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Paula Zahn Now

Pat Robertson Under Fire; High Price of Cancer Detection

Aired August 23, 2005 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Glad to have you with us tonight.
Has controversial Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson finally gone too far or is he on to something?


ZAHN (voice-over): Preaching assassination.


PAT ROBERTSON, THE 700 CLUB: We have the ability to take him out. And I think the time has come that we exercise that ability.


ZAHN: Should Pat Robertson take it back? Or should Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez be taken out before he becomes another Fidel Castro?

Love, marriage and murder? They became lovers when she was a teenager and he was her psychologist. Why did it end in a fight to the death?

SUSAN POLK, DEFENDANT: I mean, it was horrible. But I did what I had to do to survive.

ZAHN: Worth the risk? An advanced medical test can catch cancer in time to save your life.

MICKI MCCABE, LUNG CANCER SURVIVOR: The early detection probably is why I'm talking to you now.

ZAHN: But it could also cost you a lot of money and anguish for nothing.


ZAHN: And we start tonight with what happens when a popular leader of the Christian right calls for the U.S. to kill a foreign leader.

First, listen to what Pat Robertson had to say on his TV show yesterday about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, THE 700 CLUB) ROBERTSON: He has destroyed the Venezuelan economy, and he's going to make that a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent.

You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don't think any oil shipments will stop. But this man is a terrific danger. This is within our sphere of influence, and we can't let this happen.


ZAHN: So, today, the State Department called Robertson's suggestion inappropriate. And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said his department doesn't do that kind of thing.

Venezuela's ambassador called for the White House to condemn Robertson's remarks. And President Chavez himself? Well, he told reporters today that he didn't care about Robertson, didn't even know who he is.

So, why pay any attention at all to what Robertson said? Because he's a former Republican presidential candidate, because he founded the Christian Coalition, and because he says one million people a day watch his TV show.

And then there, of course, is the issue of oil. Venezuela, only 1,300 miles south of Miami, is the fifth largest oil exporter in the world. And the U.S. buys more than half of Venezuela's oil, making up 10 percent of our imports.

And President Chavez has said some pretty nasty things about President Bush lately.

Here's Ed Henry.


ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hugo Chavez considers himself a devoutly religious man. And the Roman Catholic sprinkles his speeches with references to the Bible. But this man of faith is also partial to bellicose rhetoric, calling the Bush administration a mafia of murderers and recently holding this mock trial of Mr. Bush, as he accused the United States of backing plots to assassinate him.

HUGO CHAVEZ, VENEZUELAN PRESIDENT (through translator): So, today, Mr. President, members of the court, you are passing judgment on Mr. Danger, which means passing judgment on United States imperialism.

HENRY: To be precise, this left-wing leader of oil-rich Venezuela usually calls President Bush Mr. Danger One, so as not to confuse him with Mr. Danger Two, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Chavez has also embraced Iran, part of President Bush's axis of evil, and considers Cuban dictator Fidel Castro a mentor, which is why Pat Robertson believes Venezuela is becoming a launching pad for communism and Muslim extremism and Chavez is such a grave threat that drastic measures need to be taken.


ROBERTSON: If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war.


HENRY: That threat comes just a week after Secretary Rumsfeld, on a swing through South America, blamed Chavez and Castro for social unrest in Bolivia. But, to Chavez, the bad blood started three years ago, when the United States allegedly backed a failed coup against him. And Chavez loves playing the martyr, as he did last year while discussing his relationship with the Bush administration in an interview with CNN.

CHAVEZ: We've had to put up with a lot, like Jesus Christ. I got tired of turning the other cheek, until my cheeks got purple from receiving so many blows. And I am a man of dignity.

HENRY: U.S. law prohibits the assassination of foreign leaders. And former intelligence officials say Chavez is really not too much of a danger, even though Venezuela controls 10 percent of our oil supply.

JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: He would have to think real hard about cutting off oil to the United States. I mean, this is a leader who is a very populist leader, has very high social spending requirements. His government spending went up by over 40 percent in the first five months of 2005.

So, this is a guy who needs money. And to cut off oil to the United States would make a real dent in his cash flow.

HENRY: And even Republican Senator Arlen Specter has urged Rumsfeld to tone down the rhetoric against Chavez, because he could be a key ally in the war on drugs. The attack from Robertson is likely to only boost Chavez's popularity back in Venezuela.

Chavez's administration pounced, putting the onus on the White House to denounce Robertson.

JOSE VICENTE RANGEL, VENEZUELAN VICE PRESIDENT (through translator): What are the American authorities going to do? The ball is in their court. What is the U.S. government going to do about this criminal statement made by one of its citizens?


ZAHN: That was Ed Henry reporting for us tonight.

