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AMERICAN MORNING

Two Missing Miners in West Virginia; 'Planet' Pluto

Aired January 20, 2006 - 06:29   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody.
We'll get live pictures from West Virginia this morning, Mellville, West Virginia, where rescue operations are getting under way for two miners who appear to be trapped about 10,000 feet underground. You can see there, the governor of the state of West Virginia, Governor Joe Manchin. He's been talking to reporters. We're going to monitor some of these remarks and get the very latest live from West Virginia coming up in just a few moments.

Also, the threat level is still the same. A new message, though, from Osama bin Laden does bring a warning from the Department of Homeland Security. We'll tell you about that.

And then take a look at this videotape, a group of jewel thieves caught on tape. You're never going to guess just how much they got away with.

Welcome, everybody.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good to have you with us.

Let's get right to that mining situation. The latest now on two trapped miners in West Virginia. Rescue teams are searching in the Aracoma Mine in Mellville, 60 miles southwest of Charleston. The men got separated from the rest of their team, 12 others, after a fire broke out in the mine. Not an explosion, a fire on a conveyor belt.

AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken live now in Mellville.

Bob, I know you just got to the scene. What can you tell us about what's going on there right now?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've got completely filled in. And first of all, there are lots of differences between this and the Sago Mine, which is on the other side of the state.

This is a much larger mine. There are five rescue crews that are trying to converge on the area where they believe the two may be trapped. They are optimistic. And, of course, that's something that we've learned is very precarious. But they're optimistic that they might be able to find them alive.

What happened is at about 5:30 last evening fire broke out on the conveyer belt. The miners did what they were supposed to do. They rode transport for a while. Then they formed a human chain. And as they got out they realized they were missing two of their people. It was not too long after that before the first rescue team went in.

And now we're going to hear what the governor is saying as he gives us an update.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GOV. JOE MANCHIN, WEST VIRGINIA: And these are mining families. They understand what's going on, and they understand the scenario that we're dealing with.

QUESTION: Have you spoken to company officials?

MANCHIN: I have not. Well, I mean, you mean anytime going...

QUESTION: Jeff Gillenwater or anyone else from that...

MANCHIN: No, I really haven't. I was up -- because, you know, I let the professionals, they're doing their job. And we're letting them, and then Doug is overseeing with the MSHA. And everyone is working in a support role up there. They're in very much of a rescue mode. And, you know, there's a big difference in that, and the rescue mode is what we want to stay in.

And if you're trying to compare or trying to get a comparison off of the Sago, it's a different situation. The reason we can still have air movement, and the reason that the men were so able to find exit through air with air movement, good air movement was because we had no explosion. Without an explosion you have usually no disruption of your seals or your movement of air. That's been very encouraging from that standpoint.

We just -- we have to hope and pray that there is enough good air that they were able to find and survive in. That's what we're hoping for.

QUESTION: Governor, once again, how are the families holding up?

MANCHIN: The families, Jack, these are -- you know, they're strong West Virginia families. And like any strong West Virginia family, they're tough. And they're pulling together, and they're pulling from the strength from each other. And that's the mode they've been in. That's the mode they're staying in. And these are just good people, good strong people.

QUESTION: Governor, have you been notified of -- you talk about two blocks of...

FRANKEN: We've been listening to the governor now, and he's really telling us the situation, which has stayed pretty much the same for the last couple of hours. There are now five rescue teams that are converging in what they hope is the area.

He pointed out there are some differences between this and the Sago Mine. First of all, it is a much larger mine. Second of all, we're told that the carbon monoxide levels this time are only about a third of what they were in the Sago Mine, which is one of the reasons that they are giving people hope.

But, of course, this is a way of life here where everybody always expects the worst. It is a very dangerous way of life.

And as a matter of fact, we're talking to some people who have lived that. This is a father and son. We're talking to Josh and Gary Ball. They are both now newspaper people. But before they crossed over to the dark side, you were a coal miner yourself, right?

GARY BALL, FORMER COAL MINER: Yes, yes. Actually I started in '75 and made a mid-life career change in 1993 when the mine shut down that I worked at.

FRANKEN: Well, you know these families.

