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Attorney General Under Fire for Firings; FDA Demands Stronger Warnings for Sleep Meds; Fatal Crash Prompts Changes to Atlanta Highway; Mortgage Meltdown to Hurt Consumers.

Aired March 14, 2007 - 13:00   ET


DON LEMON, CO-HOST: Hello. I'm Don Lemon live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.
KIRAN CHETRY, CO-HOST: And I'm Kiran Chetry in for Kyra Phillips today.

Happening right now: a warning about some sleeping pills. If you're one of the thousands of Americans who take them, you'll want to hear which pills we're talking about. Details in the NEWSROOM.

LEMON: The heat is on on Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Will the flap over the prosecutor's purge cost him his job?

CHETRY: Also, here's hoping for a better day on Wall Street. This hour, we are all over the markets and how it will affect your bottom line. You're live in the NEWSROOM.

LEMON: Eight U.S. attorneys fired and their former boss, is he next? Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wants to keep the status quo, but his job status remains in question.

The former federal prosecutor says they were pink slipped over politics. And even president Bush can't escape the fallout south of the border. We'll take you there in a moment. But first, here's what Gonzales told CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING".


ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think that we did make mistakes. And we're going to -- we're going to take steps to ensure that doesn't happen again.

But ultimately, I work for the American people, and I serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States. And he'll decide whether or not I continue to serve as the attorney general.


LEMON: CNN's Elaine Quijano is traveling with the president in Merida, Mexico, where he just wrapped up a news conference.

What did he say, Elaine?

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hello to you, Don. First of all, at a time when President Bush is already facing a skeptical audience here in Mexico about his political clout back in Washington and, specifically, President Bush's ability to push through an immigration deal.

Interesting to note that here in Merida, Mexico, a domestic controversy following the president. He is being forced to ask -- answer questions about Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and how the U.S. Justice Department handled the firing of these prosecutors.

Now, the president was asked point blank at the news conference a short time ago whether or not he has confidence in his attorney general.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do have confidence in Attorney General Al Gonzales. I talked to him this morning. And we talked about his need to go up to Capitol Hill and make it very clear to members in both political parties why the Justice Department made the decisions it made, make it very clear about the facts.

And he's right. Mistakes were made. And I'm frankly not happy about them. Because there is a lot of confusion over what really has been a customary practice by the president. U.S. attorneys and others serve at the pleasure of the president.


QUIJANO: And Don, in a sign of how concerned the White House is about this controversy. Yesterday, the White House taking the unusual step of putting out the counselor to the president on the road here on camera, Dan Bartlett, to answer questions about this controversy.

The White House maintains there was nothing inappropriate. But certainly you heard from the president himself today express his dissatisfaction with how this has been handled, making very clear that he has told his attorney general that corrections need to be made and that he's instructed the attorney general to do that -- Don.

LEMON: Elaine Quijano, Merida, Mexico. Thank you so much for that.

CHETRY: In the meantime, the attorney general is on the defensive and making his own case today. We go to our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena.

And I understand, Kelli, you have some new developments on this story.

KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kiran, the Justice Department officials tell us that the attorney general will be heading to the Hill at the end of next week, the beginning of next week, to explain the dismissal of those U.S. attorneys. This, of course, follows the -- the attorney general making the rounds this morning. He appeared on every morning talk show he could get on, clearly on the defensive, as some Democratic lawmakers continue to call for his resignation over that -- those firings.

Here is what he had to say on CNN's "AMERICAN MORNING".


MILES O'BRIEN, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Do you feel it's time to step down?

GONZALES: That will be a decision for the president of the United States to make. I think if you look at the record of the department and...

O'BRIEN: Should you -- should you offer your resignation? Is it time for you to offer your resignation?

GONZALES: That is -- that is a decision for the president of the United States to make. I'm going to be focused on identifying what went wrong here, correcting those mistakes and focus on...

O'BRIEN: The decision -- the decision on whether to offer your resignation is yours, is it not?

GONZALES: I'm focused on doing my job.


ARENA: Yesterday, the attorney general said that it wasn't an easy task getting to the position that he was in, and he's not known for giving up.

