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Hurricane Warnings: Southern Texas Braces for Dolly; McCain's Message; Interview With George Will; Hunt for Salmonella Source; Iraq's Future: Talking about Timetables; Negative Imagery of African- American Men

Aired July 22, 2008 - 11:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning again, everyone. You're informed with CNN.
I'm Tony Harris.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Hi there, everybody. I'm Heidi Collins.

Developments keep coming into the CNN NEWSROOM on this Tuesday, July 22nd.

Here's what's on the rundown.

Off the coast but on their minds. People in south Texas getting ready as Tropical Storm Dolly gains strength.

HARRIS: Moments ago, Barack Obama in the Mideast, outlining his position on Iraq. This hour, John McCain's plan to push back.

COLLINS: And deep in the fabric of American life, writer George Will uncovers stories shaping a nation -- in the NEWSROOM.

The hurricane warnings are up, and the clock is counting down. Just minutes ago we got a new update on Tropical Storm Dolly. It is expected to make land fall as a hurricane near the Texas/Mexico border.

And coastal residents to the north and south are scrambling now. They're snatching up plywood, flashlights and other supplies. Texas has mobilized 1,200 National Guard troops and other emergency crews. The state has also put some 250 buses on standby just in case emergency evacuations are needed.

It sounds like a good idea.

CNN is following all of the latest developments, of course.


HARRIS: All right. Let's get you to Reynolds Wolf now. He is just on a -- just a strip of land, the popular beach resort of South Padre Island.

Reynolds, what are you expecting, and are people there ready? REYNOLDS WOLF, CNN METEOROLOGIST: People here are kind of cautious, so to speak. I mean, you get a lot of families here, Tony, that are here on their vacation. They've been planning this for quite some time, but they are well aware that a storm is on the way, so they're making the most of it before conditions really deteriorate, especially later this afternoon.

You know, Jacqui brought up a couple of really good points. You know, although we do expect the storm to pass a little bit farther to the south, and we have had many of those hurricane warnings, they of course have been pushed back a little farther down the coast.

One thing to keep in mind though, Tony, is you don't have to have a direct hit to cause widespread problems. For example, let's go back to 2005, where you had Hurricane Emily, that came just maybe about 100 miles south of the border, back into Mexico. And still, in this area, you had all kinds of terrible conditions.

And of course, in places like Brownsville, you had widespread flooding, which is just a tremendous problem. In Brownsville, right now as we speak, they're actually getting some sandbags ready for that potential flooding.

You see there off in the distance though, we've got some nice swells that are rolling in. A couple of kids there with the little boogie boards. Haven't seen any of the long boards, the short boards, in terms of surfboards, but we also haven't seen any lifeguards.

Not exactly the safest time to go out there and swim around, especially in the deep (ph) times, because as you know, when you have that water that piles up on the coast, you tend to have those rip currents, those rip tides. It doesn't take much at all to pull you deep in that ocean. Then you're in a world of trouble. And if that does happen to you at home, if you happen to be swimming out in conditions like these, and you get caught in one of those, swim parallel to the shore, certainly the best thing to do.

As we wrap it up, Tony, again, we do expect conditions to continue to deteriorate, especially into the evening hours. We have got a few more clouds coming in from the west, they're going to bear some rain. The wind also expected to pick up.

Let's send it back to you in the nice studio.

HARRIS: All right. Take care of yourself there, Reynolds. Thanks, man.

COLLINS: Just minutes ago we heard from Barack Obama in Jordan this morning, on the Mideast part of his overseas trip. He had a lot of questions about his timeline for troop withdrawal from Iraq.


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I welcome the growing consensus in the United States and Iraq for a timeline. My view, based on the advice of military experts, is that we can redeploy safely in 16 months so that our combat brigades are out of Iraq in 2010. As president, I intend to work with our military commanders to assure that we redeploy out of Iraq carefully, with the safety of our troops in mind.


COLLINS: Obama also talked about Afghanistan, which he calls the central front in the war on terror.

HARRIS: So lots of focus this morning on Obama's trip, but his presidential rival, John McCain, is talking today as well. Next hour we will hear from him during a town hall meeting in Rochester, New Hampshire. And that's where we find our Dana Bash.

