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CNN Live Today

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Makes Announcement on Iran Talks; How is Obesity Changing America?

Aired May 31, 2006 - 10:58   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Time and money. The numbers keep climbing in the search for Jimmy Hoffa. The FBI says it cost about $250,000 to carry out the two-week search of a Michigan horse farm. That includes the demolition and rebuilding of a barn on the property.
At the time of Hoffa's 1975 disappearance the farm was owned by an associate of the Teamsters boss. Investigators say no evidence of any kind was found in the search.

Up in smoke. Evidence destroyed on purpose in a notorious serial killer case. More than 1,300 DNA samples incinerated yesterday in Wichita, Kansas.

They had been collected to rule out individuals in the so-called BTK investigation. That spanned about 30 years until last year. That's when Dennis Rader pleaded guilty to 10 killings and was sentenced to life. The judge ordered the DNA swabs to be destroyed.

A bloodbath in Iraq. Are U.S. Marines to blame for the deaths of two dozen civilians? That's ahead.

The second hour of CNN LIVE TODAY begins right now.

And we're standing by. We expect any minute for a speech to begin from the State Department. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying the U.S. is now ready to talk with Iran. But there are some very big "ifs" attached.

We're waiting to hear from the secretary of state. She is expected to offer talks, but only if Tehran halts certain nuclear activities.

Our Ed Henry is monitoring this from the White House. Our national security correspondent, David Ensor, is standing by in our Washington bureau.

Ed, first to you, let's talk about some of the conditions, also some of the other countries the U.S. would like to see involved in these talks.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. A carrot and stick approach. The carrot being, as you mentioned, for the first time the U.S. now saying they'll join multilateral talks with Iran. That would be with the EU3, the European Union 3, basically France, Germany, and Great Britain. They've let Iran join the talks at the table. The conditions that stick here is that Russia and China need to pledge that they will finally support sanctions against Tehran if Iran does not follow through with its end of the bargain, if it does -- does not stop this uranium enrichment program, and if it continues to basically defy the international community.

So a clear carrot and stick approach. And I think what you were seeing from the White House is they are trying to show the world community that they are trying every diplomatic channel before this goes any further.

They faced international criticism that they didn't pursue every diplomatic opportunity before launching war in Iraq. They want to make sure that this time they're showing the world they're trying everything -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Let's bring in David Ensor.

David, some of the conditions that are being presented to Iran are asking them to fess up to things that they say they're not doing.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They want Iran to get back in compliance, to stop enriching uranium, to get back under the additional protocol under which international inspectors could go anywhere and look under any -- any rock for any evidence of nuclear activity in Iran. So this would be sort of two choices that the U.S. is now presenting Tehran with.

One choice involves a lot of other carrots additionally to the ones that were just mentioned. The perm five, plus one, Germany, have been talking about all sorts of incentives, including various kinds of peaceful nuclear power.

Various carrots, diplomatic carrots, diplomatic relations might even be possible for Iran if it will go on what the U.S. regards is the right road. If it will not go on that road, as Ed mentioned, the U.S. has been talking to Russia and China, trying to gain assurances from them that if Iran goes ahead with enrichment then Russia and China will not oppose the imposition of economic sanctions against Iran. And those could be onerous -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Well, what kind of response is the U.S. getting from Russia and China on those requests?

ENSOR: I have not heard myself, but I think you can assume that Secretary Rice would not be going ahead with this speech unless she was confident that Russia and China will ultimately acquiesce in sanctions, if it comes to that.

KAGAN: Ed, let's bring you back in here. Kind of a technical challenge, let's just say, for the U.S. to make this offer to Iran when the two countries haven't really spoken formally since 1979.

HENRY: It is. And to add to what David Ensor is saying, that, in fact, White House Press Secretary Tony Snow today said, that, in fact, President Bush was on the phone yesterday with the heads of Russia, France, and Germany, and got them to, in the words of Tony Snow, sign off on this idea, as David mentioned, that Russia and China would no longer oppose sanctions against Iran if Iran does not stop its uranium enrichment program.

