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Tropical Storm Alberto Heads For Florida Coast; What Happened in Haditha?; FDA Has Yet to Come up With Definitive Rules on Sunscreen

Aired June 12, 2006 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, everyone. Glad to have you with us tonight,
As we speak, a very big and very unwelcome surprise is heading straight for the Florida coast tonight. Tropical Storm Alberto formed so quickly and is bearing down on the coast so quickly, officials are worried about people getting out of the way in time. We will show you some of the mandatory evacuations taking place at this hour.

Alberto is already causing heavy rain all across the Florida Peninsula. Tornadoes are possible. Conditions will only get worse all night long.

Right now, the center of the storm is a bit more than 100 miles offshore, picking up speed. It is expected to make landfall around 8:00 a.m. tomorrow. Hurricane warnings up for the areas you see in red. The storm is heading northeast. Right this minute, officials are especially worried about the area to the north of Cedar Key.

And that's where our meteorologist Rob Marciano is waiting for the storm to hit. He joins us now.

It really seems like this one caught everybody by surprise, at least the speed at which it is moving in, Rob.

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, certainly the strength that it is at right now.

At this time, yesterday, the official forecast from the National Hurricane Center was not to make it more than 45- or 50-mile-an-hour sustained winds. And here we are with 70-mile-an-hour winds, on the cusp of seeing at -- at hurricane strength.

The word from Max Mayfield at this hour is that he doesn't expect it to strengthen much more before it makes landfall, although there is still a chance of it becoming a hurricane. But, either way you slice it, it is a stronger storm than anticipated, and it is early in the season.

We are at Cedar Key. And, as you mentioned, north of here is where we expect a little bit more in the way of damage. Winds will be a little bit stronger, but, most importantly, with this system, it looks like the storm surge is going to be the issue.

Behind me, you can see -- you can see the water. It doesn't look that bad, because, right now, we're at low tide. But it is a good 10 to 15 (AUDIO GAP) be at low tide. That's because the wind is (AUDIO GAP) looks like the -- the brunt of this storm, at least for Cedar Key, will arrive right around high tide.

And we are near a full moon. So, we can expect seas to be -- or the tides to be about six to nine feet above normal here, possibly more than that up around the Apalachee Bay area.

How are they preparing? Well, the governor has announced six counties, at least in the low-lying area, evacuations for those areas, and -- and they have set up at least 17 shelters. So, that -- that was a decision that was made today because the strength of the storm increased a little bit further than they -- than they thought.

Ironically, it was this time last year, right around this time, when Tropical Storm Arlene moved into the Panhandle of Florida. The average day for the first named storm is July 11. So, once again, this year, for the second year in a row, we're a month ahead of schedule, Paula. And that certainly kind of makes you wonder what the rest of this season is going to be like -- back to you.

ZAHN: Yes. We have got a lot of people frightened tonight.

Rob Marciano, stay near something you can hold on to out there.


ZAHN: As I reported a little bit earlier, Florida officials are especially worried tonight, because the storm showed up so suddenly and is now heading for the coast even faster than they thought it would.

Now, for most of the day, emergency officials assumed the storm wouldn't make landfall until late tomorrow afternoon or early evening. But, just a few hours ago, that forecast changed. And the worst of the storm will be hitting tomorrow morning.

And, as Susan Candiotti reports, the storm may already have turned deadly.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It could be the first fatality of the 2006 hurricane season.

Near Tampa, a private plane tried to land in the rain and wind, hit a house. The pilot died. His co-pilot survived. A woman who was inside the home told a Tampa newspaper she couldn't do a thing, except run for her life.

With Alberto still a day away from landfall, some people in its projected path are filling sandbags. Evacuations order, some mandatory, others voluntary, went out during the afternoon.

GOV. JEB BUSH (R), FLORIDA: If you were planning to evacuate, you need to evacuate tonight, not tomorrow. Tonight is the night to do this. Secure your house, if you're not in an evacuation area, and -- and shelter in place.

CRAIG FUGATE, FLORIDA EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR: Anybody that thought that this storm was not going to impact until maybe tomorrow afternoon, and you could wait until morning to see what it was doing, you don't have that option. You have to evacuate tonight, if you want to get to safety.

CANDIOTTI: There is at least one piece of good news about the approaching storm. Florida desperately needs the rain. For weeks, parts of the state have literally been burning up, with one brushfire after another. A steady soaking rain will be welcome, but:

BUSH: We would prefer it to be delivered more gently than this.