Dana, good morning. I suspect Senator McCain is ready with his counters for what he heard from Senator Obama this morning.


Senator McCain, according to aides, is going to start his town hall meeting here in New Hampshire by talking about the kind of thing that we've heard him talk about for the last several days, most recently yesterday in Maine. He's going to, according to aides, say that he simply thinks that Barack Obama is wrong about, again, looking back on the surge, saying that, as he said in an interview yesterday, knowing what he knows now, that the surge was not the right thing to do.

The issue that Senator McCain is going to focus on is one of judgment. That is really the theme when you cut through it all, the theme that Senator McCain and his aides are trying to get through. That regardless of what's going on the ground, regardless of some pretty bad political news from McCain campaign, in the Iraqi government seeming to actually endorse Barack Obama's 2010 idea of bringing troops home, the idea is that they're going to make the case over and over again that Barack Obama did not support the so-called military surge which, of course, McCain was supportive of from the beginning. And therefore, given the fact that things on the ground seem to be looking pretty good because of the surge, that it's a judgment problem for Senator Obama.

Now, Tony, just in terms of where we are right now, obviously it's important to note that New Hampshire is someplace that is near and dear to John McCain's heart because this the place that he held 101 town hall meetings and resurrected his political campaign during the Republican primaries and brought himself back from the political dead. It's something he talks about all the time.

Right now, it is a dead heat, a dead heat between Barack Obama and John McCain in this state. That's why he's coming back, and it is going to be in a town hall that is going to be something that he's going to try to focus on, basically issues close to home, people close to home, people he is going to need as a contrast to Barack Obama overseas.

HARRIS: Dana Bash for us this morning.

Dana, good to see you.

That town hall to begin at noon Eastern Time right here in the NEWSROOM.

And all the latest campaign news is at your fingertips. Just go to We also have analysis from the best political team on television. It is all there at

COLLINS: Five people injured in a strange incident in Jerusalem this morning. The Israeli government calling it a terrorist attack.

A man identified by police as Palestinian crashed into several cars and a city bus with a back hoe. He was shot and killed.

Remember, it was just three weeks ago another Palestinian man drove a bulldozer into cars in Jerusalem. At least three people were killed in that attack. The Israeli government also labeled it a terrorist attack.

An indicted war criminal captured. Former Bosnian/Serb president Radovan Karadzic pulled off a bus in Belgrade.

HARRIS: Yes. Living for years right under the noses of the people who were supposed to be looking for him, this is what he looks like now. That is a far cry from the man accused of leading a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the early 1990s.

Police say he had been working as a doctor in Belgrade under an assumed name. He could soon be turned over to an international war crimes tribunal.

COLLINS: Going cross country to discover what makes us special. One writer is helping tell your stories, and we're talking to him. George Will coming up in a moment.


COLLINS: Ever feel like just hitting the road and seeing all the people in places you can? Well, our guest did just that, and George Will is telling those stories in his latest book, "One Man's America."

He is here with us right now to talk a little bit more about it.

Welcome to you. Thanks for being here.

I want to bring the attention to the people at home of the title of the book, because this is not the first time that this title has existed. 1952, a British journalist. Tell us about it.

GEORGE WILL, AUTHOR, "ONE MAN'S AMERICA": Well, Alistair Cooke, known to most Americans these days as the host of "Masterpiece Theatre" on public television, but for decades, about six decades, he was a journalist reporting on America for a British audience on the BBC. Traveled the country, loved America. An affectionate critic, vividly aware of the strength and diversity of the country. COLLINS: Now, when you traveled across this country and were looking for different stories from all the people that you could come across, did you find -- and it's a real general, big question -- did you find that Americans love America?

WILL: Oh, absolutely. I mean, the country is -- we are the most patriotic people -- indeed, nationalistic people in the world -- in spite of all our problems.

I found myself in Bakersfield, California, wondering what I had heard about the Bakersfield sound in country music. So I talked to Buck Owens (ph), who lives there. He told me he came there from the Dust Bowl, a lot of people moving from the Dust Bowl to California.

So I started studying about the Dust Bowl and the time when the topsoil of the Great Plains of the United States simply blew up in the air and actually literally landed here in Washington on the president's desk, some of it. It gives you a great sense of history, and history immunizes you against a kind of hypochondria, the tendency we have in America to exaggerate our current difficulties.

