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THE SITUATION ROOM
Search Under Way For Two West Virginia Coal Miners; Al Qaeda Planning Attack on Alaskan Oil Pipeline?; Ford to Announce Layoffs; End of Horse-Drawn Carriages in New York?; Violent New Video Game Protested by Police
Aired January 20, 2006 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: You're in THE SITUATION ROOM, where new pictures and information are arriving all the time.
Standing by, CNN reporters across the United States and around the world to bring you the day's top stories.
Happening now, it's 3:00 p.m. in Alaska. Could al Qaeda be planning an attack on a vital U.S. oil pipeline? A radical Web site offers a detailed blueprint for sabotage by jihadists.
In West Virginia, where it's 7:00 p.m., rescuers search a hot, cavernous maze filled with smoke for two coal miners missing after an underground fire.
And it's 7:00 p.m. in New York's Central Park, where a romantic symbol of the city is under attack from animal activists. Will the horse-drawn carriages be driven out of business?
I'm John King, in for Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And we begin tonight on the "Security Watch," with word of a possible new terror threat, this one targeting the Alaska pipeline. That comes as the U.S. government indicts almost 12 people for alleged ecoterrorism, while the White House goes on the defensive over domestic spying on terror suspects.
Our correspondents Kareen Wynter, Kelli Arena, and Dana Bash are on "Security watch" for us tonight.
We begin with Kareen in our San Francisco bureau -- Kareen.
KAREEN WYNTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, no surprise each day, there are literally hundreds of postings on the Internet from radical Web sites calling for possible terror attacks.
But what makes this potential claim so different, why it's standing out from the rest here, is the detailed nature involved in this message, calling, again, for attack on the trans-Alaska pipeline. Now, it's still unclear who is exactly behind this message, whether it's a group or individual.
But what, again, is raising concern here has to do with a number of things. There was a detailed plan and method of attack using piercing bullets and explosives. The postings also discussed the vulnerability of this pipeline and where to stage attacks, and even links to Web sites with maps. There was a whole field of security information here.
This message was posted back in December. It's in Arabic. And it also calls for attacks on the pipeline's pump stations and oil tankers. It was a Washington, D.C.-based organization which monitors Web sites that first detected this posting.
Now, the company which operates this pipeline told us a number of things today. Not only have they known about this information for weeks now. But they say, right now, it doesn't appear as if there's any imminent danger and that they continue to conduct business as usual.
John, we also spoke with the FBI in Anchorage, Alaska. They say that while they are aware of this Web site, that, again, they have no specific or credible evidence of a potential plot or plan. But they say they have always been aware that this pipeline is a potential terror target -- John.
KING: Kareen Wynter, for us tonight in San Francisco, thank you.
And now to another kind of terror campaign here in the United States, waged in the name of protecting the environment. A federal grand jury in Oregon today indicted 11 people allegedly involved in fiery ecoterrorism attacks on a variety of targets.
Our justice correspondent, Kelli Arena, is following this case -- Kelli.
KELLI ARENA, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: John, you know, with all the talk about al Qaeda, we haven't heard about ecoterrorism in a while.
But the FBI says that, domestically, it's one of its top priorities.
ARENA (voice-over): As this upscale Colorado ski resort burned to the ground in 1988, the term ecoterrorism gained national attention. Now, nearly eight years later, 11 people are finally facing charges for that crime, and 16 others, all alleged members of the Earth or Animal Liberation fronts.
ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: That a group of defendants who refer to themselves as the family worked together with extensive planning to influence the conduct of government and private businesses through the use of coordinated force, violence, sabotage.
ARENA: Officials describe the group as a domestic terror cell. It includes an Oregon volunteer firefighter. Eight are in custody. Three are fugitives believed to be overseas. They are accused of crimes in five states, dating back to 1996. All told, they allegedly caused as much as $80 million in property damage. ROBERT MUELLER, FBI DIRECTOR: Terrorism is terrorism, no matter what the motive. The FBI is committed to protecting Americans from crime and terrorism, including acts of domestic terrorism in the name of animal rights or the environment.
ARENA: Both ELF and ALF are notoriously secretive. Sources say the government's success in bringing charges hinged on a key informant and insider.
Camille Hankins publishes ALF communiques.
CAMILLE HANKINS, NORTH AMERICAN ANIMAL LIBERATION: Activists are being rounded up and bullied, harassed and intimidated, by -- by the authorities. And you -- you really can't rely on that information.
ARENA: CNN called several attorneys for the defense, but we didn't get any calls back yet.
Now, while officials consider this indictment a big step forward, the extremist movement remains very much intact, John. These groups have claimed responsibility for more than 1,200 attacks. And some say that these arrests will only incite them even more.
KING: Justice correspondent Kelli Arena -- thank you, Kelli.
