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Hospital Horrors; In Legal Limbo

Aired June 17, 2005 - 20:00   ET


PAUL ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Thanks so much for being with us tonight.
We begin with a matter of life and death that affects millions of us and our loved ones every year. Most of us who check into the hospital get the help we need, but too many don't. And by one estimate, hospital mistakes kill close to 100,000 patients a year.

For example, you don't have to be a doctor to know that hydraulic fluid should not be used to clean surgical instruments. But for two months last year, two North Carolina hospitals mistakenly did just that. And those instruments were used on 3,800 patients.

Dozens of them are reporting lingering health problems. So far, no one has died.

That was one story. Tonight, our Randi Kaye has another with tragic consequences.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Last November, Mary McClinton checked into Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle for a procedure to correct a brain aneurysm. She never checked out.

GERALD MCCLINTON, SON: It was 19 days of terror for my mother.

KAYE: The aneurysm procedure was successful, and Mary McClinton, in good health, otherwise, according to her family, was expected to recover and live for years. But right after the surgery, a fatal error.

G. MCCLINTON: One simple procedure of marking what you're about to inject into a person would have prevented this whole thing. Thirty seconds or less to write down what's toxic, what is not.

KAYE: A technician was supposed to inject a harmless marker dye for x-rays into Mary's leg. But instead of injecting dye, the technician inadvertently injected antiseptic skin cleanser, chlorhexidine, toxic when injected into the body.

(on camera): Did you speak to her after the surgery?

WILLIAM MCCLINTON, SON: Basically, she could talk, and I talked to her for all of 30 seconds because of the pain she was in. It was -- I mean, I heard a lot of screaming to the point where she actually dropped the phone and the nurse picked it up and told me that I'd have to call her back.

KAYE: How can something so tragic happen? Hospital officials said the antiseptic was in a cup identical to the one holding the marker dye. That cup was unlabeled, an error that led the technician to grab the wrong solution and inject it into Mary McClinton's bloodstream.

(voice-over): While no one at the hospital told Mary McClinton's sons what had happened, what they saw scared them.

W. MCCLINTON: The leg that was injected actually had swollen to probably double its size. So -- and as far as hands and feet, it was -- they were just so swollen that, like, the fingers ran together, almost like it was just a mitt.

KAYE: Finally, four days after the error, Mary's sons say they were made aware of the mix-up.

W. MCCLINTON: My first reaction would definitely be anger. I mean, this was my mother. I mean, you have the most important thing in my life in your hands.

KAYE: Days later, the hospital admitted the error in this staff memo. "These are the consequences of an avoidable mistake that caused massive chemical injuries."

The hospital took responsibility and says it has made improvements to processes to make sure it doesn't happen again. But it says the labeling process used at the time was the industry standard. Meanwhile, the McClintons watched as their mom endured multiple strokes and cardiac arrest.

DOUG MCCLINTON, SON: I mean, you're pretty much emotionally hostage, and there's nothing you can do about it.

KAYE: Nine days into the nightmare, the McClintons were told the tissue was dying in their mom's lower left leg where she had been injected.

G. MCCLINTON: It's the leg for mom's life. The doctor told me, "If we don't amputate her leg, she will die."

KAYE (on camera): So you went ahead with it. Do you still remember what that was like?


KAYE (voice-over): Doctors removed Mary McClinton's left leg below the knee. This nurse's obtained by CNN showed said she asked the nurse that day to, "Let me die."

(on camera): Did she ask you that?

W. MCCLINTON: She did. She said that we need to let her go. She's like, "I need to die." She's like, "They've messed up." And that's one of the hardest things that I think I'll ever have to deal with in my life, hands down.

KAYE (voice-over): By day 13, the McClinton family says they were told another amputation was necessary but that their mom would likely not survive the surgery.

(on camera): So you were faced with the decision of really which way you wanted your mother to die? Not any longer if she would?

G. MCCLINTON: Yes. That's basically it, yes. She was going to die.

KAYE: When that became clear for all of you, you had another tough decision to make?

G. MCCLINTON: Just comfort and care, make her days as comfortable as they could be, or whether she was going to die on the operating table.

KAYE (voice-over): The McClinton sons said no to more surgery and abandoned hope for recovery.

G. MCCLINTON: My mother's breathing was so labored. I grabbed my mom's hand and I told her that her boys are going to be OK, she had suffered enough pain. "We're going to be OK. Just go ahead and go."

And a minute or so later, my mom took her last breath.