So, as David said, you would not see the secretary of state move forward unless they had gotten those commitments. The president feels he's got gotten those direct commitments from his counterparts around the world. That's a critical piece here -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And then the use of Switzerland?

HENRY: That's right. And we understand, in fact, that the U.S. officials passed on what the secretary of state is about to announce, the details of it to Swiss -- Swiss officials, who then pass it on to Iran -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Yes. Ed, I see the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, as she walks up to the podium.

Let's listen in.


The pursuit by the Iranian regime of nuclear weapons represents a direct threat to the entire international community, including to the United States and to the Persian Gulf region.

In defiance of repeated calls from the IAEA Board of Governors and from the Security Council, the Iranian government has accelerated its nuclear program, while continuing to conceal its activities from international inspectors.

Working with our international partners, the United States is making every effort to achieve a successful diplomatic outcome. But the international community has made clear that Iran must not acquire nuclear weapons.

The vital interests of the United States, of our friends and allies in the region, and of the entire international community are at risk, and the United States will act accordingly to protect those common interests.

Today, the Iranian regime can decide on one of two paths, one of two fundamentally different futures for its people and for its relationship to the international community.

The Iranian government's choices are clear. The negative choice is for the regime to maintain its current course, pursuing nuclear weapons in defiance of the international community and its international obligations.

If the regime does so, it will incur only great costs. We and our European partners agree that path will lead to international isolation and progressively stronger political and economic sanctions.

The positive and constructive choice is for the Iranian regime to alter its present course and cooperate in resolving the nuclear issue, beginning by immediately resuming suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, as well as full cooperation with the IAEA and returning to implementation of the additional protocol which would provide greater access for the IAEA.

This path would lead to the real benefit and longer-term security of the Iranian people, the region and the world as a whole.

The Iranian people believe they have a right to civil nuclear energy. We acknowledge that right. Yet the international agreements Iran has signed make clear that Iran's exercise of that right must conform with its commitments.

In view of its previous violations of its commitments and the secret nuclear program it undertook, the Iranian regime must persuasively demonstrate that it has permanently abandoned its quest for nuclear weapons.

The benefits of the second path for the Iranian people would go beyond civil nuclear energy and could include progressively greater economic cooperation. The United States will actively support these benefits, both publicly and privately.

Furthermore, President Bush has consistently emphasized that the United States is committed to a diplomatic solution to the nuclear challenge posed by the Iranian regime.

We are agreed with our European partners on the essential elements of a package containing both benefits, if Iran makes the right choice, and costs, if it does not. We hope that in the coming days the Iranian government will thoroughly consider this proposal.

Our British, French and German partners have rightly required that Iran fully and verifiably suspend its enrichment and reprocessing activities before the sides can return to negotiations. This is the condition that has also been established by the IAEA Board of Governors and by the U.N. Security Council.

The United States is willing to exert strong leadership to give diplomacy its very best chance to succeed.

Thus, to underscore our commitment to a diplomatic solution and to enhance the prospects for success, as soon as Iran fully and verifiably suspends its enrichment and reprocessing activities, the United States will come to the table with our E.U. colleagues and meet with Iran's representatives.

This morning, United States representatives have conveyed my statement to Iran through the good offices of the Swiss government and through Iran's representative to the United Nations.

Given the benefits of this positive path for the Iranian people, regional security and the nuclear nonproliferation regime, we urge Iran to make this choice for peace, to abandon its ambition for nuclear weapons. President Bush wants a positive relationship between the American people and the people of Iran, a beneficial relationship of increased contacts in education and cultural exchange, in sports and travel and trade and investment.

The nuclear issue, though, is not the only obstacle standing in the way of improved relations. The Iranian government supports terror. It is involved in violence in Iraq. And it is undercutting the restoration of full sovereignty in Lebanon under U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559.

These policies are out of step with the international community and are barriers to a positive relationship between the Iranian people and the people of the United States, as well as with the rest of the world.

Iran can and should be a responsible state, not the leading state sponsor of terror.

The United States is ready to join the E.U.-3 to press these and other issues with the Iranian government, in addition to our work to resolve the nuclear danger.

