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Western Wildfires; Iraq Murder Charges; New al Qaeda Tape; Timing is Everything; Wildfire Update; Cher's Crusade

Aired June 21, 2006 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, in parts of the west, people are fleeing and others are fighting as acre after acre goes up in smoke.
ANNOUNCER: Scorching out west, wild wildfires rip through thousands of acres, threatening hundreds of homes. We're on the ground.

Larceny, kidnapping, assault and murder. Charges against Marines. How could this happen? And what's next for the embattled troops?

And a new tape from al Qaeda. A message from Osama bin Laden's right-hand man. What does it say? We have all the late breaking details.

Across the country and around the world this is ANDERSON COOPER 360. Live from the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Good evening. We start the hour on the fire lines. Thousands of acres burning right now, hundreds of homes in jeopardy, crews dealing with high winds, dry weather in California, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Some of them, literally fighting fire with fire.

With us now from Sedona, Arizona is Reporter Michael Watkiss of CNN Affiliate KTVK in Phoenix.

Michael, what's the latest?

MICHAEL WATKISS, KTVK CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the Brins fire continues to burn outside Sedona, Arizona, this evening, continues to be one of the top priority fire fights in this entire country.

This, as fires erupt all over the American southwest. Last count we had about six active fires here in the state of Arizona. But this one is the big one, the priority one, because there is now a deep thrust of fire into one of most sacred and well known spots in the entire state, a place called Oak Creek, Arizona, Oak Creek Canyon.

This is a spot that is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the entire state, just behind the Grand Canyon. About a quarter of a million people go through Oak Creek Canyon every year.

Fire made its way, in essence, cascading off the top of a mountain into that canyon yesterday. It has now been actively burning in that canyon through the -- much of the last two days.

And to up the ante, to up the seriousness, about 450 homes and businesses located in the canyon. Thus far, no structures lost, no lives lost, but this has been a dogfight for firefighters. They really can't get in any of those big fixed ring aircraft to drop the slurry on this fire. They've been using the helicopters with little Bambi buckets.

And now we have an incident. One type crew here, the best firefighters in the country, they're positioned -- about 600 of them now on this fire at the base of the canyon. And that's where they're really drawing their do or die line along State Route 89A. They've done some burnout operations along that road.

But the concern is if it comes off one side of the canyon, jumps that road and you have now active fire on both sides of that canyon, in essence a chimney effect comes into play. The heat and the smoke are drawn up the canyon, that would be catastrophic. Hundreds of homes would be lost at that point.

Of course, most of the people there have been evacuated several days ago. There are a few holdouts, but if it got to the top of the canyon, again, huge stands of trees that would lead in a community called Mund's Park and then perhaps going as far north as the largest city in northern Arizona, Flagstaff. So this is very serious business.

A lot of people know this place. It really is one of those uniquely southwestern environments -- magical mixture of towering red rock spirals and castles surrounded by these huge Ponderosa Pines.

So it's a real fight here to save what many people say is one of the great state treasures. Also, all these homes, people want to get back in there.

It's a terrible situation here in Arizona.

COOPER: Michael, explain again why they're not able to use the fixed wing aircraft which can obviously, you know, dump a lot more chemicals or water on the fires.

WATKISS: Yes, those are so effective, those big large aircraft that dump that red slurry. The bottom line is, it's just too rough a terrain, Anderson. This is in essence falling off a cliff. And firefighters can't get up to it. So they've got the little Bambi bucket helicopters dropping water on the cliff.

But it continues to cascade down to the bottom of the canyon where firefighters have basically drawn a line in the sand. They're letting the fire come to them, they're helping the road -- hoping the road and the river there at the base of the canyon will help stop this fire. But there is really no guarantees. Lots of swirling winds in that canyon.

And again, the bottom line is, if it jumps over the road and you get active fire on both sides, we're off to the races. COOPER: Michael, appreciate your reporting. Thank you very much. We'll have more reports throughout this next hour. Update you on where the fires are, how fast they're moving. Wildfires are burning in 10 states tonight.

Here is the raw data. There are 24 large fires raging now, just four of them are contained. Together they burn more than 230,000 acres. The states with the most fires -- Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.

Now to Iraq, murder charges today at Camp Pendleton in California. Seven Marines and a Navy Corpsman, accused of murder in the deaths of an Iraqi civilian in the town of Hamdaniyah. He was a disabled man, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War.

We have the latest now in Iraq and here at home from CNN's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In the Iraqi town of Hamdaniyah, the funeral of a 54-year-old man this spring brought mourners and accusations that Hashim Ibrahim Awad was murdered by U.S. Marines. And now those accusations have brought charges.

COL. STEWART NAVARRE, U.S. MARINE CORPS: All Marines are trained in the law of armed conflict and are expected to fully comply with it.

FOREMAN: Seven Marines and Navy corpsman are charged with kidnapping, murder and conspiracy in connection with the Awad's death.

