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CNN LIVE SATURDAY

Alternatives To Prescription Pain Medications; Woman Arrested In Missouri Babysnatching/Murder Incident

Aired December 18, 2004 - 18:00   ET

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


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, welcome to CNN LIVE SATURDAY. Here's what's happening right now in the news.
Doctors say an infant girl cut from her mother's womb in Missouri is in good condition. Police arrested a Kansas woman for the crime. They say 36-year-old Lisa Montgomery, who recently had a miscarriage, strangled the infant's mother before kidnapping the child.

And three more people, including a volunteer firefighter, have been charged with torching an upscale housing development near Washington. A security guard also reportedly confessed to being involved that crime. The damage is estimated at more than $10 million.

And consumer group, Public Citizen, wants the government to ban Celebrex. Drug maker, Pfizer, says the arthritis painkiller could increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke if taken in very large doses. But it says it won't take Celebrex off the market.

Good evening, I'm Carol Lin. Welcome to CNN LIVE SATURDAY. Straight ahead in this hour, the problems with Celebrex. So what are you going to do if you're one of the 27 million people who take it every day? I'm going to talk to a doctor about your alternatives.

And from Iraq to the hurricanes to the election, some of the top stories of the year creating the most compelling pictures of the year, and I've got the top five.

But right now, our top story tonight is a ghastly one about a baby girl stolen from her slain mother's womb. The infant is in good condition today despite her violent arrival into this world. Her father is calling her a miracle. And a woman accused of strangling her mother is in police custody.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LIN (voice-over): This is what the FBI alleges, 36-year-old Lisa Montgomery arranged to meet Bobbie Jo Stinnett at her home Thursday. It says Montgomery e-mailed Stinnett pretending to be interested in one of the dogs that she bred.

TODD GRAVES, U.S. ATTORNEY, WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI: Our victim had pictures on the Internet of herself and so forth. And they hooked up through that message board.

LIN: Montgomery strangled Bobbie Jo and then cut her baby from her womb. The victim was left dying in a pool of blood.

SHERIFF BEN ESPEY, Nodaway COUNTY, MISSOURI: I've been in law enforcement 20 years and 12 as sheriff, and this is one of the worst ordeals we've had to deal with.

ROMANE HENRY, RELATIVE: I just can't understand why anybody would do a trick like that.

LIN: In a race to find the baby, police issued an AMBER Alert for a car a neighbor had seen outside the murdered woman's home. Several hours later, police got a tip that a car matching that description was found 130 miles away in Topeka, in the suspect's driveway. Investigators were also available to match Montgomery's address to the fictitious e-mail. What was her motive? Well, authorities say Montgomery had a miscarriage earlier this year. Yet, on Thursday afternoon, she called her husband and told him she had given birth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He went and met her. There was a baby. They took it home and she had the baby when the FBI and other agents showed up.

LIN: Police say Montgomery has confessed to the crime. The baby girl, one month premature, was taken to a hospital in Topeka where she is in good condition. Friday night, she was united with her father, Zeb, who described her as a miracle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I do feel that he will have a piece of Bobbie with him for the rest of his life.

LIN: The little girl has been named Victoria Jo in memory of her mother.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: Well, the arrest of Lisa Montgomery happened pretty quickly, just one day after Stinnett's body was found. Todd Graves, whom you just saw in the piece, has been in the middle of this fast- paced investigation. He's the U.S. attorney for the western district of Missouri.

Mr. Graves, good to have you on this story. Maybe you can clarify...

GRAVES: Thank you.

LIN: ...a few things. How long do you think Lisa Montgomery had been hatching this plot?

GRAVES: You know that's hard to say. At this point, you know, we're very early in the investigation. It's ongoing. We've got a charge on file and many of those things will unfold in the days to come.

LIN: How long do you think, though? I mean this wasn't just a hair-brained scheme. This is something that had to have been thought out over period of days if not months.

GRAVES: Well, in her allegations she planned to do what she did when she came -- when she crossed the state line. So beyond that, it's really hard for me to tell at this point.

LIN: How would she know the rudiments of surgery? How do you think she was able to actually pull this off to extract this baby?

GRAVES: That's unclear. But I think that maybe that it's not as complicated as it might seem. And I'm no medical expert, but I think that anyone with a reasonable amount of skill could probably accomplish this.

LIN: Is it possible that Bobbie Jo Stinnett was still alive when Lisa Montgomery allegedly took her baby?

GRAVES: Yes, that -- again, that's a -- that's something that I really can't speculate on. But all those sorts of things are part of an investigation that's ongoing and over the weeks and months and even years that this will unfold.

LIN: Well, the reason why I ask you that is because the nature of the charge as it reads, kidnapping resulting in death. I mean is that flat out murder?

