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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Teacher Sex Case; Reporters Losing the War?; Nabobs of Negatism?; Abortion Pill Deaths; The Meaning of Dreams

Aired March 21, 2006 - 23:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If I didn't believe we could succeed, I wouldn't be there. I wouldn't put those kids there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Again today, the president vowing victory is possible. He also says the media isn't telling the whole story. But is he right?

A 911 call from an accused killer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just killed a kid. I shot him with a shotgun playing.

OPERATOR: You shot him with a shotgun? Where is he?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's laying in the yard.

ANNOUNCER: A man confesses to shooting a 15-year-old boy to death. A shocking crime. And you won't believe why he says he did it.

From across the U.S. and around the world, this is ANDERSON COOPER 360. Live from the CNN studios in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening. We begin tonight with a case of Debra Lafave, the 25-year-old former Florida teacher, accused of having sex with a 14-year-old boy in her class.

This is the defendant. Her attorney thinks she's too beautiful to go to prison. Literally, he said that. And tonight, she may not even have to. Today, the prosecution dropped its case against her. There will be no trial, no verdict.

The question tonight is why? And if the outcome would have been the same if the accused molester were a male teacher.

CNN's John Zarrella reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 25-year-old Debra Lafave might have gone to prison. But the former Tampa middle school teacher, charged with engaging in various sex acts with a 14-year-old student, and already serving a sentence of house arrest for the crime in one Florida county, walked out of court. The same charges dropped in a second county.

DEBRA LAFAVE, FORMER TEACHER: The past two years have been hard on all parties involved. I pray with all my heart that the young man and his family will be able to move on with their lives. Again, I offer my deepest apology.

ZARRELLA: The young teacher's life went instantly from the obscure to the obscene, with the accusations and charges of sex with a student two years ago.

Lafave says she is undergoing therapy now for bipolar disorder, which she claims led to her actions.

LAFAVE: I believe that I -- my mental illness had a lot to do with my actions. And for someone -- I've gotten -- my passion was teaching. That's taken away from me. I've lost family and I've lost friends. And as you can see, my face has been plastered on every internet address, every news outlet.

ZARRELLA: The court's ruling today does not mean Lafave is free. She had been brought up on the same charges in two Florida counties because she had allegedly engaged in sex acts with the boy in both, at the school and in her house in Tampa; in the back of a car in Marion County.

A plea deal was sculpted for both courts -- three years house arrest, seven years probation. The deal went through in Tampa, but not in Marion County. The judge there rejected it because Lafave would not get prison time.

So, rather than go to trial, where the victim would have to testify, prosecutors dropped the case.

Lafave says what hurts her most is what the sensationalism of the case has done to the victim's life.

LAFAVE: He is a young man and his privacy has been violated. He has walked outside of the door and been approached by media. His picture was published on the internet. That's what I'm talking about.

ZARRELLA: Well before this latest decision, the boy's family was ready to put the headlines behind them for good.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This would follow him forever. And my prayer is that he can leave this behind him.

ZARRELLA: Debra Lafave wants to move on too.

LAFAVE: I am a strong Christian woman and I believe that God has a path for me, and this was just a bump in the road.

ZARRELLA: Her marriage to Owen Lafave disintegrated into divorce after the case against her took shape. Now she's engaged to be married again.

LAFAVE: His support is unconditional and I've known him for 20 years now. And he has proved that he loves me unconditionally and we're just going to take it day by day.

ZARRELLA: If you ask the victim and his family, it's the same for them. Just trying to get on with their lives.

John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, do you think that Debra Lafave was treated differently because she was a woman? We want to know what you think. We're taking your calls tonight. The number is 877-648-3639.

My next guest was married to Debra Lafave. Owen Lafave is her ex-husband. He joins me now from Tampa.

Owen, thanks for being with us.

This has got to be -- well, I can't even imagine what this is like for you watching all of this, watching that press conference. What goes through your mind?

OWEN LAFAVE, DEBRA LAFAVE'S EX-HUSBAND: Well, you know, I really have some mixed feelings about, you know, what happened today. I will say that I am thrilled that I'm not going to have to testify.

You know, this whole thing has already been a distraction in my life. And to have to drive two hours to testify, and have this thing drag on for, you know, a period of weeks, possibly, you know, months.

I was not looking forward to -- what I will say, is that I'm very disappointed by the outcome today. I think some jail time should have been involved. And I think we're just sending the wrong message to our teachers, that, you know, it's OK to have sex with someone that's underage. In fact, while it might be wrong, you know, it's not so bad that you'd have to go to jail.

COOPER: Your ex-wife blamed her actions essentially in large part to mental illness, bipolar disorder. In fact, she actually thanked her lawyer for believing in her illness. I just want to play some of what she said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D. LAFAVE: I would first like to thank my lawyer, John Fitzgibbons, for believing in me and my illness. I appreciate how he fought to show mental illnesses are real. And how they could cause good people to do bad things.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Did you -- I mean, I don't want to get too personal with you, but did you ever see any evidence of mental illness? And even if you did think she was bipolar, do you think that explains what she did?

