Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Contaminated Pet Food List Grows; Cold Weather for Easter

Aired April 07, 2007 - 16:00   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. On tap for you right now two major stories.
Pet owners across America, listen up. The list of contaminated foods and treats is growing.

And the calendar may say it's Easter weekend, but the forecast - well, it looks like Old Man Winter is making an encore appearance.

And that's where we will begin - spring with a sting.

On the day before Easter, for much of the nation it's more like Christmas or New Years weather. This is Virginia Beach, Virginia, this morning. And this is Crawford, Texas, right now.

Your calendar has it right. It is April 7th. It snowed overnight on a baseball game, as well. It snowed on the nation's capital.

And as most of the city slept, it snowed right here in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jacqui Jeras is in the weather center. So, folks, get used to it. Spring not quite here yet.

JACQUI JERAS, AMS METEOROLOGIST, CNN WEATHER CENTER: Yes, you know, mid-April - that's when you want to wait to do all of your planting. And unfortunately, I think a lot of people have jumped the gun on that one.

We've got a lot of cold air in place across the eastern two- thirds of the country. This is a huge Arctic blast, and it's going to be sticking around for awhile. It's going to be a very gradual warm- up, though we do eventually expect to get there, once again.

And all those snow pictures that we saw, well, we could add Dallas-Fort Worth area into the mix there. Some occasional light snow showers have been falling across the area, especially on the southern and western sides of town, but no accumulation is expected, really, here.

You had up into the Panhandle. That's where the heavier snows have been coming, from Amarillo along the corridor down towards the Lubbock area, expecting to see maybe one to three inches of snowfall accumulation there with some freezing rain and sleet here across central parts of Texas. There are freeze warnings and advisories in effect all across the Great Lakes, extending down to the Gulf Coast. Here you see that cold air moving over the warmer lakes.

This is awfully late in the season to be talking about lake effect snow showers. But look at that off Lakes Ontario and Erie.

Also off of Lake Michigan into the U.P. of Michigan, we're already talking about upwards of a foot of snow, which has come down. And the winter storm warnings, as you can see in red here, are still in place and will be that way throughout the day and night, and may even linger into tomorrow.

This is where we have all the advisories and warnings in effect. Now, you can see it from just east of Chicago all the way down into northern parts of Florida. That's where the temperature is expected to be - at least at the freezing mark and below.

And when you hit right around 28 degrees or so for four hours, that's a killing frost, so that's going to take care of all of your blooms. So, you have a chance of saving some of it tonight.

Try and cover things up, if you can. Use just a sheet and put that over your blooms, and hopefully it will protect you as overnight temperatures are going to be in the teens here across the upper Midwest.

We'll see 30s into the Ohio and Tennessee River Valley. And look at this - even staying below 40 along the Gulf Coast. Even Houston barely staying above that freezing mark overnight tonight.

Tomorrow, we'll recover a little bit. We'll get up near 40 in Minneapolis, 46 in Kansas City. After a record low tomorrow morning in Atlanta, we think your Easter Sunday afternoon will be a little bit better with 54 degrees. And then we'll watch for those temperatures to moderate a little bit.

Are we going to get rid of some of this snow? Well, unfortunately, across the Great Lakes, as long as that cold air is still here and the warmer lake water is in place, we'll continue to see those snow showers there. We do think you have a chance.

And we're only going to put maybe a 30 percent chance of seeing snow showers west of Dallas, on up towards Denver for tomorrow, and just a wet rain across parts of the West.

That's it, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks a lot, Jacqui.

Well, a disturbing new development in the pet food scare. According to an FDA official, one theory being investigated, whether a dangerous substance was intentionally added to wheat gluten used in some pet food.

Plus, the pet food recall has widened to include dog biscuits made by Sunshine Mills. The company sells private labels found at grocery stores and Wal-Mart's Old Roy biscuits.

Tests show the wheat gluten in the bones was contaminated with melamine, used to make plastics and other industrial products.

Meanwhile, Menu Foods is expanding its original recall to include selected cuts and gravy products made between November 8th and March 6th.

As authorities investigate the pet food contamination, a troubling question is emerging. Could it have been done for profit?

Our Joe Johns explains.


JOE JOHNS (voice-over), CNN CONSUMER CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON: When will it end? Del Monte Pet Products announcing it is extending its recall to a variety of treats, snacks and beef sticks for dogs. The company called it a precautionary measure.

Another day in what could turn out to be the largest pet food recall in history. And the one thing everyone can agree on is that a chemical called melamine was found in wheat gluten that was used to make the food.

The chemical simply isn't supposed to be there, but it appeared at levels of 6 percent or higher, which would be considered a very large amount, if this were a random - in other words, accidental - contamination.

All of the companies that bought or sold the gluten deny adding melamine. But one theory FDA investigators are exploring is whether the melamine was introduced intentionally into the wheat gluten.