GRAVES: Well, that is a type of murder charge. We've had other cases in the Kansas City area that we've charged and we have gotten the death penalty with that very same charge. In fact, we've had two in the last three years.

The state line splits this area. It's a kind of combined Kansas- Missouri area and a lot of times people will cross that line. So that is the same as a murder charge. It's just a federal charge rather than a state charge.

LIN: How did you get Lisa Montgomery to confess?

GRAVES: Well, that is -- you know, they -- I can't really go into the details of the investigation. I have to stick pretty close to the affidavit but there was a lot of skilled investigatory work here. The sheriff's department and Ben Espey up in Nodaway County were very quick to get on this. The highway patrol in Missouri participated. A regional computer forensics lab, which is a partnership of state and local and federal authorities, worked on it. And then the FBI arrived over in Kansas and did the initial interrogation. And it was a -- it's a tremendous credit to law enforcement, some from very rural areas and some like our friends at the FBI that all worked together to break this open.

LIN: You bet. I'm talking with one of the lead FBI investigators in our primetime show at 10:00. But I want to find out from you whether you have already decided, is this going to be a death penalty case?

GRAVES: Well, in the federal system, those things that are made in conjunction with other people in the Department of Justice, it's way to early to make that determination.

LIN: Really? Why? Why? I mean it is such a horrendous crime. This is shocking to people that someone would be capable of even thinking about committing something like this kind of crime.

GRAVES: You know, it is shocking and it's gained a lot of public attention but ironically enough, for those of us in the criminal justice system, it isn't that -- it isn't as unusual as you might think it is. But it is something that will be considered. This district has a history of seeking the death penalty in cases very similar to this. And so, it's not something that we would shy away from but on the other hand, we need to complete the investigation. There's a lot of work to find out exactly what was going on and what was going through different peoples' minds at the time. And then we need to work with the conjunction of our colleagues in Washington. We'll make that decision.

LIN: All right. Thank you very much. Todd Graves U.S. attorney for Western District...

GRAVES: Thank you.

LIN: ...of Missouri. A very interesting and gruesome case to prosecute.

I want to remind you, please tune in to our primetime show at 10:00 tonight Eastern Time because I am going to be speaking with the lead FBI investigator in this case. Obviously, a lot of questions going unanswered but we're going to tie up the story for you and make sure that you connect the dots on it.

In the meantime, we want to move on to Iraq. Two top members of Saddam Hussein's former regime were interrogated in court today. Ali Hassan al-Majid, commonly known as Chemical Ali, faced questions from a panel of judges investigating war crimes. Al-Majid is accused of orchestrating the 1988 chemical weapons attack that killed more than 5,000 Kurds in Iraq.

Sultan Hashem Ahmed, Hussein's defense minister, was also questioned. But the panel is largely gathering evidence from him to be used against Chemical Ali. Al-Majid's trial is expected to begin before the end of the year.

In the meantime, there was more violence in Iraq and across Iraq today as insurgents launched a series of attacks. In Ramadi, for example, west of Baghdad, an Iraqi civilian was killed. He was apparently caught in the crossfire when insurgents attacked U.S. troops. And north of Baghdad, four American contractors were wounded by a car bomb. The attacks came as U.S. soldiers were rounding up suspected militants, including three suspects with bomb-making materials.

And an emotionally compelling story, the wife of an American contractor kidnapped in Iraq is pleading with militants for his release. Roy Hallims is one of six people kidnapped in Baghdad from this upscale neighborhood in November. Three Iraqis and a Nepalese worker have been freed but Hallims and a Filipino accountant are believed to be still alive but also continue to be held hostage. Hallims' wife is haunted by the uncertainty of her husband's situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUSAN HALLIMS, HOSTAGE'S WIFE: Unfortunately, this can't leave your thoughts. It sort of haunts you like every moment. And if I hear happy Christmas music, and I feel like I want to sing but I start to cry.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIN: Her husband worked for a Saudi company that does catering for the Iraqi Army.

Obviously, it's a tough situation in Iraq. And imagine what U.S. soldiers face every day in this dual duty of rounding up insurgents and also rebuilding cities torn apart by war. Both missions are grueling and they're not helped by the growing impatience of Iraqi residents. Our Chris Lawrence reports from Baghdad.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 1st Calvary Division fought its way through Baghdad's Sadr City one bloody block at a time.

COL. ABE ABRAMS, 1ST CALVARY DIVISION: It was violent as anyplace you can possibly imagine.

LAWRENCE: But after they defeating some of their insurgents, the mission suddenly shifted.

ABRAMS: We can -- you know we can be fighting one minute and the next minute, you know if we need to adapt and you know, go into work in humanitarian-type stuff, you know, we're ready for that too.