NAVARRE: The Marine Corps takes allegations of wrongdoing by its members very seriously and is committed to thoroughly investigating such allegations.

FOREMAN: Awad's family says he was pressured by U.S. forces to be an informer and when he refused, they say he was taken from his home by a patrol of six to eight troops and killed.

We heard gunshots, Awad's brother says, about 100 gunshots, maybe less.

Local police say Awad's body was returned the next day, along with an assault rifle and shovel. The family suggests those items were placed with Awad's body to imply that he was an insurgent burying bombs by the road. The family further alleges U.S. troops have offered them money to drop their accusations.

Every claim of unlawful activity is flatly rejected by John Jodka, the father of one of the servicemen charged in this case.

JOHN JODKA, FATHER: He told me that he is absolutely innocent of these charges. And that he was doing his job as a United States Marine, per the orders given him. And I absolutely believe him.

FOREMAN: The Marines will not discuss any of the specific charges and are pointedly reminding everyone all these men are innocent until proven guilty. But the corps is moving toward a trial.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Well, some perspective now. Gary Solis is a professor of law at Georgetown, a retired Marine and an expert on military justice. I spoke to him earlier tonight.


COOPER: Professor, you've seen the charges. What's your reaction?

GARY SOLIS, PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Well, I'm not surprised. We knew that there were going to be a number of charges come down. So, I think that these are appropriate charges. All of them may not go to trial, but it is appropriate, it seems to me, from the state of the evidence for these charges to be levied.

COOPER: There have been those who have said, look, that they come down particularly hard on these Marines in order to compensate for what happened in Haditha or what is alleged to have happened in Haditha. Do you think that is true?

SOLIS: No, I don't think that they're coming down hard on these guys because of Haditha. I think they're coming down hard on them because the facts merit.

COOPER: Is there anything about this which is particularly unique?

SOLIS: No, I don't think there is. Haditha and Hamdaniyah, this case, hearken back to Vietnam era cases where there were occasionally multiple accused in war crimes.

What very often will happen in a case like this where you have so many charges is that deals will be made, we'll drop this charge and that charge if you will plead to another charge.

And another thing that commonly happens in cases like this is that one of the accused will be flipped, as they say; that is, will testify against the others in return for a grant of immunity.

My understanding is that in this case several of the accused have already made self-incriminating statements and so that will make the case much easier for the prosecution if that's correct.

COOPER: And often what do the cases boil down to? I mean, is it a lack of leadership on a squad level? Is it just individuals making mistakes or, you know, bad apples?

SOLIS: No, I think that your first assessment was correct, that is a breakdown in leadership. You don't see war crimes committed in well led units. War crimes, as infrequently committed as they are, are usually the result of, as you suggested, a breakdown in leadership.

COOPER: Because -- let me just interrupt -- I mean, it is kind of remarkable when you look at the sheer numbers of people serving, you know, more than 100,000 young men and women walking around with weapons in a highly dangerous, highly volatile, difficult 360 degree combat environment where you don't know who is an enemy and who is not, it is almost surprising that more of this does not happen.

SOLIS: I think you're exactly right this is the most brutalizing kind of war. It's the most difficult kind of war that one can be involved in where one doesn't know what person, what vehicle, what object in the street might be the means of your death. So as you say, in a sense it's a wonder that there aren't more.

COOPER: And that's because of strong leadership and it's, in the cases where it does happen, you think its leadership breaks down.

SOLIS: I do. It's leadership and training. And that training usually kicks in. You have NCOs, you have officers who are present, who are the governors on the conduct of their subordinates and who keep control.

And we have the best trained, best led, most educated military that we've ever had. So these things are unusual. It's odd that we have two of them breaking at the same time.

COOPER: Professor Gary Solis, appreciate you joining us. Thanks.

SOLIS: Thank you.


COOPER: From Afghanistan to Iraq -- excuse me, from Iraq to Afghanistan, and a new message now from an old face of terror. Breaking news tonight, an Islamic Web site posted video from Ayman al- Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's right hand man. We are analyzing it now. We'll talk with an expert on Zawahiri after the break.

And a unique way to battle cancer, using your internal clock. It's called chromotherapy. It has given hope to people who previously had none. 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta explains it all.

We'll also hear about Cher's efforts to help U.S. Marines.


CHER, "OPERATION HELMET" SUPPORTER: We don't think much about wounded. It doesn't say what it is when you see it. And when you see it, it's not wounded, it's devastated.


COOPER: A simple way, though, that she and you can help save Marines' lives. My interview with her when 360 continues.


COOPER: More now on the breaking news tonight. If you noticed maybe a chill in the air, it's because another videotape from Osama bin Laden's right hand man surfaced.


COOPER: Ayman al-Zawahiri's message, well it hit the Internet just a short time ago, right before we went on air, really.

Joining us by phone to help make sense of it is Laura Mansfield. She's the author of the book, "In His Own Words: A Translation of the Writings of Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri."