COLLINS: Well, and we hear it a lot when we talk about our relations internationally. What are your thoughts on that? Is America really hated?

WILL: If you interview a group of people -- I saw this on television just the other day -- some Palestinians were venting their spleen (ph) against the United States, how hideous it was. And I'm told that when the camera went off, the journalist said, "Well, now what do you want to do with your lives?" They said, "We want to go to America."

COLLINS: Really?

WILL: Oh, sure. I mean, the fact is, America exerts a continuing allure. There are disagreements with this or that administration and this or that policy, but the allure of the United States is permanent.

COLLINS: Well, and when we talk about the future of this country, obviously we are in a presidential election year right now. You are a historian, you have covered many elections in all of your writings, in your journalism. How do you think history will look back on this presidential election? We certainly have a lot of firsts.

WILL: Well, this is my ninth presidential election, and I think this is, along with the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, this is transformative. Not only because we have an African-American candidate, but because, in general, the two parties now stand for different things.

The country gets a clear choice, a great sense of turning the page. When you have 82 percent of the country saying the country is on wrong track, this is a change election of a sort that comes along very rarely.

COLLINS: And they're both using that word an awful lot, aren't they?

WILL: Well, it's an incessant mantra. They all read the same polls.

COLLINS: Yes, indeed they do.

You know, you do talk an awful lot about the breakdown between conservatives and liberals, but you also talk about in the book this idea of conservatives' sensibility. Obviously, liberals would probably argue, well, if you're conservative, there's absolutely no sense in any of that.

WILL: Well, by conservative sensibility, I mean an appreciation sometimes forgotten, not least by this administration, of how difficult the world is to change, how difficult the country is to change. And that's a good thing.

The country is not governed from Washington. The country is not going to change dramatically no matter who's president of the United States.

There are 300 million Americans raising children, mowing their lawns, washing their cars, going about their daily business. And they drive the future of the country. And that's one of the -- I really wish that before everyone was allowed to vote, they would have to drive across this country, see it at ground level and appreciate the durable regional differences that make the country strong.

COLLINS: And you bring up the idea of personal responsibility. I mean, people are living their lives every day and not going to the voting booths thinking about how it will directly affect them. Why do we make such a big deal about a presidential election?

WILL: I wish every of journalist in Washington had written on his or her bathroom mirror, so the first words he or she would see every morning is, "The country isn't as silly as I am." The country is busy...

COLLINS: I swear, I do that every of day.

WILL: The country cannot be bothered waiting for a politician to come along and solve his or her problems. The country gets on with life quite well, thank you, and will be just fine no matter who wins this election.

COLLINS: No matter who wins this election, no matter if it's one term or two, I heard you say, the country will look very much the same, as it does right now. It's kind of -- I don't know if that's what everybody wants to hear.

WILL: Well, they say they want change, but if you get right down to it, they're patriots who want change, which means they're fundamentally satisfied with the country and its institutions. It's a much -- it's a kind, happy, cheerful country, now more than ever.

COLLINS: Well, we certainly appreciate you coming on the program today.

George Will, he's the author of "One Man's America," obviously also a syndicated columnist. We appreciate it. Thank you, George.

WILL: Thank you.

HARRIS: A break in the case of the mysterious salmonella outbreak. Investigators hot on the trail in Texas.


HARRIS: On the hunt for the source of the salmonella outbreak. Investigators say there's been a break in the case.

Boy, this is a CSI kind of -- CSI produce.


HARRIS: You did say that.

COHEN: I did.

HARRIS: Yes, the same strain found on a Mexican-grown jalapeno in Texas.

Elizabeth Cohen is here.

You know, the real simple advice on this now is just to, what, to avoid peppers right now?

COHEN: Don't eat raw jalapenos.

HARRIS: Just don't do it.

COHEN: Simply put.


COHEN: I'm move leaving now. That was it.

HARRIS: That's it?

COHEN: That's it.

HARRIS: We're done? All right.

Coming up next in the NEWSROOM...


COHEN: That's it. That is the bottom-line advice.

And in addition, if you're a senior citizen...


COHEN: ... a young child, or have an immune problem, you also should not be eating serrano chilies.


