass health care reform.
Seems curious. Joining us now is CNN chief business correspondent Ali Velshi, who's been looking into this for us. He's in the CNN Express this hour, by the way. He's going all over the country, going to these meetings where Americans are discussing what's going on with health care.
Ali, you're going to be touring the country meeting people at all these town halls. Look, let me ask you about this thing. Putting aside for now that we're living in a completely overmedicated society when it comes to pharmaceuticals -- we'll tackle that in just a moment -- why are the pharmaceuticals doing a back room deal, or what appears to be a back room deal, with the president of the United States, and should we as taxpayers be worried about this?
ALI VELSHI, CNN ANCHOR: You know, you sort of outlined it very well, Rick. The issue is this. The White House wanted a few industry groups, they wanted some people on side to say that they're going to deal with two problems. One is health insurance, which we're talking about right now, and the other one is simultaneously reducing the cost of health care.
And what they did was get PhRMA, the health care -- the pharmaceutical company industry on side with an agreement that they would be pressed to cut about $80 billion in health care costs. And if they were on side to do that, the White House would protect them from legislatively being forced to cut more.
So basically, it was a tradeoff. The pharmaceutical industry says fine, we'll cut our costs, we'll contribute to a trimming of $80 billion in costs to the health care system, and after that everybody leaves us alone.
Congress is saying we're not bound by this. Why were there even back room deals done.
SANCHEZ: That's my point.
VELSHI: It looks like everybody tried to make one of those.
SANCHEZ: Ali, that's the point. We've been told all along that Congressional Democrats as well as Republicans are shepherding this deal through, trying to come up with something that will be good for all Americans. And now we learn that while they're doing that, and our eyes are on that and the things that you're covering with all these people fighting and bickering back and forth, there's something else going on over here that nobody else is paying attention to.
Shouldn't Congressional Democrats, if nothing else, go to their president and say, hey, what are you doing, Mr. President?
VELSHI: I think there's an issue with transparency here, Rick. I think the bottom line is this is not only a complicated issue, but it really inflames passions, as we have seen from the town halls.
I think everybody needs to know what's on the table, what's being negotiated. If there's a deal that's been made with the pharmaceutical industry, it was important, I think, for people to have all that information, and I think a lot of Americans are going to say yes, they would like Congress to be able to make those rules.
But again, we don't know, because people really are split on this issue. So should we be happy that the White House extracted $80 billion in concessions from the pharmaceutical industry in order to get them on side so they're not fighting the White House, because that's a very, very well-funded lobby, or should we be mad that they made a deal that everybody didn't know about and could prevent them from getting Congress to take further action, saving double the amount of money?
This is a tricky one, Rick. It's hard to know where you should stand on this. Should I be happy that we're saving $80 billion or unhappy that we're not going to be able to save $160 billion?
SANCHEZ: It's a deal with lobbyists, and, you know, it's always tough when you look at those. You know what they say about dealing with the devil.
Ali, let's do this. Let's stop -- I got to hold you right now. I'm being told from L.A. that we have some breaking news. It seems like it's one of those hours where there's breaking news popping up every five minutes.
VELSHI: All right, I'm here for you.
SANCHEZ: We will get back to Ali in just a little bit.
I'm being told there might be movement on the, finally, the coroner's report involving how Michael Jackson actually died. The information is going to be coming in to us I think via Ted Rowlands, our correspondent out in L.A. who has been following this.
Ted, you ready? You miked up? There we go, Ted Rowlands ready to go. What are you learning, Ted?
TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's some movement in that the coroner's office has now come out and said, yes, we are completely done with the investigation into Michael Jackson's death, but they have extended the security hold put on the report by the LAPD indefinitely.
So the report is done, but the public is not going to be able to see this report for some time. Basically, we were expecting the information to come out this week. The coroner just within the last few minutes said we're done. The police won't let us release it, though. So you're going to have to wait. The investigation continues.
So there's some movement, but we're not going to find out the exact cause of death of Michael Jackson for some time now according to the coroner.
SANCHEZ: Well, catch us up. Just give us a little bit of a head line on this, because those of us who haven't followed this with bated breath every single day of our lives.
Last I checked, the reason that he actually -- it seemed like the reason he passed away is because he was putting something in his body, some kind of prescription drug called Propofol. I will let you fill in the details.
ROWLANDS: Yes, Diprovan, yes.
SANCHEZ: Is that still what we're probably going to be looking at for confirmation?
ROWLANDS: Absolutely that that's probably what's going to happen.