KAYE: Mary McClinton had hung on for 19 days.

DR. DONALD BERWICK, HEALTHCARE IMPROVEMENT INSTITUTE: People really don't understand how hazardous healthcare really is. And I think if the public did understand the risks, they'd be angrier, they'd be more demanding.

KAYE: An Institute of Medicine study estimates the number of hospital deaths caused by mistakes to be anywhere from 44,000 to 98,000 a year.

BERWICK: That would make -- if it's 44,000 deaths a year, that's more than breast cancer, more than motor vehicle accidents, more than AIDS in our country. It would make it the eighth most serious public health problem in America. And if it's 98,000 deaths a year, that would be the fourth most common cause of death in all of America.

KAYE: Dr. Donald Berwick's organization, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, is pushing for changes to eliminate hospital errors. Already, more than a third of U.S. hospitals have agreed to participate.

It's been six months since the McClinton sons lost their mom. The pain is still raw. Gerald McClinton now lives in his mother's apartment, cooks in her kitchen.

G. MCCLINTON: It's difficult, and at the same time comforting.

KAYE: And in the family bible, a piece of their mother's hair is kept just pages from their own. The McClintons couldn't save their mom, but they're hoping to save others. They are suing the hospital, not for the money, they say, but to make a difference.

G. MCCLINTON: And if it comes down to, you know, better procedures to make hospitals safer for patients, patient awareness, patients need to know what their rights are. Families need to know these things.


ZAHN: That was Randi Kaye reporting.

So what can you do to protect yourself from disaster in the hospital? Joining me now to try to answer that question and more, medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Welcome. Good to see you in town for a change. So where would you get started?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, you have to recognize that you can't prevent every error. The family we just saw, there may have been nothing that they could have done. But here are a couple of steps where you can at least try.

When you go to the hospital, bring an advocate with you, a family member, a friend, who is likely to remain sort of unemotional and can sort of keep track of what's going on around you. And that leads to the second piece of advice, look, listen and ask questions.

You and your advocate should keep asking questions until you get the right answer. And be observant. One mother I heard about, she noticed that the nurse was hanging an IV bag that had the name of another patient, not her son that was in the hospital.

ZAHN: That's terrible.

COHEN: Another patient. And she pointed it out. The nurse didn't even notice it.

ZAHN: But it's interesting you mention those two, because I think we're often so intimidated by the process. We sometimes don't feel like we're empowered to ask those very direct, tough questions. You have to.

COHEN: That's right. You need to keep -- right, keep asking questions until you get the answer that makes sense to you.

And one way to help as, the right questions is, in the morning, get a list of medications that you're going to have that day. Ask your nurse, get it in writing, so that at noon, when they bring you some pills, you can say, is this such and such a pill or such and such a dosage?

That's important. You'll have it right there. So you'll know. Medication errors are some of the most frequent kinds of hospital errors that happen. Also, mark your surgical site. We all hear about the wrong leg being operated on. If it's your right knee, right, "yes" with magic marker on your right knee, and write "no" with magic marker on the other knee.

And finally, what you want to do is ask the staff to wash their hands. It sounds so simple, but it doesn't always happen.

So you can say, "Look, doc, I'm sorry, I don't mean to embarrass you, but it's just my little craziness. Can I see you wash your hands?" Ask them to do it.

ZAHN: I don't know that a patient even needs to be that nice. We should be able to demand that.

COHEN: That's true. Right. But if you feel uncomfortable.

ZAHN: Absolutely. Good advice, Elizabeth Cohen, as always.

From your personal safety, we move on to a tough call in the war on terror. You decide if a man deserves to be called a terrorist.


ZAHN (voice-over): Is he a threat to our security?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He clearly has connections to terrorism.

ZAHN: Or a hero who fought for freedom?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to start reporting people that stood up against oppression.

ZAHN: Ibrahim Parlak caught in the middle of the war on terror.

And Tom Cruise. With a major movie on the way, he's on top of the world, and he's decided to share the view.

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: Yes, I proposed to Kate last night.

ZAHN: Tom Cruise, the one you know and the one you don't, when PAULA ZAHN NOW continues.



ZAHN: On the "Security Watch" tonight, what appears to be a new message from Osama bin Laden's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The Arabic news network Al-Jazeera ran it today. In the tape, al-Zawahiri criticizes several Muslim nations and U.S. proposals for reform in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, here in the United States, a Michigan man is in legal limbo. The Homeland Security Department calls him a terrorist. One federal judge wants him deported. But another judge just released limit from jail two weeks ago.

