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Still No Contact with Trapped Miners; How Safe Are Mines Owned by Utah Mine Owner?; More Rain Expected for Flooded Minnesota

Aired August 22, 2007 - 23:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. For six coal minters trapped deep in a Utah mountain, dead or alive, this could be it. Today, the mine operator said efforts to find them are on the brink of being exhausted.
Tonight, we'll hear the heartache and outrage from their families and what mine owner Bob Murray has to say about it. We'll talk to him live.

Also tonight, the latest on record flooding across the middle of the country and when people there will get a break.

President Bush says democracy in Iraq is still worth fighting for, even though his top commander and other generals today seemed to disagree. We'll look closer at the facts on the ground in Iraq and Washington.

Plus, Michael Vick. A possibility of additional dog fighting charges and support today from the NAACP, saying he should be allowed to play football again after prison.

We're taking your calls and e-mails on that subject. The toll free number is 877-648-3639, 877-648-3639. Or go to Click on the "instant feedback" link.

Our top story, the missing miners and grim news from mine owner Bob Murray. Rescuers have had no contact with the miners now for more than two weeks. Now a fifth bore hole has yet to reveal any sign of them. Four others showed nothing.

Tonight Mr. Murray said that if a sixth probe uncovers nothing, it will be the last. He also said the mine would be shut down but door left open to resuming operations perhaps one day. We'll speak with Mr. Murray in a moment.

But before we do, however, a closer...


BOB MURRAY, PRESIDENT/CEO, MURRAY ENERGY: And after this is all over and these miners' families are administered to the best we can, some years down the road we'll do engineering studies. We'll examine it, and we'll look at the remaining reserves and see if we'll ever mine them. But I can tell you right now that we are not going back into that mountain.


COOPER: So what happens to six missing miners? We'll speak with Mr. Murray in a moment.

Before we do, though, a closer look at his safety record. Utah's governor now wants MSHA to immediately inspect two other Murray Energy mines in the state.

That got us wondering about how Murray mines stack up nationwide. CNN's David Mattingly tonight is "Keeping Them Honest".


DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One thing is clear about mine owner Robert Murray. He is not afraid of a fight. When confronted about reports of a poor safety record of his mines in Ohio, just listen to what Murray told Senator Barbara Boxer.

MURRAY: Madam Chairman, I'm going to respond to that. You're flat out wrong. That -- that information came from your friends at the United Mine Workers and the unions. It is not fair.

The day my safety record at my coal mines -- and I take it to bed with me every night. And I resent you bringing this in, because my employees are important to me and I take their safety to bed every night. My safety record today is one of the best in the coal industry anywhere.

MATTINGLY: Robert Murray bought the Crandall Canyon mine only a year ago and, until the accident, it was one of his safest mines.

But "Keeping Them Honest", we checked government records, and found they list Murray as the head of 19 mining operations in five states. Only seven are active underground mines, and four of them have injury rates above the national average.

At the Galatia mine in southern Illinois, the rate of injuries has exceeded the national average every year since Murray bought the mine in 1998. The rate of injuries was almost cut in half from 2003 to 2006, but the mine has also racked up over 3,400 citations in the last 2 1/2 years, 968 so far this year, with nearly a quarter considered significant and substantial.

ELLEN SMITH, MINE SAFETY & HEALTH NEWS: You wonder how that many violations can build up in that little amount of time. Now, you have to remember he's challenging a lot of the citations, but when you look, he's also paid a lot in fines.

MATTINGLY: He paid almost $700,000 in fines from 2005 and 2006. So far this year Galatia has been hit with 31 major citations, each exceeding $10,000. That's more violations than any other mine in the country and second in total fines.

(on camera) And Galatia wasn't Murray's first big problem. In 2003 managers at his mining company in Kentucky were found guilty of violating safety standards and attempting to cover it up. The company was ordered to pay a $306,000 fine.

(voice-over) Requests for comments from officials at Murray Energy were not answered. CNN asked Murray about safety records of his other underground mines at a news conference Monday. Murray said he would only talk about Crandall Canyon.

MURRAY: The safety record of this mine is almost outstanding. It's well -- much better than the national average.

MATTINGLY: But as the tragedy at Crandall Canyon shows, even better than average mines can involve serious risks.

David Mattingly, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: Well, with that on the table, let's turn next to the families and CNN's Dan Simon in Utah -- Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, I spoke to some family members today of 50-year-old trapped mine miner Don Erickson: a son, a stepson and a daughter-in-law. And here's what I took away.

For the most part these family members can accept the idea that there was a tragic mishap here. They know that mining is very dangerous. What they cannot accept is that their loved ones may never be recovered. For them, they say, they won't have any closure.