O. LAFAVE: Well, you know, I'd like to answer that in two parts. First and foremost, you know, I did spend a significant amount of time with her and she did have some emotional issues. Did I think she was bipolar? You know, I'd have to say no. I don't think she's insane either. You know, however, I mean, her actions are -- you know, were bizarre.

But that being said, I mean, I know people who are bipolar and it doesn't necessarily parlay into someone being a sexual predator, a child molester either.

COOPER: Right. I mean, we just had a psychiatrist on who was saying, just, you know, you can be bipolar and maybe you're highly sexualized, it doesn't mean you go after a 14-year-old child.

You stood by her when these allegations first surfaced. What changed your mind?

O. LAFAVE: Well, Anderson, I did stand by her. I believe that it was the right thing to do as a husband. You know, I took vows that I believe in very seriously, and thought it was the right thing to do, to stand by her side. I did in private promise to her that I would be with her through the criminal trial. However, I realized once everything had kind of came out and I got additional details, and you know, I did get a lot of attention from the media. I didn't realize what I'd promised, and you know, reconsidered my decision.

COOPER: It's got to just be, I mean, surreal doesn't even begin to describe it. You hear these allegations, you know, you're her husband. You must think at first like this is just ridiculous. I mean, does it -- looking back on it now, does it make any sense to you why she would do this with a 14-year-old boy?

O. LAFAVE: You know, I still have no idea. I haven't gotten answers from her. She hasn't, you know, explained exactly what was going through her mind at the time. She hasn't apologized to me in private or in public.

COOPER: She's never apologized to you?

O. LAFAVE: No. No. And obviously in the press conference today, I mean, she didn't, you know, mention me at all. And if nothing else, it's something that, you know, I'm going to have to go through the rest of my life. Or at least the near term future, that every time I, you know, I meet someone at a business meeting, they say, you know, Owen Lafave, oh are you related to, you know, the teacher, Debra Lafave. And, you know, so my name will kind of live on in infamy and I imagine, you know -- and I hope not, but one day when I do have children, you know, that you know, they'll be connected to this some way.

COOPER: Well, I mean, just you coming out and talking, frankly your name will live on as a standup guy who just seems like a decent person and did the right thing -- at least I hope that's how people view it. O. LAFAVE: Thanks.

COOPER: Do you think -- well, I mean, I guess she's engaged now. Do you have any advice for this guy?

O. LAFAVE: You know, I'm kind of dumbfounded by the whole thing. You know, as a matter of fact, I mean, I kind of got into the relationship, you know, knowing that she did have some emotional issues; however, I severely underestimated how large, you know, her emotional issues were and what a factor it was in, you know, her behavior and what she would end of doing. But, you know, he has known her for 20 years. That is a factual statement. They grew up together, but he also has the benefit of knowing that she slept with a 14-year-old boy. And that, I would think, has to weigh very heavily on his mind. And I would, you know, advise him to, you know, proceed with caution in that relationship.

COOPER: And I -- so I'm just doing the math her. She's like 24 or 25. They met for 20 years. They've known each other -- they knew them when they were children?

O. LAFAVE: Yes, they literally grew up together.

COOPER: All right. Owen, you're going to stick around and take some of the calls. I appreciate that.

We want to hear from you, our viewers, what your reaction is to the case being dropped against Debra Lafave.

If it was a guy, would the same thing have happened? I want to know what you think. The toll-free number is 877-648-3639.

Plus, another subject. Is the media responsible for turning public opinion against the War in Iraq? Are reporters in Iraq giving the president and the effort in Iraq a bad image? We'll discuss that and debate that when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

D. LAFAVE: My greatest regret would probably be the fact that I put this young man through this. I mean, the media has totally taken it out of proportion. And he's suffering even more so by -- by the media's actions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Blame the media. There it is. I love the blame -- it's like a theme tonight.

That is former Middle School Teacher Debra Lafave, who was charged with having sex with a teenage student. The media wasn't involved in that. She had sex with a 14-year-old boy.

Today prosecutors in one Florida county dropped the charges against her. She walked out of court, apologizing for what she did to the boy. And she called what happened to her, a bump in the road.

Some would say she was given a break because of her gender.

With us again are Debra's ex-husband, Owen Lafave, and Attorney Karen Russell. We've also asked people to call in. We've gotten a lot of calls.

Brandi is on the line from Washington, D.C. Brandi, what's your question?

BRANDI, WASHINGTON, D.C. (on the phone): Hi Anderson. I enjoy watching your show.

COOPER: Thanks.

BRANDI: My question is, we've seen this time before with Mary Kay Letourneau. Now, Debra Lafave, she claims to have bipolar illness. But her actions are those of a sexual aggressor. What is the judicial system's rationale for giving her a slap on the wrists?

