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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
New Orleans Police Shooting Death Raises Controversy; Tsunami Survivors Rebuild; Interview With Petra Nemcova
Aired December 26, 2005 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone.
As if the police in New Orleans don't have enough controversy, desertions, allegations of brutality, and now this.
ANNOUNCER: Police shoot and kill a man in New Orleans. In dramatic eyewitness video, he waves a knife at officers. But some residents say the cops went too far. Tonight, what does it mean for a police force already struggling with a serious image problem?
One year ago today, a wave of destruction roars across the Indian Ocean. 360 goes live to Indonesia, as they mourn the past and look toward the future -- and one on one with tsunami survivor supermodel Petra Nemcova.
And a wet and white Christmas for the East Coast gives way to winter storm warnings in the West -- tonight, what you need to know before heading home this holiday week.
ANNOUNCER: This is ANDERSON COOPER 360.
Live from the CNN studios in New York, tonight, filling in for Anderson, Heidi Collins.
COLLINS: Those stories in just a moment.
But, first, here's what's happening at this moment.
Baghdad: Over the past 24 hours, renewed violence has taken 20 Iraqis lives and left 50 injured. The fatalities include six Iraqi police, two soldiers, a regional council member and an art lecturer. A roadside bomb and a booby trapped motorcycle account for much of the bloodshed.
In Washington, a source familiar with the Bush administration's secret domestic spying program has confirmed to CNN, U.S. telephone and Internet companies have been asked to collect and analyze data. The White House is refusing to comment on intelligence operations tied to the war on terror.
Houston, Texas: at this hour, officials still not sure what caused a fatal apartment fire that has left three children dead. The victims were ages 2, 6 and 7. Two other children were rescued.
Oregon: tonight, coastal residents still talking about the Christmas Eve shark attack and the surfer who fought back. Brian Anderson got more than 70 stitches in his right leg. We will have more on his amazing story coming up.
We begin, though, with a developing story in New Orleans, another caught-on-tape problem for the cops. The last time around, no one died. This time, somebody did.
CNN's Sean Callebs is in New Orleans and joins us now with the tape, the questions, and some early answers from the police -- Sean.
SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Heidi.
You can see all that remains at the scene right now, a little bit of crime scene tape right here, this area right here. A matter of hours ago, a 38-year-old suspect lost his life after a confrontation with New Orleans police. Now, the authorities say this man forced their hand with aggressive actions while wielding a knife.
But people in this area of the Lower Garden District tell a much different story. They say the man well-known here and appeared to be mentally unstable. He was often seen in restaurants talking to himself. And they said he had never violent before.
Well, it all began right across the street at a Walgreens, when the suspect apparently got into an altercation with an employee there, punched someone, broke the individuals' glasses, came outside, told a police officer what had happened. Now, at that point, officers began following the suspect down Saint Charles.
Now, I want to pick up this dramatic videotape that was shot by someone who happened to live in the condo complex right here and heard this unfold on the street below. You can see, a number of officers have surrounded this individual.
Police said he was carrying a knife. Several times, the officers said, get down on the ground. Drop the knife.
They even hit him with pepper spray. But police say this pepper spray did no good. He simply pulled a handkerchief out, wiped it off, and continued his menacing approach. Now, this was also backed up by a prominent defense attorney, who says he saw this unfold as well, and police did basically everything the could to try and get him to drop the knife and end this peacefully.
Well, it didn't end peacefully. It ended right here with a number of gunshots, at least 10 bullet casings on the street right here. So, the big question for people in this area, was that too much? Was it too much violence?
Here's what New Orleans police have to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVE ADAMS, NEW ORLEANS POLICE SPOKESMAN: You have several officers out here. And police officers right in front of him. Life is in imminent danger. He has to back out of the way to keep from being stabbed in his chest. No, I don't think it's too much force.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CALLEBS: Now, the reason the officer said it wasn't too much force, allegedly, the suspect lunged at one of the officers with the knife. And that is when the number of officers opened fire, killing the 38-year-old suspect.
Now, Heidi, think about it. It comes at a time when this New Orleans Police Department has been under scrutiny. There is the well publicized videotaped beating that took place on Bourbon Street that resulted in the dismissal of a couple of officers, also allegations of police looting, as well as police stealing cars from a dealership during the height of the hurricane that punished this area.
And we know this, that shooting is obviously under investigation. The word from the police, it appears the police did nothing improper. And those involved in the shooting have been temporarily reassigned. But police say they did nothing wrong; their hands were forced -- Heidi.