An audiotape from the al Qaeda's number-two man has appeared on the Internet, just a day after Osama bin Laden broke his long silence with a warning to the United States. The latest message is from Ayman Al-Zawahri, bin Laden's top lieutenant.
In it, he recites poetry to fellow jihadists. But he does not mention last week's CIA missile strike aimed at killing him. And because the tape makes no reference to specific dates, a U.S. counterterrorism official does not view it as very significant.
And, of course, stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security.
The Bush White House is zeroing in the terror threat in a new pushback against critics of Mr. Bush's domestic spying program. Embattled Bush political adviser Karl Rove is among those front and center in that campaign. And so is the new taped message from Osama bin Laden.
More on that now from our White House correspondent Dana Bash -- Dana.
DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, the president and his aides made clear -- made a decision, I should say, pretty soon after the NSA program became public that they weren't going to talk very much at all about the substance, but they were going to try hard not to let their critics of the controversial program define it for them. Well, the White House announced today that the president and his aides are going to really launch that in a whole different way, that campaign. He's even going to go to the NSA next Wednesday, all a part of their effort to defend the program. Well, today, the pushback came from somebody we haven't seen in some time in public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROVE, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me be as clear as I can be. President Bush believes, if al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interests to know who they're calling and why. Some important Democrats...
ROVE: Some important Democrats clearly disagree.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BASH: Rove went on to say that the reason why they should have the debate, it is a debate worth having, is because he believes he -- that Republicans should press this as a political issue.
Certainly, that was the -- the -- the theme of the speech that he gave today, John, making it clear that they want to try to turn around the flap, perhaps, to their advantage, saying over and over that the president will make them safe -- it's a political theme from this White House -- and that Democrats still have, in his words, a pre-9/11 view.
Well, as you can imagine, the Democrats didn't like that very much -- Howard Dean saying that Rove should have been fired. Of course, I mentioned that he hasn't been out there very much lately. That is because he's still in legal limbo over the CIA leaks investigation -- John.
KING: Dana Bash at the White House tonight, a major policy debate and an early sign of the 2006 campaign season -- thank you very much, Dana.
And time now for "The Cafferty File." Our Jack Cafferty is in New York.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Did -- did I miss something there with Karl Rove? Aren't they supposed to get a warrant before they do that? Nobody says they shouldn't do it. But they're supposed to go to the -- the court, the FISA court, and get a warrant, right?
KING: You're going to have -- you're going to have a lot of time to spend on this issue when those hearings go up to Capitol Hill next week. The White House says no. Many Democrats, even some Republicans, say yes. It may be a good e-mail question down the road.
CAFFERTY: We have asked it already, something along the lines of, you know, if it's found to be illegal, is it an impeachable offense? We got a ton of mail.
On another subject, something much lighter, an Ohio woman who -- well, that's not light -- she died in November. But she left her $1.1 million estate to the government. There's a good idea. Margaret Taylor wanted her life savings used to help pay down the $8 trillion national debt.
Taylor's lawyer said the 98-year-old woman was a staunch Democrat. She believed the debt should be paid off, and she wanted to do her part. Government officials said it was most likely the biggest gift they ever got.
And since it's Friday, and it's been a kind of a rough week here in THE SITUATION ROOM, we thought we would have a little fun with this. The question is, to whom would you leave your money? Now, don't write to me and say your family, because that's not clever, and it's not funny. And -- and, of course, you would. But, if you weren't going to leave it to them, who would you leave your money to? E-mail us at caffertyfile@CNN.com or CNN.com/caffertyfile -- John.
KING: Not the government. That's my initial answer. A little bit more later in the program.
CAFFERTY: Yes, right, anybody but Uncle Sam.
KING: And, coming up, Japan halts all U.S. beef imports just days after a two-year ban was lifted. Details of that health scare behind the move.
Also, family and friends are anxiously waiting for word on the victims of another mine disaster in West Virginia. We are live at the scene with the latest on the rescue efforts.
And he's had a role in some of the most notorious deaths over the last several decades. Now the man some call the celebrity coroner is being indicted. We will show you why.
KING: He's been an important figure in the death investigations of Elvis Presley, JonBenet Ramsey, even President John F. Kennedy. But now one of the country's most prominent coroners, Dr. Cyril Wecht, faces an 84-count federal indictment.
CNN's Mary Snow has details on this story -- Mary.
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, a federal prosecutor in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, says the charges stem from a year-long investigation.
But defense attorneys say the charges are the result of local politics, and they deny all the allegations.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SNOW (voice-over): He's a celebrity consultant, of sorts, a coroner who consulted in the death of Elvis Presley. Other high- profile cases include Laci Peterson and JonBenet Ramsey.
In recent months, Dr. Cyril Wecht worked on examining bodies following Hurricane Katrina. He made a name for himself when he questioned the lone gunman theory in the JFK assassination.
DR. CYRIL WECHT, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: The assassination of the president was the overthrow of the government.
