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CNN NEWSROOM

Deadly Fire at a Hydroelectric Plant; Coal Miners Families Vent Their Anger; Crystal Meth in a Middle School; Roads Buckling, Houses Sinking; Clinton Taking the Lead

Aired October 3, 2007 - 13:00   ET

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


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Fire in a tunnel 1,500 feet underground, five trapped workers turn up dead hours after radioing rescuers that they weren't badly hurt. We're live at the hydroelectric plant high in the Rocky Mountains.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Two months after six coal miners were killed in Crandall Canyon, their families vent their anger, frustration and pain on Capitol Hill. Hear their stories like never before. Hello everyone, I'm Don Lemon live at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta.

PHILLIPS: And I'm Kyra Phillips. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Taking you live now to La Jolla, California, this is just outside of San Diego. It's a suburb of San Diego. SCTV bringing us these live pictures right now. It's Soledad Mountain Road, there in La Jolla, California if you're familiar, not far actually from the beach. You can see that the streets have actually -- they started cracking and then buckling, one home even sinking into the middle of that road right there, as you can see.

Apparently, police officers there have been setting up a barrier around the area, not quite sure if that crackling, that buckling will continue. They're getting people to evacuate from their homes. Also, San Diego Gas and Electric has shut off the power to this area as a safety precaution.

Here is an idea, if you are not familiar with that area just off Interstate 5 there in the area of La Jolla, a very hilly area, not far from the water. A very expensive area, too, these homes millions of dollars in the La Jolla, California area. There's a bit of a wider perspective from the helicopter.

But not quite sure what caused this, but we're following it. It's being called a landslide. It's being called cracking, buckling. We're just now getting these pictures, trying to figure out what's happening at this specific area and what caused this. But we're going to get as much information as possible and let you know what's happening there on Soledad Mountain Road in La Jolla, California.

LEMON: Heart broken families now breaking their silence. The relatives of six dead Utah miners tearfully remembering their brothers, fathers, husbands, at a Congressional hearing and angrily asking, why the Crandall Canyon mine became a tomb. Let's go straight to Capitol Hill and CNN's Brianna Keilar.

Hi, Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there Don.

These family members making it very clear to congress they are angry. They are angry at both Bob Murray, the owner of the Crandall Canyon Mine and at MSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, MSHA for short, the government agency responsible for mine oversight in the United States. They say their loved ones became the victims of an environment where MSHA just rubber stamped this Murray plan for a mine there in Utah, for a mine that they say never should have been given approval. They say that the mine operated in a way that put production well before safety.

We also heard from Mike Marasco, he is the son-in-law of Kerry Allred, one of those miners, and he told congress about the aftermath following the accident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE MARASO, SON-IN-LAW OF DEAD MINER: The manner in which Murray and MSHA dealt with us for the first two weeks after the collapse was unbelievable. They just told us what we wanted to hear and not the facts. All we heard was earthquake, earthquake. We did not want to hear about earthquakes, but wanted to know when we were going to see our loved ones again. Murray, more than once, yelled at us when we asked questions. For the families that are Hispanic, there was no translator for the first two days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Family members told Congress that their loved ones, both miners who were trapped on August 6th and also at least one miner who died in a rescue attempt on August 19th, that they were concerned about the safety of the mine before the accident ever happened.

The wife of one of the miners, who was attempting to rescue his fellow miners, she said he told her that there were mountain bumps that were worrying him, mountain bumps that were registering on the Richter scale, this before the mountain bump that eventually caused the collapse on August 6th. These family members said those miner's safety concerns were ignored by Murray Energy.

We did call Murray Energy to see if we could get a comment from Bob Murray, but we were told that he is unavailable to comment today -- Don?

LEMON: So these families speaking out today, Brianna, you have to wonder, what's next for them?

KEILAR: Yeah. One of the resonating themes we heard was that they want some closure. It is so difficult for them. Of course, the bodies of their loved ones were never recovered. At this point, one of the women, a woman who lost her son, she said she wants the bodies to be located. She wants to put a marker on the mountain above where she knows the bodies are. We also heard one of the people testify and say that they're looking into a lawsuit. So, that's certainly something we had heard before and we heard that today on the hill -- Don?

LEMON: CNN's Brianna Keilar, thank you for your report, Brianna.

PHILLIPS: A deadly fire deep underground. Five workers are killed, what went wrong? Investigators from all over are at a hydroelectric site in Georgetown, Colorado.