COHEN: Now, as you mentioned, this jalapeno -- what they found, one jalapeno pepper...


COHEN: ... that had salmonella on it. It was raised in Mexico, and then they found it at a...

HARRIS: It was raised in -- OK. All right.

COHEN: It was raised in Mexico. It's a young pepper. It spent its time in Mexico.

HARRIS: All right.

COHEN: And then they found it at a distribution plant in Texas, in McAllen, Texas.

Now, where did it get tainted? Who knows?

HARRIS: It's almost like a chain of custody here. I mean, you're talking about -- really, you're talking about now having to go back through the manufacturing and production assembly line to find out where the salmonella met the jalapeno. Is that close?

COHEN: That's right. Exactly.

It could have been while it was still in the ground...


COHEN: ... you know, in the farm.


COHEN: A farm worker could have had salmonella on his hands and touched it. The water that was used to clean it at the processing plant could have done it. Hands at the processing plant could have done it.

You don't know. And I'm sure they're trying to figure this out right now though.

HARRIS: Well, we're talking about, at least at this point, this rogue jalapeno. It was not that long ago we were talking about tomatoes.

COHEN: I know.

HARRIS: And tomatoes were convicted -- indicted and convicted.

COHEN: It seems like just yesterday, right. Exactly.

And now you know what? It might never have been tomatoes. We don't know. It might have been, but they've never found salmonella on a tomato. Hasn't happened yet, so it is unclear if there was ever Salmonella Saint Paul in tomatoes.

But what is clear is that Salmonella Saint Paul was in over 1,200 people.


COHEN: So let's take a look at those numbers, because it's the people that really matter here.

More than 1200 people have been infected since April, 229 people hospitalized. People became ill in 43 states. I mean, this was big and unusual.

HARRIS: Yes, it was big. It was big. And at least right now, stay away from peppers -- jalapeno, serranos.

COHEN: And you know what? I shouldn't say "was." I say this was big.


COHEN: We're still getting reports. I mean, they think that it's on the wane, that we've seen the worst of it, but still, it's not necessarily over.


Elizabeth Cohen with us this morning.

Good to see you, Elizabeth. Thank you.

COHEN: Thanks. Good to see you.

HARRIS: And to get your "Daily Dose" of health news online, log on to our Web site. There you will find the latest medical news, a health library, and information on diet and fitness. The address,

COLLINS: Texans prepare for a big storm and the Internet gears to help them. A look at what's out there in cyber world.



COLLINS: In the meantime, one to get the very latest from one city bracing for this tropical storm. Randy Sijansky is the emergency management director for Corpus Christi, Texas. He's joining us now by telephone.

Randy, if you could, tell us what you're seeing around you. What do the conditions look like?

RANDY SIJANSKY, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT DIRECTOR, CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS: Well, actually, this afternoon we anticipate some stronger winds, maybe gusting up to 50 miles an hour -- 20 or 30 miles an hour this afternoon. But our conditions right now, that will have about one or two foot above normal tides coming up to the dunes on North Padre Island.

We anticipate outer rain bands will start moving in by daybreak Wednesday morning, but we're still under a hurricane warning. That's from Brownsville, Texas, to Port Aransas, Texas.

COLLINS: All right. And if it is unfortunate that Dolly does gain quite a bit of strength, what typically is the scenario for Corpus Christi? What do you do right off the bat?

SIJANSKY: Well, actually, we've been monitoring this condition. We have our emergency operating system on light duty staff now. And if it increases, we'll increase that into different phases for operation.

But residents have been warned. We have a lot of tourists here that are already aware of the weather, and have made preparations to move away from the island, and are taking precautions.

COLLINS: When you're talking about evacuations, or if it ever gets to that point, what is the one thing that happens when you say, OK, now everybody's got to get out?

SIJANSKY: Well, of course in any kind of storm we don't know what Mother Nature will bring.


SIJANSKY: It could increase to a Category 2 or 3 overnight. But as conditions worsen, we also have a very strong public information office that provides the information out to the public, and we can advise the public accordingly.

COLLINS: All right. Well, Randy Sijansky, we appreciate it, with the Emergency Management for Corpus Christi, Texas. I know you're watching things very closely as well. Thank you.

HARRIS: Tropical Storm Dolly churns toward south Texas. How are folks preparing?