I asked Reverend Pat Robertson to join us tonight, but he declined the invitation, as well as a request for a written statement. Joining me now, former Republican Congressman Bob Barr, who is also a former CIA official who did a lot of work in Latin America. He now happens to be a CNN contributor. Also the Reverend Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United For Separation of Church and State. There's Barry. We had our little picture flipped there. And now Jim Marcinkowski, a former CIA operative in Latin America as well.

Good to see all of you.

Congressman Barr, I'm going to start with you. You heard what the State Department had to say about Pat Robertson's comments, saying they were inappropriate, that no hostile action is planned against Venezuela. Do you think assassinations are ever appropriate?

BOB BARR, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE AND CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely they ought to be, both in times of war and sometimes even in times of non-war, where our nation is threatened and the actions against our country, our interests, and our people can be directly traceable to a foreign person in a position of authority, perhaps a military official, perhaps a regime head.

Absolutely. The president of the United States needs to have full flexibility, all options at his or her disposal.

ZAHN: All right, so are you saying tonight that Venezuela should be an option for the United States and its leader, Mr. Chavez?

BARR: No, I don't think that Venezuela -- Hugo Chavez is a real pain in the neck, no doubt about that. But we've had a very rocky relationship with many of the countries in the hemisphere, unfortunately, for many years. But simply because you have a rocky relationship with one does not mean that you go around calling for their assassination.

This is something, as in the legislation that I proposed in 2001 and 1999, needs to simply be an option that's available to a president. But you have to use it very, very judiciously and not go spouting off at the mouth, like Mr. Robertson did.

ZAHN: Reverend Lynn, do you think that's an option that should be available to President Bush?

BARRY LYNN, EXEC. DIRECTOR, AMERICANS UNITED FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE: I don't think so. And I just think it's shocking in this world of today to hear a religious leader, who, of course, claims, among other things, that he elected this president to the office of the presidency twice, for a man to talk in such fanatical religious and political terms, as to suggest that we go out and murder -- because, remember, the law at the moment, notwithstanding what Bob Barr would like it to be, prohibits us from engaging in assassination of foreign leaders.

So, what Pat Robertson is suggesting is something that will look to the rest of the world like a shocking statement by a person of tremendous significance in this country, one that will certainly make Americans and American Christians in particular, appear to be the very thing some of our enemies think we are now. And that is people who take anything we want, and, in this case, take out the people we don't approve of, just because they have a disagreement over politics or economics.

You know, all that President Chavez has said are things that a lot of people in the United States and in the rest of the world...

ZAHN: All right.

LYNN: ... have been critical of this administration. You don't go out and kill people because you have a profound disagreement over ideology.

ZAHN: Jim, you may have a different perspective on this, having worked in Latin America for the CIA from 1985 to '89. Were assassinations out of the question?

JIM MARCINKOWSKI, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Absolutely out of the question.

And here's the danger with even contemplating it or making an irresponsible statement like that. The problem is the message we're sending overseas. We're supposed to be building a democracy overseas. We're spreading democracy around the world. When someone gets up and starts saying that we need to advocate assassination, that's going contrary to everything the United States stands for.

There's other ways to get the job done, political action and otherwise. Assassination is unacceptable under any circumstance.

ZAHN: What about that, Congressman Barr? That if you're going to try to differentiate yourself from the terrorists, are you any better than the terrorists if you employed state-sponsored terrorism, which is what this would be, would it not, if the president had this option?

BARR: Well, if you use that as a definition for state-sponsored terrorism, then any time we take military action other than, I suppose, in a state of war declared under international law, we would be engaging in state-sponsored terrorism.

That's just, you know, throwing phrases around. One has to remember the history that we're talking about here. John F. Kennedy, one of the great champions of democracy and one of the great leaders of the Western hemisphere, for example, ordered the assassination -- it failed -- of Fidel Castro. There have been other instances.

All I'm saying is that a United States president, as commander in chief, with the constitutional authority to protect our nation, should not have his hands tied with regard to all options being on the table. Now, that does not mean that you go out and sanction or move for the assassination of a foreign figure simply because you disagree with them politically. That would be highly irresponsible.


ZAHN: Finally tonight, Reverend Lynn, what about the idea of whether you could even defend this failed attempt that Congressman Barr just said on Fidel Castro's life?

LYNN: Well, no. The point is, it was a failed attempt. And it also -- it led to...


ZAHN: But it could have worked.

LYNN: Well, it could have. But the point is, under what circumstances should you even think about it?

And what Pat Robertson was suggesting today was, because this man could be a threat, because he could cut off some of the 10 percent of the world's oil supply to the United States -- all these hypotheticals -- we should go out and do what Pat Robertson says we might be thinking about now...

ZAHN: All right.