So is our Chris Lawrence. Chris, any answers yet to what happened?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They're coming slowly, Kyra. As of a couple of hours ago, the officials still had not determined the identities of the five workers who were killed and their bodies are still resting, about 1,000 feet deep into that tunnel.

Now, we know these workers had a piece of equipment with them that was capable of causing a fire. We can't be sure if it actually did. The main focus today, to bring the bodies back up to the surface and investigate the scene of that fire to figure out how it started.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNDERSHERIFF STU NAY, CLEAR CREEK CO., COLORADO: We have two confined space injury teams coming in today. We need to repurge the tunnel for air and make sure the air quality is safe for our operations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE: We are getting a little bit more background on the companies involved. This hydroelectric plant was built about 40 years ago and it sits about 10,000 feet above sea level. Its run by a company called Xcel. And they began planning this maintenance action about a year ago. They hired a company out of California called RPI Coating. And the workers, the contractors who were hired from that company started their work in the pipe about a month ago. From what we know, they had about at least another month of work to go -- Kyra?

PHILLIPS: All right, Chris Lawrence, we'll continue to follow up with you. Appreciate it.

We hope to learn even more at the bottom of the hour, that's when company officials will meet with reporters. Again, our Chris Lawrence will be there. You can catch their comments right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

LEMON: A registered sex offender on the run. Authorities in Florida on the hunt. They're looking for this man, 46-year-old William Joe Mitchell. He allegedly lured a 15-year-old girl from her Bartow, Florida home after meeting her on the MySpace Web site. She was found safe yesterday about 400 miles away at a Florida Wal-Mart where authorities say Mitchell apparently abandoned her. He was driving a 2000 black Chevy Lumina with a Florida tag G025EL. He's considered very dangerous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERIFF GRADY JUDD, POLK COUNTY, FLORIDA: We ask the question, why is this person on the street? We know that he's dangerous. We know that he's violent. He has struck before and he's struck again. Quite frankly, when you look at predators, that's their trend. They look for profiles of chat rooms online. Then they groom the children. In this case, talked this girl in less than two weeks from leaving her home in the middle of the night, climbing out of a bedroom window, and going with him. That's just how much personality they have. That's how dangerous they are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LEMON: If you have any information, please call the Polk County Sheriff's tip line. That number is 863-533-0344. We expect to hear more at a news conference in the 3:00 p.m. hour Eastern right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: It's a risk that few politicians would take going on record against expanded health insurance for children. But, President Bush did just that this morning. He vetoed a $35 billion bill that he says amounted to a big step toward socialized medicine. The SCHIP program benefits families that earn too much for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance. The Senate has enough votes to override the veto, but the measure cleared the House with less than a two-thirds veto proof majority.

Right after this veto, President Bush headed to Pennsylvania to talk more about federal spending and today's VETO. He said the health insurance bill went far beyond simply insuring low-income kids.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wanted to share with you why I vetoed the bill this morning. Poor kids first. Secondly, I believe in private medicine, not the federal government running the health care system. I do want Republicans and Democrats to come together to support a bill that focuses on the poor children. I'm more than willing to work with members of both parties, from both houses.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Public opinions strongly favors the Democrats on this one. A new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll finds 72 percent of Americans support an increase in federal spending on children's health insurance. Just 25 percent oppose it.

Stay with us next hour, White House correspondent Ed Henry will join us with more on the president's veto and the political fallout. LEMON: Angry parents in St. Paul, Minnesota, after seven middle school students are rushed to the hospital, they'd ingested what some apparently thought was candy. It was really crystal methamphetamine. The kids say they got it from a 14-year-old fellow student. She's now in a juvenile detention center. And officers say the found crystal meth at the girl's home. The seven students were treated and released. Later on this hour, we're going to take a closer look at the incident and also that investigation.

PHILLIPS: Live pictures out of San Diego, California right now, thanks to our affiliate XETV. Streets buckling under a landslide and one home actually sinking in this La Jolla area of San Diego. Residents are being asked to evacuate. Also, electrical power has been shut off to this area. We'll have more coming up right after the break.

LEMON: Carol Ann Gotbaum was arrested, handcuffed and found dead within minutes. But officials in Phoenix say it will be weeks before they will be able to say what killed her.

PHILLIPS: Also, she's opening up her lead against fellow democrats. Can anyone catch Senator Hillary Clinton?

LEMON: Plus, a major mistake at the lab. Why didn't anyone catch it before she had radical surgery? You're watching CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: All right, let's get straight to the NEWSROOM, Fredricka Whitfield working more details for us on this landslide in San Diego.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, sorry about that. Chad just getting over to the weather center.