COLLINS: Yes. And it's tough. As you look at that video, the gentleman is not obeying the commands that the police are giving to him, at least as far as we can tell.
Anything, Sean, that we know about this individual?
CALLEBS: Well, we know that he was pretty well known in this area.
If you go down just a couple blocks, there's a Burger King. And they say this guy used to always go in there. He would be talking to himself, mumbling to himself. They say this was certainly someone who had a history of mental issues. So, they wonder why this had to come to a violent conclusion. Wasn't there something that authorities could have done to disarm him without using lethal force?
COLLINS: All right, Sean Callebs, live from New Orleans tonight -- Sean, thanks.
On now to another part of the world and universal human instinct to confront brutality with tenderness. The brutality in this case began one year ago with a wave of water, then, terror, then heartache and loss.
Today, on the shores of the Indian Ocean, millions of people confronted it all with tenderness and dignity and grace.
Reporting tonight from Indonesia, CNN's Atika Shubert.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 8:15 a.m., a moment of silence and the sounding of a siren, the country's new tsunami warning system. Aceh lost more than 160,000 people, by far, the hardest hit in this disaster. In Thailand, too, thousands gathered to mourn their lost families and friends, wearing white, according to Thai custom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a good...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my gosh.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... 15, 20 feet tall, easy.
SHUBERT: The tsunami struck the holiday destinations of Phuket and Khao Lak at 10:00 a.m., less than two hours after devastating Aceh, a wall of water traveling the speed of a jetliner. Of the more than 5,000 killed in Thailand, nearly half were foreign tourists.
INGRID HASTIE, MOURNER: Very sad. Very sad. And, hopefully, this time we say goodbye will be the last time, and it will go on from here and be a nice life from now on. And maybe my mother will be restful now, I think, with a year gone by. It was a very hard year, last year.
SHUBERT: The tsunami hit the island nation of Sri Lanka an hour later, wiping out entire villages and destroying the Queen of the Sea, a train carrying more than 1,000 aboard. A bell was sounded at the exact moment the waves hit, marking two minutes of silence.
The Indian Ocean tsunami was one of the largest natural disasters in history. But the final death toll may never be known. There are still tens of thousands missing, their bodies presumed to be washed out to sea.
SHUBERT: Heidi, just a few days ago, the death toll here in Aceh alone was 130,000, but, as of yesterday, that death toll has jumped, because there were more than 30,000 still missing. And, yesterday, they announced that those still missing have been pronounced dead -- so, certainly, expected news, but difficult, nonetheless, for those families -- Heidi.
COLLINS: Atika Shubert, thank you for that.
In Washington now, the Bush administration tries to weather yet another potential scandal, federal eavesdropping without a warrant and, tonight, new accusations. Were telephone and Internet companies enlisted to help?
In the Sierra Mountains and other parts of the West, it looks like everyone who's been singing let it snow got their wish. But the massive storm has to go somewhere. Is it headed your way?
And surfing off the coast of Oregon in December? Well, it's not for the faint of heart. That's for sure. But neither is finding a great white shark in that wave. Hear how one man fought back and survived -- when 360 continues.
COLLINS: When it comes to the war on terror, politics, and your right to privacy, there's a new development to the story of the moment. There now appears to be more to it than just a few wiretaps on a few phones. Big Brother had help from big business.
From Crawford, Texas, tonight, here's White House correspondent Dana Bash.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Bush arrived in Texas for a quiet end to a tumultuous year, but hopes for a 2006 political rebound are already in peril, with new revelations that his secret post-9/11 directive was broader in scope than he acknowledged.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I authorized the interception of international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations.
BASH: In admitting the highly classified program exists, the president did not let on that the National Security Agency is not just eavesdropping on conversations. It's getting help from U.S. telephone and Internet companies to collect and analyze a large amount of information, a source familiar with the program confirms to CNN.
"The New York Times" which first reported the story, says U.S. telecommunications companies granted the NSA access to monitor e-mail and phone traffic in and out of the United States without a warrant. It is what intelligence and law enforcement experts call data-mining, described to CNN by former officials familiar with the program as trying to uncover terror plots by watching who talked to whom, when and from where.
GEORGE BAURIES, FORMER FBI AGENT: It is not infringing or looking at individual words of a conversation or listening to any one individual, but the pattern of information flow, which is key to determining a -- an ongoing threat.