LYNN: Of course, the secretary of Defense says we're not -- just take him out right away. That's just immoral by any standard in any moral universe I can imagine. And I'm just shocked that Bob Barr is even thinking that maybe this is all right.

ZAHN: Jim, you get the last word tonight. And it's got to be a brief one at that.

MARCINKOWSKI: Well, we are sending -- again, we're sending -- sending the wrong messages. Unacceptable under all circumstances. We are finally creeping out of the shadow of the 1960s, and this is setting a bad precedent to even talk about it.

ZAHN: Jim Marcinkowski, Barry Lynn, Bob Barr, thank you for all of your points of view tonight.

Coming up, a shocking story that began as a love affair between a therapist and a teenaged girl.


S. POLK: As I grew older, I was ashamed. I was ashamed that I split up his family, I felt. I was ashamed that I had married my psychologist.


ZAHN: It started as a bizarre love triangle, but did it end up in killing out of self-defense or murder?

And a little bit later on, a medical quandary. Why would doctors caution against a test that can actually find lung cancer pretty early on?


ZAHN: Still ahead tonight, a deadly consequence of rising gas prices, and it could happen just about anywhere.

Plus, the unsolved mystery that has singer Olivia Newton-John asking the public for support and prayers.

Right now, though, at 16 minutes past the hour, time to check in with Erica Hill at HEADLINE NEWS.

Hi, Erica.


ZAHN: Haven't seen you in a while.

HILL: Well, nice to be back with you.

ZAHN: Welcome back.

HILL: We start off with a rather somber story, the U.S. reporting four more military deaths in Iraq. A soldier and civilian contractor died today. Two soldiers were killed yesterday.

For his part, President Bush says most military families don't agree with Cindy Sheehan, who lost a son in the war and wants the troops brought home now. Bush says an immediate withdrawal would weaken the United States. He also said it is up to Iraq's Sunnis to decide whether they want to live in a free society. Still, the Sunnis are showing no signs of compromise, as talks for an Iraqi constitution grind on.

Israeli troops carry off holdouts from two hard-line West Bank settlements, as Israel completes its settlement withdrawal plan; 10,000 soldiers and police removed about 1,500 holdouts. Residents of two other more moderate settlements left on their own.

The mother of the boy who accused Michael Jackson of child molestation has been charged with welfare fraud. She was a key prosecution witness in Jackson's trial. Now authorities in Los Angeles say she faces five felony counts, including perjury. She's accused of obtaining nearly $19,000 in benefits, while not reporting $150,000 from a lawsuit settlement with a department store. Jackson was acquitted of molestation charges in June.

And, Paula, that's the latest from HEADLINE NEWS right now. We will hand it back to you.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Erica. See you a little bit later on, at the back end of the hour.

Coming up next, though, a forbidden love affair turns to marriage, but ends in a husband's death.


S. POLK: My recollection is that I stabbed him five or six times.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAHN: Was it in self-defense or was it out-and -- outright murder? Even her sons are now on opposite sides of the case. Stay with us for a strange and fascinating story.


ZAHN: I want to tell you about a really bizarre love story now between a teenaged girl and her therapist. It led to marriage, three children and now murder. The accused is Susan Polk, and her trial is starting this week in California.

Here's Ted Rowlands.


TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): October 2002, in a hillside neighborhood of multimillion-dollar homes, Felix Polk, a prominent San Francisco Bay Area psychologist, was found dead in his poolside cottage.

S. POLK: My recollection is that I stabbed him five or six times. I was on my back the entire time. He was aggressing the entire time. He was biting my hand and wrestling for the knife. And I thought I was going to die. So, I did -- I mean, it was horrible, but I did what I had to do to survive.

ROWLANDS: Forty-seven-year-old Susan Polk is in jail facing first-degree murder in a case that pits mother against son and brother against brother. It is a story that began in 1972, when then 15-year- old Susan Bolling went to see 42-year-old psychologist Felix Polk.

Susan says she was sent to see Polk when she was a freshman at this Northern California high school. Her parents were divorcing, and she was skipping classes.

S. POLK: He was my psychotherapist at the time. What I really needed help with was, like, tutoring, and, you know, getting prepared for school.

ROWLANDS: According to Susan, therapy with Felix Polk included hypnosis, drugs and molestation.

S. POLK: My husband would give me a cup of tea when I walked into his office. Next thing I knew, the whole hour was gone. I'd look at the clock. It was an hour later and I wouldn't remember what had happened.

ROWLANDS: By 17, Susan says she was a willing participant in what had become a sexual affair with Polk, who was married and still her therapist. Felix Polk divorced his first wife, with whom he had two children. Later, at the age of 25, 10 years after she started therapy, Susan married Felix Polk. Together, they had three children, Adam, Eli, and Gabriel.