But the "probably" is the key word here. We don't know the official cause of death yet, and everybody has been waiting, that segment of the population with bated breath that you referred to, for this coroner's report to come out. And the coroner has been saying give us another week, we'll have it next week.
Now today they're saying, basically, leave us alone. We're done. We'd love to give it to you, but the police have told us we cannot release the information until the investigation into the death has been completed, or at least moved further along.
So the bottom line is, Rick, it's going to be more of the same conjecture and all the rest of it.
SANCHEZ: I get it. And it certainly sounds like, a, it's a high priority case, b, it's a very public case, and, c, there may be some convictions coming along as a result of whatever they discover, so there are legal ramifications in this case, which is probably why they're dotting Is and crossing Ts. And who's to blame them given what we know about lawyers and lawsuits in the past.
My thanks to Ted Rowlands for bringing us up to date on that.
ROWLANDS: You bet.
SANCHEZ: When we come back, we're going to finish the conversation with Ali Velshi and we're also going to be telling you about another story that's going on in Maine.
We have been dealing on this show thematically with the pharmaceutical companies and what they mean in the United States. We also happen to know that Americans right now are probably as overmedicated as anyone in the United States.
And now we are getting a story coming out of Maine, interestingly enough, that people are so overmedicated that they're going from drugs like OxyContin to heroin because they can't get the other stuff anymore, either, because of money and they have no prescription. It's an amazing story. We'll bring it to you.
Stay there. We'll be sharing.
SANCHEZ: Here we go, more breaking news.
I told you a little while ago that there was probably going to be some developing news on this helicopter versus plane crash over the Hudson in New York over the weekend.
I was just told moments ago that the 911 calls have now been released on this horrible catastrophe that killed nine people, six on the helicopter and three of them on the plane. And I think we're able to share those with you.
So here we go. These are the 911 calls. We're hearing them for the very first time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911 operator wants to know where is the emergency?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Hoboken, New Jersey, in the Hudson River, helicopter just landed on the corner of fourth and river street.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is anybody injured?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Probably. Totally injured.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Landed or crashed?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's gone. It's crashed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stay online. I will get the EMS and police. One second.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: So there you have it. That's the first one.
I think there's another one. Is that right, Chris, we got another one coming in? All right. Go ahead, hit that, if you can. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: 911 operator, what is your emergency?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think someone just wiped out in the Hudson River. I think it was a helicopter. Can you have somebody check, please?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where in the Hudson River?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Weehawken. Actually, it's probably considered Hoboken. I would hurry. I really -- I saw the last of it and I saw something explode and then something fall after that. So I would hurry. There's a bunch of boats now gathering around.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stay on the phone. Let me connect you over.
That would be the Hudson River, ma'am? Ma'am?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Is that the Hudson River?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hudson county 131, a caller on the line saying a helicopter went down in the Hudson River by Hoboken.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By Hoboken.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it went down. I saw something out of the sky drop down and there's a lot of boats gathered around. It's probably down by where the Cornucopia, just past --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: By Cornucopia?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By Cornucopia cruise line. It's right on the coast just as you go over the border.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. So it's on the coast of Hoboken and East River, right? Hudson River. OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: And those of us who spent any time there in that area know that that's that waterway separating New Jersey from New York just across from that Hoboken/Weehawken area that they're talking about there.
Let me just read you the very latest we're getting, at least according to official reports. Divers have resumed efforts Monday to try and find two more bodies believed to be remaining.
So all in all, nine people dead, two bodies still in the water that haven't been found, and apparently, those could be found. If that happens, we'll certainly bring you that as well.
All right, there we have it. More news as it continues to come in. If there are more 911s, we will share those with you as well.
And when we come back, the story of a town in Maine where suddenly some people have switched from prescription drugs to heroin. Why? And what led them to it? We'll tell you. Stay with us.
SANCHEZ: We promise that we're going to be getting into the health care debate in this country, and looking at it each day one piece at a time.
One of the problems obviously is pharmaceuticals, the cost of pharmaceuticals, and the problems. PhRMAceuticals are, no question, big money in this country. So it may be no surprise that sales are doing just fine, thank you.
Here's another one that may not surprise you. Americans are arguably as overmedicated as any people anywhere in any country in the world.
And some are downright hooked, like the people that you're about to meet in a town in Maine who got so hooked on prescription drugs like OxyContin, for example, that they ended up having to make do by turning to heroin -- heroin -- when they ran out of money and/or prescriptions.
This is an important story. It's a CNN exclusive. The reporter is Alina Cho.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Picture-perfect Maine, home to lighthouses, lobsters --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Heroin, heroin, more heroin.
