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Tony Snow Has Cancer; Commander's View; Fuel-Efficient Cars

Aired March 27, 2007 - 10:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Gas prices surge, but gas savers sit on dealers' lots. Our guest tells us why hybrid sales aren't accelerated much. It is Tuesday, March 27th, and you are in the NEWSROOM.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I want to begin with this news just in to CNN. We are learning that White House Spokesman Tony Snow has just had a growth removed from his abdomen. It is apparently cancerous and has spread to his liver. We are also learning from the spokesman, Dana Perino, that he will be undergoing chemotherapy. This is something that he's done before, back in 2005, when he had colon cancer and went through six months of chemotherapy. But particularly frightening because of that first bought of cancer.

HARRIS: And that is the news into us here at CNN just a short time ago. An interesting -- Tony Snow said that he was going in for a procedure, going through a whole battery of additional tests to check out the condition, what was going on. And now we know that after the surgery that the growth that was removed from the abdomen, in fact, cancerous. Here is Tony Snow talking about the procedures that he went through and the tests as well on Friday.


TONY SNOW, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: In a recent series of CAT scans and PET scans and MRIs, we have found a small growth in my lower abdomen. Blood tests are negative. PET scans are negative. But out of an aggressive sense of caution, I'm going to go in for surgery on Monday and have it removed.

I'll be out for a few weeks because it's still, you know, they're going to cut me. And it will take me a little while to heal up. So I'll come back here a little lighter and, I don't know, a few weeks, maybe three or four weeks.


HARRIS: What seem particularly difficult moments now that we know what we know. That news coming out this morning. And, again, here's how that information came to us. Just a few minutes ago, White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino announced that the morning gaggle -- we talk about this all the time, Heidi.

We probably should explain what that is. That gaggle is an opportunity where reporters get an opportunity to ask questions of White House officials. And there is also the opportunity for White House officials to pass along information. That's what happened this morning. In that gaggle, the spokeswoman announced that that growth removed from Tony Snow's lower abdomen was cancerous and had possibly spread to the live. And that is, obviously, the most concerning part of all of this.

COLLINS: Yes, and it does say here definitively, according to the spokeswoman, Dan Perino, that it has spread to the liver. I hadn't seen that before. I thought they were still checking that all out. But apparently it has, in fact, spread to the liver. He is going to undergo chemotherapy, which is more than a bummer, to say, because those initial tests came back negative, the ones that he had had in the beginning.

Elaine Quijano is standing by now outside the White House to give us a little bit more perspective on this.

Boy, Elaine, what a terrible surprise for Tony Snow.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Obviously this is the news. All of us, I should say, not just the White House, but, of course, reporters who cover this beat certainly did not want to hear that Tony Snow's cancer has metastasized.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino, as you noted in the off-camera briefing known as the gaggle, was just a couple of minutes really into telling us that she had had a conversation with Tony, just gotten off the phone with him before the briefing. About a six-minute long conversation in which he said that, in fact, the cancer had spread. And the exact quote was that, "this has spread to my liver." That is what Tony Snow told Dana Perino.

Obviously a very difficult time here, but Perino described him as being in very good spirits. She said that President Bush actually spoke to Tony this morning in the 7:00 hour. Obviously he has got Tony Snow in his prayers. But at one point after a particularly emotional moment after she announced the news, she went on to say that Tony is in good spirits and said to "tell them not to bug me." And she said that he even offered some talking points and joked about him being particularly fired up on other issues.

But certainly a sobering moment, as you just saw Tony last week saying that this, in fact, was a small growth, that the signs were indicating initially anyway that it was not cancer. But as you know, the cancer -- this is something that we knew even before he took the job, there were questions about whether or not his health might be a factor. We knew he had a clean bill of health almost a year ago now. It was about May, I believe, last year that his first briefing took place, April when he was officially announced. But now just under a year after he has been in this position of White House press secretary, the news that nobody wanted to hear that, in fact, his cancer has returned.

And we should point out again, I'm not sure if you've probably talked about this, but it was back in February of 2005 that we learned Tony Snow did, in fact, have cancer, colon cancer. He had his colon removed in February of 2005. And, again, a clean bill of health given to him by doctors last year before he took this job. But this news today certainly devastating for everyone here. COLLINS: Yes, no question about that, Elaine. And, you know, we always talk about that five-year anniversary and how critically important it is and we're talking about things like cancer and, of course, it was only two years ago when the colon cancer hit.