Thanks for being with us. What do you make of this new tape?

LAURA MANSFIELD, AUTHOR (on the phone): Well, this tape is interesting. First of all, unlike the previous -- the last two or three tapes which have been released with English subtitles and with English translations, this tape seems to be addressed to the Afghan people. It was released with an Arabic transcript and a Pashtun and a Farsi translation.

COOPER: It also seems to have been made just days after a riot broke out in Afghanistan in Kabul, after a U.S. vehicle hit a number of other vehicles killing one Afghan and more than -- I think about 20 people -- Afghans were killed in the ensuing day of rioting that took place.

Is Dr. Zawahiri believing that this is somehow a sign of fissures in Afghanistan that he's trying to exploit?

MANSFIELD: I believe he is. Basically, he says, you know, that he made this tape the day after that incident and in Kabul. And he's calling on the people of Afghanistan and he makes specific reference to the young men in universities and schools. He's complaining about the insults against Islam and against the Koran. He goes through the whole history, citing numerous incidents and he's basically attempting to get them riled up to go out and expel the Americans and the coalition troops who are in Afghanistan.

COOPER: How does he look to you? How does he sound to you? I mean, you've studied this man for quite some time.

MANSFIELD: Yes. Actually, he looks a little bit healthier than he has in several recent videos. He's changed his -- into a gray robe this time. He looks like he's going strong still. His voice sounds strong. He sounds determined. I don't see any signs of weakening there.

COOPER: And how -- again, this is being sent out on the Internet, how technologically savvy are they? This was made by al Qaeda's video unit, is that correct?

MANSFIELD: Yes. They actually have a full fledged video production called -- Zahab (ph) (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Media Studies. And they've been giving more and more sophisticated. Each tape that comes out seems to have a new layer of sophistication. They have your rolling firearms, they have -- now they've gotten to where they'll put subtitles on in English. They've definitely -- they're definitely technologically savvy. They definitely have access to the latest software equipment.

COOPER: Terrorism in the 21st century.

Laura Mansfield, appreciate your perspective, thank you.

MANSFIELD: Thank you.


COOPER: In the world of high tech medicine it almost -- well, it almost seems simple, turning to clocks to save lives. It is all about timing. An idea that a cancer patient says saved her life. 360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta explains how it all works, coming up.

And Cher, speaking out on behalf of Marines in Iraq. She says there is a simple solution that could save Marines' lives. And it's a solution she is helping out with, donating a lot of money, and that you could help out with too.

My interview with Cher when 360 continues.


COOPER: Well, the Cleveland Clinic just wrapped up its first ever heart and brain summit. Its focus, the link between the brain and the heart. It is a relatively unexplored science, really, a corner of medicine that has been rather neglected. But what researchers are learning is really fascinating. It's often said that timing is everything. The question now is, can timing save your life?

360 M.D. Sanjay Gupta explains.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two years ago, the peaceful life Diane Klenke was accustomed to, began to slowly fall apart. It started with mild discomfort in her abdomen. Then...

DIANE KLENKE: I was doubled over in pain. I was just miserable.

GUPTA: She was rushed to the hospital and hours later doctors were still pouring over her case.

KLENKE: But I said, tell me what's going on. Well, we see something that we want to check out further.

GUPTA: The news was grim. Diane's pancreas and liver had been hijacked by cancer. One tumor was the size of a grapefruit. Doctors told Klenke that not even chemotherapy could help her. She had mere months to live.

(On camera): Your thinking at that time was what? I mean, were you thinking, OK, you know, maybe it is time to get my affairs in order?

KLENKE: I wasn't willing to give up yet. And I thought, I've got too much to live for. I've got my daughter who was pregnant. And I had another daughter just engaged and I thought I want to be here.

GUPTA (voice-over): With few options left, Klenke tried called chromotherapy.

DR. KEITH BLOCK, BLOCK CENTER FOR INTEGRATIVE CANCER TREATMENT: Chromotherapy is all about timing. Nine genes are the molecular time keeper for our entire physiology. Just like flowers open up, you know, where it's light out in the morning and close up at night, we have entire physiological rhythms that are being adjusted through the day and night and through the seasons.

GUPTA: With chromotherapy, patients are quizzed about their habits, sleep patterns, diet, exercise -- all things that impact the body's internal clock. Chemo drugs are pumped in on a precise timetable based on that information, synchronized to the body's internal rhythms. So instead of a daily dose at, say 10:00 a.m. every day, Diane received chemotherapy while she slept, when her healthy cells were dormant and her cancer cells were active.

BLOCK: We can actually time drugs so that they'll diminish a lot of the side effects. And at the same time, it can also boost the effectiveness of the therapies.

GUPTA: Timing is not just for treating cancer, it can also be used to help diagnose heart disease and stroke. Using our internal clocks as a guide, we know now that stress hormones soar in the morning, as does blood pressure in the afternoon.