PHILLIPS: Well he's working on details for us too, right? He's working Google Earth.

WHITFIELD: He's working on those details too, there's a lot going on there. We don't believe that it was a weather related issue, but there's other stuff he's dealing with there in the weather center.

All right, well back to what's happening in the La Jolla section of San Diego with this horrible ground sinking, which is now involved at least one home, as you can see here. These are million dollar properties here in the La Jolla section of San Diego. And, as far as we understand, no reports of injuries. So, that is good. But a hillside home in this section has collapsed after this street buckled.

There you see the aerial views, these are live pictures now in this upscale neighborhood. It's unclear exactly why this took place. We did understand that there were some warnings earlier on that a large section of a slope on Mt. Soledad may be slipping and had the potential to threaten at least eight homes. This information coming from a local "Union Tribune" newspaper and Web site there in the San Diego area. City engineers were actually looking into the potential of this kind of tragedy or mishap to take place. But apparently all of this happened before they could get to the bottom of the potential here.

So, lots of unanswered questions still. As far as we know, it's involved one home. We're hoping not more. We'll try to get back with you on what the engineers think they can do or what warnings they could actually send to make sure that no other homes might be threatened by this kind of buckling or that there may not be some more significant kind of mudslides, which we understand still is a potential in that area.

PHILLIPS: All right, Fred. We actually have the same article that you were looking at as well. While you were talking, I was able to grab some things, Chet Bartfield with the "Union Tribune" had actually written this story about the shifting hillside threatening homes there.

WHITFIELD: Right.

PHILLIPS: I know that Chad also Fred as saw him dashing over there to the Google Earth to kind of give us an idea of that area. Chad, what the engineers were saying that they knew something was going on and they were still trying to quantify it, but that the hillside had been shifting slowly for a number of years and it had appeared to have slid a few more inches in just the past two months.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Right, and Dave, if you can kind of just give this a little bit of a spin, you can really begin to feel the topography here. Here is Soledad Mountain Road here. In the La Jolla area, there is just a large bump, literally it is. It is a mountain area that people now have built all these homes on and there are mountains here.

Here is Soledad Mountain going this way, Soledad Mountain Road. What's happened was that where we had here, where the roads, there actually are homes along the road and then there are homes to the north of there where they are not really built along the road, but in the subdivisions behind it.

So, this is the area here that just slipped down the hill. It's still hard to get a feel for what the topography is here. There's a lot of going down into this hill. That's why nothing is built here, because it is so steep all the way down into the I-5 corridor. Maybe you can get a better feel. Just kind of when it moves, when Google Earth moves, you can really get a feel for how sharply that goes down. Right there is where the slip happened.

When you get -- we didn't have a lot of rain. I was looking at this. We were looking for rain. We were looking for mud. We were looking for, you know, exponential heavy showers that may have made mud on top of mud. That's what's so slippery, is when you get this, it's called super saturation. Well, we just didn't have it. So this is probably just a -- I guess it's just natural forces are kind of going down. What goes up must come down and gravity does pull things down at times. I was looking for earthquakes, didn't see anything at all. There were a couple of earthquakes last week offshore, but nothing here, nothing to cause this. I mean, this is going to take a long time to clean up. Although it only looks like this is one small area, a lot of these foundations of these homes around here, they're also damaged, too, Kyra. This isn't going to be a one or two home thing. This is probably going to be a dozen, maybe two dozen homes here have to be knocked down and started all over.

PHILLIPS: You're mentioning the weather as there wasn't much rain lately. But there's talk here that possibly there were some breaks in the water and gas lines that could have added to the moisture and the softening there.

MYERS: Absolutely.

PHILLIPS: That adds to it. Well, OK, good. You're monitoring it for us from sort of the Google Earth/weather perspective.

MYERS: There you go.

PHILLIPS: Fred has all the details on the investigation ...

MYERS: I'll stay out of the other camera.

PHILLIPS: That's OK, hey, it brings us all together. Fred and I were thinking quickly on our feet there. All right Fred, thanks. Chad, thanks, we'll keep talking about it throughout the afternoon.

MYERS: Sure.

LEMON: We're working on that developing story for you and it's 19 past the hour. 1:19 here in the east. Three other stories we're working on for you right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Emergency workers are still trying to recover the bodies of five contractors killed after a chemical fire at a Colorado hydroelectric plant. The flames trapped the workers in a tunnel at least 1,500 feet underground. We're waiting to hear more from authorities at the half hour.