SNOW: Now the famed 74-year-old forensic pathologist is in the public eye because he has been named in an 84-count federal indictment.
MARY BETH BUCHANAN, U.S. ATTORNEY: Based upon what we have seen in this case, there is more than ample probable cause to believe that Cyril Wecht violated federal law in -- in numerous -- numerous charges set forth in this indictment.
SNOW: Mary Beth Buchanan, the U.S. attorney in Pennsylvania's Allegheny County, alleges that, in his position as county coroner, Wecht used resources for his private business. She also charges, he traded dead bodies in exchange for lab space at a local college.
BUCHANAN: What the indictment does allege is that, in violation of law, Cyril Wecht traded the bodies of -- of individual who -- who didn't have a readily identifiable next of kin.
SNOW: Wecht's lawyers are denying all allegations.
In a statement, the lawyers call the indictment -- quote -- "unwarranted and fatally flawed," saying the allegations of Dr. Wecht have their genesis in local politics. The defense team, which includes former U.S. Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, said in a statement:
MARK RUSH, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR DR. CYRIL WECHT: The entire team is sad and disappointed that the United States attorney sought it fit to bring these charges against one the most distinguished forensic pathologists of our time, who now, at 75, is in the twilight of his career.
SNOW: And because of the indictment, Dr. Cyril Wecht resigned from his post as Allegheny County's medical examiner -- John.
KING: Mary Snow, thank you very much.
And our Zain Verjee now joins us from the CNN Center in Atlanta with a closer look at other stories making news.
ZAIN VERJEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. U.S. meat inspectors are on their way to Japan to check out U.S. beef shipments. Japan today halted U.S. beef imports after spinal material was found in a shipment. Japan had lifted a two-year ban on U.S. beef just a month ago. The United States had agreed to keep all spinal cord and similar material out of beef shipments to Japan because of Tokyo's concerns about mad cow disease.
There was clapping at the Dow's closing bell, but it may have been from relief that the trading day was finally over. The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 213 points in its biggest one-day point drop since March of 2003 -- sparking the freefall, soaring energy prices and disappointing earnings reports from General Electric and Citigroup.
A California man who was videotaped shooting a lawyer outside a courthouse three years ago has been convicted of attempted murder. William Strier could face life in prison at his sentencing. That's going to happen next month. The 2002 shooting of attorney Gerald Curry was captured by TV cameras covering the murder trial of actor Robert Blake. Curry survived being shot several times. Strier was reportedly upset about a trust fund.
He went to prison for knowing about the Oklahoma City bombing plot and not warning anyone. But now Michael Fortier is a free man. His attorney said Fortier was released today. He was sentenced to 12 years, in return for testifying in the trials of bombing co- conspirators Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. He was released a year early for good behavior.
One hundred and sixty-eight people died in the April 19, 1995 bombing -- John.
KING: Thank you very much, Zain.
And a quick housekeeping note here -- in that Mary Snow package on the charges against coroner Cyril Wecht, we showed you a picture of former U.S. diplomat Thomas Pickering, where we should have you shown you a picture of former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, who is a member of the Wecht defense team. Our apologies for that.
He was captured in Afghanistan, where he had gone to fight alongside the Taliban. Now he's serving a long prison term for aiding America's enemies. But his family is hoping to do something about that.
CNN's Brian Todd is here with that story -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, the man known as the Taliban American has been transferred from one detention facility to another, and even been assaulted at one.
But since his sentencing in 2002, we haven't heard anything from John Walker Lindh, and not much public comment from any member of his family, until now.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An emotional plea from Frank Lindh directly to the president on behalf of his son.
FRANK LINDH, FATHER OF JOHN WALKER LINDH: President Bush, as one father to another, I would ask that you please let my son out of prison.
TODD: John Walker Lindh is serving a 20-year sentence for being a member of the Taliban. His father says he pleaded guilty because he was afraid he wouldn't get a fair trial, with public sentiments still raw from 9/11 and top officials making comments that Frank Lindh says were prejudicial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2001)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Obviously, Walker is unique, in that he's the first American al Qaeda fighter that we have captured.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: Contacted by CNN, a Justice Department spokesman said -- quote -- "John Walker Lindh pleaded guilty and acknowledged before a judge that he supplied service to the Taliban."
Lindh did make a similar admission the day he was captured in an interview with CNN at a prison in Northern Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2001)
JOHN WALKER LINDH, TALIBAN FIGHTER: My heart became attached to them. I wanted to help them one way or another. So, I had an opportunity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TODD: But his father says he never took up arms against American soldiers and never intended to. He also blamed the U.S. military for allowing his son to be mistreated.
F. LINDH: John's bullet wound was left festering and untreated. He was blindfolded and bound hand and foot with tight plastic strips that caused severe pain. He was stripped naked and duct-taped in this condition, blindfolded, bound and naked, to a stretcher.