We're also learn that, may have miss spoke here, about the chemotherapy. Of course, when these announcements come out, there is a lot to be talked about by way of therapies and so forth. A lot of changes could come and certainly none of that treatment has been decided upon yet.

But, Elaine, quickly, the news and the way it was taken by the rest of the press, I'm sure everyone pretty rattled.

QUIJANO: Yes, it was definitely something that, you know, obviously again, none of us wanted to hear. We did ask about his family because, of course, they've already been through so much with his previous bout and we were told that his wife, Jill, of course, was with him there. Unclear about his children. But certainly the mood in that room somber, to say the least. And even now really, at this moment, certainly I think I speak for my colleagues when I say our thoughts and prayers are certainly with him and his family.

COLLINS: Absolutely. No question about that from here as well. Elaine Quijano for us outside the White House this morning.

Elaine, thank you.

HARRIS: In charge and on the ground. The new top U.S. commander in the Middle East is getting a first-hand look at the war in Iraq and the challenges. How much progress is being made? And with Washington debating a withdrawal, how urgent is the time frame? CNN's Kyra Phillips has a one-on-one interview with Admiral William Fallon, the new head of the U.S. central command. It is an interview you'll see only on CNN.

Kyra, good to see you.

What did the admiral have to say about the progress being made in Iraq?

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right out of the box, I had to read him a quote from Ray Odierno. He's the general, the second in command here with ground forces in Iraq. And he actually came out recently and said he didn't expect things to go this way and that he isn't quite sure if the U.S. is winning the war in Iraq. However, the new head of CENTCOM, Admiral Bill Fallon, said he sees signs of improvement.


PHILLIPS: I have been here now for a couple weeks. Every morning or afternoon or evening I hear mortars and explosions over in the green zone. I'm seeing suicide bombers go off here in the red zone. And I wake up every day thinking, when is this going to end? Can it end? Will it end? Can hear the gunfire right now. ADM WILLIAM FALLON, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: You''ll hear an occasional thing. But if you take this in context of this population of 27 million, also you're here in Baghdad right next to the green zone. I've been all over this country over in last five days and there are parts of it that are dramatically different.

PHILLIPS: Is there a certain area that stood out to you?

FALLON: I was in the north yesterday, up in the Kurdish provinces, and it's completely different. People are just going about their daily lives in a completely different environment than here. Irbil, booming city, lots of new construction, huge, new airport.

I was in Anbar. A huge difference out there. Tremendous difference just in the last several months.

I was at Fallujah yesterday. Very quiet. Rebuilding going on. Key point. That city a year and a half ago was down to a population of -- in the tens, 20,000, something like that. Now the marines out there are telling me there are about 250,000 back in the city. Traffic moving in and out. Lots of commerce. Lots of construction. That's a really good sign.


PHILLIPS: And, Tony, something else I addressed with the admiral. U.S. intelligent agencies, along with military sources here on the ground, say that al Qaeda is stronger now than ever before. The admiral disagreed. He said every day al Qaeda is taking hits and that local intelligence leads coalition forces to insurgents on a weekly basis and they're rounding them up and it's making a difference.

HARRIS: Hey, Kyra, let me ask you a question I heard you talking about this morning on "American Morning" with John and Soledad. And I'm curious, does the admiral specifically, and I'm wondering do the generals, overall, hate the question at this point of how much longer? How much longer are we going to be in Iraq?

PHILLIPS: It's, like I said, I think I said it was the $50 million question, right? I think every single journalist has asked that question. Every single American. Every single Iraqi. I mean, and, yes, I had to ask him, look, do you have a timetable? Can you say when U.S. forces are going to be able to come home? And, of course, he said no.

And I said, even the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Iraq said democracy could take generations. So I asked the admiral, could U.S. troops be here in Iraq for generations? An that is one interesting thing that he did say. He said, well, if you look at other countries, troops have been in those areas for decades helping to keep the peace and secure the country.