Now, so far, Kiran, it's only the Democrats who are asking the attorney general to step down. Some Republicans suggest that the louder that Democratic chorus gets about wanting him to resign, actually the better Gonzales' chances are of staying. You know, politics is funny that way.

But several Republicans from within the administration and outside are at least admitting that there is a discussion under way about how effective Gonzales can be in moving the president's agenda forward under the circumstances.

CHETRY: All good points. Kelli Arena, thanks.

Well, problems politically at home and an unfinished war overseas. A successful second term seems to be a losing proposition, at least for now, for President Bush. But as presidents go, he is certainly not alone. We're going to take a closer look at what they call the second term curse, ahead in the NEWSROOM.

LEMON: Let's take a live shot of the nation's Capitol now, where beneath that dome today, the Senate plunged back into the Iraq debate. Overwhelmingly, they cleared the way to take up a resolution calling for the removal of all U.S. combat troops by this time next year.

Two senators, both of whom want to be the next commander in chief, earlier drew very different lines.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Iraq is not Vietnam, Mr. President. We were able to walk away from Vietnam. If we walk away from Iraq now, we risk a failed state in the heart of the Middle East, a haven for international terrorists, an invitation to regional war in this economically vital area, and a humanitarian disaster that can involve millions of people.

If we walk away from Iraq, we will be back, possibly in the context of a wider war in the world's most volatile region.

SEN. JOE BIDEN (D-DE), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm so tired of hearing on this floor about courage. Have the courage to tell the administration: stop this ridiculous policy you have. We're taking sides in a civil war.


LEMON: Well, the White House opposes any such congressional time line, whether it's binding or not. Analysts don't expect the Democratic sponsored measure to get the 60 votes it will need to pass.

CHETRY: Well, we're all hoping for a better day today at the corner of Wall and Broad streets after the Dow Industrials dropped 242 points yesterday. Stocks are in retreat once again.

We get the latest now from Susan Lisovicz. She is at the New York Stock Exchange for us.

Hi, Susan.


CHETRY: We'll check in with you a little bit later, Susan, thanks.


LEMON: Well, the government wants new warning labels on a type of sleeping pill you've probably seen a lot of ads for or even use yourself. The drugs have been linked to sleep walking and even sleep driving in some cases. Our medical correspondent, Judy Fortin, is with us now, and she's going to tell us all about this. Wow.

JUDY FORTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Don. We want to be clear. We're talking about prescription sedatives, and the Food and Drug Administration today is asking manufacturers of these prescription sleep disorder medications to strengthen the label information about potential risks.

And here's what we're talking about: risks like severe allergic reactions, severe facial swelling, and something that the FDA is calling complex sleep-related behaviors. You probably heard about these, like sleep driving, making phone calls, and preparing and eating food while asleep with apparently no memory of the events afterwards, something very frightening for people.

LEMON: I imagine that would be frightening. Obviously, there's a warning going out, a number of cases. How many cases are we talking about?

FORTIN: Well, the FDA won't say exactly. And that's the big problem. They say there have been rare but adverse events reported. And the agency is concerned about underreporting, people who don't want to admit or may be embarrassed by the fact that these things have happened. People who may be sleep eating, going into their kitchen and making full meals and then not wanting to tell people about it afterwards.

LEMON: All right. Let's talk about which drugs. Which drugs are targeted for this new labeling?

FORTIN: Well, there's specifically 13 prescription medications affected. For the full list, we want to tell people they can go to or But I'll name a couple of them for you right now. We're talking about Ambien, Lunesta, Halcion and Rozerem.

The FDA has also requested manufacturers send letters to doctors notifying them of the new warnings. And companies must also develop something called a patient medication guide that will be distributed with the prescriptions.

LEMON: All those you mentioned are very popular drugs.


LEMON: We see those ads for them all the time.

FORTIN: They're blockbusters.

LEMON: OK. So is this -- most drugs have warnings anyway. Is this going to go beyond the typical instructions handed out?

FORTIN: Well, presumably they will. You usually get some sort of a guide to your prescription medication anyway.