LAWRENCE: They've been ordered to engage insurgents, win the trust of residents and protect rebuilding projects, from repaving roads...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey Rod! Bring two.

LAWRENCE: ...to pumping streets where families still live in raw sewage.

(on camera): But a lot of Iraqis say for every one building or road that's been repaired, there are a hundred that make them feel as if the war never ended.

RASOUL ALI, SADR CITY RESIENT (through translator): It's been two years. Where's the reconstruction?

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Rasoul Ali says he hears what the Americans say, but wonders if they understand what he sees. ALI (through translator): It's not only this. Wherever you go, it's ruins.

LAWRENCE: U.S. officials say big projects like building new power plants take time. The work has to go up for bid, generators built from scratch. The American head of development compares it to his last project, Boston's Big Dig.

ANDREW NATSIDS, U.S. AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL AID: It took us 15 years to build it, in the United States, which doesn't have an insurgency going on.

LAWRENCE: The soldiers understand Iraqis' impatience.

ABRAMS: I have a two and a half year old son back home and you know, you see the kids and you just want to get it fixed. You wished you could -- you know, there could be a magic button and you could switch it and just get it fixed. But you know it's going to take some time.

LAWRENCE: And explaining that could be their most difficult mission yet.

Chris Lawrence, CNN, Sadr City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: It's difficulty these days to tell you what painkiller to use. Now, Celebrex is going to be staying on the market despite concerns about possible dangerous side effects. So how should you, the consumer, decide whether or not to take the popular painkiller? Well, I'm going to be talking with a cardiologist up next.

And still to come, how financial pressures and staffing shortages are forcing fire departments nationwide to cut back. How is that going to affect you?

Plus, why making toys isn't Santa's only concern during the holiday season. Looking good.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: Well, the Food and Drug Administration is weighing in over concerns over the painkiller Celebrex. It says doctors should consider alternative therapies after Pfizer announced the drug could increase the risk of heart attacks. CNN's Alan Chernoff has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALAN CHERNOFF, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Celebrex is the top pain medication for arthritis. But it was in cancer prevention study that the drug's potential danger was uncovered. Pfizer says it found out Thursday night that patients taking 400 or 800 milligrams of Celebrex a day had a two and one half times greater chance of heart attack or a stroke than those taking a placebo. HANK MCKINNELL, PFIZER CEO: The company had received this information at 5:00 p.m. last night. I first heard about it about 8:00 p.m. last night. We advised the Food and Drug Administration immediately. And we announced this morning information that we thought was important to prescribing physicians and to patients benefiting from Celebrex.

CHERNOFF: Pfizer is keeping the drug on the market though it plans a new study of Celebrex in arthritis patients beginning next year. The recommended dosage for such patients ranges between 100 and 400 milligrams a day depending on the type of arthritis. Some doctors say it may be best to drop the medicine.

DR. MARIE GRIFFIN, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: I think for people who are at high risk of heart disease, there's more of an immediate, you know -- they need to do something right away. For other people, I think we feel that we need more safety information on these drugs. So it's our feeling that it's better not to use them until we know more about the safety.

CHERNOFF: Celebrex is the top arthritis drug in the world. American doctors alone have written 27 million prescriptions for the drug with sales of more than $3 billion this year. Pfizer encouraged arthritis patients to switch to Celebrex after Merck pulled Vioxx off the market when it was found to pose risk of heart trouble. Both are in the same class of painkillers known as Cox 2 Inhibitors.

(on camera): Pfizer's stock dropped 11 percent Friday. As many investors fear, sales of Celebrex will suffer. The stock is a member of the Dow Jones Industrial Average and a core holding in many large mutual funds.

Alan Chernoff, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: All right, so the FDA says doctors should consider this new information about Celebrex when evaluating the risks and benefits for individual patients. Joining me to talk about this is Dr. Randy Martin. He's a cardiologist at Emory University Hospital.

I love how they couch the wording, should consider alternative therapies, may want to -- why not just -- doesn't it make your job a lot easier if the government simply or the drug company just steps up the plate and says, you know what, we have some doubts here. We're going to pull this drug off the market until we figure it out.

DR. RANDY MARTIN, EMORY UNIVERSITY CARDIOLOGIST: I've got -- you know we have been, and the cardiology community, has been concerned about this for at least or four five years. So I think that most cardiologists, since the problems really relate to heart attacks, will probably not prescribe this for their patients and would advise patients who have any heart-related problems to stop taking these types of Cox 2 Inhibitors.

LIN: Have you seen patients -- you're a cardiologist. Have you seen patients coming in complaining of symptoms of stroke or heart attack that were on Celebrex?

