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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Georgia Policeman Fired for Spending Too Much Time in Iraq; Suspects Arrested in Newark Slayings; Miner Rescue Attempt Still Under Way

Aired August 10, 2007 - 20:00   ET

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


RICK SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Out of Utah regarding the miners at any moment. We're going to taking you there.
But first, you see that soldier behind me? He's done several tours in Iraq but in his real job, he's a police chief in Georgia. But he's been fired now for spending too much time in Iraq as if he wanted to be there, right? And there could there be thousands of them out there. This is an outrage, we're going to bring it out for you.

Also, hard not to get mad at that suspect right there in the orange and in the shackles. He's now charged with a triple murder execution style. He was out on bail after being charged with a child rape and he's in the country, to boot, illegally. This one is already causing a backlash. We'll bring it out for you as well.

And there's then the monster truck shows that you have been seeing in different parts of the country. They can be dangerous. In fact in Illinois this one has injured nine. They're trying to figure it out. We're going to bring this out and here's what else we'll bringing out for you tonight.

Has this drilled missed its mark? Are the trapped miners still alive? Can they breathe? Can they get to them in time? There could be word on this at any moment.

These cavemen evolved from commercials to their very own TV sitcom but instead of laughing why are some people saying it's racist?

And wild dogs on a bloody attack at a television station parking lot. How many? Where? We'll tell you OUT IN THE OPEN.

Hello, again, everybody. We're going to start here today because there's something I want to show you. And it has to do with a news conference that we're going to be getting any moment now. This news conference is going to be coming out of Utah and there it is. Thanks, Will.

There you see the shot that's been set up that we've been following throughout the entire week. Some of the officials are going to be coming there. They are scheduled to do this at 8:00. It should be right on the button. Any moment it is going to happen and we'll be taking you back there.

So let's get back to the scene here. If you would, Will, show us this demonstration. We wanted to be able break it down for you. There's the first drill that we were talking about yesterday right there. Right? And that's the one -- let me clear it right now.

And there's the one where they were trying to get into this chamber here. But when they got there, first of all, the men weren't there, the second thing is, here's what they found. Only seven percent oxygen. Let me draw that out for you. That means had they been there, they probably would not have been alive.

So now I'm going to clear that one out and tell you about this new drill. This is the one they're working on right now. I just got off the phone with Eddy Lavandera a moment ago. They say they're just about there. About 300 feet away still from getting to the men. We may get a more accurate reading from some of the officials at the scene. We're going to be getting their news conference in just a minute as you saw with that press conference that they're setting up for us.

But let's get started now by going to Ed Lavandera. He's going to catch up on what's going on at the scene right now. Go ahead, Ed, start us off.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Rick, well, we're waiting here for the officials to show up and give us the late afternoon briefing on how the progress is being made on the holes that are being drilled to reach these trapped miners. As has been customary throughout the week.

First of all the officials go about 12 miles down the road here and meet with the families at a nearby school and give them the update and then come up here to pass that along as well. Of course as we've gotten closer for these drill bits to bust through in these cavity areas, this has become a little more fluid.

As you've been mentioning, I have to ask people have to bear with us. We're not moving on time here. But we should be approaching the time based on what Bob Murray said yesterday afternoon that that second hole that was being drilled to try to reach these trapped miners, he suspected that they would be reaching these miners sometime late today or late this afternoon or early evening.

And they had at last count which is at midday about 600 feet left to go. You have to presume that they are well beyond that at this point. So we're anxious to see what kind of progress is being made on that. Remember ...

SANCHEZ: Hey, Ed?

LAVANDERA: ... last night we were talking about the smaller hole. Go ahead, Rick?

SANCHEZ: You had said, we were doing the math, we were on the phone just a little while ago, you said 600. Probably halfway there. We'll get a better reading when they talk to us. Somewhere around 300 feet.

You'd mentioned that piping that's being used. So we went to the hardware store here in New York City and we got a couple of them. Will, I don't know if you can get this maybe with camera two. Where do you want me to hold it? Right about there? There you go.

This, OK, is the one that they're using for the camera. That one right there. That's supposed to be eight to nine inches in diameter. This is the one that they shot that I just showed you on my diagram that they missed with. This is the one they used for the microphone and this one that they are using for the actually camera.

I'll take it back to you. Here you go, Kevin. Back to you Eddy. That pretty much is the description. People have been having a real tough time trying to understand exactly what it is that they're doing with these pipes. But with that bigger pipe, they really might be able to get a better reading, right?

LAVANDERA: Well, yeah. And let me explain why that happens. On the smaller pipe that you're talking about, that one only has the ability -- it's faster obviously because it reached yesterday but they don't have a good way of controlling where it goes. It just goes -- they put it in the ground and it starts going.