Those fluctuations may explain why heart attacks are so common in the morning and strokes during midday.

Chromotherapy helps when doctors can time blood pressure readings so they're measured throughout the day instead of just once. Using internal queues, we may one day predict stroke.

EARL BAKKEN: Someone may have a normal blood pressure when they go in to have it examined in the morning, but may have -- be hypertensive in the afternoon, but never get measured in the afternoon.

GUPTA: Chromotherapy is used in a handful of medical facilities. It is now used to treat depression, sleep disorders and asthma.

(On camera): It seems simple. We're not talking about changing the world here. We're not talking about new therapies or billions of dollars of drug research. We're talking about using a clock. Why isn't everyone doing this? BLOCK: It's not convenient for the doctor to work around the patients' schedule. They really have to change their entire medical center to work around the patients' schedule instead of working really around the medical center's schedule.

GUPTA (voice-over): Timing caused Diane's grapefruit sized tumor to shrink to the size of a kidney bean. And...

KLENKE: They look at my liver and said, hey the liver tumors are gone.

GUPTA (on camera): A lot of people say that's all quackery. You know what, it's...

KLENKE: Oh, absolutely not. Absolutely not.

GUPTA: You're living proof that it isn't?

KLENKE: I'm living proof that it isn't.

GUPTA (voice-over): For now, Klenke is relishing her new lease on life and being around for her family.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


COOPER: That is a fascinating idea.

Coming up, wildfires raging out west. Another live report from Arizona.

And we'll go to the frontlines in Colorado, as well. That's coming up.

But first, Erica Hill has some of the other stories we're following -- Erica.

ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a deadly shootout at a federal prison in Tallahassee, Florida. A corrections officer opens fire at federal agents. Now, the agents were trying to arrest him and other guards accuse of being involved in a sex for drugs conspiracy. The corrections officer and a federal agent were killed in the shootout.

At the U.N., the U.S. tells North Korea, no thanks. Ambassador John Bolton rejected Pyongyang's offer to have direct talks over potential missile tests, saying that would just encourage more deviant behavior. President Bush says North Korea would face further isolation if it does test the long-range missile in question which may be capable of hitting the U.S.

In Salt Lake City, a judge rules the woman accused of kidnapping Elizabeth Smart can be forcibly medicated to restore her competency for trial. Wanda Barzee was declared incompetent to stand trial two years ago and has refused therapy. Her lawyer plans to appeal the order. Smart was kidnapped four years ago. She was found nine months later with Barzee and her husband.

And if you think New York City is rude? Forget about it. "Readers Digest" magazine did a politeness survey of 36 cities around the world and guess who came out on top? That's right. The Big Apple. Four out of five New Yorkers passed their unscientific courtesy test, which among other things, counted how many times people would hold open a door for someone else. The rudest city? That title goes to Mumbai, India. Now by the way, we should point out here, Anderson, New York was also the only American city in the survey. Not too shabby for your hometown, huh?

COOPER: It doesn't surprise me at all, to be honest. New York gets a bad rap.

HILL: It does. People are lovely in New York.

COOPER: Absolutely. Erica, thanks.

HILL: See you later.

COOPER: But don't get me started about Mumbai. Never really been there.

In Arizona tonight, out of control wildfires not only threaten hundreds of homes outside of Sedona, but officials fear a corridor of flames will erupt a full 25 miles to Flagstaff. A live report coming up on that.

We're also going to take you to Colorado, where evacuations were ordered. Thousands of acres near Pueblo have been burning. We'll have the latest next.


COOPER: As we have been reporting tonight, wildfires are devouring brush and forests in New Mexico and Colorado, as well as California and Arizona. Just a few minutes ago we learned from authorities in Arizona that their major blaze is only 7 percent contained. That's scant progress in the past 24 hours.

Posing the greatest threat are the fires northeast of Sedona, Arizona. There is the map of the area. They already scorched thousands of acres to the west of Route 89. Hundreds of homes along Oak Creek Canyon have been evacuated. In the worst case scenario, the canyons would act like a wind tunnel and the flames would shoot up the canyon 25 miles north, all the way to Flagstaff.

CNN's Rick Sanchez has the latest.


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona, Arizona, more than 500 homes had to be evacuated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We did activate our siren system.

SANCHEZ: 2,500 acres have burned in state so far, fed by gusting winds and scorching temperatures.

And though no homes have fallen victim to the flames, residents given just a half hour to evacuate Sunday are worried.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We wish we could actually go up there and have a look, but obviously we're in danger if we do so.

SANCHEZ: So dangerous, the governor has declared an emergency.

GOVERNOR JANET NAPOLITANO, ARIZONA: This is a difficult fire because of the terrain and the location. But you've got a great type one crew here working on it. You've got air assets here working on it. And you've got support, both at the municipal level, the county level, the state level and the federal level. I do want to say for informational purposes, I did issue a state declaration of emergency based on this fire.