And they're also concerned about the communication between themselves and the owner, Bob Murray.


MATTINGLY: Let's talk a little bit about Bob Murray. Claudia, what is your assessment of his leadership in how he's handled this ordeal?

CLAUDIA ERICKSON, DON ERICKSON'S DAUGHTER-IN-LAW: I feel he is a very poor communicator. He doesn't know how to console families. He's not respectful. He's frustrated, and I understand. If I was a businessman in his shoes, I'd be frustrated, too, but you know what? He can still be -- deliver his information with tact.

MATTINGLY: What Bob Murray has told us is that he's the messenger, and he's trying to deliver the tough news in a compassionate way, but he's got to be honest.

C. ERICKSON: You can be honest without yelling at family members into a microphone during the family briefing. He was very frustrated.

And then Mr. Stickler felt that he needed to stand up and apologize for his actions, for Bob Murray's actions. He had to apologize to the family members for the way that he delivered his message.

MATTINGLY: How did he deliver his message? You say that he was yelling. He wasn't yelling in an angry way?

C. ERICKSON: Yes. He was angry. He said that we are a team, including the family members, and that as a team, we killed, we killed three men.

MATTINGLY: Brandon, how do you feel Bob Murray has handled this crisis?

BRANDON ERICKSON, DON ERICKSON'S SON: I don't feel that he's doing everything that he can do to get -- I mean, I feel that he's hiding something, trying to cover up something, something underground or whatever.

He don't want it to be -- I mean, if he's willing to seal up that mine and not recover any of his equipment or whatever, that's telling me that he's hiding something. And I ain't going to let him seal that mine with my dad in there.

I mean, you're not going to -- you're not going to lose everything just to, you know, to seal your mine. You at least recover your equipment and stuff.

C. ERICKSON: Unless you have greater -- a greater loss, if you do.

MATTINGLY: Explain exactly what Bob Murray told the families.

B. ERICKSON: He basically told them that, you know, the chances are slim with these oxygen readings and stuff.

C. ERICKSON: Said we should give up hope or give up trying and that we can't pressure him to continue.

MATTINGLY: And how did the family members react to that?

B. ERICKSON: They were angry.

C. ERICKSON: They were upset. One man did get up and say, "You promised us that you'd bring them out, dead or alive."

MATTINGLY: And his response to that?

C. ERICKSON: Just said he was going back on that promise.

MATTINGLY: Dave said that, from what it looks like right now, that there's not enough oxygen to sustain life and at a certain point you have to give up.

C. ERICKSON: I don't think we can give up. Not until we know for sure. I mean, you can't. You can't give up. If it was your family, would you?


COOPER: Well, Bob Murray, the mine owner joins me now.

Mr. Murray, thanks so much for being with us.

We just heard from a set of family members of those six miners. As you know, they're upset, they're angry at you. They say communication has been poor. They say you're giving up on the rescue and that you yelled at family members. Seems only fair to give you a chance to respond, sir.

MURRAY: Mr. Cooper, none of that is true. The focus here has been on those families of those six trapped miners. It's a tragedy. They're distraught. They're grieving. They're frustrated.

But, sir, I've been administering to nine other families since August 16. I just came from the funeral home of one of my lost miners, a hero that went in, Mr. Cooper, to try to recover those trapped miners. I sent that man in there. He's my responsibility.

Nobody has been administering to those other nine families, to MSHA. I have two dead men, employees. I have five injured employees. I've been dealing with them.

You don't hear the complaints from them. Interview them and find out what they'll tell you about what I've been doing.

Furthermore, I have never left these families of these six trapped miners. I came to this mountain within a few hours of when the seismic quake occurred on August 6, and I have never left, 18 days.

But it's not about me, Mr. Cooper. It's about them. I'm the CEO. I'm not put this responsibility on someone else. They're my people. I'm responsible for their safety, and I take that to bed every night. And I'm very serious about it.

And I'll stand in front of you in the mirror in front of my God and tell that you that we have done everything we can to administer to the families of those trapped miners. I met with them every three hours myself in the beginning.

Go now to -- go to the families of the heroes in this, the nine (sic) men that are dead, the three that are dead, Mr. Cooper, or the injured ones and find out what they're going to tell you about how we have administered to this.

But again, it's a losing situation for anyone. It's a tragedy, and I feel so badly for these families. It's -- I have not done well.

COOPER: At this point you're planning on boring into the mine a sixth hole. If that doesn't show signs of life, do you feel you are out of options?