COOPER: Karen, what about that?

KAREN RUSSELL, ATTORNEY: Yes, I think again, it was a reluctant witness. And so the -- not being able to prosecute it, it's very difficult to prosecute sexual abuse. And so, feeling like, you know, we have to make some sort of deal because we're not going to be able to win this case.

COOPER: Do you think, though, the law looks at women differently in these kind of -- that -- whether it's judges don't want to see women as sexual predators? Obviously, statistically, they are far fewer than men. But I mean, I was looking at old cases, and there was a teacher, a 45-year-old teacher, two years ago, who had sex with a 16-year-old, and he's in jail for 45 years.

RUSSELL: Yes, I know. I mean, it's like -- and bringing up Mary Kay Letourneau too, it's like the first time up at bat, you know, they -- she got a very similar sentence, probation. And then when she re- offended, then they said, OK, she really is a sexual predator.

So I think there is this sort of implicit assumption that they -- that they're, that somehow they're different. And again, the women talk about the romance of this.

COOPER: Yes.

Owen, what do you think? Do you think there's a double standard?

O. LAFAVE: I think there's definitely a double standard. And I think, you know, I myself, I'm sure like a bunch of other people, since this whole thing happened, is, you know, has looked at the newspapers, has seen the reports and have looked for similar cases. And the cases that I've seen, it involves a male, there's definitely a certain amount of jail time involved, a minimum of three years, and typically far greater than that. And obviously in this circumstance, all she's getting is -- as you called, you know, she's being grounded or, you know, detention after school.

COOPER: Right.

We got another caller. Nate From Georgia.

Nate, what's your comment or question?

NATE, GEORGIA (on the phone): Well, there's definitely a double standard. I mean, beautiful people and attractive people are always treated better than people who are average or less attractive. If your 14-year-old boy had sex with a 22-year-old woman, that's his fantasy. If your 14-year-old daughter had sex with a 22-year-old man, you're looking for that guy. So there's definitely a double standard.

COOPER: That's an interesting point.

RUSSELL: I think in this case, actually her looks sort of worked against her in a way, because I think that made her sort of a larger target.

But I do think, you know, you look at this and one of the first things people do when they're surfing or watching the show, you know, is she attractive? And I think that it sort of...

COOPER: That plays a role?

RUSSELL: Yes.

COOPER: Karen, from Michigan.

Karen, what's your comment or question?

KAREN, MICHIGAN (on the phone): Well, I'm bipolar. Have been for quite a few years and have never heard of anyone being like this that is bipolar. And my comment is, are men going to be allowed to start using this bipolar illness as an excuse for doing harm to children?

COOPER: Yes, it's an interesting question and I'm going to put it to Karen for a moment.

But I just want to ask you a question, though. Do you find it offensive that, I mean, whether or not she is bipolar, you know, if you talk to any psychiatrist, they will say, well that doesn't mean you molest 14-year-old children. As someone who has bipolar, do you find it offensive that she would so publicly use that?

KAREN: Yes. Most definitely. That was my comment that I was going to make also. It just appalls me, because it makes people look at me, if I tell them, yes, I'm bipolar, oh, are you going to rape my child? You know, are you going to pull out a gun and shoot me? They give everyone the wrong idea of illnesses that are just like being diabetic or having a heart problem.

COOPER: Owen, what do you think about that when you hear it? O. LAFAVE: You know, I think she has some legitimate concerns. And I think, I mean, here you're dealing with somebody that blamed it on being bipolar, that blamed it on the media, that's not taking any responsibility for it. And I think there's a very real possibility that people are going to look at this case in two ways.

And number one, be able to blame some of their problems, possibly dealing with a child predator or some other crime, blame it on being bipolar.

And the other issue is that, you know, if you are a sexual offender, you shouldn't get any jail time at all.

COOPER: Kate from Georgia has a call.

KATE, GEORGIA (on the phone): Hi, I was just wondering what was the initial reaction from the school after they found out that she had been having sex with a child?

COOPER: Owen, do you know that? I don't know the answer to that.

O. LAFAVE: You know, they put her on an immediate suspension. And if you're referring to the, you know, governing body of the school system, that was their initial reaction.

As far as, you know, emotional state, I think everybody was shocked. I mean, she was a well respected teacher.

COOPER: Tracey from Idaho has a call -- Tracey.

TRACEY, IDAHO (on the phone): How are you?

COOPER: I'm doing good. How are you?

TRACEY: Yes, my problem is I just think this is totally disgusting. What it sends out to Americans, is if you bat your baby blues and have a little bit of money floating around, that you can basically get away with almost anything in America.

COOPER: Karen, what about it?

RUSSELL: Yes, I mean I think that there will be people who will look at this and say, you know, so plead bipolar, men aggressors. But I also think there's this sort of this myth of insanity.

Like after John Hinckley, people thought if you plead that you were insane, that you sort of, you know, got to walk free. I just think it's not a very successful defense.