He said, but I don't imagine this many troops being in Iraq for that period of time. But that's interesting. He said this amount of troops. So you could read between the lines that U.S. troops are going to be here in some capacity for a while.


HARRIS: Hey, Kyra, what are you working on? You're going to be back in 20 minutes at 10:30 Eastern.

PHILLIPS: We're going to talk about Iran. I asked him, are you going to go to war in Iran? I'll tell you what he told me, coming up.

HARRIS: Great, Kyra. Kyra Phillips in Baghdad for us.

Great to see you, Kyra, thanks. We'll see you in a couple minutes.

And this morning, the Senate debate's changing course in Iraq. Lawmakers could provide war funds with strings attached. The $124 billion emergency spending bill would set a timetable for the return of troops. The House passed a similar bill with a fixed deadline. All troops must be home by September of next year. The Senate measure sets a goal for next spring. The president would have the flexibility to ignore that time frame. President Bush has vowed to veto any measure to carry as deadline for troop pull-outs.

COLLINS: A new flare-up in the firing of federal prosecutors. Monica Goodling, a key aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, says she'll take the fifth. Goodling refusing to testify about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys to avoid possibly incriminating herself. Just yesterday Gonzales called on justice officials to cooperate with congressional investigators. But Goodling's lawyers call the inquiry, "politically charged." They say testifying could put Goodling in legal peril.

An inquest underway at this hour into the death of Daniel Smith. A Bahamian court taking a closer look at the death of Anna Nicole Smith's son. The inquest previously scheduled but it does come just one day after Florida officials announced the former playmate's death was an accidental drug overdose. Daniel Smith's death was ruled an overdose of methadone and two antidepressants. He was found dead in his mother's Nassau hospital room September 10th, just three days after the birth of his sister Dannielynn.

HARRIS: Let's get a check of weather now with Chad Myers in the Weather Center.

Chad, snow in the west, big chunks of pollen in the south.

COLLINS: That's for sure.

HARRIS: It's crazy.


HARRIS: Well, Heidi, what do you say we get a little more information on White House Spokesperson Tony Snow's condition right now. Dr. Otis Brawley is an oncologist at Emory University.

Dr. Brawley, thanks for your time this morning.


HARRIS: Are you there?

BRAWLEY: Yes, I am. Can you hear me?

COLLINS: OK. Doctor, I can. Thanks for your time. Tony Harris with Heidi Collins in Atlanta.

Just wondering, have you heard the news this morning that we're reporting of the recurrence of cancer for White House Spokesman Tony Snow? There was a small growth in the abdomen. Obviously the biopsy was done. It has come back cancerous. And now we know that the cancer has spread to the liver. How serious a situation is this for Tony Snow?

BRAWLEY: This is a very serious situation. The first thing to do is to see if this is colon cancer which has spread to the liver. And then he's going to have to undergo treatment. But this is a very serious condition. He may be able to work for awhile while he's under therapy. But this condition is frequently and usually fatal.

COLLINS: Wow. Doctor, when you talk about the different types of therapies that he could do, obviously we're talking about chemotherapy as one option. What are some -- I mean is that just a given, you've got to do chemotherapy or what are some of the choices he may have?

BRAWLEY: Almost certainly he's going to get more chemotherapy. Hopefully, we all have to hope, that there was just one lesion and the surgeon was able to get the entire lesion out. There are some people who can do very well, very well meaning. They can actually even be cured if there's one lesion to the liver, which is resected. But more often than not, if there's the one lesion there in the liver, there's additional disease in the abdomen, assuming again that this is a relapse of his colon cancer.

COLLINS: OK. So just to be clear when we talking about this disease being fatal, it is possible to survive this if there is only one lesion, one instance in the liver of occurrence?

BRAWLEY: Yes, that's very true and that's what we have to hope for right now.

COLLINS: Absolutely.

HARRIS: But, doctor, I am curious as to why just on hearing what you've heard to this point, and knowing a little bit I would assume about the past experiences and bouts with cancer for Tony Snow, why you come to the conclusion that this is very serious and oftentimes fatal? Why that conclusion?

BRAWLEY: Well, I'm looking at individuals -- a large group of people. I can't speak directly to Mr. Snow's condition, obviously, but I'm talking about individuals who have colon cancer and then have a relapse in the liver. Generally those folks don't do well. It's about 5 to 10 percent who have this one lesion in the liver and have it resected who do well.