LEMON: Right.

FORTIN: The FDA is asking the manufacturers to go one step further. They're saying make this easy to understand, simple language. Make sure that the people understand the risks that are associated with the drugs.

We talked about driving under the influence of some of these drugs. That would be something like that. Making sure that you're not drinking alcohol or using central nervous system depressants at the same time. This is actual video of an example of someone who was under the influence of one of these sedatives and was caught on camera by police.

Now the FDA is asking that the guides be given not just to patients -- and I think this is interesting, Don. But they also want family members and care givers to get these guides so they can recognize some of this unusual behavior and make sure precautions are taken.

LEMON: That's amazing. Can we get that video back up? Because it looks like this person had been -- it looks like a sobriety test.

FORTIN: It does. Like they're weaving. And very often they don't remember these types of incidents.

So we want to mention one more thing, too. That not all of these drugs carry the same risks.


FORTIN: And that's something the FDA wants drug manufacturers to look into. They want them to go back and do actual clinical trials. That's something that's actually done before these drugs are ever distributed to the public.

But they want them to do it again and make sure that, if there are any of these problems, with the sleep driving, the sleep eating, of course the more serious medical problems with the allergies, the allergic reaction and the facial swelling, that they know what risks are associated with these individual products.

LEMON: And Judy, thank you for this, because this is so important. A lot of people take these. I've even taken sleeping pills...

FORTIN: All the time.

LEMON: ... on the plane or whatever when you're not getting enough sleep. So it's very important information for a very common drug. Thank you.

FORTIN: Stronger labels are coming out soon.

LEMON: Great. Thank you so much, Judy.

FORTIN: You're welcome.

CHETRY: In other medical news, expanding the breast cancer arsenal. Ahead in the NEWSROOM, there's a new drug that gets the green light from the FDA. We'll tell you all about it.

LEMON: High occupancy lanes, high-risk exit ramps. Ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM, a deadly bus crash sparks change on Atlanta interstates. But the question is, is it enough? CHETRY: Also, the mortgage misery spreading, but it's not just homeowners that are getting pinched. Ahead in the NEWSROOM, we're going to tell you how to minimize your credit crunch, coming up.


CHETRY: One-seventeen Eastern Time in the afternoon here in Georgia. And here's some of the stories that we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Mistakes were made, and he's not happy about it. President Bush reacting to the fallout over the controversial firings of eight federal prosecutors. The president says that he has confidence, though, in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who's been facing some calls to resign.

Sleep tight? Well, not quite. The government wants new warning labels on some popular sleep aids, including Ambien and Lunesta. They've been linked to walking while sleeping, allergic reactions, even sleep driving in some cases.

And more of us are falling behind on our mortgage payments, and that's got those traders out on Wall Street a little bit nervous today. New concerns about mortgages are fueling a stock slide on Wall Street.

LEMON: So far, only down. Looks like 67 points.

And here in Georgia, as you mentioned, changes are being made as we speak. Road crews are back at the scene of that deadly bus accident two weeks ago in Atlanta. And the exit ramp's unusual left side design is drawing a whole lot of scrutiny. Only after today, it may look a little different from now on.

CNN's Amanda Rosseter joins us with the very latest on that.

You're actually at that intersection right now, aren't you?

AMANDA ROSSETER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And that's right, Don. We're here on the exit ramp that the bus took that fateful morning on their journey down I-75.

And the changes here began just after rush hour. They blocked the exit off here at about 9 a.m. this morning.

Now they're making changes to four of the safety measures here on the ramp. First of all, signage. Let me show you this. This is your typical 24-inch standard issue stop sign. It's the kind that we see everywhere, every day.

Now take a look above me. This is the new stop sign that's gone up. It is 48 inches. It's one of the largest stop signs that they make. And they have not only doubled the size of the stop signs, they've doubled the stop signs. There's now one here and one here on the other side of the exit ramp. Three other changes that they're making here. They've added new reflective strips here, as you can see, as well as these raised reflectors that will act as rumble sticks that come up the exit ramp as you near the top here.