Why would somebody do that? One answer is that this whole thing could have been about money. In other words, to make it look like the wheat gluten had higher levels of protein than it actually did, and therefore, could be sold for more money.

That's right. More protein is considered good. So, hypothetically at least ...

DAN WATTS, NEW JERSEY INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY: You're trying to convince your customer that you have higher quality protein than you actually have.

JOHNS: Dan Watts is a chemist with the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He says melamine is rich in nitrogen. Protein is rich in nitrogen. High levels of nitrogen would make wheat gluten appear to have lots of protein.

But the chemical wouldn't actually raise the protein levels at all. So, basically, the theory FDA is investigating is that someone could have been trying to run a scam, with no reason to believe any pets would get sick as a result of it. WATTS: And not necessarily setting out to do anything that was going to be harmful. Perhaps setting out to do something that was a commercial fraud.

JOHNS: Until now, no firm research has ever suggested that melamine could be harmful to dogs and cats. And the government is still not certain whether the chemical itself has actually sickened or killed the pets, or if melamine is actually a so-called marker for some other toxic substance.

The research is spotty, and there's not even a basic clearinghouse to track all the pets sickened or killed. The FDA has turned to one indicator, though. The chain of 600 Banfield pet hospitals across the U.S. plugs information into a data base every time an owner shows up with a sick pet.

Like the FDA, Banfield says it is starting to see fewer reports, so the worst for pet owners might be over. But the FDA is just beginning to get to the bottom of why pets all over the country got sick or died from eating contaminated food.

Joe Johns, CNN, Washington.


WHITFIELD: So, Dr. Melinda Merck is a forensic veterinarian with the ASPCA.

We've asked a lot of you to send your questions via e-mail, because a lot of folks are very confused about what to feed their cats and dogs. And it really is sending a lot of pet owners into a panic.

So, for one, we've been hearing all about wheat gluten. Is it as simple as just looking for wheat gluten on the ingredients of wet and dry foods - and treats, now?

DR. MELINDA MERCK, FORENSIC VETERINARIAN, ASPCA: Correct. That is something that the consumer needs to do. They need to look at the ingredients of the food, and it should be on the label.

And the other thing that they can do is, they should be looking at the Web site for the food companies. That should also contain a list of ingredients.

And there should be a toll-free number for all the high-quality, commercially produced foods that people can call and ask questions, voice their concerns.

WHITFIELD: Are you being asked to examine many more cats and dogs now that are dying of mysterious deaths?

MERCK: Well, that seems to be the case universally for the veterinarian community, is that they are seeing more animals.

Of course, kidney failure was out there anyways. It's a very common thing, especially in cats as they age. So, the trick is figuring out the cause.

WHITFIELD: How do you do that?

MERCK: It takes ...

WHITFIELD: A lot of questions of what are you feeding your dog? You know, people being, I guess, being asked to bring in samples of the dog food, or what?

MERCK: Exactly. That's what - they're asking them to save that, put it in the freezer - the can or the biscuits, whatever it is that they believe that they've eaten.

And I think, more importantly is that pet owners need to be aware that there can be potentially some kidney damage without any symptoms. They may be mild. And they need to have their animals checked.

WHITFIELD: All right. We've been getting a lot of great questions and comments from people out there, so let me ask you a couple of things that folks have e-mailed in.

If your dog ate contaminated dog food, approximately how long would it take before you start seeing any symptoms?

MERCK: I think that that is really dose-dependent, meaning, it depends on how much they consumed.

I don't know that there's any timeframe that is accurate. If they ate a lot, of course, those symptoms could come on sooner.

But once again, even a little bit could harm the cat - the kidneys of the animal. And that's why they need to go to the vet.

WHITFIELD: Does it make a difference, the size of your animal, given the quantities of food? Obviously, it's very different from a small dog versus a large dog.

MERCK: Right.

WHITFIELD: Might you start to see the symptoms quicker in a small dog, for instance? Lower tolerance?

MERCK: It could be, depending, once again, if they ate more volume that they ate for body mass. And, of course, kidneys in cats are much more sensitive to certain toxic insults ...

WHITFIELD: A lot of us never even heard of wheat gluten. Now we're hearing wheat gluten is a factor in this poisoning of a lot of animals.

So, this viewer, Laurie (ph) in Cary, North Carolina, asks, if the problem really is wheat gluten, how can we account for all the pets who have died after eating only dry foods that don't contain wheat gluten?

Or at least that's the conventional wisdom, that dry foods don't have wheat gluten.

MERCK: There are certain dry food products that do contain wheat gluten. And there's not been any link with any other forms of gluten, like corn gluten. This is strictly a wheat gluten issue.

And that's why some of the foods that have been recalled, voluntary recalls that do contain wheat gluten. So, it's important to look at the ingredients.