BASH: CNN was unable to confirm with any telecommunications companies whether they're cooperating with the government, and the White House refuses to confirm "The New York Times" report.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who did not know about the classified surveillance program while in the Bush Cabinet, says it is justified and should continue. However, he said controversy could have been avoided had the president gone through the courts.
COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: It didn't seem to me, anyway, that it would have been that hard to go get the warrants.
(END VIDEO CLIP) BASH: Civil liberties advocates call the program a major violation of privacy and the law.
LISA GRAVES, SENIOR COUNSEL FOR LEGISLATIVE STRATEGY, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION: Nothing the Congress has passed since September 11 has authorized this president to engage in this type of surveillance of the American people, people on this soil, for any reason.
BASH (on camera): The White House insists anything the president approved was carefully reviewed and within the bounds of his authority. But Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy tells CNN he can't find anyone who thinks the so-called data-mining aspect of the secret surveillance program is legal. And he promises to aggressively ask the White House about it during bipartisan hearings early next year.
Dana Bash, CNN, Crawford, Texas.
COLLINS: In Iraq today, any sign that the election calm would last went up in a hail of gunfire.
And even if calm is restored, results of the voting, which now point to a big win for Shiite religious parties, may jack up the tension yet again.
With us tonight in Baghdad, CNN's Aneesh Raman -- Aneesh.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Heidi, good evening.
As you say, a wave of attacks across the country today left at least 20 people killed, 50 other wounded. In the capital alone, if just the course of about two hours, Heidi, four car bombs detonating, one of them, the U.S. military says, was a suicide car bomb. The majority of attacks in the Shia Karada neighborhood targeting Iraqi police.
Later in the day, in the capital, a motorcycle was used as a bomb, targeting a Shia funeral procession. Also today, north of the capital, in the volatile Diyala Province, near the city of Baquba, five Iraqi police officers gunned down -- they were members of a quick reaction force -- in that same area, the provincial governor surviving an assassination attempt, an explosion that killed one of his guards.
Also, in the past few days, three U.S. soldiers have been killed in and around the capital, two on Christmas Day, another today, as a U.S. military convoy came under attack by a rocket-propelled grenade -- now, all of this as political tensions are brewing here, ahead of the government that is to be formed next year.
Two critical voices in the new Iraq, Heidi, that of the Sunni politicians and the secularists led by Ayad Allawi are threatening further protests today and perhaps a boycott of the new government, that because they allege voter fraud took place during the December 15 elections. The controversy was sparked after Iraq's Electoral Commission announced preliminary results that showed the Shia religious lists getting the vast majority of seats. That commission has said they have gotten over 1,500 complaints of voter fraud. They're looking into them.
Final results could come as early as next week -- Heidi.
COLLINS: All right. We will be waiting for the final results. Aneesh Raman, thanks.
Susan Hendricks from Headline News joining us now with some of the other stories we are following tonight.
SUSAN HENDRICKS, HEADLINE NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Heidi. Thanks so much.
We begin in Jersey City, New Jersey, where the search continues for the second of two police officers who vanished into the Hackensack River. Last night, in dense fog, their emergency truck plunged off an open drawbridge. One officer's body has been found. The other is presumed dead. The police chief says the two men had delivered flares to the bridge operator because the safety gate wasn't working.
The men then got in their truck, not knowing the bridge was raised to allow a tug boat to pass. The chief says the men likely died on impact with the water.
Great Falls, Virginia -- a Christmas Day slaughter there. Police say Nathan Cheatham shot four people to death, before killing himself. His mother was killed at one house. All the other victims were attacked at another home. Police say they may never know the motive for the shootings, but say Cheatham had a history of mental problems.
About 40 miles southeast of Mexico City, a volcano explosion -- a huge plume of smoke could be seen for miles. And some glowing rocks were spotted on a snow-packed mountain. But experts say no towns are in danger.
At Cleveland Browns Stadium over the weekend, a fan slammed -- not a smart play. Police say a drunk fan ran on to the field during the Cleveland-Pittsburgh game, escaping one tackle until right there. A Pittsburgh linebacker rushed in from the sideline to take care of the situation. The Browns took a hit, too, losing 41-0.
It seems that's happening more and more.
COLLINS: Yes. I don't even think he used both hands to get that guy down.
HENDRICKS: No, not a...
COLLINS: Just one big arm.
HENDRICKS: Not a good thing to do.
COLLINS: All right.
COLLINS: Susan Hendricks, thank you.