MARTIN: I've actually had patients who have had dramatic rise in their blood pressure who were taking some of the Cox 2 Inhibitors. And so, I think, you know, we're all very concerned about it. While the individual risk is small, this class of drugs -- and that was really the question, whether it was Vioxx but Vioxx, Albrex and Bextra have all been implemented -- implicated. So I think it's the whole class that we're concerned about. And so, most of us are looking for alternatives.

LIN: The layperson, Cox 2 Inhibitors, what is it -- the nature of this drug that is harmful to the heart?

MARTIN: Well, it's very interesting because the most effective pain reliever and anti-inflammatory are a generic class of medicines called nonsteroidals. That's an aspirin, ibuprofen. And the Cox 2 Inhibitors really came about because they were designed to protect the stomach. Aspirin, ibuprofen, all those cause stomach irritation, so the Cox 2 Inhibitors were thought to be very protective with (UNINTELLIGIBLE) inflammation. What we've found out is that they tend to make the blood more likely to clot and actually constrict the blood vessels. And that's why the blood pressure might go up.

LIN: And yet, the FDA and the drug company are both hedging -- still sending the message that perhaps some people can and may have to take something like Celebrex. Who would those people be?

MARTIN: Well, I mean I think people who are at a low risk for heart problems, OK, if it's a young person or if they've had no history of heart problems, then you might -- they're going to say you might want to take the smallest dose for the shortest period of time. These are not meant to be taken all along. And then we, as cardiologists, would suggest throw in a baby aspirin on top of that because that'll help to prevent the clotting problems that have come about.

LIN: Two hundred milligrams is usually the recommended dose for an arthritic patient. So, short of 200 milligrams of Celebrex, what is that arthritic patient -- likely to be elderly, not necessarily a 100 percent healthy -- what -- ibuprofen and aspirin aren't going to do it.

MARTIN: Well, you know that in the elderly, who would say they're the ones that are most at risk for the stomach irritation -- but what we go back to is say, take aspirin, take the ibuprofen and you can take stuff that would protect your stomach, Prolesec (ph). And so, I think those are medicines that -- and you know people really have to check with their doctor, but those are medicines that they could use. And I think in the elderly patient, who are at risk for heart problems, that we would be concerned about these Cox 2 Inhibitors. But again, you could, if your doctor said, take them for a short period of time and the smallest possible dose.

LIN: Yes, it's tough to tell that somebody who's in chronic pain.

MARTIN: Well, you know, it's hard. I mean they think -- it sure is, Carol, but there are alternatives out there. Exercise is a great alternative, too. And Glucosamine is a good alternative. So there are alternatives.

LIN: All right. Thanks very much, Dr. Randy Martin.

MARTIN: Thank you, Carol.

LIN: All right, well, they do help save lives in emergencies. We're talking about the increasing number of cities who are now forced to cut back on the number of their firefighters. That story is coming up next.

Also, still ahead, the possible political motives behind the poisoning of Ukraine's opposition leader.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: As always on our "Security Watch,' we want to bring you the latest and right now, it's all about the police at a British airport who arrested a Libyan man on suspicions of terrorism. Authorities at an airport in Darlington took the man into custody and then blew up his suitcase. An initial check of his luggage turned up no trace of explosives. And no word on why the man arose suspicions in the first place. The indent forced the airport to close for about two hours.

In the meantime, authorities in Spain are questioning four suspected Islamic militants, one of whom is believed to have played a role in the March train bombings in Madrid. The men arrived in Madrid today from the Canary Islands where they were arrested. An arrest warrant had been issued for one of the suspects in connection with the train bombings, which killed 191 people.

Now back here in the United States, fire houses across the country are struggling to operate with fewer firefighters these days. Budget cuts have led to major layoffs. And some fire departments warn the situation has left entire cities extremely vulnerable in the event of a major emergency. CNN's Alina Cho has more on this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A normal day for Jersey City firefighters. Engine Company 6 responds to a chemical spill. Nothing serious, but the big call could come at any time. The fire chief, Fred Eggers, says that a problem.

FRED EGGERS, FIRE CHIEF, JERSEY CITY, N.J.: The city of Jersey City is forced to close two companies a day because of the shortage of staffing.

CHO: Jersey City isn't alone. The National Fire Protection Association says two-thirds of the nation's fire departments are understaffed, places like Cleveland where seven percent of the city's firefighters were laid off this year, Houston where several firehouses have shut down temporarily and New York City where six fire companies have closed permanently since 2001. Eggers says it's like playing Russian roulette. EGGERS: It's never a crisis until an incident happens. But he incident can happen at any moment and at any place.

CHO (on camera): Firefighters don't just fight fires, they're also first responders, like on September 11, and that only amplifies the problem.

HAROLD SCHANTBERGER, INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF FIRE FIGHTERS: It's a crisis for them personally, endangering them unnecessarily and it certainly is affecting the capacity for them to deliver an efficient and effective level of protection for their community.