This other one works with different machinery and this allows them, they tell us, to give them better control as to where it's headed if they need to move it to the north a little bit or to the south or west or east they can do that.

However, you give up a little bit of speed with that and that's why it's taken probably a little more than 24 hours to reach the other area. And because of that, they think they missed the area, the cavity where these minors are since they don't have much control with it and that's why they are really counting on this eight-inch hole not only to provide them with a more accurate location as to where these miners are but to drop in that camera which will provide them more information than a microphone.

SANCHEZ: What a desperate situation that is. And Ed, we thank you. You've been sitting there.

Also to get us some of the details we'll be going back to you hopefully as we get more information and obviously as we follow this briefing that should be coming at any moment now at least according to officials.

Want to do something for you now. I want to bring you up to date on exactly who is down there. Because we've been able to get pictures and a little bit more information. Identified six trapped miners.

Kerry Allred. Let's start with him. He's 58 years old. He's a native of Cleveland. He's known for his humorous expression of characters. His friends tell us like "The Simpsons."

Let's show you Don Erickson now. This is a serious guy, they say, a perfectionist in everything he does. Changed careers because the mine had better insurance and retirement benefits. That's why his family said he made his decision.

Alonso Hernandez and Carlos Payan, they came to the mine from Mexico. Hernandez we understand has a one year old daughter. These are the guys that are down there right now. Hopefully, at least a lot of folks are praying tonight that they are still alive.

Let's go to Brandon Phillips, he's only 24 years old. He has been at the mine for only three weeks -- Lost an uncle -- I'm sorry. I misspoke. That's Carlos Payan.

And now let's go to -- go ahead to flip it to the next one. There's Brandon Phillips, 24 years old. Lost an uncle in a mine fire 20 years ago, ironically enough.

And Manuel Sanchez. Also, well respected, we're told, father of four. Let's go now to Ted Rowlands who has been keeping watch on all these families for us and has even more information.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trapped minor Manuel Sanchez said he was concerned about safety inside one section of the Crandall Canyon Mine in the weeks leading up to the collapse. That's what a family member has told a local newspaper. And now a source with intimate knowledge of the conditions of the mine tells CNN Sanchez wasn't alone, that other miners were apprehensive about working in the area of the collapse.

The source, who won't go on camera, says the six trapped miners were working in an area called Seven Belt, the deepest part of the mine and he tells CNN that for weeks before the collapse the floors in that part of the mine were heaving or buckling up from intense pressure. He says supervisors knew of the problem and a source says several miners including Manuel Sanchez were getting very concerned.

(on camera): Do you know why this miner would be nervous going into that particular section?

BOB MURRAY, CEO, MURRAY ENERGY CORP.: No, I have no idea. I've never heard that. I have no idea. It's probably a rumor. I'm not going respond to rumors. I can tell you that if any of my management or any worker here had ever said that to me, I would say, yes, I was told that. No, don't know a thing about that, sir. And that's the truth.

ROWLANDS (voice-over): If the miners are were so afraid, why didn't they complain? Several miners we talked to in this area say complaining means you lose your job.

MURRAY: If you're getting that from the community, it is coming from other mines. Because I don't operate that way.

PAUL RIDDLE, FORMER MINER: Oh, it's profits before safety. That's my opinion. My feeling. And my experience.

ROWLANDS: Paul Riddle used to work in one of Bob Murray's mines. Riddle says miners that work for Murray are sometimes forced to push the envelope when it comes to safety and are afraid to speak up for fear of losing their high-paying jobs.

RIDDLE: I'm not the only one. There are many, many, many people that feel this way and are afraid to speak up.

ROWLANDS: The Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration plans to conduct an investigation into exactly what happened and the conditions that the mine leading up to the collapse. The mine's owner is confident that his company will not be blamed.

MURRAY: There will be nothing in the investigation that will show that Murray Energy or Utah American or the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration did a thing wrong. It was a natural disaster.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROWLANDS (on camera): And Rick, that investigation will not begin until this rescue operation is over. Obviously. But when this rescue operation is over, a full investigation will be launched.

Right now, Bob Murray is inside the school here still briefing family members. We're waiting for that press conference with the media. We're at least a half-hour away from that because he's still in the school here. We'll update you throughout the hour as to the progress. If we get anything out of here when he leaves, we'll of course fill you. But it is going to be at least half-hour most likely before he's up for the briefing of the media the.

SANCHEZ: Ted Rowlands following that part of the story. Amazing information that you just shared with us about people who worked for Murray in the past complaining that he drives some of the workers maybe a little too hard. Obviously allegations but something we need to check into.

