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Plane Hits Texas Building; Conservatives Plan Political Future
Aired February 18, 2010 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAMPBELL BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody.
Our top story tonight: A suicidal man slams his plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas.
That tops our "Mash-Up" tonight.
A federal official saying they don't consider the incident an act of terrorism, but they do believe it was a very deliberate act of rage.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: This is pretty dramatic stuff here. We have got a building on fire. This is in Austin, Texas. We have got reports of a small plane into that building.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: He crashed the plane into the second floor of the office building where 200 IRS employees worked.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Federal officials told CNN that this pilot of this plane apparently set his house on fire and then stole this aircraft from the airport and crashed it into this building.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He took off from the Georgetown Municipal Airport and flew the 25 miles from the airport south to the Echelon office building, just off Highway 183, hitting the building just before 9:56 a.m.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: At last word, one person was unaccounted for. But it appears everyone else except for the pilot got out alive.
MESERVE: We do have a name, Joseph Andrew Stack, this from a federal law enforcement official.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Investigators now suspect he intentionally targeted the IRS.
BLITZER: Stack apparently left a suicide note on the Internet. A message on a Web site registered to him rails against the government and especially the IRS and it declares that violence, in his words, is the only answer.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BROWN: We're going to have a lot more on this story coming up, including an in-depth look at who this man was, Joseph Andrew Stack. We do know, as Wolf said, he was mad at the IRS, mad at the government, also very clearly disturbed.
But one politician, newly elected Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown, tried to connect this awful incident to the anger that got him elected. Here's what he told FOX News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, it's certainly tragic, and I feel for the families, obviously, that are being affected by it.
And I don't know if it's related, but I can just sense, not only in my election, but since being here in Washington, people are frustrated. They want transparency. They want their elected officials to be accountable and open, and, you know, talk about the things that are affecting their daily lives.
So I'm not sure if there's a connection. I certainly hope not. But, you know, we need to do things better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Newly elected Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown.
Turning to Iran now, a new report from the U.N. for the first time raises concerns that the nation is still working on a nuclear weapon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The United Nations' top nuclear watchdog says Tehran may be secretly developing a nuclear warhead for a missile right now. It's the first time the International Atomic Energy Agency has issued such a strong warning about Iran's nuclear intentions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The agency warning that it does have concerns. It does detail what looked like a pattern of defiance from Iran, saying that the country, for instance, has been resistant to IAEA calls to allow inspectors greater access to its nuclear facilities. It cited the fact that Iran has gone ahead and enriched uranium to 20 percent, against U.N. Security Council resolutions, as evidence that it is being defiant in this regard.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House says there will be consequences if Iran continues, but from the White House today, no specifics about what kind of action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: The United States and Europe are pushing the U.N. to pass a new set of sanctions against Iran. And to Afghanistan now, where fighting intensified in the Taliban stronghold of Marjah. Insurgents are not backing down, even in the face of a major allied defensive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ATIA ABAWI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Responding to the enemy.
U.S. Marines and Afghan forces came under attack late Thursday afternoon. Day six of Operation Moshtarak proved that the fight for Marjah rages on. And there seems to be no end in near sight.
MAJ. GEN. NICK CARTER, British Army: I guess it will take us another 25 to 30 days to be entirely sure that we have secured that which needs to be secured.
ABAWI: The Taliban have been fighting in small groups throughout the city, hiding in homes, stores and fields, slyly making their way to U.S. positions.
They have had months to plan their attack after NATO openly announced this operation late last year. But, still, commanders are hopeful that Marjah will be a turning point in the Afghan war and that some of the fighters will put down the arms and turn to the Afghan government.
As the sun was setting, the fight continued, lasting for nearly two hours, testament to an enemy that hasn't gone away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Meanwhile, sources telling CNN tonight at least one Afghan Taliban leader has been seized in neighboring Pakistan by security forces.
In Haiti, a judge ruled today that two American missionaries will remain in custody. They are facing charges of kidnapping 33 children after the earthquake. Eight of their colleagues were released last night and are back in the United States.
CNN's John Vause managed to speak to one of the remaining missionaries, Laura Silsby. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN VAUSE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Laura, how did that meeting go?
LAURA SILSBY, DETAINED IN HAITI: It went very well.
SILSBY: We're trusting God for all truth to be revealed...
SILSBY: ... and believing that God will reveal truth through the Haitian justice system. They're seeking the truth.
VAUSE: Do you miss your colleagues who have left?
SILSBY: You know, I'm glad they were able to go earlier than me. That is good. I'm trusting God.
VAUSE: Are you happy with the Haitian judicial process as it's currently happening?
SILSBY: They're doing the best they can.
VAUSE: Any idea what the judge will decide in all of this, Laura?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She will be free.
QUESTION: Any idea when you might go home?
VAUSE: When will you be free, Laura? When do you think the judge will grant you bail?