CHO: And heroin?
LEEANNE LARIVIERE, RECOVERING DRUG ADDICT: It's very available out here. It's scary.
CHO: Thousands of miles from the drug cartels of Mexico, Kittery, Maine in New England is a new Mecca for heroin use. Detective Steve Hamel has been working narcotics for two decades. He says he's seen it all, but never this.
DETECTIVE STEVE HAMEL, KITTERY, MAINE POLICE: My caseload alone for heroin and OxyContin has tripled over the past three years.
CHO (on camera): That's incredible.
HAMEL: Yes, it is.
CHO (voice-over): Detectives are working around the clock. Dealers are making a killing.
CHO (on camera): This is Fast cash.
CHO (voice-over): And the addicts are some of Maine's youngest, getting high on $5 a hit.
HAMEL: Cheaper than a six pack of beer for most high school kids.
CHO: And highly addictive.
CAROL LARSON, DRUG COUNSELOR: We have tended to think a drug is a drug is a drug. One of the things that is happening with heroin is that the craving for the drug happens months and months and months after they put it down.
CHO: Treatment for heroin addiction in Maine was up 40 percent last year. Some are not able to kick the habit, like 17-year-old Bethany Fritz, who died of a heroin overdose in 2004.
Since then, Kittery police say another four from the area have died, all in their 20s. Why Maine?
HAMEL: Little Kittery, Maine, people think, wow, nothing goes on up there, law enforcement is way behind the times. It's just a relaxed. I can blend in better up there.
CHO: And it never ends. The day of our visit, a heroin arrest is front page news.
CHO (on camera): How hopeful are you that you can fight this and win?
HAMEL: We're never going to win. I really don't think we're ever going to win. But if we weren't there, just think how bad it would be if we weren't out there doing what we do. For every one we get, maybe ten get away, but we're still going to stay in the fight.
CHO (voice-over): Drug counselors say heroin addiction often begins with a simple prescription for OxyContin, a painkiller, and like heroin, also an opiate.
The patient gets addicted to OxyContin, needs more and more, begins to doctor shop, then realizes you can get the same high on heroin for a tenth of the cost. You do the math -- $50 a pill versus $5 a hit. Heroin is cheap, it's available, and detectives say the demand has never been higher.
SANCHEZ: It is absolutely amazing to think that some Americans using legitimate prescription are getting drugs, and when they no longer can get that drug because they no longer have the prescription or they don't have the money are turning to something like heroin.
I want to introduce you to somebody. This is Dominick Assante. He's joining us live from Detroit. You actually experienced something like this, did you not?
DOMINICK ASSANTE, RECOVERING HEROIN ADDICT: Yes, sir, I have.
SANCHEZ: Take us through your story. What did you get hooked on as a result of what prescription drug?
ASSANTE: OK. It was first Vicoprofen, which is like a basic opiate. I had oral surgery in my mouth.
ASSANTE: And that turned into OxyContin because the Vicodin wasn't working anymore. It was not strong enough. And, unfortunately, our bodies build a tolerance to these drugs, and then you need more and more and more. And they're expensive.
SANCHEZ: How long did you take the original drug? What did you say it was?
ASSANTE: It's Vicoprofen. It's a combination of Vicodin and Advil.
SANCHEZ: It's a painkiller?
SANCHEZ: And for how long did you take that?
ASSANTE: I took that for about three months.
SANCHEZ: I don't want the get anybody in trouble until we do our homework, so don't give us any names of dentists or doctors or anything like that. But the person who gave you this was, what, your dentist?
ASSANTE: Yes. He gave me the prescription, yes.
SANCHEZ: He gave you three months worth of prescriptions for a painkiller for a dental procedure?
ASSANTE: He sure did. He kept giving it to me.
And then the funny thing about it was I actually hurt my back during that time and told him, you know, the Vicodin now doesn't work anymore. He sent me to my general practitioner and he prescribed me OxyContin.
SANCHEZ: What would you tell somebody out there who may be watching who may go to the doctor tomorrow, and they give them this big bottle full of these capsules and a refill to maybe get some more when they're done with that one? What would you say to those people?
ASSANTE: You're in big trouble. You're in big trouble. I wouldn't take them.
SANCHEZ: So, what do you do, then? Because you do have pain, I imagine. You should take maybe one that night, maybe one the following night, and try and get off of it, right?
ASSANTE: Yes, for sure. The biggest problem about it is that it becomes an addiction after you take it for so long. And then now you're stuck with this thing that just won't go away. You feel like there's no way out.