Veronica De La Cruz has been watching the Web this morning.

Veronica, what are you finding?

VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I've been checking out the Internet, looking online to find out how residents are preparing. In Corpus Christi, Tony, we know that Heidi was just talking to the emergency management director there. Let's give you a visual now.

This is the Web site for "The Caller." It's the local newspaper. This is the front page, and as you can see, all the top stories, the headlines, revolve around Dolly.

And I want to show you some of the pictures. These are all taken by staff photographers, and they really give you a glimpse into how people are preparing for Dolly.

This is a shot with Michael Gorslein (ph). Rhonda (ph) and Michael both residents there, getting ready by boarding up their home.

In this next shot, Joe and Lina Torres (ph) stop off at a water refill station. They say that they're preparing, they're grabbing water, because you never of know what can happen. So they just want to be prepared.

This next shot shows the care that local grocery stores are taking to make sure that they have all the basic necessities on hand for all the people that live in the area. The staff says they have plenty of everything. They're stocking up on canned goods, bottled water, as you can see by this picture.

And take a look at this shot, Tony. Even though it's beautiful out right now, if you look closely at the sign on this stretch of highway, it reads "Storm Forming. Fill Your Gas Tank."


DE LA CRUZ: So, it's really interesting, Tony. I was looking at the message boards on the, and a lot of folks say that they're happy with the job that the city's doing so far.

HARRIS: Got you. So, OK. So that was Corpus Christi. What about other parts of Texas?

DE LA CRUZ: Well, let's go ahead and head south, about 140 miles south. I want to show you our affiliate KGBT's Web site.

This is Harley (ph), in Texas. Again, very much the same thing there, making it clear that there is a hurricane warning, that warning followed by lots of different stories.

The top two on the page having to do with sandbag distribution. There you see the alert.

The same thing at KRGV. That's another one of our affiliates. A big red box right there, big weather alert: "Dolly's on its Way."

Their top story right now, Tony, is all about the evacuation of high- profile vehicles from South Padre Island. You know, flooding -- flooding is a huge concern. So that's the top story there. You can click on that box and that's going to show you the video.

Again, if you are out there, if you're preparing for the storm, we want to see your pictures or video. Go ahead and log on to, and please do be careful, especially when the storm makes land fall -- Tony.

HARRIS: Well said.

All right, Veronica. Thank you.

COLLINS: Want to go ahead and give you this information we're just getting into the CNN NEWSROOM right now.

Apparently, emergency personnel are on the scene of a pretty nasty accident here. They are trying to rescue a man who fell 40 feet into a narrow gas well shaft.

Now, this thing is, in its entirety, 60 to 80 feet deep. So, he apparently has gone down about 40 feet into it.

They do know that the man is alive. This is all according to Johnson County sheriff's officials there. Again, Cresson, Texas, which is about 25 miles north of Ft. Worth, Texas.

They do say the man is alive, but having a hard time breathing, of course, because of how tightly he is wedged down in there. A 14 inch x 18 inch shaft, so you get an idea of how incredibly narrow and very uncomfortable this could be. So they have been working on him for a while and trying to get him out of there.

We're going to keep our eye on this one for you and bring any developments, should they happen.

HARRIS: Barack Obama out of Iraq. His trip highlighting different opinions of the future between the Iraqi government and the Bush administration.

CNN White House correspondent Ed Henry has more.


ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): President Bush keeps saying he doesn't want to get involved in the presidential campaign.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As you know, I'm loath to respond to a particular presidential candidate.

HENRY: But the Iraqi prime minister, not so much. Nuri al-Maliki is jumping into the American presidential race, telling a German magazine that Democrat Barack Obama's plan for removing combat troops from Iraq within 16 months is the right time frame for a withdrawal. A Maliki spokesman first suggested the prime minister was misunderstood, but then added that, in fact, the Iraqi government is hoping U.S. combat troops will leave in 2010, similar to Obama's plan.

DANA PERINO, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm not going to talk about Senator Obama's position. He can articulate that himself. I would just tell you that where we come from, we're not going to talk about specific dates.

HENRY: Putting the White House on the defensive could be a deliberate move by the Iraqis to win concessions over the long-term U.S. troop presence in Iraq. The Associated Press quoted advisers to Maliki as saying the prime minister has tried to capitalize on the White House's urgency to wrap up the talks by telling aides, "Let's squeeze them."