SILSBY: I don't know that. I don't know yet. I don't know.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. May God bless you. I'm with you. You will be free.
QUESTION: Could it be today?
SILSBY: Not today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Silsby's attorney says she is still in custody, as Haitian authorities try to determine why she visited Haiti in the days before the earthquake.
To Washington now. A who's-who of the Republican Party turned out for the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Committee. And Dick Cheney stole the show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
RICHARD B. CHENEY, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A welcome like that is almost enough to want to make me run for office again.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CHENEY: But I'm not going to do it.
2010 is going to be a phenomenal year for the conservative cause.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
CHENEY: And I think Barack Obama is a one-term president.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: From tea parties to the election in Massachusetts, we're witnessing the single greatest political pushback in American history.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scott Brown!
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
S. BROWN: My name is Scott Brown, and I'm the newly elected Republican senator from Massachusetts.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
S. BROWN: So, it feels like a new day dawning. And I'm so excited to be part of it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: Those last two speakers, the newest Republican star Senate candidate Marco Rubio of Florida, and Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts successor who you heard earlier there, Scott Brown. A lot more on this story coming up in the hour tonight.
And that brings us to the "Punchline," courtesy of David Letterman. Witnesses musings on King Tut.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN")
DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, "THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN": Now, you folks all know King Tut, right? He's a wild guy, that King Tut.
And he died 3,000 years ago -- 3,000 years ago, King Tut. And now they have taken a look at him, checking him out again, giving him a complete workup. And here's -- if he had been alive today, King Tut, this is what he would have looked like, 3,000 years. There's...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: David Letterman, everybody. And that is the "Mash-Up." Up next: new details on who Joseph Stack was targeting and why he may have been targeting them when he flew his plane into a building in Austin, Texas, today.
Abbie Boudreau of CNN's Special Investigations Unit will be here in a moment.
BROWN: Late word tonight that a body has been found inside that still-smoldering wreckage down in Austin, Texas.
Before taking off, Joe Stack also intentionally set his own home on fire and posted a lengthy rambling blog, a road map to his hatred. Police aren't sure if the body just found is that of Stack or a federal employee who has yet to be accounted for.
And Abbie Boudreau of CNN's Special Investigations Unit shows us how all of this unfolded today.
ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT (voice-over): Witnesses watch as a small plane crashes into this seven-story office building in Austin, Texas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I saw something fall out of the sky and then a big fireball kind of shoot out.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The building shook, and the lights went out, and then the lights flashed on. And then the roof came in. And it felt like stuff fell on top of us.
BOUDREAU: Two people rushed to the hospital, one person missing, at that point, no word on the pilot or just how this happened.
Officials at the Department of Homeland Security told CNN -- quote -- they had "no reason to believe there's a nexus to terrorist activity."
The local police chief said there was no cause for alarm.
ART ACEVEDO, AUSTIN, TEXAS, POLICE CHIEF: There is in cause for alarm. There is no cause to panic, and there's no reason why people shouldn't go out and enjoy their day.
BOUDREAU: But then we learned who the pilot is, this man, 53- year-old Joseph Stack. The clues started making more sense. Officials say it was his Piper Cherokee, similar to this one, that smashed into the office building, which housed some 200 IRS employees.
They also reported just two-and-a-half-hours before his plane crashed Stack lit his house on fire. His wife and 13-year-old daughter were inside. Police say they were able to escape.
SHANNON HOUSTON, NEIGHBOR: And when I walked out of the house, I saw, of course, the flames and the smoke and a little while later I saw a little girl crying. She was crying really hard. And she ran into my neighbor's house. And it appears to be her mother.
BOUDREAU: What appears to be his wife's Facebook page includes a photo of her and their daughter in happier times.
But there's little mention of them in this six-page apparent suicide note uncovered on a Web site registered to Joseph Andrew Stack. Stack rails against the Catholic Church and the federal government and in particular the IRS, the very agency he seems to have targeted in his plane.
He wrote in detail of his anger toward the IRS about tax legislation, which he says hurt his bottom line. According to the Web site businessinsider.com, Stack began writing his letter two days ago. He made 27 revisions, his last this morning at 6:42.
His letter goes on to say: "I choose not to keep looking over my shoulder at Big Brother while he strips my carcass. I choose not to ignore what is going on all around me. I choose not to pretend that business as usual won't continue. I have just had enough."
BOUDREAU: So far, 13 people have been reported injured. Two are critical. And, to repeat, a body has now been found inside the building, but we don't know if it's Joseph Stack or that missing federal worker.
BROWN: Abbie, when you look at that video, it's amazing more people weren't injured or killed.
BOUDREAU: It really is remarkable, because, when you think about it, you have to wonder how that plane crashed into the building, how many people were in that area, and how quickly they could get out or how quickly they were rescued. It is unbelievable.