Keith Oppenheim has his story.


KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the tiny town of Harbert, Michigan, you might notice a placed called Cafe Gulistan. Lately, people have been stopping by for more than a meal. They want to say "hi" to a local celebrity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How are you doing?



PARLAK: Good to see you.

OPPENHEIM: When Ibrahim Parlak greets diners at his restaurant, he sees more than customers. These are the people who supported him during the 10 months he was in jail.

PARLAK: See, I was -- I was just talking to Sue (ph) the day before, on Thursday night. We were talking on the phone. And, you know, we just wished each other the best, but we didn't know we were going to hug each other the next day.


OPPENHEIM (on camera): And you were calling from the jail?

PARLAK: From the jail, yes.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): In early June, Parlak was released from county jail where he been awaiting deportation. But U.S. immigration officials haven't forgotten about him.

RUSS KNOCKE, DEPT. OF HOMELAND SECURITY: We first view him as someone who violated our immigration laws. And in a post-9/11 world, violation of immigration laws cannot -- cannot be tolerated in any way. He clearly has connections to terrorism.

OPPENHEIM: While the government calls him a terrorist, his supporters say he was fighting for freedom many years ago.

MARTIN OZURIS, PARLAK'S FRIEND: It's like undermining the whole foundation of the United States when you're going to start deporting people that stood up against oppression.

OPPENHEIM (on camera): Do you believe that Ibrahim Parlak will be deported?

KNOCKE: We're very confident in our case.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): The United States government calls him a terror threat, pointing to his ties to the PKK, an armed Kurdish nationalist group that fought against Turkey and earned a reputation for brutality. Parlak says he campaigned for Kurdish rights in the late 1980s, but never took part in violence.

PARLAK: Everything else I did, it was for a Kurdish cause, in a peaceful manner, and I didn't do anything wrong.

OPPENHEIM: In 1988, Parlak crossed from Syria into Turkey, an area where skirmishes were common. A firefight broke out between the Turks and the PKK, and two Turkish soldiers were killed. Parlak insists he had nothing to do with their deaths.

PARLAK: I happened to be near one of those fighting, that's all.

OPPENHEIM (on camera): Were you armed in any way?

PARLAK: Yes, I had -- I had weapons with me.

OPPENHEIM: And did you...

PARLAK: But, again, weapons are, in that area, just, you know, common thing. It's like everybody has it.

OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Parlak was captured by the Turks, and, he says, tortured.

PARLAK: Not pleasant memories. Something I've been struggling to leave behind and take off of my mind for years. And I haven't been able to.

OPPENHEIM: These photographs show a family visit while Parlak was imprisoned. He says he eventually told the Turks about a hidden stash of PKK weapons and was released.

In 1991, Parlak came to America and applied for political asylum. The next year he got it, and later a green card.

Parlak worked and saved to open his restaurant, and in 1999, applied for U.S. citizenship.

(on camera): But information about Parlak's connection to the PKK was still in this files. Not only that, but in 1997, six years after Parlak came to the U.S., the official status of the PKK was changed. It was now listed by the State Department as a terrorist organization.

As a result, government investigators took another look at his case. Frustrated by delays, Parlak sued U.S. Immigration. But by now, the government that had once welcomed him was getting ready to prosecute him.

KNOCKE: We know that two individuals were killed at this particular skirmish at the Turkish border. We know that he was armed. We know that he participated in these acts of violence. We also know that throughout his time in Turkey he was fund-raising for the PKK and he was seeking ways to provide other material support to that terrorist organization. OPPENHEIM (voice-over): Last December, U.S. immigration judge, Elizabeth Hacker, ruled to deport Parlak, writing that Turkish records showed he was charged with a felony under Turkish law, analogous to a felony murder offense, something he did not reveal on his application for asylum.

But Parlak's lawyers say he had nothing to disclose and have appealed the decision.

ANNE BUCKLEITNER, ATTORNEY FOR PARLAK: I say that there's no evidence to support that. He never said that he was involved in the death of two soldiers. And even the Turkish government has never said that he was involved in the death of two soldiers.

OPPENHEIM: Parlak and his lawyers say he was charged with separatism, a political crime by a Turkish state security court that has since been abolished. But American Homeland Security officials say changes in the designation of the PKK or in the court that charged Parlak don't alter their view.

KNOCKE: Participation in a terrorist organization two years ago or 20 years, or 40 years ago, still is participation in a terrorist organization and is in violation of our immigration laws and can lead to deportation from this country.