CANDIOTTI: Remembering what happened last year in New Orleans, some experts have raised concerns about the dike surrounding South Florida's Lake Okeechobee. A serious breach could cause widespread flooding.

But Governor Jeb Bush is confident it will hold.

BUSH: There's no immediate threat to -- to the lake or to -- for any possible breaching.

CANDIOTTI: The state of Florida's emergency operations center is already up and running. Tonight, officials say, it is time for people to put their own private emergency plans into effect.


CANDIOTTI: If they don't plan to leave, they should be sure they have at least three days worth of water, food, batteries and cash on hand, because the storm is coming and coming fast.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, Clearwater, Florida.


ZAHN: And, right now, we are going to go straight back to Cedar Key, Florida, where we saw Rob a little bit earlier on, to hear from the person in charge of emergency preparedness there, City Commissioner Pat O'Neal.

Good to -- of you to join us, as this storm bears down on you.

What are you worried about tonight?

PAT O'NEAL, CEDAR KEY, FLORIDA, COMMISSIONER: I'm simply worrying about the -- the surge, Paula, just whether or not we are going to get any water over the streets and water under people's houses.

ZAHN: Are those people heeding the warnings? We know a mandatory evacuation plan is in place for folks living in the area you're talking about that might get nailed. O'NEAL: I think some people are. Some people aren't. This has always been a very independent town. And people kind of march to their own drum.

But I think, since last year, people have -- are paying a lot more attention to what we're trying to do and trying to save their property.

ZAHN: You talk about potentially trying to save property. How many homes are you talking about that could get hit by this flooding?

O'NEAL: Say that again, please.

ZAHN: How many people do you think will get affected by this flooding?

O'NEAL: That I couldn't tell you right now.

Right now, probably no one here in Cedar Key, because all we have had -- the wind has finally picked up in the last 30 minutes. But all we have had is some rain. We have no -- no high water. We probably won't have any until later on tonight through in the morning.

ZAHN: Of course, the storm surge, as you said, is the biggest concern. So, that's a big question mark tonight.

We know, a lot of people living in the community are reliant on the fishing industry. If this ends up really packing a punch, how might that affect all of them?

O'NEAL: It is going to affect some of the -- some of the -- actually, what we do, we have clam farms here. And it is going to affect some of the clam leases by simply disturbing clams on the bottom.

However, I think, coming at high tide or higher water, they are not going to be affected as much as they would had it come at low water. Of course, now, coming at high water means us, the people in town, will have more of an effect on them and less on the clams, instead of vice versa.

ZAHN: We wish you luck, Pat O'Neal. I know it's going to be a long night ahead, as you wait for this thing to hit you tomorrow morning.

Again, thanks for your time tonight.

O'NEAL: Thank you. Thank you.

ZAHN: And we are going to have much more on Tropical Storm Alberto throughout this hour. And, remember, CNN is your hurricane headquarters, not just tonight and tomorrow, but all through this hurricane season.

And we move on now to our countdown of the top 10 most popular stories on -- 18 million of you logging on today. At number 10, a key Supreme Court ruling today involving the death penalty. In an unanimous decision, the justices said death row inmates could make last-minute appeals based on claims that the chemicals used for lethal injections are too painful.

Number nine -- Mary Winkler is now officially indicted in the murder of her husband, who was the pastor of a small church in Selmer, Tennessee. Matthew Winkler was shot and killed on March 22. Authorities have said that she has confessed to that killing.

Numbers eight and seven are next, plus some very provocative new questions about the politics, the military and Marines accused of atrocities in the heat of battle.


ZAHN (voice-over): Haditha and Hamandiyah -- dramatic new details about what really happened in those two Iraqi towns. And why are some Marines confined to the brig, while others remain free?

And the "Eye Opener" -- sunscreen. Do they really protect you from deadly skin cancer? Our special investigation turns up some surprising results, everything you need to know to protect yourself and your family this summer -- all of that and more just ahead.



ZAHN: Coming up, the very latest on Tropical Storm Alberto. Check him out now. It could very well turn into a hurricane -- certainly, hurricane warnings out there tonight, bearing right now down on Florida. We are going to talk to Max Mayfield at the National Hurricane Center in just a bit, just to see how strong this storm may be by the time the sun comes up tomorrow.

Meanwhile, here's what's happening at this moment.

President Bush says the fighting is tough in Iraq, but the stakes are worth it. He spent the day huddled at Camp David with his national security team, plotting a future course in Iraq. He also says the successor to al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi will be on the list of those brought to justice.