S. POLK: I had a lot of fun. Being a mom was great. There's nothing better than driving kids around with all their friends to all their baseball games and all their soccer games and entertaining them after school. You know, it was the funnest time.

ROWLANDS: Still, Susan claims she was always under the mental control of Felix, until she turned 40. With her two oldest children teenagers, Susan says the reality of a psychologist having sex with a 16-year-old patient finally hit her.

S. POLK: As I grew older, I was ashamed. I was ashamed that I split up his family, I felt. I was ashamed that I had married my psychologist. When I confronted him about it, he got very, very nervous. And he told me I could never leave him because of what I might say, that it would destroy his -- his career.

ROWLANDS: Susan says she did decide to leave Felix, initiating divorce proceedings that soon turned ugly.

ELI POLK, SON OF SUSAN: My dad was enraged, just completely enraged, you know, with the idea of my mom leaving, and said that he would destroy her, and told me that if I, you know, stuck with her, that I'd be destroyed.

ROWLANDS: There are two drastically different stories as to what happened the night Felix Polk died. Prosecutors claim Susan Polk brutally attacked her 70-year-old husband while he was reading a book, first hitting him on the head, then stabbing him.

The coroner's report says there were 27 separate wounds. Susan, on the other hand, says she and her husband were arguing and he turned violent, coming after her with a knife.

S. POLK: I was lying there on my back. This man is stabbing at me. And I thought, I'm going to die here. And I thought, for just this brief little moment, you know, it's kind of true what they say, that, you know, people think of the past. I was lying there, and, just for this instant, I thought of myself as that 15-year-old girl. And I thought, no, I'm not going to die here. I'm going to live.

And I kicked him as hard as I could with the heel of my foot in his groin. And, at the very same time, I reached up and his hand just loosened on the knife. And it was a very small knife. And I just took it out of his hand. And I said: Stop. I have the knife.

And he wouldn't stop.

ROWLANDS: Barry Morris, a criminal attorney and friend of the family, is an expected prosecution witness. He says he had seen signs of instability in Susan for years and thinks she was mentally ill when she killed Felix.

BARRY MORRIS, FORMER NEIGHBOR: She's crazy. She thought he was after her. She thought he was in the Israeli Secret Service, everybody was conspiring against her, she was an oppressed woman, I mean, just go on and on and on and on. She's delusional. And, I mean, it doesn't make any sense, but people in that state of mind do things that don't make sense.

ROWLANDS: The prosecution's strongest witness is expected to be Gabriel Polk, Susan's now 18-year-old son. Gabriel told a grand jury that he actually heard his mother threaten to kill his father a week before he died. He also says that his mother allowed him to find his father's body almost a full day after she killed him.

MORRIS: What kind of a person does that? I mean, the kid was 15 at the time? To go find his father's battered body in the guest house?

ROWLANDS: While one son has turned against Susan, another is standing by her side.

E. POLK: He had a temper.

ROWLANDS: Gabriel's older brother, Eli, says it was his father that threatened his mother's life.

E. POLK: I know it was self-defense, because I know my dad. I knew who he was. And I know my mom. And there's no way. There's just no way.

ROWLANDS: With one son ready to testify against her, Susan says she knows the odds are against her.

S. POLK: My life is on the line, you know? And I guess, at some point, we have to decide in our lives whether we're going to have courage or not. You know, what are we made of, you know? Am I going to just go down without a fight? No. Do I think I'm going to be convicted? Yes. But I'm going to give them a fight.


ZAHN: Ted Rowlands reporting.

Joining me now, criminal defense attorney Mickey Sherman, who might give us insights as to how she's going to put up that fight.

We heard a couple of things. She's accused of stabbing her husband 27 times. Her son will testify that he overheard his mother threatening his father's life. How would you defend her?

MICKEY SHERMAN, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yet, her other son says that the father had repeatedly battered her. So, those kids are split on who's at fault here.

ZAHN: So, how does a jury determine that?

SHERMAN: Well, I have got to say, the 27 times -- I know it sounds absurd. That doesn't bother me that much.

ZAHN: That doesn't bother you?


ZAHN: Give me a break.

SHERMAN: Because -- because someone who is that engaged, so impassioned that they felt they must kill that person that deeply, that completely, obviously suffered from some problem. Now...


ZAHN: But she's not pleading insanity.

SHERMAN: Exactly.

ZAHN: She's fired a couple of attorneys here.

SHERMAN: Yes. Yes.

ZAHN: She's going to represent herself.

SHERMAN: And, you know, I don't think she...


ZAHN: Is she going the right way by not pleading insanity?

SHERMAN: You know, I have got to tell you, I think she is, because the insanity defense is dead in America.