MURRAY: Yes, sir, I do. I want to drill this sixth hole. It was one of the holes I wanted to drill in the beginning. But as Mr. Richard Stickler has told you, Mr. Cooper, we've worked as a team with the federal Mine Safety & Health Administration in the beginning. And we will continue to do that right to the end. And we have agreed that, after this fifth hole is examined, we will move tomorrow, sir, right over onto the sixth hole and drill it, which should be completed, sir, about Saturday.

COOPER: And you said today that you're sealing the mine. You're going to close it down after this has been resolved one way or another. There have been contradictory statements. There have been rumors out there, as you know. Just to be clear, does this mean that mining will no longer take place anywhere within or around the Crandall Canyon mine?

MURRAY: Let me explain, sir. On August 17 in the morning, after the recovery of the nine miners who were maimed or killed in attempt to recover these trapped miners, I went to Mr. Richard Stickler of the MSHA. And I told him, "I'll be submitting the paperwork to you to close and seal this mine." That's the real story behind this.

Now, there are reserves here in other areas, but Mr. Cooper, I have not had time to think about that. I have no plans to open up any mines in this area. This has been a deadly, evil mountain that is still alive. And I will never go back in to what used to be the Crandall Canyon mine, never, and that has been since August 17.

COOPER: Utah's governor has asked MSHA to immediately inspect two other mines of yours in Carbon County. Crandall Canyon, as you said, was one of your safer mines. Four of your mines have injury rates above the national average.

Are you concerned about investigation? Do you think the governor is acting appropriately?

MURRAY: I think the governor is acting totally inappropriately in the way he's acted, in showing the disrespect for the hero miners and our management and our company in some of the statement he's made.

He's not acting inappropriately in asking for the investigation, but he's a little bit late.

Four days ago, MSHA and Murray Energy and Utah America brought in the best experts in the country on mining, Mr. Cooper. And immediately that same day I engaged some of them under Murray Energy to start our own investigation.

We now have about six or seven of the top consulting engineering firms in the country on board, examining our Tower and West Ridge mines to see if there are any flaws in the mining plans.

Sir, no pound of coal is worth getting hurt over. I take my responsibility for these people to bed every night, and I engaged these folks days ago. The governor does not need to play his politics here.

COOPER: I want to give you, also, a chance to respond to something that was in the "Salt Lake Tribune". You have repeatedly said that your company did not change the mining plan in Crandall Canyon when you bought it a joint interest in the mine last August. "Salt Lake Tribune" now obtained documents that show that your company petitioned the government repeatedly, and ultimately successfully, to allow coal to be extracted from the north and the south barriers. The previous owners hadn't done that, they said, because they posed a risk of worker safety.

Do you still stand by your assertion that your company didn't change the mining plan?

MURRAY: What I have said from the beginning, Mr. Cooper, is that I have no knowledge of any mining plan changes. The mining plan in place at the Crandall Canyon mine, sir, had been in effect for years. It was given to the previous owner, approved my MSHA and under strict engineering guidelines.

We operated -- I bought the mine August 6 -- 9, 2006. We operated under that plan. There had never been any problems. Our miners have hundreds of years of experience. We never had any trouble in that mine until August 6.

COOPER: But these documents do seem to indicate that there was a change in those plans after you took over ownership, that the previous owner, which is still a joint owner, wasn't doing that kind of mining. Is that not -- you say you don't have that information?

MURRAY: Mr. Cooper, no, sir, I do no not. I have never had any information. I get a weekly report on the mine. I have 3,300 employees in five states. I get a weekly report on the mine. It starts with safety. There's been no mention in those reports to me. I had no knowledge of it. Now that it has been brought to me, I have asked for copies of those reports, because I have not seen them, sir.

COOPER: All right. We'll continue to follow up. Mr. Murray, appreciate your time. You have always been very open with us. We appreciate you coming on. I know it's been a long two weeks for you and everyone involved.

MURRAY: Well, I appreciate you, Mr. Cooper. You have stayed with this tragedy from the beginning and tried to report it to America, and I really respect what you've tried to do here, sir.

COOPER: Just doing our job. Mr. Murray, thank you very much. We'll talk to you again.

There is other news breaking tonight and a lot more to get to, including the mess from what's left of Hurricane Dean and parts of America under water. Seen the pictures, the latest on record high floodwaters here that just keep on rising.


COOPER (voice-over): They've had enough, and they could get more. More rain, more high water, more damage. We're tracking the worst flooding in more than a century, and we'll let you know what's coming next. Later, Michael Vick, cutting a plea deal. How much jail time should he do? Should he work in the NFL again? We've been flooded with e-mail. Tonight on 360 we're taking your calls.