And attorneys for detainees held indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay say they are not surprised at the first three suicides this weekend at the prison camp. They also criticized officials who call the suicides a P.R. stunt and an act of warfare.

And the FBI is reporting the biggest increase in violent crime in 15 years, with murders up nearly 5 percent last year, mainly in the Midwest and in mid-sized cities. The FBI says it is not sure why.

Now, for the first time, we're beginning to hear the other side of the story of the alleged massacre by U.S. Marines in the Iraqi village of Haditha last November. The questions are whether Marines went on a rampage, killing 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians, after one Marine was killed by a roadside bomb, and whether the Marines then tried to cover it up.

Well, tonight, the attorney for one of the Marines says, not only was there no crime. He says there was no cover-up either, at least not by his client.

The latest information now from senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): According to his attorney, Sergeant Frank Wuterich led a four-man team that killed Iraqi civilians in two houses in Haditha, under the belief that armed insurgents were hiding among them, although Wuterich says he did not fire the shots.

But he does admit being one of the Marines who shot five men who got out of a car and ran, thinking they were insurgents driving a potential car bomb. The Iraqis turned out to be unarmed.

Still, attorney Neal Puckett insists, his client followed the standard rules of engagement, and that, when it was clear at day's end, the dead were most civilians, including women and children, he accurately reported those facts to his superiors.

NEAL PUCKETT, ATTORNEY FOR SERGEANT FRANK WUTERICH: don't know if someone else above his level in the chain of command did. But I know that Sergeant Wuterich reported everything, either to his immediate commander who was there on scene or over the radio back to the company. And there was no attempt on his part to -- to -- to misrepresent anything or to cover anything up.

MCINTYRE: So, where did the information come from that went into a press release issued the next day that said, 15 Iraqi civilians were killed from the blast of a roadside bomb? The release said, after gunmen attacked the convoy with small-arms fire, that Marines and Iraqi army soldiers returned fire, killing eight insurgents.

PUCKETT: Sergeant Wuterich got on the radio and said -- used -- specifically remembers using the words collateral damage, houses cleared. He was asked by whoever was on the other end of the radio, how many KIA, and he said approximately 12 to 15. So, that's where the 15 number comes from.

But I can tell you that, at the end of the day, Sergeant Wuterich and his squad were still there, and they assisted in the -- in the removal of the bodies to be taken to the hospital. So, there was an accurate count at the end of that day. Twenty-four civilians were killed.

MCINTYRE: Puckett says his client reported the Iraqis died from gunshots or, in some, cases shrapnel from fragmentation grenades that were thrown into the houses just before the Marines broke in, firing weapons. And Puckett insists Wuterich he never claimed the deaths were the result of either a roadside bomb or a firefight.


MCINTYRE: And, Paula, tonight, the parents of Staff Sergeant Frank Wuterich are speaking out. David and Rosemarie told reporters in Connecticut that there is no way their son could have done this. And they urge people to wait until you -- they can hear the Marines' side of the story before coming to any judgment -- Paula.

ZAHN: And we are going to attempt to do that right now. Thank you, Jamie McIntyre.

We are going to get more from Staff Sergeant Wuterich's attorney, who you just met a minute ago, Neal Puckett.

Good of you to join us, sir.

So, how do you explain to us that 24 civilians were killed, including a mother and child in bed, an elderly woman, and a man in a wheelchair, who was reportedly shot nine times?

PUCKETT: Well, it is an awful thing to think about, Paula, and -- and certainly an awful thing to reflect upon for these Marines. And they are saddened by the fact that innocent civilians were killed.

But, in -- in wartime, sometimes, the innocent die along with the -- the combatants. And in pursuing combatants and in fighting the kind of war on terror that's being fought these days, it is not a police operation. And it's not a shoot-or-no-shoot situation

In clearing houses where hostile fire is coming from, Marines have to protect themselves first. And if the insurgents choose to shoot from houses occupied by innocent civilians, then, really, the responsibility lies with them.

ZAHN: The rules of engagement, of course, are based on circumstances.

But what they say is that a positive I.D. of a target must be made before shooting. How do you explain why neighbors say the Marines came into the house shooting, and, in addition to that, they ignored the pleas of civilians to spare their lives?

PUCKETT: Well, first of all, I -- I don't have any way of judging the accuracy of any of those reports or the -- or the validity or the veracity of those reports. So, I -- I don't really have a reaction to that.