So let's do this. This cave in, it happened early Monday, right? In a town that's not usually the focus of the country's attention. Let's bring in now Huntington, Utah, Mayor Hillary Gordon.

Mayor, have you heard allegations like this before about Mr. Murray's operation given that it's in your town?

MAYOR HILLARY GORDON, HUNTINGTON, UTAH: No, I have not. Actually, my husband and I -- my husband worked for the mines several years ago but not one of Mr. Murray's mines. It's a mine that's now not operational. But it was a union mine that my husband worked for this mine. I have not heard these allegations but I would not comment on that one way or the other.

SANCHEZ: So, well, we do have people on the record saying those things. I imagine from time to time people are disgruntled employees and will say things about their bosses. Is that what you would credit this to?

GORDON: I'm sure that there are times when people are disgruntled. We all become disgruntled at one time or another. And not knowing their situation except that's a dangerous - to me that's a dangerous occupation. It's not something that I would relish going down under ground. I think these are very courageous men that do this and I'm sure that from time to time there are disagreements. SANCHEZ: But just to be on the record, you're the mayor, you probably see some of the statistics coming out of the different operations. Do you feel or have you seen an evidence that would show that Mr. Murray's mine is any more dangerous than any of the others?

GORDON: No, I haven't. But as I said, the one mine us up the canyon 15 miles. There are other mines up the canyon and I have not been in all of them. Truly in the circles that I move in, people don't usually talk mining and complain to me about miners so I have not heard that, sir.

SANCHEZ: Well, we've been getting reports that the families and I guess who can blame them, they are starting to get a little bit more irritable.

GORDON: Right.

SANCHEZ: I know you spoke to some of them. What are you hearing, mayor?

GORDON: Well, I think there is anticipation tonight. Disappointment somewhat this morning when the small drill did not go where they had hoped it would. Everyone was hoping that that would give them at least some kind of indication as to the circumstances down there. And as we know, that didn't happen.

So the second drill hoping that it will go through sometime in the early morning given the best guess and I know that the families are waiting with anticipation for that. They're still very concerned. They're still very anxious, worried. All of those emotions are on their faces. But they're holding up with a strength that these miners wives' and their families' just possess.

These men, as I said, they're courageous men. You have seen on the pictures what these mines look like. It's not a picnic going into them. So I think the families are doing especially well but yes, they are upset. They're nervous. They're worried. But I think at this point they still have some point.

Mayor Gordon, it's very kind of to you take time from your busy schedule. I know you've got an awful lot on your hands tonight, to take time to talk to us. Hopefully we'll talk again under better circumstances. We appreciate it.

GORDON: That's right. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Thank you, mayor.

Will, if you could show that picture again of the news conference where it's being set up. I wanted to tell the viewers exactly what's going on here. We were told there was a news conference that was scheduled at 8:00 p.m. As you can see, everyone's raring to go. We're still waiting for the officials possibly including Mr. Murray to come to the microphone and explain to us what's going on with that last drill that's been going down, that's that smaller one we told you about. As soon as that happens, we will take you, expect it. There's something else that you need to see. This was rather frightening.

You saw that when Carol Costello brought you that story in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're going to take it a step further. Because this is a monster truck. It's headed for those folks. We're bringing in an official - an expert on this to ask if this situation was safe and what needs to be done about it. We'll have the answers.

Also, thousand of soldiers go to Iraq and then they come back and they find out that they have lost their jobs, thousands of them. It's wrong. It's illegal and it happened to one soldier who is going to be joining us here live.

Also, can a comedy about cavemen be racist? We're bringing it OUT IN THE OPEN, stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: As we follow the latest news, there's two important pieces of information that we want to share you right off the bat here. It's about our men and women fighting overseas in uniform.

First, one of the president's top military advisors says that bringing back the draft is an option. Let me give you the information. It's Lieutenant General Douglas Lute (ph). He was on National Public Radio this afternoon. He is talking about the stress that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are putting on all the all volunteer military. When asked specifically about bringing back the draft, Lute said -- let me quote him here. He says, "I think it makes sense to certainly consider it." "I think it makes sense to certainly consider it." Important information we thought we would pass along to you.

Now a look at a problem that we're uncovering. Federal law is supposed to protect the jobs of America's reservists and National Guard troops deployed to Iraq. In fact, employers are required to hold those jobs for at least five years and then offer them back either the job or the same salary benefits, promotions that they would have received had they stayed here at home and not been called as national guardsman to go fight overseas.

But we have found out that between 2004 and 2006, 16,000 reservists were forced to file complaints about their job situation when they returned here to the states.

Joining me now is Colonel John King. He is the police chief of Doraville, Georgia. He says he earned a Bronze Star in Iraq then but got a pink slip when he got back home. A lot of people, Colonel King, would be upset about something like that.