At the same time, we will continue to work with our international partners to end the proliferation trade globally, to bar all proliferators from international financial resources and to end support for terror.

We also intend to work with our friends and allies to strengthen their defensive capabilities, their counterproliferation and counterterrorism efforts, and their energy security capabilities.

Those measures present no threat to a peaceful Iran with a transparent, purely civil nuclear energy program, but provide essential protection for the United States, our friends and our allies should the Iranian regime choose the wrong path.

If the Iranian regime believes that it will benefit from the possession of nuclear weapons, it is mistaken. The United States will be steadfast in defense of our forces and steadfast in defense of our friends and allies who wish to work together for common security.

The Iranian people have a proud past. They merit a great future.

We believe the Iranian people want a future of freedom and human rights: the right to vote, to run for office, to express their views without fear and to pursue political causes.

We would welcome the progress, prosperity and freedom of the Iranian people.

The United States looks forward to a new relationship between our peoples that could advance those goals.

We sincerely hope that the Iranian regime will choose to make that future possible. Thank you very much.

Sean, do you want me to call on people?

All right.

QUESTION: Yes, Madam Secretary, thank you. Two questions.

One is, is the offer to sit down at the table with the E.U.-3 linked to any concessions from Russia and China to support eventual sanctions if the talks stall?

And secondly, the idea of security discussions with the Iranians, is the United States willing to engage in -- if the subject turns to security is the United States willing to engage on that subject as well?

RICE: Let me take the second question first.

First of all, we have many issues of concern with Iran that do not relate to the nuclear issue. And the security issues that we're concerned about are Iranian behavior in Iraq that endangers both the Iraqi people and our own forces, the terrorism that Iran continues to support in places like the Palestinian territories and, indeed, in Lebanon.

Those are the security issues that are of concern to us. And so as I said some time ago, we have not been asked about security assurances and I don't expect that we will be.

Now, as to the question, nonetheless, of how we brought this all together, we've obviously had extensive discussions with all of our partners who've been trying to find a resolution of this nuclear issue.

And we have made clear that we believe that the offer to join the E.U.-3 talks, should Iran verifiably suspend all of its enrichment- related activities -- that that offer gives the negotiating track new energy.

We want this to work on the negotiating track. The president's made that very clear.

But we've also been in discussions with our partners about a package which we agreed to design when we were in New York a few weeks ago, and that package represents two tracks. One is a set of benefits should Iran agree to negotiate and negotiate in good faith, having suspended its program, but quite clearly also a set of penalties or a set of potential sanctions should Iran not be willing to act in good faith.

Our political directors have been working on that package. They have made good progress. I think that we have substantial progress. There are some outstanding issues that I would hope to be able to work on in Vienna. But let's go back to what is really at stake here. There is a strong international consensus that Iran must not have a nuclear weapon, that Iran must adhere to the international community's demands that it suspend its enrichment activities and return to negotiations, and that if Iran is to have a civil nuclear program it needs to be one in which the international community can have confidence that they're not trying to build a nuclear weapon under cover of civil nuclear power.

We have complete and total agreement on that. We are working on ways to make that choice clear to Iran.

I think the last year and half or so -- year or so has really been about creating a climate of opinion about what is demanded of Iran. That we have done.

And now we hope that this offer, this proposal that we would join the talks should Iran suspend, will help to create a climate for action, either in the negotiations or in the Security Council.

QUESTION: To follow on that, do you have agreement then from Russia and China that if you got to that point, having made this overture, sort of, taken the last best hope here for diplomacy, that if it fails at that point they would be willing to back what they have been thus far unwilling to do?

RICE: I think there is substantial agreement and understanding that Iran now faces a clear choice. This is the last excuse, in some sense. There have been those who have said, "Well, if only the negotiations had the potential for the United States to be a part of them, perhaps then Iran would respond."

So now we have a pretty clear path. We have negotiations if Iran is prepared to suspend. If Iran is not prepared to suspend -- and by the way, this an understanding that comes out of New York -- that there is another path.