COLLINS: So, how did you spend your holiday weekend? Well, surfer Brian Anderson spent his face to face with a great white shark. He lost blood, but he did not lose his nerve. Don't miss the story -- coming up next.
Also ahead, she lived, but her fiance died. Supermodel Petra Nemcova remembers her encounter with the tsunami and the hand of fate one year ago today.
This is 360.
COLLINS: For the next few days, the weather out West promises to be -- well, challenging. While some areas got a white Christmas, for others, the week after Christmas looks to be mostly wet and very, very windy.
In Modesto, California, rains may have already caused a mudslide that caused a multi-car accident that left one person dead.
And there's more rain on the way -- a lot more.
(AUDIO GAP) for you as you try to make it home this holiday week, let's go in and check in with CNN meteorologist and severe weather expert Chad Myers.
CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Hi, Heidi.
The good news is, this is a warm system. So, if you get to the passes around Truckee, you get to the passes over the Cascades, it's going to be rain.
But above 8,000 feet, there's literally a potential, with this connection to the tropics out in the Pacific, for four to eight feet of snow above 8,000 feet. And that's great, because you can drive to the resort. You can go skiing. You get tons of snow. You have to be careful, of course, with the avalanches at eight feet.
But, anyway, you can at least get there. And then the snow levels kind of come up and down, maybe one to three inches of snow around Truckee possible, but that literally will be it.
The forecast, though, this is the next 48 hours. And I want you to pay attention to these dark purple areas. Everywhere that you see a dark purple area is a foot of snow or more. Now, talking the 14ers. We are talking Telluride, right up into Summit County, back all the way across, even to the Tetons, the Wasatch, and then right through the Sierra and up into the Cascades.
Get above that snow threshold, and it's really going to be coming down -- some light snow in the East, but nothing in the purple range. We will see that rain change over to snow as you get higher in the elevations.
We are looking for flooding in the North Bay area, I mean, from San Francisco up to Eureka, looking at the Russian River, could see six inches of rain by Friday, and then these higher elevations, as the air is pushed up the mountains. That's where the snow will be, right where it should be.
MYERS: Back to you, Heidi.
COLLINS: Sometimes, I wish if I should have -- wonder if I should have moved from Colorado. I don't know.
COLLINS: All right, Chad Myers, thank you.
MYERS: You're welcome.
COLLINS: For a West Coast surfer, it's a safety tip that made all the difference. If you come face to face with a great white shark, stay cool. The man's ability to remember that advice helped him survive his close encounter.
CNN's Kimberly Osias has a Christmas Eve story unlike any other.
BRIAN ANDERSON, SURVIVED SHARK ATTACK: I was just praying that I would live through this day. That's all. That's what I was thinking.
KIMBERLY OSIAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thinking is what saved Brian Anderson's life. He was surfing with friends off the northern Oregon coast on Christmas Eve, when he came face to face with a great white shark.
ANDERSON: I was waiting for a set wave, and George was on the inside of me, and the shark just grabbed my leg. I felt a sharp pain on my foot. And it just happened in some split-seconds. And -- and, right after that, then I saw the shark just right up in my face. And I just gave it a good punch to get it to let go. And it did. And it let go after I hit it.
OSIAS: It's not clear if Anderson hit the shark in the nose or the eye. For the record, the eyes or gills are the best targets. It's where sharks are most sensitive. The stunned surfer started making his way to the shore. ANDERSON: I stayed on my board. And my foot was totally numb, so, I couldn't tell how bad the damage was to my foot. And it was just real amazing, because the waves just kind of let me in real gently onto the beach.
OSIAS: That's where a surfing buddy came to Anderson's aid.
GEORGE DESOTO, SURFER: I saw a little pool of blood underneath his body. He was actually pretty quick-witted and he started taking off his leash and he was instructing me to tie it around his leg to cut off the -- the blood.
OSIAS: An ambulance rushed Anderson to the hospital, where it took more than 70 stitches to close the wound on his foot. It was the first shark attack in the area in decades. But Anderson says he's not too surprised by his encounter with the great white.
ANDERSON: I would hear the fishermen see them all the time out in their fishing boats. So, yes, they're out there. They're just -- they're -- it's a -- it's a risk we take.
OSIAS: Kimberly Osias, CNN, Washington.
COLLINS: Next on 360, the story of a supermodel with whom woman on Earth would happily have changed places, until one year ago today.
And to help with your New Year's resolutions, new hope for those who can't fight cravings, in the form of something straight out of "Star Wars."