They have also added some verbiage onto the actual concrete exit ramp itself. At the start of the ramp at the bottom of the hill, they added verbiage that says "exit only." As you come up, it says "stop ahead." One more "stop ahead" before you get here to the top of the hill, where the two big stop signs are.

Now the day of the crash, we were all here, and we asked the Georgia DOT is this enough? Why wasn't it enough for that driver that morning? And they said that everything that is here meets GDOT standards.

And so today I asked them again if it was enough then, why is it not enough now? Here's what he had to say.


MARK MCKINNON, GEORGIA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: Actually, this ramp exceeded the standards previously. However, our designers did go back and look at it after the tragic accident of a week and a half ago and said, "What else can we do? What can we do to make it even better than it is? Even though it already exceeds the standards, what can we do?"

They came up with this design. We feel like it's a good one. And we feel like it will certainly help.


ROSSETER: Now that from Mark McKinnon. He's a spokesperson for GDOT.

And the other thing that he showed us this morning, one other -- the other structural change that they're making here today is this concrete barrier, this median that is right behind us here. This is what they call a mountable median. Your car can actually go up on this, but it won't take the chassis out underneath. It will have reflector strips all the way around it.

So essentially, this will serve as another stop sign as you come to the top of the hill. There is also a very, very wide, specially made this week, double-sided arrow on the other side of the fence over there, right where the bus went through that morning.

So, essentially, they have added about four different ways to indicate that a stop is coming up here. I asked Georgia DOT where they got their idea for all of this. They said that they contacted area states, local states around this region, who have similar left- hand exits and asked them what they did. And they say these are some of the changes they've made, as well.

This all comes from Georgia DOT. NTSB is still investigating. Don, back to you.

LEMON: All right, Amanda Rosseter. Thank you so much for that story. We'll continue to follow that.

And purple ribbons are a common sight around Bluffton, Ohio, ever since that deadly crash. It's a way residents are remembering the seven people who died.

As for the others, all but the coach and the player are now back home. William Grandlinard suffered a concussion in the crash and spoke with a reporter from our affiliate in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, WPTA.


WILLIAM GRANDLINARD, BUS CRASH SURVIVOR: The only thing I remember is the bus driver yelling, and that was it. And then I woke up in the hospital, so...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And, once you woke up, what -- I mean, were you conscious? Did you know what was going on or...

GRANDLINARD: Well, I had a concussion, too. And I guess the nurses and my parents said I was saying some pretty crazy things. So it took a couple of days to get back to normal.

I just couldn't really believe that it happened. And it still hasn't really hit me yet. So, we'll see.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What's the hardest part of all of this for you?

GRANDLINARD: Going back to school and having those seats empty besides you with the people who passed away.


LEMON: Well, two people -- two weeks after that deadly crash, and two people are still in Atlanta area hospitals. Coach James Grandey's condition is listed as good. Senior Tim Berta remains in critical condition, although his father says his son is improving.

CHETRY: So far, it's just been dirt roads and dead-end leads as police search for a missing boy in Georgia. Police say they believe he was kidnapped. They actually have four suspects. We're going to bring you the latest on this story in the NEWSROOM.

LEMON: Run silent, run deep. Turns out a submarine went a little too far with that maxim. Details surfacing shortly, right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.


CHETRY: Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM. Let's take a look right now. The Dow down about 31 points right now with about 2 1/2 hours left in the trading day. We're going to have much more on that. But meanwhile, this week's Wall Street jitters linked to concerns about mortgages. More borrowers falling behind on their payments. That's not only bad for them; it's bad for the lenders, as well.

CNN personal finance editor, Gerri Willis, is here to help sort it all out for us.

First of all, Gerri, thanks for being here.


CHETRY: Who is -- who is affected? You know, in addition to the people who are getting these -- these home loans and getting their houses foreclosed on?

WILLIS: Well, ultimately, Kiran, everybody is going to be affected. Because lending standards are tightening everywhere. That's the problem we're seeing right now.

You know, we've been focused on these companies who offer mortgages to people with bad credit: the so-called sub prime mortgages. And of course, that's creating lots of concerns and lots of worries.