BROWN: Very, very lucky for a lot of people.
Abbie Boudreau for us -- good to you have you here tonight, Abbie. Thanks.
If President Obama's ears are burning tonight, it shouldn't come as a surprise, as conservatives gather in D.C. to plan their political future. We're going to give you an inside look coming up.
BROWN: Conservatives tonight are sounding fired up and ready to go.
CPAC, the three-day Conservative Political Action Committee conference kicked off in Washington today. And after struggling for more than a year to try to define their message, it sounds like Republicans have finally got it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK ARMEY, FORMER REPUBLICAN HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: The central purpose of this presidency is for the government to be in control and redistribute income.
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: If these liberal neo-monarchists succeed, they would kill the very spirit that has built the nation.
RUBIO: They're using the downturn as cover, not to fix America, but to try to change America.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's going to try to expand the size of the federal government until it permeates every aspect of our lives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The battle is between the American people and the Democrats. And I like those odds.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: A lot of excitement there today, but can it power the GOP to victory in the midterms?
Joining me now, senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, who is, of course, host of CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," and Erick Erickson, editor in chief of RedState.com. We have also got John Avlon, senior political columnist for The Daily Beast, with us as well.
And I should mention, too -- John, hold on -- I'm giving you full credit -- "Wingnuts," the author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America."
JOHN AVLON, AUTHOR, "WINGNUTS: HOW THE LUNATIC FRINGE IS HIJACKING AMERICA": Thank you, Campbell.
BROWN: Of course, for you, John.
Candy, let me start with you. Listening today, you did get the sense that this group now has a cause, a message, that they are pretty united, and they see this as a moment, don't they?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: They do. And they look at the polls. They have seen -- I mean, think about this a year ago. We always say, oh, you know, a week is a lifetime in politics. Well, a year is eons. And things have really changed.
Remember, the Republican Party was being written off, the end of conservatism. And now they're looking at these races, rightly or wrongly, interpreting races in New Jersey, in Virginia, in Massachusetts, where there were Republican victories, and saying, we are on to something here.
And what they think you're on to is what you saw in all of those sound bites, which is that the Democrats want a huge government to interfere in your life and tax you to death to redistribute wealth. And that is thematic.
BROWN: Erick, every establishment politician you heard today did pretty much I think all paid tribute to the Tea Party, correct?
ERICK ERICKSON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, REDSTATE.COM: Right. Yes, very much so.
I mean, the Tea Party theme was real big here this year. You know, it's interesting, though, I think, that you're having some of these guys, who are fairly well-considered establishment Republicans, like Dick Armey, the former majority leader, actually endorse a guy like Mike Lee in Utah running against a sitting incumbent Republican, and really interesting dynamic here, Marco Rubio treated like a rock star and Jim DeMint as well.
These guys are the candidates the Tea Party is rallying to. And CPAC seems to be headed that way. They're afraid Republicans get elected next year. Historically, they're probably going to pick up seats, and they want to make sure it's the right kind of Republican.
BROWN: But there do seem to be various factions here. I mean, you look at somebody like Scott Brown, who gets this hero's welcome there, who's pro-choice, who is very liberal on gay marriage, certainly compared to a lot of other people in that room, and still gets that sort of welcome.
BROWN: It's not as though you can say, you know, in terms of where people are on the issues, there is unity.
ERICKSON: Yes, there is a lot of unity. And, you know, conservatives and Republicans are generally well-aligned. Scott Brown was treated as the hero, the guy who is going to kill Obama...
BROWN: Is he an anomaly?
ERICKSON: You know, to some degree, I think he is. I think he will, within a matter of months probably, be making conservatives, giving them a little heartburn with his voting record. He will be a good New England Republican, which means he will not be conservative.
BROWN: John, you were walking around today. What was your take on what was going on?
AVLON: Well, the theme of this conference, below the podium and in the seminar rooms, is saving freedom. And that's certainly how the participants view this. They believed themselves to be saving freedom, fighting against socialism. But the big question is, is, while they can build a bridge to independents on the issue of fiscal conservatism, if you try to extend that and then say it's a fight against socialism, which is the general consensus right now, that seems like a bridge too far.
This is a group of people, when they say saving freedom, they're confusing at heart losing an election with living under tyranny. That's a message that strikes a lot of independents as a little extreme.
BROWN: Let me ask you about presidential politics a little bit.
Candy, we saw this particularly fiery speech from Mitt Romney, clearly trying to position himself as the presidential candidate of the insurgency? What was your take on his speech? Did he succeed?
CROWLEY: Well, I tell you, it was very -- it was very much a sort of presidential tryout speech. He could have given it on the trail in 2008.
He certainly can give it on the trail on 2012. Listen, the rock star here was Dick Cheney's surprise visit and then Marco Rubio. I mean, those were the two that sort of lit the fire in the room.