Stick around for that.
COLLINS: If anyone ever seemed destined for a charmed life, it would be the supermodel Petra Nemcova, astonishingly beautiful, the toast of many continents, featured on countless magazine covers, quite successful enough to take her Christmas vacation last year in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, which is where Petra Nemcova was, in Thailand, with her fiancee, when the sea rose up and changed everything.
Her heartbreaking story first, followed directly by Anderson Cooper's interview with Petra Nemcova one year later.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): It began as a vacation in paradise. Petra Nemcova, whose face has graced the covers of some of the world's most famous magazines and her boyfriend, fashion photographer, Simon Atlee, were together in Thailand. It was her fifth visit, his first. They were packing to leave the resort town of Khao Lak on the day after Christmas, when the unimaginable happened. PETRA NEMCOVA, TSUNAMI SURVIVOR: I catch from my eye, like people running and I looked out of the window and the people were running away screaming trying to jump into the pool.
COOPER: Seconds later, a wall of water crashed through their room, carrying the couple out the window and away from each other.
NEMCOVA: He was just screaming, Petra, Petra, what's happening? And I didn't know what was happening.
COOPER: Simon vanished under the rapidly rising waters. Petra clung for her life to whatever she could find, a roof rushing by and finally the branch of a tree.
Despite a broken pelvis, severe internal injuries, and a body that was bruised and battered, she hung on to the tree for eight hours, hearing only the screams of other victims.
NEMCOVA: One of the worst things -- just you hear people and children screaming. And after half-an-hour, you don't hear them anymore and you know that they didn't have the strength to hold on.
COOPER: Hospitalized for six weeks, with countless hours of physical therapy, Petra slowly recovered from her injuries and came to terms with her loss.
NEMCOVA: Still, when I was in Czech, at the first few days, I thought he -- he is maybe somewhere in hospital, unconscious, which was already three weeks after. And, then, I slowly started to realize that he's -- he's not.
COOPER: She vowed never to forget the now-battered country she had come to love, the people who pulled her from near certain death, and the youngest victims of this unspeakable tragedy.
COOPER: We're joined now by the woman whose mind-boggling story we've just been telling you, supermodel and tsunami survivor Petra Nemcova. She writes about the death of her boyfriend, and her life in a new book, "Love Always, Petra."
Appreciate you being with us. Thanks so much.
NEMCOVA: Thank you.
COOPER: This -- this really has changed your life.
PETRA NEMCOVA, SUPERMODEL: Of course it did. And not just my life; it changed life for millions of people. And unfortunately, there were more than 200,000 people which they lost their lives.
And it's just being a very hard year for a lot of people, not just because of tsunami, but Katrina, Rita, earthquake in Pakistan, all these events happening.
And I hear people asking, "Why?" And I guess it's just a reminder for us that we have to appreciate every moment and live fully, but also one beautiful thing what it did, it brought people together. And I think people, they started to realize that maybe today it is -- it is somebody in Asia who needs help, but maybe tomorrow it's us.
COOPER: And there are so many people still in Thailand, in Sri Lanka, in Banda Aceh, who need help. I mean, there are people still living in -- in Banda Aceh, people are still living in tents.
NEMCOVA: Yes. I think people sometimes -- we forget that it doesn't take one year to recover. It will take them maybe five years, maybe 10 years. And there's a lot of help needed.
I was back in Thailand in October. And it was -- you could see the reconstruction in Thailand is very, like, progressing country, but Aceh is really bad. There's still so much help needed.
COOPER: How has your recovery been? I mean, take us back to that day. You were there on vacation with your boyfriend. You had been to Thailand a number of times before. Did you have any sense of the wave was coming?
NEMCOVA: No. There was nothing, no warning. It was just screams and people running away. And in a split of seconds, wave coming and causing lots of suffering everywhere.
COOPER: Do you think about that moment, that time? Or do you try not to think about it?
NEMCOVA: Well, I kind of -- I guess the way as I healed is by reliving everything and not trying to put it aside. I think that would cause more deeper...
COOPER: Because it never goes away.
NEMCOVA: No, no. I guess I just try to focus and do good things. And believe or not, I believe that each event has pluses and minuses, and there's a side that brought so much love around and so much unconditional love, all the people helping selflessly. And they are going to try to save people, which they don't know, strangers.
COOPER: That is -- I mean, we heard all those stories. And we saw it in Katrina, as well, people reaching out to strangers, literally reaching out, grabbing them, and saving their lives.