COLLINS: And I imagine part of the problem here is because of the particular organ that we're talking about. I mean the liver is the largest intestinal organ. It has many different functions, many things that it does. A whole group of different cells that make it up and so, therefore, sometimes you have the benign tumors and then times you have the malignant tumors that can come up in a liver.

BRAWLEY: Yes. And most tumors that show up in the liver are going to be malignant. The most common tumor in the liver, especially in someone who's had colon cancer in the past, will be a colon cancer metastasized to the liver. The colon cancer, we've had some tremendous breakthroughs in terms of drugs to work on the disease. However, most of those drugs still don't cause a cure unless one has a localized disease initially without spread.

HARRIS: Well, doctor, that brings us to this -- maybe this next point that might be beneficial. The doctors are considering a range of options, chemotherapy obviously being among those treatment options. What else might doctors be looking at because Tony Snow has indicated that they haven't determined a course of treatment yet.

BRAWLEY: Yes. Well, our options are generally surgery, and he's had that, as well as radiation and chemotherapy. Radiation for disease in the liver usually takes the form of seeds or spears that are actually injected into the liver. We also have the ability sometimes to actually send a catheter up into the liver and clot off the blood supply to tumors that are in the liver, as well as radial ablation. Using ultrasonic waves to try to ablate the tumor. These are all things that are done in an effort to extend the patient's life and improve the patient's quality of life.

HARRIS: How debilitate -- I mean it just sounds like a treatment course that is extremely debilitating. I mean, he, on Friday, talked about being back, having the surgery, a few weeks. I can't imagine that being the case now.

BRAWLEY: I don't know how bad it's going to be for Mr. Snow. I can tell you that my experience is that there are people who can be very functional while getting these things and there are people who are incredibly debilitated while getting it. There's a huge spectrum. We are, of course, all hope that every patient's going to be as functional as possible, but there are people who get these things and work while getting these treatments.

COLLINS: Yes. And, also, as we look at the overall, you know, case history, obviously we don't have everything on Tony Snow, but he's 51-years-old. I know that his mother died of colon cancer when he was quite young, a teenager. So when we talk about family history and then, of course, his own history, it doesn't paint a terrific picture. But it is not possible, Dr. Brawley, that the surgery that he had was for this other growth in the abdomen. Is it possible they can then go into the liver and find this one lesion, get that out as well and possible get this clean bill of health that we're all hoping for?

BRAWLEY: Yes, that is possible. And, you know, every person who's in this situation has the hope that that happens. It is possible. I would be not telling the truth if I said it's likely, but it is possible to have removal of two metastatic (INAUDIBLE) and then do well for a very, very long period of time, perhaps years.

HARRIS: Thank you, Dr. Otis Brawley, oncologist at Emory University here in Atlanta.

Doctor, thanks for your time and your analysis this morning of the situation.

If you're just joining us here at CNN, just another reminder that inside the last hour we learned that the growth removed from White House Spokesman Tony Snow's lower abdomen was, in fact, cancerous, is cancerous and has spread to his liver. We will continue to update this story for you throughout the morning here in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Meanwhile, coming up, an aide to Senator Jim Webb in trouble with the law. What was he doing with a gun on Capitol Hill? We'll find out coming up in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Step on it and save, but surprisingly high gas prices aren't pushing too many drivers behind the wheel of a gas sipper. Hybrid hang-up in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: More than a dozen British sailors and marines still held by Iran. And now Britain takes a tougher stand. The latest on a tense diplomatic standoff in the NEWSROOM.


COLLINS: Quickly want to bring this news to you in case you are just joining us now. We have learned from White House Spokesperson Dana Perino that apparently Tony Snow, White House spokesman, has had a growth removed from his lower abdomen. It is cancerous and has spread to the liver. He is talking about his options for treatment with his doctors at this time. We are continuing to follow this story. It's particularly alarming, though, because of his bout with colon cancer just two years ago. Spent six months going through chemotherapy and ultimately had his colon removed. So now, just two years later, we are learning this, that the cancer has spread to his liver. We'll continue to follow this story for you.