COOPER: Do you think looks end up mattering in the court of law?

RUSSELL: Well, one, I think they matter in life in general, so I don't know why they wouldn't matter in the court of law.

COOPER: Linda from Pennsylvania, with a call -- Linda. LINDA, PENNSYLVANIA (on the phone): Hi. I'm from Pennsylvania. And I think she's lying. She's blaming the media, she's blaming the mental disorder. And she's starting a trend for pedophiles to use mental disorder as an excuse. She also set this boy's life off age, murdered his childhood. And what kind of mental disorder can he have later? And are we going to wait until she does it again before we treat her like a man?

COOPER: Yes, it's interesting. I mean, Owen, she raises an interesting point. You know, you talk to young people who have suffered molestation as children. I mean, this is something that lives with them their entire life. You know, she sort of is terming it as a speed bump in her life and a speed bump in this kid's life. We have no idea what the impact may be.

O. LAFAVE: No, we don't. And, you know, for her to minimize it like that, I think is very inappropriate. And actually, you know, boys and girls are different. The reaction in girls is a lot more immediate and the research shows that boys are just as greatly affected but, you know, some of the effects come later in life. I mean, you're dealing with someone that's very impressionable, their mental state. At that point in the time, I mean, they're mentally developing and it's adversely affected.

COOPER: Well, Owen, it's been a pleasure talking to you. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances. I appreciate you sticking around to take people's calls. Owen Lafave, thanks very much.

And Karen Russell, as well, thanks for your perspective.

RUSSELL: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: The president speaks out on Iraq. He did that today. He says the war will be won, but it may take years before all the troops come home. We'll take a look at sometimes contentious press conference today.

Also, blaming the media for reporting only the negative in Iraq. Are reporters out to make the president look bad? We'll take a look at that issue. We'll debate it. You can decide it, when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: When it comes to Iraq, it wasn't hard to find a headline today at a news conference that also saw the president wag his finger and spar with Helen Thomas over why he took the country to war. Mr. Bush said to expect American forces on the ground for another three years or more. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will there come a day when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?

BUSH: That, of course, is an objective. And that will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it won't happen on your watch?

BUSH: You mean a complete withdrawal? That's a timetable. You know, I can only tell you that I will make decisions on force levels based upon what the commanders on the ground say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, as for the commanders on the ground's boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the president said he was doing a fine job.

But even as he did, the other headline today was the brazen and deadly and well-organized insurgent attack that killed at least 18 guards at a jail near the Iraq-Iran border.

Now, pictures like that and stories like this dominate the news out of Iraq. The question is, does the media harp on them? The president says yes. Is he right? We're going to debate that question.

First, CNN's Candy Crowley sets the stage.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Does the coverage of war's violence change the war?

BUSH: I'm not suggesting you shouldn't talk about it. Certainly not being, you know, please don't take that as criticism. But it also a realistic assessment of the enemy's capability to effect a debate and they know that. They're capable of blowing up innocent lives so it ends up on your TV show.

CROWLEY: He sees a symbiotic relationship between violence in Iraq and the coverage of it. A cycle draining support for the war. It is a recurring theme in Bushville, that negative news coverage is making the war worse. Not that direct, but close.

The defense secretary also complains of news that is flat wrong.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DENSE SECRETARY: Contrary, the steady stream of errors all seem to be of a nature to inflame the situation, and to give heart to the terrorists, and to discourage those who hope for success in Iraq.

CROWLEY: Critics dismiss the charges as the excuses of an administration in its darkest days. Still, it is not wholly incorrect. Click the remote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A major insurgent attack has dealt another blow to the struggling security forces.

CROWLEY: From one channel...

ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: ... insurgents armed with rocket grenades and machine guns stormed the police station today.

CROWLEY: ... to another.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ... a prison in Sunni territory, killing 18 policemen and freeing all the prisoners.

CROWLEY: What goes largely unseen, reporters agree, are large areas of the country where few of them go because travel is so risky. Most reporters are either embedded with the military or confined to areas around Baghdad where bad news comes to find you.

ABC Reporter Jake Tapper was covering a story about Iraqi comedy, when their main contact was assassinated.

JAKE TAPPER, ABC REPORTER: And so our cameras were rolling while the director and the producer and the cast and crew found out that the guy that had green lit the show, and the guy that had set up our being there, was killed. So no matter how hard we try to cover the positive, the violence has a way of rearing its head.

CROWLEY: Good stories are hard to cover and hard to see in the midst of what one reporter called, "The Daily Boom."

BUSH: Others look at the violence they see each night on their television screens and they wonder how I can remain so optimistic about the prospects of success in Iraq. They wonder what I see that they don't.

CROWLEY: A picture tells a thousand words. And the president has few pictures of his own.

Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, mattering nabobs of negatisim. That's what Vice President Spiro Agnew called the media back during the Vietnam War. The man who wrote those words for him, William Safire, went on o to a long and fruitful career in of all places, the media.