COOPER: So you've returned to modeling, although now you call it your second job.
(LAUGHTER) NEMCOVA: Yes.
COOPER: Really, charity being your first job. Was it difficult to return to modeling?
NEMCOVA: It was quite difficult, because I was just saying to myself, "What's the purpose of this? What's the meaning of this?" And then I found the meaning, and it is -- it just helps what I want to do and what I want to still help out to children in any possible way. And as I said, the help is still needed and...
COOPER: I want to talk about your organizations. You have Happy Hearts.
COOPER: What is that?
NEMCOVA: Happy Hearts Fund, it's a fund which I established just after returning from Thailand the first time, because it was just very difficult and very emotional for me to come back there and seeing so much suffering and children just living without hope, and sleeping on a bare -- on floors, and just not knowing. Four months later, they didn't know what happened to their parents. Nobody took the time to explain to them, so we established Happy Hearts Fund for that.
COOPER: I want to put it on the screen just where people can call and find out more information about Happy Hearts. This is give2asia.org?
NEMCOVA: Yes. Well, we established Happy Hearts Fund and Give2Asia, which is a nonprofit organization. And they've been such an incredible help. Without them, people wouldn't be able to build schools and dormitories and provide psychological and emotional programs. So I'm very thankful for them. They've been amazing.
COOPER: You're also at...
COOPER: .... www.Portero.com.
NEMCOVA: Yes, you can do something very meaningful. So check it out.
COOPER: Well, it's great what you're doing. And it's amazing work you're doing. And appreciate you joining us. Thank you.
NEMCOVA: Oh, thank you so much.
COOPER: Glad it's been a good year for you.
NEMCOVA: Thank you.
COOPER: All right.
COLLINS: And just two months ago, another natural disaster in Asia, the Pakistani earthquake. Tens of thousands dead, tens of thousands without homes or enough food. But with all of that, is it already fading from the world's memory? Dr. Sanjay Gupta went to find out. You won't want to miss this.
And the loss of the man who reined as spiritual guide for people across the globe. The death of John Paul II, on our special edition of CNN.com's "Top Stories of 2005." That and more, ahead on 260.
COLLINS: Can we already have forgotten a calamity in which perhaps 90,000 people perished and hundreds of thousands were left homeless? The people of northwestern Pakistan have been asking: What has happened to the world's attention in the two months since the earth gave way under them?
And they've also been asking why CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta had not come back to see what their lives were like now with winter coming. And so, Dr. Gupta did go back.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We had heard the numbers over and over, more than 80,000 dead and more dying every day. But it was numbers and just numbers. And it wasn't until I walked right into the middle of a funeral procession that it started to really sink in. It happened just moments after we arrived at the small village in Marathinolia (ph), in northeastern Pakistan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much.
GUPTA: The men of the village here, a small village in the foothills of the Himalayas, have all gathered for a scene that has replayed itself too many times over the past couple of months. Just behind me, the Latha-clothed (ph) body of a person who has recently died as a result of the earthquake here in Pakistan. A prayer will take place and then the body will be buried.
The communities here have always been tight-knit for sure. Nearly every man taking part in this ceremony. They face Mecca, bring their hands together and pray. But the strongest earthquake to strike Pakistan in more than 70 years has bound them closer than ever before. We learned quickly, and perhaps it was obvious, even if they lived, no one here escaped this earthquake.
(on-screen): I want to give you a little bit of a sense what happened here. If you take a look at this mountain, you can see an entire chunk of the mountain actually just fell straight down. What you're looking at that, all that rubble underneath there, beneath all that, was an entire village. As you might imagine, and as was the case here, nobody in this village survived.
(Voice-over): The stories came quickly, the villagers anxious to share. Some told us what happened to that man in the funeral procession, what happened here.
(on-screen): The house that you're looking at was actually a house that was completely devastated by the earthquake. A man and two women lived in there, one his wife, one his child. The two women both died. The man was able to survive for a couple of months, but also passed away today.
(voice-over): These are the most dramatic images I have seen. And while you can never measure just how bad a natural disaster is, I've seen far too many this year, including the tsunami in South Asia and Katrina in New Orleans.
(on-screen): Malik Noranson (ph) has lived right here. His entire family now lives with him. On the morning of October 8th, you could actually see what happened, all the devastation. A crack appeared. The entire earth started moving. And parts of his home just completely washed away, wiped away by the earthquake, fallen down the hill.