CHO (voice-over): Take the high-rise fire in Chicago earlier this month, 450 firefighters responded. The Windy City was lucky. It has full staffing.

SCHANTBERGER: If that fire had occurred in another major city in this country, where the equipment was only staffed with three firefighters or less, that fire would have been much more difficult to bring under control.

CHO: Congress passed the Safer Act in 2003, pledging $7.6 billion over seven years to hire more firefighters but very little of the money has yet been distributed.

TIM RADUCHA-GRACE, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Cities, states, counties across the United States are facing significant budget short falls. At the same time, we have a significant homeland security burden that's been placed on them. So, it puts them in a tough spot to make some very tough decisions.

CHO: So fire departments, including Jersey City, across the river from Ground Zero will continue to do more with less.

Alina Cho, CNN, Jersey City, New Jersey.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: And we have our tales from the front lines.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CORP. JOSEPH WORLEY, U.S. NAVY: I put a tourniquet on my leg because I was bleeding so bad and I had to shot myself up with morphine.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LIN: We are going to show you the human side of the political battle over getting the military more protective armor.

And still to come, the year in pictures. We're going to run down the top five most compelling images of 2004, at least the ones we thought were.

Plus, the beauty regimen of the man in the big red suit, why it's so hard to look this good.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: Welcome back, I'm Carol Lin. And I want to give you a quick look at what's happening right now in the news.

In Missouri, a father is calling his new baby daughter a miracle. The baby was cut from her mother's womb after the mother was murdered.

And more arrests in the Maryland arson case. Police have charged three men with arson in the fires that caused $10 million in damage to homes under construction. A security guard has also reportedly admitted to being involved in that case.

And the man known as Chemical Ali was interrogated in an Iraqi court. He's facing war crimes charges along with Iraq's former defense minister. Both men were top members of Saddam Hussein's regime.

And Hezbollah Television has been taken off the air in the United States. Washington put it on a list of terror organizations last week. The station has drawn protests for airing anti-Israel programs and videos glorifying suicide bombers.

And President Bush is focusing heavily on his economic priorities as he looks ahead to his second term in office. Well, today, he talked about two issues in particular, social security and reforming it and also spending cuts. CNN's Elaine Quijano is live at the White House with more details.

Good evening, Elaine.

ELAINE QUIJANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you, Carol. That's right. The president's budget isn't due out until next year but already we know about some of the president's top priorities and they include defense spending and homeland security funding, two areas where we're not expecting to see any kind of cuts. But earlier this week, President Bush did lay out some of the priorities that you mentioned, including social security reform. This was at the White House's economic conference here in Washington. Other economic goals, ambitious ones, making tax cuts permanent and changing the tax code but the centerpiece of his second term agenda, as you mentioned, partially privatizing social security, a topic that the president discussed today in his weekly radio address.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To help our young people, we must also fix the long-term problems in the social security system. Workers in their mid-20s today will find social security bankrupt when they retire unless we act to save it. As we reform and strengthen the system, we will deliver all the benefits owed to current and near retirees.

(END AUDIO CLIP) QUIJANO: Now, the administration hasn't yet talked in detail about how it wants to pay for those reforms. People are saying it could be quite costly, the transition costs, to move to partially privatizing social security. What we do know is that the president says that he doesn't want to see any changes for those at or near retirement, any changes in benefits. Also, the president has said he does not want to raise payroll taxes. And finally, he does want those private accounts to allow younger workers to take part of their withholdings and put that into private accounts.

Now, also this week, we heard about jobs numbers, the administration issuing its economic forecast for this year. The job growth numbers expected to be down about 1.4 million jobs from the administration's original prediction at the beginning of the year. Officials say that's because productivity has gone up in recent years.

But looking ahead here at 2005, the president's economic team is projecting a boost in job growth to 175,000 jobs created every month. They're also looking at a slight decrease in unemployment, now at about 5.4 percent, estimated to be down to about 5.3 percent next year. And officials are expecting that inflation will be at about two percent.

Now, getting back to the reforms, critics, again, are questioning how the president will pay for these rather ambitious goals. What the White House has said is that the president has not endorsed a specific plan on social security that it continues to look at all the options on the table. But Carol, during that economic conference, the president made it quite clear he's going to be submitting a tough budget to Congress and there are going to have to be tough choices made in how the government spends its money -- Carol.

LIN: All right, Elaine, a lot of information. Thank you very much. Live at the White House.

I also want to remind folks that Treasury Secretary John Snow is going to be talking to Wolf on "LATE EDITION" about economic goals for the year ahead. Tomorrow, CNN's "LATE EDITION" beginning at noon Eastern, 9:00 Pacific. Stay tuned.