Democrats are lashing out at President Bush for vetoing a bill that would have expanded a children's health insurance program. The president says the bill would have exerted too much government control over health care.

Civil rights activists are protesting right now at a Florida courthouse where formal juvenile boot camp guards and a nurse are on trial in a 14-year-old boy's death. Protesters doubt the mostly white jury will be impartial. The 2006 video showed the guards beating the African-American teen, but their lawyers blame a blood disorder for his death.

Bloodshed in Myanmar. We have new pictures smuggled out of the repressive country. An exclusive look at what's really happening there, straight ahead in the NEWSROOM. PHILLIPS: And we'll have more on that landslide in San Diego, California, this is La Jolla, California, happening on Soledad Mountain area. Live pictures from XETV, our affiliate there, we'll bring you more information as we get it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Many federal bureaucrats are flying in the lap of luxury when they're supposed to travel coach.

Susan Lisovicz at the New York Stock Exchange with a look at just how much we all are paying as a result -- Susan?

SUSAN LISOVICZ: This is something that could make your blood boil.

LEMON: Especially when we're being herded into the back of the plane ourselves, right?

LISOVICZ: That's right. When it comes to federal employees, flaying may be part of the job description, but flying first class is decidedly not. A new government study looks at how much federal agencies spend on first or business class travel and it turns out that nearly $150 million worth was unauthorized. The study, which is the first of its kind, examines travel from July '05 to the end of June '06. Among the worst offenders, the State Department, although those employees usually fly overseas -- Don?

LEMON: OK, so, going overseas, you can understand. I mean, you want to be able to relax and be comfortable when you're traveling overseas. Are there restrictions on federal workers? Are they breaking the rules?

LISOVICZ: Yes. Even -- you know, basically the rule is you're not flying first or business unless it's a 14-hour flight. Generally speaking, government employees must fly coach for domestic and international travel unless it exceeds 14 hours. There are exceptions, but the agency must approve it. Exceptions include a medical condition, security concerns or a lack of coach seats that are available.

But government investigators found some employees openly ignoring those rules and the agencies also did little to check on travel abuses. In fact, an Agriculture Department official took 25 premium class flights, costing more than $150,000 after having them approved by a subordinate. We have to put the approved in quotes.

And Don, the GAO, said that it is referring all these cases back to the respective departments and that there may be possible administrative action and that some of these employees or maybe more than some of them will have to pay the government and the tax payers back.

LEMON: Susan Lisovicz, you're keeping them honest and holding their feet to the fire.

LISOVICZ: Well, that is something that CNN does, doesn't it?

LEMON: OK, tell us, honestly, what's happening with the markets?

LISOVICZ: Well, we're having a sell off for the second day in a row. Things are quiet now. The Dow is below the 14,000 mark. We did get some economic news showing the service sector, which is the broadest part of the economy slowed last month. The big report of the week is the jobs report for September. That comes out Friday.

In the meantime, the Dow is down 62 points or nearly half a percent. Ditto for the NASDAQ. Coming up next hour, the world's biggest retailer will soon be expanding even more in a new direction. Going south. Wal-Mart, that is.

Don and Kyra, back to you.

LEMON: All right Susan, thank you.

PHILLIPS: We're hoping to learn more about that fire that killed five workers underground in Colorado. We're expecting a news conference, it's planned at the bottom of the hour. We'll hear from the company and we'll bring that to you live right here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

LEMON: Also, we're going to continue to follow this developing story happening in San Diego atop Soledad Mountain, landslide. Expensive homes sliding off the mountain side. Evacuations have been ordered. CNN is on top of it. An update as we continue here today in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Straight to San Diego, California right now where they're holding a news conference on the landslide there in the La Jolla area. Let's listen in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ...below the cave in as well. The city previously has had to intervene and actually have purchased some homes in and around this area because of similar problems. So, this is not a new problem. This is something that's been around for some time. The city is bringing in a whole variety of different experts to further asses the situation.

We don't believe that there's an immediate threat to the safety and health of any other residents. SPG&E is here, and they're taking control of the power lines and shutting down the power. They're in the process of doing that. They've done that to some. Not all the power has left the cables yet. So there's still a high risk area with regard to that. The gas is being shut off. Although, there is still some gas leakage in the area. But the gas is being shut off.

And I know that the mayor's office has -- Mr. Goldson (ph), as I understand it, will be up here, and will be providing additional information. I have city attorney investigators on both sides of the sinkhole right now gathering information to make sure that we have all the information that is available and that we will make available to you.