And while we have worked to get agreement on what had been some tactical differences, I think you can be sure that our friends and our partners understand the importance of the step and the importance that the Iranians must now see of making a choice and making that choice clearly.

I think we have very good understanding with our partners about that.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, two questions.

One, in the past when this issue has come up and I've asked you about it directly, you've said that there's no need for the United States to be a part of the negotiations, because Iran knows full well what they need to do. What's changed your thinking on that?

And secondly, if this works and if Iran does what you hope they will do on terrorism and on the nuclear issue, do you hold out the possibility of full diplomatic relations with the government of Iran? RICE: I'm not going to speak hypothetically about the last point. This is not a grand bargain. I want to make very clear we're not talking here about what some would characterize as a grand bargain.

What we're talking about here is an effort to enhance the chances for a successful negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear problem, something President Bush has said that he very much wanted to do.

We have always been determined to do what we could to support the negotiations. If you remember, about a year ago, we made some steps to support those negotiations.

We now believe that having created a strong climate of opinion in which all states are united -- in which a great number of states are united around a clear concept of what Iran must do -- and that, by the way, includes a precondition of suspension for negotiations -- that the United States might be able now to add weight to the negotiating track by joining these discussions.

Let's be very clear: Things are moving along on the ground. When the Iranians decided to walk out of the Paris agreement -- Paris talks and began accelerating their nuclear activities, the concern is growing that Iran cannot be allowed to continue that path of acceleration of its nuclear activities unchecked.

So we now have an opportunity to either check their movement toward further sophistication of their nuclear program by negotiation, to which we would be a party, or to check it by greater pressure on the Iranians through sanctions and other measures through the Security Council and, if necessary, with like-minded states outside of the Security Council.

But it's time to know whether Iran is serious about negotiation or not. We cannot continue in a circumstance in which every few days, an Iranian official says, "Well, you know, we're, sort of, interested in the Russian proposal," or, "Maybe we're interested again in going back to the E.U. negotiations," but nothing happens.

And so we think it's time now to have a clear choice and a clear -- two very clear paths.


RICE: We are not in a position to talk about full diplomatic relations with a state with which we have so many fundamental differences.

But the Iranians can, by seriously negotiating about their nuclear program and seriously coming to a civil nuclear program that is acceptable to the international community, begin to change the relationship that it has with the international community, change the relationship that it has with the United States, begin to open the possibilities for cooperation.

That ought to be an important step that Iran is prepared to take. QUESTION: Madam Secretary, in the past this administration has been very reluctant to do anything that might be seen as giving legitimacy to a government that you, at least in the past, always talked about as being led by the unelected few.

By agreeing to sit down with this government, are you now providing that legitimacy to this administration which has been in power for 27 years in Iran? And are you also saying that the U.S. is not going to actively try to undercut, overthrow, undermine the Iranian government?

RICE: We've been very clear, and nobody is confused about the nature of this Iranian regime. We know precisely about the nature of this Iranian regime.

We know that this is a regime that does not give rights to its people for political participation. We know that this is a regime that is engaged in supporting terrorism around the world. Nobody is confused about the nature of this regime.

But the president made very clear that we are going to do everything that we can to find a diplomatic solution to the nuclear problem.

And the only thing that is being provided legitimacy here is the international community's consensus that Iran must suspend its current enrichment and reprocessing activities, return to serious negotiations, find a civil nuclear program that does not have proliferation risks associated with it through the fuel cycle and negotiate in good faith.

That's what's being provided legitimacy. What's being provided legitimacy here is the negotiating process to which we have long been committed.

We will continue to have our differences with the Iranian regime on the vast number of issues that are before us. But it is...

KAGAN: We've been listening in to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as she talks about a major shift in U.S. policy toward Iran, saying that Iran has two choices right now, to stay on its current path and maintain its current course when it comes to nuclear energy, or to stop uranium enrichment, and -- at which point, promising a number of benefits that she says would come down the line for Iran.

Let's bring in our Ed Henry at the White House, who has been listening in to this latest offer -- Ed.