Take us through your story. How did you find out about this and why did they tell you they wanted to do this?

COL. JOHN KING, FIRED AFTER RETURNING FROM IRAQ: Basically last Monday I attended a City Council meeting at 6:00 in the afternoon is when the City Council began. At 2:00 in the morning, this council meeting continued and I was notified without notice that three members of the city council wanted to replace me.

SANCHEZ: But you're a soldier. You're overseas. You are doing their job. Did they have any other explanation other than the fact that you hadn't been there? And it's not like you're in derelict of duty, are you.

KING: Absolutely. Something of a point of pride. They mentioned that they wanted a full-time chief. They did not feel that I was a full-time chief in the years that I've been employed with my agency.

SANCHEZ: I understand that you have made them aware of the law and they are now either reconsidering or have given you your job back. Bring us up to date. What's going on?

KING: I'm extremely fortunate to have mayor who is also a veteran who reinstated me to my position because he feels with legal advice that the vote was improper. So my mayor has reinstated me and now we're waiting for the three council members to either reconsider or to call up another meeting and terminate me.

SANCHEZ: How mad were you when you found out you had lost your position while you were doing your job as a soldier? Your duty as an American.

KING: Absolutely shocked this is what I fought overseas for and this is why I'm bringing this issue to public light. Because I'm not the only one. And I just feel that this is not the America that I fought for and that I defended.

SANCHEZ: When you told us about your story, we did some checking. We found out that there are some numbers out there that are truly shocking. It probably is going to make a lot of people mad when they watch this.

Let's put these up if we can now, Will. This is the first one. This is the full screen we have. U.S. reservists filed 16,000 formal and informal complaints, we learned, between 2004 and 2006, 16,000. Let's bring in somebody who knows a little something about this. Phillip Carter, he is an attorney and a member of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. We were shocked to see these numbers as we were to hear his story. The mayor's, or pardon me, the police chief's story. The colonel's story.

But it sounds like this is not really so uncommon, is it?

PHILLIP CARTER, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETS OF AMERICA: Not at all. And unfortunately too many of the half million Americans who have been called up to duty in Iraq and Afghanistan have dealt with this when they come home. This is not what they signed up. And this is not what this country should be doing.

SANCHEZ: And it's against the law, is it not? It's against the law, right? CARTER: Absolutely. The law says there's an escalator principle. While you're gone, you come back on that escalator as if you never left. You don't need to be a lawyer to know this is just wrong.

SANCHEZ: Well, it's wrong from a moral standpoint, it's wrong certainly from an American standpoint it even goes further when you consider what these guys are doing. Because they're probably being pretty Machiavellian about this, right? Can't they come up with all kinds of reasons? Well, we don't have that position anymore. We no longer have that many employees. We just couldn't keep them. What are they saying? What are you hearing? How do they argue this?

CARTER: That's what most employers are saying, that they have gone through restructuring or something has happened while the soldier is away. But the law is very clear here. The reservist gets the benefit of the doubt. These people are going into harm's ways. These are America's finest sons and daughters and Congress set this law back up in 1994 to take care of them, not to have employers play the middle.

SANCHEZ: Guys, I'll tell you what. We're out of time. But it's a good segment. It's an important issue and one that I guarantee you we're going to be checking on. We're going to be seeing if there are other cases like around the country. And we're going to be bringing it right here OUT IN THE OPEN. Colonel John King, Philip Carter, our thanks to both of you for being with us.

Next, some of the most popular spectator events from coast to coast. It may surprise you. But it also may surprise you how dangerous these events can be. It's the monster truck shows. Could what happened there in Illinois, watch this, could that happen in a town near you? We're asking the experts.

Also, it may be a Neanderthal excuse for a TV show but is the show "Cavemen" also racist? We'll be bringing that OUT IN THE OPEN. Stay with us. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: And welcome you back. Tonight in Illinois they are still trying to figure out why so many people were injured by one of these monster truck demonstrations that they have all over the country. This one leaves a lot of folks asking, including us, a lot of questions so I want to bring this OUT IN THE OPEN for you.

But first here's the explanation of what happened there. Here's CNN's Keith Oppenheim.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KEITH OPPENHEIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This home video shows why a crowd of about 100 people came to the center of town in DeKalb, Illinois. A monster truck promoting NAPA Auto Parts was giving a car crushing show. Bonnie White was one of the folks that came to watch. BONNIE WHITE, SPECTATOR: This is something that had never been done here before. They never had anything like that.

OPPENHEIM: Keep in mind monster trucks are a popular form of entertainment. Typically 11 foot tall behemoth vehicles weighing at least four and half tons crush their metallic prey, usually inside big arenas but in DeKalb there are questions about whether a show like this should have been held on a city street with no barrier to protect the public.