All I know is what my client told me happened on that day. And -- and -- and he used the rules of engagement and also used the criteria for positive identification, in the way he understood them. And, to the extent that differs from someone looking back on the incident in retrospect, well, we will just have to sort that out.

ZAHN: Do you expect your client to be charged?

PUCKETT: That's a good question, Paula.

I'm -- I'm hopeful that, as has been done in the past with the Marine shooting in the mosque in Fallujah, and also with the Lieutenant Pantano case, that senior Marine commanders, after a thorough NCIS investigation, will -- will see the facts.

The true facts are that the Marines comported themselves with dignity and with respect for human life. And, unfortunately, civilians were killed during the course of that operation.


ZAHN: Let me come back to your earlier explanation of what the Marines have told you came down. They claim there was small-arms fire after that initial IED explosion went off. Some reports say that simply isn't true.

PUCKETT: Well, that -- that's -- it is -- it's, you know, depending on who you get information from.

There were actually coordinated attacks throughout Haditha that day. And there were firefights occurring throughout the city. And it was larger than just that one area, so, lots of insurgent rifle fire. In fact, there were confirmed insurgents killed that day throughout Haditha. So, this is a much larger story than has been reported initially.

ZAHN: You have said that the Marines who were involved in this operation are very saddened by it. What else do you think they want the American public to know, as several investigations continue at this hour?

PUCKETT: Well, I can't speak for all the Marines, but I can speak for Staff Sergeant Wuterich, who -- who wants the American public to know that these Marines acted with dignity and with respect for human life, and only did what their duty required them to do. And they regret the fact that innocent civilians died in the -- in the process.

But that's part of the fog of war. Sometimes, good people get mixed up with bad people. And -- and, sometimes, things are inevitable. And that's what happened on that day.

ZAHN: Neal Puckett, thank you so much.

And, of course, we will have more on the investigations as they wrap up.

Investigators are looking into more than one incident of alleged misconduct by U.S. Marine forces in Iraq. Next: Could the story some Iraqis are telling possibly be true? Did some Marines take away a man who could barely walk and kill him?

Plus: Where is it headed now? Alberto, we're talking about. How strong will it be? We are going to take you down to the National Hurricane Center for an update on Tropical Storm Alberto, as hurricane warnings are up all along the Florida coast tonight.

First, number eight on our countdown -- we reported it earlier. A small plane crashed near a house near Tampa today. The pilot was killed, his co-pilot seriously injured. One woman was inside the home, but escaped without any injuries.

Number seven -- authorities in Michigan are still investigating the case of a 16-year-old girl who secretly flew to the Mideast to be with a man she met on Katherine Lester returned home late Friday. The FBI says she was trying to see a 25-year-old man who lives on the West Bank -- numbers six and five are next.


ZAHN: Still ahead, we are going to take you to the National Hurricane Center for the very latest on Tropical Storm Alberto, that's threatening to become a hurricane, now bearing down, or at least headed toward Florida's northern Gulf Coast.

We change our focus now, as the investigation continues into what happened at Haditha, where 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed last November. There is some new information out tonight about another alleged atrocity by American forces.

Investigators are trying to find out whether a group of Marines in Hamandiyah killed an Iraqi man in cold blood back in April. Tonight, we are hearing from members of that man's family, who have some very disturbing allegations about why they say he was killed.

John Vause has the details.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As this evidence receipt shows, U.S. investigators returned to Hamandiyah last week to exhume the body of man allegedly killed in cold blood by U.S. Marines, one body bag containing one body of deceased Hashim Ibrahim Awad, taken from his grave site on June 6.

(on camera): The family of Hashim Ibrahim Awad allege that U.S. forces pressured him to act an as informant, to gather information on who was planning roadside bombs and carrying out other attacks. The family says he repeatedly refused, because he considered it to be without honor. And, because he didn't agree, the family says he was murdered and evidence was staged to make him look like a dead insurgent.

(voice-over): Awad was 54 years old and, according to his family, had trouble walking because of wounds he suffered during the Iraq-Iran War.

In the early hours of April 26, a Wednesday, witnesses say six to eight troops on foot patrol came to their small village of Hamandiyah on the western outskirts of Baghdad and went directly to Awad's house, according to his brother, Sadoon.

SADOON IBRAHIM AWAD, BROTHER OF HASHIM IBRAHIM AWAD (through translator): They didn't search his house. They took him immediately. He was seized by two soldiers, each on one of his sides, because he was disabled.