HARRIS: Let's get to a little consumer news for you this morning. No surprise to drivers, but gas prices are up again. The average price of a gallon of self-serve regular rose almost six cents over the past two weeks. It is now about $2.61 a gallon. That's according to the Lundberg Survey. Lundberg blames the increase in part on slightly higher crude oil prices.

President Bush has said it, Americans are too dependent on gasoline. He's on a mission to rev up support for his energy plan. And this hour, Mr. Bush takes part in a demonstration on alternative fuel vehicles. Yesterday the president hosted the CEOs of the big three automakers at the White House. He got a chance to check out some flex fuel vehicles on the South Lawn. Those are cars that can run on ethanol and bio diesel.

With gas prices on the rise, why aren't people buying more fuel- efficient and hybrid cars? Here to talk about that is Lauren Fix, the car coach with

Lauren, great to see you.

LAUREN FIX, AUTOTRADER.COM: Great to see you, too, Tony.

HARRIS: Good morning. Good morning. Good morning.

All right. Let's talk about it. Why aren't people buying more of these cars? Let's talk about price.

FIX: Well, I think the price, when you start looking at a car that is a hybrid versus the same vehicle that has a regular gasoline engine, you're going to see there's a big difference. And, hey, it all comes down to everybody's budget. It's the almighty dollar.

HARRIS: That's right. That's right. So are they -- what's the price breakdown here?

FIX: Well, you're almost looking, in some cases, it can be a couple thousand. In some cases it can be more. You're looking at a Lexus 450H. A beautiful car. But the difference in price is quite dramatic. So are you buying it because you want to be environmentally friendly or do you actually have the budget to be able to support the higher expense. And, of course, it will take you a while to recoup it.

HARRIS: So if you want to be more fuel efficient, you're going to pay more for the vehicle?

FIX: Well, unfortunately, there's not that many choices out there, so you kind of have to work with what you've got. So they have a right -- they're raising the prices in order to meet the demand. And when production does increase and more vehicles are available, the prices will be more reasonable, too.

HARRIS: OK, Lauren, what about size and style? Are they making the kind of cars that we want to buy, that we want to drive?

FIX: They're trying. They're trying. I mean, not everybody can fit their lifestyle into a Prius. I mean, it's a great choice, but for me it doesn't work. I'm always moving around lacrosse gear and that just sort of takes up the whole truck.


FIX: So when you've got to move kids around, it doesn't work. But for a lot of people, you know, you need an SUV or you need a truck or maybe you want a sports car or a convertible, whatever your personal choices are, because you are what you drive, you know, that may be not something that meets your needs yet. HARRIS: Is it the case that it costs you more to insure one of these hybrid vehicles?

FIX: It can because if it costs more it costs more to replace if it's in a collision and it's totaled. So you want to check with your insurance agent. And that's why it was -- you know, find an independent insurance agent and start doing some comparison shopping before you go ahead and buy a hybrid.

HARRIS: You know, and is it true that the reason we really aren't buying these vehicles is because gas prices aren't high enough now for us to seek that alternative?

FIX: Yes, if you look on the streets today, there's still a lot of SUVs and crossover utility vehicles. And, you know, I mean, most people kind of get comfortable with what they like and they really don't want to switch to something that's smaller. But when gas hits $4 a gallon, you're going to watching people scrambling back to the dealerships going, you know, I can fit my lifestyle into a Prius.

HARRIS: Yes, Lauren, I think you're right about that. I've got to ask you, give us a grade here. How are the big three U.S. automakers doing when it comes to making more of these vehicles?

FIX: They're trying. You know, diesel is such a big thing in Europe and we don't have that in every state yet. We're working on getting them available. But I would say Ford's probably doing the best of the big three. They've got a new high series coming out next week. I'll be helping launch that at the New York Auto Show. I mean there's a lot of great vehicles out in.

But, you know, before you go ahead and buy, do your homework and find out where those cars are made too because some of these cars are not being made in the U.S. So you want to make sure to read those window stickers very carefully.

HARRIS: That's right.

And what would the automakers need in terms of incentives to do better? Let's talk about, oh, health care costs. Some kind of a break on health care costs? Pensions for retirees?