WHITE: This is not a lot of room right here. And monster trucks are known to get loose.

OPPENHEIM: Watch what happened at the what was supposed to be the end of Thursday night's show. After the truck climbs the car it bounces back onto its hind wheels and suddenly speeds off completely out of control. Bonnie White watched as a mother and her four-year- old daughter got run over. Amazingly the mother and daughter survived. The child's skull was fractured but both are out of the hospital.

Eight others were mildly injured. Still, DeKalb city officials are incensed, saying the Napa store and event promoters misled them.

MARK BIERNACKI, DEKALB CITY MANAGER: A more low key event where the truck was on display. And as they described it to us the crushing of vehicles which we were led to be without the acrobatics associated with stuff like that.

OPPENHEIM: The owner of the NAPA store told me off-camera think the set up for the show was safe and that something went horribly wrong with the truck.

(on camera): This is the towing center where the monster truck was impounded. It's actually inside a garage here. And we weren't allowed to bring our cameras inside but police said they came here with mechanics to see if they can find anything mechanically wrong with the vehicle.

(voice-over): We did learn the driver is an experienced monster truck driver with a clean record. No charges have been filed. In DeKalb while there's a strong sense there could be plenty of lawsuits from this incident, there's also amazement that no one died.

BIERNACKI: This could have been much worse. Much, much worse. We're obviously thankful for that.

OPPENHEIM: Keith Oppenheim, CNN, DeKalb, Illinois.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: We wanted to bring this OUT IN THE OPEN and also we wanted to know more about this and we brought in an expert. That man you're looking at right there, that is Larry Huffman. They call him Larry "Supermouth" Huffman, by the way. He's been a TV commentary for decades. Hosted this on ESPN as well. Here's my problem with what I see at least in that video. You tell me if the rest operate this way. It looks like the organizers let this monster truck out in the middle road. I didn't see barricades separating people on the sideline from the truck or any possibility that the truck could go over and hit them.

LARRY HUFFMAN, FORMER MONSTER TRUCK SHOW COMMENTATOR: Well, yeah, that's the problem. I did not see the event. I have seen some of the footage. But actually, they didn't have barricades, they didn't have security. Now, I've done a lot of these. I actually saw a truck crash into the crowd into Saginaw, Michigan about 19 years ago when I was announcing an event there but there is going to be some answers needed on this one.

SANCHEZ: I'm sorry, what kind of yahoo would have a demonstration where you have something that big, that fast, that dangerous and have people 10 feet away with their children watching the event?

HUFFMAN: Well, normally what happens, and I have done a lot of monster truck events. What they do is they go to a local retailer and I don't know if this is what they did with the auto parts store. But they'll unload the monster truck and keep it stationary and they will rev it up but they will not run it. Kids are the audience that want to see these monster trucks.

SANCHEZ: Sure, that makes sense.

HUFFMAN: And they bring the kids out. They go crazy. And now, it has more and more difficult because the kids want to see big air. And that's what this guy was doing as I understand it.

SANCHEZ: But just tell us this. This is the exception to the rule, right? The person who organized this, this is not the way it operates all over the country?

HUFFMAN: No. And what is interesting is what they have on each vehicle is what is called RII. And that's a remote ignition interrupter or a terminator. And there's a red light inside the truck that the officials watch. And there's guy on the ground and it's like a remote kill switch. And if he sees something go wrong, he hits that kill switch, that kills the engine. But obviously it didn't happen now because it ended up on the railroad tracks.

SANCHEZ: By the way, before we let you go, a lot of our producers here in New York City told me today while we were talking, they don't get this. Can you explain to us and the rest of the nation that may not get this sport what the fascination is with it? Because thousands of people love this all over the country.

HUFFMAN: Yes, it's really interesting. It started back in the mid '70s. A guy named Bob Chandler built Bigfoot, which was a very crude monster truck. And it became more and more complicated.

I think the thing you have to realize, Rick, is the drivers now, the machines are so sophisticated, they have front and rear steering, they have got to run the steering, front and rear, run the brakes, run the transmission all at the same time. And sometimes, and big thing is they go up in the air. The kids want to see air.

So they have got all this stuff going on. And it's like you driving on the freeway with four different things you have got to do in front of 80,000 people.

SANCHEZ: Wow. Larry Huffman, you definitely were the right guy to get for this segment. You do a good job.

HUFFMAN: Thank you.

SANCHEZ: ESPN's Larry Huffman. By the way, just a quick answer. Why do they call you "Supermouth"?

HUFFMAN: Because I can speak over 300 words a minute and you can understand it. I'm the guy that started "the nitro-burning fire- breathing tire-scorching (INAUDIBLE) funny cars."