OPPENHEIM: On June 3, Parlak came home. A different federal judge was critical of the government's case and ruled that Parlak could be released on a $50,000 bond pending his appeal because he posed neither a danger, nor flight risk.

That decision has allowed Parlak to resume his life, to play with his 8-year-old daughter, Livia (ph). But the deportation case is still very much alive. And if he is deported, it won't be to Turkey. U.S. officials say it would be to a different country. But Parlak says there is only one choice. Even if it takes years, he'll fight the government of the country that he says is the only home he really has.

PARLAK: I'm going to stay here. And I'm -- I have trust in it. I have belief in it. And it's going to happen.

It might not be easy, but it has to be, it has to be. There's no other way.


ZAHN: That was Keith Oppenheim reporting for us tonight.

Still ahead, yes, he's done it. One of the world's biggest stars clears up all the speculation about his love life.


CRUISE: Yes, I proposed to Kate last night.

(END VIDEO CLIP) ZAHN: Yes, that would mean he's in love, in the headlines, and in one of this summer's most anticipated movies. But there's a lot more you don't know about actor Tom Cruise. So stay with us to find out what that is.


ZAHN: So, you think you're going to have a busy summer? Tom Cruise is going to have to fight aliens, he's going to try to save the world, whole starting a new love life for real. We're going to catch up with him in a little bit.

But first, it's just about a quarter past the hour. Time for Erica Hill and HEADLINE NEWS to update the top stories.

He broke a lot of hearts today with that announcement.


ZAHN: We saw it coming for weeks.

HILL: Yes, it was the jumping on the couch that may have given it away.

ZAHN: In several different occasions.

HILL: Yes.

ZAHN: He did it with Oprah, he did it with Jay Leno.

HILL: I don't know, maybe CNN is next.

ZAHN: Maybe. I have a sofa for him in here.

HILL: In the meantime -- well, there you go. In the meantime, we'll get you caught up on the news.

Excuse that noise. One of my lights just blew out.

The threat of credit card fraud is spreading. A hacker gained access to data at a company that processes payments. And that could mean more than 40 million cardholders may now be exposed to fraud.

The company says it is investigating. And it says no access was gained to sensitive personal information.

We'll continue to follow that one, though.

For the second time this week, a helicopter crashed in New York City's East River. All eight people on board were rescued. On Tuesday, a sightseeing helicopter with seven people aboard crashed not far from today's mishap.

Meantime, in Aruba, a new arrest in the case of missing teen Natalee Holloway. The suspect is a deejay who worked on a popular party boat. Three others are also being held. Still no trace, though, of the Alabama teen.

And in Florida, Governor Jeb Bush wants prosecutors to look into allegations that Terri Schiavo's husband waited too long to get help after she collapsed in 1990. That collapse began her 15-year vegetative state.

Bush says he is not accusing Michael Schiavo of wrongdoing.

And Paula, that's the latest from Headline News. We'll turn it back over to you.

ZAHN: Thanks so much. See you a little bit later on tonight.

So who's your pick for person of the day, New Jersey cop Mike Gullace for using his own body to shield a woman and her two children from gunfire just two weeks before his retirement, Army Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester for being the first woman to receive the Silver Star for gallantry in action since World War II, or Air Force Captain Nicole Malachowski for becoming the first ever female Thunderbird pilot? Vote now at I'll let you know who wins a little bit later on in this hour.

Still ahead, though, the actor who are created a national sensation just by dancing on a couch over the girl of his dreams. Please stay with us as we explore the private and public sides of actor Tom Cruise.


ZAHN: Big news out of France. Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes announced their engagement today. That should put to rest some of the talk that their whole relationship was just a publicity stunt to promote her role in "Batman Begins" and his in "War of the Worlds" that opens shortly.

Not that a star as big as Cruise would need to resort to that tactic. He happens to be the subject of tonight's "People in the News" profile.

Here is Bill Hemmer.


BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He's a true Hollywood phenomenon. An icon who emerged from nowhere to become one of the biggest stars on the planet. With charisma to burn and that million-dollar smile, his films have grossed a staggering two billion dollars.

LEAH ROZEN, FILM CRITIC, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: Tom Cruise is the biggest movie star going right now. He has that whatever that thing is about a movie star that everyone who is watching him in some way identifies: Men would like to hang out with him, women would like to have more private moments with him.

HEMMER: Couple that with Tinseltown trifectas: Three Golden Globe wins, three Academy Award nods. Yet, one thing continues to elude the man famous for this Cruise control, a golden statue by the name of Oscar.