SANCHEZ: In Colorado, 9,000 acres have burned. The governor there issued strict restrictions on campfires and fireworks.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to be signing an executive order and we're going to be doing that later today, banning open fires on state lands.

SANCHEZ: The drought in southern Colorado has made containment difficult, as parched pines ignite filling the sky with giant plumes of smoke.

And in California, helicopters are dousing the flames burning perilously close to this subdivision in Rancho Palos Verde, south of Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hot out there. It's hot out there, thus making the fire conditions kind of unpredictable.

SANCHEZ: Firefighters are worried the flames could spread over the mountains into the protected San Raphael wilderness.

In New Mexico, lightning started at least four fires earlier this month in the Gila National Forest and more than 60,000 acres have burned across the state.

Back in Arizona, even those whose homes aren't in danger are wondering how much worse it could get.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I walked my dog in the forest today and it was so eerie. You know, it just felt -- it felt weird having all the smoke and there was ashes coming down. So I packed up a bunch of things that I wanted to keep just in case.

SANCHEZ: And caution may be the best protection. Fires have swept across more than 3 million acres nationwide this year. That's four times the amount this time last year.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SANCHEZ (on camera): Of course the key to this is those hotshots, those courageous firefighters who have come here from all over the country. The man who's been in charge of this operation is good enough to join us now.

Incident Commander Paul Broyes (ph), thanks for being with us. How is the operation going now?

PAUL BROYES (ph), INCIDENT COMMANDER: Hi, Rick. The operation is going about as well as can be expected.

SANCHEZ: Has the containment line helped?

BROYES (ph): Only in about three-quarters of the fire. On the north end, it's still open. We've had a spot that went across Sterling Canyon.

SANCHEZ: So you've had the fire actually breaching that roadway, 89A?

BROYES (ph): No. 89A on the east side of the fire is still holding, doing very well. It's just north of that on the west side of 89A that we had a spot went across this morning actually. We hit it with heavy helicopters, we put crews in there initially. It became too hot, too unsafe and we pulled them out for their safety.

SANCHEZ: How concerned are you about that particular spot?

BROYES (ph): Extremely.

SANCHEZ: Really?

BROYES (ph): Yes.

SANCHEZ: What could it possibly do?

BROYES (ph): If we lose that, it continues working its way north, it's extremely steep terrain, rugged topography. You can't put crews in there safely. It could potentially continue north two, three miles before we could ever get to a place where we can really do any good work with it. If we're unsuccessful there, then it could potentially progress quite a ways north.

SANCHEZ: That means that folks who are living in Oak Creek Canyon could possibly be threatened or their homes be threatened since most of them have already been evacuated by that particular breach?

BROYES (ph): To the north. If it breaches to the north, continues to breach to the north and when it gets wind shifts that would push fire across to the east, across Oak Creek Canyon and Highway 89A, that's correct.

SANCHEZ: Well, thanks so much for bringing up to date on that. That's certainly information that we're going to be following throughout the course of the evening.

Good luck with it and thanks so much...

BROYES (ph): Thank you.

SANCHEZ: ... for joining us. Appreciate it, Commander.

BROYES (ph): You bet.

SANCHEZ: So there you go, Anderson. We have been following the fire throughout the day, hoping that that containment line was able to hold, but there -- at least one breach now that these gentlemen say they're going to be following throughout the course of the evening. Back to you.

COOPER: All right, Rick, thanks very much. Continue to monitor it. More now on what it looks like in Colorado.

Sean Tobin, of Denver Affiliate KDVR, reports tonight from Fort Garland, near the New Mexico state line.

SEAN TOBIN, KDVR CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, right now the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is estimated at about 11,800 acres. This morning it was a little over 8,000 acres. You do the math. It has grown about 2,000 to 3,000 acres in just one day.

It is 30 percent contained, but it is growing. And it is a challenge, to say the least, for a lot of the firefighters out here. The weather conditions are not helping very much either.

You could take look at the two flags flying behind me. We're looking at about 30 mile per hour gusts. And that's not helping firefighters.

There were no evacuations to report of today. But the mandatory evacuations are still in effect. More than 200 homes have been evacuated. The conditions are constantly changing. And they are challenging. The wind changes speed, it changes directions. There is a very dry landscape here. Colorado has not received very much rain in the past few weeks it's very dry out there.

The good news right here -- there is no structural damage and there is no property damage to report. And there are no serious injuries.

Colorado Governor Bill Owens came out here. He toured the site today. He signed -- late this afternoon, he signed an executive order that will bring about $3 million in emergency funds to help them fight this fire.

Right now the big concern is whether this jumps Highway 160. Highway 160 -- they've been able to keep it north of Highway 160. If it jumps south, it might hit some subdivisions down there, and that's the big concern if it gets over there. That could be a problem, an entirely different problem.