He goes on to say, his brother was taken towards the main street.

This rough map drawn by Awad's brother indicates how he says other members of the patrol then went to the home of this man, Farhan Ahmed Hussein.

FARHAN AHMED HUSSEIN, NEIGHBOR (through translator): They usually search the house and they ask us if we have a weapon. The U.S. forces allow us to have one rifle. But, that night, they even took my only rifle and my shovel outside the house.

Hussein goes on to say he later heard gunshots.

Awad's brother believes he was taken to the main road, just a few hundred feet from his home, and shot.

"We heard gunshots," he says. "It was about 100 gunshots, maybe less."

The death report issued by local police says Awad's brother was handed to the family the next day, along within an assault rifle and shovel. Seven Marines and one Navy corpsman are being held at Camp Pendleton in California in pretrial confinement. And investigators have evidence the men may have committed premeditated murder, according to a military source close to the investigation.

Awad's family allege, U.S. forces tried to buy their silence, first with an offer of $2,000, which then increased to $10,000 over this past weekend.

"But I refused," says Awad's brother. "I told them, I don't need money. I told them, the truth is that you took my brother. You tortured him, and you killed him, although he was disabled and old."

An American military court will likely decide if those accusations are true.

John Vause, CNN, Baghdad.


ZAHN: Of course, we all need to keep in mind no one has been charged in this case yet. And the Pentagon is still investigating.

It is the first big storm of the season. And, tonight, we're tracking Tropical Storm Alberto -- rain and wind already lashing Florida. We are going to go back there live still ahead and hear the forecast from the National Hurricane Center.

Also, if you count on sunscreen to keep you from getting skin cancer, you are going to want to know what we learned about what really happens when you slap it on. You might be surprised. I know I was, because I use it all the time.

Right now, number six on our countdown -- police in Reno, Nevada, are searching for a sniper who today shot and wounded a judge. Authorities say it happened while the judge was standing near a courthouse window.

Number five -- in Costa Rica, two teenagers from Kansas have drowned. Authorities say they were swept away by strong currents while swimming in the Pacific Ocean. The teenagers were on a high school trip. Another student and a teacher are still missing -- number four when we come back.


ZAHN: The big question tonight. Will it turn into a hurricane? In this half-hour, we'll get a live update from Florida where they are getting ready tonight for Alberto. Now a tropical storm could turn into a hurricane overnight.

Also, can you really trust what you read on a bottle of sunscreen? Important information about the stuff you count on to prevent skin cancer.

And then a little bit later on, Larry King welcomes 9/11 widows. What do they have to say about Ann Coulter's new book where she describes the widows as enjoying their husband's deaths.

Meanwhile, here's what's happening at this moment. A new CNN poll on illegal immigration just released shows a majority of Americans are against a fence along the entire border with Mexico. But a majority do support tighter patrols, deportation of illegal immigrants and fines or jail time for people who hire them.

Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger is out of surgery tonight and stable after what could have been a deadly motorcycle accident. Police say the Super Bowl quarterback slammed into a car in downtown Pittsburgh. He was not wearing a helmet, which is considered optional in Pennsylvania.

And here's our nightly look at gas prices all over the country, our crude awakenings. The states with today's highest prices are in red. The lowest in green. The average today for unleaded regular, $2.90 per gallon. And gas prices continue to level off as you can see.

And of course, the big developing story, the increasing fury of Tropical Storm Alberto, on the brink of becoming the first hurricane of the season. Some 20,000 people have been ordered to evacuate and they have to get out of the way tonight, a lot earlier than they were originally told. CNN is your hurricane headquarters and Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center is standing by with the very latest. Always good to see you, Max. How does the storm look at this hour? MAX MAYFIELD, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well Paula, the good news here, we're not seeing anything that makes us think it is strengthening yet. It really intensified early this morning and now it's kind of leveled off here. We've got another Air Force plane that just got out there so we need to give the plane some time to fly around, see what it finds there, but at least so far, no additional strengthening.

ZAHN: So even without the additional strengthening though, how dangerous is this storm?

MAYFIELD: Yes, and that's just so important. Nothing magical happens between 70 miles per hour and 75. You know, when you become a hurricane there. This is still strong enough to cause some significant damage here.

The circulation center is out here on the edge of these bands. When you get that flow moving up like that it piles up the water into the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. When that flow comes on shore, that's going to push some of that storm surge right on the coastline. Obviously we're going to have the rainfall, some tornadoes, most likely isolated tornadoes. And a little bit of wind. We don't want to overdo this, but we sure don't want to underdo it either.