ROZEN: I've never discussed this personally with Tom Cruise, but it seems pretty clear he very much wants an Oscar.

HEMMER: This summer, Cruise may get another shot. He continues his quest for the golden statue with "War of the Worlds."

ROZEN: The buzz on this is really good. In that you have Tom Cruise re-teaming with Steven Spielberg. I mean, it looks like it has all the elements that you want for a big summer movie.

HEMMER: Big box-office numbers and a golden prize might be nice, but the only thing on Cruise's mind, apparently these days, is actress Katie Holmes. The two are now engaged.

CRUISE: Yes, I proposed to Kate, last night.


JESS CAGLE, SENIOR EDITOR, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: It just happened so fast and Tom has always been fairly private about his private life. And he was shouting this one from the mountain tops.

HEMMER: The couple cannot get enough of their love in the limelight. First in Rome...

KATIE HOLMES, ACTRESS: Should I go get him?

HEMMER: At the MTV Movie Awards and on "Oprah Winfrey."

OPRAH WINFREY, TV PERSONALITY: Something happened to you.

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: I'm in love.

CAGLE: The "Oprah" appearance caused a sensation because we had never seen Tom Cruise act like that before. I mean, he was like a giddy teenager.

HEMMER: Their public valentines for each other are all over the headlines.

HOLMES: You know what? It's incredible. It's absolutely incredible. He's the most amazing man in the whole world.

HEMMER: For two decades now, all eyes have been on Cruise, but few know the private tales beyond public spectacle.

SARAH SAFFFIAN, "ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY": Challenged academically with the dyslexia, dealing with estrangement from an abusive father, growing up in a household with a single mother, and struggling financially and helping to take care for his three sisters.

HEMMER: He was born Thomas Cruise Mapother, IV, on July 3, 1962 in Syracuse, New York. His mother was a teacher, his father an engineer.

ROBERT SELLERS, BIOGRAPHER: His father kept moving the family perpetually around the country as he looked for work. Tom's father was chasing a dream, almost, to become a millionaire, to make his fortune. Unfortunately, most of his money-making schemes tended to fail.

HEMMER: Adding to the complexity of new schools and short-lived friendships, there were problems in the classroom.

CAGLE: He could not read, he was diagnosed as being dyslexic.

HEMMER: There were also problems at home: His parents were drifting apart. By 1974, the nomadic Mapothers were living in Ottawa, Canada. Tom was 12 when they made the fateful announcement.

SELLERS: The whole family was asked to go into the front room and the news was told to them: That their parents were separating.

HEMMER: But in 1976, the running finally stopped. Security came in the form of Glen Ridge, New Jersey, and it was here, at 234 Washington street, that Thomas Cruise Mapother's destiny began to unfold.

SAFFIAN: He threw himself into sports, primarily wrestling and he succeeded in that until a pretty serious knee injury took him out of the sport.

HEMMER: And into the theater. It was the senior class production of "Guys and Dolls." Urged by hi teacher to try out, he landed the role of Nathan Detroit.

SAFFIAN: Once Tom Cruise realized he had this interest in acting, he went for it with a gung-ho focus that is now seen as characteristic Cruise.

HEMMER: Following graduation in July of 1980, he set off to New York. Eighteen years old, he left his family, lost his last name and within just five short months, Tom Cruise hit the big screen.

CAGLE: "Endless Love" was a big thing for him. It was a very tiny role, but it was his first movie.

CRUISE: Did you ever try to light a whole pile of wet newspapers? It smokes like crazy.

CAGLE: He proved to himself that he could charm or impress people like Franko Zeffirelli and get a job in the movies.

CRUISE: You better not tell her what I just told you.

DAVID LETTERMAN, HOST, LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN: How many people were up for the part that you got?

CRUISE: I don't know, overall there was like 7,000. So, I guess.. LETTERMAN: And you got it.

CRUISE: And I got it now.

HEMMER: Cruise continued his march onto the big screen: Four films in 12 months.

ROZEN: "Risky Business" is the movie that made Tom Cruise a star; that was it.

CAGLE: He was rebellious and charming, and he was troubled. He danced in his underwear and he was Tom Cruise.

HEMMER: Teen audiences could not get enough. Overnight, the 21- year-old was Hollywood's most wanted. But in 1984, Cruise sustained a personal setback. His estranged father was diagnosed with cancer.