TODD: A Pentagon spokesman responded -- quote -- "John Walker Lindh's injuries were observed and addressed. He and others were captured on the battlefield as enemy combatants fighting our forces."
TODD: There was one other American among the captured Taliban, but his case had a very different ending. Yaser Hamdi, with dual U.S.-Saudi citizenship, was never criminally charged. He was only held as an unlawful enemy combatant. In 2004, when the Supreme Court said he could challenge his detention in court, he was released from U.S. custody -- John.
KING: Brian Todd, thank you very much -- an interesting story.
And still to come on THE SITUATION ROOM, a live update on the search for two miners trapped underground after a fire -- details of what is making this rescue operation so difficult.
Plus, it's London's newest attraction, drawing huge crowds. But some people are afraid a whale in the Thames may be in trouble.
KING: London draws visitors from all over the world, but one in particular is attracting a lot of attention and concern these days.
Zain Verjee is live for us at the CNN Center with that story -- Zain.
VERJEE: John, this visitor is a northern bottle-nosed whale, swimming up to the Thames and drawing crowds to the river's edge.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have seen whales out in the open, but never in the river. So, it's incredible. It's just awesome.
VERJEE (voice-over): The wayward whale is rivaling London's traditional attractions, with crowds flocking to the Thames, hoping to catch a glimpse.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We saw it on the news, but, when we got down here, he's -- he's gone into the middle of the river now. So, all we can see is just the spray coming up from his blowhole.
VERJEE: The northern bottle-nosed whale is believed to be about 20 feet long. Normally, they're found in the North Atlantic, where they can grow to 30 feet and weigh eight tons.
The animal is now about 40 miles from the mouth of the Thames.
LEAH GARCES, CAMPAIGNS DIRECTOR, WORLD SOCIETY FOR PROTECTION OF ANIMALS: It's very unusual. The only other visitor we have had of this sort were three harbor porpoises that we had visit us around Christmastime last year. So, it's -- it's really showing, the Thames is getting healthier.
VERJEE: But there are concerns for the whale's health. Experts say that the fact that that animal is swimming upstream may mean it's sick, confused, or both.
EDWIN TIMEWELL, ATLANTIC WHALE FOUNDATION: It's heavily scarred. And it's got a -- what looks like an infected wound behind the left eye. And it's -- it seems to be tired and exhausted. Just by intuition, it doesn't look very well.
VERJEE: A group of boats is trying to protect the whale from shipping on the Thames. And crews are also standing by to assist the animal, if it beaches. But, otherwise, there's little that can be done right now to help the animal -- John.
KING: And -- and, Zain, this -- this has happened before, or has not?
VERJEE: It has happened before. Actually, London's Natural History Museum says that it was the first time -- the last time, rather, that a whale like this was seen in the Thames was back in 1913.
They also -- they also add, John, that a whale in shallow water in the Thames is kind of the equivalent to a human being lost in the Sahara Desert. So, that kind of gives you a sense of what this whale is going through.
KING: Tough times, no SITUATION ROOM back in 1913, obviously.
KING: Thank you, Zain.
KING: We will debate that one later.
Just ahead, in West Virginia, it has happened again, another mine accident, and more trapped miners. This time, officials say they have learned from their past mistakes and doing all they can to find the missing men. We will have details ahead.
And children may think it's just fun and games, but police say it's no laughing matter. A new violent video game allows players to shoot to kill cops. And that has the police fighting back.
KING: In West Virginia tonight, they're praying it won't happen again. Just weeks after a mine accident that killed 12 men, there's been another. This one is in Melville. And, this time, two men are missing.
Our Chris Huntington is on the scene monitoring the latest developments in the rescue operation -- Chris.
CHRIS HUNTINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, it's eerie parallels, although some stark differences, also, to what happened at Sago.
Here's what we know right now. Rescuers, specially trained rescuers, 25 of them have been working in shifts since 10:00 p.m. last night to search for two miners who were trapped in there after a fire broke out there yesterday afternoon.
The officials here tell us it was a fire, they believe, started on a conveyor belt, a great big conveyor belt, that runs the whole distance of the mine, that brings the coal out of the mine. Somehow, that's the source of the fire. It's still burning . And it's filling the passageways, many of them with smokes and noxious fumes, including carbon monoxide.
And, of course, that is hampering the ongoing rescue efforts.
Here's how the mine official who has been briefing us put it earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG CONAWAY, WEST VIRGINIA MINE SAFETY CHIEF: And our problem has been in the search is -- is the large area, but it's, also, we have some clear entries, and then we have some entries that are full of smoke. And it's just very difficult to examine and -- and determine what are in those entries, with -- with very poor visibility.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNTINGTON: Now, one of the biggest challenges here is just the sheer size of this mine.