WHITFIELD: And what's your concern now that dog treats are a part of the equation, as well, and you've got a number of manufacturers - not just Menu Foods now, but you've Del Monte - others who are voluntarily recalling items?

Does this tell you that this is a much bigger problem than we expect it to be right now?

MERCK: I think we don't know the full ramifications of this problem. I know that the FDA is working hard to get all the answers. But there are certainly a lot of unanswered questions.

For instance, we don't even know how melamine causes kidney failure. How is the link, or is it a true marker for some other kind of contaminant?

So, I think it's very - we need answers, more answers, that we don't have right now. And I think it's just good to be cautious. Check those Web sites.

WHITFIELD: A lot of pet owners, we're all looking at the labels now. If we don't see wheat gluten, then should we feel particularly comfortable if the item is organic or all natural?

MERCK: Not necessarily. All natural - especially raw foods - can present a whole other list of problems, such as salmonella and E. coli, and also exposure to humans.


MERCK: But there's no one good solution. And this has only affected one percent of all the pet foods out there. So, there's still a lot of other options within the pet foods that are produced with high commercial quality.

And it really is important to check with your veterinarian and make these decisions, not only, but seeking the advice of your doctor.

WHITFIELD: Do you have a dog or pet?

MERCK: I have dogs and pets.

WHITFIELD: What are you feeding them?

MERCK: I'm still feeding them the same food - dry and canned - that I was before.

WHITFIELD: One that doesn't have wheat gluten, coincidentally?

MERCK: They don't have wheat gluten.

WHITFIELD: OK. So, we do need to read the labels, eliminate wheat gluten for now ...


WHITFIELD: ... until we learn of some other potential contaminant.

MERCK: I think that's the safe thing.

WHITFIELD: All right. Dr. Melinda Merck, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

MERCK: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, we posted more information about the pet food recall on our Web site. Check it out, We're also listing the affected brands on the ticker running across the bottom of your screen, you'll see right there.

Well, they say they were blindfolded and kept in isolation from each other. Released by Iran, the British sailors and marines tell their side of the story.

And we'll ask an expert about how U.S. troops would handle a similar situation with Iran, if it were to happen.

All that in the NEWSROOM in about nine minutes from now.

And radio show host Don Imus under fire again, this time for a comment about a women's basketball team. We have the details later on in the NEWSROOM.

Plus this.


JOSH LANDIN, FISH ATTACK VICTIM: It jumped right out of the water, hit me in the chest and knocked me over and bit my leg.


WHITFIELD: He's talking about a fish - not a shark, a fish. All that straight ahead in the NEWSROOM, 13 minutes from now.


WHITFIELD: They were bound and blindfolded, denied contact with one another and pressured to say things that they say were not true in the end.

Fifteen British service members telling their side of a 13-day ordeal in Iran. CNN's Matthew Chance is in London.


MATTHEW CHANCE (voice-over), CNN CORRESPONDENT, LONDON: Back on British soil, the sailors and marines captured by Iran are setting the record straight.

On Iranian television they confessed to trespassing. Now, the senior-most officer among them categorically denies it.

LT. FELIX CARMAN, BRITISH ROYAL NAVY: Let me make it absolutely clear. Irrespective of what has been said in the past, when we were detained by the IRG - the Iranian Revolutionary Guard - we were inside internationally recognized Iraqi territorial waters.

CHANCE: Throughout nearly two weeks of captivity, the 15 British personnel were paraded on Iranian television. The images and the words were chosen carefully.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were seized apparently at this point here from their maps, from a GPS they've shown us, which is inside Iranian territorial waters.

CHANCE: The group was often shown together eating meals. At one point, there were even pictures looking relaxed and playing chess.

But the reality was very different. Now free to speak, they say they were blindfolded and stripped.

CAPT. CHRISTOPHER AIR, BRITISH ROYAL MARINES: I think some of us feared the worst when we were in that situation, hearing weapons being cocked and not having any awareness, being blindfolded and our hands bound.

CHANCE: They say there were threats, too, and they were given a stark choice.

CARMAN: We were interrogated most nights and presented with two options. If we admitted that we had strayed, we'd been back in a plane to the U.K. pretty soon. If we didn't, we faced up to seven years in prison.

CHANCE: There was no mention of mistreatment when Iran's president shook hands with the captives after releasing them.

Iranian media have dismissed their latest statements, saying British Prime Minister Blair must have put them up to it.

FAYE TURNEY, LEADING SEAMAN, BRITISH ROYAL NAVY: We had a very pleasant stay and liked the conditions we were in.

CHANCE: But at least now, it appears things for the British captives in Iran may not have been quite as they seemed.

Matthew Chance, CNN, London.


WHITFIELD: So, did those freed British sailors and marines explain themselves well? And would U.S. troops be expected to behave any differently?

Joining us for analysis, CNN's military analyst, Major General Don Shepperd.

So, general, I wonder, you know, if American sailors or Marines were put in a similar situation, isolated, would it be expected that they would have like a line, a certain, you know, edicts that they would all be reciting?