PERINO: I think it's based on an anonymous source reporting about something they heard in -- that took place in a meeting. Now, do I think that the negotiations are in their final stages and do I think the Iraqis are trying to put forward their best position and to try to show that they can do more? Yes.

HENRY: The Iraqis already won a major concession Friday, when the White House embraced a general time horizon for removing U.S. troops. This, after years of rejecting Democratic timetables.

SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: At least he's recognizing there must be some timeline set. No one knows yet what a time horizon actually means, and it's clear that President Bush has no plans to withdraw down before he packs his bags in January.

HENRY (on camera): Dana Perino stressed that the U.S. believes the Iraqis do not want to pull out arbitrarily. Time will tell, though, whether that's a real difference or just a semantical one.

Ed Henry, CNN, the White House.


HARRIS: Just another reminder to you. Check out our Political Ticker for all the latest campaign news. Just log on to, your source for all things political.

COLLINS: They're calling it a first step to ending the violence in Zimbabwe. Today, at a secret location in South Africa, Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, and the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, were expected to formally discuss a possible plan to share power. Yesterday, the political rivals agreed to two weeks of talks. Zimbabwe has been plagued with political violence since the hotly- contested presidential election.

HARRIS: At Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, opening statements set for today in the first war crimes trial since World War II. On trial, a former driver of Osama bin Laden, Salim Hamdan, is not considered a powerful terrorist. Instead, war crimes really refers to his alleged status as an illegal enemy combatant.

Hamdan says he endured beatings in solitary confinement after his arrest. The judge in the case has ruled that his statements can be used in the trial because he was subjected to highly coercive conditions.

COLLINS: Quickly want to get you back to this story that we've been following, live pictures for you now coming up from our affiliate there, CBS 11 TV. This is Cresson, Texas. In case you're not familiar with the area, 25 miles north of Ft. Worth, where they are trying to rescue a man who has fallen into a gas well.

Unfortunately, it is very, very narrow. They're telling us about 14 inches by 18 inches. And apparently he has fallen about 40 feet into it. It's approximately 60 to 80 feet deep in all, so he's nearly fallen to the bottom.

And obviously, quite a crew of people out there trying to help out. We believe five area fire departments have responded to this accident, and they are working as quickly and as hard as they can.

Apparently, though, from what I'm understanding, this phone call came in, an emergency phone call came in, about 8:00 in the morning. So what is it, 10:40 there now? They've obviously been working on the situation for a while.

So they are telling us that the man is alive, but as you would imagine, it is such a narrow shaft. Having a really tough time breathing. So, again, live pictures from our affiliate there in Cresson, Texas, just north of Ft. Worth.

We'll stay on top of it for you.

HARRIS: Battling stereotypes and negative imagery, director Spike Lee pulls no punches. Part of CNN's landmark documentary, "Black in America."


HARRIS: Congress working on a plan to rescue struggling mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Part of that discussion, what to do about hefty CEO salaries.

Freddie Mac chairman and chief executive Richard Syron made $19.8 million last year, while the company's stock lost half its value. Fannie Mae president and chief executive Daniel Mudd got $12.2 million, more than $2 million of that was a bonus.

Curbs on executive salaries could be added to a housing bill that could be voted on in the House as early as tomorrow.


COLLINS: You can follow your fortune at We've got all the day's market news and numbers, expert analysis, and much more.


HARRIS: Tomorrow, CNN presents "Black in America." One of the issues explored by CNN Special Correspondent Soledad O'Brien, negative images of African-American men in movies and the mainstream media.


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Spike Lee is an award-winning director and producer of more than 35 films.

SPIKE LEE, FILM DIRECTOR: I get tired of watching the news, local news, and seeing just negative images of young African-American men.

O'BRIEN (on camera): There are people who say, but, look at the numbers of African-American men in prison. Look at the black-on-black crime.

LEE: But let's show some balance. And there are people out here who are doing the right thing, who aren't having babies out of wedlock, who are taking care of their children.

O'BRIEN: Why is there reluctance to put them on TV?

LEE: Why? That's not what they want to see.