But the ripple effect is huge. It's not just borrowers; it's also people doing the lending. The people in -- on Wall Street, people lending money to consumers and the people who sell those in bonds to people, really, investors across the globe -- Kiran.

CHETRY: So you're talking about an impact beyond the housing market, as well. What about the future for these people? Their homes are foreclosed upon. It's probably going to be very hard for them to borrow again because of their credit situation. I mean, we're talking about a huge number of people.

WILLIS: Well, here's what's going on. Credit is getting tighter. We're seeing a tightening of credit, and it's going to be harder for people to get a mortgage if you have less than perfect credit.

And even if you do, the terms won't be as favorable. You'll pay higher rates, and you'll have to put more money down. Remember those zero percent down offers? Those are getting harder and harder to come by.

So are adjustable rate mortgages, the so-called ARMs. Now, I know they sound risky, and they're getting a bad name, but some of these changes are going to be bad for consumers.

Now the other issue I know you're worried about: foreclosures hitting a two-year high in January. Very concerning there. In Texas alone, one in 547 homes have been foreclosed on.

For those people, the impact of this mortgage meltdown will continue for years as they come to terms with dislocation, ruined credit, and of course, the feelings of helplessness and shame. It's very big for them.

CHETRY: And then it's also hard, if you're trying to sell your home right now.


CHETRY: I mean, you have all these foreclosed homes out on the market. You're trying to sell your house. And it's harder for people to get the money. So what's going on with that if you're trying to sell or at least, you know, try to get a better refi rate?

WILLIS: Well, bottom line, Kiran, there are going to be fewer buyers out there this spring. And we're coming into that spring selling season. Those buyers who do show up may have less to spend, because they have less favorable mortgages.

All that could lead to a lower selling price for your home. This means the housing slump could go longer and deeper than expected.

And I should tell you, the Mortgage Bankers Association predicts that housing won't even regain its footing until near the end of the year.

CHETRY: And I wanted to ask you quickly about, is there any fallout when it comes to -- it seems to the past six months or a year, we've be seeing so many advertisements, people saying, "Oh, get a zero interest, an interest only loan, you know, borrow against your 401-k," and seeing that there was just such a heavy emphasis on getting people to borrow, borrow, borrow. And now we're seeing the other shoe drop.

WILLIS: Right, exactly. Hey, that's over. That's yesterday's news. That easy credit, get money any which way. People don't just borrow to buy homes, either. They take out home equity loans, and they pay for college education for their kids, home repairs, you name it. That money, too, is going to be harder to come by.

CHETRY: All right. Well, we're going to talk more about this. And of course, keep our eye on the Dow. Actually, only down about 30 points. So making hopefully not nearly as bad as yesterday. There we see it, down 45.

Gerri Willis, thanks so much. A broad range of home and real estate issues for us each week on "OPEN HOUSE". You can see it on Saturdays, 9:30 a.m. Eastern on CNN; both Saturday and Sunday, 5:30 p.m. Eastern on Headline News.

LEMON: It is the bottom of the hour here and we'll start the bottom of the hour with some developing news. Let's go to the Newsroom. CNN's Fredricka Whitfield, has the very latest for us.

What do you have?

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: Well, Don, some health news. You've heard of many cases of patients use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Many of the times it is prescribed by a doctor. Now, out of California, a federal appeals court has just decided that even patients who use marijuana for medicinal purposes to stay alive, to treat whatever ailments are still not immune to any kind of prosecution for illegal drug use.

Now, this court case centers around a California woman out of Oakland, California. She's a mother of two and apparently she suffers from scoliosis, a brain tumor, chronic nausea and other ailments. Upon her doctor's advice, she either eats or smokes marijuana every couple of hours in the day to relieve her pain.

Well, now this federal court appeals, an appellate court, has now ruled she's not immune to any prosecution if indeed, prosecutors do bring a case against her for the illegal use of marijuana.

We don't know at this juncture where this might take other cases in California, or if there will be a ripple effect across the country. This story just breaking and we're continuing to work sources to get more for you, Don.