The real issue, though, is that it doesn't appear to be any additional cracking, at least at this point. This is a dynamic situation, so we're not able to say for certain that it won't become more of a problem. But we are, obviously, actively on top of it. As soon as we receive any additional information, that information will be provided to you on an ongoing basis.

We're trying to -- from the city's perspective, we're trying to play a little catch-up here with the mayor being gone and the mayor's staff, I think, is trying to get over here. But as I said, we have plenty of people here. There's no immediate danger to anyone else. All parties have been evacuated. Whatever ongoing danger there is, is being assessed and reduced from the gas and electricity sources and that's where we are.

No. I'm just saying that I want you to have all the information that I have received. Three weeks ago, approximately, there was some incident up here. The work crews have been here, working. I've been told this by the residents. I'm passing on that information. Whatever information I receive, I will make sure that that information is passed on to you, so that you have all the information I do.

The nature of the work was water repair. There appeared to be some leakage in some of the pipes. One of the sources of information has told us that there were -- there was piping that was run into some of the homes. So, as I said, this is not a new problem for this area. So we know that. We know that there have been similar situations earlier, much earlier. In fact, we can provide and will provide you pictures of similar situations that took place in the 1960s.

So as I say, you know, give us a chance to get caught up here, and I know that the mayor's office will be providing information to you, that Mr. Goldstone will be here shortly. But I have -- as I said, numerous city investigators are out, gathering information. The moment anything material or important we can add to the story for you, we'll provide that. And if you have any questions for us, if you provide those to us, we'll try to run that down until we get the city's position firmly stabilized.

The city has had to purchase land from homeowners based on similar problems...

PHILLIPS: A live news conference there from the San Diego city attorney there about the landslide that took place in La Jolla, California. You can see the buckling, the cracking, basically where the road has caved in there. Already one home sunk into that area. Other homes being threatened.

And Fredricka Whitfield's been following this as well. You heard from the city attorneys as well, we need to get a chance on what's catching up on here. Not sure what they have to catch up on, seeing this has been a problem since the '60s.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I know. PHILLIPS: You and I were talking about the article in the union tribune. Engineers quoted that they were concerned about this. They already had had problems in this area. So this is no surprise.

WHITFIELD: When he mentioned the 1960s, it meant zeroing in on this portion of the article, which talks about 1961, when there was a significant kind of hill slide, and that meant that seven homes were destroyed. So, in this case right now, one home, which was damaged from this sinkhole. It's possible there are other houses that may be compromised, too, just learning from that press conference.

But imagine, Kyra, you're in one of these homes on this street, or perhaps you were driving on this street. So what was heard at the moment of this sink hole, about this road simply collapsing?

Leonard Mueller happened to be driving on this street right before this sinkhole problem took place. He's still on the line with us now.

So, Leonard, when you drove this street, did it seem like it was completely stable, no problems? You've gone this route before.

LEONARD MUELLER, WITNESS: Yes. I have occasion to drive across that portion of Soledad Mountain Road a number of times each week. As someone mentioned, I believe, there's been a problem there at this site for about a month.

About a month ago, there was a water line break there. And the utility companies were out working on it, and they fixed it. Then I think in about two weeks later, there was another break there, and they would close off one lane and, you know, would work on that side of the street and get the thing fixed up.

When I drove by there this morning to go up to the top of the hill, to walk my dogs, it was about 8:30, I believe. And I noticed where there were trucks working there again. That was not unusual because of what I just told you.

WHITFIELD: Right.

MUELLER: But what was unusual is that it was obviously a depression in the street. I saw it the minute that I began to approach that area. And I would say it was probably, say, four or five inches that there was this depression.

WHITFIELD: Noticeable.

MUELLER: Oh, yes.

WHITFIELD: But maybe not alarming?

MUELLER: No.

WHITFIELD: Four to five inches isn't alarming, right?

MUELLER: Right. I knew that they had been working. I looked at the depression, and I thought, well, that's what they're up here working on. I must've crossed over there within just several minutes, as I could get guess, from the time this thing slipped.

WHITFIELD: And did you hear anything?

MUELLER: No. No. No.

WHITFIELD: Why did you turn around to even look, or did you?

MUELLER: No. It was not anything serious enough that I -- I saw it. I looked at it, but I never slowed down. I just kept driving and I went on about my business.