Or would you see that they would be coerced to recite something similar, that we're guilty, we were in Iranian waters instead of Iraqi waters?

MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD, RET., CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, this is really tough, Fredricka.

I'm really reluctant to criticize anyone when I wasn't there with somebody holding a gun to my head, cocking the trigger and knowing what my fellow marines and sailors were exposed to.

But definitely, the U.S. would be expected to have different conduct. They would not be expected to make statements that were not true about being in territorial waters. They would not be expected to be friendly with their captors.

They receive extensive - and I've been through it - the survival, evasion and resistance training, in which you're put in boxes, you're interrogated and you're taught to deal with this.

Our experience comes from the Rambo, John Wayne world and the experiences of our prisoners of war in North Vietnam, who were systematically tortured for years, and basically trained not to give any information or cooperate.

WHITFIELD: Sure. And part of that training is, yes, there are lots of hypotheticals, but it's a whole different ball of wax when reality sets in.

And like you said, they're in isolation, they are put against the wall, they are blindfolded. They are hearing these weapons be cocked.

SHEPPERD: Absolutely. It's a tough situation.

Last week I was in San Antonio with a group of former POWs and listening to the things that they were exposed to - systematic years of horrible torture, if you will.

They were trained not to give anything.

These people, you have to keep in mind, what they were trying to do was stay alive, keep their crew alive, not divulge any real military information and basically not start a war. Now, they have to live with that. They have to explain it to their military. They have to explain it to their country and they've got to live with it the rest of their lives.

So, I'm reluctant to judge them, not having actually been there.

WHITFIELD: And thank goodness, the outcome was - everyone was freed unharmed.

Well, let's talk about the notes that the U.S. military might be taking from this. Everyone is learning something about this incident.

What might the U.S. military be taking away from this?

SHEPPERD: Well, I'll tell you one thing that's really important, and I've got a lot of questions about this. Why were these people put in this situation?

It was perfectly ...

WHITFIELD: Meaning in the rafts, leaving the main ship?

SHEPPERD: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: Approaching what they thought was a suspicious vessel?

SHEPPERD: With no helicopter cover and no boats to launch to give them support.

So, I think they're going to be taking notes about putting people in harm's way without proper support or being able to respond immediately if they become in harm's way, Fredericka.

WHITFIELD: The U.S. military has a lot of folks in the Persian Gulf. It's been made very clear within the past couple of weeks that they have beefed up their presence, because of various exercises that are taking place.

So, how might this incident involving the Brits dictate or change the kind of military operations that are going on involving U.S. units?

SHEPPERD: Well, I can tell you that the U.S. units were sent there. There's two carrier battle groups and a third carrier battle group on the way.

What you need to watch for is, does this third carrier battle group stay, or does the other one rotate out? That's something that is very important.

What you don't want to do is - nobody wants another war in the Mideast over there. We're trying to calm things down, try to keep a lid on the Iranian nuclear program. And so, that's the big picture that you keep in mind. You don't want to start another war. And these type of incidents can spin out of control. So, both sides need to learn from this and be very careful.

WHITFIELD: All right. Major General Don Shepperd, always appreciate seeing you. And happy Easter this weekend, as well.

SHEPPERD: Same to you.

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much.

Well, the CIA is denying allegations that it tortured an Iranian diplomat kidnapped in Iraq.

Jalal Sharafi was released Tuesday after being held for two months. Today he held a news conference in Tehran.

He accuses the CIA of torturing him while in captivity. He says he was interrogated by both Arab and English speaking agents.

The CIA issued this statement: "The CIA vehemently denies any role in the capture or release of Sharafi. Any allegations of torture are ludicrous."

Well, join Roland Martin tonight for a CNN special, "What Would Jesus Do"? The war in Iraq is just one of the topics for the guests, the Reverend Jerry Falwell, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Pastor Rick Warren and Pastor Paula White - all familiar names and faces. Join us for a powerful debate on Jesus might solve today's problems.

A passenger train plows right through a raging fire. That story is straight ahead. More on that video.

And holy mackerel! A fishing trip goes awry. It's a "mack attack" you won't believe.

And an aide to U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales resigns, and a reaction from the White House.

You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


WHITFIELD: All right. News across America now.

In New Mexico, staying cool under fire - literally. The conductor of this passenger train decided to plow right through the smoke and flames of an out-of-control brush fire - right there.

For the dozen or so passengers on board, it was a hot ticket for a wild and scary ride. Everyone on board, however, was OK.

And dozens of people are homeless this holiday weekend after a four-alarm fire destroyed two apartment buildings in Nashville, Tennessee, yesterday. High winds made it tough for firefighters attacking the blaze. Authorities say the fire might have been sparked by a hot stove left unattended.