Well, the Democrats are using their weekly radio address to blast Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on the issue of troop armor. Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois tells Rumsfeld and I'm quoting here, "We have the Army we want and now let's give them the equipment they need." Well, that equipment, both body and vehicle armor has saved the lives of many troops fighting on the front lines. CNN's Brian Todd has the stories of two soldiers who say without their armor, they would not be alive today.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From their hospital beds at the National Naval Medical Center, two badly wounded servicemen lend new perspective in the political battles over body armor and vehicle protection. Marine Corporal Ryan Groves, 24 years old, his left leg amputated above the knee just about every bone in his right leg broken.

CORP. RYAN GROVES, U.S. MARINE CORPS.: In a blink of an eye, I saw the flash and it hit right behind me.

TODD: October 17, at a Marine camp outside Fallujah, Corporal Groves, a squad leader, is getting ready to greet some newly arrived Marines. A rocket explodes right next to him. Recalling the attack, he keeps his emotions level until he relates how close he came to dying.

GROVES: Five or 10 seconds, you know, later, I would have dropped gear and put it in my seat and turned around and walked right towards where the rocket fell from, you know.

TODD (on camera): You came pretty close you think to it?

GROVES: Very close.

TODD (voice-over): A lot of guys like Corporal Groves were treated by Navy Corpsman Joseph Worley. For seven and a half months, his job was to patch up and evacuate wounded Marines from the battlefield until one chaotic day in September. On a bridge outside Fallujah, Worley is running toward an exploded Humvee. In the span of less than a minute, a roadside bomb explodes next to him. A rocket propelled grenade tears through his left leg but doesn't explode. He hits the ground and immediately takes five gunshots to both legs. Then, he takes over.

WORLEY: I rolled over and I put a tourniquet on my leg because I was bleeding so bad and I shot myself up with morphine.

TODD: As he shows us a left leg amputated above the knee, this 23-year-old also shows an incomprehensible spirit.

WORLEY: I realize how close I come to dying and knowing, that, you know, if it wasn't for, you know, having the presence of God there, giving me the strength to do what I needed to do to survive, I wouldn't been able to come back and be with my wife -- my beautiful wife and my daughter that I'd not even met yet.

TODD (on camera): Corpsman Worley and Corporal Groves were both wearing body armor at the time they were wounded. Both say they couldn't have survived without it. One of their doctors agrees but says the wounds these servicemen get in their extremities as a result present their own unique problems.

CMDR. PHILIP PERDUE, NAVY TRAUMA SURGEON: Because the wounds are so heavily contaminated usually and there's such massive tissue damage, they have to go the operating room almost immediately after they arrive and then they go back every two to three days for dressing changes and for debrisments until we think the wound is clean enough to close.

TODD (voice-over): Both these men say their units had plenty of body armor. When we asked if they had enough vehicle armor, a hospital official interrupted each time and wouldn't let them answer. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I guess I prefer, you know, it's OK to talk about your incident.

TODD: When I asked one wounded serviceman on the ward if his unit had enough vehicle armor, he said -- quote -- "not even close."

Meanwhile, just a couple of rooms apart, two young men who can't move, grateful for what armor they did have.

Brian Todd, CNN, Bethesda, Maryland.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: Well, on other news, the poisoning of Ukraine's opposition leader is bringing back memories of mysterious Soviet assassinations. Up next, hear from a former KGB agent about what he thinks led to the poisoning of Viktor Yuschenko.

Plus, powerful winds take a deadly toll in France.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: Who poisoned Viktor Yushchenko? Well, last week, doctors revealed the Ukrainian opposition presidential candidate was given dioxin. Yushchenko survived but now his face is dramatically disfigured. And as our Matthew Chance explains, speculation is rampant in the Ukraine. The poisoners were connected to Moscow.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a hideous transformation from movie star good looks to pock marks deformity. But was this a botched Soviet-style attempt to kill Ukraine's leading pro-western reformer? The country's secret service denies it, but those who know the system say it is possible. Oleg Gordevsky, a former KGB colonel, has been studying accounts of the alleged poisoning and believes his old colleagues may have had a hand in it.

OLEG GORDEVSKY, FORMER KGB COLONEL: They want you to -- keep you crying for Russia. Ukraine (UNINTELLIGIBLE) really independent and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is a worst nightmare for the Russian leaders.

CHANCE (on camera): So what do you believe happened in the Ukraine case? How would this have played out? The idea would have been conceived by somebody in the Ukraine and then had gone to Russia. How do you think it would have played out?

GORDEVSKY: Very simple. Head of the Ukrainian KGB or somebody important went to Moscow and said, "We need an effective and easy in use poison and some instruction how to use it because we have something on our agenda, something of national importance." Then they tell the Moscow against whom or not. It is difficult to tell.