HENRY: Secretary Rice was pressed why the change. The U.S. had repeatedly said it would not negotiate with Iran. She said directly the U.S. feels it can "add weight" to these talks right now, that basically it's time to strike, and essentially calling Iran's bluff that various officials have been saying that they want to talk. And she said they want to see, are they serious or not.

I think it would also be interesting to just count up how many times Secretary Rice used words like "diplomacy," "negotiations," "partners". We heard that over and over. The clear message, Iran is not Iraq, saying we're working with our, "French and German partners to give diplomacy its very best chance to succeed."

This administration has been burned by the allegation it is did give diplomacy its best chance before war with Iraq. They want to state and make clear to the international community that they want to give diplomacy its best chance. Whether it works or not a whole other question, but they're trying to send that signal -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Let me also remind our viewers, it they would like to continue to listen in to Secretary Rice, they just need to go to and click on "Pipeline," and they'll continue to carry that question-and-answer session with reporters.

To our national security correspondent, David Ensor.

David, the secretary of state very specific on some points, on some, though, vague. When asked specifically are Russia and China on board with -- with this program and do they back up the idea of potential future economic and political sanctions against Iran, she was a little vague on what their response might be.

ENSOR: That's right. It's evening now in Moscow, but you can be sure that reporters are already calling officials in the Russian government to try to get their reaction. It will be fascinating to see what Moscow and Beijing have to say, whether they back up this very strong call for Iran to make a choice between two clear paths, or whether the paths become muddier and less clear. And there seem to be more than two of them by the time Beijing and Moscow have finished talking.

Another interesting point from Secretary Rice, she said that there are two choices between -- the benevolent choice of deciding to negotiate and suspending enrichment, and the not so benevolent choice of sanctions. But she said they could come from the U.N. Security Council or from like-minded states getting together.

So there an acknowledgment that there may still be rough sledding for American diplomacy in the U.N. Security Council. It may not be possible to gain a consensus on all of the kinds of sanctions that the United States might wish to impose with those who are willing to cooperate in the event Iran is not willing to do this -- Daryn.


Back to Ed Henry, when Secretary of State Rice was talking about the potential problems for Iran, she was talking about increasing international isolation, increasing political and economic sanctions, but you didn't hear military threats in there.

HENRY: No. And again, I think the administration wants to be very careful about not waving the military threat out there, to make clear that right now they are focused completely on diplomacy. But there were some comments sprinkled in there about defending the United States, of course, being the top priority of this administration. So they do want to make clear, of course, there's a military option out there, but that's not what they're stressing.

You're absolutely right. That's not what this administration is trying to put forward. Instead, we're seeing a large shift in what we saw in the run-up to the war in Iraq.

I mean, let's remember and go back a month and a half or so ago when "The New Yorker" magazine had that major story alleging that the Bush administration was leaving the option of nuclear strikes against Iran as an option. Far cry from that now. Instead of talk about war, talk about military options, now it's all about diplomacy, at least for now -- Daryn.

Ed Henry at the White House, and David Ensor in Washington D.C.

Gentlemen, thank you.

Once again, you can continue to listen in to Secretary Rice on Pipeline. Just go to

We go from Iran to Iraq. A bloodbath there. Are U.S. Marines to blame for the deaths of two dozen civilians? Our continuing coverage of the story is just ahead.

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



KAGAN: We are listening in. It's heart-pounding, palm-sweating childhood memories. This is the National Spelling Bee in Washington D.C.; 275 children started the day. Doom is just a letter way. Let's listen in.



KAGAN: Oh, your heart breaks. That young woman's out. Let's listen to another young lady.

Amandine or Amandine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: May I have the definition, please?

KAGAN: Prepared or served with almonds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amandine -- A-M-A-N-D-I-N-E -- Amandine.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gaillardia -- what does it mean?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's any plant or flower of a genus of Western American herbs having hairy foliage and long stalked flower heads with showy rays -- Gaillardia. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. G-A-I-L-L-A-R-D-I-A -- Gaillardia..


KAGAN: Well, there is a confident young lady. She got that one right, and goes on to the next round of the national spelling bee. We'll continue to monitor. Right now, a quick break.