And from South Carolina, you wouldn't believe this. They actually have a good sense of humor about it all. One dad's cut-rate dentistry and the iReport video that he sent us. You're not going to believe what he was doing, using bow and arrow to help pull out her tooth - his daughter.

Well, it worked. And you see, she didn't even scream about it. So, all's well in that family.

More with the dad, who was kind of like the inventive dentist. Later this hour we're going to talk to him live, here in the NEWSROOM.

Meantime, we're getting some new video in right now. New Mexico's Governor Bill Richardson in his bid to win the Democratic nomination for the White House.

Well, now he is embarking on a pretty big trip. He's heading to North Korea to help claim the remains of American soldiers from the Korean War. He is also helping to underscore his foreign policy experience as a former U.S. ambassador to the U.N.

You're seeing new video we're getting in right now of him boarding the plane. He'll stop in Alaska before making his way and landing in North Korea.

Well, you are not going to believe this story, of a fisherman in Florida and the story that he's telling. Instead of the hunter, he became the hunted when a giant mackerel jumped out of the water and actually attacked him.

More from reporter David Waters of CNN affiliate, Central Florida News 13.


DAVID WATERS (voice-over), REPORTER, CENTRAL FLORIDA NEWS 13: One moment Josh Landin and his buddies were fishing, the next Landin was being attacked by a fish they call a massive beast. Josh and his friends say it came out of nowhere.

JOSH LANDIN, FISH ATTACK VICTIM: It jumped right out of the water, hit me in the chest and knocked me over and bit my leg.

JEREMY LANDIN, VICTIM'S BROTHER: I just didn't think it was real at first. You know, it was just such a surprise.

WATERS: The fish was this king mackerel, as heavy as the average eighth-grader.

This is 57 pounds, about 4'11".

The men were fishing near Sebastian Inlet at Brevard County's south end. They all leaned over the side as one of them reeled in a small fish. ROB PLATNER, VICTIM'S FRIEND: We were staring at that little fish. And like somebody waved a magic wand, it went whoof! You know, and it was suddenly a five-foot-long, 60-pound fish.

WATERS: This mackerel wanted a meal. But instead of getting a small fish, it jumped into the boat and tore into Josh's hand and leg in two places.

JOSH LANDIN: And at that point, the boat was just filled with blood.

WATERS: Landin's friends raced him to shore.

JOSH LANDIN: I was starting to lose consciousness.

WATERS: Landin was rushed to Holmes Regional Medical Center and received more than 100 stitches.

The fish didn't fare as well. The friends are keeping him at a dock in their neighborhood in Melbourne Beach and letting the crabs eat him.

In Melbourne Beach, David Waters, Central Florida News 13.


WHITFIELD: Sunny in Florida. Not so sunny in Crawford, Texas. And I mean that literally and figuratively.

Our Ed Henry is there.

Oh, where's the snowfall?

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CRAWFORD, TEXAS: That's right. A rare bit of April snow here in Crawford, Texas. It's pretty cold here at the president's ranch.

But back in Washington, the heat is being turned up on the attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, in the wake of another resignation of a top staffer.

I'll have that story coming up.

WHITFIELD: Thanks a lot, Ed.

And you've heard of different ways to pull out a loose tooth. Bow and arrow? What was dad thinking.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, it's done.



WHITFIELD: And you've heard of different ways to pull out a loose tooth. Um, bow and arrow? What was dad thinking?


WHITFIELD: At the bottom of the hour now. Here's a look at the top stories. American billionaire Charles Simonyi becomes the fifth so-called space tourist blasting off this afternoon from Pakistan bound for the International Space Station. The 13-day long trip costs more than $20 million.

The day before Easter, fire strikes the St. Ann Catholic Church in Newcastle, Indiana. Firefighters say the building has heavy damage.

And in the Philippines, hundreds of poor families left homeless after a fire sweeps through their shantytown. The blaze wiped out some 400 homes shared by about 1,200 families.

The prosecutors purge is back in the news with the sudden resignation of a top assistant to U.S. attorney general Alberto Gonzales. Monica Goodling has been refusing to testify to congress citing her right against self-incrimination. Well, to fill us further in, CNN's Ed Henry is in a very chilly and snowy Crawford, Texas, where this certainly turns up the heat, doesn't it, on attorney general.

ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Reporter: it really does. The irony, Fred, is that in the last couple days I've been speaking to advisors to the attorney general who were saying, look, perhaps this situation has stabilized. They were feeling relatively good about his political health. They felt that while he was certainly not out of the woods yet, that things had calmed down if you will, that no other shoes had dropped in the last 10 days or so and then, bam, you get this one-two punch. Monica Goodling, his former counselor, resigning. That gets Democrats a back all over this story.

And secondly now Democrats also threatening a new subpoena if the Justice Department does not turn over more documents. So a one-two punch, there Fred.

WHITFIELD: Meantime, what are the Democrats saying about this?