JOSH BALL, FORMER COAL MINER: Yes. Just, you know, general mountain families, deeply rooted in their faith. You know, a lot of America saw these families during the Sago tragedy. You know, it's kind of been similar here, you know, families praying and everyone together just hoping for another mountain mining miracle.

FRANKEN: But this is a way of life here, not just coal mining, but the constant presence of death. It happens a lot.

G. BALL: Yes. See, I had an uncle that I thought was in the mine at the time. Actually, you know, when I first heard the news of the Aracoma Mine, my uncle is three years older than me, so we're more like brothers. We started to mine at the same time. And when I heard that, of course, you know, the first thing, you know, I thought fear, because he is a fire boss belt examiner. And with a belt fire, you know, I heard belt fire, so there was a very good chance that it was him.

En route over here I learned that he was off sick. So he wasn't inside the mine. Of course, his son-in-law was inside the mine. And he was one of the 10 -- you know, we've learned he was one of the 10 that made it out.

FRANKEN: He was 12th. Are you...

G. BALL: No, there were 10 who made it out.

FRANKEN: Who made it out.

G. BALL: Right.

FRANKEN: The two are missing.

G. BALL: Yes, two are missing.

FRANKEN: Are you optimistic?

J. BALL: Very optimistic. Going around and talking to a few people who are a little bit insiders in this situation, the miners were overcome with smoke as the manstrip (ph), which carries the miners, was trying to evacuate the mine. They got about as far as they could. Because of the smoke, they had to get off the manstrip (ph). And what I've been told is that they had to form a human chain on their knees just trying to grab a hold of one another, because the smoke was so thick they couldn't see. They couldn't see the light on their helmets it was just so dark and smoky. So they formed a human chain and got out on their hands and knees.

You know, these are mining folks, and, you know, they wanted to get out.

I talked one that said, you know, he thought about his kids, thought about his wife as he was crawling out of that mine. He didn't want to stop and barricade himself. He wanted to get out of that mine, you know, before it took his life.

G. BALL: Well, you know...

FRANKEN: Yes.

G. BALL: Yes, these 12 folks here, you know, these 12 men on the section, Sago is still fresh on their minds. And I'm sure that they have rehearsed all of this stuff, what would I do if that -- you know, if there were to happen to me, what would I do?

FRANKEN: And, of course, also rehearsed is the mine rescue effort. There are five teams down there. And this is -- they're about 10,000 feet inside the mine, but it actually goes down about 900 to 1,000 feet. It's an entirely different setup, as I said, from Sago.

So the rescue teams are hard at work, and the people here, as he said, are people of faith. They are praying -- Miles.

M. O'BRIEN: Bob Franken on the scene there in Mellville, West Virginia. We'll be back with him all throughout the morning. Fascinating.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, it certainly is. Gosh, good luck to all of them who are really involved in that rescue right now.

It's time to check the forecast. Let's get right to Chad. He's at the CNN center.

(WEATHER REPORT)

M. O'BRIEN: Coming up, more on that new audiotape from Osama bin Laden. Despite all of his threats, bin Laden also offered a truce. Kind of a strange thing. How serious is he about that?

S. O'BRIEN: Plus, a man goes free after spending 21 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit. Well, now he's getting a huge payback. Just wait until you hear how much money he'll get to start his new life. That story is ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Andy is "Minding Your Business" in just a moment. First, though, let's get a check of the headlines. Carol has got that.

Good morning again.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. And good morning to all of you.

A mine fire in West Virginia and two men are missing. It happened in Mellville, about 60 miles southwest of Charleston. Twelve men went into that mine on Thursday when a fire broke out. Ten of them managed to get out OK. Rescue teams are now searching for the missing miners.

Jill Carroll's father is making a moving appeal on behalf of his daughter. Her captors had said they would kill the journalist today unless the U.S. military releases all female Iraqi prisoners. Carroll's father released a statement earlier this morning. He says he wants to speak to the kidnappers directly, because they may also be fathers.