SANCHEZ: Oh, that will be another segment we'll do. We thank you, Mr. Huffman, for being with us.

HUFFMAN: Thank you, Rick.

SANCHEZ: A big we're following for you. We've been telling you about this throughout the newscast. We've just gotten some new information about what's going on here. We were told that some of the officials in Utah moments ago went over and spoke to the families. If they keep to their pattern, as they have all week, that means maybe five minutes from now they'll be coming to the microphone and telling us what's going on with those six trapped miners. Stay with us. We'll be all over it. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: All right. Let's try and bring you up to date now. You're back OUT IN THE OPEN. And we're taking you to Utah. See that truck there, I was told moments ago by one of my producers that we'd received word from Utah that in fact Mr. Murray had walked into that trailer after supposedly talking to some of the members of the family.

The reason we bring this to your attention is in the past that seems to be a pattern. First they talk to the family. Then they come up, they huddle amongst themselves, then come out and they deliver the news conference or the information of the day. And this is important. Let's go over to Eddie Lavandera. He's joining us now. He's just outside there.

Ed, I guess the first question to you has to be, how far down are they from getting to where the men are at this point or where -- maybe I should say, where they believe the men are? How much progress do we think they've made?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that second drill, the last update we got around mid-day today was that they were a little more than 600 feet away with that second eight-inch drill that was headed -- they had more control over and was headed toward the cavity where they suspect the trapped miners are.

We suspect that there will probably be -- that number will change quite drastically here in the coming hours. Bob Murray had said last night that he anticipated that that drill would reach the miners sometime late this afternoon or maybe early tomorrow morning. So we're in that range where Bob Murray had suspected and had hoped that that second drill would reach the miners.

However, mine officials this morning, Bob Murray didn't talk to us this morning, other members of the company talked to us, and they said that they weren't going to put a time frame on it.

Of course, anything can happen. Drill bits can break. Things can break down. There might be some delays. So we'll see exactly here shortly just how much progress they have been able to make. But things have been moving pretty quickly and pretty well. And they said this morning that they were happy with the progress that was being made and they left it at that.

SANCHEZ: Hey, I want to show the viewers again, for those of you who maybe joined us late, we went to the hardware store ourselves and we got what is a pretty good representation. This has actually only got a six-inch diameter. The one that they're using, the one that Ed had just referred to that they hope to get a camera down in, is actually eight inches, just a little bigger than this.

But this is what it looks like. It's a pipe that they are going to hopefully use to be able to communicate and maybe even photograph these men. So going back to Eddie Lavandera, as we look at the shot there. We try and get a sense now of what they can do with that.

Ed, what specifically with that pipe will they be able to see when they get into that chamber where the men hopefully are? For example, how will they know if there's enough oxygen there to sustain them?

LAVANDERA: Well, through that hole they will be able to drop that camera in there as soon as they take the drill out. They will drop the camera in and the lens will be able to provide a much clearer picture. It's a powerful lens, it will be able provide a clearer picture as to exactly what is going on down there.

You know, they really don't know after everything collapsed in on itself, they don't know exactly what they're up against in terms of the pockets and the terrain that they might be trapped in. So the hope is there's a big enough pocket there and that there's enough ventilation to keep the oxygen moving through.

Remember, and then they will drop in some other equipment to take the oxygen samples and that will tell them. The number you want to look out for is anything above 15 percent oxygen. Anything below that and it starts getting into dangerous territory for these miners.

SANCHEZ: As a matter of fact, you see that diagram right there, just to the right of Ed? All right. That diagram, you see the one drill that says 1,800 feet. This is what they were using there. A much smaller bit that made this, almost just three inches in diameter. Apparently all they could do with this one was use a microphone instead camera. I guess it's a big difference.

Ed, why did they use in one case one this size and then in the other case, one this size? Why different drill bits? Why not use the big one to begin with?

LAVANDERA: They used the smaller one because it's quicker. They don't have as much control over it, but it gets to where they want it to go faster. The eight-inch one is smaller, but they have better control. So they said, you know, let's give it two shots and see what happens.

Hey, Rick, let me just tell you one thing too. We saw Bob Murray arrive here. He didn't talk to us this morning so we will hearing from him here this evening, if he does talk. But we did see him walk up shortly.

SANCHEZ: Did he talk -- I got a report from one of our producers that he had gone over and talked to the family and then he went over in the -- are we just about to start the news conference here? So did he talk to the families already? Did you see him, Ed?

LAVANDERA: That's our understanding. We have a reporter and a team down at the school where all that happened. It was our understanding that they were there and then they have made their way up here to where this command center is. And there were other mine officials that have come up from down on top of the mountain with the latest information.