HENRY: It's interesting. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer who is one of the Democrats leading this investigation immediately pounced on it. Last night, this resignation coming late on a Friday night. As you know any time that people want to give out bad news they do it on a Friday night because they expect to get less media coverage on a Saturday.

And Senator Schumer said, quote, "Attorney General Gonzales' hold on the department gets more tenuous each day."

And that's what you're going to see Democrats really to zero in on the attorney general and his hold over the Justice Department heading into this testimony, make or break testimony on Capitol Hill on April 17th, Fred.

WHITFIELD: And April 17th, also the date that lots of expectations are riding on his testimony, Gonzales' testimony. But how much really can be expected?

HENRY: Well, it's interesting. Right now the attorney general over the next few days will be going through what they call murder boards, you get staffers in behind closed doors with a future witness on Capitol Hill, in this case the attorney general, and they throw every tough question at him to try to give him a tougher grilling than he's going to get from the Democrats.

He's going to need all the practice he can get in the next few days because you can bet Democrats are going to throw everything at him. And the White House will be watching that closely. Remember at the beginning of this U.S. attorney flap President Bush said, look, I still have confidence in Al Gonzales but he still has a lot of work to do on Capitol Hill. You can bet the White House will be watching.

If he does not get the job done on the Hill, his political standing is really going to be in tough shape.

WHITFIELD: Wow. Lots riding on April 17th, not just his testimony but tax due date for everybody else.

HENRY: That's right.

WHITFIELD: Thanks a lot, Ed Henry.

HENRY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Airline flights are often cancelled by foul weather, but how about foul language? It happened in Vegas. Apparently passengers overheard a Northwest pilot using raw language on a cell phone.

When a passenger scolded the pilot, well, he allegedly let loose even more profanities.


ERICA GENTNER, PASSENGER: We were on the flight. And the first class people said that the pilot was up in the cockpit and he was having a fit, swearing up a storm. Telling F this, F that. Some of the people in first class heard and they said we don't appreciate that. He almost had the people in first class walk off the plane and some of them ended up walking off the plane.


WHITFIELD: So police were called in. The airline then yanked the pilot off the plane and actually cancelled the flight. An FAA spokesman says it's ultimately up to Northwest to decide how to deal with that pilot.

Once again, radio show host Don Imus is in trouble. Imus says he's sorry for what he called players on a women's college basketball team. But as CNN's Mary Snow reports, many are saying sorry, Imus, apology not accepted.


MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT(voice-over): Don Imus is apologizing for what he calls an insensitive and ill-conceived remark, but some say his apology falls short. It all started after Tuesday's NCAA women's championship game between Tennessee and Rutgers. Take a listen for yourself what Imus said about the Rutgers team during a conversation with sportscaster Sid Rosenberg and the show's executive producer, Bernard McGuirk.

IMUS: That's some rough girls from Rutgers. Man, they got tattoos and some hard-core hos. That's some nappy-headed hos there. I'm going to tell you that now.

SNOW: Imus' comments were met with shock and disgust by the National Association of Black Journalists.

BARBRA CIARA, NATL ASSN. OF BLACK JOURNALISTS: We don't understand that a long-term veteran broadcaster wouldn't think that it would hurt the feelings of student athletes. We're talking about girls, college girls who tried their best to win a championship and he degrades them by calling them "nappy-headed hos".

SNOW: Imus issued an apology saying, quote, "it was completely inappropriate and we can understand why people were offended. Our characterization was thoughtless and stupid and we are sorry."

MSNBC, which simulcast the "Don Imus Show" every morning for three hours, tried to distance itself saying the "Imus Show" is not produced by the network and apologized for quote, "offensive comments." Following Imus' apology, Rutgers and the NCAA issued a joint statement to what they said were the insults directed toward the Rutgers Women Basketball Team, saying it is unconscionable that anyone would use the airways to utter such disregard for the dignity of human beings who have accomplished much and deserve great credit.

But the National Association of Black Journalists is not satisfied, and is calling for a boycott of the "Imus Show" and for Imus to be fired, if he doesn't take more action.

CIARA: Just, you know, saying I'm sorry is not going to do it. He needs to outreach. He needs to reach out to those student athletes. He needs to have a larger statement regarding what he said.

SNOW (on camera): The journalist group calls Imus's apology too little, too late, and they cite a history of racial insults on his show. We tried contacting Imus and others on the show when those controversial comments were made, but we were unable to reach them, and we were referred to the public apology that was made. Mary Snow, CNN, New York.


WHITFIELD: Coming up, a CNN viewer sends us his rather unusual solution for pulling one of his daughter's loose teeth.




WHITFIELD: Ow is right.

And a heart-stopping rescue on the Colorado River.

CNN NEWSROOM will be right back.


WHITFIELD: We've all heard of the tooth fairy, right? Well, what about the tooth archer? This South Carolina dad removed his daughter's loose front tooth with a piece of dental floss attached to a bow and arrow.