Andrea Yates, surreally, killed five, drowned her kids. Not sane, OK? She was found not insane, rather. Jeffrey Dahmer chopped people up, put them in the refrigerator, ate them at later dates. He was found not insane. The American public does not want to hear about insanity. We don't buy it anymore.

ZAHN: All right.


ZAHN: But I still don't understand how a jury would be more sympathetic to her stabbing her 27 times than she would if she had only stabbed him five times.

SHERMAN: Because they will believe in domestic violence. And that is in vogue right now. It is one of the most important aspects of the criminal justice system. And that's her defense, that she...


ZAHN: But where is the evidence of that? What is she going to have to show?


SHERMAN: That's the issue. She has to show, independently of her own voice, that she had been the victim of domestic violence. But that's what one of her sons says. And that's pretty...

ZAHN: One of her sons will say that, and the other son will deny that.

SHERMAN: Yes. Well, you know something? At least she's got one. Don't forget, remember the O.J. telephone call, when she calls and says she's the victim of domestic violence? That wears on everybody. And everyone can identify with it. We all know someone who's suffered through that. And if in fact she can prove that she was the victim of domestic violence, even by just her son, that just may be enough.

ZAHN: You have another compelling character that we are told is going to be a part of this trial. And this is an attorney who befriended Mr. Polk. When he was undergoing his divorce...


ZAHN: ... the kids were a part of each other's lives. He's going to testify that she actually threatened to move to Montana and he told her that she was going to kill him.

SHERMAN: You know, but in the midst of a divorce, people say and do the absolute craziest things. I don't think it's that compelling. Plus a lot of it may be hearsay. I don't know whether or not they're going to get that in front of a jury or not.

ZAHN: But you heard her in her own words, she doesn't expect to win this case. She said that she's going to put up a fight.

SHERMAN: Well, it just shows how smart she is, frankly. I mean, when it the last time you've seen a defendant in a murder case that articulate and that calm and that sober?

ZAHN: Where would you see a defendant whose defense attorney would ever allow them to go on television and talk that openly?

SHERMAN: Well you know, maybe she's doing the right thing. I think most defense attorneys have told her that she should not take the witness stand. I think she's probably said I'm going to do it.

ZAHN: How is the jury going to view this long-term relationship between a 15-year-old girl who claims to have been in an abusive relationship with her psychiatrist/psychologist and then ends up marrying him?

SHERMAN: Well that alone builds up credits for her. The fact that a shrink would befriend and then marry their patient who is 15, 16 years old, I think, kind of allows the jury to say, you know something this guy created a monster, and if he was the victim of that monster, then it's what we might call divine justice.

ZAHN: You sound like you're chomping at the bit to represent this woman.

SHERMAN: No. It's just an interesting case. And again, it's not an insanity defense. It's a battered wife syndrome. It's a self- defense as well, which is interesting.

ZAHN: We know why you're a busy guy these days. Mickey Sherman, thanks for your time.

Coming up, a former smoker who owes her life to a very controversial medical test. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCCABE: I had the CAT Scan, which did seem to indicate that there were some tumors.


ZAHN: So why would doctors caution against this kind of test for lung cancer that catches -- or can catch cancers early on? You're going to want to hear their reasons next.

And a little bit later on, a new kind of crime wave, and guess what's to blame? Gas.


ZAHN: So if I told you there's a test that could spot lung cancer the deadliest kind of cancer, when a tumor is barely a quarter of an inch, you'd probably jump at the chance. So why are the American Cancer Society, the federal government and many cancer specialists against it?

Here's senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: After the tragic news of Peter Jennings and Dana Reeve, it seems people have thought about lung cancer more than ever before. In fact, the number of calls to quit smoking hot lines went up by 50 percent as a result. Just about every smoker and former smoker was worried. More worried than normal. And many of them could relate directly to Peter Jennings.

MCCABE: We smoke, as Peter and I certainly know, that that was a big factor.

GUPTA: Micki McCabe had her own scare 12 years ago. It was a cough that wouldn't go away. So she decided to get it checked out by her doctor.

MCCABE: I had the CAT Scan, which did seem to indicate that there were some tumors. I remember asking him then, did it seem very likely that I had lung cancer? He answered me very forthrightly that more than likely I did have lung cancer.

GUPTA: Micki was lucky. The CT or CAT Scan, did reveal lung cancer, but it was caught early enough that an operation was able to remove all of it. She was cured.

MCCABE: I'm certainly grateful to whatever spiritual forces are in the universe that were part of my getting a good break.

GUPTA: But it was more than just a spiritual force. Micki had demonstrated a basic tenet of medicine. Catch cancer early, and you're more likely to beat it.

Not so fast says Dr. Sanjay Saini.