It's called the Aracoma Mine. And it is absolutely massive. To put -- give you some sense of scale, the passageway that the rescuers go into and then get to the fire area is two miles in length. Then they have to go around that to an area where they believe the two miners were with 10 other miners, who did make it out safely. And they believe all these 12 were together and put on their safety gear.
But some time after putting on their safety gear, in the confusion and the smoke of the fire, these two gentlemen were left behind. So, the search-and-rescue effort continues. It's now been 26 hours since the fire broke out. And, as I mentioned, John, the rescuers have been working steadily since about 10:00 last night.
KING: And, Chris, as you well remember, in the early hours after the Sago Mine disaster, there was a great deal of focus on what most would consider to be a spotty safety record of the Sago Mine. What do we know about the safety record here in Melville?
HUNTINGTON: This mine has a much better safety record. Although last year, it did have a nonfatal accident rate that was higher than the mine average in West Virginia. But, still a much, much better record than was at Sago.
To continue on, John, with comparisons to what happened at Sago. One thing that's happened here, two things to the good, I would say, is that rescuers were in there much, much more rapidly. In large part because there was not an explosion, and they could get in there quickly. Secondly, communication, a big problem after the Sago disaster is being very, very tightly managed here. The officials are coming here to where we're stationed and briefing us. They've given us now five briefings today. There's no other chatter we're aware of. So the rumors are being kept at a minimum.
The families, similar to Sago, is at a church down the road standing vigil hoping for the best possible news--John.
KING: And let me follow up on the point, Chris. Are the families talking at all? And are they happy or are they complaining at all with the quality of information they're getting?
HUNTINGTON: Families are not talking. Again, a difference born of a lesson learned from Sago. The families are staying at the church. We have not been allowed to go down to that church. It's only about half a mile from here.
But there's a pretty bright line, if you will, between the media coverage and the principles involved in this, what's still now a very tense situation--John.
KING: Chris Huntington on the scene for us tonight.
Chris, thank you very much.
And joining us now from West Virginia an expert on mine safety. Davitt McAteer is heading up the investigation of the Sago Mine disaster. He's a former assistant secretary for mine safety during the Clinton administration.
Sir, thank you very much. Let me start with a question, based on everything you've heard from this accident and rescue operation in Melville, what is your assessment?
DAVITT MCATEER, FORMER ASST. SECRETARY FOR MINE SAFETY: Well, it's a difficult time. You know, in any of these mine rescue efforts, time is the enemy. And we've had a number of hours. The fact that we've got the rescue teams underground is hopeful. The fact that we've got the fire continuing is not especially good news. The agencies, the West Virginia Office of Miner's Health, Safety and Training is doing a good job.
Now, we have to see if we have a chance of getting in this mine. This is a large mine, as indicated, and the dust and the gases here are problematic. And we have to just take a look, and we can pray for these individuals, these miners. That's a difficult time.
KING: Is there a sad coincidence, sir, that you have another episode like this so closely after the Sago tragedy, or is this relatively routine, something as sad as this? Is it relatively routine in the mining industry and the news media are simply paying more attention?
MCATEER: No, I think it is an unfortunate thing that the two occurred together. I was assistant secretary for seven years, and we never had either disasters of this magnitude during my term in office.
And I think we have just an fortunate set of circumstances, which may be a trend. We don't know yet. But it's something we need to be concerned about.
KING: One of the things you hear when these thing happens is these two mines, Sago and this mine in Melville are non-union mines. And there are some who say union mines are safer. You mentioned your experience running mine safety during the Clinton administration. Is there any data to support that?
MCATEER: I think the fact that the unionized mines have a voice in the safety issue is a positive thing. I think there's no statistical data that distinguishes that. But then there are questions of whether in non-unionized mines you get as good of reporting as you do in the union mines.
KING: You mentioned that time is obviously not your friend in a situation like this. Is there a red line when you know you've crossed into the tragedy zone? Or does it depend on the equipment they have with them and exactly where they are in that mine?
MCATEER: Well, you don't have a red line. It depends on the equipment. It also depends on the size of the mine. It depends on the ventilation systems. It depends on the extent of the fire and the extent of the explosion. There are so many unknowns that each mine disaster must be treated as a new problem and must be addressed as a new problem.
KING: And Mr. McAteer, you are the governor's point man. You have agreed to serve in that capacity in the Sago Mine investigation. Do you know anything today different from what has previously been discussed in public about that investigation, about the cause of that disaster?
MCATEER: No, we're still in the early stages of investigation. We're moving forward, and we feel like we're making some progress in terms of determining causation, but we don't have, at this point, an answer to that question.
KING: One of the controversies, obviously, was the communication, as our correspondent Chris Huntington was just talking about. Do you see the lessons already being applied in terms of how the company deals with communicating, not only to the news media these situations, but to the families as well?