SANCHEZ: Here's my problem with this. And I'm not trying to put two and two together, but I'm going to raise the question because that's what I'm paid to do. Ali Velshi, you still there? Is Ali Velshi still with us?
VELSHI: I am. I'm listening to your conversation.
SANCHEZ: Wave your hand. You understand business, right? The company that makes whatever -- Ali, the company that makes whatever prescription drug he was taking makes more money if they sell him two or three big bottles than if the just takes one or two capsules, do they not?
VELSHI: That's correct.
SANCHEZ: So, in this country, given that we've got a health care system that is set up to help big business make lots of money, isn't there a conflicting interest here? We're keeping a guy like Mr. Asante here healthy and making money for the pharmaceutical company that makes that drug?
VELSHI: Well, take it further than that. Take it further up to the 50,000-foot view. Part of the problem with our health care system is that it is built around treatment of things once they happen as opposed to keeping people from having to have those things.
So, yes, our -- our system, our reimbursement system, our insurance system is all built around the profitability of treating people for things they already have.
So, there are a lot of flaws in the system. In fact, I've been getting a lot of tweets and Facebook comments about why are we not fixing the cost side of health care as opposed to worrying as much about insurance?
It's two separate problems, and the one you're talking about is the cost and the profitability of medication and health care.
SANCHEZ: And I'm all for profit. Everybody deserves to make a living and feed their kids and put their kids through college.
SANCHEZ: Heaven knows I'm going through that experience myself with my own kids.
But you just have to wonder -- and then you throw the doctor into the mix. And you do hear about the relationship between doctors, pharmaceutical companies, junkets, and you just wonder if we're giving people stuff that they don't really need that could actually hurt them.
VELSHI: I'll tell you one thing, Rick, that's worthy to keep in mind. It's not a defense of the pharmaceutical industry, but it is a point that PhRMA and their representatives make a lot, and that is -- you know, one in 10 drugs doesn't make it to market after three stages of very, very expensive and heavy trials.
So, what happens is they feel that they need to make the money on the ones that work to fund new discoveries. And they feel that if you trim back on how they make their money too much, what'll happen is you simply won't get the research and development into the new drugs for those things that we don't have cures for.
So, it's just one more thing to put into that discussion.
SANCHEZ: I know. And it's a discussion, and that's what we're having, and we're hoping you will have this discussion, as well, as the country gets ready to reform health care.
My thanks to both of you. Always good to see you, Ali. Ali is on the road again, by the way, and no I'm not going to sing the song.
Mr. Assante, thanks for sharing your story with us, sir.
ASSANTE: Thank you.
SANCHEZ: We appreciate it. And we'll be seeing you after the show, by the way, in just a little bit.
Meanwhile, this video of a U.S. Apache helicopter, the kind of video that is rarely seen, doing what gunships do. Wow. It's amazing.
SANCHEZ: Look what happens in Afghanistan when a U.S. gunship finds two insurgents. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. We're tracking two to three individuals. There's a hotspot on the road. The convoy just passed. It's approximately midnight right now. Aircraft came on. Two individuals now trying to avoid the aircraft and looks like these guys are trying to play some hiding games.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. Keep your eyes on them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. Copy. We've got eyes on them. They're not going anywhere. There's plenty of open terrain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Looks like they're laying down. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. So, go to the hole right there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The hole right here. We came on station, I saw one individual, looked like he was digging in the hole. As soon as they heard the helicopters, they -- one guy kind of bent down, running over to this area here where it looked like another individual was in an over-watch position.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. These guys are kind of like crouched down now, hiding in what looks like a little bit of -- a little hole.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right, one individual just stood up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. He's sneaking out to the road. Looks like he's tiptoeing out to the road, sneaking. Now he's down in the hole again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just going to see what else he does. We can build our case, then we're going to lead off with hell fire, left and right. I'll call out my gun target line.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. We have eyes on three individuals. Two in the hole. One from the west.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. What we're going to do is we are going to wait till he goes back to his buddy, and then we'll try to hit them all. We're going to engage these individuals. Currently observed one individual. He's back out of the hole right now. Looks like he's placed something in there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A wire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A wire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're clear to go ahead and shoot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger. We have everything we need on these guys. We just want you to run a wire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Roger that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hit the guy in the road. Hit the guy in the road.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We'll hit the guy in the road. You guys got the guy on the side.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Roger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fire. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go. Get the buddies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANCHEZ: Sometimes the story just needs to be shown.
Thanks so much for being with us. Here now, the "Situation Room" and Wolf Blitzer.