Somehow, it is a bit harder to see Vice President Dick Cheney, pounding out a column for the Times, but hey, you know what? Stranger things have happened.

Does he have a point now, however? Does the president -- is the media only reporting the bad news in Iraq? We wanted to talk about that.

Joining us in Baghdad, CNN's Nic Robertson, also "TIME Magazine's" Michael Ware, along with Talk Show Host Author and Blogger Hugh Hewitt.

Appreciate all of you being on the program.

Hugh, let me just start off with you. You pretty much agree with the administration that out of Iraq, we're really only hearing the bad news. Why do you think that is, if that's what you think?

HUGH HEWITT, CONSERVATIVE RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Anderson, I think the coverage of the Iraq invasion right from the start, all of the way through to the present day, has been abysmal in the mainstream media.

I think that it goes back even further than that. In April of 2003, Eason Jordan, executive with this network, admitted that CNN had for years covered up atrocities that Saddam had committed because they were afraid for their reporters.

That history of bad coverage in Iraq began in the invasion when it was declared a quagmire on the third day because of the sandstorm and through all the three elections of last year.

A lot of new media that goes to Iraq, whether it's Michael Totten, whether it is Michael Yon, Bill Rosio (ph), whether it's Victor Davis Hanson or Laura Ingraham or especially Robert Kaplan, whose book "Imperial Grunts," is a must reading on this, report back enormous progress being made in the country. The sort of report that we simply never get because good reporters like the two I'm sharing this time with, do have to cover what Candy Crowley called, "The Boom." But just covering "The Boom," does not represent what is going on in that war.

COOPER: Nic Robertson, what do you think?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I do think that we're able to get to some of the good stories, if you will, power plants being built, water plants being refurbished -- covered those last week.

If you look at our coverage, Wednesday, the new parliament being formed, by everybody's assessment, political step forward. Good news by most people's assessment, yes.

We would have been derelict in our duty if we didn't report that there's still a lot of -- a long way to go before they actually form a government. That is a big issue.

The day after Operation Swarmer, touted as being a great shining example of how the new Iraqi army were performing. Covered that big time. I think we do get to the so-called good stories. But also there are the so-called bad stories that are a very important part of what's happening to this country. And we wouldn't be doing our job and we would be failing our audiences if we didn't -- if we didn't bring to them the stories that are relevant to how this is going to play out in the future.

I look back to the summer and fall of 2003 when we were covering stories about an insurgency. The military spokesman here at that time, was saying no, no, there isn't an insurgency. This is bad news. It proved we were proven correct.

COOPER: Michael Ware, you've spent probably more time with insurgents and insurgent groups than anyone I know. What do you think? Do you cover "The Boom" too much?

MICHAEL WARE, "TIME MAGAZINE": Well, I think it's a matter, Anderson, of trying to reflect the reality on the ground. That all of these critics who are saying that we're not telling the good news stories, I'd like to know just how many of them have spent any time here on the ground. Or any of these people who are reporting the good news from within the belly of the U.S. military, how much time have they spent on the Iraqi street? I mean, what do you think ordinary Iraqis are talking about? Do you think they're talking about the unfurling of the flag of democracy or that they're grateful that the Americans have unveiled a new electricity plant, when they have not had electricity in their house for four days. When they have to queue (ph) at a gas station for two days. When the marketplace is blowing up with car bombs. When their cousins are showing up dead in the morning as a result of sectarian death squads through the night. What do you think is the refining experience for an Iraqi family?

COOPER: Hugh Hewitt, what about that?

HEWITT: Well, I asked Michael Yon about that today. I tried to contact Mr. Ware in Baghdad from my radio show. We spent three hours on this. And Michael Yon simply disagrees with Mr. Ware. He's also spent a lot of time in the war zone, often with the military, sometimes without. Michael Totten's done the same, so as Robert Kaplan. So I think there are many, many people with on the ground experience, who simply reject what Mr. Ware is saying.

COOPER: Hugh, can I..

HEWITT: Important thing I think, though...

COOPER: OK.

HEWITT: ... is that it's not what's going on today alone. It's about the context. Because five years ago, you would not have the story of kidnapped people and torture that Eason Jordan referred to.

Five years ago we did not know what the quality of life for the Iraqis was. But it was a dismal, totalitarian regime, from which escape is not possible. And So while "The Boom" matters and while those conditions are certainly desperate in many parts of the country, and Baghdad is a dangerous place, compared to what, Mr. Ware? Compared to Baghdad under Saddam? Are you arguing that Iraqis are worse off today than they were four years ago?

COOPER: Michael Ware, do you want to respond?

WARE: Yes, well, I think if you asked a lot of Iraqis, I think you'd be surprised by what the answer is. A lot of them say, what, this is democracy? The judge (ph) is, you call this liberation? And, OK, let's look at the context, as you suggest. Let's look at the even bigger picture? What is the bigger picture? Who is winning from this war? Who is benefiting right now?