ZAHN: Well, for a very good reason. Now if Alberto turns into a hurricane, it would make it I think the first hurricane of the season to hit this early on in some 40 years. How significant would that be and could that help us predict the strength of the rest of the storms to come?

MAYFIELD: We don't really think so. That would be hurricane back in 1966 to have one this early. And we look very carefully at the first named storm of the season. There's really no, believe it or not, there's no good correlation between when the season actually gets that first-named storm and how active it is the rest of the season. But having said all that, we're still, NOAA's forecasting a very active season and the peak of the season doesn't even start until the middle of August. So we've got a long way to go here.

ZAHN: Well Max Mayfield, we will be going through that long season ahead with you. Always good to have your insights, thank you.

MAYFIELD: Thank you very much.

ZAHN: Now the storm is heading for Cedar Key, Florida. We're going to go back to where meteorologist Rob Marciano is. We saw him getting whipped around by the wind. Boy, it looks like the wind has even picked up since then. So last time we spoke, you weren't too convinced people were actually heeding the warnings to get out. Are they taking this any more seriously now?

MARCIANO: Yes, you know what, ever since it wrapped up to 70- mile-an-hour winds a few hours ago, people are taking this storm seriously for sure. At one point it was just going to be a good news rain maker, but now with winds of 70 miles-an-hour and certainly with us getting hit here right along the beach, it certainly feels like a strong tropical storm, if not a hurricane.

If I -- I want to echo one thing that Max said, Paula, which is, you know, 70, 75 miles-an-hour, that doesn't make a whole lot of difference. When we were in Florida when Hurricane Katrina hit in Florida as a Category 1 storm, it did a tremendous amount of damage and nine people lost their lives. So this is certainly now a serious storm, more serious than it was earlier in the day.

ZAHN: Now describe to us what kind of preparations are in place.

MARCIANO: Well, there's been evacuations in six counties, 17 shelters have been set up. For the most part though the past couple weeks officials in Florida have been saying, hey listen, you have to fend for yourself or at least prepare for yourself. They had tax-free shopping for hurricane supplies.

So in theory at least, residents of Florida should be prepared to be able to live in their homes for two or three days without electricity and without water. With this type of storm we shouldn't see that widespread power and water outages, but certainly 50, 60 and 70-mile-an-hour winds are going to take down some tree limbs, going to take down some power lines and there will be some damage to structures as well. So we'll have to see how this pans out over the next 24 hours. But right now Paula, it certainly is whipping up here. This is the worst and most consistent wind and rain that we've seen all day.

ZAHN: All right -- now I'm not even the one in the wind and I can't say your name. Rob Marciano, thanks much. Please say tethered to something out there. We are tracking Alberto throughout the night. And we're going to take you back to Florida in just a little bit.

But also ahead, when the sun finally does shine, you should be able to count on sunscreen to stop the rays that cause skin cancer. But are those lotions really doing the trick? Wait until you see what we learn in a very pain-staking investigation.

Right now No. 4 on our countdown. Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and their children have left the African country of Namibia. Government officials announce the family's departure this weekend, but refuse to say when they left or where they went. The couple's baby daughter Shiloh was born in Namibia on May 27th. No. 3, straight ahead.


ZAHN: If you are planning to get out in the sun this summer and work on your tan, remember this, 100,000 people a year get skin cancer and one American dies from it every 67 minutes. We all know that your best defense is sunscreen, right? You probably buy a lot of it during the summer and count on it to protect you and your children. Our next report may shock you. Take a look at what consumer correspondent Greg Hunter has learned about when sunscreen will protect you and when it won't. The report is tonight's "Eye Opener."


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Apply it once and forget about it.

HUNTER: Do you trust what you read on the labels?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It says waterproof and I believe it.

HUNTER: Whether you spray it, dab it or slather it on, many people consider sunscreen their best defense against skin cancer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sunscreen that's in sink with your life.

HUNTER: But questions about sunscreen claims have some people wondering if it really protects as well as the labels might imply.

SAMUEL RUDMAN, PLAINTIFF'S ATTORNEY: If you sell a product and say it does something that it doesn't do, that to me is the equivalent of selling snake oil.