Another father is pleading for his child; this one on the behalf of John Walker Lindh, the so-called American Taliban. Walker's father says his son was tortured and put in prison amidst hysteria over the September 11 terror attacks. Twenty-four-year-old John Walker Lindh was captured alongside Taliban fighters in Afghanistan in 2001. He is now serving a 20-year sentence. His father has appealed to President Bush to lessen the sentence.

There will be no Senator Laura Bush, at least that's what her husband says. When asked the question, the president says his wife is far more interested in literacy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

QUESTION: I was just wondering when we'll see our lovely first lady run for the Senate.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, never.

QUESTION: Come on! Ask her, will you?

BUSH: No, I'm not going to ask her. She's -- never. She's -- you know, I think I'm pretty sure when I married her she didn't like politics or politicians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: So, there you have it until at least some reporter asked the first lady herself. And then, of course, we will bring you her comments on the matter.

One million dollars' worth of jewelry gone in two minutes. Amazing surveillance video for you this morning. The thieves got away with jewels even though the burglar alarms are blaring and the security cameras rolling. Look at that. Oh, they're (INAUDIBLE), although it's speeded up. And actually it almost looks like the video is on high speed, but it is on high speed. They're not that fast. Police say they have a major clue that might help them solve the case. But they're keeping that under their hats. We'll keep you posted.

And if you spend 21 years behind bars for a crime you did not commit, what's that worth? Well, in California a victims' compensation board agreed to pay more than $756,000 to Kenneth March (ph) -- 756,000. That's $100 for each day he was in prison. March (ph) was cleared in the death of his girlfriend's young son. So for 21 years of his life, he's only getting 100 bucks a day. I don't know. It doesn't seem right to me.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, it sounds a little low, huh?

COSTELLO: A lot low.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Not a good tradeoff.

S. O'BRIEN: Wow!

M. O'BRIEN: How do you pay somebody back for that?

S. O'BRIEN: Raise that number a lot, I guess, to go a lot farther.

SERWER: Yes, that would help, yes.

M. O'BRIEN: That would start a bigger number, yes.

Andy Serwer, want to negotiate that for him?

SERWER: No, I'm not sure I want to do that. I will tell you what's coming up ahead on business, though. We know big layoffs are coming to Ford. Just how bad will they be? Now we have some strong clues. Stay tuned to AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Flu report for today. The states colored in red out toward the Southwest, all widespread flu activity. The Northeast still not looking too bad. Regional activity, though, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Mississippi. More on this to come a little later.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Some mellow music.

M. O'BRIEN: Just a happy -- Jerry is in a mellow mood this morning.

S. O'BRIEN: Hi, I'm going for R&B.

M. O'BRIEN: It's Friday.

(CROSSTALK)

S. O'BRIEN: We can turn it around, guys. We can save the music (INAUDIBLE).

M. O'BRIEN: We asked for Wilson Pickett (ph). We get John Denver or something along those lines.

S. O'BRIEN: Goo Goo Dolls or whatever.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: Oh, is that it?

S. O'BRIEN: A little mellow. Come on!

M. O'BRIEN: Goo Goo Dolls?

S. O'BRIEN: It's Friday, man!

M. O'BRIEN: What does the Motor...

S. O'BRIEN: Liven it up.

M. O'BRIEN: What does the Motor...

SERWER: Bob Seger.

M. O'BRIEN: That would be all right.

S. O'BRIEN: Anybody? Anybody?

SERWER: Yes, yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. Going to Cat Man Do (ph)? That would be good. Jerry? We so digress.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, business news.

M. O'BRIEN: But to further digress, Andy will tell you what Mow (ph) and the Motor City have in common.

SERWER: Oh, boy. You're setting me up here. They are lowering the boom at Ford. We knew layoffs were coming to this company.

Now, sources close to the number two automaker in the U.S. are saying that on Monday company CEO Bill Ford will announce layoffs amounting to more than 25,000 employees. That's 20 percent of its North American workforce.

The program is called the Way Forward, which, as Miles suggested, sort of sounds like the great leap forward in China from 1960. But, again, we digress.

Five plants perhaps will be closed. Perhaps Atlanta, St. Louis and St. Paul and on in Mexico and California.

Also part of this restructuring, Ford will end making minivans.

M. O'BRIEN: No!

S. O'BRIEN: Really?

M. O'BRIEN: No.

SERWER: This is what the sources are saying, and...