O'BRIEN (voice over): Spike developed his sense of what Americans want to see the hard way, by making many movies that never became blockbuster hits. Artistic successes like "Malcolm X"...

DENZEL WASHINGTON, ACTOR, "MALCOLM X": You've been hoodwinked, bamboozled.

O'BRIEN: And "Do the Right Thing" pushed way beyond the stereotypes.

LEE: You have success stories and you have tragic stories. And I think that you have to tell them all.

O'BRIEN: He's one of the best-known directors around, but Spike still struggles to get financial backing from Hollywood studios for the kind of movies he wants to make.

LEE: I'm not saying it's impossible to get a black film made, I'm talking about a specific type of black film. If I want to do comedy, have black folks shucking and jiving with coonery and buffoonery, I'd get $100 million for that in a second.

Washington, "INSIDE MAN": I'm trying to get you what you want.

O'BRIEN: He finally had a box office hit in 2006 with "Inside Man," a bank heist thriller which made nearly twice the U.S. take of "Malcolm X."

(on camera): Three hundred million dollars worldwide.

LEE: You include DVD sales.

O'BRIEN: That's a ton of money.

LEE: A ton of money.

O'BRIEN: That's success, clearly, that you're still going hat in hand.

LEE: It was an eye-opener, because I've always been told, well, Spike, you never had a film that made over $100 million. But, you know, what we care about is box office.

O'BRIEN: Is it because you're black?

LEE: I think a lot of that has to do with it.

JOSEPH PHILLIPS, ACTOR AND COLUMNIST: There's another truth that spike doesn't talk about.

O'BRIEN: Columnist Joseph Phillips has been an actor in Hollywood for more than 20 years since starring in "The Cosby Show." PHILLIPS: He's forgetting that this is a business. And unless he can justify why he should get that much money, he's not going to get it. And that has nothing to do with race.


HARRIS: And beginning tomorrow night, our unparalleled television event, "Black in America." Don't miss this groundbreaking documentary tomorrow and Thursday, 900 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

COLLINS: Will Dolly develop into a hurricane? The tropical storm bears down on the Texas/Mexico coastline. We're tracking it.


COLLINS: Boy, we sure are hoping that we're going to get good news out of this situation...


COLLINS: ... in Texas, where it's about 25 miles north of Ft. Worth, where you see a huge group of people trying to rescue a man who has fallen down a natural gas well. Live pictures for you coming in from our affiliate in Cresson, Texas, there.

Apparently, this call came in at 8:00 Central Time. So it's been down there for a while. And it is narrow, let me tell you. We're hearing 14 inches by 18 inches.

And apparently he's down about 40 feet into this thing, which is, in its entirety, 60 to 80 feet deep, we're being told by Johnson County sheriff's officials there. Apparently, he is still alive, and as you see at the bottom of your screen, having a difficult time breathing because of how cramped it is there.

Once again, working very, very hard to pull this man up. And hopefully we will get some good news.

Well, I don't know if we should stay on that or what, but it definitely looks like they are pulling, pulling, pulling with all their might on a bunch of straps I've seen go down. I'm just not sure, obviously, how long that's going to take, but we sure hope it will be quick for his sake.

HARRIS: And in Rochester, New Hampshire, right now, getting ready for a town hall meeting with John McCain. That set to happen at the top of the hour right here. And of course, we'll bring it to you in the NEWSROOM.

John McCain focusing today on the economy, gas prices and energy policy. But of course, one would imagine he would not let the opportunity pass to make some comments about the news conference with Barack Obama in Amman, Jordan.

And when that event begins with John McCain, we'll bring it to you right here in the NEWSROOM. (WEATHER REPORT)

COLLINS: All right. And speaking of oil, this is not an oil well. But I wanted to get back to this picture of the natural gas well where there is apparently a man who has been trapped there. He fell down the shaft. It is very narrow, 14 to 18 inches, where he has been down there since 8:00 Central Time this morning.

Hundreds, as you can see, people working on him. Five different fire crews from all around the area, just north of Ft. Worth.

We are hoping that there will be obviously a good result from that.

We'll keep our eye on that story for you throughout the rest of the day.

Meanwhile, CNN NEWSROOM continues just one hour from now.

HARRIS: "ISSUE #1" with Gerri Willis and T.J. Holmes starts right now.