KAGAN: A changing of the guard at the CIA. The public and the president get to see General Michael Hayden sworn as director this afternoon. A private ceremony has already been hold. Hayden reportedly told his new staff they are central parts of central intelligence, the only agency that can bring the intelligence community together. CNN will show you Hayden's swearing-in ceremony live. That's at 1:00 Eastern.

More details coming to light today in a troubling incident, an alleged unprovoked attack on civilians in Iraq. According to witnesses, it happened just over six months ago in an insurgent hotbed, Haditha, in western Iraq. Around two dozen men, women and children shot to death in cold blood. In the spotlight, a group of U.S. marines, did they carry out the bloodbath in a fit of rage and was there a coverup? Investigators are now looking for answers.

With me now, former military attorney Scott Silliman. He is in Durham, North Carolina.

Scott, good to see you once again.

SCOTT SILLIMAN, FMR. MILITARY ATTY.: It's pleasure to be with you again, Daryn.

KAGAN: Explain to us the difference in these kind of investigations, a fact-finding investigation versus a legal investigation.

SILLIMAN: Daryn, a legal investigation or a criminal investigation being run by the Naval criminal investigative service would look to see whether any charges should be brought against any of the Marines involved, specific charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I believe there's another type of investigation also going on to find out why it took so long for this incident to surface, whether anyone knew about it. There's indications payments were made to the families within a couple of weeks after the firing in November, but nothing was really said about it until February, and that's something that's being looked at to see whether there was possibly any kind of coverup involved.

KAGAN: Now in the eyes of military justice, as horrific as these alleged crimes would have been, which would be worse, the crimes as they would have been committed or the coverup?

SILLIMAN: Well, if the allegations are substantiated, Daryn, you're talking about murder, pre-meditated murder. If the Marines in fact went on a revenge hunt through those houses, and actually killed individuals whom they knew were innocent, that that would be a charge of murder under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. If anything comes out short of that, of course, higher ranking individuals, officers perhaps who knew about it and did nothing about it, including did not report it up, as a violation of law of armed conflict could also be held criminally liable for it.

KAGAN: And what are the highest penalties?

SILLIMAN: Well, murder can carry either death or life imprisonment. If it's proven it was pre-meditated murder, under these circumstances.

Again, I want to caution your viewers, we're not there. We're at the very beginning of a preliminary investigation, but yes, if it reached to that extent, the consequences could be dire.

KAGAN: We've heard our own reporters talk about how difficult the situations are, the situation is in Haditha on the conditions that the Marines face, IEDs, improvised explosive devices all over the place, just very difficult psychological conditions. We've also heard the possibility that if these crimes indeed did take place that it's possible the marines just snapped. Is, quote, unquote, snapping a defense in a military court?

SILLIMAN: No, it's not, Daryn. Again, the young Marines, airmen, soldiers, sailors today are highly trained. Many of them been in that environment two and three times. The training that they get before they go over there puts them in that type of a situation. So these young Marines were highly trained, as best we know. To say they snapped and lost it is certainly not a defense and not really a reasoning for what happened that I would accept.

KAGAN: If you were representing some of these young Marines, what would be your advice to these young people?

SILLIMAN: Well, I'd want to make sure all the facts came out. I want to be able to say to any of these young Marines that we're a long way away from anyone being convicted of any crime. I think the most important thing for the American people, for the international community is, we need to get out the facts. We need to find out what happened, no matter how bad it was. Maybe there were extenuating circumstances, but we can no longer hide this, and we need to get a full rendition of the facts as quickly as possible.

KAGAN: Scott Silliman, former military attorney, now with Duke University Law School. Scott, thank you.

SILLIMAN: Thank you, Daryn.

KAGAN: As move on, 20 minutes to the top of the hour. Obesity in America, supersize medicine, specialized hospitals for patients too heavy to move and too big to diagnose.

Also lost and found, four days without food and water, a little boy who vanished from a camp site is now safe and sound. Details ahead on CNN LIVE TODAY. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


KAGAN In our "Daily Dose," a startling look at how obesity is changing America. The fat epidemic has created a whole new mini industry in health care.