HUNTER: Sam Rudman is one of several attorneys challenging the billion dollar sun protection industry with a controversial lawsuit that's generating headlines and heat. It accuses some sunscreen makers of being fraudulent, negligent and intentionally deceptive in the marketing and labeling of some of the sunscreens sold by Coppertone, Hawaiian Tropic, Banana Boat, Bull Frog and Neutrogena. All five defendants categorically deny the claims.

RUDMAN: This lawsuit is for the American public who in our view have been fleeced by sunscreen manufacturers by buying a product that's been knowingly mislabeled.

HUNTER: At issue, the reliability of common claims such as "waterproof," "all day," "UVA/UVB protection" and even the term "sunblock," which the lawsuit says are exaggerated, misleading and may give consumers a false sense of security.

(on camera): Is sun block a good term?

RUDMAN: That is a false statement.

HUNTER: Waterproof. True or false?

RUDMAN: False.

HUNTER: All day protection?

RUDMAN: False.

The consumer should understand what the product does and what the product doesn't do.

HUNTER: They can read the label.

RUDMAN: They can't read the label because the label is a lie. HUNTER (voice-over): We asked dermatologist James Spencer, a spokesman for the American Academy of Dermatology, what he thinks about sunscreen labels.

DR. JAMES SPENCER, DERMATOLOGIC SURGEON: There is no all day or waterproof product. It doesn't exist. You are mistaken if you think you can put this on your child at 8:00 in the morning and tell him to go to the beach all day. By 10:00 11:00, he's not protected anymore.

HUNTER: There's something else you may not realize.

(on camera): When you are in the sun there are two types of rays beating down on you. Ultraviolet A and B or UVA and UVB, but listen up. What your bottle of sunscreen doesn't tell you is that you are not protected equally from both.

This number, the SPF number or sun protection factor, primarily tells you how much protection you are getting from UVB rays.

(voice-over): The ultraviolet B rays affect the outer layers of your skin. They are the ones that make you burn and tell you it is time to go inside. But UVA rays penetrate to deeper layers of the skin and are increasing thought to be a major cause of early wrinkles and melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. It the ability of the sunscreen to filter out these UVA rays which the lawsuit, and some dermatologists, question.

Look at the labels for these sunscreens. They predominantly advertise UVA, UVB sunblock or UVA, UVB protection. What they don't tell you is how much protection they are giving you of each.

SPENCER: UVB blockers and screens are really very good. They will block up to 97, 98 percent of the UVB rays. We're pretty good there. UVA we fall down. We don't have that level of protection.

HUNTER (on camera): Just because you use sunscreen and your skin doesn't burn doesn't mean you're not being exposed to dangerous UVA rays that can cause cancer.

RUDMAN: We're not saying it's a product you shouldn't use. We're simply saying it doesn't do everything that they tell you it does.

HUNTER (voice-over): The Food and Drug Administration regulates sunscreen and in 1999 proposed a set of labelling rules for sunscreen makers that banned SPF numbers higher than 30. They also rejected claims like all day or waterproof, saying they are unsupported and potentially misleading.

So why, you might wander, is the FDA still allowing manufacturers to make these claims on sunscreen labels? It is because the FDA indefinitely delayed its own rules. They say to give science more time to work on guidelines for UVA testing and labeling. The end result means compliance with their 1999 labeling guidelines is voluntary.

HUNTER (on camera): Has the FDA done a good job or a bad job?

SPENCER: I think they have struggled with this. Surprising it has taken so long.

HUNTER (voice-over): We asked officials here at the Food and Drug Administration headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, why it has taken so long, seven years now, to come up with a set of clear labelling rules that sunscreen makers have to follow. No one at the FDA wanted to answer that question on camera.

(voice-over): Instead FDA officials e-mailed us, saying they are currently working on rule making for sunscreen drug products to address, among other things, UVA testing and labeling issues and are working to establish new rules "very soon."

RUDMAN: They dropped the ball. No one is going on camera to admit the ball is bouncing around. If the government had done their job, we wouldn't have a case.

DR. PERRY ROBINS, SKIN CANCER FOUNDATION: I hope the thing is thrown out of court. I think it will do more damage than help.

HUNTER: Dr. Perry Robins is a leading dermatologist and president of the Skin Cancer Foundation. It is a nonprofit group partially funded by the sunscreen industry dedicated to prevention and care of skin cancer.

ROBINS: I'm very much disturbed with this lawsuit because what it is going to do is tell people, gee, if it doesn't work, why am I using it? That's the last thing we want to do. If they stop using sunscreen, it will have a disastrous affect. More cancers of the skin.