LEMON: We'll check back. Fredricka Whitfield, thank you so much for that.

CHETRY: Some new developments today on a week-old child missing case in south Georgia. Just in the past few hours, word that now four people are in custody in connection with the disappearance of Christopher Michael Barrios, Jr., six years old, last seen last Thursday near his home in Glenn County.

Police say the suspects told them where to search for the boy's body but nothing has turned up yet. The suspects are George Edenfield, his mother, Peggy, and father, a friend. Police say George Edenfield lives near the boy's home, is a registered sex offender. We're going to go to south Georgia live for the latest at the top of the hour.

LEMON: Eight prosecutors scraped, a political firestorm ignited and Alberto Gonzales hangs tough.


ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I'm focused on doing my job.


LEMON: But is the White House feeling the urge to purge the attorney general? We're on it, straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.


LEMON: Boy, he certainly has some explaining to do and he plans to do it. The fallout over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, keeps on growing. And CNN has learned the man at the center of it all, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, is going to Capitol Hill this week and next week to further explain the firings. He's facing calls from congressional Democrats to resign.

They want to know just how involved the White House was, and they're threatening to subpoena top presidential aides, including Karl Rove. Meantime, questions over the controversy followed President Bush to Mexico City. Here's what he had to say and what his attorney general told "American Morning" Miles O'Brien.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do have confidence in Attorney General Al Gonzales. I've talked to him this morning. And we talked about his need to go up to Capitol Hill and make it very clear to members in both political parties, why the Justice Department made the decisions it made. Made it very clear about the facts.

He's right. Mistakes were made. And I frankly am not happy about them. Because there is a lot of confusion over what really has been a customary practice by the president. The U.S. attorneys and others serve at the pleasure of the president.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, AMERICAN MORNING: Do you feel it's time for you to step down?

ALBERTO GONZALES, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: That will be a decision for the president of the United States to make. I think that if you look at the record of the department -- and a wide variety of --

O'BRIEN: Should you offer your resignation? Is it time for you to offer your resignation?

GONZALES: That is a decision for the president of the United States to make. I'm going to be focused on identifying what went wrong here, correcting those mistakes, and focus on the good for the American people.

O'BRIEN: The decision on whether to offer the resignation is yours, is it not?

GONZALES: I'm focused on doing my job.


LEMON: That was Alberto Gonzales on CNN's "American Morning." The fired prosecutors say they were sacked for political reasons. Gonzales insists it was just part of an evaluation process.

CHETRY: There is one prosecutor who the administration acknowledges was sent packing for political reasons. Bud Cummins was the former U.S. attorney in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was asked to resign to make way for a former aide for top presidential advisor Karl Rove. Cummins spoke to CNN's "American Morning" and he believes -- he says he believes -- that politics also had a lot to do with some of his colleagues being fired.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUD CUMMINS, FIRED U.S. ATTORNEY: The evidence now seems abundantly clear that some of these decisions were made for other reasons that may not be too attractive, of political pressure from outside the department, by politicians and party people. Just the -- just the desire to place friends and acquaintances that wanted to be U.S. attorneys in U.S. attorney positions, in the attempt to create the vacancies to do that.

O'BRIEN: The person who took your job, as a matter of fact, is an advisor to Karl Rove, a friend of Karl Rove, political advisor to the president. Do you think that was fair?

CUMMINS: You know, that's really not important. What I think -- I served at the pleasure of the president. They asked me to leave. I did. They've actually been honest most throughout -- throughout most of this story about the motivations for asking me to leave.

So, it's really not that important about what happened in my case, as it is in the other seven, where they maintained all along these people had performance issues that played into the decision to remove them. I think the evidence is -- it's just abundantly clear now that that's probably not the case -- or, in fact, it' not the case.

O'BRIEN: Wait now, let me just say, that by that logic then, if the attorney general came out and said, yes, it was political. This is the reason why, and was up front about it, would that be OK?