Mitt Romney was well-received, but let's remember he's also a Massachusetts Republican. They have always been sort of suspect. But he has over the course of the last four years or so sort of steadily moved right. So, he still is one of those people that they look at. He was certainly well-received, but it wasn't on the same level as Rubio, who just is such a big promise, particularly to the Tea Party people, who have backed him so heavily in the Florida senatorial race.
BROWN: I do want to ask you, Erick, to give me your take, though, because you did hear a lot of anger coming from that podium today. And I do think at the end of the day that that alone isn't going to get it.
People are looking for solutions here. They may not like where the president is headed. And they -- you know, but you can't just sort of present this opposition position to everything, can you, and have any sort of success over the long term?
ERICKSON: Maybe not over the long term, but, short term, yes, I think you can and I think they are. These guys are viewing themselves more as happy warriors, not so much angry, although they don't like the direction the country is going.
But they realize that the Republicans are going to pick up seats just by virtue of history. They're the party out of power. They're really worried more not just about Barack Obama and the Democrats, but they're worried about what type of Republicans are going to win, which is why you see a guy like Jim DeMint pushing very hard to get conservatives elected in Republican primaries.
But they understand what's at stake. And, you know, right up front, I think being the party of no isn't necessarily a bad thing for now, although, when we get closer to the election, they're going to have to not just rally the base, but explain to independents what they would do differently, yes.
AVLON: And the American people want to see problems solved. And if you have a movement that is primarily about anger and opposition, it doesn't cross that bridge. One of the speakers today said, we need to attack, attack, attack, and never defend.
Well, the problem with that is, is that they're attacking their fellow Americans. And if you adapt a fundamentally divide-to-conquer strategy, and that's the core of your message, that's going to alienate voters in the center. And it should.
You cannot divide to conquer the American people at the end of the day. It's a losing strategy, because it's a self-defeating strategy, even if you try to wrap it up in the American flag.
BROWN: All right, John Avlon tonight...
CROWLEY: You know...
BROWN: Yes, go ahead, Candy, quickly.
CROWLEY: I was just going to say, in the end, the big unanswered questions for the Republican Party and for the Tea Party people is, can you get the passion of the Tea Party and somehow integrate it into the structure of the Republican Party?
I think that's still an open question. If Marco Rubio loses in the Florida primary and Charlie Crist wins, are the Tea Party people going to go out and support him? I don't know that they will.
So, I think that that is still an unanswered question for Republicans before they start to count their victories.
ERICKSON: Rubio won't lose.
BROWN: We will see.
AVLON: I agree with Eric.
BROWN: Candy Crowley, Erick Erickson and John Avlon, thanks, guys. Appreciate it.
Coming up next: a special investigation into a deal that might just be too good to be true. Can investing in lawsuits be a money- making venture? In a moment, we will tell you.
BROWN: Last night, we introduced you to a Ponzi schemer who is being called a Madoff on crack by some. He's conned hedge funds and rich friends into investing in lawsuits in South Florida. Well, it turns out those cases and all those clients were fake.
But there are real companies out there that make big bucks bankrolling court cases.
And Abbie Boudreau takes a closer look at this little known, little-regulated industry. Take a look.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): This lawyer-turned-entrepreneur gambles on lawsuits for a living.
DAVID DESSER, JURIS CAPITAL: We are not actively involved in the litigation. We're financial investors in litigation outcomes.
BOUDREAU: Desser bets on the outcome of big corporate lawsuits. His company, Juris Capital, bankrolls the side he predicts will win. That money helps fund the case. If he backs the winner, Desser and his investors get a cut of any settlement or award. If the company bets wrong, it gets nothing.
DESSER: Of course we expect to have more winners than losers. Otherwise, we wouldn't be in business, right?
BOUDREAU (on camera): Not many people have heard of litigation financing, but it's a growing and largely unregulated industry. And it's not just for hedge funds or big investors. More and more companies are now investing in smaller, personal injury-type cases, cases like Tabitha Mullings'.
TABITHA MULLINGS, PLAINTIFF: I was doing the black under -- under the one.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Mullings has to relearn how to do the simplest things.
BOUDREAU (on camera): What happened to you?
MULLINGS: I was in a coma for two-and-a-half weeks, but...
BOUDREAU (voice-over): In 2008, Mullings says she was sent home from the Brooklyn Hospital Center diagnosed with kidney stones. She developed an infection, septic shock. Her hands and feet had to be amputated.
MULLINGS: No hands, no feet, and no job.
BOUDREAU: She sued, but the hospital and her doctors denied liability, setting up a lawsuit that could take years. Unable to work, money got tight, and she couldn't get a loan from a bank.
(on camera): So, there was a certain point, though, that you did need help, and not just physical help, but you need financial help?
MULLINGS: Absolutely. My bills were, like, so sky-high. And, you know, my kids needed money for lunch or for the bus, rent.