CNN's Jonathan Freed investigated for "PAULA ZAHN NOW."


JONATHAN FREED, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Most of us take for granted that we can get out of bed. Not Mindy Sheriff. She weighs 442 pounds. It takes three nurses and a crane just to maneuver Mindy into a chair in her hospital room.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel hike you're slipping at all or are you OK?

SHERIFF: No. It feels so good.

FREED: Mindy's weight peaked at 961 pounds eight years ago. She lost 500 of it by dieting. Now, she's come to the medical university of Ohio in Toledo for what's called bariatric surgery to try to lose even more. She can't go anywhere without planning ahead.

SHERIFF: I always have my kids run in and check to see if the chair was going to be big enough to fit me or even the bathrooms.

FREED: Mindy is having a gastric bypass or stomach shrinking surgery at this hospital because it's equipped to deal with the unique challenges presented by severely obese patients, like chairs big enough and strong enough to hold them and operating tables. This one's called the Hercules. For doctors, just making a diagnosis can be a challenge.

DR. FREDERICK CASON, MEDICAL UNIVERSITY OF OHIO: We can look here and see that the transverse diameter is only about 27 inches.

FREED: Heavier bariatric patients can't fit through a standard CT scanner. If you can't put your patient through this machine, does it mean that in certain circumstances you're operating in the blind?

CASON: If we operate on a morbidly obese patient who exceeds the ability of this table, then we operate on that patient at our own peril and the patient's peril because if there's a complication, we'd had a very difficult time making a diagnosis expeditiously.

FREED: But aside from the CT scanner, the hospital has a new wider and heavier duty MRI machine that can help. And, according to the American Society for Bariatric Surgery, there are plenty who need help. The society says between 8 and 12 million people in the United States are morbidly obese, meaning at least 100 pounds above their ideal body weight. It says 170,000 people had a bariatric procedure in 2005.

BRIAN KIRSCHNER, BARIATRIC PATIENT: Whatever size my stomach was, it shrunk down now to like the size of like an egg.

FREED: Brian Kirschner is recovering from a gastric bypass that's changing his life.

KIRSCHNER: Like a single serving bowl of cereal in the morning where normally before the surgery I could eat a box of cereal. Now they bring that bowl. If I can eat three spoonfuls of the cereal, I feel like I'm stuffed.

FREED: Brian weighs in at 602. But he's lying on an inflatable mattress that hovers like a puck in an air hockey game allowing nurses to move him as if he weighed only 150 pounds.

WENDY HOLLEY, LEAD NURSE, MED UNIV OF OHIO: It's a big concern because, one, we don't want to injure them. Two, we don't want to be injured ourselves.

FREED: The Surgical Review Corporation, a research center, calls obesity America's most serious epidemic. And they're taking that kind of talk seriously at the Detroit Medical Center System, where an entire floor is now dedicated to bariatrics, with rooms outfitted for the oversized, even reinforced toilets. But the hospital says you need to look beyond equipment.

DR. TOM MALONE, DETROIT MEDICAL CENTER: The real investment is in human capital, the people. You need the resources that are able to handle the patient. You need the specialists that can handle any of the complications. You need special anesthesia that cannot only intubate, but manage complications during surgery.

FREED: This facility alone handled 800 bariatric patients last year at a cost of about $25,000 per surgical case. Specialists like Dr. Michael Wood, say insurance companies pay for it because it will save them money in the long term.

DR. MICHAEL WOOD, BARIATRIC SURGEON: We can decrease the incidence of diabetes for instance, high blood pressure. They go down with weight loss.

FREED: Hospitals won't take just anyone. Patients like Mindy and Brian usually have to follow a program and demonstrate up front they're truly committed to losing weight. Brian's goal --

KIRSCHNER: to get back to doing things that you take for granted.

FREED: He says being able to go for a walk would be a good start. Jonathan Freed, CNN, Toledo, Ohio.