SAFFIAN: By the time he died in 1984, he and Tom had reconciled and Tom has talked about that being important to him to have that kind of closure.

HEMMER: At peace with his father, in 1986, Tom Cruise emerged at the top of his game.

ROZEN: "Top Gun" was the movie that absolutely solidified him as the leading man of the '80s.

HEMMER: Not only did audiences fall under his spell, so did actress Mimi Rogers, six years his senior. Come May 9, 1987, the 25- year-old secretly wed.

CAGLE: The relationship with Mimi Rogers was really important for one thing, and that was: Mimi Rogers was a Scientologist.

HEMMER: The honeymoon, however, would not last long. By 1989, tabloids began to take interest in the marriage. Cruise would later blame their impending split on his hectic schedule.

MIMI ROGERS, ACTRESS: They're shooting today like any other day. So, he couldn't be here.

HEMMER: By now, Cruise was shooting with the biggest names in the business: Paul Newman in "The Color of Money;" Dustin Hoffman in "Rainman." Both Newman and Hoffman took home Oscars. Cruise got his own shot in 1989.

CAGLE: Finally, with "Born on the Fourth of July," Tom gets his own showcase, got his first Oscar nomination and really opened a lot eyes in Hollywood.

HEMMER: The ride had just begun. His next film, "Days of Thunder," and fateful meeting with red-haired Aussie was moments away.

SELLERS: The first time he ever laid eyes on Nicole Kidman was actually on the cinema screen. He'd been invited to private screening of "Dead Calm." And at the time, he was casting "Days of Thunder," and said, you know, who is she, you know, let's find out who she is, where she is, let's get her over here and test her for the movie.

HEMMER: By January, 1990, Cruise finalized his divorce from Rogers. By December 1990, Cruise and Kidman were husband and wife.

NICOLE KIDMAN, ACTRESS: As Tom says, "We're going to be on our honeymoon for the rest of our lives." It's just nice to have a husband that says that.


ZAHN: Well, when our "People in the News" profile continues, the startling end of a Hollywood fairy tale: Tom Cruise shifts gears and leading ladies.


ZAHN: We're back with more on Tom Cruise. He moved into high gear in Hollywood at about the same time that he and a certain leading lady were becoming an A-list power couple. But eventually, Cruise's ride would be anything but smooth. Once again, Bill Hemmer with the "People in the News" profile.


HEMMER (voice-over): By the early '90s, Tom Cruise and his bride, Nicole Kidman, were the toast of the town. Everywhere they went, swarms of paparazzi followed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch your back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm crossing the street.

HEMMER: It was right about this time that Tom went into Cruise control.

SAFFIAN: Cruise definitely is a man who wants control whether it's a percentage of the profits of his movie, or creative control on the set, or control with the media, where in an interview he'll tell you exactly what he feels like divulging and nothing more.

HEMMER: By May 1992, Cruise was as big a star as they come, so much so the disastrous epic, "Far and Away" did little to diminish his box office clout.

CRUISE: I'm Joseph Donnelly of the Family Donnelly.

Your Honor, these are the tower chief's logs.

HEMMER: Just months later, a military drama would be the first of a string of boffo box office hits.

JACK NICHOLSON, ACTOR: You want answers!

CRUISE: I want the truth!

NICHOLSON: You can't handle the truth! MUSTO: "A Few Good Man" restored some credibility to Tom's career, so he was back on track.

HEMMER: And cemented in Hollywood history.

In January 1993, the Cruise Kidman's added an adopted daughter to the mix, two years later, a son. But by May 1996, everyone was talking about Cruise' latest, his mission, the remake of a 1960s TV classic, the result, one monster of a payday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.

MUSTO: Tom Cruise is about as wealthy as wealthy gets nowadays. And he's smart enough when he negotiates to do a movie not just to get a flat fee, which would usually amount to like $25 million, not pocket change exactly, but often he'll negotiate for points in the movie. So for "Mission Impossible I", he made $70 million, for "Mission Impossible II", $75 million.

CRUISE: Show me the money!

HEMMER: In December 1996, another huge hit.

CRUISE: Fine! Fine! Fine!

ROZEN: I thought Tom Cruise' performance in a "Jerry Maguire" was among the best he has given. You just saw him loosen up on-screen in a way you haven't. There was a kind of humor. There was also a desperate edge that just hadn't been there before.

HEMMER: That 1996 role brought his second Academy Award nomination. But his Cruise control was about to be tested.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will kindly remove your mask.