And the toll free number to call is 877-648-3639. Again, 877- 648-3639. Or if you'd like to e-mail us, just go to Click on the "instant feedback" link.


COOPER: Two storm systems that put parts of the Midwest under water with massive flooding that's killed more than 20 people. Now that death toll could rise.

You can see the extent of the dangerous weather. The severe thunderstorm and flash flood warnings span across several states. Tonight we're witnessing the devastation, along with incredible rescues.

We're going to get the latest now from CNN's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): All throughout the upper Midwest, the story is the same. Homes and businesses destroyed, roads washed away. People left with nothing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hard. I can't go home. The basement blew out because of the water coming through so fast. Mom kept saying, "We're going to die."

KAYE: In southeast Minnesota, at least seven people died. Thousands were forced from their homes by the flooding that followed relentless rain: 17 inches in some parts of the state, some of it the remnants of Tropical Storm Erin.

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY, MINNESOTA: There's thousands of homes that have been impacted, and lives and families, some of which are destroyed entirely, some of which are severely damaged. Some less so.

KAYE: According to the Red Cross in Minnesota, 4,200 homes have been destroyed or damaged, and the nonstop downpours and flash floods are making it hard for rescuers to reach stranded residents.

JOE MODJESKI, CHIEF DEPUTY: We came through this morning about 8 a.m., and the water looked like a normal spring flood. You know, you could still see the banks. Within 45 minutes later, it was up above four feet. And then we watched it for about -- about half an hour. It rose about a foot every ten minutes.

KAYE: The story is much the same in parts of Wisconsin, where torrential rains have caused the Fox and Des Plaines rivers to rise rapidly and to dangerous levels. Flooding there caused mudslides and even derailed a train.

In Kenosha County alone, officials for the price tag put the devastation at $30 million. Twenty-one Ohio counties were fighting floods.

This is Main Street in Findlay, Ohio, where the Blanchard River rose more than seven feet and spilled over its banks. CNN's I- Reporters caught these images as desperate residents tried to escape the rising floodwaters, some wading through knee-high water just to get across the street.

And it isn't over yet. Forecasters say there's more rain on the way.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: Such terrible images.

CNN severe weather expert Chad Myers is tracking the storm. He joins us now.

More rain on the way, Chad?

CHAD MYERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Anderson, there are 72 counties now across the United States mainly through the Midwest that had flood warnings, either river flood warnings or flash flood warnings. That's an amazing number.

Heavy rain from Omaha through Lincoln down to Fall City, Nebraska. And then very heavy rain into Chicago. Could see some street flooding through the city of Chicago later on tonight, into tomorrow and more rain up to the thumb.

Let's focus on what Randy was talking about, this very heavy rainfall and this flooding here -- it's not raining now, at least -- up into north and northwestern Ohio. That's where the rain has been the heaviest over the past 48 hours.

And here's Toledo, Columbus. And this purple area. Six to ten inches of rain in 48 hours. And that basin could absolutely just not handle it. The rain just ran off.

Now we'll get to Dean for just a couple of seconds here. Kind of north of northwest of Mexico City, losing a lot of identity right now but making an awful lot of rainfall across the mountains.

And one little bit, Anderson. If this thing continues to spin with a low level circulation, gets into the Pacific and regenerates, it will be Dean again. If it loses all of its identity but then the remnants still regenerate, it will get a new Pacific name.

COOPER: Interesting. Chad, thanks for the update. We're going to check in right now with Kiran Chetry, what's coming up tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING".


KIRAN CHETRY, CO-HOST, "AMERICAN MORNING": Tomorrow we bring you the most news in the morning, including critical information, should you ever have to leave your home in a hurry.

We've been watching pictures all week of flooding and hurricanes, wildfires, but we have advice to help protect you and your home and get out safely.

Plus, we've been talking this week to people rescued from floodwaters from Ohio to Oklahoma. My co-host this week, Rick Sanchez, goes up with the Coast Guard to show us how it's done. That's tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING". It all begins at 6 a.m. Eastern.

Back to you.


COOPER: Up next, guess who people say they hate even more than lawyers? The answer in "Raw Politics". That should give you a hint.

Also ahead, a drug bust under the sea. Wait until you hear how much cocaine was stashed on this makeshift submarine.

And new developments in the Michael Vick case. Could he face state charges, despite his plea deal on federal charges? And the NAACP weight in, saying once Michael Vick has served his time, he should be allowed to play football. We'll talk to our legal experts and take your calls. Toll free: 877-648-3639. Or go to Click on the "instant feedback" link.