SANCHEZ: Ed, I'm going to break in. This is Richard Stickler for the briefing. And here we go. Let's listen in.

RICHARD STICKLER, ASST. SECY. OF LABOR: ... update on the activity since the last meeting. Again, the majority of that presentation was made by the two family members. These individuals are experienced miners. One is an active member of a mine rescue team. They understand underground mining.

They did an outstanding job of explaining to the families the activities that have occurred since our last meeting. Provided a detailed update, an explanation for the family members. And I think the family members really appreciate this.

And it comforts them to know that there are people that understand and in the same situation they're in. We have worked very hard to be as responsive to the families as possible. Anything we can do to assist them and support them, provide information, whether it be the photographs that were taken up at the drill site and underground to help communicate to them, we're going to try to do that.

As far as an update, we have made progress underground. We've advanced number one entry a total of 460 feet. It's currently 70 feet in by crosscut 123. That work is very slow because it's a loading process where you load out 30-some feet of material.

If the roof is broken up, we bring a roof-holding machine in and bolt the roof and then we follow that up with heavy steel support -- vertical supports along the ribs, and place chain link fence between the steel supports and the ribs to try to protect any future bumps that may produce material that would come out into the work area where the miners are.

But we're continuing to move forward in that area. The eight- and-a-half-inch drill hole continues to advance. We're down 1,584 feet. We anticipate a total depth of 1,886 feet. When that hole drops -- cuts into the mine, it is our plan to withdraw the drill steel and the bit and to drop an audio video camera down into that hole where we will be able to have visibility for up to 100 feet.

We will be able to see significant detail and this will give us additional information about the conditions that are underground. The two-and-a-half-inch hole that we talked about this morning, we did withdraw the microphone, the listening device and we dropped in a survey instrument to determine where the bottom of that hole entered into the mine.

What we found was that hole drifted approximately 85 feet from the surface to the underground. Fortunately, it drifted into the cross cut and hit into a void. So we've been able to now withdraw the survey equipment and we're continuing to monitor the atmosphere in that area.

We're finding that the -- most of the gases are not of significant concern except for the oxygen levels. The oxygen level continues to confirm the latest readings I gave you before we put the survey equipment in. It's running approximately 7 to 7.5 percent oxygen in that area of the hole.

We continue to work together as a team. We have tremendous resources here, manpower, equipment, but that team certainly includes the family members, the county, the sheriff has done everything from helicoptering people up on the mountain last night. We had a difficult time getting in because of the high winds, to providing drinking water.

The state of Utah and the governor's office providing air freight, transporting equipment across the country to bring it in here to the operation -- to support this operation. The mine operator, a tremendous amount of equipment and personnel working around the clock. Federal Mine Health and Safety Administration, we continue to have over 50 people here working both underground and on the surface.

We're working together as a team. We're optimistic. We're enthusiastic. We maintain our hope that we'll reach our common goal and that is to rescue the miners, to ensure that the work that's being done by the rescue workers is done safely and no one else gets injured, and also to provide for the needs and be responsive to the families.

SANCHEZ: All right. That's Richard Stickler. Let's break into this real quick just to bring you the update. Because he said the numbers extremely fast. So let's bring you the update.

We told you at the beginning of the newscast that we had estimated or at least the estimation that we had gotten from Eddie Lavandera on the scene was that there were going to be about 300 feet away. Well, if do you the math of what he just said, he said there 1,886 is where they need to go, 1,886 and that they're already at 1,584. I'll do the math for you, because we did it while he was talking.

That's 302 feet now, 302 feet away from where they believe the men are in this chamber. Ed Lavandera following it for us there on the scene.

That sounds about right, Ed. In fact, I think you nailed it. You had said 300. We're talking 302. You missed it by two.

LAVANDERA: I'm actually being told real quickly that the other number they updated as well was 1,644 feet. So that puts it at about 240 feet away on that eight-inch hole. So, yes. Much better, actually, than what we had talked about before we went on the air earlier today, Rick.

So that continues to move forward as well. And as you heard him mention, that provided a little bit more information as to what exactly will happen when they drop that camera in and just the kind of detail that they get, and that ability to drop that camera in there and really give them a wide panoramic view, about 100 feet in each direction from where that hole is.

So, you know, and that's also interesting because I guess in my head I hadn't been thinking that this area that they might be trapped in is that big. In my head I've kind of envisioned a space of maybe about 25 by 25 feet or something. So that changes kind of the image that I kind of see here below the ground if they're talking 100 feet perhaps in any direction.

I didn't think that these guys would have that much space down there. So that also paints a little bit interesting picture for me as well, if that indeed is the case.