Well, the main winners so far are al Qaeda, which is stronger than it was before the invasion. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a nobody. Now he's the superstar of international Jihad. And Iran, Iran essentially has a proxy government in place, a very, very friendly government. Its sphere of influence has expanded and any U.S. diplomat or seeing a military intelligence commander here, will tell you that. So that's the big picture. Where is that being reported?

COOPER: Nic Robertson, let me ask you, how easy is it for you to move around? I mean, in -- in Baghdad. You know, obviously probably it's easier than outside the country, but how often are you out with the military reporting stories out on patrol with U.S. soldiers?

ROBERTSON: I would just backtrack a little bit, Anderson. If I go back to my days here under Saddam Hussein, when we would sit around waiting days to go out anywhere because we wouldn't be given permission -- it's that -- if I go to right after the war when we could literally go anywhere at any time and talk to anyone and drive all over the country, that was the best time.

Now our situation now, it's very difficult because it is not safe for us to go out and walk the streets. We can't do that. We need to go out with security or essentially disguise ourselves to blend in with the population. We can't drive around the country because that's a dangerous thing to do.

If we want to get to other areas of the country, we need to embed, we need to fly with the military. Often times these days I find that very, very accommodating when we arrive, that they will give us much better access than they were ever given to doing a couple of years ago.

They certainly understand the need of our job to talk to Iraqis, and they facilitate that. But it's not the same. And it doesn't bring the same results as being able to go around the country freely. It is a much, much tougher environment to work in. You are far more constrained than in any other story I've worked on. And that does have an impact on what we produce.

I believe we still perform a very valuable job, having said all of that -- Anderson.

COOPER: Hugh Hewitt, we're almost out of time, but I want to give you the final word. And I just want to ask you, do you believe that it is an intentional misleading by reporters on the ground -- not all reporters, but I guess, mainstream reporters on the ground, that they are anti-Bush and therefore intentionally only looking negative? Or do you believe that some of the negativism is just by the fact that it is more difficult to move around, you can't just go into Iraqi family's house because of the security situation? Do you make a distinction between it?

HEWITT: Anderson, it's complicated because there are some fine reporters working there, and Jill Carroll's in custody tonight. People pray for her, her safe release. And there are people who risk their lives every day to get a story, and I've been told by Michael Yon, for example, Michael Ware is a very, very fine reporter who goes in harm's way to get the story. That having been said, a great deal of American mainstream media is invested in the idea that this is a disaster, that it will bring down Bush, that it was a mistake at the beginning, and disaster for the Middle East. They are pushing that agenda, quite obviously, over and over again, to the exclusion of important stories like the book by Georges Sada, Saddam's general, like the Philippine -- the documents released today, covered in "The Weekly Standard," about the Kuwaiti hostages denied by Iraq having even been there, but now revealed today to have been used as human shields by the matazahadr (ph) sons of Saddam.

There's quite a lot not being covered because to cover it and to cover it extensively, will not only support the Bush administration decision to go to war here, but make it appear as though one of the wisest he has made. And indeed, investment in the failure of this operation is what is bringing increased contempt for the American media across the land except on the noisy left. And the noisy left doesn't win elections.

COOPER: Well, I wish we had time to talk, especially about the Georges Sada books. I got to tell you, I disagree with you on that, having looked into it. I mean, the guy is making claims that he can't verify and that are based on what friends of his have told him. But anyway, we don't have the time to go into it. Another time.

Hugh Hewitt, we'd love to have you on the program again. Thank you very much.

HEWITT: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Michael Ware and Nic Robertson, as well. Stay safe. Thanks guys.

There are more concerns tonight about the so-called abortion pill. Two recent deaths may be linked to the drug. So how safe is it for women to take? We're going to investigate when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Well, tonight there are new safety concerns about the abortion pill known as RU-486. Two more women have died after taking this drug, and that is leading to calls to pull it off the market.

360 MD Sanjay Gupta investigates.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Lalena was an Ivy League junior she first became pregnant.

LALENA, HAS USED RU-486: I was 19 years old. I had had protected sex and the condom broke. And I was really afraid of surgery. I'm still a little bit afraid of surgery. And so I said, I really wanted to have a medication abortion.

GUPTA: A medication abortion, not a surgical abortion. She used what is dubbed by many as the abortion pill, known widely as RU-486. Now it's prescribed by its generic name, mifepristone.

As part of a clinical trial, Lalena was one of the first women in the United States to take the medication. Facing risks associated with any abortion, such as bacterial infection and severe hemorrhaging. It worked for her. That was almost 10 years ago.

LALENA: I'm sure that with the success of cases like mine, that is what moved the FDA to make it legal in the United States.

GUPTA: Since mifepristone was first approved by the FDA in September of 2000, there have been over 560,000 abortions using the drug.