MCATEER: I think the fact is that we have communication problems. Look, mine disasters have never had a cell phone era disaster, period, and this is one where we have a cell phone era disaster period. And we have to come up with new ways to deal with it. And we may have learned some lessons, and we're trying to apply them right now.
KING: Davitt McAteer, former mine safety official in the Clinton Administration, now the governor's point man in West Virginia on the Sago Mine tragedy. Sir, thank you for your help and your insight tonight.
MCATEER: You're welcome.
KING: Thank you and good night.
Zain Verjee joins us now with a look at other news making headlines around the world.
VERJEE: Hi, again, John.
The man who tried to assassinate Pope John Paul II is back in a Turkish prison after eight days of freedom. Turkey's Supreme Court today overturned a lower court's decision to release Mehmet Ali Agca last week.
He had served about half of a ten-year sentence in Turkey for killing a journalist. The lower court had counted the 19 years he spent in prison in Italy for shooting the pope in 1981.
One of Iraq's most influential Sunni Arab leaders is urging the kidnappers of American journalist Jill Carroll to release her unharmed. The 28-year-old freelancer was on her way from Baghdad when she was kidnapped on January the 7th. Al-Delamey (ph) says her abductors are insulting him.
On Tuesday, Carroll's kidnappers have threatened to kill her if Iraqi female detainees in U.S. custody were not released.
Bitterly cold weather in Russia is taking a deadly toll. The country's coldest winter in a generation killed more than seven people overnight. The death toll in Moscow now stands at 123. That since last October. Russian officials say that the frigid weather is taking an unprecedented toll on the country's soviet era heating and power network.
An appeals court has stripped former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet of immunity. And that basically means that the 90 year old could face charges in a human rights case involving the same prison where Chile's new president-elect says she was tortured three decades ago.
Pinochet's lawyers are expected to appeal the ruling, but if Chile's Supreme Court upholds it the first torture charges against Pinochet could be filed--John.
KING: Zain Verjee in Atlanta.
And up next, kill or be killed. That's the strategy in a new video game called 25 to life. Players can choose to be thugs or cops. But real life officers want no part of it. They're boycotting it. Don't put the horse before the cart. That's cliche, yes. But also what animal rights activists are saying in New York. They're protesting the city's popular horse-drawn carriages. We'll tell you why here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
KING: After months of delay, a controversial new action video game called "25-to-Life" hit stores this week. For months, police groups and members of Congress have been trying to prevent the release of the game because of its violent content. CNN's Brian Todd is here with more on this controversy -- Brian.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): John, the company that makes "25-to-Life" claims this is a First Amendment issue, and says there are plenty of other games out there that have much more violent content. But the fact remains, their game's already got a reputation and it's barely hit store shelves.
(voice-over): The new video game "25-to-Life" is a surge of dangerous characters, edgy hip-hop and eye-popping violence. Players choose sides -- thugs or cops. The objective -- survival. To do it, blast away at your enemies.
I played the role of a drug dealer. In one sequence, I had to fight my way into a warehouse. I'm certainly not a good player, but after a few tries, killing police wasn't hard.
(on camera): In this round, I've killed three cops.
(voice-over): That part of "25-to-Life" and other scenarios like taking human shields have police groups outraged. One of them, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, is calling for a boycott of "25-to-Life."
BRUCE MENDELSOHN, LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS MEMORIAL FUND: It is not a game, when law enforcement officers are killed in the line of duty, when random civilians are gunned down on our streets.
TODD: Contacted by CNN, the manufacturer, Eidos Incorporated, issued a statement reading in part: "25-to-Life" was specifically created for adults, as the average age of gamers is currently 30 years old." The company says the game is "well within the boundaries set by today's contemporary media." The game is rated M for Mature, and Eidos says it encourages parents to consult the rating system. But the Mature rating has a minimum age of only 17. The Officers Memorial Fund says the company's hiding behind the rating system, and draws a direct correlation between violence against cops and games like "25- to-Life."
But recent studies on that are inconclusive, and this release does not raise eyebrows among game reviewers.
SCOTT STEINBERG, VIDEO GAME REVIEWER: I would say it's no more violent than the standard video game, which amusingly speaks to the state of the industry. However, it's not particularly gruesome or gratuitous.
TODD (on camera): Still, the company did delay the release of "25-to-Life" for a few months, partly to polish up the game play, but also, according to company spokeswoman Michelle Curran (ph) to tone down what they called "kill moves." It's not clear what effect the boycott will have, since company officials say they're only marketing "25-to-Life" in adult publications with no TV ads -- John?
KING: Still worth watching; we're sure you will. Brian Todd, thank you very much.
Police all across the country are now providing realtime data on incidents, investigations, and crimes. The latest to put 911 dispatch call information on line, Arlington, Texas.
How dangerous is your neighborhood? Our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner, is here to point you in the right direction. Jacki?