COOPER: Ah, "Raw Politics". Tonight Barack Obama puts the rumors to rest. The presidential candidate says his wife Michelle was not talking about Hillary Clinton when she said if you can't run your own house, you can't run the White House. He called any suggestion that it was about his rival a fabrication.

Never a dull moment in the race for '08. And although Clinton gets a break this time around from Obama, she was still taking plenty of heat today.

With that and more, here's CNN's Tom Foreman.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, like being a bunny at a bull dog convention, it's tough being a front runner in a campaign. Yes, you get lots of headlines, but you also get lots of hits right in the "Raw Politics".

(voice-over) A pinata party. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front runner, says Iraqi president Nuri al-Maliki should step aside, but she is being hammered for saying this about Iraq.

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We've begun to change tactics in Iraq and in some areas, particularly in Anbar province, it's working. FOREMAN: No! Her challengers insist you can't say anything good about the war. Richardson, Edwards, Obama, all reiterating Iraq is a complete failure for the Bush administration.

Pinata party, part dos. Republican front runner Rudy Giuliani is getting the same treatment. He's taking whacks from Mitt Romney. And now the masked man, Fred Thompson, has stepped up, going after New York's gun control laws under Mayor 9/11.

President Bush, on the other hand, is getting a boost.


FOREMAN: A new group with big name Republicans is launching a five-week $15 million ad blitz to support the troop surge. They want to put pressure on lawmakers from both parties ahead of the September status report on the war.

And finally, a "Raw Politics" riddle. What do auto mechanics, bankers, and even journalists have in common? All of them get higher ratings from the public than Congress does.

Gallup's latest poll shows just 18 percent of voters approve of the job Congress is doing; 76 percent disapprove.

(on camera) This is as bad a rating as Gallup has seen in more than 30 years of measuring this. The president, even lawyers rank higher in public esteem. And that's saying something -- Anderson.


COOPER: Tom, it certainly is.

Still to come tonight, not sure about what the goal is in Iraq? By looks of it, critics say neither do the running the war. Take a look. The president says we should fight for democracy in Iraq while some of his generals say this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The democratic institution is not necessarily the way ahead in the long-term future.

COOPER: The president slams Iraq's prime minister and then he says this.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Prime Minister Maliki is a good guy, good man with a difficult job and I support him.

COOPER: We will search for the real message on Iraq and the real mission all our troops are fighting for.

Later, Michael Vick, cutting plea deal, how much jail time should he do? Should he work in the NFL again? We've been flooded with e- mails. Tonight on "360" we are taking your calls.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BUSH: Despite the mistakes that have been made, despite the problems we have encountered, seeing the Iraqis through as they build their democracy is critical to keeping the American people safe from the terrorists who want to attack us.

COOPER: President Bush today telling the veterans of foreign wars that America needs to stay in Iraq to give democracy a chance. Speaking to crowd that largely believe that pulling out of Vietnam was a mistake, he said leaving Iraq will be a similar mistake. Now people differ on that but most agree that the symptoms of the Vietnamese and Iraq entanglements are starting to look really alike. Troops win every battle but can't seem to finally win the war. The Baghdad government barely functions. Growing rumors of a coup. And even as the president pushes the goal of democracy, his top men in Iraq are lowering the bar. General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are saying, "We are now engaged in pursuing less lofty and ambitious goals that was the case at the outset." Subordinates went further.

BRIG. GEN. JOHN BEDNAREK, U.S. ARMY: The democratic institutions is not necessarily the way ahead in the long-term future.

COOPER: General Bednarek there talking about CNN's Michael Ware who joins us now from Baghdad along with former presidential advisor David Gergen who is in Boston.

Michael, if it's not democracy U.S. officials are saying is achievable, what are they hoping for?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, officially the mission still is plugging away for democracy, but what they are saying is it's not the democracy that President Bush and the policy makers once had in mind. The bar, as you say, has definitely been lowered. However, there is much talk, rising talk among the military field commanders that perhaps what's made is what former prime minister allow by and leading U.S. political allies have been calling for, an emergency government, just something that can lock this country down, can stabilize it, can try and finally bring an end to some violence and restore stability to the democracy will have some time to grow. They are saying stabilize first, not democratize and they are looking to American alloyed allies. None of them are democracies yet able to deliver services to their people and they're an ally in the war on terror.

COOPER: Essentially they are talking about some sort of Iraqi strongman. Are officials optimistic? On the ground in the military, how do they view Maliki's government? Are they optimistic that his government, if you can really call it his government, can make progress on these so called benchmarks?