FIX: Sure, all that's going to help. I mean, I think that the auto manufacturers are going to survive. You're not going to see Ford and GM go out of business. You know, and we've had these cycles before and I think they're going to come back stronger. What I see at the auto show, which we'll see next week in New York, is just impressive -- because we get a little bit of an insight as journalists -- very impressive. You're going to see next week. I think you're going to see GM and Ford and Chrysler really step up to the plate and offer some great solutions, bio-diesels. We see diesel vehicles becoming more available. Of course you've got ethanol and you've got hydrogen. You're going to see a lot of great vehicles.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: So the future is bright?

FIX: I would say it's brighter than we might have thought last year. So it's definitely improving.

HARRIS: All right, Lauren Fix with Lauren, great to see you. Thanks for your time this morning

FIX: Thank you Tony, take care.

HARRIS: And good morning everyone. Welcome back to the CNN NEWSROOM: I'm Tony Harris.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: And I'm Heidi Collins. We are following this story just into CNN this morning. The White House says presidential spokesman Tony Snow's cancer has returned and has spread to his liver. A growth removed from Snow's abdomen yesterday was found to be cancerous. A White House official says Snow is vowing to beat the disease once again. The treatment plan has not been decided. Snow underwent surgery two years ago for colon cancer. Doctors gave Snow a clean bill of health before he took the White House job last year. We, of course, will continue to follow this story. You may remember when he had that colon cancer two years ago he did have his colon removed. So certainly some awful news for him and his family today.

HARRIS: And still to come in the NEWSROOM this morning, bare stage, bared emotions, a high school play about the Iraq war is pulled because of community concerns. That story coming up in the NEWSROOM.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And I'm Kyra Phillips live in Baghdad. Is the U.S. military considering going to war with Iran? I put that question to the new commander of the U.S. central command, coming up straight here in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: And quickly now, we want to get you to the exchange, a look at the big board, as you can see, well, the Dow off to a rough start, down 76, 77 points, at one point down 85 points. About an hour into the trading day, the Nasdaq down 15. We will check all of the business headlines with Susan Lisovicz coming up in the NEWSROOM.

Call to duty in Iraq. The U.S. Marine Corps says a shortage of volunteers is forcing the recall of reservists. Some 1800 members of the individual ready reserve will begin receiving letters this week. The plan for now report for duty in October, deploy early next year. The individual ready reserve is made up of Marines who left active duty but still have time remaining on their eight-year commitment.

COLLINS: The U.S. Navy amassing off the coast of Iran. The Navy says the military exercise was not launched in response to Iran's capture of British sailors and Marines but it does beg the question, is this a preview of future military action? CNN's Kyra Phillips put that question to the new head of U.S. central command. It's a one-on- one interview you'll see only on CNN.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What are you going to do about Iran? They are helping the militias. They are involved in this country. They're contributing to this war.

ADM. WILLIAM FALLON, CMDR, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: The question is what is Iran going do about their behavior? Iran specifically has been unhelpful. We know it and we've made it known that we know it. And we're not going to tolerate it. We cannot have them aiding and abetting with technical and weapons help to the killers here, injuring, maiming not only our people, but Iraqi people.

PHILLIPS: Would you consider war with Iran?

FALLON: We're not interested in a war. We've got a conflict going here that we've got lots of folks tied up trying to fix. We have another conflict in Afghanistan, headed over there tomorrow to take a look at that. But Iranian behavior has only been not only unhelpful but detrimental to peace and progress. Now, Iran sits in a neighborhood of other countries. My intention is go to around and meet the leaders of these countries in the region and I'm going to talk to them about this. Two things on my agenda if you would, one is to get help from these countries for this place, for Iraq. The other one is to help us to deal with this Iranian behavior, to try to see what we could do to make these folks realize they've got to be -- they have aspirations to be something big, you've got to act like a big boy.


COLLINS: Admiral William Fallon, he's of course the new head of U.S. central command talking with our Kyra Phillips. Coming up next hour, we're going to talk with Kyra about the admiral's opinions and thoughts regarding troops returning home to the United States.

HARRIS: Still to come, an aide to Senator Jim Webb in trouble with the law. What was he doing with a gun on Capitol Hill? Find out next in the NEWSROOM.