DR. SANJAY SAINI, EMORY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Whether or not CT -- lung cancer screening with CT does, in fact, save lives, we don't know the answer to that yet.

GUPTA: He buys into the idea that catching cancer is good, but --

SAINI: Unfortunately as you look inside the human body, there are things that we find that can be potentially bad, but we also find things that are of no consequence.

GUPTA: And it's those inconsequential findings that bring into question just how useful CT Scans are. We call them false positive results. And they're estimated to occur somewhere between 25 to 70 percent of the time.

SAINI: The patient ends up having other tests done, potentially even surgery done, to determine what that is. And that's a downside risk to the patient.

GUPTA: Dr. Len Horovitz says that may be true, but it's still worth the risk.

DR. LEN HOROVITZ, LUNG CANCER SPECIALIST: If there's a 25 percent false negative rate, that means that there's a 75 percent positive rate.

GUPTA: And he points out another possible virtue of a false positive. Simply having any kind of abnormality, even if it turns out to be nothing bad, can still scare people enough to make them stop smoking. But as it stands now, organized medicine hasn't yet decided whether CT scan should be as common as mammograms for breast cancer or a colonoscopy for colon cancer. Recommendations like that could still be years away.

Micki McCabe, though, didn't wait for any recommendations. She's convinced she's alive today because of one scan years ago.

MCCABE: The early detection probably is why I'm talking to you now.


ZAHN: And Sanjay Gupta joins us now. Always good to see you.

GUPTA: Thank you.

ZAHN: It's not too reassuring that you hear that these CAT Scans are available on one hand, and then you're being told, well, we're not sure it's going to save lives or not. What's the bottom line here?

GUPTA: Well, you know, and it's a basic tenet of medicine, that you catch things earlier, and you're more likely to beat whatever it is that you're trying to beat. Cancer in this case. The problem is how early? I mean, these CAT Scans can find something that's five millimeters in size. But some doctors argue that may already be too late. So what have you done. You've subjected people to a CAT Scan, possibly found all these false positives, they're going to get biopsy, they're going to be worried, they may even get procedures and not accomplish anything. We need to figure that out before we start advocating this.

ZAHN: But you've got to admit, Doctor, that Micki's case is pretty persuasive. Her life was saved. So why wouldn't we put up with false positives if there was a chance the test could save our life?

GUPTA: I struggle with this a lot, I'll just be honest with you. And I think a lot of doctors do. Because we have anecdotal stories, you and I personally, and we hear a lot of them about people's lives being saved by a test.

But the problem is you also have to look at it from a public health perspective. Is it, for the vast majority of people, going to be a good thing? That's hard. And that's why I struggle with it, because a single life is worth a lot, obviously. But the public health perspective, could you subject people to unnecessary tests and biopsies and possibly even damage because of these CAT Scans?

ZAHN: So final word of advice tonight for smokers and nonsmokers when it comes to these CAT Scans. Two different stories here?

GUPTA: Well, I think -- you know, if you are someone who is at high risk, and I mean you have a history of cancer or if you've had previous problems with your lungs, you have persistent cough or bloody cough, you need to get that checked out. That's a no-brainer. Obviously go to you doctor. For a nonsmoker who's just sort of worried about this, we don't have a screening test today for you. If you develop any concerning problems, then go see your doctor. Otherwise, I think, rest easy. And I think that that's an important message as well. You don't need to be alarmed about this constantly. Most people aren't going to get lung cancer.

ZAHN: Will you come back and let us know when we know for sure whether these CAT scans do indeed statistically save lives?

GUPTA: The studies are going on now. We'll absolutely follow them and get back to you, Paula.

ZAHN: Great.

GUPTA: Thank you.

ZAHN: Nice to have a house call tonight.

GUPTA: All right. Yes.

ZAHN: And a generation grew up with her love songs, but what's happened to the love of Olivia Newton-John's life?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is not a normal case that I've seen that has been handled by the Coast Guard Investigation Service. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ZAHN: So why is the Coast Guard involved and what's happened to the man who's been Olivia Newton-John's companion for almost a decade? We'll update the mystery, next.


ZAHN: Olivia Newton-John starred in the movie "Grease" and had a string of pop hits in the '70s and '80s. And this week, we learned about her boyfriend's mysterious disappearance.

Patrick McDermott was last seen on June 30 on an overnight fishing trip off the southern California coast. Newton-John reported him missing a week later and says she hasn't gone public until now out of respect for his family.

And joining me now, Entertainment Correspondent Sibila Vargas. Good to see you, Sibila.

There are so many mysteries surrounding this case. For starters, contradictory reports whether he was ever seen getting off of this boat. His personal effects were found on the boat: His passport, his keys, his wallet. His car was found at the marina, but not until 10 days after he was reported missing. You have just gotten off the phone with the Coast Guard. Do they think this is a missing persons case, a suicide or murder?