DR. VANESSA CULLINS, PLANNED PARENTHOOD FEDERATION OF AMERICA: It's not surgery. And it is more like a miscarriage process which many women consider more natural. Some women feel more in control with the process. Others like the privacy that occurs with mifepristone medication abortion.

GUPTA: And according to Planned Parenthood, this type of abortion makes up a quarter of all those performed in the United States. But, it was controversial then and now six years after its approval, RU-486 still generates controversy. Many think it shouldn't be used at all.

And others point to its possible dangers, including just last week there were two reported deaths of women who had taken it. While it has not been proven that these deaths were caused by the drug, that brings a total number of women who have died while taking RU-486 to seven.

The first reported case was Holly Patterson, who received it from a clinic in 2003.

MONTY PATTERSON, HOLLY'S FATHER: It's certainly not a safe option. The question has always been in my mind since Holly died, how many women have to die before this drug is removed from the market?

GUPTA: Monty Patterson believes that RU-486 made his daughter more susceptible to a rare bacterial infection.

DR. DONNA HARRISON, AMERICAN ASSOCIATION PRO-LIFE OB-GYNS: There have been papers that have documented a plausible relationship because mifepristone suppresses the immune system, the innate immune system. RU-486 is a dangerous drug. It's not a good method of abortion. And not -- and a woman runs a significant risk of bleeding, getting a severe infection, and that infection could actually lead to her own death.

GUPTA: Plausible, but not proven, says Planned Parenthood, and Danco Laboratories, the drug's manufacturer. They argue that there is no direct cause and effect between RU-486 and these deaths. They say that in any abortion there's a one in 100,000 risk of sepsis, or severe infection.

CULLINS: We don't know the reasons for the deaths. We definitely don't know the reasons for the fatal septic deaths.

GUPTA: Even though many questions remain, the two reported deaths were enough to change the way Planned Parenthood administers medication abortions. Now they say, all medication should be given by mouth.

CULLINS: This precautionary measure was decided upon because the only common factor that we could see in the deaths among women who had received mifepristone medication abortion was the vaginal route of administration.

GUPTA: Now Planned Parenthood's protocol is closer to the FDA's approved guidelines. Previously, Planned Parenthood had used methods it said reduced side effects.

As for 29-year-old Lalena, who is now a schoolteacher, she was glad it was a choice for her.

LALENA: I think it was a great decision on my part. I was 19. I was not ready to be a parent. And what was best for me was to not carry a pregnancy to term.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: So, Sanjay, you mentioned in your piece that Planned Parenthood was using a method different from the FDA's protocol. Why would they have been using a different method at all?

GUPTA: Yes, to be clear, first of all, Anderson, there were different protocols here. The FDA approved three tablets of RU-486 on the first day, then a couple of days later, people were given a totally different medication to induce contractions. Planned Parenthood did the same thing with three pills on the first day, but then a couple days later, gave medications actually vaginally because they believed they had a lower side effect profile, less nausea, less vomiting, things like that.

But now Planned Parenthood and the FDA have the same protocol as of last Friday -- Anderson.

COOPER: And there have been seven reports of women dying while they were taking RU-486. And yet, there's no proof that these women died as a direct result of the drug.

Who's investigating? And how do we know that there aren't more cases?

GUPTA: Yes, it's interesting. There is no proof at all, Anderson, you're right. Critics of RU-486 say in fact, there is gross underreporting. And seven is a very, very low number out of the 560,000 cases so far.

The CDC will be investigating on behalf of the actual infections. Is this an infection causing this problem? And then the FDA also investigating on behalf of the drug itself. Should it continue to be used the way it's being used right now? Is it safe? The CDC will be releasing that report in May -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, we'll have more from Dr. Gupta. He'll be exploring how and why we dream, and in particular, his own dreams, which I'm curious about. Next on 360. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: We've been hearing a lot lately about sleeping pill users doing all kinds of wild things as they snooze. They may paint, they cook food, or they even drive in some case. They're pretty bizarre cases, but every night we all go on some sort of an adventure in our minds.

We're talking, of course, about dreams. Now, they happen each time we sleep, though many of us don't know what they mean.

All this week, 360 MD Sanjay Gupta explores the many aspects of sleep. And tonight he looks at the meaning of dreams by studying his own.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GUPTA (VOICE-OVER): What's in a dream? A memory, a movie, a solution, a picture.

Sigmund Freud interpreted dreams as wish fulfillment. But by the late 1970s, modern science had tossed Freud's theories aside.

ROBERT STICKGOLD, BETH ISRAEL DEACONESS MEDICAL CENTER: The dreaming process is a process of memory integration, where different memories are brought together; and how well they fit or don't fit, is examined by the brain.

GUPTA: Bob Stickgold is a biochemist and a dream researcher at Harvard's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Dreams, he says, are efforts to fit memories together.