CUMMINS: Well, it would have been OK with us if they had said nothing. We all took these decisions -- we all knew we served at the pleasure of the president. We accepted the decisions and went home quietly. Only when the attorney general and the deputy attorney general endeavored to try to explain themselves to the Congress and said my colleagues had committed some kind of performance errors.

At this point, the attorney general saying he had nothing to do with the process. His chief of staff handled it. His chief of staff has now resigned. He doesn't really know how they got to where they got. But he still stands by this idea that they're performance related. I think it would be a lot more honest and fair to these other seven United States attorneys, who served very honorably, very loyally to the president, and performed very well.

If they just simply said, you know, at this point, we're not sure why these decisions were made. And it appears there were factors taken into account that probably shouldn't have been. We retract those statements and we recognize that these people served well and honestly. And this was not our brightest and shining moment and move on.

But for some reason they seem to be stubbornly clinging on this notion that there was a valid substantive management reason in those seven cases. I just don't think that's true.


CHETRY: As we mentioned, the attorney general plans to go to Capitol Hill to explain the firings. There's no word on who he plans to meet with.

With all of the talk of the U.S. attorneys, some of us are asking, exactly what do they do? And how do they get their jobs? U.S. attorneys are the federal government's equivalent of local D.A.s There are 93 U.S. attorneys and they're nominated by the president, then they go through approval process with the Senate for a four-year term.

But under federal law, they can be dismissed by the president for any reason. This tidbit comes from the Congressional Research Service. There were only five instances found over the past 25 years where attorneys were fired, or resigned after allegations of questionable conduct. Keep that in mind, the Congressional Research Service did not include the usual turnover that is common after a change in the administrations.

LEMON: Kiran, the Navy when the all "Hunt For Red October" overnight getting a bit nervous after losing contact with a nuclear powered submarine. Well, all is well, it turns out. The USS San Juan, with 140 sailors aboard dropped off of the grid off the Florida coast. The Navy fearing the worst scrambled into search and rescue mode.

Turns out, the only ones who didn't know about the emergency were members of the San Juan crew. Everyone is fine. They're in radio contact again. And investigating, of course, what happened there.

Adding one pill a day. Can it keep breast cancer at bay? The FDA gives a green light to Tiger (ph) B, to help with advanced breast cancer. That's straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.


CHETRY: The FDA wants drug makers to add new warning labels to some popular sleeping medications. The labels would warn users of potential allergic reactions, as well as more dangerous conditions like sleep walking and even sleep driving. The warnings apply to 13 different drugs including brand names of popular ones like Sonata, Ambien, Lunesta. Others drugs in the class include Placidyl, Seconal, Restoril, Prosom, as well as Rozerem. The complete list is available at

LEMON: A new drug has just been approved for women battling an advanced form of breast cancer. It's a pill designed to be taken in conjunction with a more traditional chemo-therapy drug. Our Chief Medical Correspondent Doctor Sanjay Gupta has more.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: More than 75,000 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. Oftentimes, what happens is after the tumor is removed, it is actually analyzed, and specific markers are searched. One of those markers is something know has HER-2, if that marker is present, that might be an indication this is a more invasive and aggressive from of breast cancer.

Now, for a long time there were no options for women, like this. Until a drug called Herceptin came along. Herceptin is a medication specifically designed to try and to treat these aggressive, invasive breast cancers. They had a lot of success. The problem was two-fold. There are some women who just could not tolerate the side effects of this medication and there are some women who just didn't respond to it. The Herceptin just did not work.

Now that's what makes today's news pretty exciting, a new medication called Tykerb might be now be an option for them. This is a medication specifically designed for people who do not have Herceptin working for them. Now, unlike Herceptin, which is an I.V. medication, Tykerb is an oral medication. It is specifically for women who have this marker, this HER-2 marker, that seems to have modest side effects, as least in small numbers of people, such as dysphasia, dyspepsia, some diarrhea, perhaps, and rash. But overall, pretty modest.

One of the biggest things, it doesn't appear to have the heart problems that Herceptin has. Remember, with regards with chemotherapy and side effects, sometimes the chemo can have significant impact on the heart. That is something that doctors will look for. Herceptin did have that in some patients. With Tykerb, it does not appear to be the case.