BOUDREAU: Legally, Mullings could not borrow money from her lawyer. But her attorney did suggest an alternative you may know about if you watch late-night TV.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need more time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have had this case for over 3 1/2 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOUDREAU: When Harvey Hirschfeld isn't playing a judge in his company's ads --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARVEY HIRSCHFELD, LAWCASH PRESIDENT: You should call 1-800-law- cash.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BOUDREAU: He runs law cash, a company that invests in lawsuits like Mullings.
(on camera): How is your company able to help Tabitha Mullings?
HIRSCHFELD: We provided the means to help her where she needed money to be able to get around.
BOUDREAU: What kind of rates are you talking about?
HIRSCHFELD: It all depends on what the risk profile is in the state of the case. Each case is different.
BOUDREAU: Is there sort of a range?
HIRSCHFELD: Two to four percent a month is really probably what the general range would be.
BOUDREAU: So that does add up over time?
HIRSCHFELD: It does. That's just not for everyone. But if you need the capital, if you need the money to stop a foreclosure or stop an eviction, providing a legal funding for that gives them the mean to keep their case open.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Mullings signed a contract to receive $75,000 from LawCash.
(on camera): If you were awarded a settlement, then you pay that back with the accrued fees?
TABITHA MULLINGS, SUING HOSPITAL FOR DEVELOPING SEPSIS INFECTION: That's correct.
BOUDREAU: And to you that's worth it? MULLINGS: Absolutely.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Some lawyers say litigation finance can get in the way of justice.
DAVID BLAND, ATTORNEY: This is a case what was better for a client to lose her case than to win it because of what had happened.
Anything that he needs me to do about this?
BOUDREAU: David Bland is a lawyer in Matthews, North Carolina. He represented a woman there who sued the former owner of Charlotte Hornets basketball team for sexual assault.
BLAND: It's a tragedy that never had to take place, shouldn't have had to take place if we hadn't had outsiders involved in influencing the outcome of the litigation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Each and every element --
BOUDREAU: That's because all the lawyers involved felt the case should settle.
BLAND: The client for reasons unknown to the judge and all the lawyers, when we would try to talk with her about it would storm out of the room and jump in her car and drive away. And leave us there trying to figure out why won't she talk with us about it.
BOUDREAU: She refused to settle so the case went to a jury which rejected the sexual assault claim. It was only then that she told Bland the full story.
BLAND: She wouldn't come to the office. We went out and sat in her car. And she told me about what happened.
BOUDREAU: Bland's client confessed she borrowed $200,000 from a litigation finance company and never told him. The contract required her to repay at least $600,000 if she won anything. The settlement they were negotiating wasn't enough to pay off what she owed.
BLAND: It's all about the money. No doubt about that.
BOUDREAU: Bland sued the litigation finance company for his legal fees. The court ruled there was wrongful interference with the case.
BLAND: I'm not that I'm opposed to litigation finance, I just believe that obviously all the facts need to be disclosed to everybody. And I think that if this industry is going to go on, I think they should have some kind of regulation, either by the bar or by state legislatures or something so there's some kind of controls out there where things like this don't happen.
BROWN: And Abbie is back with me right now. And, Abbie, explain to us that even during this time of recession, these companies are doing really well. Explain why.
BOUDREAU: Well, basically normally if people are waiting for a settlement and they need money to pay their bills, they ask friends and family for money. But right now when times are tough and money is tight, family and friends can't just dish out a bunch of money. And banks aren't giving loans. So these companies are doing really well because there's a need for these kinds of companies. And people are willing to pay those accrued fees.
BROWN: And that may be the only option in many cases. So how difficult are the contracts to understand?
BOUDREAU: Right. Well, the contracts, some are easy to read and some are very complicated. And what was interesting when we interviewed Tabitha Mullings, she wasn't real clear at the time that she signed the contract she probably was clear and she probably understood the contract. But when I asked her pointblank, what are your accrued fees, do you know how much you're going to be owing if you do win a settlement? She has had a real hard time. I think these things are very complicated and not very easy to understand, and people need to be very careful.
BROWN: Yes, really fascinating story. Abbie Boudreau for us tonight. Abbie, thanks.
In a moment, concerns about two very common drugs. You probably have at least one of them in your medicine cabinet. So is it safe for you to use them? You may be surprised by what you hear when we come back.
BROWN: Wonder drugs, we hear a lot about them. After all this is the age of miracles and our remedies and treatments are the best ever, right? Well, not so fast. In this new book called "The Decision Tree," author Thomas Goetz argues that this idea of wonder drugs is a myth at best and dangerous at worst. Take a look.
BROWN: Thomas Goetz is joining us right now from San Francisco along with Dr. Jorge Rodriguez to talk a little more about this.