Right now firefighters are resting. They're in a tent village behind the emergency operation center right now. They've had about a 12 hour day. They've eaten, they're resting. They're going to go back out about 7:00 Thursday morning.

Reporting in Fort Garland, Sean Tobin -- Anderson.

COOPER: Sean, thanks very much.

Coming up next, Cher fighting to help Marines in Iraq. A simple solution that you can contribute to that can make their helmets safer. I'll talk to her about that and what she's seen when she visits wounded Americans in Walter Reed hospital.


CHER, "OPERATION HELMET" SUPPORTER: You just see so much carnage, you know, stuff that you never think you're going to see.


COOPER: We'll have Cher's latest efforts. Could some simple padding in the helmet of Marines save lives? She thinks so. So does the Army. Now Cher is using her celebrity to make it happen for Marines. My interview with her, when 360 continues.


COOPER: Well, she's won an Oscar, Grammy and an Emmy, but Cher's greatest achievement may have nothing to do with entertainment. The celebrity icon has become a champion of Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That's her last week on Capitol Hill.

She is against the war in Iraq, but insists that the Pentagon can do a much better job protecting the lives of Marines who are there. Cher believes the solution is to have padded helmets. The Army has them, but the Marines don't -- not yet, at least.

That's why she's leading the fight for a group called "Operation Helmet," an organization which buys the padding, sends it for free to Marines in Iraq.

I sat down with her a few days ago for a candid and emotional interview. We'll bring you that in a moment.

But first, how all this began for Cher.


COOPER (voice-over): It was early in morning on Memorial Day, 4:20 a.m. on the West Coast, to be exact. In Washington, D.C., C-Span was taking viewer phone calls.

A woman was on the line from Malibu, California. Her thoughts were with the troops in Iraq.

CHER, "OPERATION HELMET" SUPPORTER: I just don't understand how this government can send men into war without the proper helmets. COOPER: Her anger was palpable; Her voice, unmistakable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And is this Cher?

CHER: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for calling in again. This is the second or third time you phoned in.


COOPER: For many, it was a whole new side of the singer, actress, all around icon.

But it turns out, activism is nothing new for Cher. Over the years she has spoken out for the homeless, campaigned for gay rights.


COOPER: And, as you can see from her video stint on the U.S.S. Missouri, she's always supported men in uniform.


COOPER: Now Cher is putting her star power behind "Operation Helmet," an effort to improve the headgear issued to many of the troops overseas. It's why she called into C-SPAN on Memorial Day.

CHER: And I just kept dialing until my finger was just numb.

COOPER: Last week Cher came to Capitol Hill to support "Operation Helmet's" founder, Dr. Bob Meaders, who testified before the House Armed Services Committee.

DR. BOB MEADERS, "OPERATION HELMET": These helmet kits that we purchase are filled with shock absorbing pads that are velcroed to the surface.

COOPER: Dr. Meaders says padded helmets can better protect troops from bomb blasts. But most Marines get unpadded helmets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cher, thank you for being here.

COOPER: This was Cher's first visit to Capitol Hill, but it's not her only Congressional connection.


COOPER: Her late ex-husband Sonny Bono served in the House. When he died, his widow, Mary Bono, took his place.

REP. MARY BONO (R), CALIFORNIA: Cher, thank you for what you've done. I'm glad you watch C-Span. You would think you have better things to do with your life than watch boring old us, but thank you very, very much. COOPER: When the 2-1/2 hour hearing adjourned, Cher looked a little relieved, but she was still frustrated. The Marine Corps officials, who testified, said they won't change the helmet policy anytime soon. They have to study it first.


COOPER (on camera): Well, I sat down with Cher and "Operation Helmet" Founder Dr. Bob Meaders just a few days ago, just after Cher appeared on Capitol Hill.

And I began by asking her about the private side of her public crusade.


COOPER: What a lot of people also don't know about what you've done is that you go to Walter Reed.

CHER: In Bethesda, yes.

COOPER: And, I mean, we're not talking about some like celebrity photo-op with like cameras trailing you. You just go by yourself, you know, you brought the doctor there this last time. What do you see? What do you do there?

CHER: Well, what you see is unbelievable. God this is not a good thing. You just see so much carnage, you know, stuff that you never think you're going to see.

COOPER: Cher says she doesn't support the war in Iraq, but she strongly supports the troops.

CHER: Because they don't have anything to do with it. They're -- these are these boys that are unbelievable -- boys and girls -- and they're just so young, that are just like they're -- they want to do the right thing and they think that what they're being told to do is that's their job and they're going to do it.

You know, I talk to them, I really love talking to them. Nothing bothers me. You know, I was saying to someone, I've just seen stuff that I have never seen in my life. And each time I go, I keep thinking this is as bad as it's going to get. And I said one day, like for these three days, we saw things that, you know, you saw things that you haven't even seen.


COOPER (voice-over): What this war is seeing -- more amputations than any other war in history and more brain injuries.