WHITFIELD: I-Reporter Paul Carden is on the phone from Walterboro, South Carolina, with his take on old string and doorknob idea. So pop a carton, where in the world did this idea come from?

PAUL CARDEN, PULLED TEETH WITH ARCHERY (on phone): I guess it was just a variation of the old doorknob and string trick they used to use on us.

WHITFIELD: Well, I don't get it. You said to your daughter, you know what, let's get rid of this tooth not by dental floss and the doorknob but, hey, I've got an idea, bow and arrow.

CARDEN: Yeah, she was all for it.



WHITFIELD: But she said, "Ow." So it must have hurt.

CARDEN: I think it startled her whenever the tooth come out. I think it tagged her on the lip a bit. If you look on the film, you can see she's not hurt at all.

WHITFIELD: OK. So why not just let the tooth fall out on its own like a lot of kids? Why do you have to force it out this way?

CARDEN: Well, I didn't really force it all. It was just about to fall out anyway. It had been loose pretty much of the day. She finally came in and asked me to go ahead and take it out for her. We just decided to do it a little ...

WHITFIELD: Now, do you have other kids? Have you done it this way before? Or was this -- was your daughter the guinea pig this go around?

CARDEN: Yeah. She was the guinea pig for this one. She's an only child.

WHITFIELD: And she's a real good sport about it.

CARDEN: Oh yeah. Yeah.

WHITFIELD: How old was she at this time?

CARDEN: About five or six.

WHITFIELD: So what about the other teeth that came out later?

CARDEN: She pretty much let those come out normally.

WHITFIELD: Yeah. I'm not surprised. All right. So please tell me the tooth fairy gave her justice.

CARDEN: Oh, yeah, yeah. She always turned out real well with the tooth fairy.

WHITFIELD: All right. What did she make on this tooth?

CARDEN: Probably ...

WHITFIELD: We'll be the judge of that. Say that again.

CARDEN: Probably about five bucks.

WHITFIELD: OK. Five bucks, that's pretty good. That beats the quarter or two that I used to get.

CARDEN: Oh yeah.

WHITFIELD: All right. Paul Carden, thanks so much.

CARDEN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Parents, don't try this at home not unless you seriously negotiate with your child. She was a great sport, though. We like that.

All right. Rob Marciano is here to preview the next hour of THE NEWSROOM, something tells me, Rob, you didn't go through that to get rid of a tooth.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN ANCHOR: No way. And I would say she needs a new agent, five bucks plus royalties at the very least.

WHITFIELD: I know. I was refraining from comment. I would say five bucks, bring it up a little bit.

MARCIANO: It seems like after that video, Fredricka, we probably should concentrate on new and innovative ways to pull teeth but coming at 5:00 we're going go live to the New York Auto Show, show you what's hot, what's not, the concept cars, the latest trends, hybrids, of course, with the global warming debate happening the past several months, we'll talk about hybrid, hydrogen fuel cells and of course all the cool cars that you can dream to have. We'll interview Lauren Fitz (ph), the car coach, she'll be live from there.

And tonight at 10:00, join us, we'll talk more about Imus, you had a little piece on there. Talk about his very controversial remarks he made on his morning show. We're going to have the president of the NABJ, Brianan Rowe (ph) in on the debate for the very hot topic. And Rick Sanchez is off, Fredricka, as you know, a man who has huge shoes to fill so we need two people do to do it.

Veronica Delacruz will be in the join me for the 5:00 and then at 10:00.

WHITFIELD: Well, you all can handle it. But I really am looking forward to the cars. You say a sporty car and hybrid? I'm tuning in.

MARCIANO: We'll see you then, Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much.

Meantime, Jacqui Jeras, back with us in a minute. Jacqui, what's on tap? We know cold, snow.

JACQUI JERAS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Doesn't take a meteorologist to tell you that one today. But if you thought it was cold today, how about some record low temperatures on the way tonight? What is your Easter Sunday forecast hold? We'll have the answers coming up.

WHITFIELD: Thanks so much, Jacqui.

And just in case you missed it, you look at this water you look at this fall you say, uh-uh, not me? Well, we've got an incredible rescue of four people who did take the plunge there. That's coming up. That's the Colorado River.

And the Easter Bunny, well, makes a big appearance tomorrow -- boy, that's a real big Easter Bunny. But just what do rabbits have to do with the Easter holiday? You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


WHITFIELD: So they won't be wearing the cute little Easter dresses and bonnets, not without a coat, at least not in Crawford, Texas. Yes, that's snow on the ground, people. It's Easter and there's snow in Texas. Jacqui Jeras is in the weather center. And there is snow in a whole lot of other places, too. So wear a parka over your cute little Easter dress.


WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much, Jacqui. Light at the end of the tunnel.