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Here's the idea: you hear sirens in your area and you want to know what's going on. In many cities you can go online and see the latest in emergency response: 911 calls and that kind of thing. Arlington, Texas, we just told you about, these are the latest 911 calls: for example, an accident. Then they use something like an online map to show you exactly where that accident happens to be.
We found one in Pinellas County, Florida, which not only shows you the incident and what kind it is, it shows you the emergency vehicles that are dispatched to the scene.
Now if you want to know what the crime rate is like in your area in general, you can use something like this in San Francisco, from the police department, where you plug in an address, it shows you a map of the area. What kind of crimes they are. Then it will tell you, for example, petty theft from an unlocked auto. We found that one right here.
There are sites that are not affiliated with police departments. ChicagoCrime.org is a well-known one that uses Google maps and public information to show you what's going on in your area -- John?
KING: Jacki, thank you very much.
And let's find out now what's coming up next hour, at the top of the hour on PAULA ZAHN NOW.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN HOST: Hi, John. Always good to see you.
Just about 15 minutes from now, we're going to share a story with you about some high school students and something you might find surprising about their behavior. They happen to be in love. They're taking vows and they're putting on rings, but they aren't getting married. Would you believe it's all about chastity? You're going to be surprised at how the idea is catching on. We'll also take a look at whether it's working.
Also, a devastating aftershock of Hurricane Katrina: Why are so many professional people literally dying, committing suicide to get out of New Orleans? That's pretty sad stuff, but I think well worth listening to. I think people will be surprised by this report as well, John.
KING: Thank you, Paula. We'll be watching. Thank you very much.
Up next here in THE SITUATION ROOM, it's a real horse fight. Some New York City activists don't want horses pulling you around on those carriages anymore. But why the fight, and why now?
And could it be Ford's master plan? The carmaker is expected to announce thousands of job cuts. We'll tell you just how many.
KING: Come Monday, Ford is expected to announce major job cuts. Ali Velshi is here with the bottom line.
ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It's a big one, and if it sounds like you've seen it before, you have, John.
(voice-over): Here we go again. Just two months after GM announced 30,000 job cuts and a dozen plant closings, Ford looks like it's about to stall. On Monday, Bill Ford, the great grandson of Henry Ford and now the company's CEO and chairman, is expected to announce a massive restructuring plan that could include 25,000 layoffs. About 20 percent of Ford's North American workforce could be wiped out. One analyst we spoke with said plants in Atlanta, St. Louis, Minnesota, Canada and Mexico are likely targets.
REBECCA LINDLAND, GLOBAL INSIGHT: It's hard to really point the blame at any one particular issue that's facing Ford right now. But certainly, good products solve a tremendous amount of issues.
VELSHI: But good products don't outweigh soaring health care and pension costs. And sales are still stuck in reverse. Detroit tried waging a price war, introducing zero interest financing and pay-what- the-employee-pays pricing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's going to have, what, the black with this color interior?
VELSHI: But Ford has now lost market share to Toyota and Honda, among others, for ten straight years. It now has the lowest market share it's had in 80 years. Ford's problems don't necessarily point to the death of automaking on the U.S., just dire days for Detroit. LINDLAND: You may say well this is the death of American automotive industry and the jobs, the manufacturing jobs. But it's really not. This is not an outsourcing issue because Honda is opening new plants. Hyundai just opened a new plant in the south. Toyota is adding a new plant in Texas. You know, Nissan just opened a plant in Mississippi.
VELSHI: Car making dollars are still coming to the U.S. The problem is the bucks just aren't stopping in Detroit anymore.
Ali Velshi, CNN, Washington.
VELSHI: And I'll be in Detroit on Monday morning for that announcement. We'll be bringing it to you here on CNN live--John.
KING: Ali Velshi, again, thank you very much. Have a great weekend. We'll see you Monday and on the story this weekend..
A battle has broken out over one of New York's most popular and enduring attractions, horse-drawn carriages. Some animal rights activists want them banded.
CNN's Adora Udoji has more.
ADORA UDOJI, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Ignoring frigid temperatures, tourists clamor to horse-driven carriages gracing New York City's Central Park.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a lovely tradition in New York.
UDOJI: A romantic symbol of the big apple that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants outlawed.
MICHAEL MCGRAW, PETA SPOKESMAN: Because of the extreme cruelty that is involved in this industry, and also the public safety threat that the carriage horses pose.
UDOJI: He's talking about a horse that recently got spooked and crashed into a car seriously injuring the carriage driver.
(on-camera): The horse was injured too here in Midtown Manhattan and was put to sleep. PETA says all of the horses endure long hours in the cold and in the heat.
(voice over): Alexis Stewart, daughter of media maven Martha Stewart, has joined PETA writing to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, quote, "Horses simply don't belong on the bustling streets of New York City."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's an awful lot of lies told about our business.