An estimated 60 percent of troops wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from trauma to the head and brain. The impact isn't always visible.

(On camera): You were telling me the story of someone who asked for your autograph and you asked them their name?

CHER: No, we were -- this boy and I were talking. And then -- and he was sitting in his uniform, he was getting ready to go home. And so we're talking, we took a picture. I said, do you want me to sign it for you? And he said, yes. I said what's your name? And he had to look on his hospital tag.

COOPER: Because of a head injury?

CHER: Yes, because he had a head injury. That's the -- one of the reasons that I want to do this.

COOPER (voice-over): Cher is now using her celebrity to make an impact. She hopes to save the lives of U.S. Marines by upgrading their helmets.

(On camera): How did you get involved, Cher?

CHER: My sister, which is the way I often get involved. My sister sent a clipping out of a newspaper and she just said, dear stupid, do something.

COOPER: She calls you stupid?

CHER: Yes.


COOPER: We call each other that, from you know, being sisters when you're little. So, dear stupid, do something. And so we got in contact.

COOPER: You just called him up?

CHER: Yes.


CHER: And so we talked and, you know, I did something.

COOPER (voice-over): What she did was donate more than $100,000 to "Operation Helmet." And she allied herself with the group's founder, Dr. Bob Meaders.

For Dr. Meaders, the journey began two years ago with his grandson.

MEADERS: Well, my grandson is a young Marine enlisted fellow. He's a combat engineer. And when he was in training out in California, a gunnery sergeant just back from Iraq showed him his helmet and said, if you get an insert like this, it could save your life like it did mine.

COOPER (on camera): And we're talking about, I mean, a simple insert. I mean, it's not...


COOPER: What is that?

MEADERS: Just pads. They're special shock absorbing pads that will both deflect a bullet or help the helmet deflect when a bullet hits it or spread out and absorb blast forces and keep this helmet from whacking into your head.

COOPER (voice-over): The Army has upgraded its helmets with these pads, but the Marines and the Air Force have not.

MEADERS: The helmets have gotten better themselves. The shells are really good at deflecting bullets. But in a blast scenario, the helmet is so loose and your head, that your head becomes a clangor in a Kevlar bell and the helmet will crush the skull.

COOPER: Right, and how much does each one cost?

MEADERS: For the Marine helmet, $71.

$71 can make a difference between life and death for a Marine. You would think this is already being done. You would think this is standard issue. Did it surprise you?

CHER: I keep think there is nothing that's going to shock me anymore. And then when I found out about this, I think I was -- I just was astounded at the price that could save someone's life for $71.

I didn't understand why, like, the Army does it, but I didn't understand, like, how you could spend someone to battle -- and these are supposed to be our brightest and our best, and you don't care about their heads.


COOPER: Well, straight ahead, part two of my conversation with Cher.

First Erica Hill, though, with the business headlines.

HILL: Anderson, news of strong earnings drove markets higher today. Stocks rallied in all three major indexes, notched some healthy gains. The NASDAQ was up about 1.6 percent, breaking a three- day losing streak. Market watchers, though, warn to expect a lot more ups and down, especially in advance of the next Federal Reserve meeting on the 28th.

Mortgage applications, meantime, fell last week. Now, the dip covers both loans to buy and loans to refinance. The reason is simple enough. The price of money is going up, interest rates hitting a four-year high.

And speaking of high, check this out. According to the latest survey, bosses at big companies now make 262 times the salary of an average worker. Assuming a five-day work week, that means a CEO makes in one day what the average worker makes in a year. Not bad to be a CEO, huh, Anderson?

COOPER: Wow. Yikes. Who knew that? Got to check out our CEO's salary.

Erica, thanks.

When we return, more of my interview with Cher.


CHER: To be able to use your celebrity for something that you really think is worthwhile is so rewarding. It just makes you feel like this is the right thing to do. This is the American thing to do.


COOPER: For her the American thing to do is to take "Operation Helmet" to Washington so the troops in Iraq can be safer. Next on 360.


COOPER: Before the break, we showed you the first part of the interview with Cher. She's pushing for safer helmets for Marines. The Army has them -- its padding, a special liner inside the helmet -- but Marine Corps has not, at least not yet, decided to use them.

Cher supports an organization called "Operation Helmet" which basically just purchases these liners and sends them for free to Marines overseas.

Their Web site is And anyone can send the money to buy the inserts that are sent to the Marines.

Cher says the added protection can save lives and reduce the risk of a concussion. And that's why she's donating money to "Operation Helmet" and her time.

Whatever people think of her, there is nobody quite like Cher, I think it's safe to say.

Here's the rest of my interview with her and the operation founder -- of "Operation Helmet," excuse me, Dr. Bobbed Meaders.


COOPER (voice-over): Like so much of what she's done in her life, Cher got into this in her own unpredictable and straight ahead way. She called into C-SPAN one night at 4:30 a.m.