M. O'BRIEN: What will soccer moms drive?

SERWER: Well, Chrysler, of course, is the big minivan company. Ford makes the Freestar, which used to be the Windstar and also the Mercury Monterrey. These automobile sales -- look at that -- are way down. Not doing very well.

And they're going to be replacing them with a concept wagon, a concept wagon...

S. O'BRIEN: Oh!

SERWER: ... called the Ford Fairlane.

M. O'BRIEN: Do you like that?

SERWER: I kind of do.

S. O'BRIEN: I don't mind it.

M. O'BRIEN: Fairlane, that's what we all drove...

SERWER: The Fairlane was the old...

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: Yes, it was an old car.

M. O'BRIEN: With wood on the side, the door on the back, right?

SERWER: Everything is going back to the future...

S. O'BRIEN: So they're bringing back the name.

SERWER: The name. But it doesn't look anything like the Ford Fairlane.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, I think that car is kind of nice looking. You don't like that?

M. O'BRIEN: No.

SERWER: I thought it was OK.

M. O'BRIEN: No.

SERWER: One more piece of news out of Detroit, the Motor City this morning. GM is involved in a renovation program along the river, 13 acres of Detroit East it's called. And, boy, Detroit could sure use it. I hope we have an artist rendering of what this will look like. I'm not sure if we have it. There it is. You can see. So this is all parking lots and, you know, decay, and it's going to be turned into retail shops. M. O'BRIEN: You know, that part of Detroit really never fully recovered from the riots. It really has...

SERWER: Going all the way back to that.

M. O'BRIEN: Really to '67. Economically depressed since then. So it's...

SERWER: Maybe a leap forward.

M. O'BRIEN: It's good that they're investing. Yes, they do in a big way.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, they need a big leap forward.

M. O'BRIEN: In a big way.

SERWER: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: And not that mouse stuff you were talking about.

SERWER: Not that mouse stuff, no.

S. O'BRIEN: All right, Andy, thank you.

SERWER: You're welcome.

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, just how far can the government go to get access to your information, even if they want to fight child pornography? The Feds want to know what millions of people are looking at on Google. Is it an invasion of privacy? We're going to talk to senior legal analyst Jeff Toobin. That's just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Now be sure to check out our Web site, CNN.com, for the latest on this morning's top stories, including basketball. Oh, that was -- no, that was not on the air. I was -- the crew was watching basketball while I was looking at the monitor.

All right, so, there's...

S. O'BRIEN: I'm sure they appreciate that you just outed them.

M. O'BRIEN: Of course, our top story -- I just completely bagged them. Our top story, of course, is the bin Laden tape. We're going to tell you a little bit more about that. In just a moment, we're going to ask an expert about that.

Also, here's a story you are interested in is the number one most popular story on CNN.com, great concern obviously among you about the possibility that Anheuser-Busch, Miller and others are taking the bikinis out of their beer ads. They're going high brow, guys. They want to educate you on the social value of beer or malt products or whatever you may like. Me, well... S. O'BRIEN: You don't -- you want to just go to our Web site. You can stay in touch with CNN, AMERICAN MORNING. Log on to CNN.com and our pipeline video service, where you can catch free live -- I mean, live commercial-free news constantly.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you once again.

S. O'BRIEN: CNN.com/pipeline. A short break. We're back in just a moment.

M. O'BRIEN: My children thank you.

Oh, we're not doing a break. Let's move on.

Let's talk about Pluto. Isn't it fitting that the mission to Pluto is being fueled by plutonium or the probe itself?

S. O'BRIEN: Is that an irony or paradox?

M. O'BRIEN: Pluto, plutonium? Coincidence?

S. O'BRIEN: Coincidence probably, yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Coincidence, probably. Not paradox. Yes, yes. It would have been irony if there had been an explosion during the launch yesterday, but everything went well, right?

S. O'BRIEN: Thank goodness, yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. You know, the first 40 seconds everybody was kind of holding their breath, because if there had been an explosion over the Cape that could have been a bad deal.