SAFFIAN: The production of "Eyes Wide Shut," which was Stanley Cooper's final film was very mysterious. It was very shrouded. It took years for them to complete.

ROZEN: There was enormous publicity. They put out this incredible trailer for the movie and it was just like hot, hot, hot, and had the promise of major movie stars, Tom and Nicole, naked, naked, naked. Then the movie opens and it is like the most boring thing you've ever seen and you just go Lord, if that's what an orgy is like, I'm so glad I've never been to one.

HEMMER: Smiling through the brutal buzz, the duo promoted the film in July 1999.

KIDMAN: You know it's been wonderful three years.

HEMMER: As always, all eyes were on them, which made the announcement even more shocking. In February 2001, just two months after the couple had grandly celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary, publicists announced a joint separation. Three days later, Cruise filed for divorce. O'NEILL: Why did Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman break up? It's a burning question still, and it's something that everyone wants to know.

HEMMER: Tabloids, newspapers, rumors ran rampant. And as the buzz built, Cruise would not budge.

(on camera): One thing I remember from the breakup with Nicole was that both of you had said we live extremely busy lives and it appeared that the demands on your time from taking away from your relationship.

CRUISE: No, I'm not going to discuss any of that. That's between Nic and I, and forever, I will never discuss that ever.

SAFFIAN: The rumors started circulated a bit during Tom and Nicole's marriage and then they definitely heated up when the separation and the divorce took place. There had been rumors that Tom is gay. There were rumors that she was very cautious about scientology.

HEMMER: Both rumors Cruise emphatically denied. Twice in 2001, he filed suit and won against individuals questioning his sexuality. There were also rumors about Cruise's possible involvement with actress, Penelope Cruz, a friendship that began on the set of 2001's "Vanilla Sky" and quickly moved to romance following the divorce.

HEMMER: Fast forward two years later, the Cruise-Kidman speculation continued.

CRUISE: There are things that I said about Nic, I've always said that about Nic. That change, you know. That doesn't mean we're going to be back together, you know, but we'll be friends. Iwill always be her friend, always.

HEMMER: And Cruise's quest for Oscar raged on.

CAGLE: There were many expectations that "The Last Samurai" would be Tom's Academy Award, and as it turned out, it wasn't.

HEMMER: Expectations that Penelope Cruz would be Tom's future Mrs. turned out wrong as well. In March 2004, a startling series of announcements. Not only was the Cruise/Cruz union no more, the superstar was also letting go of his long-time publicist, Pat Kingsley.

CAGLE: In Hollywood, the breakup between Tom Cruise and Pat Kingsley was just earth-shattering. I mean it was a shocker. These were two people who had really built their careers together. They were inseparable as is the case with all of Tom's personal and business transactions. Nobody really knows what happened.

HEMMER: And this weekend, Cruise switches gears once again. This time playing a hitman in Michael Mann's thriller, "Collateral." The million-dollar smile is gone, replaced by a cold, calculated performance. CAGLE: "Collateral" could be the movie that finally gets him the Oscar. I mean he has not been as good in a movie in a very, very long time.

HEMMER: Oscar or not, with more than two decades and nearly 30 films behind him, Tom Cruise, Hollywood's reigning top gun, continues to live his life in typical Cruise control.


ZAHN: And we'll continue to watch him. That was Bill Hemmer reporting for us tonight.

This weekend on "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" two of Washington's most influenceal leaders, but in vastly different ways, profiles of Chief Justice William Rehnquist and first lady Laura Bush. You can find that on your dial at about 5:00 p.m. Eastern time.

And tonight, coming up at the top of the hour, country music star, Shania Twain visits Larry King.

But first, there's still time to vote for the person of the day. Will it be the police officer who saved a woman and two children from gunfire by putting his body in the pathway, the first woman to receive the Silver Star since World War II, or the first-ever woman Thunderbird pilot. Cast your vote at We'll be right back.


ZAHN: Hollywood is always spinning tales about doomsday. In a little bit, we're going to dead deadly serious and see what could happen if terrorists ever set off an atomic bomb in Los Angeles. First, though, let's check in with Erica Hill at HEADLINE NEWS to get an update on the other top stories.

HILL: Thanks, Paula. He was once one of the nation's highest paid CEOs. Now, he faces up to 30 years in prison. Dennis Kozlowski, former head of Tyco Corporation, was convicted of looting the company of more than $150 million. A former CFO was also convicted. Both claim the Tyco board of directors knew about the lavish bonuses, but the jury didn't buy it.