This is what happened on that day. This is what happened as a result of this earthquake. Take a look in here.
(voice-over): Malik Noranson (ph) will try to brave the winter here in his own home, reluctant to ever leave his property. You see, there are no land deeds in many parts of Pakistan. He is worried he will never get his land back.
But many others didn't have that as an option. Their homes beyond ruined, they all have a new, and they hope temporary, way of life.
(on-screen): One of the things I was so struck by was just how massive this place is. Those are the Himalayan mountains all behind me. And we are in the foothills of those mountains.
This is one of the many villages of tents that sprung up immediately after the earthquake. There's about 6,000 people living here in about a thousand tents. That's six people per tent. That's actually considered pretty good.
I want to point out a couple of things, though, that are concerning. One is, these tents are not winterized. They will not protect against the rain. They will not protect against the immense cold, and it is colder here now, much more colder at night, below freezing for sure. The ground is hard. It's becoming increasingly difficult to dig, to even pound these stakes into the ground. Still, the U.N. informs these people they'll be living here for about six months.
At this altitude even, I'm becoming a little bit short of breath. Still, the people so concerned they are about aftershocks and more debris coming down from the mountains, they want to live as high as possible, so people are continuing to move up the hill.
(voice-over): Gulfaraz Khan (ph) used to live way up in the mountains. A herder of livestock, his home now gone. He looks older and has experienced far more than his 22 years of life would have you believe.
He has put together two tents for his family. He tells me this one sleeps six and has absolutely no heat. It is quite cold in there. Also, this is all the food for his entire family, a half a pot of rice, a quarter bag of flour, and a small handful of sprouts.
Even though he's optimistic, I couldn't help but wonder: Which would be more difficult for him to overcome, the cold or the starvation?
(on-screen): They live a little prayer to the dirt. And they throw the dirt onto the grave site.
(voice-over): These are all the stories, tales of so much death and the struggle to survive. At nearly 3,000 feet above sea level and 30 degree temperatures, as winter comes, roaring so far away from help.
COLLINS: Sanjay, what stood out to you the most, though, on this trip as you went back to Pakistan?
GUPTA: Yes, Heidi, I mean, there were so many images, so many things that stuck out. I mean, the rubble, just everywhere. We're talking about some very remote areas of Pakistan, for sure.
But there was just rubble everywhere. And there's tents outside the homes that even some of the homes that are still standing. You've got to remember one thing: There have been over 2,000 aftershocks since the earthquake, and that has just left everyone feeling both psychologically and physically unsettled.
The emotional toll is just dramatic. Also, just how hard it was to get to some of these places. People talked about the landslides and how remote some of these areas were. You just couldn't get to some of these places because of the landslides. We had to take helicopters to a lot of places still. And this is a couple of months now, after the earthquake, Heidi.
COLLINS: What do you have coming up for us tomorrow?
GUPTA: Well, you know, the question we want answered is, how do you take care of these people? Who's going to take care of them? How's the relief organization, how's it all going to work?
Actually, there's a MASH unit very close to some of the areas you just saw. It is the last MASH unit in existence in the U.S. Army. We visited. We saw how it's working, in terms of taking care of all these people, Heidi.
COLLINS: Wow. Well, thank god for them, that's for sure.
GUPTA: Thank you.
COLLINS: Sanjay Gupta, thanks. Still to come tonight, a year we will never forget. Amazing people, amazing stories. But which ones were the most popular of the year on CNN.com? We'll show you.
And new hope for the addicted, in the form of a high-tech beam of light. Yes, lasers may come to the rescue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUCIA NEWMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Few can forget the face of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez when federal agents snatched him out of his Miami relatives' home in a predawn raid. The most politicized custody battle of the century made the little Cuban rafter boy, whose mother drowned at sea, a poster child on both sides of the Florida straits.
After a nine-month tug of war, Elian was returned to the custody of his father and sent back to communist Cuba. Today, back in his hometown of Cardenas, Elian goes to school and lives in a bigger house with his father, two half-brothers, and his stepmother, whom he now calls Mom.
But Elian isn't like other boys. President Fidel Castro goes to his birthday party at school.
And you often see him in the front row next to the communist leader at special functions, all telltale signs that, no matter how much he may want to be like everyone else, Elian Gonzalez remains a political symbol, even today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: When it comes to New York's resolutions, this is the big week, the final few days for you to focus on what you're going to try to change come January 1st. The American Heart Association says at least four out of five smokers would like to quit. So if giving up smoking is on your list, then a laser, in fact, may help.