COLLINS: Metal crunching on concrete. The last sound you want to hear when you're behind the wheel of a $1.5 million ride. We'll show you the video, as painful as it is. Crash course in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: An aide to Senator Jim Webb of Virginia expected in court today on weapons charges. He's accused of entering a Senate office building with a fully-loaded pistol that belongs to Webb. The senator's office identifies the aide as Philip Thompson and says he is a former Marine, a long-time friend and trusted employee. Capitol police say Thompson was arrested at the Russell Senate office at a security checkpoint. A congressional official who's been briefed on the incident says Webb gave the gun to Thompson when he was driving the senator to the airport. He says Thompson put the weapon in a briefcase and returned to Capitol Hill apparently forgetting it was there.

COLLINS: OK. It's outrage time yet again. Check this out, a 77- year-old store clerk brutally beaten and threatened at knife point. It happened Saturday night at Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The clerk says the man sucker punched him. Sure looks like it. But the clerk fought back. The robber got away with some cash and the store's two phones. The clerk has some bruises but he is not seriously hurt. Police are asking you to let them know if you have any information about the incident.

HARRIS: No movie magic here. Watch this. That's a rare Ferrari Enzo, beautiful car, right, valued at about $1.5 million! Not anymore, at the wheel movie star Eddie Griffin. We want to first let you know, he's OK. Now we're going to have a little fun with him. He's in the street racing movie "Red Line." The actor was practicing a scene for a celebrity race. Looks like he's going to need a little more practice or maybe he should practice in something a little less expensive. After the crash, Griffin explained it this way, undercover brother's good at karate and all the rest of that, but the brother can't drive. Griffin, of course, starred in the movie "Undercover Brother." The car, by the way, is owned by the executive producer of "Red Line" who says it is probably totaled.

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Talk about American cars when NEWSROOM returns. I'm Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange. One day after executives from the big three met with President Bush in the White House, there is another auto summit under way. The United Auto Workers union convenes in Detroit to prepare for critical bargaining talks this summer. Details next on NEWSROOM. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.



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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 95 cents please.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: 95 cents? Not necessarily, could end up cost you more like $30. How? Two words, overdraft fees. Few people are writing checks these days instead relying on their debit cards to make everyday purchases. That's giving banks a new way to make money off of the electronic version of check bouncing, overdraft fees to the tune of more than $10 billion a year. So if you're low on cash, many banks may go ahead and accept your purchase automatically. While that's convenient, it will cost you.

Millions of Americans are getting slapped with interest payment of more than 800 percent or fees of about $30 a pop for even the smallest overdraft. That's something you definitely can't know soon enough. Stephanie Elam, CNN, New York.



COLLINS: United Auto Workers union is starting its national convention today. Thousands of workers and even a few state governors are heading to the meeting in Detroit. Susan Lisovicz is at the New York Stock Exchange with details and a look at what it could mean for the auto industry itself. Hi, there Susan.

LISOVICZ: Hi, Heidi. The big three Detroit auto makers have been dealing with a mountain of problems and that presents one big problem for the UAW. Today and tomorrow the union is convening in Detroit to lay out a plan for future and that's especially important because the union which represents more than half a million auto workers will be heading to the bargaining table this summer to negotiate new contracts with GM, Ford and Chrysler. With the billions of dollars in losses they've suffered in the past few years, that could mean another round of concessions on the union's part. Ford is on track to lose billions more this year. Chrysler is preparing for a possible sale. And even though GM rebounded late last year, it's still predicting negative cash flow this year. A pivotal year indeed for the UAW. Heidi.

COLLINS: That's for sure. So what is the union hoping for in the upcoming contract talks?

LISOVICZ: Well, it's not dealing from a position of strength, right, because the auto companies are not in great shape. The 72- year-old union is preparing for a fight to defend its turf. But analysts say it's more open than ever before to help turn around the struggling industry. One hot button issue is healthcare. Healthcare benefits are estimated to add $1,000 to the price of each vehicle made here in the U.S. The "Detroit News" says the union will resist shifting more healthcare costs to workers but the UAW may be more flexible on wages and some workplace issues. We'll see.