The House today passed a bill to withhold millions of dollars in dues to the United Nations unless it adopts dozens of reforms. The bill passed along party lines, with mostly Republicans pushing for the reforms.

A large turnout of voters today in Iran, possibly as many as 60 percent of eligible voters, coming out to choose a new president. High unemployment and more liberal attitudes toward women were key issues in the campaign.

And 50 years of living definitely has its ups and plenty of downs for Mike Irwin (ph). The Ohio man celebrated his 50th birthday by sky diving, again, and again, and again. All together, Irwin jumped 50 times for his 50th birthday. Don't know if I could meet that record.

Paula, have a great weekend. Back to you.

ZAHN: Thanks, Erica. I'm worried about his 100th birthday, actually.

North Korea's reclusive leader today actually had something nice to say for a change about the United States. In a rare appearance, Kim Jong Il said he's been thinking favorably of the United States and is willing to restart talks over his nuclear weapons. The White House, of course, isn't making much of that, waiting for action instead of words.

Another nuclear fear, of course, is terrorism, and what could happen if terrorists smuggled a bomb into a major U.S. port. Here's David Mattingly.


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A dirty bomb blowing up in the port, threatening surrounding neighborhoods is one terrible possibility. But there's one much worse.

In this scenario, a bomb, similar in size to those used on Japan in World War II comes into the L.A. port in a container, and is loaded onto a truck. The truck drives into downtown Los Angeles, and the bomb is detonated by remote control.

MATTHEW MCKENZIE, NATURAL RECOURSES DEF. COUN: Thirty-two thousand people would die. These people would die as a result of intense blast, high winds, intense heat radiation from the fireball. A further 160,000 people, though, could die as a result of exposure to fallout.

MATTINGLY: Matthew Mckenzie is a physicist working for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Using the same special software that helps the federal government gauge the impact of a nuclear war, he can create a model for a catastrophe.

Just enter the city, the date and the size of the bomb. A simple point-and-click for the ultimate terrorist attack.

MCKENZIE: What the code shows is a hole basically burned and blasted out of the center of Los Angeles.

MATTINGLY (on camera): What about the radiation?

MCKENZIE: The radiation, the fallout plume impacts a much larger area of Los Angeles.

MATTHEW BUNN, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVT: A nuclear bomb is what happened to Hiroshima, where an entire city was obliterated in an instant by a single bomb. That's what we're talking about here. And unfortunately, it does not take a Manhattan Project to make a nuclear bomb. Potentially even a relatively modest cell of reasonably skilled people could put together at least a crude nuclear bomb that would be capable of incinerating the heart of any major city in the world.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): Any city, like Los Angeles, or maybe New York, or Washington, D.C., the cities attacked on September 11th.

BUNN: No one, of course, can reliably calculate the probability of a nuclear terrorist attack in the United States, but I believe it's likely enough that it significantly reduces the life expectancy of everyone who lives and works in downtown Washington, D.C., or New York.


ZAHN: David Mattingly reporting on what is a terrible thing to have to think about. There will be much more on the threat of nuclear terrorism on "CNN PRESENTS" this Sunday, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Your pick for the person of the day, though, is next.


ZAHN: So, who's the person of the day? Is it New Jersey cop Mike Gullace? Army Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester? Or Air Force Captain Nicole Malachowski? The winner, with 42 percent of the vote, Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester.


ZAHN (voice-over): On March 20th, Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester's military police company was guarding a convoy of 30 civilian trucks, when it was ambushed by insurgents, firing assault rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Hester led her team of humvees through the weapons fire, and took on the attackers; 27 insurgents were killed.

SGT. LEIGH ANN HESTER, SILVER STAR RECIPIENT: It was an adrenaline rush. You didn't have time to think, to be scared or what to think. You just had to get the job done. You had people firing upon you, and as, basically, you were them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... awarded the Silver Star to Sergeant Leigh Hester, United States Army.

ZAHN: For her display of bravery, Sergeant Hester and two of her squad members have been awarded the U.S. Army's Silver Star. She's the first woman to win the decoration since a group of Army nurses after the battle of Anzio in 1944.

Hester claims her gender is nothing special.

HESTER: It's a great honor to have received it, but I'm just another soldier here. We're all equal in the United States Army, men and women. But I know that me being a woman, if I saw another woman receive this award, I would look up to them.

ZAHN: Well, today, America looks up to her. Sergeant Leigh Ann Hester, our person of the day.


ZAHN: And we end on that high note. Have a great weekend, everybody. We'll be back Monday night.



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