COLLINS (voice-over): Joeann Singer has been smoking a pack a day for 43 years.
JOEANN SINGER, SMOKER FOR 43 YEARS: I started smoking when I was around 16.
COLLINS (on-screen): And now you're...
SINGER: And now I'm 59. It's a long time to smoke.
COLLINS (voice-over): She's tried to quit four or five times.
SINGER: When I've tried to use the patch or to be hypnotized, that didn't work.
COLLINS: Going cold turkey didn't work, either.
SINGER: I started gaining the weight. And then you don't feel good about yourself. And then you crave the cigarette again. And it's like, "What am I doing to myself?"
COLLINS: There are 46 million adult smokers in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society. Joeann is one of the nearly 13 million people who try to quit each year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to ask you several questions just to figure out so I know what your addiction level is.
COLLINS: It's a tough habit to kick, though. Only 3 to 5 percent actually succeed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And let it out.
COLLINS: Joeann hopes a new treatment will put an end to her smoking once and for all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're not going to feel anything other than relaxation. It's completely painless, a low-level laser, so...
COLLINS: It's called laser therapy. Anne Penman, a former smoker and pub owner for Scotland with no medical training, says the treatment worked for her, so she marketed it...
ANNE PENMAN, FOUNDER, ANNE PENMAN CENTER: I'm so happy to see you here today.
COLLINS: ... opening her first clinic in Glasgow in 1992. In the past two years, she has franchised 34 clinics in the U.S., like this one in New Jersey.
PENMAN: It's a cold, noninvasive laser. And we use it on 27 energy points on the body. We use it on points on the ears, hands, nose, and wrists. These are specifically chosen energy points to help stimulate the endorphin level.
COLLINS: Endorphins relax the human nervous system. The body produces them naturally, especially during stress, pain or exercise. Penman says that can curb a smoker's nicotine cravings when they are the strongest, just days after quitting.
The therapy costs $350 for three sessions performed by "technicians," not doctors. Penman says she has tracked the success rate of the more than 8,000 people in the U.S. and 25,000 in Europe who have tried the therapy.
PENMAN: In America, we have followed the success of our clients and have a documented success rate of 64-percent. Here in the U.K., we have followed our clients right up until six months and have a 52- percent success rate, dropping down to 46 percent at the end of the first year. COLLINS: The numbers sound good. But the truth is, there have been no clinical trials on Penman's laser therapy. Organizations like the American Cancer Society say there are other methods to help people stop smoking with proven track records. Five nicotine replacement therapies and one anti-depressant are FDA approved and each have a 10 to 20 percent documented success rate.
The therapy has demonstrated promise, but remains unproven, says the cancer society's top expert in smoking.
TOM J. GLYNN, AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY: My concern with going directly to laser therapy is that you may squander an opportunity to use a method that we do have data on. I would only say that the laser therapy is something that's an absolute last resort after a smoker has made good, solid attempts to quit smoking with the proven methods.
COLLINS: Penman says a clinical trial of laser therapy is set to begin early next year. But Joeann is already a believer.
SINGER: I'm looking forward to never having another cigarette again. I really feel hopeful that this is going to be the aid that I needed to get me to quit smoking for good.
COLLINS: For Joeann Singer, since getting the laser therapy on December 6th, and going through a second session two days later, she's experienced classic withdrawal symptoms, like insomnia and nicotine cravings, and she gained six pounds. But she hasn't had a cigarette in about 20 days, and she says the laser therapy has definitely helped.
A couple of stories on the radar tonight. In the news tomorrow, first, Jose Padilla, the alleged dirty bomber. Lawyers expected to file briefs tomorrow at the Supreme Court petitioning the court to hear his case. Mr. Padilla, you'll recall, was first detained as an enemy combatant, then recently transferred to the criminal courts. The case would challenge a president's wartime detention powers.
And just how much holiday shopping was done? Well, was it good for business? Reuters is reporting holiday spending jumped nearly 9 percent. The markets reopen tomorrow and, well, some reports could have an impact on your portfolio, so be watching for that. And headlines tomorrow on the radar tonight.
And on the radar for tonight, we, of course, want to thank our international viewers for watching.
And coming up next, the stories that stayed with us, a CNN.com special. The top stories of 2005, from Hurricane Katrina to Michael Jackson and more. That's coming up shortly. A break, though, first. You're watching 360.
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