WHITFIELD: And then come to find out it's a pretty significant sink hole there, enough to damage one home. Just looking at these aerial pictures, it just kind of looks like at least the one home was just pushed further off its land mass and now we're hearing that there could be -- there is, I guess, a danger of other kind of buckling. This is an area that has known about the threat of potential mudslides. So, how much do folks who live in this area actually think about this kind of potential? Do you?

MUELLER: Well, as I say, I've lived here for 30 years. This is not the only time this has happened. There was a slide, not quite as bad as this, about a year ago, within about -- oh, a half a mile line of sight from this sight. So people who live here, they know of these slides. I mean, no one expects it to be their home, but it's not like it has never happened before.

But, you know, I don't imagine that everybody is very much aware of it or pays much attention to it. But, you know, we know that -- I know that it's there, and I've known it's been there for many, many years.

MUELLER: Well, that really is a frightening reality for the folks who live there in this section of La Jolla, San Diego.

Leonard Mueller, thanks so much for your perspective.

So, Kyra, you're looking at the live view of that home I was talking about, which has just kind of been pushed further off its land mass. You can see that deck just kind of dangling precariously. But directly in front of it is that massive sinkhole. Thank goodness Mr. Mueller happened to pass over that area before it actually happened, and apparently very few others were on the road at the time. And as far as we know, Kyra, no reports of injuries to anybody, in that household either.

PHILLIPS: And we'll keep following up. In addition probably to the number of lawsuits they're going to follow up after this as well, considering the history of the area.

WHITFIELD: Yes, I'd say that's definite.

PHILLIPS: All right, Fred. We'll keep monitoring it. Thanks a lot. LEMON: You just saw that press conference there happening in California. We're also monitoring another press conference that's about to happen in Colorado. Investigators trying to get to the bottom of what killed five workers in the ground in a hydroelectric plant near Georgetown there. The five workers managed to survive the fire, but what happened next killed them. That's what authorities believe, and they want to know exactly what happened. We'll get to the bottom of it in a news conference scheduled to come up shortly.

Also ahead, it's still really early, but Hillary Clinton has a really big lead in the polls. Is any Democrat going to take on the challenge? Bill Schneider joins to crunch the latest numbers for us straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

PHILLIPS: And crystal meth showing up in the hands of middle school students. Is this an isolated incident or part of a disturbing trend? We'll talk to a police investigator as he spills it out for us, straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: Well, she began her race for president with some built-in advantages and more than the typical baggage. Now, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton shows no sign of slowing down. A new ABC/"Washington Post" poll finds Clinton widening her lead over the rest of the Democratic field. She has a 33 point advantage over Barack Obama, 53 percent to 20 percent, John Edwards is third with 13 percent. The others, well, they're all in the single digits.

Can anyone catch up? That is a question that we want to ask our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider. Bill, people make fun of our little election express coverage, but you know what? We're express on top of the election, right here on CNN.

So, that's the question. Can anyone catch up with her?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Oh, anything is possible in politics, things can change very rapidly. But the important thing here to note there is 53 percent, for the first time all year, a majority of either party supports the frontrunner. That's not true yet of the Republicans and it has not been true of the Democrats. Hillary Clinton's support has been in the 40s. She's now 53 percent, and a big lead over the second place Democrat, Barack Obama.

Why is that significant? Well, we looked all the way back to the 1980 election, we can't find a case where any candidate in either party has gotten over 50 percent support from his or her party and hasn't gotten a nomination.

LEMON: Oh, OK.

SCHNEIDER: They always get the nomination, with one little exception, and it's an interesting one. In 1979, Ted Kennedy spent the whole year before the election, until November, with the majority support from Democrats. Then, came the Iranian hostage crisis, and what happened? Jimmy Carter, who is the Democrats' own president, he jumped up to 50 percent, and he eventually did get the nomination.

LEMON: All right, got it, got it. And you know, just sort of watching these poll numbers, is it a real surge, this last -- these last polls? Is it a real surge or like a slow creep up or slowly widening gap between Hillary Clinton and the rest of the gang?

SCHNEIDER: Well, it was slowly widening over the course of the summer ...

LEMON: OK.

SCHNEIDER: ...but this poll from ABC News and "The Washington Post" shows a fairly rapid increase in her support over the course of the month, from 41 percent to 53, 12 points just in the last month.

What's behind it? Well, there's been a big jump in the percentage of Democrats who say she has the best chance of getting elected president. That's now 57 percent who put her ahead of her opponents as having the best chance of getting elected president. And they also believe she is, by far, the best in representing the Democratic party's core values. She's way ahead on both

LEMON: Got it, got it.