And, Thomas, here is what I think jumped out at me. You write that a couple of everyday medicines may not even make it on the market today and they are aspirin, acetaminophen, otherwise known as Tylenol and brand form for people.
THOMAS GOETZ, "THE DECISION TREE": right.
BROWN: We all take those medicines. How can that be?
GOETZ: Well, it's really, they're a legacy of the way the drug of regulatory system has happened. The FDA has very close oversight over new drugs now. And when those drugs were developed, the FDA didn't really exist as it does now. So the fact that they are so effective for us, but also have kind of all these side effects that would kind of send up red flags, you know, they wouldn't get through the FDA these days.
BROWN: And be specific about what those side effects are and what the real problem is here.
GOETZ: Right. So with aspirin, the side effects are they can cause gastric bleeding in some people and among young kids aspirin can cause Reye syndrome. So those are effects that are known and some people avoid aspirin because of that.
And with acetaminophen, the side effects are liver failure. So if people take too much acetaminophen, they can actually have liver failure. And what they found also is that it happens when you have a certain genetic mutation that can also promote liver failure if you take acetaminophen.
BROWN: Dr. Rodriguez, last year the FDA released new safety guidance for Tylenol. Walk us through exactly what those guidelines are and whether you think patients are actually following them, too.
DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, BOARD CERTIFIED INTERNIST: Well, I don't know if people are following those guidelines. But first of all, let me start by saying that acetaminophen is a very safe drug. And you can find exceptions to everything. If taken excessively at doses that are much higher than are supposed to be taken, Tylenol can cause liver disease. So, therefore, if you already have a liver disease, whether it's chronic hepatitis, liver cancer, or something, if you already have a damaged liver, then you shouldn't add insult to injury, obviously by taking more acetaminophen. So those are the guidelines. If you have any underlying illness, don't add any insult to injury by taking Tylenol. But it has to be -- let me be very clear about this -- it has to be very high doses for it to be toxic.
BROWN: So you still recommend it to your patients as a general pain reliever, right?
RODRIGUEZ: Absolutely. Absolutely.
GOETZ: The point that I'm trying to make in the book by bringing up acetaminophen and aspirin is that these drugs work through very broad measures. Right? They have very broad impacts on the human body. And the way that they develop drugs now, the way the pharmaceutical company or the pharmaceutical industry works now, is to look at very specific targets. And what I'm trying to argue in the book is that really the general public needs to know how well these drugs work and what the risks are with the drugs. And the way we communicate those risks right now is really not that clear to individuals. So something like asthma drugs, they work in 50 to 60 percent of patients. Well, when you get prescribed one of those drugs, you want to know whether or not you're in that 50, 60 percent, or in the 40 percent for whom the drug doesn't work.
BROWN: So --
GOETZ: And it's very difficult to get that information.
BROWN: Let me stop you there for a second. This is kind of interesting I think. You make the point about asthma drugs. Also in your book you say migraine drugs work about 50 percent of the time.
BROWN: Alzheimer's about 30 percent of the time. Cancer drugs, about 25 percent of the time.
BROWN: So given that, what is the threshold that a drug has to cross in order to get approved?
GOETZ: Well, let me just be clear. I really think drugs are really wonderful things. And I think the pharmaceutical industry has done us a great service as a society in developing these drugs. What they want to do is when they get approved, they need to be the placebo. So they need to be significantly more effective than a placebo. And some of these, you know, with cancer, that's a very difficult disease and so when you get a drug that works 25 percent of the time, that's pretty good. You know, that's --
BROWN: If you're a cancer patient, you're going to take it if with works 25 percent of the time.
GOETZ: Right. Absolutely.
BROWN: But you're saying just to be clear here, because I'm not sure we have that much of an argument. I mean, sure saying the problem is that most people don't realize that it only works 25 percent of the time.
GOETZ: Right. It's making sure that people understand that they -- when they're prescribed these drugs these are not sure things.
BROWN: Guaranteed. Right.
GOETZ: These are not wonder drugs. They work for some people.
BROWN: OK. Jorge, let me let to respond to that. Go ahead.
RODRIGUEZ: Yes. Well, you know what, it all is dependent on the disease. And most vaccines, for example, are effective 97 percent of the time. But if we come up with an AIDS vaccine that is effective 60 percent of the time, guess what? That vaccine is going to go into market and it should go into market because of how many millions of people it's going to save. Obviously the patient should ask their physician how often is this effective? The patient then decides whether that's worth it for them.
I completely agree with Thomas. You know, we get so much direct to consumer now advertisement that people think that almost every medication is a wonder drug. Conversely, they also think that every medication may have these horrible effects. It's all about statistics and it's all about what percentage it helps and what percentage it hurts. And that's what people have to know and decide.
BROWN: Thomas, let me --
RODRIGUEZ: But the problem is whether they're going to take, yes.