CHER: I belong to an organization called "Operation Helmet." And these people, the so-called Christian Republicans have sent the men and women of our armed forces into battle without the proper helmets.

COOPER: With that phone call, Cher put her new passion on center stage. This wasn't the first time that Cher had simply picked up the phone.

(On camera): You sort of have a history of like late night calls to C-SPAN. And you called us during Katrina.

CHER: Sounds a little freaky, doesn't it?

COOPER (voice-over): No, it's fascinating.

Joining me on the phone now from Los Angeles, Academy Award Winning Actress and Award Winning Singer Cher.

She called us about a woman we profiled, Paige Benson (ph), who had gone to New Orleans to feed hot meals to first responders. The first time they'd had hot meals in nearly two weeks since Katrina.

CHER: It never occurred to me they weren't getting hot meals and so I thought, you know, when I saw her, I thought what a wonderful thing she was doing. So I called and I said I want to help pay for the food.

COOPER (on camera): You're really involved and monitoring all this stuff. I mean, you were sort of a voracious reader and a watcher of news.

CHER: Yes.

COOPER: And yet, you take that step which a lot of people don't take, which is well I'm just going to call that person up. I find that sort of fascinating.

CHER: You know, I had this friend, his name was Mitch Snyder, and he was a homeless advocate.


CHER: And he just said to me once, if you see the thing that you can do now, do it. Like, if you see a homeless person, go up and look them in the eye, talk to them, no one ever looks homeless people in the eye. Talk to them, offer your help, and I'm in the position now to be able to do more than just see something. I can really do something about it.

COOPER (voice-over): What Cher has done isn't limited to hospital visits. She's helped "Operation Helmet" supply more than 9,000 helmet inserts to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

CHER: To be able to use your celebrity for something that you really think is worthwhile is so rewarding. It just makes you feel like this is the right thing to do. This is the American thing to do.

Also it really pisses me off when people say that if you're not for the war, you don't support the troops. And I'm not for the war and I really support the troops.

COOPER: Cher has received numerous letters from Marines, thanking her for her support. (On camera): This is from Gary Lee Kirby, Jr.

CHER: Yes.

COOPER: He says, Cher, I'd like to give you my personal thanks and appreciation and extend my gratitude for all that you've done in aiding the USA armed forces and what you're doing for us now. I didn't receive a new type of helmet until half way through a year-long deployment. I saw Jim Carrey win a golden popcorn award for his movie achievements. You, Cher, should be awarded seven golden popcorns for all you've done. You're an angel, thank you, Gary Kirby Jr. That's pretty great.

CHER: Yes, it was cool. But, you know, tell the story about the boy who said, I need another helmet.

MEADER: Yes. We were -- got a telephone call from a young Marine corporal who was in Camp Lejeune Naval Hospital. And he said, you know, doc, I hate to ask, but can I have another helmet kit? I said, well, what happened to your old one? He said, well, my buddy and I were on patrol and a rocket just slammed by me, almost hit me, but it hit the wall directly behind me. And I'm here, they're pulling all the pieces of fragment out of my neck and my shoulders. And it exploded my helmet. He said, you know, those pads saved my life and I would like to have another one before I go back because I'm well enough to rejoin my buddies.

But when I go back, could you give me a dozen more for my team? I want to make sure everyone is as well protected as I am.

COOPER: Yes, that's the thing about soldiers and Marines, is that it's not so much about them, it's about their buddies. And even people in the hospitals you meet...

CHER: Want to go back.

COOPER: ... talk about going back because their buddies are there.

CHER: Yes. Or they're disappointed -- yes, they don't want to let their buddies down.

A lot of times when I've talked to people, you know, when no one's around, it's not so much necessarily that they believe what they're doing there is right or wrong, they believe that what they're doing there with their buddies is the right thing, to be there, to be this band of brothers which is -- I never realized it was so strong, but it's the thing that keeps them all glued together.


COOPER: Well, again, if you want more information on "Operation Helmet," you can go to

More of 360 in a moment. Stay with us.



JOHN: Steven.

STEVEN: John, here's a little something in honor of tonight's guest.

JOHN: Yes, I get it, you're doing a 360, Steven. That's very clever. Very nicely done.

STEVEN: No, John, I've done a 180. Because I believe Anderson Cooper presents only half the story. His show is but a semicircle, a mere pie radians worth of news.

JOHN: Are you -- are you saying, Steven, you don't think he did a good job covering Hurricane Katrina.

STEVEN: All right. 358, John. Sorry, you can't bring those last few degrees.


COOPER: That was just on, I guess moments ago on "Comedy Central."

Tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING," a symbol of America's resilience -- in a shipyard just outside New Orleans, a Phoenix is rising from the ashes. A billion dollar warship that will be sent to fight the war on terror. And at its bow are seven tons of steel, pulled from the ruins of the World Trade Center.


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