SIBILA VARGAS, ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is the question on everybody's mind: What exactly happened to Patrick McDermott? Now, I spoke to the police - the Coast Guard and they told me that they're treating this as a missing persons case.

I asked about foul play, but as far as the Coast Guard is concerned, they say there is nothing in the investigation that would lead them to belief that foul play was involved. So Paula, at this point, they are ruling out foul play.

ZAHN: And late yesterday, Olivia Newton-John put out a statement urging the public to help her in the search for her long-term boyfriend, saying -- quote -- "It is hopeful that my treasured friend is safe and well. And I'm grateful to the officials who are working so hard to find Patrick, whom I love very much."

I guess -- which doesn't make a lot of sense to those of us learning about this case for the first time this week, is why she would have waited seven weeks to issue that statement. We all know those early days after a disappearance are the most critical ones.

VARGAS: Absolutely. I think a lot of people are asking that same question. I mean, why has it taken so long for her to come out? But all we know now is that Newton-John says that she waited out of respect for the family.

I mean, I'm not sure what that conversation was, but she says she's respecting them. However, I think that we know, like you said, you add a celebrity's name to the equation, you automatically bump up the attention brought to the case. So, the fact that she's actually helping now has definitely brought some attention to this case.

ZAHN: And has it brought any new leads?

VARGAS: Well, after speaking to the Coast Guard, they tell me that they've received several leads since the media exposure on this story. They've told me that they are following up on those leads. They're not sure if they're strong leads, but they're definitely working on them.

ZAHN: Now in the meantime, investigators have learned some new information about Mr. McDermott and his past that is of some interest to them. What have you found out?

VARGAS: Well, through our research, we learned that Patrick McDermott filed for bankruptcy back in March of 2000. We spoke with the trustee. He said McDermott's bankruptcy proceedings were routine. They also said that he listed $37,000 worth of debt and $6,000 in assets. I'm not sure if that's going to help them, but I think any information right now is -- it could be helpful.

ZAHN: And finally, it was Mr. McDermott's ex-wife who showed up at the marina looking for some clues just 10 days after he disappeared. What do we know about her?

VARGAS: Well, she is -- her name is Yvette Nipar and she's an actress. She's worked on numerous films and TV projects, most recently she had a role on "CSI: Miami, " and she also had parts on "Crossing Jordan," and "General Hospital," "Party of Five" and "Chicago Hope." And we also know, Paula, that they had a child together.

ZAHN: Exactly. A little boy who is believed to be a teenager now. And finally, we know that it's very typical for investigators to talk to families of loved ones when someone goes missing. What do we know about the extent to which Olivia Newton-John has been questioned and McDermott's ex-wife?

VARGAS: Well, we know, like you said, that most investigators definitely want to talk to loved ones and they're looking for clues in the case. So, in fact, in a statement released by Newton-John, she says that she offered her full cooperation to authorities who are continuing to investigate the circumstances of his disappearance.

And again, you know, Paula, the fact that Olivia Newton-John has come forward has definitely raised the profile of this case.

ZAHN: That is certainly one strange case. A lot of twists and turns here. Sibila Vargas, thanks so much for the update.

And at the top of the hour, Larry King will be taking a closer look at the case. Hi, Larry. Who's joining you tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, LARRY KING LIVE: That we will. We'll have a panel discussion including a chief warrant officer from the Coast Guard and our old friend Jim Moret and we'll hear from a Christine Spiteri, who's a correspondent from Australia.

And then a major part of the show tonight is going to be devoted to a debate about creationism versus evolution or is it they're calling creationism now intelligent design. We'll have three against three in that go around. Political experts, religious leaders as well.

It will be a lively LARRY KING LIVE at 9:00 Eastern, Paula.

ZAHN: That is a pretty fair prediction, Larry King. A fiery debate. See you at the top of the hour. Thanks so much.

Coming up, a crime that seems to be going up as quickly as the cost of gas.


JEFF LENARD, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CONVENIENCE STORES: It's gone from a teen who might be doing it for the thrill, to late-model SUVs pulling out with upwards of $50 or even $60 worth of gas.


ZAHN: It's expensive and it can even be deadly, but is there any way to prevent it?


ZAHN: Moving up at nine minutes before the top of the hour, time for another update of top stories from Erica Hill at HEADLINE NEWS. Erica?

HILL: If you think more Americans are heavier, well, a new report out today is backing you up. A group called Trust for America's Health says 22.7 percent of Americans were obese, in a period dating from 2002 to 2004. Now, that's up nearly a full percentage point from the previous few years. States with the highest obesity rates -- Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Louisiana and Tennessee. The culprits everywhere, of course, unhealthy diet and not enough exercise.