BROWN: Yes, go ahead. Thomas, go ahead.
GOETZ: Well, the problem is it's extremely difficult to get that information. When I was reporting the book, I thought it would be really easy. I'd call the FDA and I'd call Medicare and I'd find out how much a few drugs work. How often they work. What are the percentage of efficacy? It turns out the FDA and Medicare don't have those numbers. You know, the drug industry has those numbers.
RODRIGUEZ: Thomas --
BROWN: So how -- well, let me ask you both this --
RODRIGUEZ: Thomas, all of -- excuse me
BROWN: How do you -- this is a fair point, though, Jorge. I mean, to both of you, how do you address it then? Should we be asking pharmaceutical companies to tell us on the bottle this only works 60 percent of the time?
RODRIGUEZ: Yes. Yes, Campbell, let me just state something. I really don't think that what Thomas quoted is correct because every medication, every compound that's out there has to have an insert in that label insert that tells you what the studies were used to make that medication available and how efficacious it was. I mean, you should be able to see with every product in its insert that it cures or is comparable to 50 percent efficacious compared to other medications.
GOETZ: What they tell you -- because really I wanted these -- the numbers I was looking for was how effective is this drug in a population? So what -- does it work for 50 percent of the population? Does it work for 75 percent of the population? The drugs that are -- the statistics that are in those inserts are what percentage did it work better than a placebo? You don't actually get the raw numbers.
RODRIGUEZ: Well, Thomas -- no, Thomas, you can't do that because when you have a new medication and you have nothing to compare it to -- first of all, you can't test a million people. It's just not financially viable. So sometimes --
GOETZ: I'm not suggesting that.
RODRIGUEZ: You know, and this is all about statistics. You have 4,000 people and compared to placebo it works 70 percent of the time. Placebo worked 30. the FDA may think that that medication is good enough to bring to market.
BROWN: We're almost out of time. Thomas, go ahead. I'm going to let you respond to that, too. GOETZ: Well, I just want to say, so just to go back to the idea of the insert, think about those inserts. Right? That is like two- point type. It's extremely difficult to understand what's going on in that information. When you look at the ads where they have to disclose all these side effects and stuff, that's in such fine print. We do a very bad job. This stuff is not made clear right now.
BROWN: All right, guys, this was a fascinating conversation. A really interesting debate. Appreciate your time. Thomas Goetz joining us along with Dr. Jorge Rodriguez. Thanks, guys. Appreciate it.
GOETZ: Thank you.
BROWN: And we should add here the makers of Tylenol sent a statement, which reads in part, "Tylenol when taken as directed is the safest oral pain reliever consumers can take and contains the medicine doctors recommend the most. However, when taken in overdose, intentional or unintentional, serious liver damage may occur. Before taking any medicine it is important to read the label. Follow the instructions using medications only as indicated on the label."
When we come back, we're going to have more on our top story. What made Joe Stack snap apparently and fly his plane into a building in Austin, Texas. Our David Mattingly has just spoken with one of the pilot's friends.
BROWN: We have some new information on the plane, or the pilot, rather, of that plane that slammed into an Austin, Texas, office building. But first, we're going to go to Washington for more must- see news. Tom Foreman is there with tonight's "Download." Hey, Tom.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Campbell. The higher they are the farther they fall. New York City's former top cop Bernard Kerik was sentenced today to four years in prison. He pleaded guilty to tax fraud and lying to the Bush administration while he was a candidate to head the Department of Homeland Security. Kerik was New York City's police commissioner during the 9/11 attacks.
Guess what's in the running for a Pulitzer Prize? "The National Enquirer." In a historic move, the Pulitzer Prize board officially accepted the "Enquirer"'s submission for breaking the John Edwards sex scandal.
And what's black and white and ran all over? Check it out. A zebra on the run in Atlanta. It got away from the circus and led police on a chase that finally ended along the city's main north/south highway during rush hour. The capture as you might imagine and as you can see created quite a traffic jam.
BROWN: I heard about this, Tom, earlier today. I thought it was a joke.
FOREMAN: That's a great sight. BROWN: It's clearly not a joke.
FOREMAN: I'd slow down to look at that.
BROWN: Me too. Tom Foreman tonight. Tom, thanks very much.
"LARRY KING LIVE" starts in just a few moments. Larry, what do you have for us tonight?
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: Is a zebra black with white stripes or white with black stripes?
BROWN: It's a question that, you know, I will ponder for the rest of my night.
KING: Part of the ages.
BROWN: Part of the ages there.
KING: Hey, we're jam-packed tonight, Campbell. A preview of Tiger Woods' highly anticipated announcement tomorrow. We'll talk to one time Tour de France winner Floyd Landis stripped of his title, now a wanted man. And Priscilla Presley is here with a look at Cirque de Soleil's brand new "Viva Elvis" show. And then the Oscar-nominated director Quentin Tarantino stops by. As I said we're jammed. All next on "LARRY KING LIVE" -- Campbell.