OK, so let's talk about the Republican race here. Here's how they stack up. Giuliani is on top with a pretty comfortable lead. Is he now the one to beat for -- on the Republican side?

SCHNEIDER: Well, he's the frontrunner, he's got 34 percent, about a third support from Republicans, that's not nearly as secure as Hillary Clinton with 53 percent, although as I'm saying, nobody is absolutely secure in this business, but he is leading Fred Thompson 2- 1.

Fred Thompson was the newcomer in the race, he jumped up when he got in last month, right into second place behind Giuliani. But his 17 percent is just a tad lower than it was in the beginning of the month. He hasn't continued to rise.

So, Giuliani is still on top of the field. But here's something interesting, why Giuliani is leading? Well, he's seen as the Republican with the best chance of getting elected president by his fellow Republicans. But, when they were asked which candidate best represents the Republican party's core values, well, it's not Giuliani. McCain, 26, Giuliani, 23, Thompson, 21, the Republicans are all over the place.

LEMON: Yes, and that's not really how the polls are stacking up.

This is still really early on, though, Bill, and with -- all these polls, all these national polls, or is it really -- are we at where we're supposed to be with this? So really early on to predict who might be.

SCHNEIDER: Well, it's certainly early relative to next November. But you know what, it's only a couple of -- few months, three months before the voting starts in January.

LEMON: Right.

SCHNEIDER: Maybe in December of this year.

LEMON: OK.

SCHNEIDER: Not much time before the voting starts. So, you know, that means we're about where the presidential campaigns usually start and where the polls start to matter. And a lot of commentators, among them, President Bush, have said national polls matter more this year than they usually do, because we're having something very much like a national primary this year.

LEMON: Ah, Bill Schneider, thank you for always unraveling and making sense of all this for us, we appreciate it. Part of the best political team on television, Bill Schneider.

More on the Republican presidential race next hour. We'll check in on Senator John McCain. He'll go one-on-one with our John King aboard the CNN Election Express.

PHILLIPS: Crystal meth, showing up in the hands of middle school students. Is this an isolated incident or part of a disturbing trend? A police investigator spells it out for us straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Well, we were talking earlier about middle school children, getting sick from crystal meth, and that got us talking about how prevalent this highly addictive drug is and whether teenagers are aware of the dangers.

The National Meth Use and Attitude Survey conducted this year found that 77 percent of teens who had tried meth say they first used it when they were 15-years-old or younger, and 42 percent say that their parents wouldn't give them a hard time if they did use it. Some astounding numbers, no doubt.

Tom Walsh is a former juvenile investigator who's now with the St. Paul police department. He joins us live to talk more about this.

Glad to have you with us, Tom.

TOM WALSH, ST. PAUL POLICE DEPT.: Happy to be here.

PHILLIPS: I want to start out by asking you the principal of this middle school, Hazel Park Middle School, where a 14-year-old was found distributing meth to young kids, a number of those kids being taken to the hospital.

It said in this letter from the principal that, "We believe we've identified all the students who were involved in this incident. As a precaution though, if your child reports feeling ill, please contact your physician or call 911 right away and notify our school in the morning. We don't believe that the substance was shared beyond a small group of students, but we do not want to take any chances."

Let me ask you, do you feel that your department has identified all the students that were involved in this?

WALSH: We do, we think that -- in large part because of the quick response of not only police officers, but the school itself, that we were able to identify all the people who were involved in this incident.

PHILLIPS: So, did you get a chance to interview or one of the officers within your department, this 14-year-old who was distributing the meth?

WALSH: One of our officers did, in fact, interview that young person. Obviously, I'm not going to share the content of that interview. But, yes, we did talk to her.

PHILLIPS: Well, we understand that the daughter was influenced by the mother at home, that meth was either being made in this home or distributed in this home. Is that true?

WALSH: That's actually part of an investigation that I'm not going to talk about. I think it's safe to say that there was meth present in the home.

PHILLIPS: So, what does that tell you, Tom, about the issue of meth and how it's affecting kids as young as middle school? Was this an eye-opener for you or has this been a struggle for you and your department, trying to battle this in your area?

WALSH: We think that this is a rather rare -- not just rather rare, but an extremely rare incident. We're certainly not seeing the effects of meth in middle schools or even in our high schools. I think that this is an isolated incident. I'm certain that there are households out there that have meth in them. But we're not seeing it in our schools.

PHILLIPS: Well, just to educate parents, because, as you heard as I was even introducing this segment, that the National Meth Use and Attitude Survey conducted this year found that 77 percent of teens who had tried meth said that they were 15-years-old or younger. And this is involving all across -- states all across the United States.