WARE: Again, you're right, Anderson. This really is not the Maliki government. Prime Minister Maliki is a man without power. The currency of power in this government, a government of loose coalition of militias is how strong is your militia? How many men with guns do you have? And the prime minister has none. And according to one senior U.S. official of all his cabinet ministers, there's only three he can actually rely on. So he can't force his own government to really do anything anyway.

So honestly, the harder this government lies with the militia, most of the U.S. intelligences are backed by Iran. So to be honest, most American commanders do not regard this government as an ally in the war on terror or aiding in the project here in Iraq.

COOPER: David, I guess it should come as no surprise that U.S. officials are kind of trying to lower the bar in terms of speaking about democracy, speaking about some of the loftier things, to use the phrase that Petraeus and Crocker used that they spoke about years ago.

Obviously, we are having a problem with David's audio. We are going to try to get that fixed. Let's go back to Michael Ware in Baghdad. Michael, how surprised were you, President Bush has always sort of avoided the comparisons to Vietnam. Have you heard, do troops on the ground, commanders you talk to, do they make Vietnam analogies? And if so, in what capacity?

WARE: Well, by and large, Anderson, people are extremely wary of intoning the name of the Vietnam War. They know there's a lot of American societal cultural baggage that goes with it. They don't like going there. But what they look like to from Vietnam obviously is counter insurgency, strategies and primarily their need to stay the course, as the prime minister says. The question for them now is forget Vietnam. We have a mission here. We are supposed to be trying to instill a democracy here but we have bungled it so very, very badly, that we actually have in place now a government that, if it's not hostile to U.S. interest, certainly is doing nothing to serve U.S. interest. So what they are looking for as opposed to Vietnam is a government that they can actually work with and go forward.

COOPER: Let's try to check in with David Gergen again to see if we have his audio. David, do we have you? No, we don't. We will continue to try to work on that.

Let's take a short break. We will be right back.

R.L. WHITE, PRES., NAACP ATLANTA CHAPTER: At that point, you're not looking at guilt or innocent. You're looking at what should I do here? If I roll the dice and I go to court and I'm judged guilty then I lose so what I better do is cut my losses and go ahead and make a please.

COOPER: Michael Vick getting support today from the Atlanta chapter president of the NAACP saying the plea deal was more about calculating risk than admitting guilt. He also says Vick should be allowed to play again after he pays his debt to society. The NFL quarterback accepted a plea deal in connection with the dog fighting ring. That is for the federal case. There are reports now a prosecutor in Virginia may bring states may bring charges against him. Tonight we want to hear what you think about the case. Call us toll free, 877-648-3639 or go to Click on the instant feedback link.

Helping us, CNN senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, is back tonight. He hosts Jami Floyd. Good to see both of you. First of all, were you surprised that the NCAAP, basically, the guy was saying that, kind of indicating maybe Michael Vick was innocent but he just decided to cop a plea to avoid charges?

JAMI FLOYD, COURT TV HOST: Well, I'm not surprised because the NAACP feels the need to come out in support of every bad doing black man that gets into trouble. I think it's a mistake. I think they need to focus on the mission. There was one thing he said that I agreed with. There is strategy involved in taking a deal. I'm not saying Michael Vick is not guilty. He's going to take this plea on Monday. Anybody who's practiced law knows that very often you make a calculated choice to take the deal rather than to take the gamble.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Of course, but he's pleading guilty because he is guilty. Let's not be unclear about that. The suggestion that he's somehow innocent but he's making this calculation, that's a bunch of nonsense. That whole statement, that press conference was a disgrace.

FLOYD: I think there is a calculation involved, though. It's about can I play again, can I still make some money? Can I save my reputation?

COOPER: But if he didn't drown or electrocute or shoot dogs or however they kill dogs, you don't necessarily plead guilty.

FLOYD: People do plead guilty. I'm not saying in this case but many people who have been exonerated plead guilty.

TOOBIN: Yes that does happen but I mean I don't think there's the remotest suggestion that could have happened in this case.

FLOYD: I agree with you, Jeff. I mean I think this was a mistake, the press conference but the context within it, I don't disagree with.

COOPER: We also need to talk about whether or not he's going to face charges in another state. But Tyre in Florida has another question. Tyre released a comment.


TYRE, FLORIDA: Hi, yes. I wanted to make a comment about the NCAAP support of Michael Vick. I am totally disappointed in their stance. As a black woman and a mother in this community there are more important things we should be fighting for than the rights of an egotistical millionaire who has nothing better to do with his spare time than to torture animals is ridiculous. We have failing schools in our communities. We have the lack of families in our communities and the NAACP has nothing better to do than to fight for basically a criminal. He is no different than the young man down the street from me who would have been doing this and he should deserve the same punishment.