CHANCE (voice-over): His account is just speculative. There's been no comment from Moscow. Gordevsky has no evidence only his old KGB sources. But in September, Viktor Yushchenko, then presidential candidate, says he attended a meal with heads of the Ukranian secret service. Its there, he says, he was poisoned. His American wife spoke of tasting medicine on his lips that night.

GORDEVSKY: The first thing in Russia is to put it in the gravy or in the soup. The Ukrainian bush is very red, very aromatic, full of garlic and other vegetables that -- spices. So a poison can easily be hidden in the soup.

CHANCE: Poison was used in the past by the old Soviet Union for killing political enemies. Yorgi Markof (ph), a Bulgarian dissident living in London was assassinated in the 1970s with a poisoned tipped umbrella causing outrage. Toxins that deprive them of a pro-western reformer would mark a grim return to those sinister methods.

Matthew Chance, CNN, London.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: Wow! News also around the world. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has struck a deal with the opposition Labor Party to form a national unity government. The deal strengthens Sharon's plan of limited disengagement from Palestinian territories and avoids new elections.

And Palestinian medical sources say 11 Palestinians have been killed in fighting with Israeli troops at a refugee tramp in Southern Gaza. Israeli military officials say the operation is part of an effort to reduce mortar attacks aimed at nearby Israeli settlements.

In France, thousands of people remain without electricity. And air traffic is still delayed after violent storms lashed the northern and eastern parts of the country. Six people were killed, including a 61-year-old Paris woman who died when a tree fell on her car.

The former dictator of Chile, Augusto Pinochet, is in the hospital after suffering a stroke. Doctors say the 89-year-old Pinochet suffered some brain impairment but his vital signs are stable. The stroke came a day after a Chilean court delayed a decision on whether to uphold his indictment on human rights charges.

Well, before Santa Claus can make every child's Christmas wish list come true, he must first head of to the salon. Still to come, how one Atlanta area woman has cornered the market on Santa's big white beard.

And up next, capturing 2004, we are going to show you what images made "Time's" top five list. Stay right there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: Well, everyone is still speculating who will be "Time" magazine's Person of The Year. Editors have revealed their Pictures of The Year, photos they believe are the most compelling of 2004. The pictures are published in this week's edition of "Time" magazine and Mary Anne Golon, "Times" pictures editor joins me now from New York.

Mary Anne, how many pictures would you say as the editor that you actually see in a single year?

MARRY ANNE GOLON, PICTURES EDITOR, "TIME" MAGAZINE: In a single year? Many thousands of pictures. We go through hundreds and hundreds to pick the ones for this specific issue.

LIN: For this specific issue? And some of them more compelling ones. We chose five amongst the many that you actually gave us. And I want to start with one taken out of Iraq. This was not typical because it really invited you to look twice as what it is that we were really seeing. Describe the scene for me.

GOLON: This was taken by a contract photographer, Yuri Kozeraf (ph) and it's when they began allowing prisoners to have family visits at Abu Ghraib prison. So this was months after the scandal of the torture photos this year. And so, that's a mother and daughter. And he -- the detainee is attempting to kiss at the daughter through the Plexiglas. That's why there's kind of a murkiness in the center of the image.

LIN: What do those pictures say to you, as the editor, when you chose it for this edition?

GOLON: Well, we thought it was actually oddly hopeful. I have no idea what the man was detained for at Abu Ghraib prison. But at least there's some connection now with the Iraqi civilians and the people who are being held there.

LIN: Right, very human. Another compelling story was the massacre at the school in Beslan where hundreds of people, mostly children, died. We have seen so much video of this and yet, capturing this moment, you know, in a single snapshot was really dramatic.

GOLON: Yes, Carol, it was echoes of Oklahoma City for me when we were going through these pictures because, as you'll recall, it -- there was a day care center at the Oklahoma City building and there were a lot of children brought out. And in this case, it was similar. There was just so much energy in the picture and it's heart breaking. It's hard to look at it but it was a definitely important story of this year.

LIN: Right, such a sense of desperation in that man's face and you wonder whether that child lived or died.

The hurricane this year here in the United States, again, an atypical picture and something that was incredibly artistic to us. And I don't know if this was a sign of devastation or hope because I think there was some surviving fruit in the shot.

GOLON: Well, I think it's more devastation because this is four feet of water in a grapefruit grove out -- just off of I-95. And the thing is, if the water recedes soon enough, the fruit can be saved. But it is an incredibly graphic, beautiful picture of a really terrible thing. It's going to be driving up our grapefruit juice prices this year, I'm afraid.