And if you just look at a before and after picture -- we wanted to put this together just to give a reality check to parents that may not realize even young students that may not realize what they're getting involved with. What this woman looked like before she was using meth, what she looked like after using meth.

How are you educating kids, whether it be through the department, or within the school system, on the effects of meth and what happened at this middle school, how it can really be detrimental to the future of these children?

WALSH: Actually, there are a couple of things that are going on in our area. One of them is the Ramsey County sheriff's office has a meth education and prevention program, specifically targeted toward methamphetamine. And it runs a very similar billboard that has a before and after photo. And I mean, it's pretty graphic, and I think pretty effective.

In addition to that, we have, in the St. Paul police department, in our gang unit, we have a program that we call G.R.E.A.T., which is Gang Resistance, Education and Training, and we -- our officers go into the St. Paul schools and teach the elements of staying out of gangs, staying away from drugs and some life skills that we hope will help these young people be more productive and better citizens.

PHILLIPS: And Tom, I don't want to go against what you're saying. You say that this is an isolated incident and it's not a problem in the schools. But clearly, it is. You wouldn't have these kind of programs, you wouldn't have this type of interdiction, you wouldn't want to be educating students.

So, let's have a reality check for parents who are sitting back in their homes thinking, could my child be at risk? What is your message, looking at what happened at the Hazel Park Middle School and what's going on across the country, what is your message to parents who, you know, definitely wouldn't want one of their kids being a victim of this?

WALSH: Well, I don't think any of our children or any of our parents want their children to be involved in this kind of an incident. But you said 77 percent of the people who had tried meth -- I guess the question then that you have to go back to is how many out of the general population have tried meth? And I think that that number might be smaller than you're looking at.

Are we trying to get in front of a curve? Absolutely. But one of the things that you'll find if you compared St. Paul numbers against other cities our size across the country is that we're one of a very few cities that, instead of seeing an increase in violent crime, we're seeing a decrease in violent crime. It's small, but nevertheless I think it's significant. And I think that part of the -- part of that is trying to stay in front of the curve.

When I say that I believe that it's isolated, I do, in fact, believe that it's isolated. This is not a common occurrence in our schools.

PHILLIPS: All right, Tom Walsh with the St. Paul police department, definitely an eye-opener for all of us across the country, one school or not. Thanks, Tom.

WALSH: Thank you.

PHILLIPS: Well, what, if anything, can be done to keep such an addictive and available drug out of circulation? We have some good news about an in your face anti-meth public service campaign that's apparently working.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh! Ahhh!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't do it, don't do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: That'll send chills up your spine. You may remember that we first told you right here on CNN about this Montana meth project earlier last year. And at the time, the state was fifth nationwide in meth use. A new study shows that since these ads started airing in 2005, meth use among teens in Montana is down almost 50 percent, and the project is now expanding nationally.

For more information, you can go to their Web site methproject.org.

LEMON: Here's something else that's frightening, homes on a California hillside in danger, one of them sinking, this is in La Jolla, California. Residents have been ordered to evacuate. What's going on there?

We also want to listen to your i-Reports here. If you are in that area and you have pictures, send it to us, CNN.com. Click on the icon that says i-Report. So, go to CNN.com/ireport to send photos and your videos. You can share them there.

CNN NEWSROOM continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

LEMON: It was a life-changing ordeal that turned out to be completely unnecessary. A Long Island, New York woman was told she had breast cancer. She tells "Newsday" she took drastic measures, a double mastectomy, only afterward did she learn that a laboratory mix- up gave her doctors bad information, and she was healthy all along. The woman is suing the lab and is still recovering physically from her ordeal.

This is a rare but not unheard of case, and today, we're talking about empowerment and patients and tools you can use to protect yourself from something this awful or worse.

CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is here with me now to explain it all to us.

Oh, this is just really horrific, yes.

ELIZABETH COHEN, MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, it's just terrible. It is just horrific. And you know what, this happens more than people might think. Doctors or labs sometimes make mistakes. Now, maybe but not with the horrible consequences in this case, but it does happen.

Some studies say that misdiagnoses happen 10 percent of the time. That means one out of every 10 doctor's visit ends in some kind of a misdiagnosis. And Don, people believe this really is a bigger problem than previously thought. LEMON: Yes, absolutely. And again, we're saying (ph) -- we're talking about a second opinion wouldn't have helped, same lab results, right?

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