UDOJI: Ian McCeever, a carriage driver for 20 years, says the 300-city-licensed drivers follow strict guidelines. They don't work their 220 horses too hard or too long or in temperatures above 90 degrees or below 18.
IAN MCCEEVER, NYC HORSE AND CARRIAGE ASSN.: I've been with horses all my life. I get upset when people say I'm an animal abusers. I love my horses. My horses are my life.
UDOJI: Unfortunate accidents happen rarely, he says. Though PETA says at least seven horses have died with others injured since 1985. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals examines the horses daily. They say they're fine, could be better. But they don't support a ban.
STEVE MUSSO, ASPCA: We understand about tourism. We want them out there at Central Park. It's a safer environment. They're not exposed to traffic.
UDOJI: PETA's call for a ban might not get far either with Mayor Bloomberg, who told CNN the horse and carriage tradition is precious to New York City.
Adora Udoji, CNN, New York.
KING: And still ahead, how clean is your favorite restaurant? Find out how you can really find out what's going on in the kitchen. They rewrote that one on me, didn't they? Stay with us in THE SITUATION ROOM.
KING: If you're planning on dining out this weekend, first, you may want to pay close attention to our Internet reporter Abbi Tatton-- Abbi.
ABBI TATTON, INTERNET REPORTER: John, mice, roaches, flying insects, those are some of the things found in the reports on this new website from the New York City Department of Health. It's the health and safety inspections of over 20,000 restaurants, all the restaurants in New York City. The most recent inspection from each of them.
You can find them here searchable by neighborhood or by establishment name. Many of them pass with flying colors. But some of them contain some delights that will make you think twice about where you are eating.
Look at some of this that we found. A worker does not wash hands thoroughly after visiting the toilet. That's a nice one. And then many, many mentions of evidence of rats or live rats. Important distinctions there.
Now there are many of these web sites around the country that you'll want to check in on. We found them in Washington state, in Virginia, also in Iowa. Important resources before you go out for dinner--John. KING: Thank you Abbi.
And if you don't have Internet access and you're planning to dine out in New York, I can give you Jack Cafferty's home number right now.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, only on THE SITUATION ROOM do you get the names of restaurants where the people who work there don't wash their hands after going into the restroom.
This is value-added television here, John.
KING: It's a public service. It's a public service.
CAFFERTY: It is a public service. It's disgusting.
An Ohio woman died in November, left her $1.1 million estate to the federal government. She was 98. Her lawyer said she wanted to help pay down the national debt.
So we asked tonight to whom would you leave your money assuming that you don't leave it obviously to your family or you children?
Dave in Chicopee, Massachusetts, says, "Jack, haven't you seen the bumper sticker that states, I'm spending my kids' inheritance? Enough said.
Richard in Kihei, Hawaii, "I'd leave my micro-fortune to any group fighting the K-street lobbyists stranglehold on our government."
Bridget writers in Fishers, Indiana, "I would leave my money to build an adult day care center for the mentally and physically handicapped so they could have a nice safe place to spend their days, and their families could have some respite."
Greg in Westville, Nova Scotia, "All my money is not going to any one person. I'm going to leave every cent to the morgue attendants who empty my pockets."
Jackie in Yachats, Oregon, "I'm in my late 60's. I have no children or other close family members. Call me a nut, but I'm going to leave what savings I have to various animal rescue groups. I have three pets that will need taking care of. I want to make sure they get the care that they deserve."
John writes in Lexington, South Carolina, "I will leave my money to you, Jack. I'm a middle class worker with no health care insurance for my family. Will you please leave your money to me?"
Jim in St. Peters, Missouri, "Jack, my friend Kenny and I would leave our life savings to the St. Louis Cardinals. With that money, we hope they would finally buy some players and win the world series."
Paul in Vernon, Connecticut, "I leave it to CNN to fund the Cafferty File." KING: Amen.
CAFFERTY: And then there's this. Stone in Sierra Vista, Arizona, "I'd leave it all to you, Jack, so you could go out and buy yourself a personality."
Somebody else said that they would leave it to me because CNN obviously isn't paying me enough money to buy nice ties. Apparently, they didn't care for my tie.
KING: Tough crowd on Friday night. I left all mine downstairs with my children. I suspect it's gone and the snack machines are empty.
CAFFERTY: You're talking about the money?
KING: The money.
CAFFERTY: Oh yes, they get next to those coin operated vending machines and it is lights out.
KING: Have a great weekend, Jack.
CAFFERTY: You too, John.
KING: Thanks for joining us.
Thank you very much.
Thank you for joining us. A reminder you can catch THE SITUATION ROOM at 4:00, 5:00 and 7:00 Eastern. Wolf will be back this Sunday morning for "Late Edition." That's the last word in Sunday talk. Among his guests, Senator Chuck Schumer and George Allen.
I'm John King.
Let's turn it over now to Paula Zahn in New York.
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