SANCHEZ: Yes, well, they have been describing it as a chamber when they have talked to us about this. But you know, whether it is 240 or 300, Ed, what's your best guess for how long it will take? I mean, just -- if you can do you the math in your head, you have been watching this thing go down all day long. How much longer will it take to go the other 240 feet?

LAVANDERA: Well, around midday today, around noon Mountain time, 2:00 Eastern, they were at about 600 feet. We're now six hours later. They've done a little more than 300. So let's project another six hours from here. So where does that put us at? Around 2:00 in the morning roughly? You know, this is just doing kind of some quick math here, 2:00 in the morning Eastern time.

SANCHEZ: Why does it take so long, Ed?

LAVANDERA: Maybe that's what their target is.

SANCHEZ: Why does it take so long? I mean, it seems like an awful long time to go 300 feet.

LAVANDERA: Well, this is a drill bit cutting through some incredibly tough terrain. It's just slowly just drilling its way through. If you have ever drilled a screw into a hard piece of wood, sometimes you hit kind of a tough area. You've got to pull the screw back out. So this is a slow, tedious work and then they also have to navigate it and move it in the direction they want to do best. So there's a whole team of people that operate. This isn't like picking up the drill bit at the hardware store and going to town.

SANCHEZ: Ed Lavandera, on top of the story for us. We thank you for your reporting and your math. We appreciate it.

We're going to be right back with a whole lot more right here on OUT IN THE OPEN. I'm Rick Sanchez.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: We welcome you back. I know you have seen these cavemen commercials, those Geico commercials. Well, they're funny. No doubt about it. They certainly have caught on. But the people who are trying to turn this commercial idea now into a TV sitcom, they're running into major flack over this. Flack over racism in fact.

Entertainment correspondent Brooke Anderson brings us the controversy OUT IN THE OPEN tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is one of the most memorable ad campaigns of the past few years. The cavemen constantly insulted by life in the modern world. The ads became so popular ABC decided to turn these 30-second spots...

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: My mother is calling, I'll put it on speaker.

ANDERSON: ... into a 30-minute show called "Cavemen." A show that some critics say is insulting to more than just cavemen.

ERIC DEGGANS, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES: They were parodying specifically African-American stereotypes.

ANDERSON: The pilot episode was shown to critics when ABC unveiled its new fall lineup. And early clips have leaked onto YouTube.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I like big mags (ph) and I cannot lie.

DEGGANS: They show a caveman who is really good at dancing. They show another caveman who is really athletic and good at athletic activity. They show that some of the stereotypes seem to have some sort of basis in fact. ANDERSON: Eric Deggans of The St. Petersburg Times leads a chorus of critics who have skewered the sitcom. "The depictions of racial stereotypes have a clumsy and overly obvious feel to them," wrote one. Another said it is "loaded with references to cavemen stereotypes, all of them seemingly drawn from stereotypes long held about blacks."

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Cro-Magnon (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Please don't use that word.

ANDERSON: After the cold critical reaction, producers and the network did decide to rework the pilot while acknowledging concerns of African-American stereotyping, saying: "We're aware that the pilot seems to lean a little bit more in that direction, but in the episodes that we're sort of coming up with now, we never saw them as, again, a stand-in for one group."

Deggans thinks "Cavemen" could benefit by adding people of color to the cast and creative team.

DEGGANS: There really aren't any major characters of color actually in the show.

ANDERSON: Producers say they are already trying to fix that. So perhaps when it hits the air, "Cavemen" will have evolved.

DEGGANS: Like, I don't want to see it go away. I just want to see it get better.

ANDERSON: Brooke Anderson, CNN, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANCHEZ: We found this story interesting. So we want to bring it OUT IN THE OPEN even more. We have got a couple of panelists here who are going to be joining us in just a minute. We have got Raul Reyes and Joe Madison. They are going to be talking about this and obviously if anything at all happens -- hey guys, say hello.

If anything happens in Utah, by the way, we'll take you there as well. Stay with us. We'll be right back. All right.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SANCHEZ: All right. Let's get back to our panel. Joe Madison, you start us off. How can there be racism against a caveperson?

JOE MADISON, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Oh come on, all you have to do is read the script. First of all, this is the same ABC that gave us "Roots" 30 years ago and they are saying they are just now fixing, trying to find African-Americans who can look at these negative stereotypes that are used over and over again?

Number two, I predict that this is not going to last. I guarantee you. The stereotypes are not funny. SANCHEZ: Hey, Joe. Let me get Raul in here real quick.

RAUL REYES, USA TODAY: You know, there are so many other issues in our communities. Our high drop-out rate, our economic progress. That's what offends me, not an entertainment program.

SANCHEZ: We're going to leave you right there. We're going to come right back. We love this topic. We'll have it again. Let's go over now to Larry King.

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