Some signs today the red-hot housing market may be cooling off a bit. Sales of previously-owned homes were down about 2.5 percent in July, a drop blamed on slightly higher interest rates.

There's going to be a lot more security on hand for the Rolling Stones show in Boston tonight, all in an effort to keep fans from hurting themselves. Two nights ago at Fenway Park, where the Stones opened their U.S. tour, a 20-year-old woman climbed in the rafters over the right field grandstand. She fell about 40 feet, breaking both her ankles and her wrist. Emergency workers had to clear the seats below her to keep anyone else from getting hurt.

And Paula, that's the latest from HEADLINE NEWS. We'll hand it back over to you in New York.

ZAHN: Appreciate it. Thanks, Erica. Coming up next, have you been tempted to try something like this?


ELIAS AUDY, MOBIL STATION OWNER: The customer took off with $36 of gasoline. Once the light came green, he flew out of here like you wouldn't believe.


ZAHN: The bottom line, don't do it. We've got a story that will give you second thoughts about ever trying to pump and run, next.


ZAHN: I don't know about you, but it seems like I see a new sign every day that the price of gas is hurting more and more. The AAA said average prices hit another record yesterday. And today, a convenience store owner's group says more people are paying for gas with credit cards instead of cash, and then there are the people who don't pay at all. Stealing gas costs stations tens of millions of dollars. And in one town in Alabama, it's cost a life.

Here's Dan Lothian.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The high price of stealing gas: $52 and one death.

JOHN KITCHEN, TEXACO CUSTOMER: I was really shocked. Because he, you know, he was such a friendly guy, a nice guy.

LOTHIAN: It happened in Ft. Payne, Alabama. Police say the driver of an SUV had taken off from this Texaco without paying for $52 worth of fuel. That's when station owner, Husain "Tony" Caddi, grabbed onto the vehicle, was dragged across a parking lot, fell, and was allegedly run over by the fleeing suspect.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gas is not worth driving off. Whatever happens, it's just not worth it.

LOTHIAN: Especially here, where customers say Caddi was always willing to give them a break.

KITCHEN: I've even had -- left my wallet at home. And I come here and out of gas, he would let me put gas in. I go home, bring the money back.

LOTHIAN: A deadly turn in a crime often referred to as pump and run, or gas and dash.

This Tigermart in Salisbury, Maryland, targeted, as was this BP Amoco station in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and this Mobil station in Brookline, Massachusetts.

AUDY: A customer took off with $36 of gasoline. Once the light came green, flew out of here like you wouldn't believe.

LOTHIAN: Some gas retailers are losing as much as $800 a month. Experts say when gas prices spike, so do thefts, out of frustration or desperation.

LENARD: It's gone from a teen who might be doing it for the thrill as much as the $5 or $10 stolen, to all demographics, including late-model SUVs pulling out with upwards of $50 or even $60 worth of gas.

LOTHIAN: In surveillance tape obtained by CNN from the Maryland Mart, a driver pulls in, fills up, replaces the gas cap while appearing to look around, makes an odd maneuver. Then, according to management, drives off without paying a dime. The same they allege for this woman, who casually cleans her windshield before taking off. And one more flies an American flag while allegedly pumping and running.

(on camera): If this is such a big problem, then why don't all retailers require everyone to prepay? Experts say that's because given the option, some customers will go to a station that allows them to pump first and pay later.

(voice-over): And because paying at the pump could impact the bottom line.

LENARD: They also are less likely to go inside the store and buy other items, where margins are much healthier.

LOTHIAN: So surveillance cameras like this one in Wisconsin help retailers track the license plate numbers of offenders. In addition to prosecution, punishment in some 25 states could include the temporary loss of a driver's license.

AUDY: It's OK.

LOTHIAN: In Brookline, Elias Audy hopes to install security cameras at his station, so the next time someone drives off with his gas, he'll have the evidence on tape.

No security cameras in Alabama, where a small community is still reeling from the gas station owner's death. As police search for the suspect, a sign urges, "Repent, then turn yourself in."


ZAHN: That was Dan Lothian reporting. If you're wondering why someone would actually risk his life over a $52 tank of gas, the National Association of Convenience Stores says gas station owners only make a penny per gallon as profit. So the owner would have to pump an extra 5,200 gallons to make up for a $52 drive-off.

That's it for all of us here tonight. Thanks so much for being with us. Tomorrow night, he can't speak, he can't hear, he can't communicate at all, and he's suspected of a brutal crime, but he might go free, because he can't defend himself. That's tomorrow at 8:00 Eastern. Please join us then. Hope you have a good rest of the night. LARRY KING LIVE starts right now.