Now several things to keep in mind, if you're somebody who has been diagnosed with invasive aggressive breast cancer, you will get this marker check and you'll still probably be offered Herceptin as a first-line treatment. That is still the tried and true treatment, that is still the gold standard.

It's important to keep in mind, as well, as far as the effectiveness, of Tykerb, it seems to stabilize the disease twice as long, as if you weren't taking it. If you were just taking another medication by itself. But it doesn't -- at least, in early trials -- seem to improve survival by all that much. This is certainly something to keep an eye on. It's exciting for women with invasive breast cancer. A lot more data still to come. Back to you.


CHETRY: All right, Sanjay, thanks so much.

One more note on the battle against cancer. There could be fewer doctors to lead the fight in the years ahead. There is a new study predicting a shortage of oncologists by year 2020. It says as the number of older Americans increases the demand for cancer doctors will go up as well, and could be a nationwide shortfall to the tune of 4,000 oncologists. This report appears in the "Journal of Oncology Practice".

LEMON: Raging flood waters. A dangerous rescue caught on tape, check that out. The full story from Texas ahead in the NEWSROOM.

CHETRY: Also the author of a new book calls Americans, quote, "biblical idiots". Saying we don't know much about any religion. Could you pass a quiz? Well, how about this one? Who did God give the Ten Commandments to? Was it Noah, Paul, or Moses? The answer to that, after a break.

And later in the CNN NEWSROOM, CNN Faith & Values Correspondent Delia Gallagher will be joining us with the results of our religion pop quiz.


CHETRY: Well, do you know much about your history? At least your biblical history? Who did God give the Ten Commandments to? The answer, if you guessed, Moses, C, you are correct.

You knew that one, right, Don?

LEMON: You are correct, sir. Yeah, I heard you -- I read your lips during the course of the break.

CHETRY: I know, I gave it away? Oh, no.

We'll have more on the quiz. We'll have a couple more questions, see how smart people are, coming up a little later.

LEMON: You going to give me a grade? I'm going to grade you.

CHETRY: I'll grade you.

LEMON: Heavy rains, flash floods, death in central Texas. Researchers tried to pull an elderly couple ashore after their car was washed into what normally is a creek. Man, look at that. But the rushing waters proved way too powerful, dragging the couple downstream. Rescuers managed to grab the woman and pulled her ashore. She was rushed to a hospital. The search continues for her husband at this hour.

The calendar says winter, but it sure feels like spring. We are happy about that, Rob Marciano.


LEMON: It seems like just yesterday when we're talking about those tornados that came through Enterprise, Alabama.

The school is still in shambles, but the students in Enterprise, Alabama are back in class two weeks after a deadly tornado hit their school, and killed eight of their classmates. It is a different setting. Enterprise Ozark Community College -- check it out.


RICK RAINER, PRINCIPAL, ENTERPRISE HIGH SCHOOL: We've talked and our teachers, I think, are just as anxious as our students are to get back together formally. We've informally met a couple of times to hug and love each other, and start that healing process, as you mentioned earlier. So, it's just a lot of excitement and a lot of anxiousness right now, too. Because it's like starting school over again.


LEMON: Well, because they've lost so much class time, these Enterprise High Schoolers won't be getting a spring break, but at least the seniors will be able to graduate on time. That is good news.

CHETRY: Absolutely.

Well, you know, sometimes it's all solved with a coin toss. Only you can't make heads or tails of this coin. What happened to George Washington? The search is on ahead in the NEWSROOM.

LEMON: Uh-oh, trouble.

And at the top of the hour, 9/11 made him, but could it also break his chances as a White House candidate? Ahead in the NEWSROOM, why are firefighter smoked at Rudy Giuliani?


CHETRY: Well, you've heard about a blank check, how about a blank coin? You would rather have the blank check, I know.

But a Colorado couple tells the Associate Press that they found a new presidential dollar coin -- these are the new ones that were just made -- without anything on either side. If you take a close look, on the left, that's what the coin is supposed to look like. It's George Washington. On the right, well --