On Wall Street, another day, another bad story in the housing sector. We got a very disappointing report from Lennar. It's one of the major homebuilders in the company. Its profits dropped more than 70 percent in its last quarter from a year earlier. Stocks lower, too. The Dow industrials right now down 66 points or half a percent. Ditto for the Nasdaq.

But there are signs of hope for Delta Airlines. The carrier says it plans to emerge from bankruptcy on April 30th and it expects to turn a profit this year. I can almost hear the applause in the control room. Delta is based in Atlanta after all. It's a very important airline for CNN employees. That's the latest from Wall Street. Heidi and Tony, back to you.

COLLINS: Yeah and a lot of people, right.

LISOVICZ: It's a major carrier.

COLLINS: Susan Lisovicz, thank you.

HARRIS: Here we need Delta to work. That's for sure.

Coming up in the NEWSROOM, his job is to manage the news out of the White House. Today he is the news and the news is not good. Press Secretary Tony Snow's surgery reveals cancer. That story ahead in the NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: Rodents revenge, a Maine mouse got more than the cheese. It may have taken the choppers to eat it. Reporter Scott Sassone from affiliate WCSH has the story.


SCOTT SASSONE, WCSH CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For about a week this Waterville home has been the site of a battle of wits.

BILL LEXNER: He come out here and taunt me. He'd sit right here and just taunt the heck out of me.

SASSONE: Bill Lexner's (ph) opponent was no bigger than his thumb yet he was a worthy adversary.

LEXNER: The smartest little thing I've ever seen in my life. I've never seen a mouse that smart.

SASSONE: After days of listening to the pitter patter of little feet, Bill decided the critter had to go.

LEXNER: So when I did finally catch him I had a big pickle jar and I put him in it. He got jumped right out.

SASSONE: And late one night the mouse retaliated, grabbing Bill's dentures off a bedside table.

LEXNER: I'm telling you, that mouse took my teeth. I just know it.

Reporter: After his dentures disappeared, Bill decided to start thinking like his competition, pulled out a couple of extra mouse traps like these and behind this heating system here, he made a big discovery.

LEXNER: Four feet down, there were my teeth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He sterilized them about an hour before he --

LEXNER: Oh, yeah. Little stinker.

SASSONE: He also managed to track down not one but two little thieves.

LEXNER: Then I caught his partner. You know, the next day.

SASSONE: And he found them a home, in a cage on his dining room table where he could keep a close eye on the two of them.

LEXNER: Luckily I didn't leave any money around.

SASSONE: In Waterville, Scott Sassone, news center.


COLLINS: The question echoing from main street to Pennsylvania Avenue --


PHILLIPS: What do you have to see on the ground for those U.S. troops to come home?

FALLON: We clearly need more (INAUDIBLE) security.


COLLINS: Questions and answers with the Pentagon's top commander in the Middle East, ahead in the NEWSROOM and only on CNN.

HARRIS: His job is to manage the news out of the White House. Today he is the news and it is bad. Press Secretary Tony Snow's surgery reveals cancer. That story straight ahead in the newsroom.


JUDY FORTIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Antibiotics may not be the best cure for a sinus infection after all. New findings reveal doctors over-prescribed the medicines according to researchers at the University of Nebraska. Acute sinusitis is caused by a virus and over the counter medications typically do the trick but statistics show antibiotics were ordered in 83 percent of those cases studied. Chronic sinusitis lasts longer and experts say, that's when antibiotics are needed.

Another reason to quit smoking. Parts of the body not normally exposed to sunlight age significantly faster in smokers according to a University of Michigan study. The more people light up, the more areas like the upper arm and bottom show severe wrinkling and reduced elasticity.

New estimates show one American every 72 seconds is diagnosed with Alzheimer's. More than five million people are living with the disease in the U.S. and that number is expected to rise. There is no cure but early detection and treatment can significantly increase the survival rate of Alzheimer's patients. Judy Fortin, CNN.


HARRIS: And good morning everyone, you're with CNN. You're informed. I'm Tony Harris.

COLLINS: And I'm Heidi Collins. Developments keep coming in in the NEWSROOM on Tuesday, the 27th of March. Here's what's on the rundown. A cancer diagnosis for presidential spokesman Tony Snow. Just a short time ago, the White House announced the