All right. Well, how about this? Dramatic helicopter rescue in South Texas. The Coast Guard plucked two men and two young boys from a boat that went over a 150-foot dam on the Colorado River and became wedged at the base of the dam. Earlier today I talked to Coast Guard spokesperson Adam Eggers.


PETTY OFFICER ADAM EGGERS, U.S. COAST GUARD (on phone): It was extremely difficult. By the video you can see that it's extremely difficult to even actually see the boat because of the amount of water coming over the dam. That poses an immediate threat to actually the people on board, too, because if they get swept off that boat, then you are talking a whole other situation and a whole different scenario of danger that comes involved with trying to rescue someone from a moving river.

WHITFIELD: Just looking a t this video, especially went you see the water just raging there, 150 feet down, are you surprised that they even survived this?

EGGERS: It's -- it's one of those things that we always have amazing survival stories to come along with -- from the tragedies that we have to deal with every single day. I'm thankful, specially coming up from the holiday week that everyone onboard was able to be taken off safely.


WHITFIELD: Well, the Coast Guard didn't release any information about the identities of the rescued boaters. But after the rescue one of the men and one of the boys was treated on the scene. The others flown to a nearby hospital.

Well, we've all heard about the slow boat to the China, but a 74- year-old Californian has something better in mind by doing it himself. This is Papa Neutrino's homemade raft. It's about the size of a Volkswagen bug. And it's powered by a five horse power outboard engine. Neutrino plans on taking his vessel all of the way to China. And his trek has already begun, from Stockton, California, he's en route to San Francisco. He plans on setting to sail for China later on this month. Good luck and we really mean it, Papa. And be careful.

Well, Jeanne Moos wants to know what a rabbit has to do with Easter anyway? And the people of New York, well, they, too, want to know. But they have answers.


WHITFIELD: Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. The day Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. It's also the day the Easter Bunny makes his annual appearance. So what does one have to do with the other? CNN's Jeanne Moos put that question to New Yorkers.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What do these have to do with this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, I wish I could use bad language on CNN because absolutely nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's religion and that's propaganda.

MOOS: The question is, what does this have to do with this?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Silly rabbit, tricks are for kids.

MOOS: How did the bunnies and the resurrection ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That, I don't know.

MOOS: What does this have to do with this?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know. Maybe there were bunnies around when he came to. Who knows?

MOOS: What do bunnies do a lot of?


MOOS: Something else.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you know, it's spring. You know what bunnies are doing.

MOOS: What are bunnies doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are doing a lot of it.

MOOS: The other thing that I is interesting. The bunnies are a symbol of fertility and lust. Hence, the Playboys.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going home with the bunny.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hence, the expression, doing it like rabbits. I hear you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't believe in any of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesus was hatched from an egg in a manger by a rabbit.


WHITFIELD: Not quite, naked cowboy. Well the answer is - help me out people. That the rabbit, long before Christ was a pagan symbol of renewal and fertility and rebirth used to celebrate spring. Christians later adopted the symbol.

Rob and Veronica, what do you say to that?

VERONICA DELACRUZ, CNN ANCHOR: We say we'll take it.

MARCIANO: I say bring ...

WHITFIELD: Long live the bunny rabbit.

MARCIANO: And as we've been saying all day, you should be dressed warmly, Fredricka. That's one of our big stories tonight.

WHITFIELD: Exactly. It is cold out there as you well know.

MARCIANO: Thanks Fredricka. We'll see you in a little bit.

Crazy weather all over the place. It's April. It's snowing. Even in Crawford, Texas.

That's what we've got lined up on the CNN NEWSROOM. We'll tell you where it's snowing and what's going on.

DELACRUZ: Plus this. More pet food recalls and more questions. Could somebody have intentionally added a chemical to one common ingredient? We're going to talk more about that. Rob?

MARCIANO: And the sudden resignation of a top assistant puts attorney general Alberto Gonzales back on the spot. Our top story this afternoon here in the NEWSROOM.

DELACRUZ: Well, hello, to you. I'm Veronica Delacruz.

MARCIANO: And I'm Rob Marciano. Rick Sanchez has the weekend off.

DELACRUZ: What to make of the sudden departure of the Justice Department's Monica Goodling in the wake of the controversial firings of eight federal prosecutors? She was the White House-Justice Department go-between and she is refusing to go before Congress citing her right against self-incrimination.

To try to fit those pieces together for us now, CNN's Ed Henry who joins us now live from a very, very cold Crawford, Texas. Hey there, Ed.

HENRY: That's right. Good evening, how are you, Veronica?

Well, it's quite interesting. Because the irony here is that just in the last few days some advisors to the attorney general Alberto Gonzales had been telling me, look, maybe his political health was finally stabilizing. They felt there had not been any shoes to drop in the last week or so.

And maybe this scandal was stabilizing a bit, but instead, bam, you have this one-two punch. The resignation of Goodling who was the attorney general's counsel, also his liaison to the White House, which will be his important link there, as well.