BROWN: A lot going on. Larry King for us tonight. Larry, thanks. We'll see you in a few minutes.
More tonight on the Texas air attack, if you can call it that. Some of the people who knew the suspect best are speaking out. You're going to hear from them when we come back.
BROWN: We are learning more tonight about Joseph Stack. He is the man who flew his plane straight into a building housing the IRS down in Austin, Texas. At least one person is confirmed dead but police aren't saying if it's Stack or possibly a missing federal worker.
CNN's David Mattingly is joining us right now from Austin. And, David, I understand you just spoke with one of Joseph Stack's friends who I guess is pretty much still in shock. What did he tell you?
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Campbell, this friend tells us that the Joe Stack he knew was easy going. He was friendly, he was outgoing, not the least bit violent. And this software engineer, we're told, was multitalented. He played bass guitar in a Rock-a-Billy (ph) band here in Austin. I spoke to one of his bandmates who was absolutely shocked by what he saw and heard today. Listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RIC FURLEY, STACKS FORMER BANDMATE: He was very laid back, affable, friendly, warm guy. You know, at the end of rehearsal we'd always, you know, hug each other goodbye. He's just a real friendly guy. This is completely unexpected.
MATTINGLY: Did he ever talk about his family? Did he ever talk about his personal life?
FURLEY: Just in the context that he recently married and his wife would come to our shows.
MATTINGLY: Did they seem happy?
FURLEY: Oh, yes, very, very happy. When they were together they seemed just like a beautiful couple, happy. They got along. They adored each other. So I just never saw anything negative about his personality when we were working together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: And in those conversations, Stack never talked about anything, about having any sort of money problems, being angry at anything, anyone in the government, adding to the mystery of why this happened today and why this man decided to take these kinds of actions -- Campbell.
BROWN: All right, David Mattingly with the very latest for us from Austin. David, thanks.
As we mentioned a minute ago, "LARRY KING LIVE" starting in just a few minutes. But before we get to Larry, tonight's "Guilty Pleasure." Jeanne Moos has a new collection of on-air flubs.
BROWN: Larry King starts in just a few minutes. But first, tonight's "Guilty Pleasure." Birthmarks, ashes and other on-air flubs. Here's Jeanne Moos.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Sometimes it's the little things that you can't get out of your head.
VOICE OF KAY BURLEY, ANCHOR: What happened to his head? I'm sure that's what everybody is asking at home.
MOOS: A British Sky News anchor was asking the network's Washington correspondent --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess I don't know is a simple answer.
BURLEY: OK. Looks like he's walked into a door.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today we'll get a chance to find out a little later. MOOS: And with that, she walked into the "Austin Powers" trap.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My mistake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: The British journalist's mistake was forgetting that it was Ash Wednesday and that V.P. Joe Biden is Catholic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's been up in Vancouver for the Winter Olympics. So whether there was some accident on what little ice there's been up in Vancouver we don't know.
BURLEY: Probably been having to go on those tea trays down the luge or something. Certainly looks like quite a bruise. Anyway, never mind.
MOOS: But Ash Wednesday crossed someone's mind in time for Kay Burley to make amends.
BURLEY: OK. I know that I am a very bad Catholic. I know now that it is Ash Wednesday and I know that those are ashes on his forehead. I hang my head in shame.
MOOS: Hey, the vice president probably didn't mind. He had his own problems back when he was trying to praise a state senator in a wheelchair.
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Chuck, stand up, Chuck. Let them see you. Oh, God love you, what am I talking about?
MOOS: Now normally Oprah knows what she's talking about.
OPRAH WINFREY, TELEVISION HOST: Wow, wow, wow, wow.
MOOS: But the other day she evidently didn't know about the birthmark quarterback Drew Brees has on his cheek.
WINFREY: All right, who just kissed you? There's a big bruise you've got there.
MOOS: Posted one person, let's pray she never has Mikhail Gorbachev on the show.
(on camera): But come on, who hasn't embarrassed themselves making an innocent mistake like that? Sometimes we just don't see things for what they are.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Peter, you going to ask that question with shades on?
MOOS (voice-over): Turns out the reporter has macular degeneration.
BUSH: Now I'm interested in the shade look, seriously.
PETER WALLSTEN, REPORTER: All right. I'll keep it then.
BUSH: For the viewers there's no sun.
WALLSTEN: I guess it depends on your perspective.
MOOS: From Oprah's perspective it sure looked like a lipstick kiss. If only we could just kiss birthmarks goodbye with a rub.
WINFREY: All right, who just kissed you?
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN --
BURLEY: What's happened to his head?
MOOS: New York.
BROWN: Whoops. That's it for us. We will see you right back here tomorrow night. Thanks for joining us everybody.
"LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.