COOPER: Tyre, appreciate your calls.

FLOYD: I'd say you go, girl, to Tyre. And the one thing I would say, he does have the right to rehabilitate. Maybe he will learn the lesson and maybe as animal rights activists have asked him to do, he will become a spokesperson for ending this dog fighting but she's right. Let's focus on this.

TOOBIN: You know how little was asked of Michael Vick? He got millions of dollars to play football. No one asked him to be Roberto Clemente, to be Muhammad Ali, to be a humanitarian. All they asked him, don't commit felonies but he couldn't manage to avoid that.

COOPER: Does it surprise you he might face charges in Virginia?

FLOYD: That doesn't surprise me. Not with the political football this has become.

TOOBIN: There I think Vick might have -- I might be on Vick's side. Because you know what, there is such a thing as overkill. He's being prosecuted by the United States government. Why should he be prosecuted for the exact same behavior by the state government?

FLOYD: But it does happen. We saw it in the Oklahoma City bombing trials, for example.

TOOBIN: I didn't think it was right there even though the crime was much more serious. I think his lawyers are going to have a very difficult task. It is clearly within the rights of the State of Virginia to prosecute him. They could do it. It's not violating the double jeopardy clause.

COOPER: When you take a plea, though, can't you somehow make sure there are no other charges coming down the pike?

TOOBIN: You can but it doesn't appear that's happened here.

FLOYD: Those were made behind the scenes in low profile cases.

COOPER: Another call from Uganda in California.


UGANDA, CALIFORNIA: Hi. I was just wondering, I watch CNN daily, and I listen to different callers and I listen to their opinions. I was just wondering why don't people show the same outrage that they show when they have genocide and voyeurism and places like Darfur around the world, people don't show the same outrage.

COOPER: Why do you think it is that this story has caused this level of outrage?

FLOYD: I have to say, I share in some of Uganda's surprise. I'm not entirely sure why we have this reaction. I think if Michael Vick killed a person you might not have this kind of reaction.

COOPER: You really believe that?

FLOYD: I really believe that. The response to this case has really been stunning. TOOBIN: We have seen NFL players, NBA, baseball players accused as we have discussed of beating women. That often happens.

FLOYD: Or rape cases.

COOPER: And you don't see this level of outrage.

Kathy in Georgia on the line.


KATHY, GEORGIA: Yes, hi. I agree with the disappointment about the NCAA. I was surprised to hear them take that stance. I've been a fan of Michael Vick before all this happened and I'm glad to see him be prosecuted. I think that he should be taken out of the NFL for a couple years or whatever.

But, you know, there are lots of studies about people that abuse animals and that can watch two dogs tear each other up, that they can actually hurt people as well, and I think his activities on and off the field are -- exemplify, you know, an example to young people and to other people.

COOPER: I found it interesting, Lebron James came out not only in support of Michael Vick but in support basically of dog fighting saying from what he hears, it's just another sport.

TOOBIN: That was Stephen Marbury.

COOPER: I'm very sorry. You're absolutely right. That was Stephen Marbury. I know nothing about sports, so here we go.

FLOYD: And it was the NAACP that made the statement. Not the NCAA. But we can talk about the NCAA too. The problem here is a huge cultural divide. I know this is not the politically correct thing to say but there was a huge divide on this dog fighting issue. This is not an aberration. Obviously, Michael Vick and his level of profile and him putting money into it, that's all unusual but dog fighting goes on in rural part of this country. It goes on in urban centers.

TOOBIN: A lot of this does not go on. Sure some of it goes on.

FLOYD: Let's talk about racing greyhounds, running horses.

TOOBIN: Horse racing and dog racing is not dog fighting. I think you have got to make distinctions there.

FLOYD: You ultimately in putting animals down. I think we have to be honest with ourselves.

COOPER: You said there's no distinction between racing horses and have dogs kill each other?

FLOYD: I'm saying when we gamble and it's based on treating animals as certain way as products, we are all participating in a larger cultural divide here. The dog fighting thing, Michael Vick didn't get it. Because in his community, in his culture, this is not terribly unusual.

TOOBIN: I think that's a discredit to his culture.

FLOYD: Well I come from it. I think I know what I'm talking about.

TOOBIN: Most black people do not do dog fighting.

FLOYD: That's not what I said now. I said that he was keeping it real with his people. That's where he was coming from. I didn't say most black people. I'm talking about the men who have pleaded guilty with him. His boys. His boys and a cultural community that encouraged what he was doing. That's why he was doing it to be hip and now.