Anyway, it's well on its way. The fastest object ever created. And in about 3,300 days it will reach Pluto. And we'll be right here to tell you all about it, right? Ten years from now. All right? Sign us up.

Now, nothing is better than watching a perfect launch. Scientists hope studying Pluto will help them understand how planets are formed and how the solar system is formed. But the fact is Pluto as a planet is on the ropes.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN (voice over): Diddy (ph) for Pluto. After a 75-year run as the runt of our solar system, many astronomers now insist it is high time to take drastic action, drum the icy small sphere out of the family of planets. Pluto, a planet no more.

(on camera): All right, so, first of all, this is where the trouble began for you, so to speak.

NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON, ASTRONOMER: UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is where we got in big trouble. M. O'BRIEN (voice over): Astronomer Neil Tyson helped bring Pluto's plight to the public. When they opened the new planetarium at New York's Museum of Natural History a few years ago, Pluto was conspicuously absent from the solar system. Remember what they taught you in grade school? "My very education mother just served us nine pizzas."

Well, forget about it. But don't try to tell that to kids here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it should be a planet, because it has a moon and it's not a star and it's definitely not a meteorite.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've always known Pluto as a planet. And I think that if they think it is one, then it would be great to keep it that way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are there eight or nine planets?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know there's (INAUDIBLE) another rocky body further (INAUDIBLE), but it's too small to be called one. It's more like an asteroid.

M. O'BRIEN: People just love Pluto. The former planet was discovered by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, the same year, coincidentally, Walt Disney gave us that other Pluto.

TYSON: We love our entertainment. Plus there's the underdog factor, Pluto being the farthest, the smallest, the dimmest. So I think people kind of are vying for it, trying to give it some kind of standing above what it actually really deserves. I know that sounds mean.

M. O'BRIEN (on camera): Come on, you're like a Pluto grinch.

(on camera): When word got out, Tyson was deluged with letters from outraged school kids, like this:

TYSON: "Hi, my name is Angel Anderson from Ms. Graves' class. I think that Pluto is a planet for a lot of reasons. One is that size doesn't matter."

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, god, I love that girl.

(voice over): But it's more than just size that has astronomers pondering Pluto. The real problem is the more they look in that neighborhood, the so-called Kuiper Belt, they more they find orbiting spheres that are a lot like Pluto.

MIKE BROWN, ASTRONOMER: We have found somewhere around 100 at this point.

M. O'BRIEN: And astronomer Mike Brown discovered one that is even bigger than Pluto, now called 2004-UB313, prompting him to get some fan mail as well.

BROWN: "Thank you for discovering the 10th planet. It has been 157 years since Neptune was found. You should make it a planet. You could name it planet Brown."

M. O'BRIEN: So the question is, if Pluto remains in the family of planets, shouldn't UB313 be allowed in as well? And then, how many others can join the club?

BROWN: The only thing that I can think of that they don't a rule for is planets, because, of course, no one was supposed to find new planets. So there are no rules.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

M. O'BRIEN: No rules on planets, Soledad. Now, here, of course, we don't remember this, but in the early 1800s, 19th century, astronomers thought they discovered this planet called Sharon (ph) I believe it was. I may be getting it wrong, but it doesn't matter. They looked at it, and then they found another one.

It turns out they were looking at asteroids in the asteroid belt. So for a time, though, they thought there were, like, upwards of 10 or 12 planets in the solar system. So planets come...

S. O'BRIEN: And so they just sort of conventionally believed there were 12 planets?

M. O'BRIEN: Exactly. And so planets come, planets go, and in this case maybe it's time to say good-by to Pluto. But, you know...

S. O'BRIEN: Try explaining that to a 5-year-old who wants to know if Pluto is a planet or not.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, what do you do about the pizza? How do you do the mnemonic, right? Yes.

Chad, what do you do about Pluto?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: It delivers what? I don't know.

M. O'BRIEN: Just serve us noodles or something and leave it at that, right?

MYERS: Right, there you go.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes?

MYERS: Yes, instead of 9 pizzas, we'll get noodles. There you go.

(WEATHER REPORT)

MYERS: Back to you.

M. O'BRIEN: Thank you, Chad. Good morning to you. I'm Miles O'Brien.

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