And you can see more of Jonathan's reporting on "PAULA ZAHN NOW" weeknights 8:00 Eastern, 5:00 Pacific.

We have two different breaking news stories taking place right now. The first out of Iraq, here's Carol Lin -- Carol.

CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, an important arrest here. A key insurgent leader in Iraq has been arrested. His name is Sheikh Ahmed Hussein Dabash Samir Al Batawi, hard to remember, but you won't forget the attack on a major shrine in the Shiite holy city of Karbala in early March where 140 Iraqis were murdered and hundreds wounded during the Shiite holiday of Ashurah.

Now according to authorities here. This according to a DOD, Defense Department release, this was the man the mastermind of that attack and several others. Now his capture, they believe, is significant because authorities think that he's going to provide critical information on other terror groups that have close ties to al Qaeda. So a big victory there in this arrest.

And also take a look at these pictures coming in to the CNN Center. And, Daryn, this is out of the Miami-Dade area of Florida. You're looking at the Everglades, on fire right now as they try to bring in fire helicopters to do these 400-gallon water drops on these fires.

It's already shaping up to be one of the record fire seasons in history. More than 2.5 million acres burned so far the country this year, Daryn, 41,000 fires. And it's -- in fact, tomorrow is the official beginning of fire season, June 1st.

KAGAN: Fire season and hurricane season.

LIN: You bet. We've got a lot to cover this summer.

KAGAN: And a dry time in Florida. Thank you, Carol.

Lost and found. This one does have a happy ending. Four days without food and water, a little boy who vanished from his camp site is now safe and sound. Details ahead on CNN LIVE TODAY. You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.


KAGAN: Found alive, an 8-year-old Colorado boy is safe this morning after being lost in the woods for four days. Reporter Dayle Cedars of our affiliate KMGH in Denver has details on the rescue.



DAYLE CEDARS, KMGH REPORTER (voice over): Not quite sure what to make of everything that has happened, 8-year-old Evan Thompson clutches his newest toy, a black stuffed rescue dog, he already named "Snake."

TEDDI GRAY, AUNT: He was kind of hiding from all of those loud sounds and all of those loud noises. But there was a dog team up there, and I guess they were about 15 yards from him, and they were calling his name and he went, "hey, who's that?"

CEDARS: The trackers then flushed him down with the use of that helicopter.

GRAY: And the ATV rider just came across him and there he was standing in the road.

CEDARS: And the searchers are pretty excited themselves.

ZAK SLUTZKY, SEARCHER: Everyone's trying their hardest and when you hear that he's found it's an amazing feeling.

CEDARS: Especially after spending four days hiking treacherous terrain, marking wherever they found clues. On the last day, searchers found new clues that led them about five miles from the boy's camp site. How he got there amazes everyone.

SLUTZKY: That's a long distance. It's way outside the statistical norms.

CEDARS: Even these guys, from Vale, who found him, are shocked. There was barely even a trail.

GRAY: It's amazing to see how a human being's survival instincts take over.


KAGAN: And another happy ending. I don't think this is what Tennessee Williams had in mind but this is a cat on a hot Rhode Island roof and that man is firefighter Mike Polacek. With the fire out, the residents safely on the streets, he attempts to rescue the rescue of the day. Three stories up, he pulls it off. Despite the cat being a fraidy cat.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So then you used plan B?

MIKE POLACEK, PAWTUCKET FIRE DEPARTMENT: Yes, I knew once I had him at the end, he couldn't go anywhere but to me, so.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you ever done this before, this kind of a rescue?

POLACEK: No, I haven't. But I have a cat of my own, so I wish someone would do that in the same situation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got my cat. They made it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought it was cool. I never saw a firefighter rescue a cat.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KAGAN: Well, the firefighter has had some more challenging assignments. Just hours after the 9/11 attacks, Polacek and 14 other firefighters left for the World Trade Center site to help out. The men went to New York on their own time, and their own dime. Double hero there.

I'm Daryn Kagan. International news is coming up next. Stay tuned for "YOUR WORLD TODAY," and I'll be right back here with the latest headlines from the U.S. in about 20 minutes.