COOPER: That's the same argument the rappers make about using these words when, in fact, they are living in mansions in Nutley, New Jersey.

FLOYD: But if we listen to the lyrics, the music and what went on with Michael Vick, there's a bit of a tie in.

COOPER: We should point out Jeff has been getting a lot of e- mails basically intimating that you're a dog hater.

TOOBIN: Yes, it's true.

COOPER: Just to disprove them who do you have here?

TOOBIN: We have a special guest. We have thunder Toobin joined by Ellen Toobin, my daughter. Here's Thunder. Here's to prove that I'm not a dog hater.

FLOYD: This is really Jeffrey's dog.

TOOBIN: He doesn't do a lot of dog fighting. He knows the poodle division.

FLOYD: You know how people get.

We are using your dog.

COOPER: All right. Jeffrey good to see you here and Thunder as well. Jami, thanks very much. We will be right back.


COOPER: The shot of the day is coming up, a backyard surprise in Mexico. You can't blame Hurricane Dean for this one. Erica Hill from Headline News joins us with a 360 bulletin.


ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS: Anderson, 14 U.S. soldiers have died in a Blackhawk helicopter crash in Iraq. The U.S. military says the chopper went down due to a mechanical malfunction not because of an attack.

In the pacific, a big drug bust at sea. Big doesn't even begin to tell you. U.S. customs and border protection stopped a submarine- like vessel allegedly smuggling 1200 pounds of cocaine. That has a value of $352 million. Four suspects were arrested but not before they attempted to intentionally sink that vessel with the drugs aboard.

The collapsed bridge in Minneapolis facing an enemy from the sky, pigeons. Experts say corrosive pigeon dung all over the span actually helped those steel beams to rust faster. Investigators though have yet to determine just what caused the Interstate 35W bridge collapse earlier this month. It killed 13 people that we know of and injured about 100 others.

Here in Georgia, one of the so called Barbie bandits pleading guilty to theft and marijuana charges. Heather Johnston and another woman videotaped robbing $11,000 from a bank in February. The cops say it was an inside job, Anderson.

COOPER: Time for the shot of the day. I'm not sure what you have in your backyard, Erica, but do you have a backyard?

HILL: I don't have a backyard. I live in a loft.

COOPER: All right. Me neither. 98 crocodiles were found behind a home in Vera Cruz, New Mexico.

HILL: 98?

COOPER: Ranging in size from 12 inches to six feet long. They were kept in six small swimming pools apparently. Authorities got a tip about the crocs from an anonymous caller. Crocodiles are protected under Mexican environmental laws. The owner has to show documents revealing the origin of the animals or face some time.

HILL: It wasn't like a crocodile farm or a breeder. They were just like, hey I've got six pools and 98 crocs. What do you got?

COOPER: Maybe they were going to make some shoes.

HILL: Poor crocodiles.

COOPER: Remember that song 99 loof balloons?

HILL: Yes. I don't know either because it's not really related. But 98 bottles of beer on the wall. You know, yesterday we had that super cute picture of the rottweiler nursing the kitten? Well, when you asked people to send in their adorable animal video, they did.

Check out this picture. Susan in California, her dog, Jennifer, mothering some foster kittens. She said Jennifer would keep them clean and warm and if Susan would give her dog chicken, Jennifer would feed them to her babies. Isn't that nice? What a good sharer.

COOPER: Good sharer indeed. Erica thanks. We want you to send us your shot ideas. We see some great videos or dogs going wonderful things as they often do. Tell us about it

Up next, Hurricane Dean now a tropical depression, your thoughts on the storm. It's what's next on the radar on the 360 blog next.


COOPER: Well, tonight what was Hurricane Dean is now a tropical depression after hitting Mexico twice. It's what's on the radar on the 360 blog.

Joann in North Royalton, Ohio writes, "As I watched your report on Hurricane Dean these last few nights, I couldn't help but feel that you wanted to be out there with Gary, Harris, Jason and the others. It's not like you to sit at an anchor desk with this type of story going on. Based on reports, we were all bracing for the worst." Joann I did miss not being there to be honest but they did a great job and thankfully there were no deaths in Mexico.

Cynthia in Covington, Georgia writes about Gary Tuchman's behind the scenes on how his team covered the storm. Her message for Gary, "Thanks for the insight on how you'll throw together a show. It was really an eye opener. Next time I guess you'll remember to take a sleeping bag like your crew member did. Always good and when you get home I guess you will really savor that nice comfy bed."

Shar in Hartford, Connecticut puts it this way, "You guys are nuts." Well Shar, you might be right about that.

To check out Gary's posting and others, go to