HUNTER: None of the sunscreen makers named in the lawsuit would answer our questions on camera, but three of them wrote us saying their labels fully comply with all current FDA standards and are totally safe when used as directed. The makers of Hawaiian Tropic went on to write, "The rhetoric of the plaintiffs' lawyers is motivated by their self-interest and greed. Their statements are contrary to the public's health and are irresponsible."

The makers of Banana Boat and Bull Frog sunscreen didn't respond to our inquiries. And Schering Plough, the company that makes Coppertone, told us in a statement they believe, "...the suit is without merit and attempts to exploit the fact that the FDA has not issued final regulation in this area."

When we asked them about UVA versus UVB protection, they simply said, "the product labels and advertisements do not say the same protection applies to the full spectrum of UVA rays, nor do we believe they imply that."

People on Clearwater Beach, Florida, however, had a different point of view.

(on camera): You say UVA and UVB sunblock lotion, what does it make you think about both those rays?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That he's pretty protected by it.

HUNTER: From both?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From both. Absolutely. In equal amounts.

HUNTER: What do you think?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I'm getting both protections.

HUNTER (voice-over): That is exactly the kind of confusion the FDA says future labeling rules will clear up. Until then, sun lovers should keep one thing in mind. You may not be as protected from all of the sun's harmful rays as you think.


ZAHN: Unfortunately I've learned this not the way you want to learn it by having a chunk of my arm taken out because of bad cells. So what the heck are we all supposed to do to get good protection?

HUNTER: Every expert we talk to says that you should definitely keep using sunscreens. They are not perfect but they are the best tool we have. Here are three things you can do that our experts say you need to do. Reapply your sunscreen every two hours no matter what it says on the label. If you are a kid or you go into the water or you sweat, reapply it.

Always use a sunscreen with minimum SPF of 15. You don't need much more than 30. The difference between 30 and 50, about a percent. Finally, use more than you think. Experts say you should use about an ounce. Just to show you, this is a four ounce bottle. It is about a fourth of the bottle.

ZAHN: You have to be kidding.

HUNTER: The average adult.

ZAHN: Every two hours.

HUNTER: About an ounce.

ZAHN: You're going through about one of those every two days.

HUNTER: You should be applying it a lot.

ZAHN: When you look at all these different products out there, are there some ingredients that are better than other and are there things we should be looking for? I still can't believe this.

HUNTER: Absolutely. For UVA protection, absolutely. And the three ingredients you need to look for -- we'll put on the screen. Look on the screen here. Zinc oxide, they make a more transparent version of this. Zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone. You should have at least one or more of these ingredients to give you better protection for UVA. How much better we don't know until the FDA comes up with new guidelines for how to measure UVA protection. But those three, avobenzone, zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, look for that for UVA protection.

ZAHN: Some really important information. I don't want to diminish the power of what you just said, but it's a whole new way of looking at a shot glass. This is unbelievable. A lot more than I thought.

HUNTER: Yes, reapply all the time.

ZAHN: Greg Hunter, thanks for the warning. And we're going to take a quick biz break right now.


ZAHN: As we've been telling you all night long, we've got a big storm out there brewing, 70-mile-an-hour winds and hurricane warnings up tonight along the Florida coast. We're going to take you back to Florida where they are buttoning up for Alberto, the first big storm of the season.

First though No. 3 on our countdown. The U.S. military says autopsy results show terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi died of blast injuries in an air strike north of Baghdad. Officials say there was no evidence that he was beaten nor shot. No. 2 on our list next.


ZAHN: Back to some very dangerous weather now. Tropical Storm Alberto could be hurricane strength by the time it hits Florida just hours from now. Meteorological Jacqui Jeras is in the CNN Weather Center with the very latest. Jacqui, how does it look?


ZAHN: Coming up at the top of the hour on "LARRY KING LIVE," has conservative author Ann Coulter gone too far by criticizing some of the 9/11 widows, actually saying that they seem to be enjoying their husbands deaths. No. 2 on our countdown, on Florida's east coast, the Coast Guard has been searching for nine boaters reported missing off Boynton Beach. But now the Coast Guard says the distress call might have been a hoax. So far no wreckage has been found.

Something on Florida's other coast is the top story on Can you guess what it is? Well if you don't want to guess, just come back within a minute or two and we'll make it easy for you, we'll tell you. Stay with us.


ZAHN: Tropical Storm Alberto, No. 1 story on tonight. That wraps it up for all of us here, thanks so much for joining us, see you tomorrow night.


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