LIN: That alone. All right, the candidates on the campaign or during the campaign season. One of President George W. Bush and his national security advisors there and a different one of John Kerry sitting in this kind of artistic, shadowy backdrop there. And if people look very closely, next to him, just to the left, is a silhouette of what looks like a news photographer.

GOLON: Yes. Well, actually, there are some news photographers there, but there's also a...

LIN: Security.

GOLON: ...state trooper. Yes, security. And it was interesting because one of the things we were trying to bring to our readers in selecting these Best Photos of The Year was the intimacy that our reporters and photographers were able to gain. And in this particular instance, it is a very private moment before a very public event that we had this photograph taken by Calle Shell of Kerry.

LIN: And the president with Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld?

GOLON: Yes, the president with Cheney and Rumsfeld, that was at the Crawford ranch. And there's a wonderful sort of body language to all three men in this image taken by Christopher Morris, again, a "Time" photographer. And it was in late August, so it was -- the campaign was in full sweep there, and also, there were issues of Iraq at the time. So we kind of love the sort of body language of the president, the hang tough war president and also the setting there of Crawford.

LIN: Mary Anne Golon, for those of us who work in video, it's wonderful to see what -- just an instant still photo can communicate so, so much. Thank you so much for sharing that with us.

GOLON: Thank you so much.

LIN: I want to remind people that you can see all of the photos, beyond the five that we chose here at CNN, in this week's edition of "Time" magazine where all you parents out there might be interested in the cover story.

Now, if you want to find out who "Time" magazine's Person of The Year, you're going to have to tune in tomorrow morning. We are going to have an exclusively. Aaron Brown is going to have the announcement as it happens live at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

And up next, old Saint Nick's salon secrets. Everybody has got a stylist these days, but first here's Mark Shields to tell us what's ahead on "THE CAPITAL GANG."

Hi, Mark.

MARK SHIELDS, CO-HOST, "THE CAPITAL GANG": Hey, Carol. "THE CAPITAL GANG" will look at Don Rumsfeld in trouble and Koffi Annan's visit to Washington. We'll make our choices for Person of The Year and we'll hear from Nic Robertson reporting on the legal defense of Saddam Hussein. All that and much more, Carol, right here next here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LIN: Well, it's almost Christmas and as our Denise Belgrave shows us, it's also time for Santa to get his hair done and his tips frosted and his beard dyed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DENISE BELGRAVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "And his beard on the chin was as white as the snow." Every year at her salon in suburban Atlanta, Joyce Beisel, known as the Stylist to the Santas, pushes the hair coloring envelope to create that snowy white beard.

JOYCE BEISEL, OWNER, HAIR APPEAL: I look forward to it every year. That's why a lot of hairdressers don't do it because they're afraid of it.

BELGRAVE: And as many women know, they're afraid of it because this much coloring can ruin your hair. Beisel's over 100 clients come as fair as Las Vegas and as close as just up the road. Hal Bell who's a Georgia real estate agent loves Beisel's unique way with a beard.

HAL BELL, "SANTA": We tried to bleach it out the first time and...

BEISEL: Yourself.

BELL: Yes, ourselves, and it was painful and never got it really white. So I saw Joyce on TV and that was when it started.

BELGRAVE: Beisel has handled up to 12 Santas in one day. Hal Bell's in for just a touch up this time.

BEISEL: Hal usually takes three days. So...

BELL: So we compressed it into one day.

BEISEL: We did.

BELGRAVE: Beisel does no advertising.

JOE SMITH, "SANTA": I got started talking to this person and that person, telling them what I was going to do and they said, "Well, you need to find this lady down in Roswell.

BELGRAVE: Only the most dedicated Santas are willing to go through this trial.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just look dirty. I look dirty because I can see it coming through down here and of course, my eyebrows and then my halo right there. And she said, "Now you know what women go through."

BELL: She just makes the application take away all that pain so it doesn't burn so bad. BEISEL: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) allergies?

BELL: This is the killer.

BELGRAVE: Joyce's more than 20 years of experience shows in the final product. All the cutting and combing, coloring and coifing, only serve to enhance the most important part, the magic.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you been good this year? Have you? What else?

BELGRAVE: Denise Belgrave, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LIN: Yes, kids out there, that really is Santa.

That's all the time we have for this hour. Coming up next at 7:00 Eastern, "THE CAPITAL GANG," and then at 8:00 Eastern on "CNN PRESENTS: THE TWO MARYS." We are going to explore the historical reality of the Mother Jesus and Mary Magdalene. At 9:00 Larry King, hear from the jurors in the Scott Peterson murder trial. And at 10:00 Eastern, I'm going to talk with the lead investigator in Missouri's bizarre baby kidnapping case. But right now, here's what's happening in the news.

Doctors say an infant girl cut from her mother's womb in Missouri is in good condition. Police arrested a...

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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