While most of the dreams occur in the REM phase of sleep, about 25 percent of our dreams occur in non-REM sleep, just after you drift off. And it's in this, hypnogotic stage of sleep where Stickgold's current study is attempting to determine how the brain forms dreams...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Start the clock.

GUPTA: ... with the help of a video game. I spend three 45- minute sessions on this virtual alpine skier, navigating through winding courses and obstacles.

I think I'm done.

That night, they wire me up with electrodes around my head, including a specially wired bandanna to measure my brain waves during various stages of sleep.

Each time I doze off into the first stages of sleep, a computer wakes me up and asks me to give dream reports. COMPUTER: Please report now.

GUPTA: I was thinking about some tunnels and they were sort of dimly-lit. And I was going through them. And then there were some fields that looked like wheat, and I was sort of flying over the fields.

Eventually I'm allowed to sleep without interruption.

And in the morning we go over the results.

And then there were some fields that looked like wheat, and I was sort of flying over the fields. And they looked like they had been cut into certain patterns. That's about it.

STICKGOLD: So here's one of those places where you see all the problems of dreams, because I can turn to you and say, Sanjay, wheat fields?

GUPTA: So were those wheat fields I was flying over really ski slopes? Who's to say? But Stickgold says 85 percent of the study subjects report at least once that they were skiing.

STICKGOLD: The whole point of this research is to help us figure out what the brain uses as its rules for constructing dreams.

GUPTA: Research that is still up for interpretation.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: I love that he was dreaming about fields of wheat. Do you remember that Woody Allen movie, I think it was "Love and Death?" He was talking about fields of wheat. White wheat. Anyway, maybe it was just me. No one around here, seems to have seen it.

Our special series on sleep continues tomorrow. Sanjay takes a look at the top ten dreams around the world, fields of wheat. See if any of yours make the list. He'll also talk with psychologists who study these dreams. Find out what they could mean if maybe one of your dreams is on the list. That's tomorrow, right here on 360.

And a look at what's "On the Radar." That's coming up next.

First, Erica Hill has some of the business headlines -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Sorry, I was dreaming of wheat, Anderson. Fell asleep for a minute there.

All right, we're going to start off with some mixed news on inflation for you. Stay with me on this one. Wholesale prices fell last month by 1.4 percent. It's their biggest drop in three years. But, if you take out food and energy prices which tend to fluctuate more than other categories, the remaining core rate of inflation was actually up. Go figure. Nike, meantime, has a little spring in its step. The shoe maker posting profits today. They were up 19 percent for the quarter. Sales were up 14 percent in the U.S.; 41 percent in Latin America.

And finally, you might call it the latest in severe weather gear. Storm rooms. The tents, kind of, like an extra room for your house. They're certified by FEMA to withstand tornadoes and category five hurricanes. The walls are reinforced with Kevlar, the stuff they use in bullet-proof vests. Now, they're not cheap -- about $10,000. But, of course, compare that with the cost of losing a home, and it's starting to look pretty good. They could be coming to a home improvement store as early as this fall. Quite a concept, huh?

COOPER: I'm still thinking about the fields of wheat.

HILL: Well, you could put a storm room in a field of wheat, if you'd like.

COOPER: I'm just trying to remember the Woody Allen movie. My friend Luke just e-mailed me, saying that he remembered it. But no one else here seems to.

HILL: I'm sorry. I don't...

COOPER: I know, they only know Al Pacino movies.

HILL: But hey, it's a good thing that Luke does.

COOPER: Oh come on. It's true, you guys only know Al Pacino movies.

All right, Erica, thanks very much.

So, you go to jail if you don't pay taxes. Coming up, companies getting away without paying billions of dollars to the government. It's on our radar tonight, and you're weighing in. We'll read some of your thoughts from our blog. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "On the Radar" tonight, our report on tens of billions of dollars in federal fines that companies won't pay, and the government agencies are letting them get away with not paying.

We tried to find someone on the blog to support the government on this or the companies here. It just ain't happening tonight.

Says Paige in Austin, Texas, tongue in cheek, "Big businesses pay -- not to the American public, but to the politicians. Lobbying is expensive, so why should they pay twice? This is no big mystery."

Gaylon in Dickinson, North Dakota, writes, "You should publish the names and contact information for the top offenders. That way the public can either contact them or quit buying their products."

Or -- that's actually not a bad idea -- this suggestion from Joe in Maiden, Mississippi, "This country has thousands of collection agencies that collect from businesses and consumers. Let them go after these dead beats on a contingency basis."

Another good idea there.

And this one from Pablo in Bloomington, Illinois, "The Federal government was sure to send me a very threatening letter regarding $28.71 in taxes I owed, regardless if I had the money or not. Set up a payment plan. Our country needs the $35 billion"

And we need your e-mail, so keep them coming.

More of 360 in a moment. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: The movie was "Love and Death," by the way.

"LARRY KING" is next. His guest, Radio Talk Show Host Don Imus, who gives his take on the headlines.

We'll see you tomorrow from New Orleans.

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